HC Deb 21 November 1980 vol 994 cc148-79

12.2 pm

Mr. Rees-Davies

It was a real pleasure to give way to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment about an hour ago. His statement was immensely valuable. It would be churlish for anyone not to concede that the immense expansion of the youth opportunities programme—it is to be expanded from 130,000 places to a level not far short of 500,000 places—will be of enormous value and benefit to our young people. It is clear that my right hon. Friend is proceeding along the German line and developing technological skills for the future. It is along that path that we shall create real and valuable long-term employment for much of our youth.

My right hon. Friend spoke of spending more Government money. Surely that is testimony enough to the way in which he must have persuaded the Cabinet of the viability and the valuable nature of what he intends to introduce.

When my right hon. Friend intervened in our proceedings, I was about to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services on his scheme to try to save £400 million by making certain effective changes in the sickness benefit scheme. I was saying that maternity benefits were clearly interrelated with sickness benefit payments and that they, too, must be changed.

I was interested to read a document that my right hon. Friend has published on behalf of the Department. It seeks to take a fresh look at maternity benefits and how changes can be achieved. Effective changes of that sort cannot be achieved on the Floor of the House. I hope that the Select Committee will be able to consider these matters before legislation and that it will try to give some guidance, if guidance is necessary—and I believe that it is—within the principles at issue and before legislation is introduced. I hope that consideration will be given to the question whether some of the administrative difficulties can be sorted out and, more particularly, on the sort of choice that should be made

I think that the best choice lies in achieving the closest possible relationship between maternity benefit and sickness payments. We are to introduce a system in which the employee will be able to receive sick pay from the employer for eight weeks, subject to certain protections that will be written into the scheme. I should like to see a system under which women receive the same payment—that is, £30 a week, which is higher than the existing amount—from maternity benefit for 14 weeks. It could be an extremely simple scheme. It would enable pregnant women to receive one payment from the Department of Health and Social Security. That would greatly simplify the procedures under the same financial umbrella.

I accept that others may take a different view. I put forward my suggestion with no particular knowledge of these matters. However, having considered the issue generally and as objectively as I can, I am inclined to think that the system that I have suggested is the best of the options that is put forward in the paper on which we have been asked to comment.

That comment will be concluded in respect of the public on 15 December. It will then be considered by the Minister. It is useful for the Select Committee to run parallel with the Government and to consider the interrelationship between maternity benefit and sickness payments.

The new parliamentary Select Committees are slightly different from the old-fashioned Select Committees on which I served over the years. The new type of Select Committee, as I envisage it, has a duty to try to assist with and monitor the work that the Government are doing. I know that the Whips, and possibly Ministers, will find that rather tiresome at times. It is not the job of the Select Committees purely to criticise or to consider a large external subject. Their task is to examine the problems in parallel with the Government. This is part and parcel of a new approach to open government.

My right hon. Friend is clearly working along the lines of taking the public into his confidence. He is doing that by means of the Green Paper. It does not help very much for Opposition Members or for small businesses to utter every type of vituperative epithet and to suggest that the idea is nonsense. It is essential to introduce practical measures to ensure that the very small business does not suffer. That is done under the German scheme and it can be done here. Measures should apply to firms which have up to 10 employees.

Whatever is the best system — the Minister has indicated one viable system—we must find one that will recompense employers if we are to impose a duty upon them to pay benefit for eight weeks. I believe that the best method will be to set the obligation against national insurance contributions and to make the relevant reduction. By February the Government should be able to introduce a measure in which sickness benefits and maternity benefits are interrelated in reasonable schemes. If that is done, the Minister will be able to take a Bill through the House.

The House will remember that there are new procedures for the techniques that are to be employed. If it is still thought that the scheme has not been effectively thought out to the smallest detail, the special procedure of calling together the members of the Committee to consider it can come into play. It might very effectively come into play with this as the first measure. That will give the Standing Committee the opportunity to take evidence, if it needs to do so, before it reports the measure to the House. The scheme seems to be valuable.

There are many difficult and controversial matters that fall upon the National Health Service and the DHSS, none more so than the problem of Westminster hospital. It is a small problem but it is symptomatic of a fundamental one. The medical school there is the best. It is heart-rending to have to destroy something that is the best. Putting Westminster with Charing Cross is not the right approach. I appreciate the difficulty that Lord Allen and his colleagues had. The difficulty was so great that the voting on the matter was 25 to 23, and it was put back again to February for further consideration.

My solution to the problem will not necessarily commend itself to the Labour Party. First, I believe that the children's hospital must come within Westminster hospital. The Westminster medical school cart stay, but it may be necessary for some of the beds to become pay beds for those who can really pay. There is great demand from abroad. Money can be obtained in that way, and that is right.

That leads me directly to comment on the National Health Service making money for its own benefit. I do not believe that anyone has yet spoken about that in public. Let me give one or two examples. The National Health Service, through its doctors and scientists, brings forward a number of valuable inventions. When the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) was considering perinatal care and the Select Committee reported, I had the opportunity — and let me immediately say that I have no great knowledge of perinatal care and that other members of the Committee were responsible for those matters—to gain knowledge of a number of the inventions of doctors in this country to deal with the care of pregnant women. There are also inventions in other areas, but there appears to be no way that these are being promoted for export. Money could inure to the benefit of the National Health Service as well as to the inventor if the small Department that my right hon. Friend has could examine the matter to see where money could be made in exporting such valuable inventions.

The insurance principle in health is vital. BUPA does immensely valuable work. An increasing number of individuals and families are joining BUPA every day. I have contributed over many years. Such schemes can be extended. It would be a great advantage for big companies such as Unilever and BP to continue the expansion of their sick pay schemes, but more than that I believe that small cottage hospitals for the benefit of big industry would be of great value. They already exist in certain industries.

Mr. Pavitt

The hon. and learned Gentleman will have seen an answer to a parliamentary question of mine the other day that said that the fringe benefits given to executives and employees in industry now amount to £35 million. Should that not be taxed?

Mr. Rees-Davies

Fringe benefits, and whether they should be taxed, are a different subject.

I believe that those who want to spend their money on the health of themselves and their families should be able to do so, and that should certainly not be taxed. Such people should be encouraged. However, my argument concerns not private individuals but large industry.

There is no reason why very big companies should not provide their own sick bays and clinics. We have invited them to do so for perinatal care. Family health care generally could be taken care of in clinics in big factories. Those people would then need to use the National Health Service only for operative treatment or serious illness that required admission to a general or district hospital.

Great savings can be made here. I believe that many of our great companies would like to look after the health of their employees. They provide sporting facilities. Not long ago I went down to one of the great companies in Wales and saw excellent cricket, football and swimming facilities. Not only that: the company had its own nurses, who looked after minor injuries and ailments. It had a very low sickness record.

The major reason why it is necessary to pursue schemes such as the sickness benefit scheme is that there are isolated cases of malingerers or those who do not want to work. There is nothing wrong about the National Health Service's seeking to make money. In addition, industry should promote clinics.

Let me give another example, which is one that I have discussed with the chairman of the English Tourist Board. It concerns the development of spas, which is partly a tourist project and partly a health project. The most valuable way to make a great deal of money for the medical services and the tourist industry is to recognise our immense potential for introducing clinics and spas. From Tunbridge Wells to Bath and from Buxton to Harrogate we have a number of great towns, all of which could be restored as spas. If hon. Members visit Baden Baden they will see what I mean. Considerable sums of money are spent by people who go there for health care, rejuvenation or treatment for arthritis. A large amount of money can be brought to health care here in a similar way.

Harley Street plays a leading part in the treatment of arthritis, rejuvenation, dental care and many other areas on the periphery of the Health Service which do not form part of the costs that that service has to carry. Further schemes can be beneficially introduced to bring considerable employment and wealth to the country. We should not only consider saving; we should adopt an imaginative and broad approach to the future and consider developing inventions and expanding spas.

Finally, let me suggest how such schemes could be implemented. We must continue to see how schemes can be improved and adopt a slightly different emphasis. We must ensure that the old are cared for and that the young have preventive treatment to keep them healthy. However, for others—professional people, executives and people working in factories—we should move towards the view that they should provide largely, although not entirely, for their own health needs, partly by insurance, partly through companies having their own sick pay schemes, and so on. It would then be necessary for people to fall upon the advantages of State treatment only when they were seriously ill or needed operative treatment.

Another matter that it is important to get on the record concerns tourism—another hat that I sometimes try to wear. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade has said that he will consider the position of the regional development areas. Clearly, he should also create tourist development areas, as distinct from industrial development areas. Such a creation could bring a great deal of additional revenue and employment to the country if they were carefully sited. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be as good as his word this year—I am sure that he will—and bring forward specific proposals for tourist development areas.

Once they were located, the areas would qualify for regional grants from the EEC. That would be particularly important in respect of infrastructure—roads, sewers, beaches, and other such subjects. A relatively small amount spent by way of grant in tourist development areas could bring overriding benefit to many parts of the country. They would have to be newly designated areas. Those that have been fortunate enough to be located in regional development areas in the past—I am thinking of places such as Newquay and Scarborough—have received immense benefit through the hotel and other industries purely because they were in areas of high Unemployment, There are now many other areas of high unemployment, and Thanet is probably among the worst. Nothing would be of greater value to Thanet than that it should come within a tourist development area and thus be able to derive benefit from the EEC and from grants to the tourist industry.

New thinking must be brought to bear on all the problems that I have described, including the use of computer equipment to bring advantage to the Department and the National Health Service. My right hon. Friend is pursuing a form of open and consultative government, and for that he deserves the support of the House.

12.23 pm
Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

I should like to devote a little time to the specific subject of today's debate, since I am interested in various aspects and have had experience of it over the past 20 years, but I trust that right hon. and hon. Members with constituencies in Great Britain will not resent a short break in the continuity of the debate—much shorter than the one—hour break between 11 am and 12 when the Secretary of State for Employment made his statement. I hope also that they will accept that if our constituents in Northern Ireland are to benefit from health and social services it is essential that their lives are not snuffed out by the evil men.

I therefore welcome the priority given in the Northern Ireland paragraph of the Gracious Speech committing the Government to protect all members of the community against violence and terrorism. We are further encouraged by the words My Government are firmly committed to the maintenance of law and order in all parts of the United Kingdom. The Queen's Speech of 1977 committed the then Government, of which the right hon. Member for Salford West (Mr. Orme) was a distinguished member and gave sterling service in Northern Ireland, to increasing the effectiveness of the RUC and the UDR.

Some weeks later I suggested in the House that such effectiveness ought to permit a reduction in the scale of the Army's commitment, particularly in that wasteful element of the commitment known as the short-stay formations. Not unexpectedly, I was assailed for not demanding an increase in strength, including, presumably, the strength of the NAAFI services.

Three years later the change has come. Working closely together, the RUC and the UDR are assuming responsibility for more areas. As their effectiveness continues to increase, it should be possible to scale down the Army's strength still further, though not, I trust, by the 2,000 suggested in press reports within the past 48 hours. In my view, such a reduction would impose too sudden a strain on the indigenous security forces. Nor should we in any circumstances contemplate the removal of the Regular Army from its rightful role in defending the land frontier of the United Kingdom.

I trust that increasing use will be made of the specialised counter-insurgency forces and that we, the politicians, particularly the Northern Ireland politicians, will support them in their difficult duties.

There is now in Northern Ireland a far greater sense of normality resulting from greater confidence, but we cannot be complacent as long as even one life remains in danger. To all those who have suffered grievous loss and serious injury—not just those in Northern Ireland but our fellow citizens in Great Britain who have served in the security forces and the Army and their relatives—we can now offer encourgement and consolation in the time-honoured words Say not the struggle naught availeth. In the Gracious Speech the Government go on to commit themselves to fostering economic recovery. It is to the Government's economic policies that public attention will inevitably be preponderantly directed. My colleagues and I have made no secret over the years of our conviction that the evils and injustices of inflation are, if possible, even more disastrous for those we represent than for their fellow citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom. One of the basic duties of the Government we believe is to restore and maintain a reliable currency. In our view that depends upon the nation being prepared to pay honestly, through taxation or savings, for however much it decides to spend, rather than dishonestly and slyly by depreciating the currency.

It is for that reason that under the previous Administration we paid tribute to and supported such policies as were calculated to have that effect. Equally firmly and consistently, we have supported the present Government in the same endeavour, whatever the temporary unpopularities and misconceptions, while holding ourselves at liberty to dissent from and criticise individual aspects of their economic policy. However, the Government can rely upon us to continue to support in general the aims and the philosophy of their approach.

I welcome the assurance given by the Secretary of State for Employment this morning to my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) that the schemes announced this morning will be applied to Northern Ireland. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for arranging to be here today at considerable inconvenience to himself. I assure him that the Ulster Unionist Party will co-operate fully with him in the application of those measures in order to obtain the best results.

Some are tempted to assert that this or that Government have refused to restore Stormont. However much Unionists may deplore it, the fact is that for the past eight years Parliament as a whole has adhered to the view that the restoration of something like the former structure is a development which it is not prepared to countenance.

Hon. Members and noble Lords have arrived at that position by a variety of routes. Some feel that, just ast he present leaders of the SDLP and the IRA destroyed the old Stormont, a similar fate would befall a restored Stormont. Others recognise the impossibility of reconciling not two religions but two national loyalties. Others, conscious of the political fragmentation in Northern Ireland, which has been caused by proportional representation, are convinced that the political stability necessary to sustain a devolved structure simply does not exist. That latter consideration would have spelt disaster for any form of advisory or consultative body.

Ulster Unionists may hope that those opinions could be wished away, but wishing, hoping and even demanding have not changed attitudes. We are tempted to blame Parliament for a lack of understanding, but we have to be fair and remember that the three Northern Ireland political parties that engaged in discussions in the past year could not themselves design a structure or map out an agreed course.

The latest of many attempts to devise for Ulster unique political arrangements to reconcile the political objectives of the relatively small minority who do not wish to remain in the United Kingdom with those of the remainder who do wish to remain has proved abortive. That is not a cause for surprise, because it was an attempt to achieve the inherently impossible.

No one would quarrel with the Government's aspiration to give Ulster's people more control over their own affairs. That aspiration is justified, not because more control would reconcile opposite political objectives—it cannot and will not do any such thing—but because the people in one part of the United Kingdom cannot in the long run be denied the rights and opportunities enjoyed by those in the rest of the kingdom.

So how should the Government proceed, amidst all their other preoccupations of greater moment for the nation as a whole, towards fulfilling their aspiration for Ulster? Dare I suggest that perhaps it was a mistake to try to do too much at once? Suppose that we were instead to begin with the things that are easiest and most obvious and not with those fraught with the most difficulty and controversy.

There are some matters, mostly concerned with the environment, that it cannot be right to leave in the sole responsibility of Ministers and hon. Members and which it cannot be impossible to entrust to local elected administrations. Local councils are already consulted on such topics as a matter of administrative practice. Why not try giving them some real responsibility? That could do no one any harm and it would raise no constitutional or political crisis. Why not try it and see how we get on?

Ulster Unionist Members would gladly contribute our practical experience and local knowledge towards meeting any difficulties and suggesting possible lines of approach. I hope, trust and believe that that is not a suggestion which the Government will dismiss out of hand.

12.35 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)

I am sure that the House will welcome the constructive and helpful speech of the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). I am sure, too, that he will understand if I do not follow his comments, except to say that I warmly welcome the paragraphs in the Gracious Speech dealing with Northern Ireland and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on his efforts to bring about a reconciliation of the divisions in the Province.

There are many aspects of the Queen's Speech that I warmly welcome, though the House will be glad to know that there are only one or two declarations of policy on which I wish to comment. First, I welcome the assurances given on pensions, war pensions and other social security benefits. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services made clear that the Government stand by the pledges that they have given. It must be a main principle of Conservative policy to protect the sick, the old, the disabled and those who necessarily depend on the State for protection.

It is probably fair to say that all hon. Members want to do the best they can for such groups. The right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) has called for higher benefits all round, but we must accept that in the long run real improvements in the social services cannot be sustained if we have falling economic growth, as, unfortunately, we have now.

There is one item that I wish to see reduced as a matter of urgency—the current expenditure on unemployment benefits and supplementary benefits for the unemployed and their families. I want to see it reduced not by the cutting of benefits that are properly required but by the cutting of unemployment.

In March my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services pointed out that the social security programme cost about £20 billion a year and accounted for about one-quarter of all public expenditure. We must indeed be concerned to see that that vast amount of money goes where it is most needed. Earlier this month, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security gave more precise figures. The total cost is rising, and she said: The most recent estimates of expenditure on all social security benefits, including pensions, for 1980–81 is £21,620 million, including and these are the most significant figures— £992 million on unemployment benefit and £2,948 million on supplementary benefits."—[Official Report, 10 November 1980; Vol. 991, c. 79.] That total figure of £3,940 million for unemployment and supplementary benefits compares with an estimated £1,320 million in 1978–79 and £320 million when the Conservative Government left office in 1974. By any standard, that is a shocking waste of financial and human resources. It is that factor, coupled with the increasing cost of servicing public borrowing through high interest rates, that has upset all the calculations of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about this year's public sector borrowing requirement. That, primarily, necessitates curbs on other sections of public expenditure.

If the estimate is correct that for every 100,000 extra unemployed there is a further burden of £250 million a year on public expenditure, that is relatively small compared with the enormous loss of productivity, wealth and tax-producing revenue that that number of people out of work represents.

Social security and other benefits have taken a great deal of the misery and poverty out of unemployment, but, at the same time, the figures that we are considering today highlight the cost of unemployment in national and budgetary, as well as social, terms. Unfortunately, we know that the outlook for unemployment remains grim. For the first half of the year the gross domestic product was 2 per cent. lower than during the same period of 1979. But, more significantly still, within that total manufacturing output fell by just over 6 per cent.

The root of the trouble is, to a large extent, that labour-intensive manufacturing production is being replaced by North Sea oil output. There is a danger here, because that North Sea oil output is masking what is happening in the manufacturing and production industries of this country. The wealth that is being created by North Sea oil output is not being used sufficiently to finance investment and growth. That is what is behind the colourful anxieties expressed by Sir Michael Edwardes at the CBI conference.

According to today's issue of The Times, Professor Hayek is calling for an even more drastic monetary policy and "bigger and better bankruptcies". I have some admiration for Professor Hayek. Indeed, at the end of the war I produced an abridged and, if I may say so, perhaps an even more readable version of his "Road to Serfdom". But he is wholly wrong in his analysis of the situation as it exists today. No doubt, to rely soley on cheap money to make good the harm done by monopolistic wage policies was equally wrong, but either way, whether we talk about cheap or dear money—in the days that Professor Hayek formulated his theories, cheap money was 2 per cent. and dear money was 6 per cent.—any one-sided emphasis on monetary policy may, as we are beginning to see, produce effects as unlooked for as they are undesirable.

I believe that a gentle measure of Professor Hayek's medicine, taken at the right time in the immediate post-war years, might have saved us much sickness. But a massive overdose of the sort that Professor Hayek suggests today could kill the patient.

The professor talks of bigger and better bankruptcies, but the small business without the large reserves is being hardest hit at present. There are about 1¼ million small businesses in this country, employing about 6 million people. That is why I welcome the declaration in the Gracious Speech that special attention is to be given to measures to permit small firms to expand and prosper.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry has been present throughout most of the debate, and I know of the tremendous interest that he has taken in that aspect of Government policy. I know that he was as glad as I was to hear the Secretary of State for Social Services emphasise that in the new arrangements for sickness benefits regard will be given to the particular problems of small firms. It is no good talking about their having bigger and better bankruptcies; they just have small bankruptcies, which are just as serious for them.

As I have often said, to enable small businesses to prosper we must remove the present burden of penal interest rates. We must also recognise that for many small firms time is running out. The rate of business failures continues to increase alarmingly. The total of company liquidations increased by 43 per cent. in the first half of this year. That is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many people who cannot afford to have a bankruptcy of any kind, big or small. They simply cease to trade, leaving behind the wreckage of their business and their hopes.

In the real world, uninhabited as it is by economists and statisticians, the crude axe of monetarism hits the very people that it should not hit. Someone once said that the trouble with economists was that they spent 20 years trying to find out what went wrong last time in order that they could get it wrong this time. As for the statisticians, if we lose a telephone number they will tell us how to estimate it.

As on previous occasions, the position is particularly difficult in the North of England. By September this year, unemployment in the Northern region had risen to nearly 162,000–41,500 higher than a year ago. That represents an unemployment rate of 11.7 per cent., compared with 8.3 per cent. nationally. The trend is still upwards, and in many areas the figure is much higher than 11.7 per cent. In Consett it may be that the adult unemployment rate, if further planned closures take place, could go up to over 50 per cent.

In addition, many firms are not only not recruiting; they are avoiding further redundancies only by work sharing and support from the Government's welcome and necessary temporary short-term working compensation scheme, under which 13,000 jobs are currently being supported in the region. That is significant and helpful, but it masks the real damage that is being done now to the productive industry of the country.

Most worrying of all are the concentrations of unemployment in particular areas and the sorry plight of school leavers, of whom more than 30,000 are unemployed in the Northern region. In some areas, as many as 60 per cent. of school leavers are finding it impossible to get a job.

It is against that background that I warmly welcome what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment had to say today. He at least demonstrated—this is important—that the Government care, as he put it, about the consequences of unemployment at the present time.

It is right that there should be this extension of the youth opportunities programme. It is right that young people should be given the opportunity of taking part in voluntary programmes. What we have to ensure is that these are not merely palliatives, lasting for only a short time. As the Secretary of State said, in the case of adult unemployment—structural unemployment—it is proving extremely difficult to find new jobs.

We are now on the horns of a dilemma. One horn is labelled inflation and the other deflation. This is a new situation. Hitherto, we have always worried about inflation. Now, increasingly, we have to face the problem of deflation. The object, therefore, of the Government"s exercise must be to avoid being too deeply impaled on either horn. So the important thing is to maintain the maximum degree of flexibility, to be prepared to act quickly and to adjust the balance of the economy at any time by whatever methods or measures may be necessary. That is why I talk about motorway madness. The Government know where they started. They know where they are going. But in driving along the road they must have regard to the conditions that they meet on the way.

To the extent that today's announcement by the Secretary of State for Employment demonstrates the degree of flexibility for which I have always called in Government policy, it is something that I warmly welcome.

Politics and policies are about people. That is why they must be sensitive and flexible. That is why Governments should not go nap on one statistic or one economic expert. Professor Friedman can always opt out. He can say that the policy is not working because the bureaucrats have got it wrong, or because the Treasury or the Bank of England has got it wrong, or because there are no index-linked interest rates on Government borrowing. Economists have a way out, but the Government retain, day by day, the responsibility, and it can be exercised only in a way that enables them to adjust far more quickly to changing circumstances than the economists will allow.

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has raised some interesting points. As an economist, I cannot help thinking of Keynes' dictum that in the long run it will be all right; in the long run we are all dead. That is a valid point. We may reach a stage at which some industries find that it is impossible to receive any form of resuscitation. That is why the right hon. and learned Gentleman's contribution is so important.

Mr. Rippon

Perhaps we underestimate the contribution that Professor Keynes made to our thinking on economics. He never argued for purely reflationary measures. He said once that it was extraordinary that Governments should often spend money on wholly wasteful expenditure rather than on partially wasteful expenditure. He had a lot of sense.

Comparisons with the past can be dangerous. Every economic cycle has its own particular circumstances. It has been said that history never repeats itself but that historic situations occur. People should bear in mind the circumstances in which those such as Professor Keynes worked. In the North, people still remember that the Jarrow shipyard—closed in the early 1930s—was one of the most efficient shipyards in the country. Today, it is often the efficient factories that are closed. Like the Jarrow shipyard in the 1930s, they are in temporary financial difficulties.

What happened when war broke out? Even at the height of the U-boat campaign it proved impossible to reopen the Jarrow shipyard. We may find similar difficulty if we allow factories to close today. Miss Ellen Wilkinson spoke about Jarrow having been murdered. We do not want the next generation to talk about Consett having been murdered. We must find employment for the young, especially in the regions in which they live.

Much is said about mobility of labour. However, it is not particularly easy to move from one area to another, particularly if a person has not got a house. In the famous debate on employment policy on 21 June 1944, Ernest Bevin said: Large scale transfer of labour is not, in my view, the answer to localised unemployment. Certain grave social disorders arise from it. One is that it denudes the area concerned of their most valuable resources, their young man-power, and results in appalling waste of social capital which would be better spent on developments."—[Official Report, 21 June 1944; Vol. 401, c. 224.] That is why I have always believed that it is not sensible, in a time of recession, to defer expenditure which is of great significance to the growth and strength of the nation. That includes the money that the Government contemplate spending on retraining the unemployed and on providing young people with greater employment opportunities. In terms of public expenditure, it also means maintaining a steady flow of capital outlay at a level that is sufficient to employ the manpower, materials and productive capacity available. It is largely a matter of timing.

In a boom such as that experienced in 1972–73, it is necessary to slow down construction starts, but it is never necessary to stop projects in mid-stream. The construction industry is a good economic indicator but a bad economic regulator. The time has come to have two Budgets. One should be a current Budget, which includes such matters as social security and benefits. Normally, it should be financed by revenue rather than by borrowing. There should also be a capital Budget, which could, in appropriate circumstances, be dealt with differently.

The power of the State—as the main buyer of buildings, goods and services—is the best way of countering inflationary or deflationary movement. We could employ that power better. Public expenditure should have regard to regional as well as national considerations. We should turn our backs on arbitrary cuts across the board, of which the Treasury is historically so fond. The Government should not control the money supply as measured by that dubious and highly unreliable statistic, M3, but they should control total spending and, in particular, the direction of that expenditure. That is why the emphasis should be placed on the creation of real growth, real wealth and real jobs. That is the only foundation on which our social services can be built.

Now is the time for the Government to use their power as a client in the market to purchase real developments that can be used for the future—for example, hospitals, roads and airports. That would be much better than spending about £4,000 million a year on unemployment and supplementary benefits. We are very close to a point at which, if the monetary policy in its harshest form does not work, it may be too difficult to try anything else. The alternative to a more constructive attitude to public expenditure may be a depression that, not only in this country but in other countries, could make the crash of 1929–1930 look as if it were a technical correction of the market.

12.56 pm
Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

It is a great pleasure for me to speak after the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), whose speech was like a breath of fresh air blowing from the Government Benches. He is to be commended on his brave and erudite speech.

In view of the time factor, I have cut out one or two items from what I proposed to say. However, I shall refer briefly to them. The first concerns perinatal care. If the Secretary of State is keen on cost effectiveness, I remind him of the statistics that both he and I used in Trafalgar Square, namely, that if in a year we can save 50 babies from being severely handicapped, that will pay the £25 million required to fund such a scheme.

The second point that I wished to mention at some length concerns the safety of medicines. I should like the Secretary of State, who has a genuine interest in this matter, to look again at the effectiveness of the yellow card system and to try to persuade the Committee on Safety of Medicines to consider what it now calls anecdotal cases. These anecdotal cases sometimes represent severe human suffering. I am saddened to think that the committee will not look at such cases when hardship and suffering are involved.

Basically, I want to confine my remarks to the Warnock report. The Prime Minister said yesterday that the report would be implemented. The Gracious Speech promises that Legislation will be brought forward to facilitate the education of children with special needs. That refers to Warnock. At the same time, there is severe control over public expenditure plans. Legislation for Warnock without resources would be meaningless. It would raise false hopes.

I hope that the Secretary of State will indicate that resources will be provided for Warnock. Of course, if he says that he will provide resources for Warnock, he will be in grave difficulty because the rate support grant does not allow him to specify a need. I have a strange feeling that local authorities at this time of cutback will be prepared, though reluctantly, to accept specific, albeit limited, grants for the implementation of Warnock, which involves resource implications.

No one will deny that there is a need for special schools. Indeed, Warnock says so. Basically, Warnock states that we should try to bring handicapped children into ordinary schools where they can be integrated. That means that there must be consultation with parents. But there can be choice only where resources and places are available. We must not make a hollow sham of the word "choice" if there is no choice.

Handicapped children normally suffer from a multiple handicap. Even a child with a single handicap suffers and experiences a double handicap. One results from the physical disability; the second results because resources and facilities are not made available for that child to develop to his or her maximum capacity. If properly implemented, Warnock would assist the child to blossom and to contribute to our society despite the disability.

I should like the Minister to look very carefully at something which has caused me anxiety throughout my professional life in schoolmastering—the discretionary grant. This grant normally applies to the student who attends a technical college or a college of further education. When the Minister implements Warnock in legislation, I urge him to consider whether it would be possible to make the grant for further education of the disabled child mandatory. That would go a long way towards relieving the suffering and hardship experienced by the family, and such children would not be denied the opportunity of further education.

The other matter I should like to raise relates to a slightly personal point—the question of aids for the disabled child. Sometimes aids are personal; sometimes they are teaching aids. Very often for the deaf or partially deaf a teaching aid is required. But sometimes a specific personal aid is required.

I do not suppose that my younger daughter, who is now very pregnant and about to make me a grandfather for the third time—I hope that I have many more—will mind my saying that from the age of two she had to wear spectacles. No one ever doubted who provided the spectacles. They were provided by the DHSS. Without the spectacles, she could not have received an education. But she managed to take a degree at Oxford because she was able to continue with her education. However, there are severely handicapped children who are denied that chance because they do not have the necessary personal equipment.

I am delighted that the Secretary of State is in his place. I should like his Department to consider seriously whether the equipment required to enable a handicapped child to be educated ought to be provided by his Department, while the education per se is provided by the Department of Education and Science.

Finally, one of the constant difficulties of integration is access. Under the Alf Morris Act, and since then, we have tried to ensure that any new public building provides access for the disabled. Every time I mention this matter, people assume that I am referring to access for the person in a wheelchair. There is no one who has not at some time gone around in a vehicle of some sort, on four wheels, pushed by someone else—we have all been in a pram at some time. Why do mothers not have the chance in many cases to go into public buildings with their babies? Why should steps prevent mothers from doing that? Why should steps bar wheelchairs?

As a special case—I should like to pretend that my disability is a rugby injury, but in my heart of hearts I know that it is the onset of arthritis—it would be rather nice if we provided access other than steps for the elderly, so that they, too, could get into public buildings. Once we have access arrangements in schools and places of education, we are well on the way to providing what is required for integrated education. Legislation without resources in terms of aids, access or special teachers will be a heart-rending sham.

1.5 pm

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

It is a great pleasure to be able to congratulate Opposition Members on their speeches, and it is one that does not occur very often. However, on this occasion I want especially to say how much I agreed with the final words of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) about access.

Next year is International Year of Disabled People and not only the disabled in wheelchairs, and my own contribution has been instigated by an extremely brave constituent of mine who has multiple sclerosis and who leads a difficult life. Having visited him recently, I was just about to leave when I asked whether there was anything else that I could do for him. He replied "No, nothing. Everything's fine." He is a great example to us all. He was telling me that we ought to do more on public transport in London to give access for disabled people and for those with defective sight. I am making a little progress with my campaign, but, if matters get sticky, I hope that I shall be able to enlist the help of the hon. Member for Eccles and see whether we can make a joint venture of it.

Those are the nice words that I have to say today. I turn now to a slightlier nastier subject, which I raised last year during the debate on the Queen's Speech when I had the doubtful privilege in the mind of Mr. Speaker of raising the first point of order after the general election.

When Mr. Speaker announced how the business would be handled in this same debate 18 months ago, he said that a different subject would be allocated to each day. My point of order was to seek Mr. Speaker's assurance that any subject referred to in the Queen's Speech—or even one that was not in it—could be raised at any time during the debate. That being so, I am a little disappointed to see only Ministers from one Department present this morning, whereas, according to yesterday's Hansard, there are 87 Ministers in all.

Mr. Molyneaux

The hon. Gentleman is being a bit unfair to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who was present for at least part of this debate.

Mr. Page

I accept that. Perhaps I did not express myself very well. I agree that there were other Ministers present listening to the statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was also here. I was about to say, however, that it would not result in too great an inconvenience if the leader of the party in power commanded the attendance of his or her Ministers in debates such as this. In the nicest way, perhaps I might say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and to the Government Whip, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Waddington) — and I should have thought that Opposition Members would be even keener to see this than I am—that perhaps debates in this House should have absolute priority for Ministers in the Departments concerned and that virtually all other meetings should be cancelled on the day when one of these debates takes place.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Perhaps I might place on record the understanding with which the cancellation of my appearance at three seperate functions in the North of England was accepted by the organisers, so that I should be able to be here to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page), whose speeches I always enjoy.

Mr. Page

I am especially grateful to see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I hope that he will ensure that my message gets to his ministerial colleagues.

I turn to a subject that is of major importance to many of my constituents who are retired. Some live on fixed incomes and others have ordinary or index-linked pensions. I hope that during this Session we shall have a chance to take a new and closer look at the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971. That Act ensures that the portion of a public servant's life earnings that is set aside as savings to provide a personal pension above the State pension shall be protected from the effects of inflation.

Public servants place much importance on their pensions. They believe, rightly, that they have sacrificed part of their income throughout their careers to provide such pensions. However, employees in the private sector who contribute to pension funds are in exactly the same position, because they probably give up at least as much of their incomes in contributions to pension funds as do civil servants. The only difference is that civil servants' pensions are, in theory, non-contributory and their wages and salaries are stated in net terms. The net earnings of workers in the private sector, after deducting pensions contributions, are no greater than the corresponding Civil Service remuneration.

If the House was right in 1971 to safeguard, by statute, savings for pensions by State servants, why has something similar not been done for the rest of the nation? If we were right to safeguard the pensions of the elderly, should we not protect the pension investments of the young, who often save so that they can buy a first home?

Until eight years ago the interest, after deducting standard rate of tax, on almost all forms of savings was just a little higher than the rate of inflation. It will not be news to hear that in the last eight years savings have earned less than the rate of inflation. Eight years is a long time in human terms. In the last eight years, savers from all sections of the community have been losing their nest eggs. If one had saved £100 in 1973, today, even with all the interest accrued, it would have a real worth of £59.

A few weeks ago Vanbrugh Investments, a member of the Prudential group, inserted an advertisement in a Sunday newspaper. One paragraph was particularly telling. It read: Take a look at what your savings will buy nowadays and remember 10 years ago for £10,000 you could have bought an average three-bedroom house, plus a Rover 3500, plus a Mini, plus a four-berth sailing cruiser. That was in 1970. That £10,000 house is probably worth £30,000 today.

At a time when civil servants, hon. Members and others in the public sector have had the most important element of their savings—their pensions—fully protected, can it be right that all other forms of savings for other people are left entirely to the mercy of inflation? Many of us believe that that is wrong. There has been pressure to take action, and a new union has been formed—not a trade union, but the Savers' Union, which, in its wisdom, has elected me as its chairman. It intends to publicise, as widely as possible, the way in which savers have been short-changed for many years.

I do not think that that cheating is deliberate. I am sure that it is not the wish of the Treasury, the banks or the building societies to swindle savers, but those extremely responsible institutions have been doing just that. They have borrowed people's savings at a rate of interest below the rate of inflation. If interest is the wages of thrift, the wages of the thrifty have been cut ruthlessly year afer year.

What are we to do about it? I have one direct and one broad suggestion to make. The Savers' Union, which aims at all times to be extremely sensible and responsible, believes that it is wrong that, for eight years, average savings have fallen by 5 per cent. each year. In the past 12 months, wages and salaries have increased by 21 per cent. while prices have risen by less than 16 per cent., and there has been a 5 per cent. loss to savers because the interest rate has been 5 per cent. below the rate of inflation.

The only genuine long-term way to end that injustice is to stop inflation. Savers must be thankful for the steady fall in the price index during the past four months. They should congratulate the Government on their determined effort to treat a reduction in the rate of inflation as their first priority. Even after the latest fall, prices are still rising well above the net interest rate received by savers. When savers are told that high interest rates create inflation, they do not believe it. They think that it is a joke.

I ask my right hon. Friend to pass on to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the suggestion that to charge income tax on interest, the rate of which is already below the rate of inflation, imposes a capital levy. I ask the Chancellor to consider coming to the rescue of pensioners in private pension schemes and other annuitants—those whose pensions are not index-linked—and allow the gross amount of pension to be deflated each year for tax purposes by the fall in the value of money. That is the only way in which some fairness can be provided.

We often discuss the disadvantaged and the need for a compassionate society, but, in the sum of human distress, the plight of those on small fixed pensions is extremely serious. We must move quickly to end the injustice that is being done to all those who are saving or have saved and who see their savings shrinking rapidly. If there were no savers, there would be no home ownership through building societies. There would be no hire-purchase industry. Most savings would be in the form of valuables dug into the back garden.

I do not often bother to try to catch the eye of the Chair during economic debates. However, over the past few months I have been burdened by the realisation of the sacrifices that have been made over the years by the responsible and the thrifty. In the main they are not wealthy, and their savings have been decimated by inflation.

I hope that the House will not think that my speech is an attack on civil servants or other State employees. I do not want to take from them their index-linked pensions. I am merely trying to draw attention to the reality of their position. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would approve of the ideal that all pensions should be index-linked. I am sure that he and everyone else will agree that at present that must be a pipe dream. There is only one way of making all pensions inflation-proof, and that is to get rid of inflation itself. That must be the Government's prime aim, and it should be the Opposition's prime aim, too.

When speaking of State pensions and of ourselves and others who have index-linked pensions, I am speaking of a group that has more to lose than any other. It is in its self-interest, as well as in the interests of the country, to deny itself demands for high income increases.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)




Mr. Pavitt


Mr. Page

It is as certain as night follows day that if that group continues to demand high wage increases and low productivity, it will cause the Government to abandon the principle of index-linking. The rest of the community will rebel.

Mr. Pavitt


Mr. Dobson


Mr. Dalyell


Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)


Mr. Page

The rest of the community will rebel at the extent of the privilege of this one sector unless the level of demand of those in the public sector is reduced.

Those who work in the public sector have a greater contribution to make than any others to help to defeat inflation. I hope they realise that it is in their common self-interest to curb their wage demands and to support the Government in reducing inflation, with every means in their power.

1.24 pm
Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)

I know that the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) will forgive me if I do not take up his remarks.

I respond quickly, firmly and positively to the Secretary of State's statement about the protracted negotiations with the tobacco industry. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that three weeks ago I made an offer that if the industry proved to be so recalcitrant that he could get from it only the piddling sort of statement that we have had today, I should be pleased to introduce legislation.

Mr. Freud

indicated assent.

Mr. Pavitt

I am pleased to see that I have the assent of the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). When I introduced a Bill of similar effect on a previous occasion, the hon. Gentleman was one of my supporters. That Bill is already drafted. I look forward to a half-day debate—I hope before Second Reading.

The Secretary of State for Employment's intervention during the debate has enabled us to see the statement that has been prepared. I hope that the Secretary of State for Social Services will convey to his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), my sympathy. It must have been heartbreaking to have to keep persisting over all these months and to achieve such a voluntary agreement which is ineffectual.

The concession on poster advertising gets us back to the position only 18 months ago, before the war between British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco. Considering the previous figures, £6 million is not a great deal.

My second point concerns the notice on the side of the packet, which is extremely difficult to swallow when the entire medical profession—including the Royal College and the BMA—has been asking for something better than a mere bromide on the side of the packet.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I should not wish the hon. Gentleman to misunderstand the position. The amount of poster advertising has grown rapidly, particularly this year. That is why we have taken as a benchmark for the reduction the level of advertising in 1979–80. We are cutting back from that level, not from the present level, which is a greater cutback.

Mr. Pavitt

I realise that it is a cut from £20 million to £14 million.

Sunday advertising in the colour supplements of newspapers has increased greatly, and that will remain unscathed. However, I shall not pursue that matter now.

I wish to give the House an idea of what is incorporated in my Bill. I have received strong support from the BMA, which passed to me the recommendation made by its annual conference. The BMA represents doctors in hospitals and general practitioners. The recommendation states: That this meeting notes with dismay that whilst welcome publicity is given to the ill effects of smoking"— which means one premature death every Eve minutes—a holocaust, a massacre— the Government takes no firm action". At least the Government have now taken a decision, and I congratulate them on confining it to last for only two years. It continues: all tobacco advertising should be banned except at the point of sale; greater emphasis should be made to the general public of medical conditions other than cancer of the lung". It refers to emphysema and all the chronic respiratory diseases, which are far more dangerous and killing than carcinoma. It adds that smoking should be restricted in hospitals; smoking should be banned on public transport and at indoor places of public entertainment. I hope that I shall get an opportunity to debate my Bill. That is more or less what it contains.

I shall be brief, as other hon. Members wish to speak. I shall deal briefly with other omissions from the Gracious Speech. This morning the Secretary of State mentioned discussion documents. I have never seen quite so many discussion documents being produced. I suspect that it is all discussion and very little action. In the Gracious Speech there is nothing very solid.

I strongly protest against the secondary legislation that does not appear in the Gracious Speech. A point of order was raised this morning about legislation that had not been properly digested. In 10 days' time we shall have one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation ever regarding the increased charges for the chronic sick. If a person suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, basic back pains, which so many people have, angina or coronary thrombosis, he will now pay £15 a year for a basic season ticket. The Government are taxing the sick in order to get them out of their financial dilemma.

Those charges will be introduced, without debate, on 1 December. I make the strongest protest, therefore, to the Secretary of State on that score. I am sorry that time does not permit me to go through the whole of that statutory instrument, because it is likely that before we have the opportunity of praying against it, it will have taken effect.

There is an acute shortage of specialised nurses, and the Department is doing nothing about the problem. That particularly includes qualified theatre nurses in operating theatres in acute hospitals. With the creation, especially with American finance, of private hospitals concerned not with geriatrics and the mentally ill but only with operations, the drain from the NHS of trained operating theatre sisters is creating a crisis.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I have received an invitation to visit a private psychiatric hospital financed by American money, and I shall be going there in a few weeks' time.

Mr. Pavitt

I am sorry that I do not have longer to develop this case. Let us have a debate about it.

The Royal College of Nursing has conducted an excellent survey of 92 health authorities. It has found that 76 of them are short of specialised, trained theatre nurses. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to do something about the long waiting lists in NHS hospitals, he will have to introduce a crash programme for more theatre nurses. If I had more time, I could cover the whole range of specialised nursing—nursing for transplant operations, renal dialysis and other specialties. Let us hope that at long last someone in the Department, instead of looking at nursing generally and going through the long procedures of the Whitley council, will institute crash programmes to deal with the acute shortages and bottlenecks which exist within out National Health Service.

I plead with the Secretary of State to hold another Sunningdale conference for his Department. Instead of dealing with the daily pressures on the Department—and I sympathise with him because I know of them—the conference might look at the Reith lectures given this year by Mr. Ian Kennedy. For once we are provided from outside with a statement of what medicine is all about. I feel certain that a seminar at Sunningdale, involving all the senior officials in the Department, could do nothing but good in that regard and certainly make an innovation affecting future policy decisions.

The Gracious Speech says nothing about the Black report and the inequalities in health care. If I cannot get the Secretary of State to hold a seminar at Sunningdale, will he at least, at one of his departmental meetings with his senior officials, examine chapter 8, page 228, of the report? There is listed there a series of positive steps that could be taken, not to cure people but to prevent them from becoming ill in the first place. That is what health care is all about. However, the report has received a very cool reception and has provoked no positive response from the Department.

I am grateful for this opportunity to bring a few points before the Secretary of State. He and I have known each other for so long that he probably realises that I have bottled up about 90 per cent. of what I wanted to say. I urge him in the coming Session to move along the lines that I have indicated. He is in a financial straitjacket. It is no good his talking of spending more money than ever before. He knows that, in practical terms, cuts are being made. Rising costs and the pay awards mean that he is working on a much lower budget. Even if he were working on the same budget, that would still be inadequate. I therefore urge him to become a little humid, a little damp, in the Cabinet and get a bit more money for the National Health Service.

1.34 pm
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

I shall follow the example of brevity set by the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) and make only a few comments. It will be necessary for me to break the continuity of the debate. I regret having to do that, but I do not apologise, because Northern Ireland Members have to do that as no day has been set for the discussion of matters affecting Northern Ireland.

It is not difficult to be brief if one follows the example of the Prime Minister's speech yesterday and that of the Gracious Speech, which contained only 46 words in relation to Northern Ireland, or, to be more exact, 46 words, two commas and a full stop. It took only about 15 seconds to pass over that section. The shortness of the remarks was matched by the fact that the 46 words did not say a great deal anyway.

I should like to consider the three main points contained within those words. First, we were told that the Government will continue in its efforts to protect all members of the community against violence and terrorism". Hon. Members should mark the words "will continue". If they mean that we shall have more of the policy that has left behind it many mangled bodies and mutilated corpses, they offer little comfort to the people of Northern Ireland. More than 2,000 people have died and more than 25,000 have been injured in a campaign of violence that the Government answered with the same policy as was pursued by previous Governments. That policy has failed. We need a new policy for Northern Ireland, not of reaction but of the vigorous pursuit of terrorism from whatever source it may arise.

The second point made in the Gracious Speech was that the Government will continue in their efforts to foster Northern Ireland's economic recovery. There are 100,000 people in the dole queues of Northern Ireland as a result of those policies, yet the Government say that they will continue with them.

Northern Ireland has some of the longest housing waiting lists in the United Kingdom. In my constituency more than 4,500 families are waiting for houses. Behind that statistic there are untold misery, hardship and overcrowding. Recent statistics have shown that Northern Ireland has the worst housing in the United Kingdom. It has three times as many unfit houses as anywhere in Britain.

There is an urgent need for action on the economy. If the Government are telling us that they intend to continue with their present policies, it will be a sick joke to the people of Northern Ireland. Businesses are closing at an alarming rate in Northern Ireland. The agriculture industry is bleeding from its wounds, and the construction industry is on its knees. Please do not let the Government tell us that they are to continue with a policy that has been disastrous for Northern Ireland.

The third Northern Ireland aspect in the Gracious Speech is a commitment that the Government will continue their efforts to create a form of administration that will better serve local needs. The Prime Minister elaborated on that slightly when she said: we are now considering other ways of making the administration of the Province more responsive to local needs".—[Official Report, 20 November 1980; Vol. 994, c. 7–39.] That comment rang a bell. It is almost exactly the verbiage used in paragraph 64 of the document "The Government of Northern Ireland: Proposals for Further Discussion", which said: In the absence of such acceptance, the Government would then explore other ways of making the government in Northern Ireland more responsive to the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland. It went further: Such alternatives could involve a progressive approach to the transfer of a range of powers to a locally elected Assembly, such as that mentioned in paragraph 6 of the original Working Paper for the Conference. That may be one of the ways that the Government see of moving forward. I was a member of a delegation that attended the conference. We had to attend. Like other political parties in Northern Ireland, my party promised the electors that we would pursue every avenue to try to get an acceptable devolved Government. It would have been ludicrous if, having made that promise and having been elected on that basis, we had refused to take part in such a conference.

We attended the conference and put forward the view of Unionists in Northern Ireland without apology. We believe that the answer to many of Northern Ireland's problems is a devolved Assembly, so that local people will have some control over local affairs. I ask the Secretary of State to continue to strive towards devolved government in Northern Ireland. He must not be deflected from that course because of the hardships that he sees. Some people, for one reason or another, do not like the democratic process when it does not put them in the majority. But democracy must be the basis of whatever establishment or Administration is put forward for Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) commented on what the Secretary of State might do now. He suggested that some minor modification could be made to the present local government system. If the Secretary of State is considering that possibility, if he makes any change in local government it should be a non-structural change. The manifesto of the Democratic Unionist Party suggested in 1977 that certain powers could be given to local government—powers concerning planning, roads and so on—that are now in the control of the Northern Ireland Office. That could be done, consistent with striving towards devolved government in Northern Ireland. There should be no obstacle to that, and a devolved government should be the Government's first priority if they are to stay in tune with the needs and desires of the people of Northern Ireland.

There are many people in Northern Ireland who, for a variety of reasons, do not want devolved government in Northern Ireland. There are people in the SDLP who would prefer the Republic of Ireland to be brought into the consultative process. That would be totally against the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and it should not be contemplated by the Government. There are others in the Unionist camp, who, unfortunately, are not present now, who do not want devolved government because they follow more closely their mentor, the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who wants integration and does not want the return of Stormont. The reason that many Official Unionists give for not wanting devolved government is that they feel that it would be a danger to the Union, despite the fact that it worked for 50 years without endangering the Union. Those voices should be resisted, because the people of Northern Ireland have made clear that they want devolved government and that they see it as the way forward.

In her remarks yesterday, the Prime Minister referred to the present hunger strike by prisoners in the Maze prison. She made clear—here, at least, I can end on a note of agreement with the Government—that they would not give political status to those prisoners. But she did not say that she would not make any further concessions to them. The Government have already made a concession on prison clothes. I should like an assurance from the Government that they will not make any concessions to prisoners who are trying to blackmail them. Those prisoners are in gaol because they have committed the most hideous crimes. Three of the prisoners are serving sentences for murder and another is serving a sentence for a list of crimes. If the sentences for those crimes had run consecutively instead of concurrently, he would be in gaol for three centuries,

Those are the sort of people who are on hunger strike, and it would be ridiculous in the extreme if the Government were to concede anything to them. Will the Government make it clear that there will be no further attempt to make concessions to those who have caused so much misery in Northern Ireland and who have left behind a trail of bloodshed? Those people should be resisted at all costs. They do not deserve special treatment; they do not deserve privileged treatment. The Government must make clear that they will not concede in any way to them.

1.45 pm
Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

Mr. Aneurin Bevan, in giving advice to a young Member of Parliament, said "When you speak, you speak to an audience of one, and that is yourself." One could not help remembering that in listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page).

In a debate of this kind, it is difficult to know whether to make a broad assessment of the subjects which fall under today's business in the Loyal Address or whether one should perhaps home in and make a sustained attack on a single subject. I have decided, in the cause of brevity—and because my right hon. and hon. Friends and I will oppose most vigorously many individual items which have been raised today—to give a very broad outline of such opposition as we have to such measures as are pinpointed in the Loyal Address.

I should like to begin with the factor which was very ably argued by the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones). I know that the Secretary of State is an ally and that his junior Minister has worked very hard for the cause, but one has to say that the report that we have received is a pussyfooting attempt at achieving not nearly enough. I do not think that anyone will be impressed by the reduction of expenditure on posters, because that is the sort of expenditure which can very easily be falsified.

We know that a cut-down in tobacco is an argument between the benefits to health and the loss of income in revenue. I know that the Secretary of State and his Department have our sympathy in treading this delicate path, but there are aspects of the tobacco ban which must be looked at more carefully. Sponsorship is one of them. It is plumb wrong for the Government to stand by and allow sporting activities to be sponsored willy-nilly by the tobacco companies.

If a tobacco company wants to sponsor motor racing or horse racing or snooker, there is a lukewarm argument in favour of it. If it wants to sponsor the sort of activity in which smoking is detrimental to performance, such as cricket and athletics, it is plumb wrong.

With regard to tar yield, the Department is absolutely on the right path, but if the tar content is small, perhaps the warning might be in slightly smaller print; or, to put it much more constructively, the higher the tar content, the bigger must be the warning because the greater is the danger.

With regard to the change of benefits announced by the Secretary of State, I hope that he will accept that the number of supplementary benefit claims is far too high and that it is the fault of the system. I was delighted to listen to the intervention of the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price). who said that he hoped that any plans currently being made would be made with the tax credit system in mind, because it is only with that sort of enlightened system—for which my party has been arguing, world without end—that we shall reduce the number of supplementary benefit claims.

The Secretary of State seemed to take some pride in having announced the results of the work of a committee. He called it open government. He must know how much I approve of open government. But I disapprove of anyone taking pride merely in publishing the findings of a committee. One would hope that they would be published without anyone having to point to the fact that they were published. It is a step in the right direction and I hope that it is the type of thing that is taken for granted.

I wish to refer to income during initial sickness. A very good paper has been produced by the Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses. It is called "Income during sickness—a prescription for disaster." My hon. Friends and I completely agree with the complaint but disagree with the solution put forward.

I listened carefully to the Secretary of State, who put forward so many palliative and conditional clauses. When those are taken into account and when the little hit for the extra person—up to 100 per cent. and down to 50 per cent.—is considered, one is forced to ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at the proposals again. Given the extra administration, the difficulty in comprehension and the additional numbers involved, it might not prove to be the saving that he anticipates.

Great apprehension has been caused in small businesses in my constituency and, indeed, in small businesses in many other constituencies. Many small businesses have pared down their staff to the minimum. Such businesses will have to employ someone every time an employee is sick. I despair of any genuine understanding on the part of the Government.

I asked the Prime Minister a question on 27 March 1980 and raised this subject. I asked how small businesses and post offices, which might employ only one person, could cope when that person became sick and when they had to replace that person at the extra expense of paying two salaries. The Prime Minister replied: I would be very surprised if a sub-postmaster with one employee had no alterative source of income."—[Official Report, 27 March 1980; Vol. 980, c. 1649.] There speaks a really enlightened person. The Prime Minister knows that most sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses have a yacht on the Riviera and a little business in Bond Street that just manages to help them pay their employees' salaries. One can do nothing but weep at the utter irrelevance of that reply and its distance from reality.

Early-day motion No. 14 stands in the name of the leader of the Liberal Party, my right hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel). It calls attention to the new threat to sub-post offices and states:

[That this House is seriously disturbed by reports in 'The Times' that certain across the counter payments of child benefits and old age pensions are to be replaced by direct transfers into bank accounts; regrets the cheap swindle involved in proposing that most mothers receive child benefit in arrears, effectively depriving them of four weeks' benefit; wishes to reiterate its dismay at any further threat to sub-post offices, many of which only survive by virtue of their functions in paying benefits; and believes that any compensation fund tor sub-postmasters cannot compensate people in villages and far-flung estates for the loss of what may be their only local shop.]

I hope that hon. Members on both sides will sign that motion before long. It does not seek to make a party political point. The Secretary of State has admitted that there will be a saving of some £50 million. This measure simply represents another clandestine way of taking money away from those who need it, in order to finance those who may not.

I now turn to extra public expenditure by the DHSS. I make a plea to the Secretary of State that he should rationalise public expenditure. He should bear in mind that 82 per cent. of half of that amount is made up from contributions that he receives from employers, employees and the self-employed. If the Secretary of State uses such terms as £20,000 million, he is using emotive language. Such language might make many people agree that. he should save money.

The wise Lord Banks wrote: The Government argue that the social security budget has become too large. They ignore the fact that half the benefits are national insurance benefits, paid for as to 82 per cent. by earnings related contributions. It is questionable whether these contributions should be regarded as public expenditure at all. Motorists are required by law to insure their cars. No one regards motor insurance as public expenditure. On that note, I give the Government notice that, as ever, we shall oppose those cuts and measures which, we feel, disadvantage the wrong people and are too hastily brought before the House.

1.56 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Normally, it is a formality for one to ask for legislation in the debate on the Queen's Speech. I do this more in an informal way because I do not think that kidney legislation should be introduced through the Ten Minutes Rule procedure or even through private Members' legislation.

I draw the Secretary of State's attention to the present situation. In the four weeks following the "Panorama" programme on 13 October, the numbers of kidney donors have fallen by more than half. In the period 1 to 28 September, 50 donors provided 80 kidneys; in the period 13 October to 9 November, 28 donors provided 43 kidneys.

Several transplant centres reported refusals by relatives after the programme. The Royal Victoria infirmary in Newcastle reported five refusals in the last four weeks. The normal refusal rate is three a year. The Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham in 1979 had an annual rate of 110 transplants. There has been only one transplant in the past three and a half weeks. The Queen Elizabeth hospital would normally have carried out nine transplant operations in that time. The Addenbrooke hospital in Cambridge has performed only two operations, compared with five normally.

The worst fears of those of us who before the event contacted the chairman of the board of governors of the BBC and Mr. Ian Trethowan, the director-general—something that I have never done in my 18 years as a Member of Parliament—have been confirmed. I realise that relations with the BBC are delicate.

The purpose of my intervention is to ask the Department — I know that it is difficult — to do something about its view of the definition of clinical death. Does the Department agree with the diagnosis of death by Lord Smith in his well-known report? He stated: There is no legal definition of death. Death has traditionally been diagnosed by the irreversible cessation of respiration and heart beat. This Working Party accepts the view held by the Conference of Royal Colleges that death can also be diagnosed by the irreversible cessation of brain-stem function—'brain death'. In dianosing brain death the criteria laid down by the Colleges should be followed. Paragraphs 28 and 29 are also important. Perhaps in the winding-up speech, be it on Thursday or another day, reference can be made to the problem of spare-parts surgery. Expectations have been raised.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

For me, the most disturbing recent event has been the BBC's refusal to meet the reasonable requirements of the medical profession to have a proper opportunity to defend the criteria. The result is that the medical profession is refusing to take part in the second programme. If the hon Gentleman can bring any influence to bear, I am sure that that would be helpful.

Mr. Dalyell

I was about to make that point the other way round by asking the Secretary of State to bring some influence to bear. Some of us have sweated our guts out with the BBC and seen the chairman of the board of governors. It is absolutely disgraceful—I do not use loose language in the House of Commons—that what one might call pip-squeak producers of certain popular programmes can deny the medical profession a proper hearing in a matter on which it is uniquely qualified to give a verdict.

The question of editorial control is so much bunkum in these circumstances. This is not about editorial control. We are not taking away the freedom of journalists in this matter. This is a very serious matter. Let the "Panorama" team or anybody else put themselves in the position of those who, but for their frivolous efforts, would have had kidney transplants.

I turn to the cost of renal dialysis. It is £14,000 or more. A transplant can often be done for £5,000. I simply ask whether it is true, as has been said, that it can be done more cheaply by private medicine. I should like a factual comment from the Secretary of State on that.

On kidney donor cards, one of the reasons why some of us are doubtful has been summed up in an interesting paper by Barry Fletcher and Arvind Sivarama Krishnan. What they say is this: However, it has been suggested that the action of carrying a donor card raises deeper psychological issues. For many people, carrying a card saying 'On my death my organs to go to so-and-so' is psychologically almost impossible. It may be that the Human Tissue Act is based on an inadequate understanding of the psychological problems involved in giving human organs. As the grandfather of the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), Sigmund Freud, put it: Our own death is indeed unimaginable, and whenever we make the attempt to imagine it we can perceive that we really survive as spectators. Hence…at bottom no one believes in his own death, or to put the same thing in another way, in the unconscious every one of us is convinced of his own immortality. Fletcher and Krishnan continue: One's organs are so much a part of oneself that signing a document of organ gift can touch very deep emotions. If there are deep psychological obstacles to the carrying of a donor card, be it a kidney card or an all-organ card, then it is likely that only a small proportion of the population will actually carry one. It is for that reason, apart from others that I have already given and will cut out of my speech, that, with the best will in the world, I doubt very much that the kidney donor card scheme, which I and others have supported as strongly as we can, will ever yield the number of organs that are necessary. I refer to Hansard for 23 October 1979, when I gave other reasons when I brought in the Bill.

On a recent "You the Jury" programme, I opposed the motion that heart transplants are a luxury that we cannot afford. Until now I have always been extremely careful to keep heart and kidney separate. After contact with one of my witnesses on that programme—Keith Castle—I was so impressed by what it had done for individuals and those surrounding him — and Keith Castle, after all, is a symbol of hope for many of us—that I have come to the conclusion that heart surgery is indeed something that is an iceberg that we should look at. It is an enormous problem. It may be said: "Heart transplants can be given only to very few people." The truth is that the more that are done, the better is the record.

Therefore, I end with a simple question. In the light of the fact that heart transplant surgeons are becoming more expert and their record is becoming better, in the light of the fact that there are great discoveries relating to prostocyclenes overcoming clotting elements, in the light of the fact that there are now growth-limiting substances such as chalone, and in the light of the fact that there are noninvasive instruments, have the Government any philosophy — I am not putting this in a party, spirit, because I would ask the same question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals)—about what ought to be done on the whole issue of funding of transplant operations in relation to the most sophisticated surgery? Anyone who has interested himself in this subject knows what an enormous amount of money, potentially, a programme of heart transplant surgery could cost. There are some of us who think that with this degree of civilisation it at least ought to be embarked upon and who would like to see the Government and not private Members bringing forward amendments to the Human Tissue Act.

2.5 pm

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

In view of the brief time at my disposal. I have discarded half my speech. When I sit down, I hope that hon. Members will not think that I threw away the better half.

My reason for speaking in this debate is that, with the increasing impoverishment of people who already are not well off as a result of the Government's policies and the general economic decline, a great deal of attention will be paid to the level of benefits provided to the badly off. In particular, a lot of attention will be paid by Opposition Members to the fact that benefits will not rise in line with inflation. However, even if benefits rise in line with inflation, all the evidence suggests that, on present take-up levels, a substantial number of our citizens who are entitled to benefits will not get them.

Looking at the most recent figures, we see that the number who take up benefits as a percentage of those eligible is remarkably small. The take-up of supplementary benefits is only 74 per cent. That of family income supplement is 75 per cent. That of rent rebates is 72 per cent. The take-up of rate rebates is 70 per cent. Most disgusting of all, the take-up of rent allowances on unfurnished tenancies is a mere 50 per cent.

Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are being denied benefits to which this Parliament has decided they are entitled. On my reckoning, more than 2½ million people entitled to benefits are not claiming them. On supplementary benefits alone, that represents a saving to the Government, on the last official estimate, of no less than £340 million. We hear a great deal about the poor scrounging from the Government. These figures suggest that the Government are scrounging from the poor. A great deal of the savings which the Government seek by their budgetary economies are being achieved at the expense of the poorest and worst-informed in our society.

I invite right hon. and hon. Members to consider why the take-up levels are so bad. They have been bad over recent years. This is not just a matter of the failures of the present Government. It seems to me that there are two major reasons. One is that a lot of benefits are extremely difficult to claim, especially supplementary benefits, because of the extreme complexity of the schemes. The other reason is the lack of publicity. In many cases the people who are worst off do not know their entitlement.

I illustrate that by citing the case of one of my constituents. I happened to visit him at his invitation because I had helped him about a different and unrelated matter. I discovered that he lived in a flat with his wife and two school-age children. His wife was sick and also pregnant. He had given up his job to look after her because he did not know there were other means of getting her looked after at home.

I discovered that he was not getting all the supplementary benefits to which he was entitled. He was getting no rent rebate, no rate rebate, no free school meals for his children and no free prescriptions for his sick wife or his children. What is more, his children at school were getting no form of clothing allowance which the Inner London Education Authority would have provided had it known about their circumstances.

It is disgraceful that our society depends on economies achieved by impoverishing people who are already impoverished. In a parliamentary answer, perhaps ironically on 1 April this year, the Minister concerned reported that the measly sum of £157,000 had been spent on advertising benefits of all kinds on television. That is a minuscule sum compared with what, say, the tobacco companies spend on advertising cigars on television. We have to spend a great deal more money on publicity if people who need to know are to be made to know.

It is not as though the Government are afraid to spend money on television advertising of people's rights. If recent newspaper reports are to be believed, the famous right to buy was advertised on television at a cost of no less than £1 million. The Government are adopting curious priorities in deciding that, of all the rights that should be advertised and drawn to the attention of people most in need, the "right to buy" merits expenditure of £1 million in a fortnight compared to £157,000 on advertising all other forms of benefit in a year. That is a disgrace. The Secretary of State's job is to ensure that the benefits are known to the people who are entitled to them.

When the Prime Minister arrived on the steps of No. 10 Downing Street to take up her post she referred to St. Francis of Assissi, who is supposed to be the patron saint of the Conservative Party. In view of the way in which the Government constantly fail in their duties, Pontius Pilate seems to have become the patron saint of the Conservative Front Bench.

It is no good the Secretary of State waving a green document at me. How many copies have been issued? How many people who need to see the contents of that document have access to it? His response is pathetic and typical.

I leave the Secretary of State with one thought. If he is to discharge his duty properly, he should ensure that every potential claimant is as well informed about the rights to benefit as the Vestey family tax advisers are about tax evasion.

2.13 pm
Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby)

If the last part of the speech by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson) was the worst part, the rest must have been very good indeed. My hon. Friends and I clearly understand his point. We are as committed as he to ensuring that our fellow countrymen take up the maximum benefits to which they are entitled. However, he was not entirely fair in attributing to the Government the wish to deprive them of their just rights. The Government have done their utmost to ensure that benefits receive maximum publicity. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is doing his utmost to ensure that people are aware of the available benefits.

The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) made the type of thoughtful speech that we have now come to expect of him. I, too, saw the BBC programme on clinical death. I agree with all the hon. Gentleman's comments. If I and my hon. Friends are able to assist him in his representations to the BBC, we shall be glad of the opportunity. Like the hon. Gentleman, I thought that the programme was biased and grossly unfair.

The hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) was worried about tobacco and its tar yield. I saw the recent television programme which depicted graphically the circumstances surrounding smoking. I recall seeing a lung sliced in half being compared with a normal lung. I should have thought that that would put anyone off from smoking for good. There is no doubt that smoking is harmful to health.

I welcome the Gracious Speech, and in particular its reference to small businesses. However, I am a little worried about the sentence: Legislation will be brought forward to place a duty on employers to provide sick pay for their employees during early weeks of sickness. I am a small business man. I am aware of the effects that such legislation will have on my own and other businesses. I shall read and listen with interest to the arguments advanced, for, though I appreciate that the savings involved are enormous, I hope that they will not be achieved at too great a cost.

I wish to refer mainly to improving and increasing voluntary efforts in the social services. I say that not only because money, at the present time, is extremely tight — we all know that it is — but because I feel that voluntary organisations are able to play a part in social services that the State is not able to play. Voluntary organisations, because of their very nature, are likely to be a great deal more responsive to the demands of the immediate society. They can operate without the red tape and are able to respond more exactly to local needs. The voluntary organisations are able to establish real relationships within the community. They can establish a real and worthwhile relationship between local hospitals and the societies served by the hospitals.

Such organisations as the WRVS, with the meals-on-wheels, provide a most important but yet inexpensive part of social services. The WRVS provides a service especially for the elderly which, if taken over by the State, would be entirely cost prohibitive. The action of the WRVS shows the way in which we can stitch a voluntary organisation into the fabric of social services.

I was a little disappointed that there was no specific mention of voluntary effort in the Gracious Speech, and I thought that the remarks of the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) were disparaging when he referred to voluntary services and the effort that could be made by voluntary organisations. They have a major part to play. I hope that on reflection he will agree.

I wish to make a special plea on behalf of the voluntary organisations. Their purchases should be free of value added tax. If we were able to introduce that amendment to legislation, it would do an enormous amount of good for voluntary services generally. They should be able to satisfy certain criteria—for instance, that they are genuine charities, giving genuine gifts to genuine establishments, for example, hospitals and old people's homes. In any terms, the work done by charitable organisations up and down the land must be cost effective. There can be no doubt about that.

Charities regard VAT as a marked disincentive. Who would be surprised to learn that they view VAT tax in that light? Of the money that they collect, 15 per cent. is collected for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. While the Exchequer may be in need of charity at the present time, I do not feel that that is the correct way to obtain its funds. I do not believe that the Exchequer can be regarded in the same category as a hospital. If the Exchequer is in need of charity, let it organise its own flag days and not batten on to the backs of those charities that do so much good throughout the country.

Mr. John Page

Surely the major charities, such as the boy scouts, do not pay VAT on their purchases.

Mr. Pawsey

My hon. Friend may be right. However, the Friends of Rugby Hospitals has grumbled to me at some length because it must pay VAT on the purchases that it intends to give to the hospital of St. Cross within my constituency. It rightly questions whether it is right that it should collect funds from members of the public when 15 per cent. is directed to the Exchequer.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin


Mr. Pawsey

Before my right hon. Friend gets up, I wish to acknowledge freely the help that his Department has given to voluntary services, and also the help given in the last Budget.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I do not wish my hon. Friend to mislead the House. Some months ago my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a VAT concession in respect of gifts of equipment from the friends of hospitals. I accept that that is a narrow concession, but I know that it has been welcomed by the leagues of friends of hospitals.

Mr. Pawsey

I endorse what my right hon. Friend has said. The concession amounted to about £30 million. That is a substantial concession. That sum is estimated as being the relief available for charitable giving. However, the concessions that we have seen so far do not go far enough. I should like to see them taken further. I acknowledge that the DHSS has rightly maintained its grants to voluntary bodies. What is more, it has maintained those grants in real terms. I recognise that that must be a reflection of the excellent fighting that my right hon. Friend has done for this corner in the Cabinet

Each pound that is raised by voluntary effort must be worth at least £1.50 of Government-raised money. That is because the voluntary organisations spend the money that they raise on the project rather than on bureaucracy. Therefore, it is in my right hon. Friend's interests that voluntary organisations be actively helped and encouraged. In what better way can they be helped than by making them exempt from value added tax?

There is another aspect to voluntary organisations. The most familiar yet the most overlooked voluntary organisation is the family. It almost invariably provides the best environment in which children may develop and grow up. It presents the finest environment in which children may develop into mature adults. At the other end of the spectrum, it is able to provide the warmth and understanding that are needed if the elderly are to grow old in peace. There is no substitute for the family. With its warm and close relationship, the family safeguards both our elderly and our young people.

Increasingly, the State seeks to usurp the family's role for what it believes to be the very best of reasons, namely, the need to produce a caring and compassionate society. Almost by definition, the family is both caring and compassionate. As the State seeks to increase its involvement, the fine line that divides care and compassion from positive and outright interference begins to disappear. The bureaucratic State with its rules and regulations cannot be a substitute for the family.

The State seeks to make arrangements for all eventualities, but as the State steps in so often the family—the mother and the father—step out. Families are hard work. Anyone who is involved in a family knows that. I declare my own interest. I am the youngest of five brothers and I have six sons. With those qualifications, I can tell the House that bringing up a family in any circumstances is a hard and demanding job.

Being human, parents will always seek to take the easiest way out. If the breadwinner can get more from benefits than from working, why should he work? If children can be taken into care with the State accepting responsibility, why should parents worry? If we have removed—and I accept that it has been done for the best of reasons — the responsibility from parents of bringing up children, are we not eroding the basic principle of self-reliance with the new concept of the nanny State? Are we not destroying the need for thrift—the need to consider and plan for tomorrow? More emphasis should be placed on families staying together and developing sturdy self-reliance.

Mr. Orme

With the help of family benefit.

Mr. Pawsey

With every respect to the right hon. Gentleman, families existed and kept together before family benefit was introduced. He cannot assume that family benefit is the sole prop of families.

I am aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State wishes to advance the family. He has reminded us elsewhere that more elderly people than ever before are being cared for in the family and in their natural environment.

I do not seek to question the motives of those who advanced the doctrine of the Welfare State from the cradle to the grave. It was an honest endeavour to remove hardship from everyday life. However, in that worthwhile endeavour are we not in danger of weakening the basic building block of society—the family?

Here I wonder whether I might gently refer to divorce. I feel that the increasing incidence of divorce may be damaging society. I know that an atmosphere of continuous argument does not help the development of children, but, in seeking to rectify that fault, have we not thrown out the baby with the bath water? Only a small number of families were in that particular situation, but the liberalisation of divorce laws has naturally increased the number of divorces. It has resulted in an increased number of single-parent families. The increasing incidence of those families may be associated with the increase in vandalism. I do not seek to denigrate or criticise the way in which single-parents bring up families.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

It is important to recognise not only the point that my hon. Friend makes but the fact that during the past 70 years the proportion of those getting married for the first time has increased by a drastic percentage. It may be that the quality of marriage has changed. There was a period after the war when the average age of marriage dropped. Perhaps we have stored up trouble for ourselves by some of the changes. However, the important point—and I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree—is that it is vital to try to reduce the total expectation of happiness so that we realise that family life is hard but worth while. We should try to make information available from marriage guidance councils, and so on, so that at a young age people become aware of what is likely to happen if they get married in certain circumstances. I do not suggest that people should be forbidden to get married, but I do suggest that they should be made aware of what they are going in for.

Mr. Pawsey

My hon. Friend's intervention is thought-provoking, as one would expect from him. His compassion for the family is well known and respected in the House. However, I feel that the increasing incidence of divorce, the ease of divorce and the fact that it is perhaps no longer necessary to work as hard as we once did to ensure that a marriage stuck together contribute to the number of single-parent families.

I conclude by a specific reference to my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley). He has sponsored the Family Forum, a group for voluntary organisations that are family-oriented. I hope that his endeavours will prove to be as successful as he hopes. I understand that the annual general meeting is likely to take place on Tuesday, and I trust that he will receive overwhelming support from hon. Members. The forum will be an umbrella organisation and be able to speak for the ordinary family, expressing both its needs and fears. I should have liked to comment on student grants and loans, using as my rider the fact that the money so saved could be used for the social services or other areas that badly need additional finance.

Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Cope.]

Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.