§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Earl Waldegrave—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as followeth:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
VISCOUNT HALL rose to move, as an Amendment, to add at the end of the proposed Address the words:
but humbly regret that the proposals in the gracious Speech are wholly incommensurate with the urgency of the problems facing the country at this time in the sphere of home affairs".
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move as an Amendment the words standing on the Order Paper. On Wednesday last my noble friend Lord Pethick-Lawrence, upon whom we on this side of the House rely so much for the opening speech on discussions of economic and financial matters, once more impressed noble Lords on both sides of the House by the high quality of his speech, as did some other noble Lords who followed him. My noble friend dealt with three recent events in the field of economics and finance: the crisis with regard to the position of the pound, the decision to increase the bank rate and the overruling of the decision of a Whitley Council by disallowing an increase of wages decided upon by them.
§ I cannot claim to be an economist and I have little knowledge of international finance, so I propose this afternoon to 199 deal with another important aspect of the problem of inflation about which nothing was said in the gracious Speech and upon which the very basis of our national economy depends: that is, our industrial production and industrial relations. Few people will attribute to those responsible for industrial production in this country any responsibility for the recurring inflationary crises. We were fortunate in that at the end of the war there was a Labour Government and planned demobilisation, and that persons who were demobilised were quickly absorbed into industry. As a result of that, with the enterprise of the employers and the skill and common sense of the work people—with great credit to both—we have since the end of the war seen an increase in production, with the exception of last year, of something like 4 per cent. each year.
§ I have seen varied figures as to the total amount to date. One figure said production is up to 145 while another, given in another place last week (not by a member of Her Majesty's Government) was that production is up to 165. The President of the Board of Trade said in a recent statement that production this year is running at about 3 per cent. higher than last year and shows no sign of contracting; and the speaker was confident that continued expansion will be with us for some time. Most of our industries have made great progress in the post-war years, though there are a few exceptions. Coal output is lagging, although the output last year was something like 25 million tons more than the output in 1946; and it is pleasing to see that this year output is up by about 1½ million tons on the figure for last year.
§ China and textiles are the two industries which unfortunately have made little progress. Steel, the basis of our manufacturing industries, continues to increase production, and I saw recently that production in the third quarter of the present year increased by no less than 10 per cent. upon production last year. We are providing the cheapest steel in Europe, sufficient now for our own manufacturers, and at a reasonable price; and we are also exporting a very substantial amount. Some of our manufacturing industries—the engineering, electrical equipment, 200 shipbuilding, vehicles, aircraft and chemical and allied industries—have increased their production enormously. Taking the figure for 1948 as 100, one of them has increased to 165, while the output of the chemical and allied industries has nearly doubled and is up to 197.
§ The industries to which I have referred have not only provided goods for the home market but also provided very large exports. Last year the value of the exports of the industries to which I have referred amounted to almost £1,500 million, almost half of our total exports, and there is a further substantial increase in production and exports this year. I purposely mention the figures, for what we are really producing cannot be too often stressed. What a contrast with what happened in the post-war period after the First World War! Those of us who went through that period will never forget it, with its millions of unemployed, industrial strife, disunity and great poverty.
§ A striking example can be given by my quoting some figures which appeared in the Ministry of Labour Gazette quite recently in connection with the number of days lost as a result of disputes. For the eleven years from 1945 to the end of 1956 the total number of working days lost in this country through industrial disputes was 23 million. The average loss of working time for the first three years after the First World War was no less than 49 million working days each year. So in each of the eleven years following the Second World War, up to and including the first six months of this year, in which, of course, there was an increase, there were half as many working days lost through industrial disputes as there were in one year in the period after the First World War. We have had little unemployment in this country and, as I have reminded your Lordships, the disputes have been very infrequent.
§ My Lords, what has brought about the change? The reason is that we are fortunate in industrial matters to have such a close partnership and understanding between the employers and the trade unions and, indeed, the Government. Nowhere else in the world during the past twenty years have industrial relations been better or has the incidence of industrial strife been so small. We believe in negotiated settlements. That policy has succeeded the "big stick" to the benefit of the 201 whole nation, and, as a consequence, many Cabinet Ministers in the various Governments, particularly the Ministers of Labour, have been loud in praise of this understanding.
§ As to wage negotiations, it is rather interesting to see what the present Minister of Labour said about the disputes of last year. Speaking on October 12, he reminded a conference which he was addressing that the Government normally took little part in wage adjustments. He gave details of how wage increases came about in 1956, last year. Settlements were reached as follows: by direct negotiation 40 per cent.; by joint industrial councils 28 per cent.; by wages councils and wages boards 21 per cent.; by sliding-scale agreements linked to the retail price index 6 per cent.; by miscellaneous forms of voluntary agreement 2 per cent.; and by arbitration, about which there has been so much controversy, 3 per cent. Over the whole field only 1.7 per cent. was attributable to cases in which the Ministry, either by conciliation or other means, had a share in the final settlement. My Lords, what a record for an industrial country of this magnitude and what a tribute to the common sense of both sides of industry!
§ Trade union co-operation in industry and national economics is an asset that every Government in this country has enjoyed for the past twenty years. Indeed, it is the opinion of, I think, the majority of the people that there is little or no future in this country on the basis of continued conflict between the Government and organised labour. During the past few weeks the impression has taken a firm hold among the trade unions that the Government is shying off from that cooperation. This has been brought about not only by the attempt to enforce a wage restraint, without any intimation to the trade unions, and the Minister of Health's rejection of the wages agreed to by a Whitley Council for some of the employees in the National Health Service, but, more so, by some of the remarks of certain people—certain members of the Government—as, for example, those made in a speech a few weeks ago, to which some of the leaders and, indeed, many trade unionists take exception. We do not mind criticism being made of politicians; politicians are quite capable of taking care of themselves. But when it 202 comes to criticism of the leaders of a responsible body of workpeople then it is not only the leaders themselves who take umbrage at it but also their members. I am referring to the remarks which were made by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord President of the Council, at a certain conference. I think for the benefit of the House I had better read them. I have a newspaper cutting and I have a copy of the speech which the Lord President very kindly sent me, and for which I think I owe him 6d.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
The noble Lord can forget the 6d. I am very glad to have given him a copy.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I am almost inclined to say that I thought that the sixpence would have gone into the Conservative Party funds, and that is why I did not send it along.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
It will do so, but I will pay it myself on behalf of the noble Viscount.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
These are the remarks of the noble and learned Viscount. I am reading from the book. There is little difference between the book and the newspaper report.Someone not very far from here has recently said that it is our policy to wage war on the trade unions. That in a compedious form, as Sir Winston Churchill used to say, is almost exactly the opposite of the truth. If it has a fault"—That is, the Government and the Tory Party—which, of course. I cannot admit, the Conservative Party and the Government are almost too anxious to keep the peace wish the trade unions, and even the most blustering and rumbustious of their leaders.On the other hand, I am more than a little suspicious that one or two of those leaders are rather anxious to pick a quarrel with us. This would be a disaster for both sides, but I must say frankly that I do not believe Britain would tolerate or forgive art attempt by trade union leaders to dictate to the country, or to Parliament or to the Government what our economic policy should be.We entirely agree with that.But by the like token, I do not believe that Britain would encourage or condone in a Government any attempt to provoke a quarrel with the unions, and we shall provoke no such quarrel. I wish I could be equally sure that there was not a conspiracy on foot between some of the more extreme leaders of the 203 unions and some of the less scrupulous leaders of the Labour Party to sabotage our economic policy by irresponsible wage demands, and then to claim that Conservative freedom has failed and must give place to Socialist tyranny…I have not heard very many "Hear, hears" from the other side in support of a suggestion such as that. As I have said, the politicians to whom the noble and learned Viscount referred can take care of themselves. But who are the more extreme leaders of the unions who would join in a conspiracy to sabotage the Government's economic policy? There are thirty-five members of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress. Are all of these people to be suspect of doing such a thing? It would be interesting for us to hear whether the Government, in which the noble and learned Viscount holds a very high position, is of the same opinion as himself, or, indeed, whether he has asked the Minister of Labour if he has the same suspicion as the noble and learned Viscount and if he is of the opinion that there are some irresponsible Labour leaders who are attempting a conspiracy. That should be disclosed and disclosed at once.
The trade union leaders are men of great experience, knowledge and character. They carry a great responsibility, both to the nation and to their members. They represent no fewer than 10 million of the skilled men upon whom the country depends for its economy. In my long experience of all the trade union leaders whom I have known, particularly in such a crisis as that with which we are faced, they have all behaved in a restrained, co-operative and responsible manner. I am sure that, given a proper approach by the Government, that assistance which is so greatly needed will still be available. I trust that the noble and learned Viscount, who said that he was very anxious for that co-operation and who claimed that he was proud of the trade unions as British institutions, has had second thoughts about these remarks to which T have referred and that he will now agree with me that it would have been very much better if they had not been made. I have no doubt that had the noble and learned Viscount the background of, let us say, a coal-miner, a steelworker, a railway man, or even a clerk, it would not be very long 204 before he would become the most "blustering and rumbustious" of trade union leaders in the country—but not a saboteur.
Leaving that, may I say that there are about 23 million of our fellow countrymen and women who are working in industry, in civil employment and in the professions, all of whom are concerned about income, wages and salaries, and what they will provide for their families and themselves? All of these, I am sure, if properly informed as to what inflation means to them, would join in the battle to deal with it. The Government cannot be complimented upon their preparatory work in relation to wage restraint. I understand that the representatives of industry were not consulted or informed: nor, indeed, were the trade unions. In July last, the General Council of the T.U.C. were consulted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the setting up of the Council on Productivity, Prices and Incomes. They afterwards issued a statement on the grave view which they took of the position and the statesmenlike approach that they were anxious should be taken. This was the statement:Conscious of the consequences of this interaction of the forces affecting incomes and prices, not least upon their own members, the T.U.C. has constantly appealed to the Government to use its powers to prevent unnecessary price increases and thus set the scene for a collective effort to control these forces and encourage greater productivity.While the T.U.C. cannot fail to be aware from past experience of the problems of wage bargaining under conditions of full employment and the importance of maintaining a correct balance between wages and other incomes and costs and prices, it is Convinced that unless economic policy is directed towards full employment and social welfare, and the Government is demonstrably taking measures to that end, it will continue to be impossible to advocate, with any hone of success, a policy of voluntary restraint.It appears that no action was taken by the Government after the announcement of this statement.
I am convinced that much confusion and feeling during the past few weeks could have been avoided had the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour, before that announcement was made, held consultations with the representatives of both sides of industry on the subject of wage restraint. There was, and still is, concern about Government interference with the principle of independent 205 arbitration—indeed, there are differences between the statements of the Ministers who are responsible. I am afraid that I have to quote again. At the conference to which I have referred, the Minister of Labour was reported as follows:The Government had no intention of interfering with the principle of independent arbitration. The machinery of arbitration should be kept under review and he was examining with the T.U.C. and the British Employers' Confederation the future of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. It was the essence of arbitration in Britain that it should be wholly independent. That meant independent not only of industry but of the Government as well.A few weeks after that, in announcing his proposed wage restraint, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 575 (No. 156). col. 57]:Wage increases unrelated to, and going far beyond, the general growth of real wealth within the country are by far the greatest danger we have to face, and we should be deceiving ourselves if we pretended otherwise. Those who ask for wage increases, those who grant wage increases and those who adjudicate about wages should have this fact firmly in the forefront of their minds.The Minister of Labour made a similar statement. Though from that day on many explanations have been given by the Ministers, I do not think that anyone is sure about what the position is at the present time. Not only that. What about the 3 million to 4 million workpeople in this country whose wages are based upon the cost of living, and the millions of our best workpeople who are working on piece rates and upon whom we are largely dependent for our production? All these are matters which could easily be discussed between the Government, the employers and the workpeople. I beg the Government to make full use of the facilities which are so easily given to them in dealing with these matters.
Another problem which gravely concerns the people of this country is the continuing fall in the purchasing power of the pound sterling and the increase in the cost of living. Since the present Government were returned, on a promise to restore the value of money and halt the increasing cost of living, the purchasing value of the pound has fallen by over 20 per cent. I have here the latest figures of the United Nations on the movement of the cost of living in different countries between 1953 and 1956. What do we find? The United Kingdom is on top 206 with a 16 per cent. increase. In France the increase has been 4 per cent., and in Germany 6 per cent., with all the other European countries well below the increase in this country. I can well understand the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and the warning he gave to the Government. The question uppermost in the minds of the people is: Where is the cost of living going? Then, too, there are hundreds of thousands of people—in fact I should think a few million—who will be faced with substantial increases in rent as a result of the coming into operation of the Rent Act. That, again, will put up the cost of living.
The nation's economic problems disclosed to your Lordships' House a month ago cannot be solved, I say, by a state of attempted open conflict between the Government and the mass of the producers of the nation's wealth. Surely reason will not break down, even in this crisis. Let every section make its contribution to the solution of this crisis. I trust that the Ministers, even at this late hour, will meet with the employers' representatives and the leaders of the trade unions and iron out the difficulties about wages, production and closer co-operation between the three partners. Let good reason prevail, for it would be a difficult future for this nation without that cooperation.
There is just one other matter to which I should like to refer—that is, the absence of any reference in the gracious Speech to the Bill amending the law on the closing of shops and related matters, a reference to which was included in the gracious Speech of a year ago. As is well known to your Lordships, such a Bill was presented in your Lordships' House and passed through all its stages, taking up 25 to 30 hours in its consideration here. This Bill was the fulfilment of a promise made to the Trades Union Congress by the then Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden. The noble Viscount the present Lord President of the Council was in charge of the Bill in your Lordships' House, and I can remember that he described the Bill as a modest, piece of social reform, and invoked the spirits of Shaftesbury, Disraeli and another Quintin Hogg, his grandfather, to help them through. At the end of May, after the Bill left your Lordships' House, the 207 Home Secretary announced that it was not intended to proceed with the Bill that Session because of lack of time. That Bill was not only a Shops Bill; some millions of workpeople in many other industries are involved. They will fear that the Government will not proceed with it. If so, of course, this definite promise will be broken. I trust that, whoever is going to reply for the Government—perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, or the Lord Chancellor—will say whether the promises which were given are, in fact, to be carried through. I beg to move the Amendment.
Amendment moved—At the end of the proposed Address to add the words:
but humbly regret that the proposals in the gracious Speech are wholly incommensurate with the urgency of the problems facing the country at this time in the sphere of home affairs."—(Viscount Hall.)
§ 3.20 p.m.
My Lords, the Amendment which we are now debating is couched in rather more extravagant and condemnatory terms than I should have chosen, but the motive behind it is that the gracious Speech adumbrating the programme of Her Majesty's Government does not really go far enough, in view of the problems which confront us now. For those reasons, we on these Benches would, in principle, support the Amendment moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall. Although this is the third full day on which we have been debating the gracious Speech, I think your Lordships will agree that it is not too late for us (and I should like to take this opportunity of doing so from these Benches) to express again our deep gratitude and admiration to our gracious Monarch for the tremendous work she is doing in the interests of our State. To many of us the burdens imposed by her completely selfless life would seem intolerable. I would also express again our congratulations to the Royal Family on what I would describe as the triumphant way in which they maintain and achieve the very high standards which they set themselves.
Reverting to the gracious Speech, there are two points in it, in particular, which appeal to us on these Benches: the point 208 of the United Nations, and that of the Free Trade Area. Despite the terms of the Amendment to-day, I understand that we are free to roam fairly largely over the terms of the gracious Speech, and I should like to touch briefly on one or two points, although I am not going to keep your Lordships for long. The United Nations Organisation is not a proprietary matter of any political Party or any country—we are all in support of it—but I suggest that we in this part of the House are particularly anxious to see it supported, and we welcome Her Majesty's Government's avowed intention to support it in every way possible, because it is a Radical and Liberal conception that we should increase internationalism as much as possible.
I do not complain that other Parties do not support the general idea, but I think it cannot be denied that approximately a year ago, the Party opposite seemed to some of us to be rocking the United Nations boat rather severely. While the same could not be said of my noble friends on my left, I would suggest that some of us would be better pleased if they devoted a little less attention to nationalisation and a little more attention to internationalisation.
Nevertheless, we are gratified that the Prime Minister has recently endorsed officially this international character of outlook, and has made it quite clear—bravely I think, because I do not think he will carry all the Members of his Party with him—that we must abrogate some measure of sovereignty in the world in which we are living to-day.
The terms of the gracious Speech are rather nebulous, and I am sorry that it contains no reference to what I feel concerns us all very much—namely, the possibility of a United Nations armed force. It would seem that in recent conversations between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States they turned their back on that question as being perhaps not practical or, at least, not likely to be put into effect. But your Lordships will remember that the Charter provides for an armed force to be maintained by the United Nations and, further, that such an armed force exists in the emergency force which worked in the Middle East with considerable effect. Perhaps some rearrangement in the composition of that force is needed—for instance, I think it 209 would be better if its members were directly responsible to, and were controlled by, the United Nations, rather than being individual national units, a position which may lead to friction and strike a spark which sometimes, in unfortunate circumstances, may flare into a bigger conflagration. The truth is, as I understand it, that nations who have endorsed the idea of such a force, and supported it by word of mouth and promises of financial support, are, unfortunately, not living up to their word or their promises of financial help. That is a matter which I hope Her Majesty's Government will pursue and try to rectify.
As regards the Free Trade Area, this is perhaps not the moment to expand upon that proposal, but we on these Benches naturally welcome the fact that Her Majesty's Government are supporting it. We have always maintained that world prosperity and world peace include, as the greater includes the less, British prosperity and British peace, and that that can be obtained only by the freer movement of people and of goods. In the old days, the hackneyed phrase "Free Trade" was used a great deal among Liberals, but for many years past now members of the Conservative Party have, to our great pleasure been talking about the lowering of tariff barriers as only common sense. And if the phrase "the lowering of tariff barriers" is more acceptable than the phrase "Free Trade", so be it; we are very pleased. But, I hope that, in pursuing the main principles of European Free Trade, Her Majesty's Government will also give attention to the many smaller sides, the irritations and pinpricks which go with the limitations of the free movement of men and women and of goods.
I have in mind one illustration, which is in a sense rather trivial, but I think it worth mention; that is, the travel allowance allowed to people in this country of £100 a head per annum for travelling in foreign countries. As your Lordships know, the population of this country at the moment is very internationally minded, and a great many of them, not thousands or ten thousands, but hundreds of thousands, are now taking their holidays abroad. This irritating, pinpricking restriction has, I think, a serious effect. I do not suggest that the ordinary man who goes abroad for a holiday on the 210 Continent intends to spend anything like £100, or does, in fact, spend that amount; but the fact that the restriction is there, and he knows he cannot go abroad with ease but must have something in reserve, is both irritating and frustrating.
What is even worse, I think the fact that the Englishman, who used to be looked upon with a certain amount of cachet when he went abroad, is now regarded as somebody who scans every list for the cheapest article; who cannot have a cup of coffee after a meal, will not take a bus, and, worse still, cannot return the hospitality of his host, is most harmful to our prestige, and embarrassing not only to the individual but to the trade reputation of our country as a whole. I would ask Her Majesty's Government to investigate whether the considerable machinery needed to keep this unnecessary scheme (as I regard it) in being—in the Passport Office, the clerks in banks, travel offices, immigration offices and the Treasury—make it worth while. That is altogether apart from the irritation, or even alarm, caused to people who have to fill in forms which they do not understand. I ask the Government to consider whether the whole scheme is not in fact a great restraint on what is one of our biggest industries—namely, the tourist industry. That, of course, is very much on the side and not a main point, and I will pass shortly to the matter of defence, which is so little referred to in the gracious Speech.
The question of defence is a large one and demands a debate of its own. My own "King Charles's head", which I will bring up once more, if I may, is that here we are spending £500 million or £600 million on warlike preparation for defence, and, of course, defence includes counter-attack when we are attacked, but we seem to have no realisation that we can attack on the peace field, as apart from the warlike field. I would once again appeal to the Government, who are spending these hundreds of millions of pounds on warlike preparation, and are spending only a fraction of 1 per cent. of our national income on intelligent propaganda for a peace offensive—an ugly word, but it describes what I mean; what I prefer to call the enlightenment of information or overseas information. I beg the Government to reconsider and give much more generous consideration to the matter of overseas education and 211 information. If we were to spend on what I would call enlightenment, one-tenth of what we spend on defence, I feel we should be making a nearer approach to general pacification in the world than we should by spending ten-tenths on warlike preparation.
Finally, there is the matter upon which the noble Viscount has just addressed your Lordships, the question of industrial relations. We are indebted to him for having put so clearly before us the position of his Party. We are also indebted to the noble Viscount, the Lord President of the Council, for telling us last week at some length, and also clearly, that it is not the intention of the Government at any cost to come to a head-on clash with the trade unions. No good will come of going to war. In the field of international politics we are directing all our energies away from war; surely we can do the same in our industrial field at home.
I am not going to speak on what the noble Viscount unfortunately called the "sides" in the industry question—the side of the employer, and the side of the work people. I should be sorry to think of them as sides. There are not only two parties to this question, but three—the consumer, the housewife, the house-owner and the man and woman in the street, who is not directly concerned either with the employing firm or with the trade unions. I am not speaking from any Party point of view, and I am certainly not attacking the trade unions. These my Party have always maintained to be a fine organisation, entitled to their right to withdraw and withhold labour, either singly or collectively. But I do speak for a great many people of this country who are a little unhappy about the position within the machinery of the trade unions. I am not mentioning the employers at the moment—they can look after themselves.
Some of us feel that there are occasions when a trade unionist, or a body of trade unionists, or even a large area containing a certain industry, is not getting quite the right deal in trade union organisation. This enormous and admirable organisation has been running for fifty years or more without any public overhaul at all. I suggest that the time has come when investigations should be made to see whether it cannot be streamlined or 212 brought up to date in some way, preferably by itself, but if not by itself then by the Labour Party, and if not by the Labour Party then by the Party opposite. There are cases of victimisation, and I think we should not forget them. There are cases about which we are particularly uneasy when a decision is taken by the leaders of a certain trade union who maintain that they represent the views of all their followers. Would it not add to their strength if there had to be a quorum at meetings at which big decisions were taken, before any decision could in fact be put into effect?
Secondly, would it not add to the strength of the leaders of the trade unions if the votes which trade unionists give were given in a secret ballot—a method which has in fact been abandoned only by totalitarian States and organisations? Would it not be stronger if a trade unionist knew that he could vote without fear of offending the majority of his friends and the general policy of his union, whatever it might be? Let us not forget that there are many good trade unionists whose political affiliations are with the Conservative or the Liberal Party. On that note I should like to leave the question. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, has started a most interesting subject, and I beg Her Majesty's Government to take a generous and searching view of these matters.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, as I think your Lordships know, I always try to answer the speeches as they are made, and if, therefore, on this occasion my own phraseology should seem a little halting or homespun compared with the fluent speeches to which we have listened, your Lordships will, I hope, take it as an act of deference and respect which left me to await what was going to fall from the two noble Lords who have addressed your Lordships before I actually determined what it would be right for me to say.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Rea, who has just addressed your Lordships, I could not help noticing a marked divergence between the somewhat belligerent language of the Amendment—in which I thought I traced the aggressive and rumbustious character, if that is the word, of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the 213 Opposition in this House—and the extraordinarily temperate and restrained way in which it was proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall. Indeed, if he will allow me to say so, he is far too kindly a character to move anything which has in it the elements of a vote of censure.
My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack is to reply to the debate. I will seek to answer, in as few words as possible, certain observations of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall. I am sure he would wish me to adopt a conciliatory tone, as I think, on the whole, he wished to adopt himself. I should like to start from certain basic points of agreement which I think we all have about this subject, and, indeed, from the point at which I left the matter when I spoke on the main Motion last week, because it seemed to me that in the last words which the noble Viscount addressed to your Lordships, when he spoke of the absolute necessity for reason to prevail in our discussions about this matter, he was really echoing—and I hope favourably—the plea with which I ended my speech last week.
Since that time I have read, as no doubt your Lordships have, that discussions have taken place, very much in the spirit of what was then put forward, between the lenders of the trade union movement and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I read, and I hope it is true, that the leaders of the trade union movement themselves will be discussing these matters to-morrow in council, and I know that your Lordships—even at the expense, perhaps, of something I might unsuccessfully attempt, namely, scoring a debating point over the noble Viscount—would wish me to eschew saying anything which would adversely affect the possibility of a reasonable and objective discussion of these important national matters. If I sing a muted note in that respect—I think I shall be less muted later on—I hope your Lordships will agree that if am taking a course which is probably agreeable to both sides of the House at the present juncture.
I would venture to add this. We all have our differences in politics and outlook about these important matters, and I think it would be a disservice to the country if we concealed them and did not air our differences openly, frankly and robustly. When politics cease to be discussed robustly they cease to be interest 214 ing, and when they cease to be interesting democratic life becomes progressively more and more difficult. But the country will, I think, never forgive any Party or any movement if it allows the strength with which it holds its own opinions to damage the day-to-day relationship with its fellow countrymen. That, again, renders democracy less easy and, indeed, in extreme cases, impossible. After all, the future of Britain is more important than the Labour Party; it is more important than the Conservative Party; and, I venture to add, more important than the trade union movement. We all want to bear this fundamental truth in mind when we come to approach controversial matters, as I hope we shall do, in a spirit of complete honesty and frankness.
I would go further with the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, in what he said to us this afternoon. Although I would describe the Government which immediately ensued upon V.E.-Day, not as a piece of good fortune. which was the phrase used by the noble Viscount, but as a national calamity—although I would use that slight difference of terminology in relation to the Government of that day, I would say that we all, both in politics and out of it, learned a very great deal from our experience of the period after the First World War. In deference to those who were responsible on both sides of industry at that time, we owe it to them to remind ourselves that they had experienced, for the first time in a hundred years, warlike calamity of unparalleled dimensions. After victory had been gained they were travelling uncharted waters, and if they did not make a success of their voyage entirely I think it does not rest with us, who have had their experience to profit by, to condemn them unmercifully. However that may be, I would agree with the noble Viscount that, by and large, our experience has been a great deal more fortunate, not only in the realm of production to which lie referred at the beginning, but also in the realm of industrial relations.
Here I wish to say most emphatically that I have always been an admirer of the trade union movement. I have had my differences with them on a number of occasions, and I expect I shall continue to have them, but I have always been an admirer of the trade union 215 movement, and this is not a new or sudden observation on my part. The noble Viscount was good enough to quote part of a speech which I delivered on October 10 at Brighton. But he did not quote the bit I like best; and, not in a spirit of vainglory but to establish a certain measure of consistency, I should like to read the two or three sentences which followed on where he left off. I said this:Let, therefore, this be said peaceably and firmly. We are proud of trade unions as British institutions. We have no 'Dave Becks' here and we are glad of it. We all know that trade unions exist to defend and improve the living conditions of their members. So they should, and so I hope they always will. They believe in high wages. Well, let me tell them, so do I, and so does the Conservative Party.That was the bit I liked best of what was, to my mind, a series of remarks from which I would not seek to diverge in any way. At all events, I should be the first to agree that the elaborate system of con.ciliation—the earliest part of it going back to the beginning of the century and by far the most important part developed since the end of the First World War—has been incomparably valuable in maintaining industrial production at a high level without undue industrial unrest. And, of course, that depends on responsible and co-operative attitudes between the Government of the day, the trade union movement and employers. I should hope to endorse almost every word that the noble Viscount has said on that score.
I would however say this: there has been in recent weeks, I would say, as a result of certain matters to which I shall now refer, a slight heightening of the emotional background which has not been to the good. The noble Viscount was good enough to suggest that a speech of mine had something to do with it. I must, with respect, completely dispute that and give chapter and verse for what I say. My speech was in answer to a speech made by the Leader of the Opposition in the same place—that is to say, at Brighton, at another conference of another Party about a week before. In that speech the Leader of the Opposition was reported as saying that the policy of the Government was something very like a declaration of war on the trade union movement. "War" is a strong word to use of a Government in its relationship with a movement co-operation with which 216 is, on the noble Viscount's own showing, essential to harmonious industrial relations. I should like to know whether the noble Viscount used his heavy artillery to attack Mr. Gaitskell for using inflammatory language of that kind. If he did not, what does he find wrong with my language? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If one politician is to be allowed to accuse the Government of declaring war on the trade union movement, I think the other side should be allowed to reply that they suspect the boot is on the other foot.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I really cannot see why the noble Viscount associates me in that sense with Mr. Gaitskell. I told him that the politicians are quite capable of defending themselves. I have not attempted to defend the politicians. What I want to ask the noble Viscount is who are the trade union leaders to whom he refers when he has suspicions of their sabotaging the action of the Government. Will be confine himself to that side and not get away by criticising the politicians?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I shall certainly give the noble Viscount every satisfaction in the matter of quotation of the kind he wants. In the meantime I am making a point which I regard as legitimate. The noble Viscount attacked me for saying something about the relationship between the Labour Party and the trade union movement. I pointed out that it was in reply to something far more inflammatory and irresponsible by the Leader of the Opposition, and I inquired, perhaps naively, whether the noble Viscount had reproached the Leader of the Opposition for that inflammatory language. Mr. Wilson in the same place had accused the Government of being guilty of a calculated attack on the trade union movement. Mr. Wilson reportedly said:I say there was collusion between Ministers of the Crown and some of the employers' associations, and this decision to force a showdown was not accidental or even spontaneous.I ask the noble Viscount (whom I take to be a fair-minded man; I have always found him so) what is the difference between Mr. Wilson accusing the Conservative Party of collusion with the employers for the purpose of enforcing a showdown, and the Lord President of the Council, in his capacity of Chairman of the Conservative Party, hoping that there was not similar collusion between some of the 217 more irresponsible leaders of the trade union movement and some of the less scrupulous leaders of the Labour Party?
This is all quite frankly nonsense. To claim that the word sabotage has any literal significance of course will not wash, any more than the claim that "war" has any of its literal significance in this matter. I was making an answer to criticism of a kind which seemed to me to be deliberately designed by the leaders of the Labour Party to misrepresent the motives of the Government towards the trade union movement and seemed to me directly designed to foment industrial strife. It seemed to me that the leaders of the Labour Party could have had only that intention when deliberately using language of that kind. It certainly has had the result of increasing tension, because, unfortunately, there are millions of trade unionists who are silly enough to believe the leaders of the Labour Party when they talk this kind of rubbish. I thought I should have been doing less than my duty if I did not draw the attention of the public to this inflammatory kind of language and report that, in my judgment, the hoot was on the other foot.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I know that the noble Viscount is a very clever debater, but I want to ask him why he linked up trade union leaders with the politicians, if his grouse and complaint is against the opoliticians? The politicians mentioned by him are quite capable of taking care of themselves. Indeed, I saw a letter in one of the daily papers from Mr. Wilson challenging the noble Viscount about certain things, and asking him to face it. I have not seen any answer to the statements made by Mr. Wilson. If those statements are true, then I should say that the noble Viscount himself is much more unreliable than the two persons he is denouncing in their absence.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I should have thought that the noble Viscount would have appreciated that, at least so far as the latter part of what he said is concerned, two of the quotations which I gave from Mr. Wilson's speech were a complete answer to Mr. Wilson's challenge. But so far as the other part of his statement is concerned, that politicians can look after themselves, I may say that that was what I was intending to do by my speech at Brighton; and 218 that is the burden of my song this afternoon.
But let me now return to what he says about trade union leaders. He has absolutely no reason whatever for suggesting that I made a general charge against trade union leaders as such—I never have and I never will. Nobody realises more clearly than I do that the great majority of trade union leaders are, like the noble Viscount himself, responsible and patriotic gentlemen who use considered and moderate language, and, if possible, avoid the giving of unnecessary offence. If the noble Viscount thinks that at any stage I was desiring to make a general charge against those leaders as such, all I can say is that he can disabuse himself and his friends at once of any such idea.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I never suggested that the noble Viscount made a general charge. He has made a charge against some of the trade union leaders. I have asked him on three or four occasions to name the "some"; otherwise all the others, in the minds of many people, will be suspected of sabotage.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, the noble Viscount need not be afraid, I have not nearly finished yet. But I must say this: if he is going to pretend that the trade union movement does not have some extreme and some irresponsible persons in some positions of authority, he really is pretending what everybody knows to be incorrect.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, the noble Viscount is really trying to be just a little too clever. I have never suggested that there are no extreme persons in the trade union movement. But know of no saboteurs in the trade union movement. If there are any, tell us who they are.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
At any rate, we are getting on famously at the moment—the noble Viscount has agreed with every proposition which I have made so far. I am not going to give an exhaustive list of all those irresponsible and extreme leaders, because the noble Viscount has now admitted their existence. But what I am going to do is, first, to give one or two examples of the kind of thing which gives rise to the suspicion in Conservative minds which I have referred to on a previous occasion. Let me, for instance, refer to two passages from the reported 219 speeches and interviews of one most prominent trade union leader. He is very well known. I will certainly give them to the noble Viscount in a moment when I have quoted from them. This is from The Times of July 10:Wage restraint and the Government's plan for an impartial body to review economic questions were condemned in downright terms by Mr. Frank Cousins, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, at his Union's biennial conference here to-day. If the delegates truly represented the feeling of the 1,300,000 members, their prolonged cheering and clapping proved that this policy was more to the taste of Britain's biggest union than the moderation shown by their late leader, Mr. Arthur Deakin. This was not unexpected, but their attitude, endorsed later to-day in a unanimous resolution, ensures that when the Trades Union Congress meet in September there will be even greater support for the industrial cold war against the Government ".
§ LORD BURDEN
Whose words are these?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
These are the words of The Times.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Perhaps noble Lords will bear with me—they may not like this, but I am afraid they have asked for it, and they have got to have it. The Times newspaper is regarded generally as a fairly responsible organ, and I was indicating the kind of thing which gives rise to the kind of suspicion which I expressed. The column goes on:…there will be even greater support for the industrial cold war against the Government.That was the effect upon the mind of The Times' correspondent, not of the chairman of the Party, of that speech. The correspondent goes on to say:and even more encouragement to millions of trade unionists to strike if necessary for their aims.Mr. Cousins said that workers would not forgo wage demands while prices and profits rose. Every claim his union had submitted had been fully justified, and they had shown extreme moderation. They had no wish to say to the country: Feel our muscles'; they did not have to prove their strength but the justice of their claims.What does that mean?
It so happens that on the very same day Mr. Cousins was giving an interview to a highly responsible correspondent of the Daily Herald, Mr. Harold Hutchinson, who, although a member of the Labour 220 movement, is a journalist, I think, of the highest repute. He clearly demonstrates what he feels when he writes in the Daily Herald of July 10, 1957.This Government"—says Mr. Cousins, as reported by this journalist—has created a welfare state for the wealthy. Easy money for those who have already got it. Cars and a cushy life by courtesy of the Treasury. All paid for by inflation because the owners of property are safeguarded from the effects of inflation, but the recipients of pay packets are not. It loads the cost on the wage earners and their families. Frank Cousins says two can play at this game. He says: 'We'll safeguard ourselves too, or we'll have a damn good try; and then what? 'For one thing, it means the era of the official strike. Not stupidly, to get an easy reputation for militancy, but as a calculated risk. This requires strong nerves, because all the economists and the committees and the National Joint This and National Joint That will be bombarding the T and G and the T.U.C. with predictions of disaster. And. indeed, something will have to go. If Frank Cousins is right it will be this Government and all it represents that will go.If anybody is going to pretend that that is not a direct threat to use industrial weapons for the purpose of securing a political result, and that it is not a direct link-up, coercion, for that purpose between the Labour Movement and the trade union movement, all I can say is that the English language to me has no meaning.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I should say that there was no more irresponsibility about that statement, having regard to all the economic facts which have been so frequently pointed out, than the irresponsibility of the economists and journalists of the capitalist class who have regularly pressed the Government to embark upon the kind of programme they have now embarked upon in regard to worker's wages.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
If I may say so, I have consistently rebuked and protested against those who have dictated head-on collisions, or a show down with the trade union movement, from the Right, as I have for this kind of objectionable stuff from the Left. And I was doing no more in that speech than to emphasise that fact.
But that is not all of it. Here is another quotation—I am sorry to reiterate all this, but the noble Viscount has asked 221 for this information; he has reiterated his demand for it three times, and I am bound to give it to him. I hope that, when we have had our little row about it, the noble Viscount will agree with me, and that it will lead us to determine that our divergent views on this subject are not going to prevent the fundamental determination of both sides to secure the good of the nation. After what the noble Viscount has said I am entitled to read out some of this material. This is an account of an interview given by Mr Ted Hill, chief of the Boilermakers' Union—the man described as being "behind the recent shipbuilding and engineering strikes"—to Mr. Ronald Pearson (and not, I believe, repudiated) on the eve of the Trades Union Congress:We will fight the Tory Government to the death on wage restraint. We won't have it—and they can't win. We will use every industrial weapon in our armoury. That means nationwide strikes if necessary. The country's economy cannot stand the attack we will make in defending the rights of our members to enjoy a reasonable standard of life.It is only right that I should go on with the report of this interview in which Mr. Hill said what he thought about the Labour Party. On Mr. Gaitskell's nationalisation policy he said:He and those like him must consult their Big Brother—that is the Trade Union movement. That is where our strength lies.It was that kind of thing that I had in mind when rebuking some of the leaders of the trade union movement for being what I described as irresponsible and extreme.
In case any noble Lord should think that this is a "flash in the pan" I have in front of me a copy of to-day's Star newspaper, in which further remarks by Mr. Hill appear. He is there quoted as saying this:The Tory Government have decided to declare war on the trade unions of this country in a more vicious way than any former Government"—That is quite contrary to what the noble Viscount says this afternoon—By their action they are depriving the trade unions of the fundamental right of free negotiation with employers on wages and working conditions.To fight against this menace to our freedom, we will have to resort to some of the tactics applied by our forbears.222The important thing to trade unionists is to win this struggle, and if we plan our campaign we will not only demoralise the employers, but get rid of this class-biased, provocative Tory Government.We could declare war on a vital industry, or on the most vital part of an industry, and sustain this by financial assistance from the whole trade union movement.We could, on the other hand, use our discretion in each industry, as we normally do, and apply sanctions such as working to rule where this could be applied.In engineering and shipbuilding we could do one of many things:Put an embargo on all overtime or stop all piecework where it is not a condition of employment; or where piecework is a condition of employment we could put a ceiling on earnings, or perhaps have a day's golfing and work a four-day week, or perhaps we could re-introduce some of our old trade practices which we have voluntarily abolished to improve productivity.It is all very well to put a smile on one's face and say, "This gentleman, who is the head of an important trade union, does not perhaps represent the trade union movement." I might accept that he does not. I might accept that this gentleman who gives rise to this kind of thing is as different from the noble Viscount as chalk is from cheese. That is exactly what I meant in saying that I am as aware as anybody else that the general run of trade union leaders are responsible, decent, patriotic citizens, as I believe myself to be and I should not dream of making any attack upon them. But when the Leader of the Opposition makes a deliberate attack at Brighton on Her Majesty's Government, and says that that Government is declaring war on the trade unions, and when he is supported by his adjutant, Mr. Harold Wilson, who said things as bad, or worse, I consider that I was fully justified in saying what I did. May I remind you of what I said?Someone not very far from here has said it is our policy to wage war on the trades unions. That in a compendious form, as Sir Winston Churchill used to say, is almost the exact opposite of the truth.On the other hand, I am more than a little suspicious that one or two of these leaders are rather anxious to pick a quarrel with us. This would be a disaster for both sides, but I must say frankly that I do not believe that Britain would tolerate or forgive an attempt by trade union leaders to dictate to the country, or to Parliament or to the Government what our economic policy should be. By the like token I do not believe that Britain would encourage or condone in a Government any attempt to provoke a quarrel with the unions, and we shall provoke no such quarrel. I wish 223 I could be equally sure that there was not a conspiracy on foot between some of the more extreme leaders of the unions and some of the less scrupulous leaders of the Labour Party to sabotage our economic policy by irresponsible wage demands and then to claim that Conservative freedom has failed and must give place to Socialist tyranny and controls.I intended to do no more than to describe, in very moderate and restrained language, the kind of irresponsible and wicked nonsense from accredited leaders of trade unions that I have been reading out.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I am sorry that this controversy has taken up so much time, but the noble Viscount, with all his cleverness, does not really understand the trade union movement. That movement certainly includes Mr. Hill and Mr. Cousins They are two out of the thirty-five members of the Trades Union Congress, and before anything such as is suggested by Mr. Hill or Mr. Cousins could be done it would have to be discussed, and decisions would have to be come to by the General Council of the T.U.C. In exactly the same way, the noble Viscount is a member of the present Government, and we could describe certain things about himself—and possibly he has someone of like mind—but that does not discredit Her Majesty's Government—
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I am told that even that would discredit a Conservative Government. But it ought not to discredit the trade union movement. Mr. Hill has a very small organisation, as compared with many of the others, and he is one of thirty-five. I still say that it is very unfair to charge leaders of the trade union movement in the terms which the noble Viscount did.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, the noble Viscount has already expressly accepted, that there was no such general charge. I began with a proposition that I make no such general charge and the noble Viscount expressly referred to it.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I did not refer to a general charge at all. It was the noble Viscount who brought out the general charge. I referred to the individuals whom the noble Viscount had in mind.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I thought I was making that very plain. I consider that I should have been doing less than my duty to the country and to my Party by failing to draw attention to the kind of stuff which these persons (whom the noble Viscount rightly disclaims as being representative of the trade union movement as a whole) were putting forth and are still putting forth. And I made plain in my speech that there was no general charge against the trade union movement as such, nor any charge against the noble Viscount or any of his responsible friends for whom. I will repeat if necessary, I retain the highest possible regard and for whose integrity and patriotism I have nothing but admiration. I share the noble Viscount's sorrow that the House should have been detained with the details of this matter. I should not have referred to it at all, and should have left the matter as it was at the end of last week, had not the noble Viscount expressly invited me to say what was in my mind. I may say that nothing the noble Viscount has said this afternoon has in any way shaken me in my belief that what I said was a moderately expressed and legitimate defence of Her Majesty's Government and of the Party to which I belong.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, equally so, nothing the noble Viscount has said in his defence has in any way indicated that he has not done a very serious disservice to the trade union movement of this country.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I cannot believe that a disservice is done to any movement by saying what cannot be denied to be true. The noble Viscount is really rebuking me like a Victorian maiden aunt telling her niece that she should not refer to the fact that the piano has legs, even though it has legs and it is no disservice occasionally to remind the piano that it has these organs.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
The noble Viscount is lecturing me as though he is a university professor and has a little dog under his control. I shall not say more.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am very sorry the noble Viscount should take anything I have said against himself personally. I thought I said, and I say again. I have nothing but respect for the noble 225 Viscount. But perhaps he will allow me to say this—and I have no intention of lecturing him at all—that he allowed himself to be the vehicle this afternoon of a strong personal attack upon me for certain words I used. He cannot complain if I defend those words in this House. I bear not the slightest resentment against him for having made a criticism. On the contrary, I am glad he made it, because it has enabled me to put forward my own side of the matter which I believe to be a legitimate side.
I shall not reply upon the question of the Shops Bill; I shall ask the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack to do that. We have had our disagreement about this matter. Let us now agree that nothing we say hereafter about it, to our- selves, to one another, or to our friends, will do anything to interfere with the good relationships which I think the noble Viscount. Lord Hall, and I both desire to see persist in the industrial held. I know that he does not believe in my views, and I do not believe in his; but I do not think the noble Viscount, in spite of a temporary asperity a moment ago, really believes that I am in this House at all inaccessible or undesirous of arguing reasonably about things which require objective discussion, and I make him, without any qualification whatever, this promise—and I am sure that in saying this I speak for my right honourable friends in another place and for my noble friends. If he or his friends desire any good offices on my part; if we can do anything to answer any doubts or difficulties they have, in public or private matters; if we can do anything to ensure the continuance of good relations, or to promote better relations, whatever may have passed between us this afternoon, I give him my unqualified assurance that I shall do my level best to promote that situation. I do not refer in more detailed terms to other matters of the debate only because, quite unfortunately, this matter has occupied a disproportionate amount of your Lordships' time.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords. I expect the noble Viscount will be remaining in the House, so I shall not at the moment make reference to what he said in regard to the trade union movement. Then I want to pay a compliment to the noble Viscount, Lord Hall. He has saved me 226 very much trouble. I shall not need to repeat the quotations or the statistics which he has given, nor to refer to the facts regarding what happened after the First World War.
I should like to refer, however, to one or two matters which were spoken of by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, who seemed concerned about the trade union movement and was anxious to know how they conducted their business. The noble Lord wanted to know whether they could not in their branch meetings fix a quorum and have secret ballots on certain issues. Evidently the noble Lord is as badly informed on the trade union movement as is the Lord President of the Council; otherwise he would know that there is a bigger quorum at every trade union branch meeting than there is in your Lordships' House; and there is a bigger proportion of members present, generally speaking, at our branch meetings. On all major issues, every trade union has an individual ballot vote which is as secret as the vote in any General Election. On those two issues the noble Lord, Lord Rea, need have no worry concerning the trade union movement.
The noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council has enjoyed himself. I think he enjoyed himself more than did anyone else during his speech. I sometimes wonder in what capacity he addresses us. He has the advantage of holding the position of Chairman of the Conservative Party and he holds the position of Lord President of the Council; and yet occasionally he tells us, regarding something personal, that he is speaking in his personal capacity. Very well. Let me tell him this quite frankly: that I do not think he has been speaking just in his personal capacity. I am quite sure the Conservative Office helped him to gather some of that material together.
I am not too sure whether it is a good thing either for the Tory Party or for the Government to be in the position of having one person holding the office of Chairman of the Tory Party and, at the same time, holding one of the highest positions in the Government. And it is just as well for the noble Viscount to remember this: the Conservative Party are suspect in the trade union movement, whether they are in office or out of office. There are doubts, there are suspicions, as to whether the Tory Party are not more 227 sympathetic to the employer than to the worker. And that imposes a very big responsibility on Tory Ministers. They may regard this attitude inside the trade union movement as unfair, and say that there are no grounds for it. But it is there, and we in the trade union movement know it is there. For that reason statements and announcements made from time to time by Cabinet Ministers need to be exceedingly guarded. It is no use their saying they have been misinterpreted or misquoted. It is important that Cabinet Ministers holding high positions in the Tory Party should make statements which are very carefully worded and which cannot be misinterpreted—unless deliberately, and then it is not worth taking account of the misinterpretation.
We are told that we have some responsibility for the present economic crisis. I agree with the noble Viscount when he says that we differ fundamentally, basically. We do not believe that the capitalist system can deliver the goods. We may be wrong, but we are as firm in our faith as he is in his. When the noble Viscount refers to enthusiasm for one's opinions being accompanied by tolerance for the opinions of others who differ, we agree. But I cannot say that he always practises that—or he may have been wrongly quoted at Ipswich. I feel that his enthusiasm has sometimes run away with his fairness towards others. It is very difficult for the best of us to be enthusiastic about our own views and to be magnanimous and tolerant towards those who differ with us. It is a great achievement for those who can do it. I agree, it is the ideal.
From time to time the noble Viscount makes appeals—very sincere, genuine, moral appeals, there is not the slightest doubt about that, and I think it is necessary that they should be made. However, there is always a danger, I think, of our moral resources not being adequate to deal with our material resources. I have seen many an individual who has done well materially but whose moral resources were inadequate to meet the responsibilities of his material success, and he has become a dismal failure. That has happened to some countries, too. I do not mind these powerful moral appeals. I think it is vitally important for us all 228 to realise that the economic solution of our economic problem must safeguard the moral side of life. After all, man is something more than an economic being. I remember raising this very issue at Lake Success with a Russian representative: that his Party were concentrating too much on the economic side of life.
Let me say this to the noble Viscount: our difficulty in the Western world is that we accept a certain standard of morals. Our difficulty is to find a solution to an economic problem which safeguards our intellectual, moral and spiritual development. When the Prime Minister, last Thursday night, spoke to the Institute of Directors at their meeting, he said we wanted a little self-discipline. Let me tell the noble and learned Viscount that I agree with the Prime Minister. I have known many occasions when individuals who refused self-discipline have become subject to discipline from elsewhere. So I agree with these moral appeals, for I am sure that they are necessary. And I can assure the noble and learned Viscount that he will not make such appeals in vain so far as we are concerned.
But I sometimes feel that he might make the same powerful appeals as he made at Brighton, and as he made here only last week, to a wider audience. I thought he opened his speech last week with a peroration. Indeed, I said to my noble friend, Lord Hall, "Is it not strange that he is opening with a peroration?", but I found that, after all, the noble and learned Viscount had a peroration with which to end his speech. These powerful appeals at a time like this are vitally important. If we are faced with a national economic crisis, what must we do? I would suggest that the first essential in dealing with a national economic crisis, whatever its nature, is to get the support of the nation for your efforts. You should get the whole of the nation behind you.
At the moment we are not doing too well in that direction. Like the noble and learned Viscount, I have tramped the country and I have heard views expressed. I am not blaming his speeches; they may have been a factor, but I should not lay great stress on them; he may have aggravated a few trade union leaders, which is a thing he ought not to have done; he may even have 229 been speaking the truth concerning some of them. But these men are friends of mine. I have been working for fifty years with some of them. I have seen these youngsters among the thirty-five members of the General Council of the T.U.C. growing up; I have seen them at work over considerable periods. There are many personal friends of mine among them, and I was in touch with some of them over the week-end. Now they are certainly hurt—the noble and learned Viscount can take this from me—by some of his speeches and some of his references.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, will the noble Lord do me this very great favour? Will be convey to his friends that none of the speeches in question were ever intended to refer to his friends? I am deeply sorry that they should have taken it that they were. They were intended for quite different targets.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
I can assure the noble and learned Viscount that what he says will be received with satisfaction. They will get copies of Hansard and will read there what he has said, and they will then become fully aware of his attitude. All I am saying is that the pitch has been queered; matters have been made difficult for us. I know it was not intended, but it is so. A mighty effort must be made to get back on lines in the interests of the country. Remember, there has not been a section of the country which has shown greater patriotism in time of crisis than the trade union movement—the leaders and the rank and tile alike. Satisfy them that there is a crisis, satisfy them that they are rightly going to be asked to make a sacrifice—but not a greater sacrifice than other sections of the community—and you will not appeal in vain to trade unionists, leaders and rank and file.
It had been my intention to dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s of the speech made by my noble friend, Lord Hall. However, he dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" himself, so that job is done and I need not follow it up. Lord Hall referred to the years following 1918. I was in the thick of the events to which he referred. There were, as he has said, 49 million days lost in a year owing to disputes and more than half 230 of those were lost in the mining industry. I happen to be to-day the only surviving member of the National Executive of the Miners' Union of those days. The task which faced us was terrific. The complexion of the House of Commons at that time was such that I think it was possibly the worst Parliament that has ever been known in this country. The employers were represented there and they used the situation in such a way as I hope that no Conservative Government or National Government or Labour Government will ever use a situation again. Unemployment was used by the employers to crucify the workers. I know; I was there, and I and others like me remember those days. And we fear the possibility that they might come again. Mind you, I do not think that they will. I think that a Conservative or any other Government will do their best to prevent a recurrence of anything of that kind. But I ask your Lordships to remember that the suspicion that such a thing might happen again is there, and that is why we are so concerned at the present juncture.
Now let me refer to one or two simple matters. In the first place, I ask how the Government are going to deal with the coal industry in regard to this question of no increases in wages. It is an industry which is beset with many difficulties. It is undermanned. It needs many more miners throughout the country but it cannot get them. The non-mining section of the community have never sent their sons into the pits and the mining section are now keeping their sons away from them. What are we to do? I think the noble and learned Viscount must know how this business of wage claims works. In case he does not, however, let me tell him. The workers in the coalfields are feeling the pinch. They find that increases in the cost of living are affecting them and that their wages are not adequate to meet those increases. They attend branch meetings of their union and they pass resolutions. Those resolutions go forward and the National Executive of the Union are instructed accordingly. The Executive meet the National Coal Board and discuss the matter with them. They present a case for the miners. The National Coal Board then say: "We are sorry but we are not quite sure how the position stands 231 with regard to output. What is the output now? Has the output increased, and has it increased sufficiently to pay this claim?"
Now is that an idea that is going to be persisted in? Has the coal industry to show that its output and its proceeds have so increased that they can meet fresh wage demands out of that output and those proceeds before claims will be favourably considered? It must be borne in mind that this is an industry which can run into great difficulties from geological causes, and that these can reduce output and increase the difficulties of the miners. I would ask the Government to be very careful before they apply this principle too straitly. Remember that the miners and the miners' trade union leaders realise that they depend on output for wages and they do not ask for wage increases regardless of output. This is why miners' leaders are devoting the most powerful efforts to exhorting the miners to increase output. Let me tell the noble and learned Viscount that miners' leaders have been doing their best in this direction on the public platform, in the open air, at indoor meetings. They have been emphasising to the miners the need, wherever possible, to increase output. But let me also tell the noble Viscount that such miners' leaders are also concerned to see that the miners are adequately remunerated for their work.
I shall not deal with one or two other matters with which I had intended to deal. I think it would be far better to let the case rest there. The noble and learned Viscount was very anxious to have the last word, but I am having the last word to-day. He was anxious that he and the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, should be friends and that what has gone by should now be a closed chapter. Let me say this to him. I hope that he will not allow his enthusiasm—and he has plenty of it and, moreover, an enormous amount of intellectual and physical ability with which to express that enthusiasm—to run away with him. I know many men who cannot find words to express their enthusiasm. They lack intellectual and physical vigour. That is not the case with the noble and learned Viscount. But, in my opinion, some of the things he said were not very wise, and I think it would have been better if he had left 232 them unsaid. I am sure he himself sometimes wishes he had not said them.
My Lords, I happen to be a Welshman, living in Wales, and some of my friends have asked me why there was not some reference in the gracious Speech to the Report made by the Council for Wales which contained recommendations for devolution of a certain kind. I do not know whether a paragraph on page 3 may be taken as including a reference to that matter. I should like to know what is the position. Do the Government intend in any way to accept that Report, with or without amendments? People in Wales are anxious to know what has become of the Report of the Council for Wales on the question of devolution.
I have said already that peace in industry is essential at the present time. I have spent my life in industry and have been fortunate to see industry from each side and from in between, and I know how difficult it is sometimes to establish the right relationship and the right atmosphere. But I appeal to the Government, because I understand that a move is afoot for a meeting with the employers and trade union representatives, which I think is essential, to see that before they make any further announcement about what they are going to do they make this anouncement following consultations and not before.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, in the few words that I propose to address to your Lordships to-day, I do not propose to carry on the war of words between my noble friend the Lord President of the Council and the Opposition Front Bench on the relative merits of the two Parties. However justified it may have been, it has, to my mind, tended to divert the attention of your Lordships from the main issues before the country; and I should like to return to these.
Last week, in the debate on the Address, your Lordships were concerned with the two spheres of public policy which I think have been causing most anxiety at the present time to us all: these are, of course, the international situation and the economic position of the country. To-day, as the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, explained, the Opposition have tabled an Amendment, the purpose of which, as I understand it, is not so much to censure the Government as to 233 enable a discussion to take place on the other aspects of home policy which have not yet been brought under examination. The chief of these, as I think the noble Viscount rightly said, is the industrial position and the whole question of industrial relations at the present time. That matter, concerned, as it is, mainly with wages in relation to production and profits, might well have been regarded as a subject to be included in the economic debate last week, but I personally entirely agree with the Opposition that there are valid reasons for splitting the subject and raising the question of the industrial position to-day. For, after all, an economic debate which was also expected to cover the whole question of industrial relations would have been far too wide and too discursive to be in any way profitable to the House.
The noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, both of whom have the respect of us all, gave a most encouraging account, I thought, of the present industrial position in certain respects. They said—and I hope and believe that it is true—that it is far better than during the same period after the last war; things then were very much worse. We all greatly rejoice that that should be so, and welcome the wise words which they spoke. But there are many of us, I think, in all parts of the House who, even now, do not view the future with undiluted optimism. For one, I think that one of the reasons why the industrial sky has been comparatively clear is that there has been a steady rise in wages. We are all very glad that that should be so, and long may that situation continue, if the economic situation of the country will allow of it!
But I am sure that neither the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, nor the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor; nor myself, nor anybody else, will forget that economics and industrial relations are closely related. That truth, however, has not always ben recognised, and I think that that is the root of a certain number of our troubles at the present time. For this, I am afraid, all Parties are to blame, my own among all the others. There is one particular instance of this to which I should like to devote some remarks. I think that, in passing, the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, mentioned one aspect of this, 234 and I can assure him that in these remarks I am not now criticising the Party opposite. As I say, this is a question in which we are all of us involved.
The point I want to make is this. During recent years, in arrangements which Parliament has made for some of the greatest industries in this country, especially those that have been nationalised, where the State is, in effect, the employer, Parliament has been, perhaps naturally, so anxious that Governments, of whatever colour they may be should not be influenced by purely political considerations on the question of wages, that they have tended to try to set up to deal with rates of pay completely independent bodies which were not to be regarded as subject to the same political pressure. In theory, I think that idea was both sensible and laudable, but I am afraid that in practice it has turned out to have one unfortunate result.
These independent bodies are concerned, as I understand it, only with the position of the particular industry with which they deal. They are not, like Governments or Parliament, concerned with the broad picture of the national situation. Indeed, probably, with the best will in the world, they do not know the full facts in the way Governments do. Moreover, if they do know the facts, it has come to be regarded as very wrong that they should take these wider considerations into account in reaching their decisions. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested the other day that the national position was material to the consideration of wages, a great many people threw up shocked hands, as if he had said something which was extremely improper. Yet it is ultimately the community for which the Government are responsible who will have to pay the piper. It is the Government and Parliament, and country as a whole—consumers and everybody else—who will have to find the monies which are to be expended.
Nor, I hasten to say, is it only in the nationalised industries that this rather strange position has developed. Take agriculture. In that industry, as everybody knows, an Agricultural Wages Board has been set up. This body (I say this not in any spirit of criticism of the Board, which I am sure is admirable, but as an example of the point which I 235 want to make) was set up by Statute. It is composed, if I remember right, of equal numbers of representatives of the farmers and of the agricultural workers, plus a number of independent members, who, I take it, are intended to represent the interests of the community. At stated intervals, quite rightly no doubt, the Board review agricultural wages. Normally, no doubt, people being what they are, the representatives of the farmers and of the agricultural workers find themselves in disagreement, and the final casting vote is given by the independent members. And nearly always the independent members recommend a rise somewhere between the figures proposed by the labourers and those that have been proposed by the farmers.
But—and this is what I do not know and I do not suppose anybody else knows—do they take into account, in coming to their decision, the broad national position and the situation of the consumers and the production of the agricultural industry? Do they even take into account the fact that, of approximately £330 million (I believe that I have the figures right), which represents the profits of the farming industry every year, £240 million—that is, over two-thirds—comes in the form of subsidies of one kind or another from the general body of the community? Do they take these things into account? Perhaps they do; perhaps they do not. It is not laid down, at any rate, in the Agricultural Wages Act, 1948, that they should. I looked up the Act this morning, and nothing is said in that Act, so far as I can see, of considerations of a wider kind. It merely directs that the Board should fix—not recommend, but fix—wages and make the necessary arrangements for holidays and so on. The public do not know, and so far as I can see, even the Government do not know, exactly what considerations the Agricultural Wages Board bring to their decisions. The public do not even know the names of the members of this Board, and would not know who they were, if they were told. Yet the Board have this vast power over many millions of pounds.
And what happens? Governments—for it applies to all Governments, Conservative, Labour and all others—are practically bound, in fact are bound, to accept 236 their award, otherwise they are told that they are ignoring the machinery which Parliament has set up. Then along come the farmers, with a request for a review of prices for their agricultural commodities to take account of the new scale of wages. Here, for the first time, the Government come directly into the picture, and an agreement is reached which nearly always means that the consumers have to pay, in one way or another, rather more than they had to pay before.
I do not say that all this is necessarily wrong; and I am certainly not advocating lower wages for agricultural workers—if we want a prosperous agriculture, we may have to pay for it and we should fairly face up to that fact. But I do say that it seems to me a serious matter for consideration in all Parties whether these small bodies of people, who are no doubt intelligent and patriotic, but not especially eminent, nor probably in possession of the full facts about the national economic position—and they are not encouraged, in any case, to take this into account—should have, in effect, the final word over the expenditure of such vast sums of money outside and above Parliament. What is true of the Agricultural Wages Board (and I do not want to concentrate particularly on that body) applies also, as I understand it, in greater or lesser degree, to similar bodies in other industries, whether nationalised or not.
The point that I want to put—and it is much easier for a private Member like myself to put it than for someone who sits on the Government or Opposition Front Bench—is this. Would it not be better for this grave responsibility to be in some way restored to Parliament itself, either by the sort of direct conversations between the Government, who are responsible to Parliament, the employers and trade unions, which I think was envisaged by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, in his speech, or in some other way? I think that in such circumstances the position would be far healthier than it is to-day. There would be no need for interference with the existing machinery of collective bargaining—that would exist as at present—but the final responsibility would rest, not on these Boards of the kind I have described, which really have no direct responsibility to anybody, but on Parliament, which in turn is responsible to the 237 nation which elected it. That, I suggest, and it is the main thing I want to say, would be more in accord with the principles of a Parliamentary democracy in which we all believe.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am most interested in the speech of the noble Marquess and I think this is most important. To put it in a nutshell, should I be misinterpreting him if I said that what he said at the end is that there should be Parliamentary control, ultimately, of wages?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I should prefer that the control rested with the Minister responsible to Parliament, than that it should rest with someone who has responsibility to no one. It is not because I want a lowering of wages, but because it seems to me more in accordance with the general structure of Parliament in this country.
§ LORD SILKIN
Perhaps I can clear my own mind. Would this mean what is known as a national wages policy? Is that what the noble Marquess is advocating?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
All I meant (and I am not speaking for the Government; I will say at once that they are not bound by anything that I say) was that where these independent Boards exist, I think their position needs a reexamination and reconsideration. At the same time, I do not want to suggest for one moment, and I should be foolish if I did. that such a change as that, useful though it might possibly be, would by itself get us out of the present difficulties between capital and labour; of course, it is not sufficient, and something far more fundamental than that is needed.
At present, as I think we all know to our cost, there is a tendency to regard employers and employed as inevitably opposed forces, each seeking by some method or another to get a victory over the other. I am sorry to say that every day one sees in the newspapers some expression which gives colour, at any rate, to that view. I am sure that all of us in this House agree that, ultimately, that can lead only to complete disaster, not only to the parties to the disputes but to the country as a whole. What I feel is clearly required—and I am not saying anything new about it—is that we in this country must, by some means or other, 238 reach a position in which the parties to industry should regard themselves as partners in a common enterprise in which the prosperity of each is essential to the prosperity of all. That is one essential change of heart that we need. As I say, there is nothing very new about it. If noble Lords will look at Shakespeare's play, Coriolanus, they will find there a most moving passage in which one of the characters expounds the parable of the belly and the members, the belly being capital and the members labour: exactly the same problem in ancient Rome as we are faced with here.
But in spite of the age of this long argument, and the view of so many wise people that a new outlook is wanted, the idea of an inevitable conflict still unhappily persists, with disastrous results, as I have said, to the unity of the country and to its credit in other lands. There are still employers who, in their heart of hearts, regard labour only as a commodity to be bought and sold, with all the implications of an inevitable conflict between the opposing interests of the buyers and the sellers. And there are still trade union leaders who regard a crusade against the wicked capitalist class as the only raison d'être for their existence.
It is only slowly and hesitantly that the more modern conception of an equal partnership between capital, management and Labour—that is to say, between those who lend their money, those who lend their "know how" and their knowledge of administration and those who lend their manual labour to a common enterprise—is gaining ground. No doubt even under such a system as that which I have adumbrated discussions must go on as to the allocation of the proceeds of the operations of a firm or industry between salaries, wages and dividends; that must exist under any system. Nevertheless, as I see it, the emphasis would be changed from a division of the existing "cake" (if I may use a word which has become rather a cliché) between contending parties to a joint examination as to how to increase that "cake" for the benefit of all, which is a far better conception for industry.
If that change of heart took place, and a new conception of a joint effort came to animate every section of industry, how happy we should all be, and how 239 much rosier would be the future before the country! I myself am confident that that change will in time come—indeed, there are already signs of it in the proliferation of joint industrial councils and joint works committees, and even co-partnership schemes in one or other firms in industry. But that movement would be greatly accelerated if it had the support of all Parties in the State. It is for that purpose, apart from any other, that I should like to-day to make a plea to all concerned to work without bias for that object; and the reason why I have made bold to address your Lordships this afternoon is because I believe that that is the only way that, ultimately, we shall get through the present rapids and shoals into the calmer waters of industrial peace.
§ 4.50 p.m.
My Lords, like my noble Leader I feel that the noble Marquess has ventilated ideas of great significance this afternoon; and. if I may say so without presumption, he seems to me to enjoy himself even more now that he is able to come among us unmuzzled, as Mr. Gladstone once said of himself, than when he bore the heavy burden of speaking for so many others. I am sure that all that he has said will be studied for long to come with exceptional interest. I should not feel it part of my duty to continue the controversy centring around some utterances of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. When one has been knocked out in fair political fight by an opponent, and that opponent himself is then knocked out by a bigger man than either of us, in the form of the noble Viscount. Lord Hall, and knocked out again when he comes up for air by an even bigger man, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, it is not for me to kick him as he lies on the ground.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Nor, if I may say so, is it for the noble Lord to act as a referee. He is not entirely impartial.
I will invoke in aid a higher authority even than the noble Viscount—the Prime Minister. I am not one of these gentlemen who advertise the Daily Mail, as some noble Lords have at times felt called upon to do—no doubt without remuneration—but at any rate I read the Daily Mail, and there was an 240 article yesterday which explained what was going on in the high places, of the Government. It is called "Macmillan to Hailsham," and we are informed by the Daily Mail that the Prime Minister has told Lord Hailsham to quieten down. It is an instruction which was overdue but which may not have been attended to at once. The Daily Mail, well informed, of course, admits that the precise words which passed between the two men are not known, but the writer said:I can vouch for the fact that Lord Hailsham has been given a wigging by the Prime Minister"—the referee, apparently, in this case—This is not surprising. In recent weeks Lord Hailsham has threatened to do the Conservatives considerable harm.I will not go through the rest, but, remarkable though it may seem, it says that Lord Hailsham has raised the morale of the Labour Party even more than that of the Conservative Party.He has, by his behaviour, given the Labour Party a wonderful symbol of attack: 'If this is all the Conservatives can offer, why vote for them?'That is the view of perhaps the most popular of all Conservative papers, as expressed by one of their leading writers yesterday. I do not want to suggest a period of complete silence for the noble Viscount, because I think we should all be the losers. We recall that some years ago the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, wrote to a leading member of my own Party a letter, subsequently published, which finished:A period of silence on your part will be welcome.Those words were addressed to the late Professor Laski. I am not suggesting a period of complete silence, but there is a general feeling that a measure of restraint on the part of the noble Viscount would enable him to serve the country better than he is serving our people at the present time. I would say that in support of the justified rebukes which have been administered by my two noble friends.
I had intended to raise three topics this afternoon, but the time is passing, and, in any case, three topics might be two too many, considering how many speakers wish to address us. I should, however, like in a few moments to say a little about penal reform. Before coming to that subject, however, I want to raise one definite question about university 241 development and, at the end, say a few words about the change from the percentage grant to the block grant for education. We discussed the university position some time in May, and I think it was conceded by everybody—the noble Viscount, if I may say so, was at his best in his reply—that by the early 1960's we shall need to provide for a much increased university population. I will not stop to argue the statistical points this afternoon. Since then, the Russian scientific triumphs have made us still more conscious of our requirements, and many of us must be wondering; how the Government, in view of their economy measures, propose to handle this situation.
I ventured to argue in the summer, after a good deal of expert advice, that if we are really going to expand the building programme from 1960 onwards, planning should begin early in 1958. That was said in May. Here we are in November, and the universities still do not know what planning they will we able to undertake for the latter part of the quinquennium. I have given the noble Viscount notice of this question, which I should like to ask him: whether he is able to tell us at least when the universities will be informed what building grants will be available for the years beginning with 1960. It sounds a long way off, but I think a moment's calculation will show that, unless they know very soon, they will not be in a position to plan for the necessary increase in undergraduate population. I beg the noble Viscount to try to indicate this afternoon—it may be difficult—that the grants will be in no way affected adversely by recent economy cuts, but that, on the other hand, he has borne sympathetically in mind the strong arguments submitted in the summer that the expansion must be greater than was hitherto supposed necessary.
I come now to the question of penal reform, and I hope that we shall have a full day's debate on this subject. It arises rather sharply, and agreeably perhaps, in the gracious Speech, and I feel that it is right and proper to say a few words about it. Those interested in penal reform—I hesitate to talk about "we penal reformers", because anybody who is photographed outside a prison regards himself as a prison reformer—were un-doubtedy pleased to find a reference to this subject in the Queen's Speech. Considering that it is a topic which, by 242 general agreement, attracts no votes, it is fair to give credit to the Government and, in particular, to the Home Secretary, for a genuine desire to treat our prisoners in a more enlightened fashion. That impression was originally created by the Home Secretary's memorable speech in another place on March 13 of this year, which led to a widespread supposition that a new era of penal reform was to be inaugurated. The impression was confirmed by an equally notable speech which the Home Secretary delivered to the Annual Meeting of the Howard League last Tuesday.
I should add that while I, myself, have not had the pleasure of being in contact with the Home Secretary on this question, penal reformers who have been seeing him have been deeply impressed with his concern and determination to bring about a great advance. The same is true of the Under-Secretary, Mr. Simon, who recently spent a whole day in prison and fitted in so well that apparently he was indistinguishable from the inmates. I am glad he was eventually able to make his way out, because we do not want to lose Mr. Simon from the Home Office. There are colleagues of his whom we could have left inside, but not Mr. Simon, and we are glad that he is a free man again.
I wish, in all seriousness—indeed, we all wish—every possible fortune to Mr. Butler and Mr. Simon in their penal endeavours. But they do not need me to remind them that speeches are not everything. Somewhere about the middle of the war, I believe Sir Winston Churchill was congratulated on a magnificent oration, and he replied, "If it were only speeches that counted, we should have beaten Hitler long ago". In these few remarks, without going into details, I want to ask quite dispassionately whether the prisoners are likely to be much better off when the present Ministers have finished their term of office, even if it is more prolonged than some of the political implications suggest at the present time.
I said that we were pleased about the reference in the Queen's Speech to penal reform. But when we look more closely at the actual language, a certain disquiet assails us. We are told that the Government "will continue to pay particular attention to penal reform". One asks: when did this "particular attention" begin? We have twice in the last 243 two years debated in your Lordships' House the subject of penal reform, and hardly a good word has been said from any part of the House for our existing arrangements. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, did what he could and said what he thought should be said, but I am bound to say that he did not meet with much approval the first time, and the second time he was thought to have made a great step forward by admitting that a great deal was wrong. In 1955, for instance, the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood—who is not a leader of the boilermakers, after all, but is, in the eyes of all noble Lords opposite, a statesman of extraordinary respectability—summed up the matter in this way. He saidWe know what ought to be done, but we do not do it. The result is that in certain respects, particularly in the matter of accommodation, so far from making any progress in a world in which a great deal of progress has been made in other walks of life, we have actually fallen back, I would say, fifty or sixty years.That was the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, in 1955, so particular attention cannot have been paid to penal reform at that point.
Last year the condemnation was even more universal and severe, and no one voiced it more effectively than Lord Glyn, another Conservative speaker. He concluded [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 199, col. 442]:The present conditions are, I think, degrading and are almost a disgrace to this country.The Times, which was quoted with approval earlier by a non-Party kind of umpire, Lord Hailsham, concurred last year in the general verdict of your Lordships in a leading article entitled "Last in the queue." The article accepted the conclusion reached here, that our prison arrangements had fallen far behind the general level to which our modern ideas of civilisation and humanity had brought our social services as a whole. How much are our present leaders, whose good intentions I do not question, doing or prepared to do, apart from what they are saying or prepared to say? In that fine speech of his in July, 1956, Lord Glyn, for example, argued that [col. 442]:quite apart from schemes involving the expenditure of large sums, a great deal can be done, with quite small expenditure, to improve our prisons and to make it possible for us to give some hope to these men.244 I think there is a certain amount in that. When we come, as I hope we shall, to a debate on prisons we can go into the detailed aspects of things. If you talk to any official, on any level, in the Prison Service, from the Commissioners downwards, to anybody who has devoted his whole life to trying to improve the lot of the prisoner, he is almost certain to inform you that unless the country is prepared to spend quite a bit more money there is not much more than can be done. That will be the opinion, right or wrong, of the profession. I do not say it is the whole truth, but it is part of the truth.
To quote Mr. Butler on one aspect only—this is from the speech he made last week to the Howard League:The prisons are grossly overcrowded"—this is Mr. Butler, the Home Secretary, speaking on prisons, for which he carries immediate responsibility—after a temporary fall the population is again rising, and we now have over 3,000 men sleeping three in a cell.He goes on to say:Ever since the war shortage of staff has hampered progress as much as shortage of buildings, It has meant that the average working week for the prisoner has been only about 25 hours, and only that has been obtained by agreement of the staff to work regular overtime—not a good expedient".Everyone must be glad that there has been some improvement recently in recruiting for the Prison Service, although there is disquiet in the Service about the standard of some of the people being accepted. I gather that they are still something like 1,000 short.
Everyone is glad that a departmental committee is now reviewing the pay and conditions of service of the staff, including those of the governors, who are shockingly underpaid—almost worse than any other category in the Government service. But it was the former Home Secretary, Lord Tenby, who decided on the appointment of this committee. The prison officers were informed about it in January, but names were not announced until July, and it was not until October that the committee began receiving evidence. Without wishing to make a Party point, I would say that Mr. Butler will have to hurry if he is to be in office to receive the report of this committee. Be that as it may, I want to stress the conviction shared by everyone who has ever studied our prison situation in recent times, that if our prison arrangements are to become 245 worthy of a Christian country they must receive a higher priority in our national thinking.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, with whom I did not agree on all points, though I agreed with him there, wrote on Sunday in the Sunday Times that what we are prepared to spend on things is not a bad test of our relative desire for them. If we really want a considerably better prison system, we have got to pay a good deal more for it. I think there are certain excuses here which are dangerous to offer. A respected Minister (he is not in the House at the moment, so I will not mention him by name) said in one debate that "a country gets the prison system its conscience deserves." I regard that as a highly misleading argument, except in the sense that we are all responsible for electing the, Government of the day. The truth is that the country gets the prison service that the conscience of the Government insists on. It is the duty of the rest of us to stir up that Governmental conscience, and I should be surprised if Mr. Butler did not agree with me. He said recently:If we cannot spend the money, we must exercise our imagination … It may he if public opinion is sufficiently excited we may initiate some fundamental reforms.I wish that we had the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham: he would be able to excite public opinion.
I can assure the Home Secretary that there are many of us on this side, and in all walks of life and all Parties, who are quite excited enough to back him through thick and thin; and we do beg him to be of good courage, to follow his deepest and truest instincts and not to suppose that he would not carry the public with him in bold measures of reform. I am sorry that there is nothing in the gracious Speech about after-care of prisoners and nothing about the Wolfenden Report. We shall be debating that Report on December 4, and so I need not refer to it now. But after-care has "out-Cinderella'd" Cinderella, if I may put it that way. If our Prison Service is last in the queue, after-care cannot be said to have got into the queue at all. Its treatment year after year leaves it in the position of a scrum-half, playing behind a beaten pack of forwards. He never sees the ball at all; or, if he does, the other fellow has got it. I hope that we in this House shall not neglect after-care.
246 The Home Secretary had a lot which was very interesting to say about sentencing policy. There again we must hope for deeds, as well as words, before long, though I recognise that the Home Secretary has very limited powers in this field. I do not know whether anything can be said to-day about this question. It may be (and I notice opinion is beginning to move in this direction) that some kind of high inquiry, perhaps a Royal Commission, will be required before changes in sentencing policy can be brought about which could make any real impression on the size of the prison population. Then there is criminological research. No-one questions—certainly I do not—the special interest that the Home Secretary is taking in criminological research, but when the gracious Speech talks of "an imaginative programme of research"; I hope that the Home Secretary is not" pulling our legs"; I hope that he does not mean an imaginary programme, and is not exercising that sly sense of humour of his which has often delighted the public in the past.
I welcome the decision which I believe has been reached to set up a research unit, but what has that amounted to up to the present? There was a first-class statistician there before, known to some of us, and he is still there. Another expert has been added, who was working on these matters outside the Home Office; there is a third about to join, and a fourth will come along later. But this little party will have to cover the ordinary statistics of the Department, as well as research, and the decision cannot be regarded as more than a small step forward. Obviously the "imaginative programme," if it comes about at all, must come through Home Office assistance to outside projects.
The Home Secretary referred in his speech of March 13 to what he called his biggest initial shock when he discovered that we had spent only £12,000 in nine years on research. He acknowledged straight away that this was "quite unsatisfactory." There, of course, we should all agree, but how much better is he doing himself? Am I right in thinking (I have given the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor notice of this question) that the amount we are spending on research in the current year 247 is £3,350—not £3,350.000 but £3,350? That is all I can find under "Research." If I am wrong I shall be corrected, but I shall be greatly surprised if I am wrong. This year is a little better than last year, because while last year we spent £3,000, we are spending £350 more this year. I recognise that these estimates were drawn up before the present Home Secretary moved into his office, and therefore I am not trying to pillory him on the subject.
But may we take it that something totally different, on an altogether larger scale, is contemplated for next year? If it is not, then I say that the reference to "an imaginative programme of research" would be totally misleading and should never have appeared in the gracious Speech at all.By their fruits ye shall know them".We on this side of the House believe, and I think it is felt in penal reform circles generally, irrespective of Party, that the Home Secretary has his heart in the right place where penal questions are concerned. But the Prison Estimates will be studied with exceptional care at the beginning of next year. At the moment, it is bound to be difficult for him. The estimates for criminological research will be regarded as perhaps as good an index as any of whether the bad old times are to continue or whether there is at last to be a big move forward. We can quite imagine some of Mr. Butler's difficulties, and we shall not be stingy with our praise if, as we all hope, he succeeds.
Before I sit down I want to touch on one last question, which certainly needs a full day's debate because it is something that cannot be disposed of in a sentence or two. It would be quite wrong for anybody interested in education to sit down this afternoon without saying a few words about the very great change that has come over the manner in which grants are made to education. The change-over from the percentage grant to the block grant is a matter with which I cannot deal properly and effectively in my speech today, and the House will bear with me if I do not attempt to argue the matter or make out the case, or do more than affirm propositions, so to speak. But some of your Lordships will have read a pamphlet in regard to the case against block grants. We are told that the contents of it are fully shared by the National Union of Teachers, who join in commending the 248 pamphlet. I have no reason to doubt the further statement in this pamphlet, that every educational body is generally in wholehearted opposition to the block grant.
If anyone considers that this is an over-statement, I beg him to read an article in the Spectator on November 8. I suppose that one would call the Spectator an independent Conservative paper. It is a bit young and gay, but I do not see that those qualities are necessarily incompatible with Conservativism, and I think that the description I have given is correct. The Spectator informs us in an article called "Educationists and the block grant", thatthe Government's plans for the reform of local government finance have roused more opposition and strong feeling in the world of public education than anything else in the past ten years.The article concludes:Are the fears of the educational world reasonable? I think they are.I certainly think so, and so do we on this side of the House. I am convinced that they are a great mistake.
I do not know what to say on the subject of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. I am sorry that he is not still in the same office as Minister of Education. He is a genuine educationist. He was doing a better job than any Chairman of a Political Party can ever do. I will put it in that way. I cannot believe that proposals of this kind would ever have commended themselves to him. So far as anything is certain in educational prediction, these proposals are calculated to retard rather than to enhance educational progress. We on this side cannot believe that the present or recent Education Ministers like these proposals or believe in them. We regard these proposals as utterly retrograde and in total conflict with ministerial and Governmental professions of a desire and intention to raise the status of education in our national system. We object to the change in the strongest possible terms, and we shall do anything in our power constitutionally to defeat them. This matter can be argued, I hope, on another occasion at much greater length; it is a subject on which it is impossible to avoid expressing very strong condemnatory feelings.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, it is not often that at the end of a great debate the subject that one wanted to raise has never been touched upon. I have listened with the greatest interest to the able and instructive speeches that have been made, but in view of the seriousness of our situation, which not only the Prime Minister but other members of the Government have impressed on us, I take the view expressed by my noble friend Lord Hailsham in a speech which I think he delivered here—namely, that having listened to the debate he had yet to hear of any practical suggestion that was likely to solve our difficulty. I think I am quoting him accurately. At any rate, that is exactly what I myself feel. I am sorry that Lord Pethick-Lawrence is not here, because most likely he would have some information that others of your Lordships may or may not have.
I am going to try to set out some ideas which I hope will have the effect of reducing inflation. We must do far more than we have done so far. The Government must spend a great deal less money than they have been spending. We cannot go on with a Budget of the magnitude of the one under which we are now living. I feel that the Government must deal with the question as soon as possible. Unless we can do this, I see little chance of our competing in the markets of the world. Foreign competition is increasing the whole time. I want noble Lords opposite to listen rather carefully to my remarks here, because I want some definite information from them and I want to hear their views on what I am going to say. I think the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the "get together" idea. It has been mentioned once or twice this afternoon that the spirit of co-operation must be entered into as strongly as possible if we are to carry on and succeed in defeating the effects of inflation. Increases in wages, salaries and profits will not help. I ask, has this question been exhaustively studied? It is a vital question.
I want to ask the noble Lords opposite whether they have up-to-date information in regard to foreign living standards, cost of living abroad, hours of work abroad and results of work—productivity—abroad compared with ours. I want to know whether they have any firm and up- 250 to-date information, because, to my mind, that is the most important question we have to study to-day. I am most perturbed at the proposal for a 40-hour week. It seems to me that we are rather rushing into the idea. Are foreigners working a 40-hour week, or the equivalent thereof? We have to study these questions as carefully as we study the rather academic subjects that have been mentioned in this debate. Are other nations putting more energy into earning their wages than we are putting here? One hears rumours that they are and that must be taken into consideration. Can we afford to reduce working hours? Is it possible to do so? Are labour conditions in countries which are our competitors in the markets of the world such as to make possible a drastic change of this kind here?
I would propose what has been suggested by my noble friend Lord Salisbury: that there shall be consultative schemes, not covering the whole of industry but for each different industry, because conditions in various industries are sometimes quite different. I should like to see joint investigating inquiries to find out whether the difference in working that I have suggested, if it exists, is going to affect our economic situation. Not many people would be wanted: three representatives of employers and three representatives of labour would be quite enough to study this important question. From what I have heard, I fear that the foreign worker is working a little harder than we are, and I hope noble Lords opposite may have some definite information on this matter.
I hope, moreover, that whatever reports are issued as a result of this debate will be in the simplest language. I remember making a speech in Edinburgh within the last two years and stressing the importance of simplicity in describing the economic situation, so that the ordinary man, like myself or the man in the street, might easily understand what was said. I said then that if I were to go into the street, walk up to the first man I saw and ask him: "What do you feel about N.A.T.O.?", I honestly felt he would probably imagine I was giving him a tip for the Derby. The people do not understand the situation and I feel we should err on the side of simplicity and give the most careful and simple exposition of everything that is done by Her 251 Majesty's Government. In this we should be following the example of the noble and gallant Viscount, Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery. Those noble Lords who served in the First World War will know how secret everything, was then. Nobody knew very much what was to happen. One was told: "To-morrow we are going 'over the top'", or something of the kind. But Lord 'Montgomery enunciated the idea that every man should know exactly what was going on so that he might understand the position.
I do not know whether noble Lords will agree with me in this, but I feel that in our present condition, instead of going for a forty-hour week we should perhaps ask that a further half-hour should be worked, not reducing wages. If that were agreed to, there could be reciprocity with regard to profits and dividends. If that could be brought about, I believe it would immediately lower prices and the money saved in that way would permit taxes to be reduced and enable plants to be kept more up to date than is possible at the present time. I was perhaps more the "horny-handed son of toil" when I was a young man than a good many noble Lords were, and I know what it is to work as a labouring man. I feel very strongly that if it is properly put to those men in simple language, there will be a great response. The credit squeeze is making it extremely difficult for any industry to keep its plant up to date, and that is not helping us to compete, with our exports, in the markets of the world.
The higher the wages, the better—but if we are to have a fair deal with the foreigner then wages must be earned. I ask noble Lords opposite for their views on this vital question. Is it their information that foreign employees work harder than ours? Do they earn their wages better than we do? Noble Lords in all parts of the House are constantly hearing it said, "I have just come back from Germany" (or somewhere else abroad) "and they are working much harder there than people here." If that is so, this is not the moment to try to reduce our weekly hours of work. The subject of reciprocity between employees and employers has been dealt with over and over again to-day. I believe that in that way, and taking into consideration 252 the foreign position vis-à-vis ourselves, we should then be able to tackle inflation by reducing costs and thereby reducing our cost of living. Let us investigate this subject at once. If it could be agreed that workers should work an extra half-hour a week, without any reduction in wages, the reciprocation from the employers would be in the form of reduced profits and dividends. I am very anxious to get the opinions of noble Lords opposite on this subject and to have the answers to the questions I have put.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat will forgive me if I do not follow him and answer the questions he has so repeatedly put to us on this side of the House. I am not in a position to deal with them. I understood that questions of economics, finance, inflation and wages were dealt with on the first day of this debate. All I can tell him is that my memory, which goes back to the time of the Boer War, can remember that it was distinctly suggested by Conservatives at that time that all foreign workmen worked harder than British workmen. That was fifty years ago and I have heard it re-echoing down the years ever since. I think the answer is just as clear now as it was fifty or more years ago.
In reading the gracious Speech—I did not have the pleasure of hearing it delivered in person—I could not help feeling what a miserable programme it was for a Government in the mid-course of its term of office to put before the country which it is governing. I would hardly expect even the most inferior brewery to produce such small beer after it had got into working operation. And when I looked back on the position of the Labour Government facing the Session of 1947–48, which was a similar stage in the history of that Government, and saw what a magnificent programme of legislation was in the gracious Speech on that occasion, and how it was carried through effectively and thoroughly. I could not help thinking it was high time the present Government gave way to a Government which was more capable of governing and more capable of producing a really effective legislative programme.
I could not help being reminded of a famous description by Disraeli of the Liberal Government of, I think, 1880 or 253 about that date. Looking at the members of the Front Bench he said that they reminded him of a row of extinct volcanoes. Looking round at the Liberal Benches now there seems to be only one of them still functioning.
Of course, I would not say that the members of the present Government were quite extinct. There is here and there a little smoke coming out and certainly in one case quite a lot of steam. II am sorry the noble Viscount, the Lord President of the Council, is not here. Perhaps it might be better to call it a little hot vapour, or a good deal of hot vapour, that is coming from him from time to time. So that volcano certainly could not be regarded as extinct. Certainly there is enough steam coming forward to ring a bell from time to time.
There is one volcano which might almost be described as glowing, and that is the Home Secretary. Those who are interested in the problems of penal reform certainly welcome what is said in the gracious Speech on this subject. My noble friend Lord Pakenham has devoted a great part of his speech to this matter and I do not wish to cover all that ground again, but the Home Secretary certainly has impressed those of us who have devoted many years to the study of these problems, and he has given considerable encouragement in a number of speeches which he has made over the last months. I think that both he and his Parliamentary Secretary have persuaded us that their hearts are in this job. The question is whether they will be able to wheedle out of the Treasury sufficient money to make it a really concrete programme which, as Lord Pakenham has said, will produce results in due course.
A question which I think is particularly important is that of research into problems of crime and into the cure or prevention of crime. That is the most important aspect of all, and is a matter which has really been scandalously neglected in this country. The word "scandalously" is almost too weak a word to use. The Government have only recently come into the matter at all. and, having come in, have so far doled out the most pitiful sums of money. Research into these problems—and they are, after all, problems at the very heart of the state of affairs—has been done by small private organisations such as the Institute 254 for the Study and Treatment of Delinquency, with which I have the honour to be connected and which set up the first clinic. I think, in the world for the psychological treatment of offenders. It has now been taken over by the National Health Service. That organisation has been struggling along on a pitiful income, unable to promise its research workers more than a year's pay at a time, the result being, of course, that they have gone off into other spheres of work. It is really impossible to keep any proper scheme of research alive under such conditions.
A little work has been done in two or three of the universities, but for that we have had largely to rely upon foreign scholars—ex-German refugees, criminologists who were a present to us from Hitler, and of whose knowledge and experience we have been able to take advantage. It is very much to be hoped that there will be a real programme of research. Research cannot be carried on now without substantial numbers of trained people. It is all very well for the Home Secretary to talk about initiating research on a substantial scale, but it just is not possible. There are not the trained people available, and that is because of this criminal neglect (it is criminal neglect) towards this subject by the Home Office in the past.
I do not want to say a great deal more about this subject because it has been very adequately discussed by my noble friend, but I should like to emphasise everything he has said, and to say that we shall be looking very anxiously and rather critically at what actually comes of the research promises which have been made to us in the gracious Speech and by the Home Secretary at the Annual Meeting of the Howard League and elsewhere. Of course, against the congratulations one has to put the fact that, apparently, according to newspaper reports, the Home Secretary is running away from the implementation of the Wolfenden Committee's Report, which is a very unfortunate thing, because that was a splendid Report and undoubtedly, I think, to everybody who has studied it, it was a Report carrying complete conviction. I am sorry that because the uneducated part of the population does not really understand these things the Home Secretary should have decided to run away in that particular field of the criminological battle.
255 Another part of the gracious Speech which we can, I am sure, all welcome is that which promises to give effect to at any rate some of, the recommendations of the Franks Committee. I expect the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack deserves some congratulations from us upon this particular score; we all know how interested he has been in these problems. We are to have, I believe, a further opportunity to debate these particular matters later on, and therefore I do not want to open them up in detail now. But there are one or two points which I should like just to refer to because I hope that the noble and learned Viscount and the other Ministers who are responsible will be thinking about them in connection with the legislation which they are going to produce. They are points which are to some extent points of detail and I shall deal with them as quickly as I can.
The first one relates to paragraph 387 of the Franks Committee Report which deals with the position of people who are interested in connection with planning schemes and decisions under planning schemes, but who are not actually owners of the property concerned, or the planning authority which is dealing with the matter. One of the outstanding grievances of people who live in a district where some planning consent has been given and who suddenly see a housing estate being erected beside them, is that they are not regarded as being sufficiently "interested" to have any right to appear at hearings or to appeal against decisions given. Many of us hoped that the Franks Committee would say that in the conditions of modern planning people in that state ought to be brought in. The Committee say that a suggestion has been made that provision should be made for enabling third parties to appeal against a grant of planning permission, either in all cases or in special cases. The Report continues:An example of a special case would be the grant by a local planning authority, while the development plan was under consideration by the Minister, of permission to carry out development which conformed with provisions in the plan to which provisions objection had been made at the enquiry. We agree that there is a legitimate third party interest in many planning applications but we consider it impracticable to provide for third party appeals either generally or in defined classes of case.They do not say why, and I think it is most disappointing. There may be good 256 reasons for this view. We know that the Ministry have always rather set their face against such rights being granted. In other parts of the Report the Franks Committee, very properly, overrule evidence given by the civil servants, pointing out the reasons why they do so. But in this case they give no reason, and it is undoubtedly a very real grievance with many of these people that this right of appeal is not given.
But even if the Government cannot help on that, there is another aspect of the matter on which I am sure they could help. There is no notification to people as to what is going on. Very often if a decision is given in favour of a planning permit in an area which is perhaps a national park or a conservation area, the only way of protecting the interests of the wider public is for the Minister himself to call in the decision of the planning authority, look at it and, perhaps, decide to overrule it. Of course, if the local people who are interested know what is going on, they can petition the Minister to call it in. But very often the matter has reached a stage, before they know anything about it, in which vested interests have been acquired, and the Minister does not feel that it would be right and proper for him to upset what has been done locally.
The grievance is that these things happen without any notice being given to interested people. All that the local planning authority have to do is to maintain a register of decisions, which of course anyone can go to see. But hundreds of people do not know that such a register exists. Other people, unless they are wealthy enough to be able to employ a solicitor, who will send a clerk once a week to inspect the register, are also unaware of what is going on. The result may be that the local planning authority may have given a permit for a development without any of the people living round about knowing of it. We had this sort of discussion in connection with the Electricity Bill, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, succeeded in getting inserted in the Bill a provision giving the Council for the Preservation of Rural England a special status in connection with matters of this kind. Of course, the Government did not allow that to reach the Statute Book. In connection with cases of this sort the Council for the Preservation of Rural 257 England and the National Trust may be vitally interested. There has been a case recently at Haslemere in which permission to build was given on a property next door to a National Trust property, in a conservation area and a place of exceptional beauty, and no one knew what had happened until the local planning authority had given the permit—neither the National Trust, nor the C.P.R.E., nor the local residents. I suggest that there would be no insuperable difficulty in requiring the planning committee of the local authority to notify people interested in this way. Indeed, under the 1932 Act it was done. By an order made by the Minister of Health, I think it was, under that Act, in certain cases t was compulsory on the planning committee of the local authority to give notice to persons interested so that they had the opportunity of putting arguments on the other side.
That is one point which I should like the noble and learned Viscount to look at. The other point arises under paragraphs 107 and 108 of the Franks Report, which deal with the problem of appeals on points of law arising out of decisions of tribunals of the kind with which the Franks Committee are dealing. They come out strongly—and I am sure we should all agree that they are right—in favour of the principle that there should be a right of appeal on points of law to the High Court. But they make exceptions in the cases of National Insurance Commissioners, Industrial Injuries Commissioners and the National Assistance Appeals Tribunal. I agree that there is a case for differentiating these particular tribunals. The Franks Committee point out that these tribunals are manned by barristers or advocates of considerable experience, whose salaries are in excess of those paid to county court judges. In fact, it is said, they constitute an expert court and therefore there should not be any appeals from decisions of these particular tribunals to the High Court on questions of law. I appreciate that there is something in that view. On the other hand, the eminence of these gentlemen who man these tribunals is nothing like the eminence of the Judges of the High Court, and it seems to me that it is not right that there should be no possibility of appeals in these cases to the High Court. It might be possible to compromise by saying, perhaps, that there should be 258 an appeal with leave of the High Court, or something of that kind, so that frivolous appeals would not be brought but only appeals in which there was some real point of substance.
There is another point here; these tribunal cases can be appealed from by way of certiorari. At the time when the Franks Committee's Report was being produced, appeals by way of certiorari from the decisions of these Commissioners were almost unknown. Curiously enough. in the present year there have been two or three eases of appeal by way of certiorari. That, clearly gives rise to a rather unexpected situation and one which I am sure ought to be looked at, for the Franks Committee were against the method of appeal by certiorari. What the solution is, I am not sure. Possibly the noble and learned Viscount already has this in mind. At any rate, I have drawn his attention to it. I will not say anything more about it at this stage.
Finally, I should like to say a few words on the subject of education, which has been touched upon by my noble friend Lord Pakenham. It is characteristic, if I may say so, of this feeble programme, that, so far as I can see, education is not referred to anywhere in the gracious Speech. There is surely irony about the fact that, at the very time when the gracious Speech was being delivered by the Queen, Sputniks, as they are called, were already circling above the earth. They are the products of all the energy and the money which has been put into education in Russia during the past twenty or thirty years. Are the Government really living in the modern world at all when, at this time, they propose to put back educational progress by substituting block grants for percentage grants—a step which, as Lord Pakenham has said, has outraged the whole of the educational world?
Not only have the Committee of Education Authorities criticised it, but the National Union of Teachers has issued a similar statement. Every educational conference and congress which has been held since this retrograde decision was taken by the Government has protested against it. I am surprised that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord President of the Council, who was at that time Minister of Education, should have agreed to such a thing. He is a man 259 with a conscience, and I cannot understand how anyone who has a real interest in education could have been a party to such a decision. Perhaps in view of the demonstration of the results of education in the U.S.S.R. which has been given to us during these past few weeks the Government will think again about the subject and go back to percentage grants. because the whole of the experience of the past teaches that under the block grant system education is held up and progress is not made.
The gracious Speech was almost equally silent on the fostering and furthering of scientific work in education in this country. So far as I can make out, the only reference to it was a reference in connection with war, and the expression of a pious hope that at some stage science would be used in the interests of general amelioration rather than for the purposes of war. When the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, was Leader of the House, we understood that the Government had been converted to the view that it was essential, in the interests of the future of this country, that redoubled attempts should be made to increase scientific education and scientific development. Yet here we are with the gracious Speech, in effect, silent about the whole thing.
Recent grants from the Treasury to the universities for the quinquennium which has just started make no provision, so far as I can see, for expanded scientific education and services. The increases in grants, as I understand the figures, will be only just sufficient to counteract the fall in the value of money which has been going on during the last quinquennium and not sufficient to enable the universities to embark on any real policy of expansion. I can assure the noble and learned Viscount who is to reply that these announcements were received with consternation throughout the university world.
I hope that the Government will remember that, before the end of the present quinquennium is reached, what is called "the bulge"—the larger number of university entrants resulting from the increase in the birth rate—will actually have taken up their places; and without substantially higher provision of a financial character it will be practically impossible for the universities to cope with the efficient education of these 260 young people. This is a matter of serious moment. The future of this country depends on what happens in our universities over the next ten years. If we are really to compete with the U.S.S.R. and with China, which has embarked upon a scheme of education parallel to that in the U.S.S.R., with the United States and other leading nations of the world, it is essential that before it is too late we should train in science and education a much larger proportion of young people. I think that it is deplorable that the Government should apparently disregard this problem in considering the legislative programme which they are to bring before the country at the present time.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, during the last few days we have listened to some interesting and important speeches. If I may single out one among many, I thought that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brand, on the financial position of the country was of first-class importance. We have been attacked a good deal by noble Lords opposite. We have now been in office for six years, and if they attack the Conservative Government they must expect to get some answer, even if only from a modest Back Bencher like myself. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, said that he was suspicious of the Conservatives, and thought that the Conservative Government would not "deliver the goods".
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, may I correct the noble Lord? What I said was that the trade unions of the country were suspicious.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
In his interesting speech, the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, reviewed the industrial position of the country. Unfortunately, coal was lagging a little, although better this year, he said (I took his words down); china and textiles were stagnant; steel was up by 10 per cent.; and engineering, shipbuilding, electrical goods and chemicals had played a great part in our exports. He quoted the figure of £1,500 million for last year. If the Conservative Party are, not "delivering the goods," how could these achievements come about? We have also built nearly 2 million 261 houses. As the Minister said yesterday in another place, we have housed nearly 6 million people.
The only reason I wish to address your Lordships to-night is that I have been a member of a local authority for three years, so that I have had some experience of affairs outside your Lordships' House. I know that the local authorities have to be careful because there is not enough money to do everything we want to do. With regard to the references by the noble Lords, Lord Pakenham and Lord Chorley, to the educational programme, naturally the Government wish to proceed without any major cuts and with only a rearrangement of a small part of the rural programme, which would not affect the main educational programme.
In the county in which I live, and on whose council I have the honour to represent a ward, we have striven, like other county councils, to keep pace with "the bulge." We are proud of what we have been able to do, but the job is not by any means finished, because "the bulge" has now arrived at the secondary schools, and they are full. Immediately new schools are finished, they are filled up. Our county council opened one the other day, and it was at once completely filled with 550 pupils. Some of the older schools built in the towns for secondary education are now quite inadequate and have to be enlarged. What is worrying us is the increased cost of borrowing. In the long run, that is bound to have an effect on the ratepayers. We must by all means defend the pound, but I hope that the increased bank rate is only a temporary expedient and will not have to be carried on too long; otherwise it will have a difficult effect on the future educational programme.
The Government have had a good record in the last six years in education. They have provided twice the number of places provided by the Government of the Party opposite. But it will be extremely difficult to carry on the full programme to meet "the bulge" when, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said, it passes on to the universities, if these high money rates stay for a long time. In my humble opinion, it is going to be inflationary. It is bound to put costs up to the ratepayers, who, in turn, will ask for more wages; and this will be very 262 unpleasant. I am not criticising in any way the decision that this step had to be taken, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Brocket, said last week, it is already having a bad effect on the housing programme for the next few years. Many local authorities are saying that they must wait for twelve months before they can commit themselves, because, at the present high cost of interest, the rents would be extremely high for a great many people. I wanted to say those few words, but I must say also that I do not agree that we have not up to now "delivered the goods." I certainly think we have.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD GREENHILL
My Lords, I have no hesitation in supporting the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Hall, although, had I followed my own inclination, I probably should have cut out the final words, "in the sphere of home affairs," because I feel rather deeply that our position in these days is such that serious consideration must be given to what we in this country are doing. I heartily agree with my noble friend Lord Chorley that this gracious Speech is a poor example of a programme of legislation. However, I prefer not to attribute any kind of blame to the present Government, but rather to, say that that sort of consideration is overweighed by the much more important considerations with which we in this country are faced.
My noble friend Lord Chorley referred to the developments made possible by the educational progress in Russia, in their being able to send up the Sputniks. I myself am much more concerned at a picture drawn by, I think, the publisher of the Encyclopædia Britannica in the New York Herald Tribune the other day, in which he described a library in Moscow with something like 12 million volumes, with every chair and table occupied by silent, concentrating students, reading; and not only were they reading during the clay but another group was coming in during the evening, because both nightshift workers and day-shift workers were all very much concerned to improve their education with the facilities offered so freely by the Russian Government. It is this spirit of wanting to improve themselves and of realising what education means for them that appears to me to be so significant these days.
263 However, my intention in intervening in this debate is simply to draw attention to that paragraph in the gracious Speech dealing with the intention of the Government to reorganise local government expenditure. It is perhaps significant that in the whole of the gracious Speech there is only one sentence which refers to Scotland; it is, indeed, a kind of appendix to that paragraph which refers to the intention to reorganise local government throughout England and Wales. It says:This measure"—that is, the legislation proposed to deal with the reorganisation of local government in England and Wales—will also make adjustments in the rating system and the system of Exchequer grants to local authorities.Then comes this one sentence referring to Scotland:Separate legislation will be introduced for these two purposes in Scotland.In order to know what those two items are, we have the White Paper, Local Government Finance in Scotland (Cmnd. 208) which outlines the intention of the Government in relation to local government finance. Since legislation has been promised to us, it would be inappropriate if one dealt in too great detail with what is contained in the White Paper, because the presumption is that when the measure does come before your Lordships we shall then have an opportunity of dealing with the individual items. But in general terms I would say that I entirely disagree that the purpose of the Government in submitting these changes is, as they say,to give local authorities increased financial independence and to encourage electors to take a fresh interest in local government affairs.I do not know what the old interest was, and I wonder what is meant by "fresh interest". What is true is that there appears to be very little interest taken in local government affairs, and how the Government can induce fresh interest by the proposals contained in this White Paper I just do not know.
My noble friends Lord Pakenham and Lord Chorley, both of whom are interested in education, drew attention to the harmful effects upon our education provision in Great Britain of the suggestion that we shall now have the block grant in place of the percentage grants. To show flow wrong and dangerous that proposal is, I should like to impress upon 264 noble Lords opposite the fact, first of all, that the proportion of education grant to total grants received is extremely high. Giving the latest figures I have for Glasgow, I may say that the total grant of £13½ million, in round figures, has £9.2 million as the grant in respect of education. This proposal is supposed to be a measure whereby the local authority will have freedom to carry out its educational and other policies.
It is also of importance to remember that this is not the first time that we have had a block grant; and it is highly significant that the old block grant; although it, too, had a formula, had excluded education from the grant: in other words, it recognised then, quite properly, that the proportion of cost in regard to education was so much higher than that of all the other grants combined that it was, I will not say unwise, but inappropriate to have the educational grant included in the total block grant. Therefore I hope the Government will reconsider this inclusion of the education grant in the general grant which they are now suggesting. Incidentally, I read that in the seven years up to 1956–57 educational expenditure has increased from £210 million to £420 million for the country as a whole, and that of the £210 million £120 million was due to rising prices. if the tendency for prices to rise is going to continue, as seems to be obvious, it means, in effect, that by having one grant for education along with the other services you are automatically making impossible the expansion of education, because the increased cost will be not for increased services but simply for increased prices, and you are thereby, in using the block grant instead of the percentage grant, lowering the amount of service you can provide for the given sum of money.
That is not the only criticism we have. In the case of re-rating, for example, the Government have decided that local authorities have some claim to get a little more than they have been getting out of the rating on industrial and transport premises. The Government say: "Yes; we think you ought to have 50 per cent. instead of 25 per cent." While, so far as Scotland as a whole is concerned, the increase in money may amount to £2.3 million, unfortunately the local authorities do not get the benefit of it, because, as the White Paper says later, the Government, for reasons given in the English White 265 Paper, intend to reduce that increased grant which ought to go to local authorities by a sum which will leave local authorities something like £700,000.
Now why should that be? Why, in the first place, should a local authority not be entitled to the whole of the rating revenues from what were formerly de-rated premises, since the local government expenditure is incurred as much by these premises as by any other? There seems to be no reason why a local authority should suffer because they happen to be premises for industry. Why cannot the Government say: "These are your premises. This is the pigeon for which you have to pay," and let the ratepayers pay for it? Instead of that, the Government say to the local authority: "We will permit you to charge rates up to 50 per cent., and of that 50 per cent, you will be, able to enjoy only one-third or thereabouts."
It also has a bearing upon the equalisation grant. There, too—and the noble Lord opposite knows quite well that the rating system has been substantially altered since 1956—those of us who went into this. question of the equalisation grant as it affected Scotland were of the opinion that that would mean a considerable increase of revenue to Scotland as a whole. The noble Lord is aware that, so far as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen are concerned, not one penny piece of equalisation money has come to those cities. Dundee gets a miserable part, and the total which the others receive does not amount to very much. But now, apparently, the whole picture is to be reviewed, and the presumption is—if, indeed, it is not threatened—that the equalisation grant will also be readjusted in such a way that a lesser amount will be granted than was expected by Scotland.
These are matters which I think must be considered by the Government in consultation with local authority associations, because not only will these grants affect the quality and extent of the education which is provided, but they will set up tensions within municipalities. If there is only one sum, a general grant, to be divided amongst the different committees, and if the different committees are each to fight for their own share of this limited sum, you will introduce in the so-called name of "independence" 266 a kind of inner conflict within a municipality which will tend to destroy their proper function, which is to see that all the services of the municipality are carried out effectively and efficiently.
I would therefore ask the noble Lord opposite, even if he finds some difficulty in persuading local authority associations to come and hammer this matter out between themselves, to consider seriously the effect of the proposals upon the local authorities, not merely in the amounts of money but also in the quality of the services these proposals are going to bring about. If the Government do that, I feel sure that they will not insist on carrying out the proposals contained in the White Paper.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I shall not take up your Lordships' time for long, but there is one point in Her Majesty's gracious Speech to which reference has not been made in your Lordships' House in the last few days, and it is one which is of great interest to myself. It is the sentence of the gracious Speech which refers to provision being made for the study of the problems of old people in this country.
There are two particular problems to which I should like to refer quite shortly, and they both concern the work of the local authorities. The first comes from a survey published recently by the Ministry of Health, which represents the summing up of an elaborate inquiry carried out by the Ministry into the state of the care of the chronic sick and elderly of this country. A large proportion of the chronic sick are people of sixty-five or more, and therefore the bulk of the survey deals with old people.
One rather startling fact emerged from the inquiry. At the present time there are about 4,500 people, mainly elderly, being taken care of in hospitals who do not require to be there any more. The right place for them is in accommodation provided by the local authorities, because Section 21 of the National Assistance Act, 1948, lays it quite firmly on the local authority shoulders. It says thatit shall be the duty of every local authority … to provide(a) residential accommodation for persons who by reason of age, infirmity or any other circumstances are in need of care and attention which is not otherwise available to them.…267 I do not wish to say for a moment that the local authorities have done nothing. They have done a great deal towards providing that accommodation, but there is a great deal more to do. What I should like to urge upon Her Majesty's Government is that they should encourage local authorities by every possible means to provide this accommodation, so that the beds which are staffed in hospitals are available for the sick persons who require them. One reads frequently in the Press of the impossibility of getting old persons, particularly if they come from the poorer parts of the town, into a hospital because of the fear that they may stay a long time. But the real reason is that there are not the available beds, because the beds are taken up by people who do not need to be there.
The second point is rather tied up with the first, because quite a number of these people need not be kept in hospital and could properly return to their homes, provided that there were enough of the domiciliary services laid on for them. I wish particularly to refer to the question of the midday meal. There one sees a curious anomaly, because Section 31 of the National Assistance Act makes it possible for a local authority to provide funds to a voluntary body providing for these old people, whereas Section 28 of the National Health Service Act says that a local authority can make arrangements for the provision, care and after-care of these people. One would think that with those two sections of two Acts of Parliament it would be fairly well covered. Unfortunately, it is not, because in a great many parts of the country there is no voluntary service to which the local authority can contribute funds to supply these meals.
I do not wish to say anything unkind about the Women's Voluntary Services or the Red Cross, but they provide these meals on much too limited a scale. In my opinion, a service which is not available on five days a week for people who require it is not a good service. Most of these are available on two days or on one day a week. A five-day service is needed, and a meal has to be taken round in a rather expensive way, because there is no point in having a meal sent out at half past eleven in a van with no heater, so that it arrives at somebody's home at half past one when it is quite cold. It is 268 perfectly possible to get heating arrangements in these vans which would improve that service enormously.
What I should like to urge is that local authorities should be encouraged to support these voluntary bodies, when they are there, to the extent of five days a week, rather than two days, because I am sure that it would get a large number of people out of hospital who would prefer to be at home but who cannot go there because they have no one to provide meals. One of the sad things that occurred in another place last Session was that a Private Member's Bill was introduced to enable local authorities to provide a meals service, but unfortunately, as so often happens with Private Members' Bills, it did not reach the Statute Book. It would be a very agreeable thing if that Bill could be revived and something of that nature could be done once more.
At the present time the local authorities can contribute—there is no compulsion about it—to the meals service for old people and sick people. The trouble is that one power comes from the health section of the local authority and one from the welfare section of the local authority, and it is very difficult, in dealing with elderly folk, to say under which section they belong. I remember that, when I first addressed your Lordships in 1946, that was a point I raised on the National Health Service Act: were we going to make two authorities to deal with old age? I raised the same point when we debated the National Assistance Bill the following year. We were told that this was going to be perfect and wonderful. These Acts of Parliament have been working ten years and one is gradually finding a large number of flaws in them. Those are two to which I have drawn your Lordships' attention, and I hope that something will come out of it.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, this debate has ranged over a very wide field, and it would be quite inappropriate for me at this time to try to cover anything like the whole of the ground that has been covered by previous speakers. The debate was opened by my noble friend Lord Hall in a speech which I think the whole House will agree was wise, tolerant, and restrained. He dealt almost entirely with 269 relations between workers and employers and he expressed strong criticism of a statement that was made by the Lord President of the Council at the Conservative Party Conference. Perhaps it would be useful if I quoted the actual words which formed the subject of the complaint:I wish I could be equally sure that there was not a conspiracy on foot between some of the more extreme leaders of the unions and some of the less scrupulous leaders of the Labour Party".If those words had been used loosely by a person who was not a lawyer, and not an eminent lawyer like the noble and learned Viscount, one would not have taken them quite so seriously as one does take them when used by him.
But when he used those words they were words which had been carefully prepared, because they are printed in a booklet, and therefore he was not saying these things extempore; he must be deemed to have meant what he said, namely, that there was a conspiracy or that he was not sure that there was not a conspiracy, and the conspiracy was between the extreme leaders of the trade union movement and certain less scrupulous leaders of the Labour Party. My noble friend asked the Lord President to justify these statements. He had given the Lord President the opportunity of considering what he was going to say, because he gave him notice yesterday, and so we must assume that what the noble and learned Viscount said this afternoon was his considered reply; he was giving us the best evidence he could to justify these statements.
Let us look at the evidence that he produced. He produced, first, a report in The Times containing a comment on a speech by Mr. Cousins, and the significant part of what he was quoting was the comment. Secondly, he quoted from an interview with Mr. Hill, first in the Daily Herald and secondly in a paper which he did not name. Listening to the substance of those two statements, Mr. Cousins's statement and Mr. Hill's statement, what do they really amount to? They really amount to a strong protest against wage restraint; that if the Government insisted on wage restraint they would fight the Government, not by political action but by such action as was open to them industrially. For the life of me I cannot see what is wrong with 270 those statements, and I certainly cannot see how they in any way justify the comment that they constitute a conspiracy between themselves and the less scrupulous members of the Labour Party. Indeed the less scrupulous members of the Labour Party were never referred to; we do not know at all who they were.
I need hardly tell the noble and learned Viscount who is going to follow me that, in order to sustain a charge of conspiracy one must be proved to have conspired with somebody. The noble and learned Viscount gave no evidence at all as to whom these trade union leaders were conspiring with. Indeed, nobody knows better than the noble and learned Viscount that if such a charge were presented to the courts the answer would be that there is no case to answer, and the noble and learned Viscount the Lord President would not have got very far with that. Therefore I feel that my noble friend. Lord Hall, was fully justified in asking the noble and learned Viscount to withdraw these charges unless he could justify them, and he certainly did not justify them. That is all I want to say on that matter.
The Amendment was described by the noble and learned Viscount as a contest between the reasonable attitude of my noble friend Lord Hall and the rumbustious attitude of my noble Leader, and apparently my noble Leader had won in the contest. He can hardly know my noble Leader, because if he really wanted to be rumbustious I think he could have produced something much more violent than the Amendment on the Paper. Indeed, such criticism as one might level at the Amendment is that it is not rumbustious enough and does not do justice to the nature of the gracious Speech which we are considering.
My own feeling—and I think that has been the view of almost everybody who has considered the gracious Speech—is that it is thin and airy—I am quoting the words of, I think, The Times, and curiously enough they are the very words which occurred to me when I first saw it, so I imagine they must be right. It certainly is an anti-climax to the very critical position in which we are, both nationally and internationally, and it appears to me to be completely pedestrian. So I feel that we could have justified much stronger language than we have used in the Amendment.
271 A number of my noble friends and others have dealt with various aspects of the gracious Speech. I want to say just a few words on three of the highlights of the Speech in the field of home affairs. The first highlight is thatLegislation will be introduced to amend certain provisions of the Agriculture and Agricultural Holdings Acts and to improve agricultural drainage in Scotland.That is put in the forefront of the legislative programme. Speaking for myself, I will reserve judgment on those measures until I see them. I have no reason to imagine that they will be revolutionary or greatly controversial. I do not want to say much more than that. The second highlight of the gracious Speech is the measure which will be laid before usto establish a Conservancy Authority for Milford Haven to regulate the increased maritime trafficwhich will ensue there. I have no doubt that this is going to be an important measure from the industrial point of view, but it strikes me as an indication of the thinness of the legislative programme that that should have been regarded as one of the prominent features of the Government's programme for the coming year.
I imagine that the most important subject which we shall be called upon to deal with—at any rate, the most controversial and one which will take up the greatest amount of time—will be the question of the reorganisation of local government. To-night I do not want to say a great deal about it. I think we should all agree that reorganisation of local government is necessary. There has been no drastic amendment of the structure of local government since 1929. In the meantime, there have been immense changes—social, financial and otherwise—and undoubtedly local government is due for revision. Until we see what are the actual proposals it is, of course, difficult to pass any kind of final judgment.
Three White Papers have been produced to us. I have read them most carefully and, frankly, they may mean a great deal or they may mean nothing; it depends entirely on the boldness and courage with which the policy adumbrated in those White Papers will be implemented by the Minister who will then be in charge. But reading the speeches that were made in 272 support in the debate in another place, I am bound to say that the conclusion I have come to is that what the Minister has tried to do is to carry out the policy of least resistance and to try to get through what the local authorities will agree upon and no more.
Everybody who has been connected with local government will know that there are almost irreconcilable differences between the outlook of the county boroughs and the county councils, and neither of those bodies are in complete agreement with the attitude of the district councils; and to endeavour to legislate on the basis of getting agreement upon all of them is just impossible. All that any Minister can really do, if he is serious about this question and wants to reorganise local government, make it efficient and bring it up to date, is to hear what all parties say and then make up his own mind. Certainly he must not act on the basis of trying to get something which everybody will agree to. It is because of that that I have fears that, while the machinery that he may be producing will be machinery which will enable big changes to be made, in practice, judging from what has been said, the actual changes will be very slight indeed.
My Lords, might I ask the noble Lord, to whom I have listened with the greatest interest, whether he would inform us what he thinks should have been inserted in the gracious Speech to improve local government that has not been proposed by Her Majesty's Government? I speak as a humble member of several local authorities, and I appreciate all the difficulties; but surely it is no good saying that you do not agree with what is proposed—it must be a step forward—unless you can come to this House and suggest something different.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, if it had been appropriate just now to deliver a speech on my conception of what local government ought to be, I should have been delighted to do so. I have spent a great many years of my life in local government—some of the best years of my life—and I have very definite views about local government. But surely it is not for me at this stage, dealing generally with the gracious Speech, to make a detailed statement of my conception of how local government ought to be improved. I promise the noble Viscount, 273 if he will do me the honour of listening to me when the local government measure conies before this House, that he will find that I shall be in a position to make definite suggestions.
But in order that he may have something to go on with, I would say that, first of all, my fear is that the concentration is largely on administrative boundaries and that I fear that little will be done about it; secondly, that the whole question of functions needs to be looked into most carefully indeed, and also the relationship between the local authorities and the Government. I see no evidence that the proposed changes have given much consideration to the question of functions. I admit that there are what I regard as minor questions as to whether there should be delegation or conferment of functions on small authorities, but I do not regard those as very significant; and frankly, I do not knew the difference between conferment and enforced delegation. However, I promise the noble Viscount that I will return to this matter at a more appropriate time.
In dealing with this most important question, the Government have at the same time seen fit to introduce the complication of altering the financial arrangements between the Government and the local authorities by substituting the block grant for the percentage grant. I am far from saying that the block grant is necessarily an evil. I would not say that myself. Some of my noble friends think it is, per se. I can well understand that a block grant can be just as generous to the local authorities as a percentage grant, and, so far as verbal assurances go, it would look as if the Government, after the pressure that has been put upon them, intend that at the moment the block grant should be as generous as the percentage grant. They have even given some assurances that as costs go up—if they do—and even as services develop, so there will be an improvement in the block grant, whether wholly or partly to cover such increased cost is not clear. I would accept all that. But if Her Majesty's Government are really sincere in their statement that the proposal to change the percentage grants to a block grant is simply so as to give local authorities more freedom to spend money as they think right, then I wonder whether it is so worth while. After all, if that were the 274 case local authorities ought to jump at the offer of freedom.
According to Her Majesty's Government, local authorities will lose no money but will be given greater freedom to spend it. What could be more wonderful? Everyone would jump at that. How is it, then, that practically every local authority and every education authority in the country is opposed to the proposal? How is it that the body of municipal treasurers and accountants are also against it? Everybody who is associated with it is against this wonderful offer of freedom. Is it that they have recollections of previous offers of this kind? There have been quite a number and they have always been associated with an economy drive. It may be that there are had memories of the Geddes Report. The first method of reducing expenditure was by having a block grant instead of a percentage grant. The May Report, the Ray Report and the Edwards Report have come along one after another for the express purpose of reducing expenditure, and they have always suggested the block grant.
Are Her Majesty's Government wiser this time in their propaganda? They are not now putting the proposal forward as an economy measure at all, except in one portion of the White Paper, but it is put forward in the interests of freedom. Are we to assume that the "gentlemen in Whitehall" know best what is good for local authorities?—for local authorities do not want it. Is this freedom to be imposed upon them? Though it may well be good for them to take this medicine, if it is not going to save the Government any money is it worth while jeopardising the benefits of the improvement in local government by enforcing this financial provision on unwilling local authorities? I put that to the noble and learned Viscount. I hope I have put it fairly. I am not challenging the intentions of Her Majesty's Government; I have no idea what those intentions are. I know only what those intentions are said to be, and I am not in a position to dispute them; but I am frankly puzzled that Her Majesty's Government should be so insistent on something which local authorities do not want.
The only other matter to which I want to refer to-night is the Shops Bill which 275 has been mentioned by one or two of my noble friends. It is appropriate that I should mention it because, as the noble and learned Viscount who is going to speak next will remember, he himself in another capacity, in another place, made a definite pledge that legislation on this subject would be introduced. I hope the noble and learned Viscount will recollect that somewhere about 1954 he gave a pledge that legislation would be introduced to implement the Gowers Report. That Committee was set up, I believe, in 1948. It reported after three years and since then there has been constant pressure upon Her Majesty's Government to make up their minds to do something and either to implement or to reject the Gowers Report. Eventually the Government undertook to introduce legislation and in fact did so; and the Bill went through this House. Those who took part in the discussions will have found it a rather laborious process and there were certain aspects of that Bill which were not very popular with some sections of the House. Nevertheless, the main purpose of the Bill was to improve conditions for shop workers and office workers; and the question of hours, though important, was to my mind of lesser importance than the improvement in conditions.
Anyone who has worked in an. office, as I have done all my life, will know how awful some of the conditions can be. Some offices have the charm of antiquity if one does not have to live and work in them. I know of a good many offices where, within a stone's throw of this building, it is necessary to work by artificial light the whole time, as there is virtually no natural lighting and very little ventilation, and which certainly are not conducive to good health or good work. Some of these offices are administered even by Her Majesty's Government. The Shops Bill was at any rate a good measure for bringing about an improvement in the conditions of workers in shops and offices. My noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor has recalled that it did not go through another place because there was no time, and it looks as if it has been dropped, since there is no reference to it in the gracious Speech. If it were to be introduced I should have thought it would have merited a mention in the gracious Speech—as much mention as some of the measures there referred to. 276 I shall be grateful if the noble and learned Viscount will say a word about the Shops Bill because we regard that as a very serious omission.
On such measures as are referred to in the gracious Speech one can only say that we must "wait and see". I have little confidence that they will be entirely satisfactory to those sitting on these Benches, and I feel we have been fully justified in the rather mild and moderate terms of the Amendment which we have put down.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, every one of the last few speakers has commented on the variety of subjects which has been raised in the debate on this Amendment, and I shall try, at the risk of detaining your Lordships, to deal as adequately as I can with the subjects that have been raised. I am fortified in that resolution by noticing that my audience consists almost entirely of those who have raised the subjects and are waiting for an answer. But there is one general point which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, made, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, followed, and that is about the content of the gracious Speech in domestic matters with which this Amendment deals.
The very variety of our debate has, I think, deflected our minds from the themes of the gracious Speech which were so well developed a week ago by my noble friends Lord Waldegrave and Lord Colville of Culross, whom I am glad to see here to-night. I ask your Lordships just to look for a moment at the content on domestic matters. The first point is the strengthening of our economy at home, dealing with inflation and maintaining the value of our money, a point the immensity of whose importance has not been questioned by any speaker in your Lordships' House. After that, one turns to the second theme: the strengthening of our institutions, and that has four parts.
The first part of the attack is on the restrictions on the liberty of the subject—on this, surely, we should get the support of the noble Lords on the Liberal Benches—and will mean getting rid of the Defence Regulations with regard to land. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, 277 who has been a Minister in a post-war Government, to realise and to consider what that means. He has been asking us to do it, and he knows the immense complexity of substituting for these "back room" orders and regulations legislation which will be properly debated in this House.
§ LORD SILKIN
The noble and learned Viscount has appealed to me and I shall give him the answer straight away. It is mainly because we were, when in office, continually taunted with these regulations. We were asked, "Why do you not sweep them away? The war has been over so many years." The war has now been over six years longer, and this Government still require these regulations.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not think, despite that perfectly fair assertion, that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, would deny for a moment the difficulty in the task of anyone who wishes to substitute modern measures for these regulations on land. That is the first part of the institutional section of the gracious Speech. The second part, on the protection of the individual, will be the implementation of the spirit, and a vast proportion of the letter, of the Franks Report. Third, there will be proposals for the reform of your Lordships' House; and fourthly, and finally, there are the proposals for local government reform. I ask you for a moment to depart from the merely Party aspect of that. All these measures would be major measures in any programme that any Government could put forward.
Then I turn to the third part of our domestic suggestions, to what one may describe as coming to the aid of the weak. First, the arrangements for the adoption of children are to be improved; secondly, the Piercy Report on rehabilitation is to receive attention; thirdly, a constructive policy will be pursued by laying more emphasis on reclaiming the prisoner and preventing the young offender from becoming an habitual offender and. fourthly, war pensions will be increased and National Insurance benefits will be raised; and, of course, weekly contributions will also be raised in order to pay for that. We are dealing, I suggest to your Lordships, with essential matters that touch the ordinary life of ordinary people, and suggestions of great importance.
278 There has been bound to be as the background to to-day's debate, as there was last Wednesday, what I described as the strengthening of our economy at home and the fight against inflation. There is only one criticism—and believe me it is no captious one—of the approach of the Opposition in regard to this. I think the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, in his admirable speech, treated this matter as if the only suggestion worthy of raising were in regard to the bank rate: he did not give sufficient consideration, if I may say so with the greatest respect, to the other measures which Her Majesty's Government have put forward along with the raising of the bank rate. But let us try to see the field of common ground. Nobody in this debate has denied that a serious inflation exists; no-one has queried the importance of maintaining the value of the pound. Nobody whom I have heard has denied that unless something can be done in dealing with prices we are drifting into a position in which our exports may be jeopardised, with results that are obvious to all your Lordships.
There is one point which I am sorry my noble friend Lord Salisbury is not present to hear, because it is related to the second of the points that he raised in his interesting speech. I. do not know what the Opposition would say on this, but I think one of the most remarkable features of this situation (and I say this without any Party idea) is that over a large section of the field there has not been any serious trouble between employers and employed. It is not a question of a violent division as to how the "cake" should be cut, because a very large section of both employers and employed have been able to pass on the difficulties of the situation in increased wages and increased prices to the consumer. Therefore, with the greatest respect to the noble Marquess, I do not think that there was the same urgency in that respect—although I shall return to what I consider as being vitally urgent; namely, the question of industrial relations and the sharing of information. But I do ask your Lordships to look first at the purpose of our measures as explained by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said:The purpose of the measures is to limit the availability of money, to serve notice on ourselves and on the world outside that we 279 are no longer prepared to underwrite, through the banking system or through spending by the Government, the consequences of inflationary actions.My Lords, I would only say this to the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, for whose opinion on this and other matters, as he knows, I have a real respect. The noble Viscount mentioned rent. In these days what one always has to bear in mind, in gauging the extent of the inflation, is that people pay less in rent in the whole of the country than they do for drink or tobacco. That is a point—again not a Party point—which we must bear in mind if we are to realise how serious is the situation. My noble friend Lord Teviot very rightly said: "Well, make a beginning yourselves". In other words, he said: "What about Government expenditure?" I should like to say one word on that.
With regard to Government current expenditure, in real values it already stands 10 per cent. lower than in 1951. That raises, at any rate, the problem with which we have to deal. But I should like to tell my noble friend that instructions have been given that, wherever possible, increased costs, whether of materials or wages, should be offset by reduced services or administrative economies. As he knows, substantial reductions have been found in the field of defence and efforts are being made to find even more. I do not want to say too much because, as no one knows better than my noble friend, the discussion on current expenditure is an annual and a continuing matter which can be properly pursued when the Estimates come up and have been seen by noble Lords.
Now I turn to the public sector—capital investment in the public sector. As your Lordships know, our proposal is to limit the investment of public authorities in money terms. Their investments will be held during the next two years at the level of 1957 or 1958, or approximately £1,500 million a year. We feel that they must be held; that there ought not to be increases. First of all, let me say that that in itself is an inducement to make capital investment as selective as possible. But look where we are left. The National Coal Board (I know that this interests the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor) will spend £110 million next year and £120 million the year after. On roads in the next two years the expenditure will be over £100 280 million. The expenditure of the British Transport Commission in each of these two years will be £170 million. The figure for the General Post Office, it is true, is a little down: it is £100 million now, and will be £95 million and £90 million. For hospitals, the figure will be £23 million next year, and £25 million the year after.
Next, as to the field of education. Lord Pakenham spoke of this topic, and I will come back to his other points in a moment. Expenditure with regard to main school buildings and technological education is unchanged. I will come later to the universities and deal with them separately, for I think that will be the more convenient way of doing it. What I feel has not been sufficiently appreciated is that what we are doing is taking off acceleration: we are not cutting enormous increases that have already been made in the field of capital investment.
§ LORD GREENHILL
What about the continued increases in prices?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will deal with that. I was going to deal with it in another way. As I say, at the moment we believe that this is a method for procuring price stability; but in so far as it fails, then the increased cost coming from further increases has got to be met in the same way as I suggested.
I now come for a moment to the private sector, where the source of the new money is bank lending. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, as your Lordships may know (though I do not think it has been mentioned in this debate), has asked banks to control money supplies by placing a limit on the amount of money they provide. The banks have given an assurance that they will hold the average level of advances during the next twelve months at the average level of the last twelve months. I ask your Lordships to note that that allows flexibility with regard to export projects and purposes of high priority.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble and learned Viscount for a moment? I am very much obliged for what he has told us. I have studied this very carefully and it is most interesting. But is not the sum total of what has 281 been so carefully put before the House by the Lord Chancellor that there is an actual cut in the programme, both of the public authorities and, subject to that flexibility which he has just mentioned, in the private industry programme as well?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I hope that the noble Viscount will not think that I am splitting hairs, because I am not. I think it is most unfortunate to use the word "cut" here, because what we are doing is leaving these increases, which are enormous increases, where they are for a couple of years and not allowing farther acceleration. I will be perfectly frank with the noble Viscount: in some cases there have been suggestions that the programme should have been increased. I am not saying anything on that: what I am saying is that there has been no diminution of increases already given. I am saying that we are taking off further acceleration which might have occurred. With regard to the Capital Issues Committee, they have been asked to make their attitude more critical.
Another item mentioned is the increase in the bank rate. I am not going into a discussion upon that. I ask your Lordships to remember to look at the results that have already occurred, and I should just like to say that I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, has received a letter which is in very technical terms, and which I tried myself to master, dealing with the points he has raised. I do not want to repeat to your Lordships what is in that letter, but I wanted your Lordships to know that the matter had not been forgotten.
My noble friend Lord Hailsham dealt, I think quite fully, with the suggestion as to a world recession. I do not want to go over the answer he gave on that point, but I do want just to say once again to your Lordships that, although the imitation of Cassandra is always a popular rôle, I have often noticed that the imitators lack one quality which made her terrifying—namely that she talked the truth. I think one has to keep this matter in proportion No one can say that a world recession is here. In the United Kingdom, we have a rising production and over-full employment, judged by the Gaitskell standard—that is, the standard which Mr. Gaitskell propounded in 282 March, 1951, of unemployment not exceeding 3 per cent. of the employable population. Production in Germany is high and expanding. Output and employment in the United States are at a high level. And, if I may remind your Lordships of the point my noble friend Lord Brand had in mind, although primary products are cheaper than they were, the prices of some of them have been very high, and no one can say that they are now at very low levels. I think that is a fair view, which we ought to consider.
We are fortunate in that there are so many new international institutions in the world, and we have learned so much in the last twenty-five years that, were the situation to become darkened by a cloud, even the size of a man's hand, there are many new methods of dealing with it. I do not believe that it has reached even that size yet.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, would the noble and learned Viscount allow me a question on this very important matter, the possibility of a recession which, of course, affects our psychology so much. I listened last night in Panorama to a representative of the B.B.C. interviewing a number of people, among whom were an economist and a financial expert. The views of both were that a recession was very probable. The economist was not quite so sure, but. the financial expert pointed out that over £150 million worth of contracts have either been cancelled or seriously cut down in the last few weeks in the United States. Should we not suffer pretty heavily if a recession: of that kind gained ground in the United States?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I can only give my view and the grounds on which I base it. On applying the tests I have adopted to production and employment, and the present prices of primary products, compared with the prices at which they stood a short time ago, I cannot see that there is any sign of a recession. I would remind the noble Viscount of the very high authority who said five or six years ago that there was going to be a recession in the United States. I am not going through all the journals to pick out what has been said, because it is very unpleasant to say to great writers on economics, "Yah ! I told you so!" But I think that the noble 283 Viscount would agree that one could do some pretty fair shooting if one went round hitting at the people who prophesied a slump only five years ago.
I should like to deal with the suggestion about stagnation. Of course, any economy, especially a post-war economy, with the difficulties that we have in balance of payments and relatively small reserves, is bound to have its ups and downs. But I would ask noble Lords to consider these facts, and to see whether anyone could fairly call them stagnation. In 1957–58, investment in the public sector will be about £1,500 million, as compared with £1,100 million in 1951. That is a proper comparison, adjusted for price variation. It shows that in real terms, public investment over this period increased by 37 per cent. The scale of private investment over the same period has shown an even bigger increase, and it is still at a very high level. All that investment is bearing fruit. Your Lordships will forgive the figure of speech, but what we should avoid doing is plucking the fruit before it is ripe.
Again taking up what the noble Viscount said, it is important from a psychological point of view that I should say a word about the suggestion made in some quarters about a fear of unemployment. People have prophesied that mass unemployment was round the corner every time there have been difficulties during the last few years. Here again it has never happened. Actually, the monthly unemployment average was 338,000 when the Opposition were in office and it is 310,000 now that we are in office. I am not making a Party point of this; I am showing how constant employment has been. To-day there are about 23 million in civil employment, and there are 40 people on overtime for every single person on short time. The number out of work last month was 275,000, or 1.3 per cent. of the employed population; and the unfilled vacancies numbered 274.000. I agree with my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour that that shows a better balance between supply and demand than we have had for some time, and I would ask noble Lords opposite to remember that these figures I have given are at a time when there has been a defence run-down. Since May, the number employed on defence 284 production has dropped by 100,000, yet the unemployment total was hardly increased at all.
That is the past. I should like to say this with regard to the future. Nobody wants unemployment, least of all the Government. One has only to listen to noble Lords on the opposite Benches, who were in the middle of the unemployment of thirty years ago, to know what it means to the country. No Government in their senses want unemployment. The longer they are in office, the greater their aversion to unemployment becomes. But nobody wants it, for a far higher reason than that they lived through the years we have seen. Whether we are able to maintain employment depends largely on ourselves, not as a House of Lords but as citizens. If attempts are made to push wages up faster than production, there are obvious dangers. It means that if some people get more than their fair share of the cash or credit or resources available, others will inevitably get less, and therefore are in danger of becoming redundant. The second and still more serious matter is that when we force up our production costs through unjustified and unjustifiable pay rises we shall price ourselves out of world markets, our export trade will collapse and unemployment will follow just as surely as night follows day. That is the position.
I now come to the point that was raised as to the attitude of my colleagues. I would remind the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, of the passage in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that directly precedes the one which he was good enough to quote to us to-day; and if the House will bear with me I will read it. It says [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 575 (No. 156), col. 56].The rôle of the Government and its policy"—and this is in regard to wages and profits—can be quite clearly stated. First, the Government should state with absolute clarity their own view of the economic situation and where they consider the national interest to lie.I do not think anyone can dispute that that is almost a primary duty of the Government at the present time. Then it goes on:Secondly, they should, by their monetary, fiscal and spending policies, create conditions 285 and an economic climate consistent with this view. Thirdly, they should not interfere with collective bargaining, and fourthly, they should, where they are themselves the employer, seek to follow policies similar to those which they urge upon others.I should like to add one short quotation front the Prime Minister and another from the Minister of Labour. On November 5 my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said:We have no intention of interfering with the normal processes of arbitration. It certainly should not be regarded, however, as interference to ask those concerned in arbitration questions to have the country's general economic circumstances well in mind Indeed, not to do so openly and frankly would be failing in our duty.My noble friend Lord Salisbury developed that aspect, I thought, in a most interesting way. It has been one of the difficulties of arbitration—and it is a difficulty because the situation has never in our lifetime been similar to the one today—that there is an empty space; the consumer is not there. That is a difficulty which we must face. We believe that the Committee on production and prices, presided over by my noble and learned. friend Lord Cohen, will help, because when that Committee has been working and its Report comes out it will be available for everyone to consider, and it will be the Report of an unbiased Committee.
But there is a difficulty there. With great respect to my noble friend Lord Salisbury, I cannot agree with him that the ultimate decision on wages should go to a Minister to be debated in Parliament. I see the expression on the faces of old personal friends of mine from the trade union movement, and I think they would be more inclined to agree with me than with the noble Marquess. I cannot imagine anything that would put a greater strain on another place than having a discussion upon what was a proper wage award; and it would be just as difficult if the Party opposite were in office as it would be for us. I should like to consider the point again, but that is my first reaction.
The third excerpt I want to give to your Lordships is from the speech of my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour. On October 30 Mr. Macleod said:It would be disastrous if there were a trial of strength to see whether the union funds or the currency would crack first. In such a senseless struggle there would be no victors and only our competitors would gain. Such 286 thinking is utterly out of date. I have said than many times and I would like to say that again.I thought it much better that I should give your Lordships the quotations which I consider set out the views; of my colleagues and the Government, and I hope your Lordships, having heard from my noble friend Lord Hailsham, will accept that it also expresses the views which he holds and, indeed, which he has expressed twice to your Lordships. So much for that.
Of course, there are the complementary steps. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said that he would wait for the debate on agriculture. So far as I understand, he will not have to wait very long, because it is hoped that someone will talk about it to-morrow. Therefore, like him, I will not go into the two aspects, the support of agriculture and the proposals with regard to procedures. Equally, I will follow the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and not go into the details of the Common Market, or of the Commonwealth, or the results of the Commonwealth meeting and the proposal for a further Commonwealth trade and economic conference, because these are, as I say, supplementary to the general point. However, I do want to say a few words on the other points and then come to the questions of university education and the block grant, including the Scottish aspect. I am sorry to detain your Lordships, but many interesting points have been raised and I think they deserve an answer.
As I have said, the first part of our attack on the restrictions of the liberty of the subject will be in getting rid of the Defence Regulations. I have already mentioned that, and I want to say only this in addition. With regard to the Land Regulations, a great number of the powers contained in the existing Regulations will disappear entirely and the minimum shown to be essential for the needs of the New Model fighting Services and certain other aspects of the nuclear age will be included in Statutes to whose final form Parliament will have contributed its experience. Again, I do not want to detain your Lordships long over the Report of the Committee presided over by Sir Oliver Franks, except to assure the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that I will look carefully into the points he raised. I should like to discuss them with those who are especially concerned. As he knows, we are to have a debate in about a fortnight, 287 initiated by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and by that time I hope I shall be able to deal with them.
Therefore, I would only say this. A debate was recently held in another place on the Report, and in the course of that debate the Government announced that they endorsed completely the broad objects and philosophy of the Report, and they found that most of the detailed recommendations were wholly or mainly acceptable; and in the gracious Speech it is said that legislation will be introduced to give effect to certain of the recommendations. I hope that the House will welcome the Government's prompt action in that regard. My right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal indicated on October 31 that seventy-nine of the recommendations had been accepted in whole or in part, twelve are to be considered further and only four have been rejected.
Your Lordships heard me at such length on the question of the reform of your Lordships' House that I do not say one further word about that tonight. I now come to our proposals for local government reform. I should like to put it in this way. Certain of our proposals will provide the machinery for solving the problem of boundaries and status and will enable some redistribution of functions to take place. The financial reforms will ensure that local authorities have greater responsibility in deciding how they spend their money. I would point out to your Lordships that local government reform is a subject that has been shelved by a great many Governments. And I should like your Lordships to remember the second point: that, put broadly, ratepayers are not local government electors at the present day; you are very lucky if you get over 33⅓ per cent. poll. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, will remember, in certain parts of Scotland it was 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. That is a very serious problem which we think has to be considered. We hope that we shall make it more interesting to both electors and potential councillors, and so strengthen this essential bulwark of democracy.
I should like to deal with two points regarding the general grant. First of all, we have been asked why we propose it. I have explained the absence of interest in local government affairs, but I wish to say a word about the specific grants. 288 At present, almost all grants, apart from the equalisation grant, are by way of assistance on specific services, and mostly in the form of percentage grants. We believe that they are inevitably an inducement to spend, and to spend more, upon these particular services, regardless of the relative urgency of other local needs. At the same time, they involve, and must involve, a central check upon the expenditure and prior approval to certain new developments. It will require estimates at various stages. The Ministry of Education, for example, get from each county and county borough estimates of expenditure at four separate stages in respect of each year, the submission of audits and claims locally and centrally and estimates of account of final settlements; and on that aspect there is a general inevitable subservience to Whitehall. The complications and delays are such that last year the counties were complaining that £22.6 million of grant was outstanding to them alone in respect of a number of years, and quite an appreciable element of this was in respect of years earlier than 1950–51.
I wish to deal with the point the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, raised with regard to local government in Scotland. I hope that he will help me at this late stage by allowing me to give the answers, and then perhaps he can either come and see me or write if there is anything that I have not made quite clear. First of all, there are the points on re-rating. I will deal with them quite shortly. On the general point, the Government considered that re-rating to 50 per cent. would impose as heavy an additional burden as industry could be required to carry in the present economic circumstances. As regards the recovery by the Exchequer of two-thirds of the product from re-rating, local authorities at present receive more from grants than from the rates. The rates have not increased since before the last war by as much as indirect and direct taxation. And while re-rating increases the rate income, it also reduces the product of taxation by an amount equal to half the increase, as the noble Lord will have seen from paragraph 17 of the White Paper. Even so, the net result of the proposals is to increase the revenue of the Scottish local authorities by £750,000 a year.
§ LORD GREENHILL
That is all local authority money.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have given the other side. As regards the general grant, I think some people have been unduly apprehensive that the grant would not keep pace with rising costs. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, has that in mind. I would refer them, and the noble Lord, to the undertaking given in paragraphs 7 to 9 of the White Paper. In fixing the total amount of the general grant, the kind of factors which the Government will bear in mind are how much local authorities have been spending on the services. The noble Lord has that in mind. The grant would normally be fixed at periods of two years, in advance, and there will be discussions with the associations before the grants are fixed for any period. Therefore, the local authorities will have ample opportunity to bring to the notice of the Government any factors which, in their view, should affect the total amount of the general grant, and if necessary there will be an interim grant.
I, have emphasised our general purpose, but in respect of the Scottish aspect of education may I underline the account to be taken by the Government in determining the amount of the general grant which, as is mentioned in paragraphs 7 to 9 in the Scottish White Paper, will ensure that an adequate grant is made available for education and the other services concerned? While it is the main purpose of the Government's proposals to increase local authorities' responsibility by giving them a greater measure of financial independence, it is the intention to continue such powers of the Secretary of State as are necessary to maintain adequate services.
May I say one word as to the general grant in regard to England? Again I think it is commonly believed that the effect of the general grant will be to limit the Government's financial assistance to the education service to a mere maintenance of the status quo; that money for new developments will have to come from the rates. That is not the case. In fixing the amount of the general grant, the Government intend to take account of the need to develop the services to which the grant relates, although they will, of course, also have to take account of the general economic and financial prospects of the country.
290 Now I come to the question of the university grants which were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. I hope that before I come to the exact point the noble Lord will bear with me if I give a general picture of both recurrent and non-recurrent grants, because I think it is right that people should see how we are moving, and the direction in which we are moving, in this regard. The recurrent grants have increased, and will increase considerably, for the next five years. In the academic year 1956–57 they were £28.27 million; in the first year of the present quinquennium, 1957–58, they will be £30.6 million, and they will rise by 1961–62 to £39.5 million. Between 1956–57 and 1957–58 there will have been an increase of 11.8 per cent. and between 1957–58 and 1961–62 of almost 30 per cent. That does not take into account the special supplementary grants. So far as non-recurrent grants for university building purposes are concerned, which were related to programmes of "starts" of £4.8 million in 1956, they are now related to programmes of £10.4 million for 1957 and £12 million for both 1958 and 1959. I hope that this deals with the point. I will deal with the other point, and again I hope that the noble Lord will either write or come and see me if it does not cover it fully.
The programmes of university building work to start in 1958 and 1959 have been approved and were notified to the universities nearly a year ago. Those programmes have not been reduced in the recent review of investment financed from Government funds. The University Grants Committee have reviewed the building programmes of the universities for the three years 1960 to 1962 and have presented their conclusions to the Government. These are now under active consideration. The Government fully appreciate the need to give the universities in the very near future the firm basis on which to lay their plans for buildings to be started in 1960. It does show that the matter has come to us, and we are going to treat it as a matter of urgency. For the solace of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, I would say that, apart from my ministerial position, I am also the Rector of a University, apart from being, like himself, a Fellow of a College of another University.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have now covered the points which were raised with regard to the institutions, and at this late hour I do not intend to say anything further about the adoption of children, except this: it is a subject of great importance, and the Government's proposals are the result of an inquiry by a Committee presided over by Sir Gerald Hurst, whom a number of noble Lords will remember, as I do, in the House of Commons in the years before the war—he afterwards became a county court judge. He gave us this Report dealing with this important subject. Equally, I think I need only remind your Lordships of the implementing of the Piercy Report on rehabilitation. May I tell Lord Amulree that I will look into his points?
With regard to penal reform, the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, was most sympathetic, but he wanted to introduce a little humour into it, and he therefore asked me about the actual sum. I think he will appreciate, as a former Minister, that this is a difficult time of year, as the Estimates are going forward, for any Minister to give the exact sum; but I think he can assume that I am not committing any grave constitutional crime in saying that a larger sum will, of course, have to be considered. I cannot say more in this situation, because that is where we are.
I am sorry to rise, but it is only to clarify the point. I am greatly obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for the way he is answering this and other points. Do I take it that there will be a larger sum for prison purposes generally, or is it just for criminological research?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I was dealing first with research, because that was the point on which the noble Lord wondered whether my right honourable friend was having a joke. With regard to the pattern which should be followed, one series of researches will deal with the use by the courts of the methods of treatment at their disposal. Another seeks to ascertain the true results of methods of treatment, including detention centres, probation, imprisonment and preventive detention; and yet another of particular interest will investigate the structure of the group relationship of the prison community. With regard to prisons, I realise, just as the noble Lord does, the immensity of our shortcomings. I realise prob 292 ably even better than the noble Lord does the immensity of our difficulties.
When I took over from Mr. Chuter Ede, who had been Home Secretary for six years, I remember his saying in another place, with really considerable emotion, "With houses, hospitals, factories, all other calls, how can I press harder than I have been doing?" Your Lordships on the opposite Benches were colleagues with him and know what he did. But that is the problem, and it is a very difficult one. It is particularly difficult in view of the increase in prison population, which Lord Pakenham mentioned, and also the increase in Borstals. I should just like to say (I should have given details if we had more time) that the Home Office are trying to work on the basis of dealing with the increase in Borstals first and then making the complementary arrangements with regard to prisons. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, saw the answer which the Home Secretary gave on October 31 with regard to the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Treatment of Offenders. He said:I am anxious to implement as soon as possible the Council's recommendation that an experimental attendance centre should be set up for males 17 to 21 years old, and inquiries are now being made to see where and when one could usefully be established. Provision of a remand centre is also high amongst our priorities".My Lords, as one who has laboured in the vineyard I am very glad to think that the first secure prison under the new building programme will be ready in April, 1958.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
I mentioned the question of Welsh affairs.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am very sorry: I postponed comment for the moment. The Prime Minister has answered to-day in the House of Commons a Question on this subject, and he said that he hopes to make a statement shortly; he is not in a position to do so at the moment but hopes to make it shortly. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, for reminding me of this.
The last point, on which again I should have liked to say something to your Lordships, though obviously it would not be appropriate, is the question of pensions. May I remind your Lordships that my right honourable friend the 293 Minister has made the announcement, and the Bill has had its First Reading in another place, increasing the basic rate of 100 per cent. War Disablement pension from 67s. 6d. to 85s., and increasing the other pensions; and of course, with regard to those that are contributory, increasing the contributions. We shall have an opportunity of discussing that. I apologise to your Lordships for taking so long, but I have tried to answer practically all the points that have been raised in the debate. May I just say one concluding general word?
§ LORD SILKIN
I was wondering whether the noble and learned Viscount was going to say anything about the Shops Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am very sorry; I put the note at the front of my notes, and that is why I missed it. I do not think that one can put any high probability on there being room for it in this Session's programme, with which I have dealt, and it is not possible to see as far ahead with the legislative programme as next Session. I am not questioning what the noble Lord said about myself with regard of the Gowers legislation, and I am afraid that I cannot go further at this stage.
§ LORD SILKIN
I am sorry to persist at this late hour, but can I get it clear and out of the way? Is the noble and learned Viscount saying that the Bill will not be included in this year's legislative programme because the programme will be so full that no room can be found for it, or because the Government are not in favour of the proposals?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
What I did say was that. I did not think that there would be room for it this year.
My Lords, may I close with this one general remark? In the sphere of home affairs which we have been considering to-day, the problem of the modern State is to maintain the co-existence of three things—economic stability, freedom and social justice. The primary requirement is to pay for the balance of our food and the raw materials which are essential in order to keep our people employed. Again, it is in no Party spirit that I remind the House that we are still in the decade when leading Ministers were saying that, without Marshall Aid, there would have been a million and a half unemployed.
294 We have now the additional problem of harmonising full employment with its buoyant pressure for consumer goods with stability of prices. Such stability is doubly important. It is essential to our ability to export. But, secondly, social justice is indivisible and must include those on fixed or slowly rising incomes who have no easy answer to rising prices. They should and must be the concern of us all. In my view the answer is highly selective capital investment, acceptance of new techniques and efficiencies in productivity, restraint on wages and dividends, and an even greater sharing of information in industrial relations. It is now, I am told, unfashionable to use the old-fashioned terms on which we were brought up, of invention, hard work, self denial and understanding. But they are still very important.
My Lords, there are two other aspects of the modern State which were in mind in the shaping of this speech. In the first place, it is easy, with the best will in the world, to let its needs trample on the individual. Two vital constituents of the vigilance which is the historic price of freedom are in this gracious Speech. The first is legislation fully discussed in two Chambers, instead of regulations and orders. The second is that the individual affected must have a fair and equitable opportunity of putting his case to an independent body, which is the kernel of the Franks Report. The other broad duty which lies upon us is that of having regard for the casualties of the battle of life, which I ventured to term "coming to the aid of the weak". It is the glory of our democratic system that we receive and study full criticism as to our methods, but I still hope that we shall maintain a transcendent unity with regard to these aims.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Wise, I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until to-morrow.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until to-morrow.—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at four minutes before eight o'clock.