HL Deb 13 November 1957 vol 206 cc328-46

4.20 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I think it is time to resume our discussion on the Amendment to the loyal Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I should first of all like to say how much I have appreciated the manner in which the debate was opened to-day by my noble friend Lord Wise. I think he put an excellent statement before the House. He has drawn very accurate attention—if I may put it that way—to the problems of the agricultural industry to-day. He referred to the feeling in the industry, which has been illustrated recently by articles in all the farming journals. I should like to be a little more detailed than Lord Wise, and to quote chapter and verse to the noble Earl who is about to reply. Perhaps his advisers may be able to produce the answers to the questions I am going to ask, though I feel pretty certain that he must have read the leading article in last Friday's Farmer's Weekly and no doubt will be almost ready to give an answer at once.

In the course of this debate, we have said that the Government's decision to override the recommendation of the Whitley Council in one case may have wide repercussions upon other wage negotiations and settlements. The Farmer's Weekly quotes the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer: 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 in the forefront of their minds. Any large mistake at this stage by any of them could do grievous damage to the nation as a whole. This important farming journal then goes on to point out: What the Chancellor said amounts to a warning not only to firms and employers who decide pay claims direct with their men, but to those whose claims are referred to arbitration. We have had one or two announcements from the Government implying that they do not wish in any way to interfere with the ordinary methods of recognised arbitration, but the Farmer's Weekly has anticipated that reply, because it has gone a step further, and says this: Unlike most industries there is often a considerable time lag"— to which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has referred— in agriculture between a tribunal award … and any possible adjustment of farm prices. For instance, four months will elapse between the minimum wage going up at the end of last month and the next Price Review. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, correctly estimated that the total overall annual cost of that increase was £13½ million.


I did not mention that figure.


Then I am afraid that I have made a mistake, because I have put that figure down: perhaps I was thinking aloud. At any rate, the estimated cost is £13½ million, of which £4 million has to be met by the farming industry before the normal time of the meeting for price review. The Farmer's Weekly continues: After Mr. Thorneycroft's blunt warning, what will be the Government's attitude to farm costs? Is the Chancellor's statement to be regarded as retrospective? The Prime Minister … says the Government has no intention of interfering with the normal process of wage arbitration. But the farming industry is a case on its own. The paper asks that any doubt should be speedily cleared up by the Minister of Agriculture … telling us quite clearly just how far the Chancellor's statement overrides an existing and explicit agreement with the farming industry"— that is, the explicit agreement between the Government and the farming industry that the price review procedure should go on— or on the other hand, how far this agreement remains inviolate in the new economic order. I have good reason to press home this point, because the noble Earl who will be replying to this section of the debate has heard me on various occasions on this matter, especially on the time lag. Two points arise. The first is that the agricultural industry has already been made to absorb, by what is termed "increased efficiency", something like £130 million to £140 million over the whole period of operation of the Price Review. Last year the amount left over to be absorbed by the industry by increased efficiency, with the increased sum of £4 million to be found in this agricultural year for wages, will amount to £31 million.

I have had some pleasant correspondence with the noble Earl in the course of the Recess. He has been kind and patient in replying to letters of mine, but I want him to know that I am not at all reassured in this matter; nor is the industry. I should like to quote a few sentences from the noble Earl's letter to me of September 4. He was dissenting from my suggestion that in a period of increasing costs there should be a special Price Review—and that is the real implication of part of the case put by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers; that whenever costs go up specially in a particular year, there ought to be a special Price Review, so that the matter can be dealt with more rapidly and adjusted to the industry's needs. In his letter, the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, says this: In this connection perhaps I may remind you of the point I made in the debate on April 17, namely, that a good part of the total cost increase of £38 million taken into account in the 1957 Annual Review had already been absorbed by the industry last year. How? I am not going to turn to any farming journal or any Party literature to give my suggested answer to that. It has been absorbed by loss of income by the farmers.

I turn to a magazine, The Esso Farmer, issued by one of the oil companies who supply farmers with their oil supplies. In the issue for Autumn, 1957, there is an article by Mr. J. E. Harrison, of the Bristol University Department of Economics, in which, after a very careful argument—not an argument which right the way through is in favour of my position, but a very fair examination of the whole question—he shows conclusively, by means of a graph, that all farm incomes are definitely down while all farm costs are up. Talk about increased costs being absorbed by increased efficiency has not put more money into the farmer's pocket. The method of dealing with this matter during the last six years has left him in a poorer position to meet the actual increased costs. I hope that we can have the answer of the Government to this question.

Let me turn now to some other questions in relation to agriculture about which we are concerned. I put it to the noble Earl that the extraordinary fall in the last nine months of the cattle prices at the auctions, and the net return, even allowing for the fact that the fall in prices has meant an increased payment by the Government of subsidies, if you take the actual benefit shown to the consumer of that fall in the market price, indicates that there is a very big gap somewhere between the two. There has been a fall in some meat prices: there has been a fall in pork prices, and there has been a recent fall in bacon prices. But when you consider that if a man to-day produces at very high cost to himself the modern, even grade A bacon pig—say 6 score 14 up to about 8 score—he is very fortunate if, all in, including the subsidy that is paid for the grade, he gets about £17 for a bacon pig which years ago, when his costs were much lower than they are to-day, was fetching him as much as £23, £24 or £25. What is the answer? Who is responsible for that? How far is the farmer now subsidising the consumer as much as the Government subsidise the development of agricultural production? I think the facts are such that we should have a clear and straight answer about it.

The facts that I have just mentioned are perhaps an answer to that part of the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, yesterday, in which he raised most interesting points, and in respect of which I feel a great deal of agreement with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, in his comments upon the remedy put forward by the noble Marquess. Nevertheless, a large part of the Marquess's speech was illustrated by reference to the methods in the wages process in the agricultural industry, and then following on the prices. From what he said, he seemed to think, if I read him aright, that in the end it was the consumer who paid. I am bound to say that on the return to the farmers on the actual sale of their productions, whatever they may be, animal, vegetable or cereal, with the possible exception of certain periods in the horticulture industry, they have not had the benefit, and the consumer has not had the benefit. Certainly the agricultural industry is different from all the others, because those engaged in it cannot put up their prices. They have no control over the matter of putting up their prices. All they can do ultimately is gradually to resist the Government's specific request year after year to increase agricultural production as being one of the most important and balancing factors in our national trade position in relation to improving the position of the balance of payments. As your Lordships know, it is always said that if we produced every year the proper quantity of home-produced food, and used it properly, while restricting some imports, we should have a real contribution to make to the balancing of our payments and the stabilising of our general economic position.

There is one other matter that I should like to quote from the farming journal. It is a letter from a well-known agriculturist, Mr. J. L. Cherrington, who I am sure is known to the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn; he is certainly popular with the farmers who listen in to the new television programme. It is a letter which interested me greatly—and in case the noble Earl wishes it to be looked up, it is on page 38 of the journal. At the end of some cogent arguments with regard to the possible effect the farmers fear of a development of the European Common Market scheme, he asks two questions. First, he asks: Is British production of individual commodities likely to be influenced by European Common Market considerations? Secondly, he asks: Will the machinery of the Agriculture Act be used to bring about such an alteration? Obviously Mr. Cherrington is not at all satisfied with the statements made by Mr. Maudling as the result of his conversations with regard to the European Common Market, and the fear in the minds of farmers is that, in order to accommodate the general development of the European Common Market, and to deal with possible opposition to our view on agriculture from Scandinavia and the Low Countries, and even from France, steps may be taken in dealing with the price levels at the Price Review to make it easier to accommodate the attitude taken up by those who will be in the European Common Market and, like ourselves, interested in the agricultural as well as the industrial aspect of that market. I should like an answer to those two questions, which have not been formulated by me, and which have come not from a political source but from somebody respected in the agricultural industry itself as being competent.

I have little time left to speak in regard to the Amendment. I do not propose to continue the debate on industrial relations which was so ably opened yesterday by my noble friend Lord Hall. I am greatly obliged to him for what he said, and particularly for the manner in which he presented his case to this House. The speech of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, almost took out of my mouth something of which I have notes here; that is, that I have been much more impressed by the approach made by Lord Chandos to the problem than I have by the policy announced in general by the Government. On the lines of his approach it would at least be possible for industry to make an approach to the General Council of the Trades Union Congress for consultation and discussion on this matter, although there are some "catches" in the scheme which Lord Chandos suggests: and certainly, as I heard him admit in a sound broadcast recently, in the event of a sharp rise in profits, or in the event of some disaster occurring in the industry from other directions, there would have to be some "escape" clauses in the stabilised period as to the method of increase.

I hope that something more may be heard of that proposal, both from the side of the industrialists, whom Lord Chandos represents, and from our own trade union organisation. Certainly, now that there has been a letting off of steam here and there—and I do not blame my trade union colleagues for a moment for having defended their position—it would be much better to get together to see what real progress can be made. The Government must face the fact that the working people of the country will never again consent to face the kind of deflation and the evil consequences of 1920 to 1928; they will never allow it to happen. It will not be any use then to talk about the wickedness of disputes. It is up to the Government of the country, especially a Govern ment who have been in office for six years, with power in their hands to direct policy, to avoid these things. To come along and say, "This is inevitable," will not be an answer. The Government must get together with the people themselves to avoid having these dreadful things happening. I believe that can be done if, instead of sticking to political dogma, whatever kind of control is required is instituted in order to put the situation right.

I felt a great deal of sympathy with part of the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers; and when he was quoting some of the things said about farmers, and how they put out their hands for more subsidies, and so on, I could not help thinking that the general industry of the country has had a long period of far greater protection than the farmers ever had. It is true that, for some reason or other, the Government are to enter into a European Common Market, which will throw open many of the industries which have built their prosperity on the basis of protection under the Safeguarding of Industries Act and the subsequent measures. They will now he subjected to a wintry blast of free competition from Europe. I have not so far met one industrialist who can forecast what the net effect of that will be upon his particular industry or upon the level of employment. I should say that the Government must first of all remember that the working people of this country will not again stand the conditions of 1920 to 1931, or even 1935. I say to the Government: After you have been in office for six years the great thing is to put your own policy right. You promised the moon, and now you are in this position. Get together with the workers themselves, and make the best arrangements you can to avoid all the trouble which otherwise will subsequently occur.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I am sorry that, because I have had to be attending to other duties in Rome at the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, I have not been able to be present during the earlier stages of your Lordships' debate upon the gracious Speech. I am glad, however, to have the opportunity of replying to this afternoon's debate on its agricultural aspects.

Before I deal with the proposals in the gracious Speech I will try to reply to some of the points which have been raised on other matters. The noble Lord, Lord Wise, and the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, were concerned about the position of the Agricultural Wages Board. I should like to make it absolutely clear that there is no question of interfering in any way at all with that completely independent body. As the noble Lord opposite knows, it is composed of farmers and workers, with a number of independent members as well. They are completely independent and they will remain so. As regards the Price Review, and any effect that the present situation might have on that, I would remind noble Lords that the system of dealing with the Price Review which was worked out at considerable length in conjunction with the farmers, and which I had the honour of announcing in this House some time ago as part of the long-term assurances, will not be interfered with in any way at all. Therefore, the position, so far as the Review is concerned, is exactly the same as it has been ever since the last Review which was held on the new basis.

A question was also raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, on Special Reviews, and why there was not one on this occasion. If the noble Viscount will cast his mind back he will remember—I cannot quote the date when I told him—I announced that it was agreed with the farmers' unions that there should be specific circumstances, and only when those specific circumstances were arrived at would there be a Special Review. When they were arrived at, the Government would not be able to refuse a Special Review, and, equally, unless they were arrived at, the farmers would not ask. So the question of Special Reviews is, I think, adequately covered under the new arrangement. The arrangement was that only if the effect of the cost changes in Review commodities for the remainder of the year is more than three-quarters of one per cent. of the total value of the guarantees would a Review be held. That is with the full agreement of the farmers.


The National Farmers' Union.


Yes, representing the farmers.


A most docile body.


I am afraid I cannot agree with that last statement. They are very active defenders of their members, as I believe most unions are. The noble Lord, Lord Wise, raised the question of horticulture and the Free Trade Area. Their position is exactly the same as that of agriculture, and the assurances which have been given both by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, and many others, are absolutely unaltered. The position of agriculture and horticulture is exactly the same as it was when it was first stated. The noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, asked about forestry and the Free Trade Area. I made that position quite clear when we were discussing the Watson Report. Forest products, like other basic raw material for industry, will not come under the protective heading of "agriculture."

I think I should now turn to the proposals in the gracious Speech. As has been said, the Prime Minister announced in another place our intention to amend certain provisions of the Agriculture and Agricultural Holdings Acts. I should like to-day to explain very briefly what we have in mind and why we have decided on this course. The Franks Committee has recommended major changes in the procedure for action under the Agriculture and Agricultural Holdings Acts. That Committee considered it wholly undesirable in principle that agricultural executive committees should have adjudicating functions. They recommended that the hearing of notices to quit cases and the making of supervision and dispossession orders should be transferred to independent tribunals. The Committee also recommended that there should be an appeal against supervision which they regarded as in effect a penal measure.

The Franks Committee, of course, was not concerned with policies but with procedures. Her Majesty's Government believe that the broad conclusions of the Committee are in accord with public opinion at large. They can find no sufficient reason for making an exception for agriculture, and have decided to accept, in principle, the recommendations as they apply to the functions of agricultural executive committees. Having said that, I want to record my own view and the view of my Minister, which is also, I know, the view of his colleagues, that the county committees have throughout performed their difficult and responsible functions with scrupulous care and fairness. My Lords, I cannot overemphasise that too much; they have done a really magnificent job. Our decision to accept the Franks Committee's recommendations is, therefore, very far from implying any criticism whatever on our part of the way in which the committees have carried out their responsibilities. The criticism we do accept as valid, however, is that the principle that agricultural executive committees should combine executive with judicial functions is wrong.

But the application of the Franks' recommendations raises real practical difficulties. If the judicial functions in relation to supervision and dispossession are transferred to tribunals, while the general responsibilities of the county committees under Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1947, are left as they are, it would mean that committees would find themselves having to act in these cases as prosecutors before tribunals. This would be a very distasteful form of voluntary public service to ask committees to undertake, and it is one which I doubt very much whether many of them would be willing to perform.

The operation of Part II of the 1947 Act raises other problems. Public opinion and agricultural circumstances have changed a good deal since 1947. The Government have been for some time conscious of the increasing difficulties, in the light of these changes, of administering fairly the penal sanctions provided in Part II of the 1947 Act. In 1947 the Government was buying all the food a farmer could produce at fixed prices. The whole emphasis was on expanding gross output on every farm—cost and quality were almost secondary factors in those days of strict rationing and world food shortage.

To-day the situation is quite different. Cost and quality are now of primary importance and our deficiency payment schemes are not designed to protect the farmer who is inefficient or whose produce is of poor quality. Detailed control of individual farm operations is no longer necessary or practical. Now that the emphasis is on a high level of net output produced at the lowest possible cost, it is far more difficult to pick out individual farmers for penal action. And even though supervision was meant to be helpful and has been sympathetically administered, it has in practice come to be regarded as having a penal element in it.

In these circumstances the number of cases which we could act on has turned out, in recent years, to be small; the effects of no real significance; and the individual cases sometimes involving serious personal hardship. All this means that any effective balance there may have been between guaranteed prices and the penal sanctions has in practice proved to be theoretical rather than actual.

Surely, my Lords, no one, with the possible exception of the noble Lord, Lord Wise, believes that supervision or dispossession of a comparative handful of our farmers has had anything to do with the tremendous vitality and progressiveness evident throughout the farming industry. It is due, surely, to the readiness of our farmers to accept advice and guidance from all sides, particularly, perhaps, from the National Agricultural Advisory Service and the Agricultural Land Service; and also to the general guidance and direction which the Government can properly exert through the Annual Price Reviews and the development of our production grants. It is by these means that we can best ensure that the fullest and most productive use is made of our agricultural land. We have concluded, therefore, after weighing up all the practical considerations, that the only logical and sensible course is to repeal the penal provisions.

I think it has been recognised from the first that it is a difficult matter to find the right balance between the policeman and the adviser. However, although we now feel that the balance should be somewhat changed, I should like to emphasise that there is no question that the repeal of the penal provisions will in any way affect the price guarantees to farmers under Part I of the 1947 Act. These have, in fact, been strengthened and extended by the 1957 Act, which passed through your Lordships' House as recently as last July. The long-term assurance this Act provided much strengthened the provisions of Part I of the 1947 Act. And I think we can be assured that those who in the past have held back from seeking advice for fear of the penal provisions—many of them those most in need of advice—will in future come forward without hesitation.

I turn now to the Agriculture Holdings Act. There has for some years been a growing recognition that in practice these provisions have proved a bit too rigid in relation to security of tenure. No sensible person with any knowledge of agriculture will question that the efficient tenant needs a fully adequate degree of security of tenure. Efficient production depends on reasonable security of tenure and would be impossible without it.

We must not on any account, therefore, interfere with full and proper security for the satisfactory tenant, and we have no intention of doing this. What does seem to be required, however, is a slight change of emphasis. in particular concerning the exercise of the Minister's overriding discretion.

This is desirable not least in the interests of the younger men, whose hopes of getting a farm are sometimes being frustrated to-day because unsatisfactory tenants remain in possession. That is a point which several noble Lords have touched on this afternoon. I am glad to say that for England and Wales, as a result of discussions held over the past twelve months, the National Farmers' Union and Country Landowners' Association have reached a measure of agreement on the change of emphasis that is needed. An amending Bill will, of course, be required to give effect to the changes in functions which I mentioned earlier, and we propose to take the opportunity of this to amend the existing security of tenure provisions to give effect to the changes agreed with the Country Landowners' Association and the National Farmers' Union. In Scotland the statutory provisions are somewhat different, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is considering the question of what amendments would be appropriate there.

As I said earlier, the Franks Committee also recommended that agricultural executive committees should no longer exercise judicial functions in relation to notices to quit. We accept that conclusion. The Committee recommended that we should set up new independent tribunals to hear these applications. We believe, however, that the existing Agricultural Land Tribunals are the right bodies to undertake this work, and that there should be appeal from them on points of law to the ordinary courts.


May I just get a little more light shed on this? What many farmers suspect—perhaps they are not right in their suspicions, but we should like to know—is that in these proposed amendments the main alteration will be that the members of the county agricultural committees will no longer perform any of the functions under Part II of the Act, with the result that their knowledge, based on their farming experience, as to the state of efficiency of the farm, will be missing. Then the Government propose to alter the powers in the Agricultural Holdings Act in such a way that landlords can go direct, without any check upon their efficiency, and ask for possession. How do the Government propose to fulfil the first tenet, which I frankly admit was laid down by the noble Earl: that the efficient farmer has a right to a reasonable security of tenure? How are they going to deal with the evidence in regard to this alteration? That has not yet been explained by the noble Earl.


On the question of notices to quit, as the noble Earl knows the procedure at present is that the case is first dealt with by the county committee, and if either party is dissatisfied it goes to the Tribunal. The alteration we are making is that the county committee are cut out and the case goes straight to the Tribunal. I feel that in many ways that has advantages because, as the noble Viscount also knows, inevitably there has been a considerable time-lag between the giving of notice and the final hearing of the case by the Tribunal. Under the new system the notice will be given, any appeal will go straight to the Tribunal, and the case will be dealt with much more quickly. But the alteration of cutting out the county committee has really no effect on security, because the Tribunal, which is quite independent (the chairman is appointed by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, and there is a representative of the landlord and of the farmer) will be exactly the same; there is no alteration. I think the noble Viscount can be absolutely assured that that position is quite clear.


My Lords, I think there is a little confusion, though I do not want to pass judgment on that: I was a member of the Franks Committee which reported in a different sense. But what my noble friend is concerned about is, who is going to supply the information to the Land Tribunal? At the moment the county agricultural committees themselves make the inspection and they have the information. Will their function of inspection still continue? Will they be in a position, say, of giving evidence to the Land Tribunal? Is that what the noble Earl has in mind?


As I understand it, the present position is that the two parties give their evidence before the county committee, the committee inspect the land and come to a decision. On appeal, the matter goes to the Tribunal, where again the two parties give evidence, calling whom they will to give evidence for them; and more often than not, but not necessarily, the Tribunal inspects the land as well, having considered all the facts that have been put before them. Frankly, I do not see that either party will be any worse off under this procedure than they were before. I hope that that satisfies the noble Viscount.


Often the county committee take the initiative where a farm is badly farmed. The real point is that they are deemed to have knowledge of the conditions in the county and have a wide experience. Is that going to be lost? Will it be used in some way?


To a certain extent, if the noble Lord feels it is a loss, it will be lost because they will not have considered the case. But, bearing in mind the composition of the Tribunal, it is not a significant loss. All the evidence on either side will be put before the Tribunal, just as it is now. It is a perfectly sound and capable body to make the necessary decisions. I do not think there is any real loss to either side.


I am sure the noble Earl is trying hard to satisfy me, and I thank him for his efforts. But I want to know a little more about the procedure, as it is likely to come about. Who takes the initiatory action—the landlord?




Who produces the evidence—just the landlord and the tenant? That is what I want to know. The proposal is to cancel the present powers and the administrative function of the county agricultural committees in relation to Part II of the Act. Where is the evidence coming from, and on what basis? And is the same kind of Tribunal to deal with cases of unsatisfactory owner-farmers?


With due respect to the noble Viscount, I think we are getting a little muddled. I thought we were talking about notices to quit. From what the noble Viscount has just been saying, he is still harking back to Part II, which is quite a different thing. I thought I had made the position on notices to quit quite clear, as to procedure and so forth. I also said that we are proposing to remove the disciplinary powers under Part II of the Act, so that there will not be any initiation by the county committees.


That leaves farmer "wide open."


I must take up the noble Viscount on that. He says that that leaves the tenant farmer "wide open." He is not "wide open" at all. The tenant farmer is perfectly capable of bringing before the Tribunal such evidence as he desires, and the Tribunal is perfectly capable of assessing it.


It is principally pro-landlord.


That is a grossly unfair remark.

Now, my Lords, I think we might pass on to the question of rents. Farm rents are, of course, generally fixed by agreement between landlord and tenant, but where they cannot agree they can ask the Minister to appoint an arbitrator, and his award has to be made on the basis laid down in the 1948 Act. A good deal of evidence has been received by us that the existing statutory guidance to agricultural rent arbitrators is insufficient and that further definition of the rent properly payable is required. What we propose to do, therefore, after consultation with the interests concerned, is to consider whether the terms of the Act giving guidance to arbitrators can with advantage be improved and clarified.

I have tried to deal with the main proposals as put forward in the gracious Speech. We shall, of course, have ample opportunity of considering these matters further, when eventually a Bill comes before your Lordships' House, but I felt it only right that the House should have an indication now of where the Government stand in this matter.


My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether it is proposed to introduce a Bill first in this House or in another place?


My Lords, I cannot guarantee it, but I think that the Bill will probably be introduced in another place.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, was good enough to tell me that he had left his Amendment in the hands of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. I do not know whether the noble Viscount wants the Amendment put to the House.



On Question, Amendment negatived.


My Lords, we now return to the general Motion for the humble Address. I do not know whether any of your Lordships wishes to address the House on the general debate. If not, I want to take up only a few moments of your Lordships' time. We have had a most interesting speech from my noble friend Lord Swinton this afternoon. I believe that the noble Earl would agree that in the last thirty years there have been few occasions when either of us has disagreed with my noble friend Lord Salisbury, and even fewer occasions when we have agreed in disagreeing with him. That is the position with regard to his ultimate sug gestion, that wage disputes should come to a Minister and should be discussed in the House.

I believe that we all appreciated the concern which the noble Marquess had, and which was echoed by my noble friend Lord Swinton to-day, over the problem before us. The noble Earl put forward two interesting suggestions. One was a general "get-together" (if I may put it colloquially) following the example, say, of the Dutch Foundation of Labour in similar attempts that have been made abroad. I shall, of course, consider that suggestion very carefully, and discuss it with my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour. It is a subject that has been very much in our minds and it is interesting to have to-day the imprimatur of the noble Earl. The second point he raised was the plan of my noble friend Lord Chandos; and, here again he will not expect a definite answer from me. I assure him, however, that as he has expressed his sympathy with the plan and has had the support of the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition, it is indeed a matter which we ought to, and will, consider.


My Lords, it might be considered, even if it is not correct in all respects. Here is a concrete proposal which might form a basis of discussion and bring us together.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for saying that, and I am sure the whole House is grateful for his sympathetic inquiry and the tentative method in which he has put forward this suggestion, not dictating to anyone but making suggestions which are obviously well worthy of pursuit.

I want to say one other general word on what the noble Viscount said in relation to the industrial aspect of the Common Market in Europe. There were three matters that occurred to me. As I have not yet had time to check, I hope the House will forgive me if my recollection is wrong; but if it is right, it is most interesting, in regard to the Common Market, that not only the General Council of the Trades Union Congress but, I believe, all except one of the areas of the Federation of British Industries have given it their general support—subject, of course, to safeguards which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said exist.

The second point I wish to stress, after what the noble Viscount has said, is that with European integration proceeding apace, and with the six Messina Powers having formed their Customs Union, the problem which we must always have in our minds is that unless we can succeed in the Common Market industry in this country will be faced with an integrated economy from the Baltic to the Mediterranean—one cannot get away from the existence of that problem. On the other hand, the prize of the Common Market is a more prosperous market of 250 million people in Europe who have a great industrial and commercial tradition behind them. I have said that because I wish to put the matter in the balance in which it must be looked at.

I want to say very little, apart from dealing with these two subjects, because my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn has dealt with the agriculture aspect, and I dealt fully, or tried to do so (I am afraid at inordinate length), with all points raised in yesterday's debate. I hope so dealt with them that those who raised those points will feel that they have bear, considered, whether or not they agree with my answer. With regard to the debate as a whole, I am sure your Lordships' House feels that it can congratulate itself on the interesting aspects of all the topics that have been raised, and also on the marked sense of responsibility which has been a feature of the speeches in all parts of the House. It would be invidious and take too long for me to mention any particular names, but perhaps the highest compliment I can pay this debate is to say that it came up to the high standard which had bean set by the openers, my noble friends Lord Waldegrave and Lord Colville of Culross.

I believe that everyone, those who support and those who criticise the policy of Her Majesty's Government, was anxious to emphasise the importance of the general points which are now before the country as well as this House; the stability of our economy, social justice among our people and the continual growth of the ideals of Western civilisation at the present time. In your Lordships' House we have dealt mainly with domestic problems, but there cannot be absent from our minds the problems outside these shores: the greater interdependence of this country and the United States of America, which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has mentioned; the general aspects of international affairs in the United Nations Organisation, which were referred to briefly but none the less pointedly by the noble Lord, Lord Rea; and the continuous development of our Commonwealth and Empire as the answer to "colonialism", used, as a term of criticism. And as the gracious Speech indicates, we have still to deal with the problems of Singapore. Malta and Cyprus. In addition, there is the continuing and ever-present problem of the results of our very success in trusteeship and in training throughout our Colonies. These certainly give us plenty to think about in the Session which we have just begun.

I come back, however, to the point which has been mainly in your Lordships' minds and I think agreed to by all noble Lords in every Party—namely, that our whole future depends on the success of our fight against inflation. I hope that after this debate nobody doubts the importance of the problem or the determination of Her Majesty's Ministers to deal with it. On that, all depends. But, my Lords, as I ventured to say last night, at the same time we intend to secure a real advance towards social justice by safeguarding the liberty of the subject, strengthening our institutions and protecting those least able to look after themselves.

I am sorry, although I am not unused to the suggestion over my political years, that some noble Lords have described this programme as inadequate. I confidently assert that the advances which we are determined to make will, even if they are not all headline news, contribute some real measure of happiness to individual citizens; and that, after all, my Lords, is the first and most real reason, for the existence of government.

On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.

House adjourned at twenty-four minutes past five o'clock.