§ 3.23 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Derwent—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."
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, yesterday was the highlight of the debate on the Address when we discussed foreign and Commonwealth affairs. On Monday and Tuesday there will be further highlights, when we shall be discussing the economy and trade of this country. To-day is a relatively quiet day when we are talking about humdrum affairs such as concern domestic matters. It is all the more humdrum because, with one exception, none of the matters we are going to discuss to-day comes as any surprise at all, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, told us when he made his speech on Tuesday. The fact is that practically every measure referred to in the gracious Speech relating to home affairs has been well known to the general public for some time past. Many of them were referred to in speeches at the Conservative Party Conference. A number have since been disclosed in speeches by various Ministers, and particularly by Mr. Butler, publicly in different parts of the country.
To cap it all, we had practically the whole of the gracious Speech reported in theDaily Telegraphabout a week ago: indeed, so much so that they actually gave the exact figures to the last penny of the increases in war pensions and retirement pensions which were announced yesterday. I have been brought up to believe that the gracious Speech is kept secret; nobody is informed of the contents apart from Ministers, except a few privileged people who are sworn to secrecy, and that the first time the general public is informed of the contents of the Speech is when they are spoken by Her Majesty. I should like 155 to ask the noble and learned Viscount who is to reply to the debate whether this is an innovation; whether we are in future to expect that the contents of the gracious Speech will be announced a week or two, or a month, before the Speech is actually made and will form the subject of comment and discussion in the country well before the date of the opening of Parliament.
I said there was one exception which took most of us by surprise, and that was the provision for providing an underground car park at Hyde Park. I do not think anybody had the foresight to guess that; but if it was foresight as regards the rest of the programme I can only say that it is remarkable that most of the newspapers should have forecast the exact amount of the proposed increases in pensions.
Now I want to come down to some detail. I would characterise this part of the Speech as vague in many respects, platitudinous, unimaginative and in certain respects making claims for the Government which are quite unjustified. As regards the latter, I would refer in particular to housing, education and the youth services—and I shall have a word or two to say about them later on. There are a number of proposals which will require a good deal of further consideration and which are just mentioned in the gracious Speech. I would refer particularly to the reorganisation of the Covent Garden Market. What exactly is meant by "reorganisation" in this context I find it difficult to understand. I take it that it is not proposed to move the Covent Garden Market—or is it? If the noble and learned Viscount can give us some information, I should be very glad. But at any rate it is quite impossible to express any view until one knows much more of what is intended.
Secondly, as regards the underground garage under Hyde Park, it might seem on the face of it to be a desirable thing. But there are serious repercussions, and one would like to give a lot more consideration to this matter before one accepted it as desirable. I should like to know, for instance, what will be the effect on Hyde Park itself. Hyde Park has had a good deal of interference lately. After all, Hyde Park is the most important lung, I would say, of the Commonwealth, certainly in Great 156 Britain, and I doubt whether the public would be prepared to risk interference with the amenities of Hyde Park, particularly in order to enable 1,000 presumably all-day parkers to come into the central areas of London with their cars. So while I am not dismissing the idea at all, I feel it will require a great deal of consideration before the Government actually accept the policy.
Before I come to criticism of the gracious Speech, I should like to be fair and express a welcome to a number of the proposals. The first, of course, is the increase in war pensions, retirement pensions and other benefits; but I think there will be a sense of disappointment among many people that this has to be postponed until April 1. Could the noble and learned Viscount explain why? Why cannot this be done at once? Is it just a matter of book-keeping or is it a matter of saving some money, or what is the reason? I presume it has been carefully considered, and I should have thought it would be quite possible to introduce this at a much earlier date than April 1.
Then there is the Weights and Measures Bill, a copy of which I think most of us received this morning—a voluminous measure. I am very glad that the date of the Second Reading has been postponed for a week to enable some of us to study the Bill. It looks as if the intention is to provide safeguards and protection for the consumer. If that is so, we will certainly give the Bill a cordial welcome, because most of us are aware that the consumer today needs a good deal of protection and is buying many commodities blind, without any idea as to what weight or measure he is to expect for his money.
Then I see that there are measures for the protection of the community against crime and for better means of dealing with young offenders. While we have no particulars at all, except what has been stated by the Home Secretary in speeches, as to the contents of the measure, we welcome the attempt to deal with this problem, which is indeed a very grave problem. I do not propose to say any more about it at this stage except to ask the noble and learned Viscount whether the Government have given consideration to, and are now in a position to make a statement on, the 157 question of compensating victims of crime, or their relatives. I think there is strong feeling in the country that people who suffer from unprovoked attack, due, let us admit it, in many cases to the lack of a sarong police force, should be compensated if need be out of public funds, and I should be grateful if the noble and learned Viscount could give us some information as to where the Government stand on this matter.
Then of course we welcome any measure which will provide greater safety on the roads. It is a ticklish question, and I wonder if the noble and learned Viscount is in a position to say in particular whether the Government have made up their minds on the question of drivers who drive under the influence of drink, and what tests, if any, they propose to make, either on the lines that are being carried out in Scandinavian countries or elsewhere. Many of these subjects that I have touched on and which we welcome will of course form subjects of Bills or Motions in the House, and we shall have the opportunity of discussing them in greater detail at a later stage. I understand that my noble friend, Lord Stonham, in particular is going to deal with the subject of crime.
Specifically, I propose to deal first with the question of housing. The Government claim that they are going to maintain a high rate of house-building. I regard that as a somewhat ingenuous statement. The implication is that there has been a high rate of house building in the past and that the Government have been doing it, and that the Government therefore are responsible for this high rate of building. But I would suggest that far from the Government being responsible for the amount of building—and I will say a word about the high rate—the Government have done everything a Government could do to deter construction of houses by local authorities. They have withdrawn the subsidy. It is now, I think, some four years since the subsidy on house building, apart from slum clearance and certain special cases, has been with-drawn The interest rate is high—so high as almost to be prohibitive. They have taken away from local authorities the right to borrow money from the Public Works Loan Board, and generally life has been made as difficult as possible 158 for the local authorities to carry out their statutory duty of providing houses, with the result that the number of houses actually built by local authorities, which, after all, constitutes the bulk of houses being built to let, has been declining year by year.
I have had, as most noble Lords have had in the last day or so, sent to me the housing return up to the end of September this year. If noble Lords will look at Table 3 they will see the number of houses completed by local authorities year by year, and if they take 1953 as the starting date they will see that every year, without exception, there has been a decline in the number of houses built by local authorities—houses which, as I say, constitute the bulk of those available to let. In the face of that, I should be glad to have it explained to me how it can be said that the Government are maintaining a high rate of house building.
The rest of the house-building is being provided by private enterprise. Those houses constitute a somewhat slightly higher figure than those provided by the local authorities—but not so much. Private enterprise is, in fact, finding it difficult, as indeed local authorities are, to carry on its activities owing to the increasing price of land. While I myself and my noble friends did not oppose the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, which laid down that the price for compulsory acquisition of land should be what the land was worth, there has been a steady and rapid and startling increase in the price of land in the last year or two: so much so that it makes it extremely difficult both for private enterprise and for local authorities to function and to provide housing accommodation at rents or at prices which are within the means of the people for whom it is intended.
Furthermore, while private enterprise is providing a considerable number of dwellings or flats as compared with local authorities, the fact is that in the nature of things and without subsidy their charges, their prices, are bound to be high; and in so far as they let accommodation, the rents are bound to be high. They have to get a reasonable return on their outlay. The result is that for large numbers of people, the majority of people, dwellings provided by private enterprise are not really 159 available. It is true that there are a certain number of dwellings which are being erected for sale at a figure of round about £3,000 and that mortgages are available for the greater part, sometimes the whole of that. Nevertheless, even £3,000, which has to be repaid over a period of, say, twenty years, with interest, means a very heavy drain on the ordinary worker with a family whose income, say, is £600 or £700 a year. It is a heavy and an unreasonable drain, and we need far more dwellings to let than we are getting.
I submit that the Government are not justified in making the claim that a high rate of housebuilding will be maintained or, by implication, is being maintained. Furthermore, the numbers that are being provided are wholly inadequate to meet the needs. It is true that a certain amount of slum clearance is going on, but, in so far as we are clearing slums, we are adding to the problem of housing by demolishing houses some of which are being rebuilt and included in the number stated in this table. There has been a substantial increase in population in the last few years—I think that since the last Census it is 1½ million persons—which creates a need for more dwellings.
Then, if we are going to provide our people with a higher standard of living in, as we claim, this affluent society, we must provide them with better homes. I should like to elaborate my own view at some future time, but the substance of it is that, far from keeping pace with our requirements we are actually going back, and the demand for houses today is greater than it was say two, three or four years ago. That is reflected, from all the evidence that I have been able to find, in lengthening waiting lists for houses, even to people waiting for private enterprise houses. Only a short time ago I had a particular instance drawn to my attention of some people I know—quite small people—putting up seven bungalows in an out-of-the-way place. They had applications from 50 people to buy those bungalows. The local authority refused planning permission to erect more because they said there was no proof of demand. Yet the people, as I say, had 50 applications for those seven bungalows, and they are 160 proposing to sell them by way of drawing lots to see who shall be the fortunate buyers.
This is not a unique or exceptional case. This is the housing position as it exists. Yet a member of Her Majesty's Government the other day had the nerve to say that the housing problem was confined to London, and that in the rest of the country it had been substantially solved. You have only to go to any of the large centres of population and try to rent a house. Go to local agents and say you want a house to rent. They will laugh at you. My Lords, the housing problem is a long way from being solved, and I deplore the complacent terms in which the Government refer to it.
Next, I want to say a word about rents. We had the Rent Act of some years ago. We on this side, and our friends in another place, protested that the time was not ripe for complete decontrol. Nobody who wanted to be fair could seriously have objected to a measure of decontrol of rents which would have given landlords a fairer return on their property; but in time of such great shortage it was wrong to put landlords in the position of being able to turn their tenants out unless they were prepared to pay a rent which the landlord thought reasonable and against which the tenant had no opportunity of protesting. The Government must have realised that there was a good deal in the complaints, and they gave a sort of moratorium for three years. This is now coming to an end. A great deal of suffering has been caused to people who have been forced either to buy houses beyond their means or to pay rents which they cannot afford, simply because they have no other alternative. I think it is quite contrary to principles of British justice that we should have two people about to enter into a bargain, one having all the powers in his hands and the other being perfectly helpless, so that the helpless person is compelled to submit to any bargain or proposal which the person with the weapon in his hands puts forward.
I greatly regret that the Government have no proposals to make for dealing with this serious question, which is going to be an increasingly grave problem in the months to come. I should hope that, while decontrol was inevitable on those houses that have been 161 decontrolled, there would be some kind of control and some security of tenure given as to the rents that were being charged. I am glad to know, if I am correct in my assumption, that some kind of protection is being proposed for tenants on short tenancies as regards the question of dilapidations. I hope that I am right in that assumption and, in so far as that is being proposed, it will be welcome.
I would say just one more thing on the question of control. The main reason for decontrolling dwellings was to put more houses on to the market to let—that it would make available large numbers of houses which people could rent. It has done nothing of the kind. Every estate agent in the country will say that the moment a house comes on to the market it is offered for sale; hardly any are offered to let. While we on this side of the House have not the slightest objection to, and cordially support, the idea of a property-owning democracy, nevertheless we realise that it is not the people who want to buy a house who can afford to buy a house, or who find it convenient to decide on a fixed settlement without obtaining mobility.
Now I want to turn for a moment to the question of education. Here again, the Government are paying lip service but are doing very little to carry out what we all desire—that is, an improvement in the standard of our education. The House will remember that when the Crowther Report was first published the Government at once accepted it. But, having accepted it, they have done little in the intervening period to implement it; and further, they have refused to give a specific time when they will implement it, hope that we may have an early opportunity of discussing the educational question, because it is causing great concern to many educationists and others. I would say the same about the Youth Service. The Government have stated that they will continue to encourage the Youth Service. I should like to know what that means, because so far as I know they have not so far given much encouragement to the youth service. We had the Albemarle Committee Report last February, and the Government at once said they would accept it; but I have yet to ascertain what the Government have done up to 162 the present time to encourage the Youth Service.
I feel that a great deal more thought is required on the whole question of education and its purpose. With great respect, education does not consist—as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said—of providing a sufficient body of intelligent workers, important as that may be. I am paraphrasing the noble Lord's words. I do not know whether he is able to reply upon that—I think not. At any rate, whether or not he said it, a great many people take the view that the main function of education is to provide an intelligent body of workmen. But, of course, its function is much more. It is difficult to formulate exactly what one understands by education, and what is its purpose, but I would say that it is to equip the child to become a good citizen and to lead a happy and full life; and far more is required than for the Child to be able to read and write and do some sums when he leaves the school. I am not satisfied that we are doing enough thinking to enable us to make up our minds what is required in order to equip the child for the full life that I hope all of us would like him to lead. And there is, of course, a very great connection between the kind of education we give a child and such matters as the prevention of crime and the kind of life the child is going to lead.
While on this subject of education, I wonder whether the noble and learned Viscount could tell us what are the proposals of Her Majesty's Government as regards the means test for university and other students. That matter is referred to in the gracious Speech, but it is not clear exactly what the Government have in mind. There is a strong movement in favour of the complete abolition of the means test, and I believe that the principal argument for this is that it is wrong that young people should be dependent upon their parents' wishes as to whether or not they have a university education. There are a great many parents (though I hope a declining number) who take the view that the sooner a child goes out into life, the better. While a child may be eminently suited to a university education, under present conditions and with the means test applied, unless the parents are willing to help the child, the child forfeits the 163 opportunity of a university education. Many of us feel—and I believe this view is not confined too one side of the House—that the child should be able to get a grant to enable him to go to a university or to any other form of higher education purely on his ability to profit from such education.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord is putting the question quite fairly. Very often it is not a question of willingness or unwillingness but the fact that the parents are incapable of meeting the cost. In many cases the maximum is fixed so low that the middle income group parents just cannot afford this, much as they would like to do so. That is the point.
§ LORD S1LKIN
My Lords, I do not at all dissent from that. Of course, it is perfectly true; but I gather from the words used in the gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government are going to do something. I want them to go the whole way. I feel that there should be no means test at all rather than a relaxation of the means test, and I would be glad if other noble Lords would express their views on this in the course of the debate.
I had intended to say something about one or two other matters referred to in the gracious Speech but I think we shall all have our opportunity in the coming months and I will exercise some restraint. Speaking for myself, and I know for my colleagues, I would promise the Government no easy time in the coming year. I should hope that they will not want an easy time; that they will be very willing to profit from any help and criticism that may be offered to them from this side of the House; and I would assure them that such criticism as they will receive from this side will be responsible and careful, and that the various measures which are to come before this House will be scrutinised in that spirit. It is in that spirit, I hope, that Her Majesty's Government will give consideration to some of the views which I have put forward, rather sketchily, in these few remarks.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKET
My Lords, I have had the honour to be a Member of your Lordships' House for a little more than a quarter of a century—which makes me 164 feel very old; but I do not remember a Queen's Speech, or a King's Speech, which has been so full of legislation; nor do I ever remember five days, or perhaps even more, being devoted to the gracious Speech. I am not going to take up much of your Lordships' time, but there are six points which I should like to mention. If I exceed the custom of to-day in relation to certain points in the gracious Speech it is because I cannot be here or ask to speak on Monday or Tuesday next.
The first point in the gracious Speech to which I would refer is that Her Majesty's Government will:Further the expansion of overseas trade and strengthen the balance of payments.I see the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, sitting on the Front Bench opposite. From time to time he and I have agreed on the question of money rates and, if I say so in only a few sentences, I feel that one of the reasons why exports are not better is the uncertainty and height of money rates. I should like to bring this question to the attention of Her Majesty's Government, because if business people cannot budget ahead they cannot export; and also, if they cannot borrow money at reasonable rates so as to put up factories which can produce goods at lower prices they cannot export. I believe that this is one of the most important parts of the gracious Speech; and although we are not, on the whole, discussing economy and trade to-day, I hope that the new Chancellor of the Exchequer will have more progressive views on these matters than the noble Viscount who has joined us quite recently from another place.
The second point I want to mention is that, as usual, there occur the words:At home My Ministers are resolved to maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agriculture.I should like to say a few words about that, because I am afraid that in farming circles there is a certain amount of depression about the agricultural future. We well remember that at the last General Election it was mentioned by a certain very eminent gentleman that we "never had it so good." Well, the farmers are thinking at the moment that they are not having it quite so good as other industries; and I believe I that the profit rates on farming are 165 certainly lower than they were some years ago. If farmers are to be encouraged to increase production, to look to their economy and to produce at economical rates, they must have some goal to work to and I know there are many farmers and farmers' organisations who are a little depressed about the future of agriculture. I hope that the next February Price Review will put that right.
I turn now to the last page of the print of Her Majesty's gracious Speech. On that there occur the words:A Bill will be introduced to extend the investment powers of trustees.As one serving in the capacity of trustee for various trusts I welcome that Bill very much. We have seen the capital of our trusts invested in gilt-edged going down and down. I remember that when the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, was Chancellor of the Exchequer War Loan stood at 100. Well, we have seen it at 60, and it is very sad that so much capital of beneficiaries has disappeared. I hope that when this Bill is introduced it will be a wide and reasonable Bill which will enable trustees not only to preserve capital but also perhaps to look after the height of their beneficiary's income.
The fourth point I want to mention is that a little further down in the gracious Speech these words occur:Legislation is being prepared to provide financial assistance towards the construction of a new Atlantic liner to replace the 'Queen Mary.'We have heard this afternoon a statement from the noble Lord, Lord Mills, and I will not comment on that, save to say that I hope Her Majesty's Government are right. At this time, when I believe that 52 per cent., or perhaps this year even more than 52 per cent., of transatlantic passengers are flying, I hope that by the time the new "Queen Mary" is built the percentage will not have become so high that we shall look back on it and feel that it was a mistake. I will make no further comments on that.
The next point I would raise is on the words:My Government will submit to you proposals for reforming the structure and functions of the British Transport Commission.That, I think, is almost the most important part of the gracious Speech. I 166 feel that what Her Majesty's Ministers decide on the future of British Railways during this Parliament, and particularly during this Session, is most important for the future trade and industry of this country. I hope that when the Report by Sir Ivan Stedeford is produced—I should perhaps say produced to Her Majesty's Government—Her Majesty's Government will act on it in a way which, if I may say so, will be really revolutionary. I am afraid that British Railways are largely as obsolete as the canals, or even as the dodo, which I believe was a prehistoric bird which did not have wings as do our airways. But British Railways are in a position now in which, if they are to be salvaged, they must have very radical treatment.
Also I hope that decisions which they take in future will be decisions taken by a number of business men who understand these matters. Your Lordships will all know that an enormous sum of something like £150 million is being employed to electrify the lines from Manchester and Liverpool to London. When I was a Member of another place, as also was the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, we used to travel in our day from our constituencies to London in 3¼ or 3½ hours. Now, owing to this electrification and the heightening of all the bridges along the line from time to time, and also to putting up these pylons along the line, which, when one looks out of the window, almost dazzle one—I will not say dazzle one as they "flash by"—it now takes something like 4½ hours to go from Euston to Liverpool, at least an hour more than it used to take twenty-five years ago. When we have our dinner in the restaurant car it is quite possible, owing to the permanent way being so badly laid, that our dinner or fish will land on our lap, as happened to me not very long ago.
I feel that the electrification of this line has been a very great mistake. I believe that diesel engines could do the job equally well, or perhaps even more quickly. If only the permanent way had been repaired and laid well, I feel that we should be able to get from Liverpool or Manchester to London now in probably 3¼ or even 3 hours instead of 4½ hours. Living 23 miles north of London, I now do not go to Liverpool or Manchester or other places in the North by 167 railway if I can help it. If I cannot go by air I go by car. I admit that I am not a fast driver, but I can get from Hertfordshire to Liverpool in 4½ hours, instead of going up to London and going north by train. So I am one of those who have been "browned off" by the railways because of their sheer incompetence.
I happen to be a director of a company which produces smokeless fuel. When a few years ago we put up our plant we hoped that all our smokeless fuel would go by rail. I now find that 80 per cent. of our output is going by road because coal merchants in different parts of the country just cannot depend on deliveries by rail; and, secondly, they find that it costs 3s. 6d. a ton less to take their smokeless fuel from Nottingham by road. That is unfortunate, because the last thing we want is the road to be cumbered up with coal lorries. If only coal could keep to the railways and the railways could give the coal merchants a cheaper and efficient service, the coal merchants would stick to the railways and be quite happy. Not only do we in our plant have very good rail sidings but nearly all coal merchants do, and they would be very happy to get their coal by rail if only they could depend on its being delivered in time for their customers to use it. Those are one or two instances of railway inefficiency. Had I wanted to make a speech about all the inefficiencies I know of I might have kept your Lordships far too long.
Then the railways have some very good hotels, and if they could really be givencarte blancheto run their hotels as hotel keepers they would, I feel sure, be a profitable side of our nationalised railway industry. But some five years ago a company of which I happened to be chairman purchased a railway hotel. After the first night on which I stayed there after the contract was signed, but before completing the purchase, I went to have a bath in the morning—and there were only two bathrooms for thirty-five bedrooms, and no central heating—and I found that both bathrooms were occupied or, at any rate, the doors were locked. When I later saw the housekeeper she said, "I hope you got a bath this morning." I said that I was afraid I had not but that when I had put in a few more bathrooms I 168 hoped that I should be able to. She said to me, "I'm so sorry. I locked both doors to make sure that the new chairman would get a bath!" That is an example of what might happen in some of these British Railway hotels, and I hope that Sir Ivan Stedeford will have some suggestions to make on that point.
I now come to my sixth point. The gracious Speech says:They"—the Government—are preparing legislation designed to promote greater safety on the roads and, in order to relieve traffic congestion in London, to make possible the construction of an underground garage under part of Hyde Park.I should like to give the whole of my support to anything which is proposed for the purpose of greater road safety or the construction of more efficient roads such as M.1. I personally have a great admiration for M.1. The only mistake that was made was that the firm which built M.1, before it took away its men and machines, did not go on to build M.1A or M.2, or whatever another road would have been called. If the Minister of those days had looked and planned ahead, instead of our now having 70 or 80 miles of motorway in this country we might have had a great deal more.
Before the war, in 1938, I had the honour of sitting on the House of Lords Select Committee on Road Accidents, which was under the Chairmanship of that (if I may say so) very eminent and able Chairman, Lord Alness. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, also sat on it. Unfortunately, the Marquess of Reading is no longer with us, but he also sat on that Committee. We produced a Report which, naturally, as members of the Committee, we thought was rather a good Report. But I remember that in those days we were told by a delegation which went to Germany that by 1941 Germany would have 4,000 miles of motorways. Of course, the war, to our detriment, intervened in 1939, and I do not know the extent of the motorways there now. But our motorways and our system of roads at present is really, apart from the new M.1, the worst system of roads in the whole of Europe. I feel that, as we have such a very poor system of railways and such a very poor system of roads, the two 169 questions must be looked at together. We do not want to attract heavy traffic from the railways to the roads if, when we do, we then find the roads being clogged up because our road system is not modern enough.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, mentioned the question of the underground garage in Hyde Park. That, in itself, no doubt, is a good thing if, first, the charges for parking are not so high that nobody wants to park his car there, and, secondly, when he has parked his car in Hyde Park, he does not have to walk a very long way to get to his office, or wherever it is he is going—because if that is so, then he will not park his car in Hyde Park. I feel that this question of the clogging up of traffic in London is really extremely serious. As I have said before, I live 23 miles from London. This morning I took an hour and three quarters motoring from there to get to a meeting in Smith Square. I admit that there was an accident at one part of the road and that I had to reverse and make a detour to get round it; but the blocks were such that it would probably have taken an hour and a half in any case. That is far too long for people to have to take to get to their work.
Now if there had been a good car park at Hendon Central Station, I could have left my car at Hendon Central, I could have got out and gone into the Tube, I could have come by Tube to Westminster and I could have walked to Smith Square very quickly. Besides that, my car would not have taken up a parking space in the middle of London. I ask the Minister of Transport not only to encourage the construction of a car park in Hyde Park, where all the cars have to come into and out of the park (which really only encourages more traffic in the rush hour) but also to consider getting on quickly with car parks at the ends of the Tubes, at places like Hendon Central, on the periphery of London. I suggested once before that when the person who had a car park ticket for the car park at such a place as Hendon Central, for example, went into the ticket office at Hendon Central Station, he might be given 50 per cent. of the cost of his Tube ticket, or even the whole of the cost of his Tube ticket, in order to encourage him to use the car park and to travel by Tube to the City.
170 Even the traffic wardens, with their supreme efficiency at putting little tickets on windscreens when you have left your car for only two or three minutes, cannot stop every car coming into London and ask the driver where he is going, and then say, "You cannot go any further". We must have an incentive for people to use the Tubes. We must also provide more Tubes, and even more trains to go on the Tubes. It might make more profit for the railway system. Whether it is London Transport or British Railways, it does not matter so long as it makes a profit and not a loss. I therefore hope that the Minister of Transport will consider this question of more and better car parks on the periphery of London, and so encourage motorists not to go into London with their cars.
On that point, it may be of interest to mention that I have looked particularly at the cars coming into London, and I have found—and your Lordships know this as well as I do—that the majority have only one person in them, which is perfectly hopeless. It is no good having more and more car parks in the middle of London when there is one car bringing in one person. I hope that Her Majesty's Government, and the Minister of Transport in particular (who is a most attentive Minister; I wrote to him a little time ago, and I have never had such a well set-out letter in reply to a certain matter; a letter giving all the details, the reasons why and the wherefores, and I should like to pay him that tribute) will realise the necessity for these car parks and will do everything they can in that direction. My Lords, I am afraid I have detained your Lordships far too long, but that is all I have to say. I hope that this Session really will solve the traffic problem of this country, although I must say that I rather doubt it.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am sure we all rejoice that it was the fish and not the soup which was shot into the lap of the noble Lord, Lord Brocket. I hope, also, that there will be an opportunity on another occasion to deal in detail with many of the points which he raised about the railways and the roads, with many of which I am in agreement. However, I think that on this particular point about electrification he was somewhat unfair. The electrification, so far 171 as I understand it, is from Crewe to Liverpool and from Crewe to Manchester, on which £40 million has been spent. It is part of a proposal to electrify right down to Euston; and one can scarcely complain about the time taken over one stage which has been electrified, until the whole job has been done. It seems to me most unfortunate that that is now placed in jeopardy by the Government's determination to cut the capital programme. Whatever the fault of the railways—and a great deal of what they now suffer from is certainly not their fault, but is the fault of circumstances over the last 30 years—you cannot make the railways go on the policy of "Stop" and "Go" from which they have suffered during the last five years.
§ LORD BROCKET
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, may I ask whether the electrification scheme for £150 million, or thereabouts, is not supposed to be going through to London, unless it is withdrawn?
§ LORD STONHAM
It is supposed to go to Euston; but the interpretation which has so far been put on the statements by the Minister of Transport is that it is going to be suspended, in which case the £40 million already spent on the line from Crewe to Manchester will be entirely wasted. The noble Lord may well be aware that there are proposals for changes on the line from Edinburgh to London, including major changes at Peterborough. The time schedules have already been delayed and, as it were, the journey has been lengthened to prepare for these delays which will be inevitable, owing to the changes. But now, we understand, the changes are not going to take place.
§ LORD STONHAM
I think that that will eventually prove to be a somewhat short-sighted view. I think it is essential that the modernisation programme of British Railways should go forward in order that they can have a chance, after nearly half a century, of competing on equal terms and that all of us can join in seeing that they do get equal terms and that we do not talk about roads in 172 competition with rail—roadsversusrail—but roads and rail, so that the facilities of both can be used for the traffic for which they are individually suited. It is no consolation at all for the noble Lord to sit in his car for ten minutes behind a line of lorries when the merchandise which these lorries are carrying would be much better carried by rail. Those are the kinds of problem which have to be faced.
§ LORD BROCKET
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but cannot diesels go equally fast and equally well as electric trains?
§ LORD STONHAM
It is not a question of being equally fast. There is no question but that in many respects the diesel is a very good halfway house, but where there is heavy traffic, then electrification—particularly by the French system, which British Railways are now adopting, although it involves a heavy initial capital cost—is far and away cheaper. It carries, ton for ton, 60 per cent. heavier loads; and, as far as the lines that the noble Lord has been discussing are concerned, electrification is by far the cheapest method.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, may I just intervene for one moment? The noble Lord said that he understood from a statement by the Minister of Transport that the Crewe to Euston line was not going to be proceeded with. The Minister of Transport has never made any such statement. He has said only that he is re-examining the proposals.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am most grateful for that semi-assurance, but I shall feel far more confident about it when there is a definite undertaking given to British Transport that they will be permitted to proceed with these schemes.
My Lords, I heard my noble friend Lord Silkin say that I was to deal with crime. I apologise for this diversion in dealing with a crime against British Railways. My noble friend, Lord Silkin, in his opening remarks, rightly complained that precise details of the proposals in the gracious Speech had been published well in advance. For myself, I must say that I was very relieved that theDaily Telegraph'sforecast was so accurate in respect to these Home Office matters. I got the feeling that never in my experience had a gracious Speech 173 held out so much hope and promise to those of us who are interested in measures to reduce crime, to reform criminals, and to give hope to young people and offer rehabilitation to them.
My Lords, there is one unhappy phrase which I regret, and I hope that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will assure us that it does not reveal the official state of mind. The phrase I refer to is,to extend compulsory aftercare to prisoners and so to discourage them from reverting to crime …I am all for extending compulsory aftercare to prisoners, but I have many friends in prison, at the moment mainly "pen pals", some of whom I have known a good many years. Anyone who knows anything about prisoners serving a long sentence will be aware that they are desperately anxious to move into third stage; they are desperately anxious to he trained and to take part in the hostel system. It is a great deprivation, and it is very difficult to keep up the men's hearts if they do not get into third stage.
It is not a case of discouraging them from continuing in crime. The gracious Speech should have saidso as to encourage them to become useful citizens.We want the emphasis on encouragement to be useful citizens, not on discouraging them from reverting to crime. When a man, after five, six or seven years in prison, comes out of prison, at half past seven or eight o'clock in the morning, with 10s. and a railway warrant in his pocket, in many cases having no friends, no relatives and certainly no job to go to, it is very difficult for him not to revert to the only thing he knows. But, so far as the desires of these men are concerned, if only we can devise a system where they can be given jobs, then we shall find that the emphasis will be on encouragement.
I am sure that noble Lords in all parts of the House will give the warmest possible welcome to all the legislation foreshadowed in the gracious Speech for which the Home Secretary will be responsible. In particular, bearing in mind the discussions which we had in January and in June of this year, I am pleased to have the assurance thatThe strength, efficiency and well-being of the police will be the Government's continuing concern174 and also thatLegislation will be introduced … to check abuses by registered clubs. …If we are really going to deal with the vice which is increasingly rampant, and to end the lawless reign of the gangsters who profit from it, these Bills must be armed with teeth to bite the gangsters; they must not consist merely of tepid paper Bills that will make no real change in the law relating to members' clubs while regulating only proprietors' clubs. I mention this point because the Home Secretary, in a speech a few months ago, said that that was precisely what he intended to do—not to interfere with the members' clubs, but to make some kind of regulations regarding the proprietorial clubs. No one doubts the Home Secretary's good intentions, but as we saw with the Street Offences Act, the wrong sort of legislation can produce a greater evil than the one intended to be stamped out.
I think it was some 80 years ago that Josephine Butler won her great fight against the State regulation of women. She won not merely because of her transcendental qualities and her courage, but because the legislation was shown to be disastrous. It seems to me that, in a somewhat different form, history is repeating itself with respect to the Street Offences Act. The girls have been swept off the streets, as we were told they would be; but now in their place we have hundreds of public advertisements of their trade, with the police reduced to the absurdity of prosecuting people for looking at advertisements yet powerless to do anything against the men who make an enormous income from exhibiting them.
My Lords, last week at London Sessions a 21-year-old girl admitted that her earnings reached an all-time "peak" in the week that followed the start of the Street Offences Act. She came off the streets, advertised in shop windows, and earned £600 in a week. She said that that was nothing to what some of the girls were making. To me, the only redeeming feature of the whole thing was that her ponce, who had bought a Jaguar car and become a man of property, was given five years' imprisonment, instead of the two years which had been the maximum under the previous legislation.
175 Doubtless, my Lords, when we have accumulated sufficient evidence of this kind of thing we shall be able to amend or repeal the Street Offences Act. But, meanwhile, let us be certain that the measures foreshadowed in the gracious Speech, particularly the Bill in respect to bogus clubs, is adequate. As we know, anyone can register a club on payment of 5s. He can draw up his own rules and an equally fictitious list of members. And he can exclude the police. He can say to them: "You can't come in here." No kind of regulation which the cleverest lawyer, the best Home Secretary or the cogitations of Parliament can draw up could have any effect on these gangsters, because they could so easily evade them. We shall not be able to deal with them unless the proposed Bill gives the police and the local authorities the right to object to the grant or the renewal of licences, and unless the police have the right of entry. It would be quite useless to say that it be wrong to give the police right of entry to respectable clubs. No respectable person would object to that if, through that right of entry, we wiped out the iniquities which we all know exist. In my view anything less than that as a minimum will be worse than useless.
As an example, only on Tuesday the newspapers carried a report of another case at London Sessions where two men admitted keeping a disorderly house and permitting lewd shows on club premises in Soho. It was proven that within ten weeks nearly 5,000 so-called members had paid 25s. each. Two men were fined a total of £550, but as their gross takings were £800 a week, that is merely a trifle on the overheads land they were free to continue the next morning or the next night, because there was no disqualification of the premises. The Chairman of London Sessions, I was glad to see, used some very strong words. He indicated that if there were any more similar cases the persons concerned would probably go to prison. But in most cases the person really concerned, the boss, the gangster, would not go to prison; he would get off scot-free because his paid stooge would go to prison and the so-called club would continue under another manager.
176 My Lords, I think the police are to be congratulated on having brought this case, but consider what they had to do in order to do it—and it is only one case our of very many with which they have had any real success. Two policemen had to become members of the club and attend for several nights. Is that the kind of thing we want? It is very difficult and degrading for the police to have to do that sort of thing. If the Government are really concerned for their efficiency and well-being, they will see to it that the Bill, when it comes before us, will make it impossible for such places to masquerade as clubs and will give the police full powers to deal with them in the open. Then, with the necessary firm instructions from the Commissioner, London's vice spots could be cleaned up virtually overnight.
Perhaps the greatest single step towards strengthening the police—apart, of course, from an early and substantial increase in their pay, and I hope that we Shall soon hear something about that—would be to increase the facilities for dealing with crime before criminal habits become ingrained. Therefore I welcome the Government's intention to provide better means for dealing with young offenders. But whatever legislation we pass under this head, it will be a nullity without adequate facilities. So I hope that a first priority will be to make arrangements to ensure that no young person, either on remand or under sentence, is ever sent to an ordinary prison, as many of them are now, but that the objective of dealing with the young offender will always be to reform and rehabilitate.
More important still, in this connection, is the decision in the gracious Speech to encourage the Youth Service and to increase expenditure on physical education for the young. Here again, in my view, method is even more important than money—though money is needed—because, apart from the provision of more playing fields and games facilities, we have in many areas already reached the (limit of what can be usefully spent on orthodox facilities for young people, such as boys' and girls' clubs and other associations run by local authorities. This is because two out of every three young people will have nothing whatever to do with an official organization 177 or, indeed, with any sort of club which is run by a leader. This is not to decry the splendid existing organisations or the people who work so devotedly in them: it is merely to recognise the fact. And that fact means that the great bulk of whatever money the Government are now prepared to spend for recreation for youth should be channelled through suitable voluntary organisations which are prepared to set up self-programming units which, in the main, are shaped and run by the young people themselves. That is the only thing that will attract them. Unless this is accepted, the Government will be wasting their time and our money. We cannot influence young people until we make contact, and we cannot make contact until we provide what appeals to them.
I have developed this idea to your Lordships before, in connection with the voluntary organisation called Youth Ventures, which is supported by the Ministry of Education to the extent of 50 per cent. of the capital cost of approved schemes, and is also increasingly supported by local authorities Who are providing suitable premises at less than economic cost. Even purpose-built premises are being handed over by local authorities, who realise that, through no fault of their own, they themselves in these premises cannot attract the young people they desire to serve. Only a voluntary organisation can do it.
Once they are open, these Ventures are expected to pay their way, so that there is no continuing burden on either the Treasury or the ratepayers. The young people are quite happy to pay a membership subscription of 5s. a quarter, plus 2s. a week—£6 a year each—and in addition they pay commercial prices for everything else they consume. One such Venture, opened only four weeks ago, already has 300 members and will soon have a waiting list, and 95 per cent. of these young people and this is the important point—have never previously belonged to any youth organisation. They have already elected their own management committee, and several sports and other clubs have been formed within the organisation through popular demand—not laid on from above, but laid on by the young people themselves because they want them. It does not matter if the final activities are no dif- 178 ferent, or very little different, from those of any ordinary mixed club. The point is that these youngsters would not have come into the average mixed club. Once they are in, they act responsibly and show a remarkable loyalty. They do not need urging to attend. The club belongs to them. They are doing something, where formerly they did nothing or got into mischief.
Each management committee elects three representatives to serve on the adult executive committee, which is comprised of local citizens from all professions—teachers, clergymen, business people—and usually the chief constable or a senior police officer of the area. Naturally, each Venture is different because it is coloured by local circumstances, and it grows into whatever the young people themselves want it to be.
In one populous city, with a considerable youth problem, the need was so urgent that we started a Venture in temporary premises. A big proportion of the early membership consists of youngsters who have already earned and received the attention of the police. Last Monday evening, I attended a joint meeting of the management committee, which is entirely composed of young people, and the executive committee of this club. I only wish that the proceedings could have been recorded on a concealed camera, because no further arguments would have been needed to convince the authorities of the truth of the contention that I have been making. These young people are acting responsibly and showing an amazing keenness. Almost without exception they are the kind of young people you see on the street corners, and possibly look at with disapproval; but there they are, the same as any other young people when they get the opportunity.
The most likeable of the lot, and a natural tower of strength, was a big youth who is now a full-time paid employee of the Venture. The premises are open every day, for seven days a week, from nine in the morning until midnight. This lad is on the night shift; he locks up at night and looks after the cash. He is the sort of chap you feel you can rely on and trust anywhere, cheerful and equal to any emergency. On my way home, driving back on the M.l, I was extolling this young man's virtues and saying what a wonderful acquisition he 179 was. I was told, "Of course, you know he had a fairly long time in Borstal?" I quote that as an example of a complete response to the chance of a responsible job. This young man is doing a first-class job and exercising his natural qualities of leadership in a worthy cause. There is no need to ask for voluntary help in this Venture. One of the items on the agenda was to impose limits on the number of voluntary helpers allowed. Naturally, we expect incidents, but when they arise they will be dealt with by the young people themselves.
It is my firm belief that if we create the framework and then leave the youngsters to carry on, it will soon become apparent that there is no real youth problem. The real problem is to get people of my generation to realise that different times need different methods, and that young people are not necessarily misguided because they will not be told by older people. I am aware that my speech started with vice, the end-product of a decadent society, but I end it with hope, indeed with the certainty, that, given the necessary framework and the right to use it freely, given, not merely good intentions and money by the Government, but wise, if perhaps remote, guidance, the young people of today will yet prove themselves the best generation we have known.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I want to refer briefly to only two matters in the gracious Speech. I am sure that every one of your Lordships will be pleased to hear that pensions are to be raised. I refer particularly to old age pensions, because they are the ones I know most about, but I am sure that the same remarks apply to war pensions. One of the things that I am rather sad about is that the pensioners must wait until April 1 next year before they get the increase in their pension. That is quite a long time to wait, and they have a long, cold, dreary winter in front of them. I do not want to be sentimental about Christmas and say, "Give them extra for Christmas"—and coming from the part of the world I do come from, perhaps I should talk about the New Year, rather than Christmas—but, as I have said, there is a long, cold, dreary winter in front of them, and what I 180 have found on many occasions is that the pensioners, for some reason or other—either because they budget badly or because they cannot go to the Assistance Board—are unable to get enough to buy coal and fuel to keep them warm; and several times in the course of a winter I get confronted with sick people in their eighties who are merely suffering from cold. That is why I am sorry that the implementation of the increase in pensions is not going to take place until the spring of next year.
That this increase is necessary is quite clear: one saw that from the number of pensioners who applied for National Assistance in the course of the year. While that number had fallen a little, it had not fallen by a significant amount. I am sure that there are a number of people who should apply for National Assistance but do not do so, partly because, as has been pointed out from time to time in your Lordships' House, they are too proud to go and get what they think is charity; but some do not go because they do not know it is there. They can be told, of course; but when people get to a certain age they do not always take in what they are told, and unless things are made very easy for them they may well not get all the money to which they are entitled. That is a question I should like to bring up in the future as a matter of general principle about pensioners.
It is probable that in the course of time there will be a further increase in the retirement pension, and I wonder whether it will be possible to make it not a general increase but merely an increase for those who really require it. If something like that could be done, those who require it might get a little more, due to the fact that those who did not require it were not included in the increase. One of the last things I want to break away from is the fundamental principle of the Beveridge Report, which was that there should be a basic pension for everybody, because all contribute something for it; but I wonder whether it is not possible to devise some means whereby those particularly in need of more could be given more without the formality of applying to the National Assistance Board. That, I realise, raises the question of whether one is going to apply a means test and unpleasant suggestions like that. Personally, I have 181 no concrete views about how this should be done, but I feel sure that it should be possible to give to those who need it and not to those who do not. If that principle could be accepted, I believe that it would be advantageous in all sorts of ways.
Then, tied up with the increase of pensions, I am pleased to see that there will be continued progress in housing and slum clearance, because a large number of the pensioners live in property which has been condemned—and some in property which should be condemned—and will be pulled down one day. There is no great advantage in paying them more money if they must continue to live in a damp, dark, uncomfortable, insanitary basement room in one of the more squalid London boroughs. Therefore I hope that the slum clearance scheme will go ahead as quickly as possible. One of the things that has surprised me, having worked fairly closely with a London borough for some ten years or so, is that although much old property has been pulled down and new buildings put up in its place, there is still a large amount of the same squalid property which was squalid and beastly when I. first knew it in 1955 and is still there, more squalid and more beastly, in 1960. I think we should push ahead with that matter as fast as we can.
One thing which is not mentioned in the gracious Speech is the provision of some organisation to look after lonely old people living by themselves. There were one or two rather good points in the old Poor Law, and one was that there was an officer called the relieving officer who did first-class work. He had to be on duty 24 hours at a time, seven days a week, and it was his responsibility to go and see that nothing went wrong with the old people living in his particular area. He would call on them, and it meant that there was someone who went in to see them, who got to know them quite well and was friendly with them. That practice went with the passing of the National Health Service Act and the National Assistance Act, and nothing has taken its place. The people on the Assistance Board do very well, but they do not work quite such long hours, and their functions are rather more confined to an office. Therefore they do not tend to get around quite so much as the relieving officers did.
182 Arising out of that, I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether one day it might not he advisable to join up the health functions and the welfare functions of the local authorities. At present there are these two running in great parallel lines; and, like parallel lines, they do not meet. I remember raising this point during the Second Reading debate on the National Assistance Bill in 1946 (I think it was) and I was assured that that point was before His Majesty's Government (as it then was) very clearly and that they would see that nothing went wrong. Well, things do go wrong. I feel sure that one of the solutions would be to join these two services together. It certainly works much better when there is a joint committee, as they have in some local authority areas, or when, say, the medical officer of health is automatically made a member of the welfare committee. I want to sow that seed of thought in the Government's mind and hope that something on those lines may be done one day.
Now for a moment or two I should like to refer to the question of licensing, which I was very pleased to see mentioned in the gracious Speech. In 1929 my father was appointed Chairman of a Royal Commission on Licensing, which reported in 1931. I have the book in my hand now, and it must have been fairly popular because I see that it sold 4,500 copies. So far as I know, two things occurred as a result of that Report. The first was that the Government gave my father a very fine silver inkstand, which occupies a place on my writing table at the present time; and secondly, one minor recommendation was brought in: it is now possible, following that Report, to obtain a drink on a train which has a restaurant car, and you need not be in the restaurant car to get your drink. Subject to what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack may say, I think that was the only recommendation in the Report which came out in 1931 that was implemented.
What I should like to see is a simple reform. I think it is important that one should have closing hours at the same time everywhere. I do not mind what the hour is, so long as it is uniform. That was brought home to me rather vividly when I was younger and had 183 rooms which were just on the boundary of one of these London areas where the public-houses in one part closed at 10.30 and in another at 11 p.m. There was a pub on each corner, and at about 10.30 each night a large crowd used to go from the 10.30 pub to the 11 o'clock pub, sometimes rather tipsy, particularly on Saturday. The one advantage to me was that, by just sitting hearing people talk as they passed between these two pubs, I learnt a good deal of language which I should not have learnt in any other way.
The other extremely important thing, which again the Royal Commission recommended, is that if you are staying in a hotel and somebody is with you you can give him a drink for as long as you can get a drink yourself. It has always seemed to me terrible that you can have a drink yourself but the friend with you cannot. The third thing which seems rather unfair is the trouble about buying liquor from licensed premises—not a public-house, but the off-licence places—where, theoretically, you can buy your bottle only during the time the pubs are open. It means that you either have to wait until that time comes, or you have to know the man who serves you. He will wrap the parcel up to look like something else, and you come out wondering whether there is a policeman round the corner, when all you are doing is buying a bottle of gin or whisky to entertain your friends. One would like to see those hours approaching more the normal shopping hours. They might have to open a bit later, because I think that some of these shops do like to keep open longer than the normal shopping hours. I can see that as a possible reason for not acceding to what I suggest.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, went at great length into the question of clubs, and I do not want to follow him, although I agree with everything he said. There again, if he reads the Report of the Royal Commission of which my father was the Chairman, he will find that in paragraph 529 it is recommended that the police should have entry to all clubs. I am quite sure that any decent club would not mind at all—I am certain my club would not—if the police had that power, because they do not do anything wrong, and if the police came in they would not upset anybody.
184 I should like to refer to the charges for the garage in Hyde Park. I agree that they should be kept reasonably low, because one large and magnificent garage was built in the City, under a new road which runs at the back of Moorgate with a double carriageway road, which is finally going through to the City. There is a very big garage underground which I have been into several times. There is nobody there at all, and I believe the reason is that the charges are rather excessive. If you are going to be there for one hour the charge is 2s. 6d.; for 2 hours, 5s.; and for the whole day 7s. 6d. Obviously, this cannot be a paying proposition, and one wonders whether, if the prices were to come down, more people might use it and the garage might become more of a paying concern. That is all I want to say on that matter, but I am sure that the building of a garage under Hyde Park, provided it can be done without cutting down the trees and spoiling the park, will be of great assistance in helping solve the traffic problem of this City.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, described this gracious Speech as being in some respects humdrum. I think that up to a point that is true, but it is true for a good reason: the gracious Speech is occupied with a full programme of social and legal reform. I am glad to see those matters tackled in the Speech in honour of the Government's Election pledges, and I think the Government are to be congratulated for having grasped several prickly nettles in the matter of social reform. But nearly all worthwhile reform starts as somebody's private opinion, and by the time it has become reform it is dull and the excitement has gone out of it. That is the reason why so much of the worthwhile reform which we see in this gracious Speech is a little on the dull side. Nevertheless, I congratulate the Government warmly upon it.
The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, referred to the New Year of his native Scotland. May I remind him that Dr. Johnson once described the haggis as, "fine, confused feeding". I think those words aptly apply to the Government's programme which will be laid before us in the forthcoming session. I want to 185 make this plea to Her Majesty's Government. There is going to be a busy Parliamentary Session. Would it not be possible for more legislation than hitherto to be initiated in your Lordships' House? I know we are to have the Weights and Measures Bill, which we received this morning, and another Bill upon Patents. I know also that we cannot have financial matters initiated in your Lordships' House, nor matters of major public policy. But I feel that in the past we haw not been allowed to get our teeth into enough new legislation in this House. It is no good Members of another place complaining that they are so overworked that they cannot sit back and take a broad view of the nation's problems at large if they are not prepared to allow your Lordships' House to have a bigger share of Government legislation.
I well remember the late Lord Hastings once startling your Lordships' House by suggesting that Members of another place should be sent on permanent leave and the Government of the country handed over to your Lordships. I would not go quite so far as that, but I see what the noble Lord meant. Of course, in those clays we did not have the additional argument which we can now deploy, namely, that in this House we have a much better Opposition than they have in another place. That is not saying very much, but it is the best I can do at the moment.
I should like to add one word to what the noble Lord, Lord Brocket, and the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, have said about the Hyde Park Garage. I think it is essential that this particular measure should be brought forward quickly, if needs be in your Lordships' House, and for this reason. I approve of the measure strongly, provided, as noble Lords have already pointed out, we allow people to use this garage at a reasonable cost. I have told your Lordships several times, and without apology I do it again, why the Selfridge garage just across the Park is half empty. People are not going to pay several shillings to park in that garage when they can park outside my house in the next street "for free". Having just been told by the police, very politely of course, that I am committing an offence when I park my own car outside the house in which I was born and have lived for 46½ years, 186 I have strong feelings on this subject. So this Hyde Park Garage must be made lucratively attractive. Of course, we must preserve and honour the amenities of Hyde Park, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, it is the most important lung in the British Commonwealth.
The reason why we must get on with this quickly is this. Your Lordships will remember what happened to poor Mr. Jack Cotton and his Monico site in Piccadilly Circus. When all the formalities had been completed a sudden public storm blew up and we went back to square one. At the present moment Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch are in a state of well-controlled chaos. Hyde Park looks rather like a dress rehearsal for the Day of Judgment. I know exactly what will happen if this Hyde Park Garage Bill is not brought forward with speed. Your Lordships know what will happen, too. There will be a sudden public storm and people will begin to notice what is happening. Then, just as the last geranium has been put down outside Marble Arch after three years' operations, along into the Park will come Messrs. Maples, Costain, Holland and Hannen and Cubitts, old Uncle McAlpine and all, and start digging the whole blessed thing up again. This is the British way of life. For that reason, I exhort Her Majesty's Government to bring this Bill forward quickly.
There is, I think, one particularly disturbing feature of our public life today and that is the decline of respect for law and order. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, talked about education. It is, my Lords, a sad fact that as we spend more and more each year on education, so the figures for juvenile delinquency get worse and worse. One of the reasons for this, I think, is the volume of law which reasonable people believe to be archaic, out of date, out of touch with modern needs. It is for that reason that I welcome the further attempts by Her Majesty's Government to rationalise some of the law on the Statute Book, so that it will be treated with respect and so that the police will not have the task of trying to enforce laws in which neither they nor the man in the street have any faith.
We start off with weights and measures, which is, in a small way, also directed to that end. It does not give a 187 definition, if I have read the 106 pages correctly, of what a double whisky really is, and it does not face the fact that if we do not soon adopt some form of decimal system we shall be left as the last major country in the world without it, and each day we put it off the bill will become more and more expensive.
We are to have a measure to reform the licensing laws. This again makes my point that by doing away with archaic, stupid and unrespected laws we shall be able to make the task of the police easier and the relationship between the police and the man in the street happier. I share the apprehension of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that this Bill may not go far enough. I have no grounds for saying this beyond rumours I have read in the Press, and I shall be happy to be reassured on this matter, if possible, by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack. I hope this will be a wide and sweeping Bill. The more liberal the licensing laws of this country, the less reason there will be for scallywags to take advantage of the loopholes. I was horrified to hear how long we have been in implementing the decisions of Lord Amulree's father.
It is, I think, at this moment a matter of extremely bad manners for any Conservative in public to comment on the fact that all is not well with the affairs of the Labour Party. Far be it from me, therefore, conformist as I am, to trespass on their privacy by commenting on the speed and efficiency with which they appear to be tearing themselves apart. But this has one great advantage. The Government can indulge in a good deal more controversy than might otherwise be wise, and this Licensing Bill will undoubtedly be controversial. I hope the Government will not restrict the Bill in any way for fear of stirring up unnecessary controversy. If we are going to have a row, let us have a good one. My noble friend the Lord Chancellor and I have both been connected ministerially with Wales. There is bound to be an unholy row in Wales on anything to do with licensing laws. I was delighted at first to find how strong was the Conservative Club movement in Wales, but I soon discovered, particularly on Sundays, that the thirst of our members for the pure draught of Conservative thought was 188 nothing like their thirst for Hancock's best bitter beer. In Wales this Bill is bound to cause controversy. One of the most endearing features of the Welsh people is the uproarious enthusiasm with which they persist in clinging to the wrong end of the stick. I hope, therefore, that this will be a wide Bill.
In the gracious Speech we have much useful reform. But it is going to cost money. You cannot have good reform, useful reform, without its costing money. This is the time of year for political conferences, and at each conference—and I am sorry to say my own Party are the worst offender—there appears on one page of the agenda a long list of all the desirable reforms which the Party wish to see put through Parliament, and on another page a long list of items of Government expenditure which they wish to see drastically reduced. But the two do not tally. We are all familiar with our friends in another place who say that they are all in favour of Government retrenchment "except in my constituency". We are all aware that government must be cut to the bone, "but not my bone". It is no good shouting for reform, repeal of this or that out-of-date enactment, new improvements and advancement, unless we are prepared to pay.
There is also one serious aspect of the relationship between the man in the street and the law which has crept into our public life in the last few weeks. That has been the attempt by one or two people to take the law into their own hands. I am referring particularly to affairs in St. Pancras and the recent seamen's dispute, where men, no doubt for what seemed to them good reasons, thought that the best way of achieving their ends was to take the law into their own hands. That way leads to anarchy, and the sooner we realise that the better. Fortunately it was realised just in time. In this country we change the law at the ballot box and not the barricades. For this reason I once again congratulate the Government on a further step forward in rationalising in the law. There are overdue changes here, but they are none the less welcome.
§ 5.5 p.m.
My Lords, after the Ciceronian classical speech of the Foreign Secretary yesterday on matters 189 of The highest importance, I feel that any digression on matters of minor importance must be somewhat dull. Furthermore, I find it very difficult to follow such a great orator as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. Like a good Liberal, I have never been in a public house in my life, but I have read in the newspapers recently that certain licensed premises, to call them by their polite name, are being called after certain very distinguished individuals. That being so, I propose to break the rule of a lifetime and enter one of these premises, and, being Scottish, hope to be entertained free of charge.
Dealing now with the matter of the gracious Speech, I think that the intentions of the Government as evidenced by the gracious Speech are mostly adminable. In other words, we should all be able to do some useful work during the coming Session. I wish to comment only on the proposals to adjust the liability for repairing leased premises as between landlord and tenant. I am not making any criticism of any of these proposals, as there is no Bill before me at the present moment, but I am trying to do a little private detective work. First of all, I understand that the new proposals are going to apply to short tenancies. What is meant by a short tenancy? Does that mean seven years or less? Perhaps the Government will reply, "Wait and see". I am not in favour of landlords as opposed to tenants, nor am I in favour of tenants as opposed to landlords. I think that in all these cases one wants to hold the balance fairly between all parties to a lease.
Repairs to-day are a very serious matter. For example, not so many years ago substantial repairs could be done to a moderate-sized house for the sum of £300. Those same repairs to-day will cost £1,000. There are many works which come under the heading of repairs. There are structural repairs, internal and external; there are ordinary external repairs, and external maintenance. There are repairs of service installations, such as water supply, central heating systems, drains and electrical decorations. It will be interesting to know upon whom the burden of those repairs will be cast by Statute, if at all. I admit quite frankly that the tenant should be responsible for interior decorations and minor 190 internal repairs, whatever the length of the tenancy.
Now I have another question. Are the new proposals to be retrospective or will they apply only to tenancies created after the passing of the relevant Act? It may be that Her Majesty's Government will extend the provisions of Section 6 of the Housing Act, 1957. That section provides that on the letting of a house at a rent in London not exceeding £80, or £52 elsewhere, there is an implied condition that the house is at the commencement of the tenancy, and an undertaking that the house will be kept by the landlord during the tenancy, fit for human habitation. Do the Government intend to extend those provisions to all lettings of dwellings at any rent for a period not exceeding a stated term? I speak subject to correction, but I think that under Section 6 of the Housing Act, 1957, the landlord may be liable for defects without notice. Further, the tenant is not only able to sue the landlord for damages for breach of his undertaking but may also abandon the tenancy. What is the answer? There are a number of people in this country who have an answer for everything. I am not one of those people. I believe that in anything relating to property and the relationship of landlord and tenant it is always difficult to be absolutely fair. All one can do is to do one's best in the circumstances.
Let me make this suggestion. The liability to do external and structural repairs should not be imposed on any tenant of premises for a period of time—"not exceeding a stated number of years"—full stop! I say "full stop" advisedly. I appreciate that the landlord should not be saddled by Statute with a positive obligation to repair which would enable the tenant to proceed against him for breach of his obligation. Your Lordships may well be asking: "What about the miserable building? What about the bricks and mortar which are deteriorating? They are not in the slightest degree interested in disputes between landlords and tenants." The fact of the matter, I am glad to say, is that a great number of things in this country are decided irrespective of legal or legislative obligations. The ordinary average landlord will always in his own interests do a certain amount in the way of repairs to his property.
191 I would carry the matter further, and point out that if a landlord does not keep his property in some degree of repair there exist statutory powers enabling the local authority to compel the owner to keep a house fit for human habitation. Those powers are to be found in the Housing Act, 1957, and the Public Health Act, 1936. If excessive duties are imposed upon a landlord to keep the premises in repair he will be tempted to do one of two things—he will be tempted to pass on the cost to his tenant in increased rent; or alternatively, he will grant a tenancy for one day longer than whatever term is included in the definition "short tenancy." That will indeed be driving a horse and cart right through the Act, and I want to know exactly what the Government propose to do in the matter.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I want to ask my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack whether I am in order in raising the question or discussing in any way the result of theLady Chatterley's Lovertrial yesterday. I am not quite certain whether it is proper for me to raise it at all, even though a verdict has been arrived at. There are certain matters that I should like to raise.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, I think your Lordships' House has always followed the practice of postponing a discussion until the time for appeal has expired. My recollection is that my noble friend Lord Teviot will have to wait a week to be in that position. My advice to him, and to the House, would be not to discuss a decision until the time for appeal has expired.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, whatever may be said regarding the gracious Speech, there is certainly no lack of proposals on either the Home or the Overseas front, and there are just a few matters with which I should like to deal. The first concerns Scotland. We have had reference to Scotland to-day. Although, alas! I no longer live there, I spent much of my childhood in that 192 lovely country, and I still visit it from time to time and keep in close touch with affairs, particularly in my own area of Perthshire. In his excellent seconding of the gracious Speech my noble friend the Duke of Atholl made reference to the Crofters' Bill. I would say only this: that from my limited knowledge of the crofting community I can assure your Lordships that they are a wonderfully friendly and hard-working set of people, and any support which could be given to them by Her Majesty's Government would be welcome. Much of the Harris tweed and other material is hand manufactured by these people, and there is a great potential—in fact, considerable advances have been made in the export market, particularly to America—in these fine materials.
Another point which I should like to raise, although there is no Minister for Scotland here to-day, is the proposed closure of certain stations on the Inverness to Wick Railway. I have been in touch with several friends of mine who live in the northern part of Scotland, and they are considerably concerned at this proposal. I am a great believer that anything that is absolutely uneconomic cannot be pursued at public expense. But although the buses do a good job in transporting people from Inverness to the northern part of Scotland, they can take only a limited number of passengers. Also, many of the roads are quite difficult to cross in winter. Therefore, I hope that the Ministry of Transport will have second thoughts on these proposed closures, particularly as there was an article in theScotsmanrecently referring to the little village of Rogart in Sutherland, which, in the summer, is a frequently visited place, particularly by people who indulge in the pastime of fishing. Quite a number of people use that railway, particularly in the summer months, and the closure of these stations is going to impose considerable hardship. I would support all that has been said regarding the licensing laws, particularly in Scotland. They are completely out of date and are an absolute incentive to intemperate people to take advantage of the law.
I should like to say a word on education. During the Recess I spent a week's holiday in Yorkshire, and while there I was asked by my hostess, who is a 193 councillor, to visit a secondary modern school near Leeds. I was able to see the wonderful equipment which these children are able to use, particularly in the handicrafts, carpentry and domestic science sections. Every opportunity is afforded to these children of making themselves useful citizens in these arts. But what rather disturbed me was the architectural side of the school. The windows seemed to me to be much too big and there was a tremendous amount of glass which must involve a great deal of expense, particularly to local ratepayers.
The headmaster told me that in the winter the school is extremely cold, and in summer extremely hot. I believe this is symptomatic of many of the new schools and other buildings which are going up nowadays. At a time when we are told that economically things are not all they might be, one wonders whether perhaps there could be a little more economy in the construction of these buildings. I qualify this by saying that at this same school there is only one entrance and exit for pupils; and when it rains there is one covered way in which some 1,400 children are expected to take shelter. I know this is a local matter and I do not wish to pursue it any further, but while the education policy of Her Majesty's Government has a great deal to recommend it—and school building is on the increase, particularly of primary and secondary schools—we must not blind ourselves to these facts. I hope that the Government will, to some extent at least, take note of these matters.
Something has been said about the Youth Services, and I, for one, hope that the Albemarle Report will soon begin to show some kind of results. Similarly, I hope to see the provision of more detention centres, which are becoming more and more necessary. To my mind there is nothing more wrong than having to send a youth of eighteen to Wandsworth or Pentonville for five years. He mixes, or tends to mix, with at least a proportion of the hard-bitten criminals. He himself gets frustrated and is given what is, for a youngster, often unproductive labour. I should like to see more provision made for offenders, and particularly young offenders, to be put on such jobs as tree felling and, if possible, road construction. We are often told there 194 is a shortage of labour. At Peterhead Prison in Aberdeenshire this work is largely undertaken and I feel that a great deal of good could come of this.
A word about hospitals. In the gracious Speech there was no reference to hospital building as such. I feel that Her Majesty's Government deserve a good deal of credit for their programme, but, as I have said before. I hope new casualty centres will be built. A recent series of articles in the LondonStar—alas! no longer with us—revealed some glaring imperfections of casualty departments, particularly in some of the London hospitals. I hope that the Government have taken active note of that, for with the increase in the number of vehicles, particularly on trunk roads, and increasing accidents, more and more hospitals, and particularly hospitals with efficient casualty clearing centres, are going to be an absolute necessity.
Finally, a word about the railways. This is a subject in itself and I will not weary your Lordships on it for more than a few moments. I would say first what a great relief it is to have the Travolator at the Bank. As one who uses it every day, I can say that it is a vast improvement on the most unhealthy tunnel which is still in use between the Bank and Waterloo station. But, speaking as a commuter between Surrey and London, I would say that there is la great deal to be desired, particularly on our suburban lines. At the slightest incidence of fog, organised chaos seems to result. I appreciate that the implementation of an efficient fog service is going to cost a lot of money, but the amount of time and man-hours wasted when fog is prevalent is something that is very disturbing. I do not know whether the Stedeford Committee have considered that point in their Report. I hope the Government will bear in mind the fact that fog will be with us, and that we deserve a more efficient railway service in fog.
I am all for anything that will improve the efficiency of the railways and I believe more regionalisation might well do that. At present the British Transport Commission is very vast. Those who work for it do a good job but are labouring under tremendous administrative difficulties, and a little inter-regional competition on certain matters would not, perhaps, be a bad thing. A final word 195 about railway catering. A great many hard things are said about food on British Railways. I do a certain amount of travelling when I speak at political gatherings, and my own experience is that, generally speaking, the standard of food on our railways is very good. There are exceptions, but cooking on a railway train is often no easy matter—of that I am quite sure—and I believe that those who carry it out do a very good job.
As I have said, there is a great deal of legislation before us, and I feel sure your Lordships' House will be called upon more and more to undertake the responsibility of seeing that this legislation is fully discussed. The standing of your Lordships' House in the country is rising very steadily, and I hope that this coming Session of legislation will further enhance that standing.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ LORD WISE
My Lords, two matters are mentioned in the gracious Speech both of which are of great interest to myself. The first is agriculture and the second is physical recreation. My task to-night is very easy, for on Monday I am due to speak on agriculture, which may be more contentious than what have to say in regard to physical recreation. Most provisions of the gracious Speech have been covered from both sides of the House; and as it will fall to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor to reply I propose to be very brief, as no doubt noble Lords will wish to hear what he has to say in reply to the various speeches which have been made.
My contribution may not call for an immediate reply, but I want to open the way to future consideration of a problem in our national life the solution of which I think has some measure of importance in it. I do not expect any disagreement from either side of the House. It is a national and not a Party matter; and so far as I am concerned, as indeed I hope is always the case with me, we can finish this day's discussion on a happy note of agreement. I only wish that other aspects of our lives could be settled in the same way.
In the gracious Speech there is a paragraph concerning young people. I want particularly to refer to the sentence which includes these words: 196and will authorise an increasing level of expenditure on the physical recreation of the young.I am anxious to learn from the Government at what age they propose that this authority for expenditure should cease. The Government express concern for young people. I hope this means more and more advantageous expenditure on their behalf. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, a few moments ago said that we should be prepared to pay for our reforms; and I agree very much with that, in so far as the physical recreation of our young people is concerned. At a suitable moment I had intended to introduce a discussion on the Wolfenden Report on Sport and the Community, but I noticed to-day that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has put a Motion on the Order Paper. Lord Aberdare bears a family name well known to older Members of your Lordships' House through its connection with a certain amateur sport. I shall no doubt be very happy indeed to give him support from this side of the House, and I welcome the Motion which the noble Lord has placed on the Paper.
I must declare a very real interest in the athletic training and progress of our boys and girls, both at school and afterwards. I do so because (perhaps I may be allowed to say this) I am active, within my limits of age, as president of my own county's two schools' athletic associations, as well as of the county Women's Athletic association. I thus have to consider the needs of the boys as well as the girls. I am also president of the county Football Association and, as well, of probably one of the oldest football clubs in East Anglia or the Kingdom. I played football and cricket when I had passed 50, and I have been connected for over half a century with the active administration of good, healthy and clean British sports in town and country. With that background I think it is not out of place for me to say a few words as to the position at present of youth athletics.
To do this I hope I shall be excused if I make full reference to the All-England School Championship Sports which are held annually at the end of July at selected sports arenas in the country. At the moment there are few such arenas which can cater for these sports. Not only do the sports require 197 a year's preparation in their arrangements, but they have to be held at a place where housing and catering facilities are available. In the past they have been sponsored by a daily paper which is now non-existent, but I hope that the future for the sports will be as bright as the past has been. On three occasions during the last five years it has been my pleasure to spend two deeply interesting days in each year at the sports. Some 2,000 boys and girls from the English counties compete. These are the best of our young school athletes—in my opinion, the flower of young athletic England. Their fitness, physique and athletic ability has been astounding. Some noble Lards who I know have attended these sports will endorse what I say in that connection, and what I have said applies not only to the boys but in full measure to the girls as well.
From these boys and girls will come some of our future representatives in Olympic and international competitions. They are national assets. They have been trained and coached at their schools. Some have enjoyed better training facilities in cities and large towns than those in rural areas, but all are desperately keen to do well. At this point I want to ask the Government what will happen to these boys and girls when they reach school-leaving age; that is the point of what I am saying. Are they still to be classed as "young" and receive assistance in their training, or are they to be cast adrift, as many now are, from athletic and physical recreation because they happen to live in areas where, at present, there are no facilities for training or athletic clubs which they can join? Purposely I have not referred to recent events in Rome. But as a nation we should display some pride in what we have done in the past and express our intention to uphold our prestige and, if possible, improve our place in world athletics.
We cannot be unresponsive to the needs of our teenagers in their desire for physical fitness and healthy recreation. I do not want it to be thought that I am concerned only with competitive athletics, as I am just as anxious that all branches of physical sport and games should be encouraged, whether for competition on or recreational purposes. That is where my plea to-day must stop, but I hope that I have set in motion the 198 beginning of a full consideration, with subsequent action, to further the interests and well-being of our young community.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am sure that everyone in your Lordships' House will agree that we have had an interesting debate which has covered probably a greater variety of subjects than often happens, even in your Lordships' House. I shall try to deal with as many of the points raised as I can, but if I cannot cover every one of them I am sure that your Lordships will not take it amiss. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in opening the debate, raised a great variety of points in his speech alone. The first point that he raised was with regard to the previews of the gracious Speech which had appeared. I confess I was brought up to the viewpoint that one did not announce in advance. On the other hand, during the whole of my political life—it is 36 years since I fought my first election—I have always found that Ministers of all Parties, although they of course have said, "I cannot say anything until the Queen's Speech", have yet been unable to disguise the expression on their classic features, and somehow or other have conveyed whether the prospects were cheerful or not. But I can assure the noble Lord that, whatever be the constitutional position, it is unchanged.
The noble Lord then asked some specific questions before he came to the two major subjects of his criticism, with which I shall, of course, deal. He asked what was meant by the reorganisation of Covent Garden Market, and whether that meant moving it. My Lords, it does not imply moving it, but does imply dealing with the management and, of course, it may be that, not moving the market, it will be necessary to make extensions. I think that that gives the noble Lord what he wants at this stage; and, of course, there will have to be a Bill dealing with the matter.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, would the noble and learned Viscount allow me to interrupt? Does that mean that the earlier proposal for a large empties storage warehouse at Finsbury is abandoned?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am not going to commit myself to actual, specific matters. I do not think that would be right. That is what I meant by saying that there might be (I called them) extensions; but it covers exactly what the noble Lord has in mind. I do not think I ought to go further than that until he sees the Bill, which he will shortly, as far as I know.
Then the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was anxious about the effect of the proposed garage on Hyde Park itself. I can assure him that that matter has been fully considered; and, of course, again we shall see that in the form of a Bill, and he will get an opportunity of looking at it then. My noble friend Lord Man-croft urged the need for speed in this project. I entirely agree with him, and I take his point that nothing would be more unfortunate than to finish one and then to cause the replacement or rehabilitation (whatever is the exact word) to be disturbed. I shall certainly convey his point—which, as I say, I regard most sympathetically—to my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, then passed to the question of pensions, and asked me why the new rates were going to be brought into operation on April 1—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, took that point also. I would ask noble Lords to consider two aspects which are unusual. This is not an occasion when the pensions are being raised to meet a rise in the cost of living. The cost of living has been stationary for a long period—something like two or three years. This is a case where the pension rates are being raised, as we put it in our Election Manifesto, so that everyone can share in the increasing prosperity of the country. Therefore we are not driven by the pressure of the cost of living to select a time. Further, noble Lords will remember that the Pensions Act, 1959, which brings in a graduated scheme and allows for contracting out, together with a number of other provisions, comes into operation on April 1, and will realise that there is a considerable amount of preparation necessary, not only in the Departments but in industry and commerce, to provide for that scheme. I think that, on reflection, they will see the advantage of bringing in the increased pensions at the same time as the new plan is introduced.
200 I do not think the noble Lord wanted a specific answer on his point about weights and measures. He asked me one question to which I cannot give him an answer, and that was as to the time. The question of compensation of those who are injured by crime is still being considered, and I can only promise that I will explain his anxiety to my right honourable friend, and hope that he will not be kept too long. I am sorry I am not in a position to give him a temporal answer as to that. The noble Lord then asked me about the subject of driving under the influence of drink and the new Road Safety Bill. Again, I would tell him that my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport, the Attorney-General and myself have been considering that point, and he need not think that it will be omitted from consideration in the Bill. As to the final provision, I would ask him, again, to wait a little time.
The noble Lord then passed on to his two major matters of criticism, which were Housing and Education. Now I do not want to make a debating, Party speech, because it would be foreign to the whole atmosphere of this debate, but I do not think it is possible to consider that problem without harking back for a moment to the complete difference of opinion between the two larger Parties in the State over this problem. I remember very well after the 1950 Elections that I was then sitting for a part of Liverpool where the housing conditions were extremely bad. In a period of eighteen months, out of 3,000 of my constituents who came to see me and whom I occasionally saw personally face to face, 2,700 brought me terrible housing stories. I do not mean that they were finicky complaints; they were telling me about bad conditions. I went to the House of Commons and told the then Minister of Health to increase the number of houses that he would permit to be built, but he refused. We thought it was essential to increase the number of houses built to 300,000 a year. But the Labour Party—and again I am endeavouring to put this in the most objective way—thought that other calls on money and resources had a greater priority, and there was a complete disagreement between us on that point.
The fact remains that as a result of our view being accepted by the country, 201 2½ million houses have been built in the last nine years. If one rounds off the two-thirds figure and makes the figure 750,000 instead of 833,000, and if one takes the case (which very rarely happens) that the number of people in each house is only four, that means that 3 million people are in houses who would not have been in houses if the programme of the Labour Party had been carried out. That, I think, is a point which it is only fair to bear in mind. When one comes to the present position, I think it is now being made clear that other pressures have developed. One concerns slum clearance, and in regard to that matter the position since 1956 is that over 250,000 slums have been demolished or closed and more than 750,000 people rehoused. The slums are now being swept away at the rate of 1,000 a week, and by 1965 as many again as I mentioned—namely, 750,000 people—will have been rehoused and we believe that many local authorities will have finished their slum clearance programme.
The second factor is that we consider that it is very important that houses should be built for the elderly, and, assisted by subsidy, local authorities have provided some 22,000 onebedroomed dwellings suitable for elderly people living in England and Wales. That was in the year 1959 and compares with some 11,000 built in 1951. The third important factor is, as the noble Lord said, the number of houses that are being built for home ownership. Over 900,000 new houses have been built for sale since 1951, and in 1959 over 150,000 were built for sale. It is part of our political philosophy that people should own their own homes and we believe it is good from every point of view. Apart from its giving the people a stake in the country, it also gives them a responsibility and interest in the management of the country. These are all important aspects which have to be considered.
In addition one must bear in mind the assistance which is being given and the encouragement being shown for improving older houses. All these matters must be brought into account when one considers, as the noble Lord has put before us, that the number of houses built by local authorities is not 202 as great. But when you had, as last year, 150,000 houses built for sale, with people in the economic position to buy them, with special terms being given by local authorities able to offer the full amount as well as building societies, with the building societies in addition being put in a special position to help on older houses, then all these matters must be considered—because, as I say, I want to put this question as objectively as I can—before the criticism of the noble Lord is accepted.
The noble Lord's next matter of criticism was with regard to education and the Crowther Report. We have felt that the most important maters requiring translation into action were the number of schools and school places, and of course the number of teachers. Then there is the question of the creation of teachers' training colleges, in order to bring up the numbers, and also the increase in the course to three years. It is not a bad thing to have nearly ten new schools opening every week. It is not a bad thing to have between 2 million and 2,500,000 school places. I think that the extra teachers in the schools since 1951 now amount to between 56,000 and 57,000. They are above the 50,000 mark, and we want to get to 60.000 and to give them a three-year course. When that is added Ito our programme for technological education, what the University Grants Commission is doing and the plans which we have in hand with the universities, again I do not think it is a record of which any Government need feel ashamed.
The noble Lord asked me about the provision as to repairs. Again I cannot give him the actual drafting to-day, but he is very familiar with the provisions of the Leasehold Committee, because he is a great authority on that line of country. He will remember what they recommended and it is a matter which has quite a considerable history. The noble Lord, Lord Meston, referred me to statutory provisions. I shall consider very carefully all that he has said and I would ask him to have a look at the suggestions which were made by the Leasehold Committee in 1953. I would also ask him to consider, in addition to the statutory provisions, what he makes out to be the spirit underlying the Common Law provisions, which he will find well 203 set out in many books, about which he needs no direction from me.
Before I leave the noble Lord's speech, in which he has a covering of the whole matter, I would say that I like to think, with him, that the gracious Speech raises many interesting problems. lf, in addition to all the problems which were discussed by your Lordships yesterday, we dealt with all the problems raised in the Speech, there is little doubt that the Government would be kept well on their toes for the whole period of this Session.
My noble friend Lord Brocket raised six points, on two of which I should like to say a word—I need hardly assure him that they will all be carefully considered. I have only one complaint about the noble Lord's speech. A great deal of it rested on his historic sense, because he gave us graphic descriptions of the historic things that had happened to him. But then he said that the British Transport Commission was like the dodo, which he described as a prehistoric bird. If the noble Lord's history only goes back to 1681, when the dodo was last seen in the Mauritius, and he ignores all the history of the world before that important date, then he cannot take it amiss if I feel a little doubtful about the historical accuracy of his other complaints.
The noble Lord expressed some doubt about agriculture. I would remind him that the gracious Speech reaffirmed the Government's determinationto maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agriculture.That was underlined by the undertaking we gave a year ago, that the long-term assurances of 1957 would be maintained unchanged during the duration of the present Parliament. With regard to the future, some concern was expressed, in view of the closer trade relations now being developed with Europe. I would remind my noble friend that a meeting was arranged earlier this year between my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and Mr. Woolley, now President of the National Farmers' Union. The Prime Minister made it clear to Mr. Woolley that it was the Government's firm intention to continue to maintain the industry in a strong and flourishing condition. They agreed that the system of price guarantees and efficiency pay- 204 ments is the one best suited to the needs of this country. Then an important step was taken. It was agreed that it would be helpful both to the Government and to the farming industry if there could be a series of talks outside the turmoil of the Annual Review to discuss some of the problems affecting the industry and to remove misunderstandings. These talks were arranged. They are still going on, and I hope that they will prove of value.
So that my noble friend Lord Brocket can read it with greater ease, I do not think I could put our objective better than in the words of my right honourable friend the new Minister of Agriculture, who said, on October 14:It is the value of the industry to-day and its prosperity in the years ahead which it is my duty and my firm intention to uphold. We get two benefits of immeasurable worth from our agricultural support policy. We get a richly deserved level of prosperity in the agricultural industry, which maintains a countryside in which we can all take pride and pleasure. At the same time, this country enjoys cheap and plentiful food in as great a variety as can be found anywhere in the world.These are my right honourable friend's aims and I am sure that he will do his utmost to carry them out.
Now a word about the second major point of my noble friend's speech, concerning the British Transport Commission. In the early Dart of this year the Government undertook the review of the affairs of the Commission, and on March 10 intimated the broad conclusions they had reached and the action which the Government were proposing to take. This included the setting up of a special advisory group of eminent businessmen to advise both the Minister and the Commission on the structure, the financing and the working of the organisations at present controlled by the Commission. This group is under the chairmanship of Sir Ivan Stedeford. It has recently completed its work, and the Government are now considering its recommendations, in consultation with the Commission.
At the same time, consideration is being given to the views and recommendations contained in the Report on British Railways by the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, which was published in July. The issues involved are of great importance to the economy of this country, as well as to the public and to the staffs of the 205 nationalised transport industry. We are considering them carefully, and as soon as we have formulated proposals they will be placed before Parliament in the form of a White Paper. This will be done as quickly as possible, but I am not in a position to-day to mention a date.
The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, raised four important points. With regard to pensions, the noble Lord stressed that any improvement in retirement pensions should not be given to all pensioners but should be paid only to or concentrated on those who satisfy a test of means. The noble Lord frankly said that he had not formulated his method to the last full-stop, but he seemed to have in mind that all future improvements in the financial provision for old people should be made not as of right under the National Insurance scheme but on a basis of income under the National Assistance scheme or something like it. This is a point of view which I know is held in certain quarters, although, of course, it is completely inconsistent with the criticisms which one also hears, often from the same quarter, of the proportion of retirement pensioners who are in receipt of supplementation from the National Assistance Board. So far as the immediate increase is concerned, the noble Lord will appreciate, and the House will recall, that at the General Election the Government gave a pledge to pensioners generally that they would have a share in the increasing prosperity of this nation. It would not be an implementation of that pledge to give such a share to less than a quarter of the pensioners.
But there is another aspect that I should like the noble Lord to consider. I appreciate the argument that the proposed increases will go to many people who are not in need, at least by the standards of the Assistance Board. But it will go as a matter of definition to a generation whose members are in the nature of things living on fixed incomes. This is, of course, the generation which has not so far had its share, relatively or absolutely, in the rising standard of life and income of those at present at work. It is true that among the 5½ million pensioners who will benefit there are a small number who are, in the horrid language of the economists, in high-income groups. They may even include a few noble Lards—and I think some of 206 your Lordships have disclosed that fact. But these pensions are subject to taxation, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Amory will corroborate me when I say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer can be relied on in large measure to restore, or rather remove, the balance which my right honourable friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance has created.
The noble Lord then asked me about the help to old people, and I think that what he had in mind was meals on wheels. We have not been able to introduce that legislation, and when it is introduced must depend on the programme. But I should like to tell him that discussions have been held with the local authority interests on points of detail to arise in the preparation of the legislation. With regard to the other point, the question of local authority health and welfare committees, as I understand the position there is nothing to prevent local authorities from entrusting both functions to the same committee, and a number of authorities have in fact done so. The Guillebaud Committee recommended that all authorities who do not do so should review the matter and see whether a combination would not improve efficiency, and that recommendation was commended to the local authorities. The recommendation of the Joint Working Party that the statutory obligation to appoint certain committees should be abolished is fully accepted, and it is intended to give effect to that in legislation at the next suitable opportunity.
The only other point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, was some useful, helpful and (if I may express a personal opinion) sensible suggestions for the contents of the Licensing Bill. I will see that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary sees these suggestions, and I hope that it will not be too long before the noble Lord sees whether his pressure has borne fruit.
I have dealt with one or two points made by my noble friend Lord Man-croft, and I thank him for his various suggestions, which I shall keep in mind. My noble friend Lord Auckland touched my heart, because he began his speech with a eulogy of the crofting counties. I was very pleased with that, because maternally I am from Sutherland and, 207 anyway, long to deal with various places on the East coast of Sutherland which I have known all my life. While I cannot, in this outpouring of thanks, give my noble friend any promise, certainly I can assure him that I will not forget the position of Sutherland. With regard to his other suggestions on licensing, education and the Youth Service, I assure him of consideration—and I shall come back in a moment to one aspect of the youth services.
I now want to deal with the two aspects of a general problem raised by the noble Lords, Lord Stonham and Lord Wise. I say "the two aspects of a general problem" because they both had in mind the function of raising moral standards, preventing crime and fitting the young more happily into the new affluent society. I agree as to the importance of these matters. I only make the caveat that noble Lords have heard me make so often: that this can never be entirely a Government matter but is one for the churches, teachers, judges, magistrates, parents and, in fact, all men and women of good will to help with. On the other hand, I want to say a few words on the important matter with which Lord Wise was especially concerned. He referred to, but deliberately resiled from on this occasion, because it is going to be discussed in the future, the Report of Sir John Wolfenden dealing with the position of sport and its various recommendations. I should like to say—and again I will make my remarks short, in view of the fact that this question will be discussed—that the Government will certainly note the various suggestions made in the Report for developing these facilities. I shall not, however, make any announcement this day.
However, I think that the extent of the provision which is already made in this field should not be overlooked. Very large building programmes are being undertaken by local education authorities for schools, further education establishments and teacher-training colleges; and playing fields, gymnasia, tennis courts, and in some cases swimming baths, are being provided as integral parts of many projects in these programmes. There is also a separate building programme for the Youth Service, covering projects undertaken 208 both by local education authorities and by voluntary bodies; and this programme includes provision for physical recreation as part of club activities. The programme is for £3 million (in terms of work started) for 1960–62, and will be increased to £4 million for the year 1962–63.
The Ministry of Education are spending some £410,000 a year on grants to national and local voluntary bodies interested in physical recreation. The Central Council of Physical Recreation is the most important of these national bodies, which include eight governing bodies of sport receiving grants in aid of their coaching schemes. Local voluntary bodies receive help towards the capital cost of providing such facilities as playing fields, running tracks, swimming baths and premises and equipment for them. In addition to the provision made by local education authorities and voluntary bodies, other local authorities are also undertaking considerable capital investment on facilities for physical recreation. For example, in the financial year 1959–60 the Ministry of Housing and Local Government sanctioned loans totalling some £2 million for swimming baths, same £1.3 million for playing fields, tennis courts, pavilions,et cetera, and about £2.5 million on projects related to public parks, open spaces, children's playgrounds and other facilities for physical recreation. That is a total of nearly £6 million. I think it is right that, without prejudice to what more should be done, we should realise that a great deal is being done on this point.
Now I come to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, with regard to the criminal aspect, if I may put it that way. I do not know whether he has had the chance since he spoke of seeing the new Bill, but clearly it would be a poor exchange for your Lordships' invariable kindness and patience to me if I were to make a Second Reading speech on a Bill which has just been published. But I should like to say this, and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will disagree with the premises from which I start. The general approach in the gracious Speech is to improve the protection of the community against crime.
First, as the noble Lord said, and as I entirely agree, and as the gracious 209 Speech says, there is the strength, efficiency and well-being of the police force, because that goes to prevention, and the best deterrent, or a very good deterrent, is the possibility of being found out. Then the gracious Speech goes on to deal with making more effective the various methods of penal treatment. That covers sentencing, places of treatment, and increase in the numbers of certain places available. And I do not mean that in any narrow way. I have first in mind detention centres. There must also be a greater variety of Borstals, if we are going to use them—enclosed Borstals and those fitted for the different types of offender. There must be some reconsideration of Borstal treatment and improvement in the management of approved schools, after the Report which we debated in this House, and bearing in mind the recommendations that Mr. Durand has made.
In addition there is the compulsory aftercare. I am not going to discuss how it should have been phrased, but I do want to say this before anyone starts reading the Bill. When one says, "compulsory aftercare" one means compulsory aftercare. If we are at the same time going to ask for compulsory aftercare and then be mealy-hearted about the way people are treated if they will not carry out the aftercare, then we may as well give up our grand words. I also say that because I think it is terribly important that people should realise it at once, before they see the Bill. It would be idle for me to go into it before noble Lords have had a chance of reading it, which they will do very shortly.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am extremely sorry but I just 210 cannot remember what is the plan. I hope the noble Lord will not press me. I should have thoughta priorithat my right honourable friend would want to produce it himself, because it is a subject in which he is personally interested, and as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was good enough to remind us, it is an interest which has been going on for some time.
I want to add only this. I think it is important not to forget what my noble friend Lord Mancroft said: that another aspect, apart from prevention and treatment, is bringing the law up to date, so that people will have a respect for the law and, therefore, a greater inducement to keep it. I come back to the point emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Wise, of recreation and something which will allow people to get rid of the exuberance of normal spirits. It is all-important for the same reason, and it shows the variety of angles from which one must approach the problem.
I have detained your Lordships far too long, but I have tried as best I can to deal with the points that were raised. Therefore, I ask your Lordships to forgive the great length of my speech and let me again say what a pleasure it has been to me to listen to all this debate and to do my best to reply.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Pethick-Lawrence, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Silkin.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until Monday next.
§ House adjourned at twenty-six minutes past six o'clock.