§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Melchett—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, I rise to continue the debate on the gracious Speech which was opened yesterday by my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. To-day it has been agreed that we should discuss domestic affairs and defence. For my part, I propose to leave the question of defence to a number of my colleagues on this side of the House, and I imagine that a number of noble Lords on the other side will equally want to confine their remarks to defence.
I must confess that I have a feeling of unreality in discussing such mundane matters as housing, transport, the social services and even immigration when the international situation and the threat to world civilisation looms so large in our minds aria the existence of which must ever be before us. We shall need to have this question of the international situation constantly before us. Certainly we shall need shortly at least a day to discuss foreign affairs, and I am glad that my noble friend Lord Henderson has put a Motion down on the Paper for that purpose. But, my Lords, to people in this country to-day these more mundane questions affecting their day-to-day lives are realities, and it is appropriate that we should devote one day, or one part of a day, at the opening of the Parliamentary Session to discussing them.
The gracious Speech gives one the opportunity of judging what is the outlook of Her Majesty's Government on different matters and what action they intend taking during the coming 128 Session. On a number of the more vital matters it would appear that the Government have no outlook, still less any intention to take action. I want to take housing first. This is the test by which we must judge the real success and happiness of our so-called affluent society. The foundation of a good life is the home. Taking that test, I would ask your Lordships to consider what is the position to-day.
I want to quote certain figures, and I take them from the excellent study and survey which has recently been made by the Alliance Building Society, the results of which have been widely accepted. We should be most grateful for their public spirit in having prepared this publication. It so happens that on the last occasion when we debated housing, on a Motion which I had the privilege of introducing in 1955, I made a survey which I put before the House and which I commended as being, as I thought, an impartial and objective survey of our housing requirements; and the conclusion I then came to was similar to the conclusion which the Alliance Building Society have arrived at recently. I may say, in passing, that I had no part whatever in the production of the Building Society's memorandum.
Allowing for increases in the population which were not foreseen in 1955, and in spite of the 3⅔ million houses which have been built since 1945-a considerable number, and noble Lords opposite will no doubt claim that they are responsible for a large proportion of this number—what are the housing conditions to-day? Noble Lords may have seen a report in The Times of October 27 headed "Homeless Families in London". I want to make one or two quotations from that article. They say that weekly there are 45 families, including many young children, who are rendered homeless, and that to-day there are many thousands of such families in London alone. To accommodate these families who have been rendered homeless one-time workhouses, which have long since been scheduled for demolition, are being re-equipped and reopened. New reception centres are being opened and rapidly filled, yet still the numbers increase; and the London County Council are desperate. They have no 129 means to-day of dealing with any substantial increase in these numbers which is going on every week.
I said that these people have been rendered homeless. Who are these people? Here, again, I want to quote The Times. They areyoung Londoners, ordinary decent people, couples with several small children and incomes of under £12 a week.Their reasons for being rendered homeless are varied. This is what The Times says about that:Their house was sold with vacant possession, they had quarrels with the landlord or the landlord had objected to children. Sometimes it was because of rent arrears, or over-crowding, or because the landlord wanted the accommodation. In a few cases they were found to be illegal tenants.These are the reasons why so many of our fellow-citizens have been rendered homeless.
Obviously, one of those reasons was the premature abolition of rent control, which enabled landlords to get vacant possession of their premises. At the time we said that it was premature. We said that it was premature because it was wrong to bring about decontrol of accommodation until we were satisfied that there was a sufficient number of dwellings available to re-house people who, almost certainly, would be dispossessed of their dwellings when control came to an end. To-day, this is exactly what is happening in a substantial number of cases. The number of slum dwellings still occupied to-day is probably more than 800,000, and more than was estimated in 1954. There are 200,000 families who are seriously overcrowded and there are 3⅔ million houses that were built before 1880, the majority of them incapable of being brought up to modern standards by reasonable expenditure.
My Lords, these are the facts about our housing situation, and the memorandum has suggested that there is a need to-day for some 400,000 new dwellings a year for the next 20 years. I may say that my own estimate in 1955 was 300,000 dwellings over that period; but in 1955 I had not the advantage of the new Census figures. Even in 1955 it was contemplated that the population would remain stationary. In fact, the 1961 Census figures show that the population 130 is still increasing and is likely to continue to increase at a figure beyond anybody's expectations. Consequently, there is a need for a greater number of dwellings than was contemplated even in 1955.
These 400,000 dwellings a year are required to be erected not in a haphazard way, but planned so as to provide reasonable mobility for our population. We all know the difficulties of moving people to centres of employment where their services are greatly needed but where no adequate housing accommodation is available. We want these 400,000 houses to be so built that they enable this mobility to take place, and we want them to be within the means of the families who are going to use them. It is no good putting up, to be included in this 400,000, dwellings which are to be for sale at a price of £5,000 or more, or flats to be let at a rent of £500 or £600 a year. That is of no use at all to the large majority of our population.
I want to ask: what do the Government say about this major problem? It is a major problem and the Government ought to know that it is a major problem. What do they say in the gracious Speech?—nothing; there is no comment at all. What are they doing? So far as is manifest to-day, they are doing everything to prevent and frustrate the erection of houses by local authorities. Local authorities have been kept short of money. They are finding the utmost difficulty in raising money There is no subsidy. The interest rates are prohibitive. I would ask your Lordships to bear in mind that local authorities have to borrow long, and if they commit themselves to a rate of interest that has to go on for the whole of the loan period this is a serious matter. The Minister formerly in charge of housing has been so successful in his efforts to reduce the number of houses erected by local authorities that he is now being used for similar functions elsewhere. We have already seen the beginnings of it by the cutting down of other social services. At long last we have been promised one new town in England—after thirteen years! This, as we all appreciate, is hopelessly inadequate in dealing with the problems of such large cities as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and so on.
131 Another associated problem in connection with housing is the matter which has been dealt with already to a limited extent on the Question by the noble Viscount, Lord Gage; that is, the increase in the cost of land for building. Are the Government aware of this? The noble Earl who answered the Question brushed it aside as something which was merely a matter of the law of supply and demand, one of these natural things that one just cannot do anything about. But, my Lords, is that not the height of complacency?
My Lords, I wonder whether I might intervene. I am not replying to the debate, and it is perhaps not for me to intervene, but I was under some slight attack from the noble Lord. I should like to clear away any illusion there may be in his mind that we are in any way complacent about the price of land and propose to do nothing about it. What my right honourable friend is doing, in conjunction with the local authorities, is taking extremely energetic steps to bring more land into the market; and that is the best way of reducing the price.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, that is a very nice phrase to use; but what is he doing to bring more land into the market, and what is he doing to make that land available for building houses for those who need them? The case I am making is that the cost of land is too high—so high that it is prohibitive; that local authorities can build dwellings on that land at that cost only at a price which would involve an unfair and improper burden on the ratepayers, or would involve too high a rent. I am suggesting the Government are doing nothing about it. It is all very well to say that in case of need they will permit a compulsory purchase order. At what price? The price will be the ordinary market price as laid down in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959; and that is exactly what I am saying is the problem. You do not meet it by forcing people to sell you land at an inflated price.
I hope, my Lords, that I have made this case. It is not only a question of building by local authorities. It makes the cost of building houses for the ordinary wage-earning classes prohibi- 132 tive. The cost of land plays so large a part in the cost of the house that, whereas all of us, on both sides, say that we want to encourage house ownership, the Government are, in fact, making it prohibitive for people to buy their houses.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would help us here. Could he tell us what the average price of land for the ordinary council house amounts to? What is the actual cost of the land necessary for a council house to be built on?
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, we cannot talk of an average. The actual cost in those areas where housing is most needed—that is, in the urban areas—is running up to a colossal expense. Local authorities are being required to pay as much as £30,000 or £40,000 an acre—I repeat, an acre. The noble Lord shakes his head, and I beg him not to shake his head.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, the reason why I am shaking my head is that I have heard this argument so often; and I remember that it came down, when one considered it, to less than the cost of the linoleum to cover the ground floor. Give us facts.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am giving facts: these are facts. I am prepared to substantiate them. I am prepared to substantiate what I am saying. I gave an extreme case, of course. I do not say that the average is that figure. But that is the kind of figure that is being asked in centres of population where housing is most required. At that figure, with building, say, 20 or 25 dwellings to the acre, the noble Lord will appreciate that it is going to cost something like £1,500 to £2,000 per dwelling for the land alone. So he can appreciate that that is not going to encourage local authorities to erect dwellings.
However, I hope to raise this problem, and the whole question of the rising costs of land, in greater detail in the course of debate in this Session; and that perhaps will permit of a more satisfactory development of this discussion. But, in the face of these facts, we cannot be satisfied with complacency and with a restatement of the Government's achievements, which, as 133 I have said, have left the housing position to-day, aften ten years, worse than it was when they found it. We are to-day in need of more houses than we were ten years ago.
I want now to leave houses and to say a few words about the transport position. I note that the Road Traffic Bill has risen from the dead and is to be resuscitated in the next few days. Any measure to promote road safety is, of course, welcome. But it does not solve the problem of transport. Here, vision is needed as well as a long-term outlook. The number of cars on the road, it is prophesied with confidence, is likely to be doubled in the next few years. Are we appreciating this fact, and are we planning for it? Already the road transport is steadily and increasingly becoming strangulated; and, my Lords, we are losing more man-hours as a result of delays in transport than we are ever likely to lose in the worst years through strikes. Noble Lords are very quick to pinpoint strikes as a cause of our economic difficulties, but we are losing far more as a result of road strangulation than we are ever likely to lose through strikes.
What are the Government's intentions about this? Have they realised that this is a grave problem from an economic point of view? I know that they are realising it from a road safety point of view; but it is a very big economic question, and I would beg the Government to take some urgent and long-term action. Something objective and revolutionary is needed in dealing with this problem. I would make one small suggestion—it is only one of a number. Public transport is to-day quite inadequate for dealing with the number of people who want to travel, particularly during the busy hours, and people are being forced to acquire cars in order to travel to and from their work. I think that if public transport were substantially improved—and that would, of course, involve expenditure—not only in London but throughout the country, that would have some effect in decreasing the number of cars on the road. But there are other measures that have to be taken, new roads, and so on, which will help to provide the necessary flow of traffic. It is just not good enough for the gracious Speech to say nothing about this subject, as if it did not exist, and 134 for the Government to be complacent about having built the M.1-their masterly achievement! This is another subject to which we shall have to return in the course of the present Session.
I want next to say a word about the proposed measure for restricting immigration into this country from the Commonwealth. There is not a great deal that I want to add to what was said in the debate yesterday by my noble Leader, by my noble friend Lord Listowel, by my noble friend Lord Walston, and, from the other side, by the noble Lord, Lord Colyton. I suppose that everyone deplores the necessity—the so-called necessity—for introducing such legislation. Whatever the Government may say, it will be regarded as a piece of race and colour prejudice by the members of the Commonwealth. There can be no doubt about it. The pressure on the Government has been, very largely, from quarters which are prejudiced against coloured persons. All the arguments that have been put forward for introducing this restriction relate, in fact, to coloured persons—the overcrowding, the undesirable conditions which coloured people create, their anti-social behaviour, the acquisition of houses which they then proceed to over-occupy. All these are related to and associated with coloured persons; and it will not be surprising if the members of the Commonwealth take the view that this legislation is directed against their citizens.
If we want to look at this legislation from the point of view of expediency, I would ask the Government to take account of other factors as well: the fact that the immigrants of to-day have undertaken jobs in transport, in hospitals, in building, and even in catering, which we are finding it extremely difficult to fill otherwise; and the fact that by far the majority—larger, on an average, than among our own people—are well-behaved, and that there is a smaller percentage of crime among these immigrants than there is among the citizens of this country. I would suggest that it is quite misleading to take immigration figures for one or two months as if they were an average; and I would suggest, also, that the allegations which are being made should be thoroughly investigated to make quite certain that, when one hears about cases of the kind that 135 one does hear about, one is not always hearing about the same case. There is a great danger of exaggeration. I would ask the Government whether they have, in fact, made a survey of these conditions, and whether they can point to any document, report or statement of any kind which indicates what are the conditions which have given rise, in the view of the Government, to the need for this legislation.
I am concerned about the effect on the Commonwealth itself. I think that free entry is one of those things which constitute an important link with the Commonwealth, and I am afraid that if we break this link, if we begin to restrict and control entry into this country, we are going very considerably to weaken our ties with the Commonwealth. Already we have had apprehensions expressed by India and the West Indies. They may well regard our protestations that we have no intention of race prejudice in this, and that no such question arises, as just hypocritical. We are urging that, in the countries where there is a coloured preponderance, they should be multi-racial or non-racial, but we are refusing to apply the same doctrines to ourselves. I would ask the Government at least to delay submitting this legislation until they have made a thorough survey, until they have consulted the Commonwealth and until they are really satisfied that, even from their own lights, this legislation is necessary.
Finally, I want to mention just one or two matters which are not referred to in the gracious Speech. First, the Weights and Measures Bill, deceased; there appears to be no resuscitation of this measure at all. I wonder whether the noble Lord would tell us what the Government's intentions are about this. We spent an enormous amount of time and trouble and effort on this measure. Is it all to be wasted? Then there is the Shops and Offices Bill. We were promised that there would be legislation on this subject, but there is not a word about it in the gracious Speech. Then, if I may impinge on the debate next Tuesday, there is the capital gains tax. Is it the Government's intention to do something about this matter before the Budget? Most of the Press has been asserting, with what justification I do not know, that such a measure was 136 imminent, but again there is no mention of it in the gracious Speech.
My Lords, I have touched on the omissions in the gracious Speech more than on what is contained in it, and that is not surprising because I find the gracious Speech exceedingly bare and thin and full of platitudes and meaningless phrases—such as:My Government are resolved to maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agricultural industry.That sounds very nice, but what are they doing about it? Is it proposed to introduce any measures, or is it just an interesting statement of their desire such as has been contained in a good many other gracious Speeches but which does not carry us anywhere? Perhaps the noble Earl who is going to follow me may explain what the Government have in mind about this subject also.
I have not touched on defence, as I have said. The House will have gathered from what I have said that, so far as the domestic policy of the Government is concerned, I regard the gracious Speech as completely inadequate and as showing no appreciation or realisation of many of the grave questions affecting us today. Undoubtedly it looks as if the Government have grown stale and tired, and are lacking in vision and ideals. We hope and intend, in the coming Session, to make this even more apparent in the forthcoming debates which we shall introduce into this House from time to time.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ LORD WISE
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has covered a fairly comprehensive part of the gracious Speech so far as it refers to domestic matters. In almost the last sentence of his speech he referred to the question of agriculture. There is no need for me, therefore, to repeat the paragraph which appears in the gracious Speech: but it is customary on these occasions to say a word or two from this side of the House in regard to that great industry of ours, agriculture. I propose to do that very briefly, because there are many speakers to follow (I am fortunate in being almost at the head of the list), this is Thursday, and people naturally want to get away. But I want to say something about the platitudes, as we know them, of the gracious Speech in regard to our particular industry. I am encouraged somewhat 137 by a later paragraph which appears in the Speech, and which says that:Continuing efforts will be made to secure a better relationship between increases in incomes and in national productivity".So far as my knowledge goes, I should say that the agricultural industry has become, in the words of the Government very often, more efficient, and is now pretty well at the head of the national productivity of industries in this country. In regard to incomes, the position is not so clear, because if it had not been for subsidies I am afraid that many farming incomes would have been very low indeed. This is an opportunity, I hope, for the noble Earl who is to reply on behalf of the Government to say a few words with regard to the agricultural problems which are uppermost in our minds. I have no doubt that in the course of his speech he will refer to the position of agriculture in the proposed Common Market negotiations, and he may be able to say something about the question of milk, which is exercising the minds of farmers very considerably at the present time.
In regard to the Common Market, I find that there is considerable apprehension, particularly among those engaged in the horticultural industry. Opinions vary among those engaged in ordinary farming practice whether or not it would be beneficial for this country to enter into the Common Market; but so far as horticulture is concerned, it appears to me that the general opinion is that it would be almost disastrous to our horticultural industry if we did so enter with the other countries.
There is also the question, so far as our own agricultural industry is concerned, of what would be the effect upon us regarding the provisions of the Agriculture Act, 1947. Should we or should we not lose our guaranteed prices and our assured markets? Should we or should we not suffer a depreciation in the ordinary prices of our products? And should we or should we not find that those things which we have to purchase to carry on our industry would also be reduced in price, so that our net incomes would not suffer because of lower prices for our products and higher prices for the things we need? There is apparently no guarantee whatever, in the system which we may have to adopt for our agriculture here in 138 Britain, that a downward trend of our prices would not go on.
I hope, in view of this and the considerable apprehension which is felt in the industry, and the differences of opinion, that before any final or intermediate steps are taken by the Government there will be the fullest consultation with farmers, with the recognised farmers' organisations, and with the recognised organisations of the workers also; and, further, that it will be possible to give to the nation unbiased and comprehensive information as to what will be the effect upon this country's economy and livelihood if we enter the Common Market.
With regard to milk, I understand that in some parts of the country there is considerable doubt and difficulty about how the question of over-production of milk should be dealt with. In present conditions, or in conditions as we used to know them, I do not think that there can be any over-production in this country of anything which agriculture produces, and there should be a market for all our products. If there is not a home market for our products, then, so far as milk and other similar products are concerned, we should be in a position to export them to those countries where they are so urgently needed. I hope that the Minister will deal more fully than I have dealt with these particular subjects of the Common Market and milk, and that from Benches opposite something will go out to the farming industry as a whole, and to the country, too.
There are two other matters to which I wish to refer very briefly. My noble friend, Lord Silkin, mentioned the question of transport, and at the commencement of our proceedings this afternoon we had a fairly lengthy discussion by question and answer on the particular question of road safety. It is mentioned in the gracious Speech that consideration will be given toa measure designed to promote greater safety on the roads".Personally, I am not concerned with safety on the M.1 or any of the motorways, but I am concerned with safety on the roads of the country areas of East Anglia. There we have roads which are narrow, as, indeed, they are in all other parts of the country. I know of roads coming from very large 139 villages where it is impossible for cars to pass; and on an occasion not so many days ago I had to go into three separate gateways in order to let a car coming in the opposite direction pass me. That might have been all right years ago, in the days of horse traffic, but it is not acceptable in these days, and I hope that, in connection with the measures which the Government are proposing to bring in to deal with road safety, the question of our roads in country areas will be given urgent consideration.
A few days ago the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, referred to the possibility of a by-pass at Newmarket. I should like to know from the Government—I will not pose the question this afternoon, but I will pose the question later on—how many by-pass roads have been con-constructed in Norfolk and Suffolk during the lifetime of this Government. It is usual for matters concerning particular areas to be referred to in the gracious Speech, and I make no apology, therefore, for saying a word or two about the extreme need in various parts of Norfolk for proper by-passes to be constructed around the towns. It is well known to members of your Lordships' House, and the Government in particular, that for many years we have been trying to obtain a by-pass for King's Lynn. The county council and the local authority have always had from the Government the reply that it is impossible; that there is no money. We are getting rather tired of being told that there is no money. When one considers, as one example, what the motoring public in the Eastern Counties contribute to the Road Fund, one sees that it should be possible for roads to be constructed from that Fund.
There is one problem in King's Lynn and district, the level crossing at Tennyson Avenue, which we have been trying to solve for the last fifty years, to my knowledge; but nothing, is done and, so far as I know, the by-pass is still on the drawing board. It may be that in Estimates over the next two or three years the Government may be able to consider it, but this road is urgent, as are so many others. I realise the amount of money that has to be spent on roads, but I implore the Government to give some consideration to the rural areas and not spend all the money on motor- 140 ways and main roads between cities in the Midlands. We in East Anglia wish to be considered in like form with those of other parts of the country.
The other question I want to raise is that of rail facilities in Norfolk and Suffolk. It seems to be the policy of the British Transport Commission to close down rural lines and curtail rural services. The effect of this is that many rural areas have no means of using the railways at all. I think it is a stupid policy to close down railways which have been serving areas efficiently if not perhaps profitably. It is well within my own knowledge that when we nationalised the railways we did so to make them a national service. The tendency of railway policy seems to be to go backwards, and the only concern now is to make a profit. A vast amount of money is being spent on new stations and on the electrification of lines which serve suburbs and areas of population, but there is a drastic curtailment on lines which serve rural areas. The time is coming, as my noble friend Lord Silkin said, when people with cars will avoid the railways and make conditions on the roads worse.
I am concerned also about trade in country areas. I know of one flourishing country town which is now almost completely cut off from the railway. I am also concerned with the lives of the people. It is impossible for many people in Norfolk now to use excursions to the seaside or to London. If they come to London they may have time only to go and see the Tower, because they have to catch a train soon after 3 o'clock to get back to their homes, for that is the last train out of London for their particular section of the railway. This state of affairs can be remedied and should be remedied, if we have the will to do it. In conclusion, I hope that when the Minister replies he will give some information about the two main questions I have asked him about agriculture.
§ 3.45 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD (EARL WALDEGRAVE)
My Lords, I think it might be convenient if someone from these Benches intervened at this stage in the debate. First of all, may I pay my tribute to the mover and seconder 141 of the humble Address, who spoke to the very high standard to which we are accustomed in this House and made two imposing speeches which read as well as they sounded. It is no light task to move or second the humble Address.
I remember that when I had to do so, in 1957, the first Russian sputnik was just in orbit. At that time, we thought that everything else was overshadowed by this great physical break-through. We thought that the world would never be the same again—indeed, that the universe would never be the same again. To-day, we are under the Shadow of the cloud of this horrible bomb, and it is difficult, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has just said in opening the debate again this afternoon, to direct our minds to the more mundane subjects of ordinary domestic policy.
Though we live under such dire and dreadful threats, surely the one thing we must not allow ourselves to do is to become overwhelmed by these events, to become defeatist or demoralised. That would be giving the victory to our enemies. This is the testing time for courage. It is not for all of us to display the heroic type of courage; most of us must display that sober courage which consists of simply getting on with our work. In considering the gracious Speech from the Throne at the opening of a new Session, we are properly concerned with the day-to-day work of Parliament, of which so large a proportion must be concerned with domestic affairs, with the mundane affairs to which the noble Lord referred. Therefore, I have no apology to make in saying that I wish to confine my remarks this afternoon to domestic affairs.
It is always easy to criticise the gracious Speech, to say that things have been left out which should have been put in and that those things which are in are not of first importance and might well have been left out. It must be much easier to speak on the gracious Speech from the Benches opposite than from these Benches, because the whole business of Government is to decide priorities. Priority means that something goes to the front and therefore something else has to go to the back—and it is always much easier to complain about being at the back of the queue than to realise that something else should be at the front.
142 But this gracious Speech covers a wide range. It ranges from private pipelines to criminal justice. It contains the subjects of hospitals and education; and we do not omit, as we never omit from a gracious Speech, the subject of fish. Yesterday our attention was chiefly concerned with external affairs, and the debate was answered by my noble friend Lord Perth. Nevertheless a number of points were then raised which have direct relevance to home affairs. I should like to reply also in some small measure to the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Lord, Lord Wise, in their opening speeches. Many noble Lords this afternoon no doubt will be speaking on Defence, and my noble friend Lord Carrington the First Lord of the Admiralty will be replying to that part of the debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, opened his remarks with an interesting and full review of the housing situation as it appears to him. There is nobody better qualified than the noble Lord to speak to your Lordships on that subject, and we all appreciate very much what he has to say. But I think he did less than justice to what this Government have done in the last ten years. I hope that his points can be given a full answer later in the debate by one or other of the other Government speakers. But surely the position is not so bad as the noble Lord would have us believe. He told us how when he was responsible for these affairs he thought that about 300,000 new houses a year would be the measure of what was required at this time.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, may I correct that? I did not mean to say "when I was responsible". It was when we held the debate on housing in 1955.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, may I be permitted to remind my noble friend that the Conservative Government came to that conclusion in the year 1951?
I am grateful for that interjection. I only wish to remind your Lordships that we are not complacent on these matters. It is not quite fair to say that there is only 143 one new town. There is one new town to be built at Skelmersdale; there is another new town at Dawley under consideration at this moment, and there are as well, I understand, somewhere in the region of 300,000 houses being produced in the private and the public sector. It is not accurate to say that the Government are doing nothing. That is altogether too easy and facile a criticism to make.
It is almost impossible, now that the world has shrunk to so small a compass, to find any problem of purely domestic or external affairs. The subjects that I wish to touch on for a few moments this afternoon I think bring that out quite clearly. For instance, agriculture to-day cannot be considered in isolation in any one country. The policy of one country cannot be considered in isolation from the policies of other countries. We have to think of surpluses or of shortages and where they occur. There are great international organisations which are concerned with these problems. I myself next week shall be leading this country's delegation to the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome.
Above all, at this moment, of course, all our agricultural thinking must be, and is, overshadowed by the negotiations that are about to commence with the European Economic Community and the possibility of a common agricultural policy being worked out for a community of European nations. Is that such a bad thing? The noble Viscount who leads the Opposition spoke, I thought, as a rather strong opponent of any such co-operation. I would say that that falls rather strangely from the lips of the noble Viscount, who has, as we all know so well, spent so much of his life in the service of co-operation. I should have thought that to-day, in this world of change, it is necessary not only for individuals but for nations to co-operate; and there can be no real co-operation unless there is give and take on both sides.
Another point made by the noble Viscount in his speech yesterday was when he criticised my right honourable friend the Minister for having said (I think it was at Brighton) that our present system might come under strain 144 or had come under strain, whether we were to join the Common Market or not. But it is no more than honest to say that. Conditions do change. The noble Viscount went on to say that it is not due to the Conservative Government or the policies that have been pursued in these last ten years that we find ourselves negotiating from strength, as I think we shall be, with the European Economic Community. It is entirely due, the noble Viscount said, to the 1947 Act.
I am the first to acknowledge the great advantages that agriculture in this country has received from the philosophy and the details of the 1947 Act; but it is not logical to go on from that to deny that there can be any changes in the system of support for British agriculture. For, indeed, the deficiency payments system, which is the system that my right honourable friend said might come under strain, is not mentioned in the 1947 Act. The deficiency payments system for agricultural support did not come into being until 1954. I would say that the objectives of the 1947 Act still stand; and it is those objectives in the gracious Speech which are referred to by some speakers in a derisory fashion as platitudes, which I think is somewhat unkind. These objectives are not so dissimilar from those of the Treaty of Rome in connection with agriculture. Methods must change from time to time, and as the world changes, but the objectives still remain. The flexibility of our present system is considerable, and it is often not realised just how flexible the system is. We do not use only one method of agricultural support. We use, for example, the deficiency payments system, the tariff and the quota. If one runs one's mind over the various commodities, there are a large number of systems of support.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but I want to say that we shall have to debate this at greater length when we come specifically to the agricultural debate. I do not want to interfere unduly, but the real fact is that over the last few years the farmers have been receiving smaller net incomes than they were. The Minister said that they were going to change the system from one of 145 Government support (which has been all along advertised as preferable to the Continental system). That has to be changed in any case, so that the result to the farmer will depend not upon the taxpayer, but upon the market. That is what I want the noble Earl to answer, and perhaps we can get down to it in another debate.
My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Viscount's interjection. He tells me that we shall be having a purely agricultural debate later on, and I am glad to hear that. His views on this matter are well known, and I shall enjoy discussing this at some later stage.
I will return, if I may, to the major problem which faces agriculture to-day and which we think about in agriculture —that is, the negotiations that are starting over a possible adherence to the Common Market. These negotiations will be complex and detailed. Rome was not built in a day, and the Treaty of Rome was equally the result of a long period of work and study. All the present members of the European Community had their own individual problems which had to be reconciled, and our accession, if it should become possible, to the Treaty of Rome will, in turn, raise further problems which can be solved only by thorough discussion with the present signatories. In agriculture, as I have tried to say already, as in other matters, we and the present Six start from common ground. The agricultural objectives of the Treaty of Rome seem to me very close to those which we have long pursued in this country. The Treaty lays down in Article 39 that the objectives of the common agricultural policy are increased productivity, a fair standard of living for the agricultural population, stable markets, regular supplies and reasonable prices and supplies to consumers. These are our objectives, too, and we have told the Common Market countries that if satisfactory solutions to our problems can be found we are ready to take part with them in a common agricultural policy.
I do not wish to appear to minimise the difficulties that are ahead. In general (and this is the point the noble Viscount is so interested in and apprehensive about, and I respect his appre- 146 hensiveness), the Common Market countries rely much more than we do on regulating the flow of supplies of agricultural products so that the farmer gets a return out of the market. The proposals which have been put forward for the common agricultural policy by the European Commission naturally adopt the same general approach as has been followed by the individual members of the Six in their national policies. But if we and the other countries now applying for membership are to join the Common Market, this will transform the situation and the proposals drawn up so far will have to be looked at again in a new light. We shall have an opportunity to explain our own problems and to put forward our suggestions for arrangements that would enable the common agricultural policy of an enlarged Community—it may well be ten nations—to meet the needs of all the members, and to take into account the vital interests of the Commonwealth. The arrangements that have to be worked out to meet these ends must be worked out in negotiation. The one thing, it seems to me, that we shall have to ensure is that there is a long enough period allowed while any necessary changes take place, so that we can adjust ourselves (as indeed other countries will want to adjust themselves) to any new set of rules on which, in co-operation and conjunction, we may agree.
I must say that I find myself in strong agreement with the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, yesterday—I think I took reference of what he said—when he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 235 (No. 2), col. 48]:I should have thought that when you are entering into negotiations of this kind the right thing to say is absolutely nothing.I agree with him very much, but we are constantly being asked to say where we have got to. The noble Lord, Lord Wise, asked, "Can you tell me what will be the position of horticulture?" Somebody else asks, "What will be the position of milk? Shall I be better off if I am growing anemones or tomatoes?" This is the great difficulty we must face. If we are going into this major negotiation, it is not possible at this stage—
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I should be glad if the noble Earl could give me an 147 answer to this point, which I did not make yesterday. If the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, was right that it is better to say nothing, how is it that Mr. Heath and Mr. Duncan Sandys have both committed us to saying that we accept the Rome Treaty as it is? And how is it, with regard to a negotiable matter, that the Minister of Agriculture says we are going to change our support system anyway? You are giving half the case to the other side before you go in.
My Lords, I think there is a difference here, and I think we must defer this to some later date on a pure agricultural debate. The questions that I shall resist answering are the detailed questions of what happens to some agricultural commodity. We are asking to join, but I cannot answer the individual questions as to what happens to some particular commodity.
So much for the Common Market and agriculture. I must not delay your Lordships too long, but I cannot leave the subject without saying that surely we are negotiating from reasonable strength—I do not want to exaggerate the position—in this country in our agricultural set-up. The size of our farms is much better suited to modern methods of farming than the size of many farms on the Continent. Our landlord and tenant system, much criticised in some quarters, has stood the test of time and helps to improve the efficiency of agriculture in this country. Our mechanisation is second to none in the world and, so far as our technical efficiency is concerned, the improved agricultural methods and systems of management we have adopted have shown themselves second to none. The way in which British farmers, farmworkers and landowners have surmounted the great changes and challenges in the past twenty years surely gives us every reason to suppose that, if fair and reasonable conditions of competition can be afforded to them in what will be a home market of some 250 million people, it would be wrong to be pessimistic. It is much better to say that "this is a challenge which the evidence of the past shows we are likely to be able to accept and surmount".
The noble Lord who seconded the Motion said that we were to have a Bill 148 about fish, as we always do, and also that it is to be a "pink fish Bill". It is the Government's intention to legislate to implement proposals by the Fleck Committee on the Fishing Industry and to take action about drift-netting for salmon. The Bill that will implement the Government's proposals on financial assistance for the fishing industry, outlined in the White Paper (Cmnd. No. 1453) on the fishing industry, will be shortly before your Lordships. It will also provide for the other proposals in the White Paper in so far as they require legislation. There will be ample opportunity then when this Bill is before us later in the Session to discuss all these matters and I know that many of your Lordships have a particular interest in pink fish. I know also the differing interests which will be affected by legislation in this matter, and I think one should perhaps leave this question over until the Bill is before us.
I want to touch for a moment or two on one very important subject indeed that has been mentioned in to-day's debate and was mentioned by many speakers in yesterday's debate, the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. The problems connected with nationality and citizenship are always intensely difficult and complex, and I would not propose for a moment to go into any details of this particular Bill, which has only just been published, or to anticipate what my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will say on Second Reading. Very deep feeling will be aroused, and has already been aroused, about this whole subject, but I hope and think that we in this House will be able to take a dispassionate, quiet and reasoned view of this proposed measure.
I think all your Lordships must agree that any sovereign country must have the right to take powers to control those people from other countries who come into the country. So long as there are rights, privileges and obligations attaching to nationality, and so long as the concept of national sovereignty remains, it is almost a contradiction to say, on the one hand, that there is such a thing as nationality and, on the other, that a nation shall be quite unable and have no right to say what people from other countries, of different languages, races and religions, should come into the country and be subjects of that country and 149 accept its obligations and receive its privileges.
In this country, as in every country, there has always been power to control aliens. The British Nationality Act, 1948, introduced what was an entirely new concept of British nationality whereby each of the component self-governing territories of the Commonwealth has its own separate citizenship. In the present situation, citizens of all the self-governing territories are, by virtue of such citizenship, British subjects in United Kingdom Law. The 1948 Act expressly provides that such citizens may be indifferently described as British subjects or Commonwealth citizens. Many countries of the Commonwealth —in fact, I understand, about fifteen—have their own separate citizenships, and as other countries become independent new names will be added to that already fairly long list. But, in addition to this, the United Kingdom shares a common citizenship with the Crown Colonies which is known as citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. This Bill which will be introduced will not alter the 1948 Act except in one particular, that it will extend from one year to five years the qualifying period of ordinary residence which enables a Commonwealth citizen to be registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies.
Let me say straight away that it is obviously a matter of the very greatest regret that events have forced us to recognise that it is no longer practical politics for this country to be without any powers to control immigrants from the very large number of free and independent countries which comprise the Commonwealth. I think I cannot do better than quote from an article in the Daily Telegraph of this morning (no doubt many of your Lordships will have read it) which refers to the notion of an Empire or Commonwealth in which all should have absolutely unfettered access, and continues—and I quote this paragraph:This splendid idea has been undermined by the harsh facts of the workaday post-war world. Cardinal factors are: the hitherto unprecedented ease of travel; the magnetic attraction of an affluent society at the centre of the Commonwealth for populations living always within sight of famine; and the physical incapacity of two small islands to absorb the overflow of a Commonwealth still comprising a third of mankind.150 My Lords, those are the facts. We operate an aliens control system, not against aliens as such, nor against their countries as such. It is a system, very carefully managed by the immigration officers, which works and which I do not think anybody objects to or wishes drastically to alter. It is based very broadly on the theory that aliens cannot come into this country unless they have a job to come to or means of independent support. They cannot come into this country if they area security risk, and we have the right to deport them in certain clearly defined cases.
The first point that I want to make absolutely clear is that we are a liberal country in these matters, and what is proposed for Commonwealth citizens will certainly be no less liberal than what we are already doing for aliens, which is not criticised. We must get out of our minds the excitement and the exaggeration which has gripped some people. "This is an outrage" was one of the headlines in a popular newspaper to-day.
My Lords, this is a serious problem which must be tackled by any responsible Government. I wish to make it absolutely clear that this is not legislation for a colour bar. It is not designed to keep out or restrict people of any particular race or religion. There will be no discrimination in this legislation; it will apply to all Commonwealth countries. This country has benefited enormously from immigration from the Commonwealth—nobody denies that. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, when he reaffirmed that again this afternoon. There is no intention of putting an end to this liberal policy whereby there will be the greatest practical measure of freedom for citizens of the Commonwealth to come and work and live here.
But there are practical matters, such as the availability of housing accommodation in this already overcrowded country, to be faced. When we are dealing with a matter of such complexity I beg your Lordships to remember that the greatest disservice we can do is to confuse the issue by prejudice or emotion or exaggeration. The proposed legislation is essentially a practical measure which will give this sovereign country a power to control the immigration into the United Kingdom 151 of Commonwealth citizens and to authorise the deportation of such citizens on the recommendation of a court.
The Government, realising the difficulty of this subject, surely have been wise in proposing that the first part of this Bill, which deals with the control of immigration, should be enacted, in the first instance, for a period of five years, so that at the end of that period of five years there can and must be a full and thorough review of the situation as it will have developed at that time. Several noble Lords speaking yesterday, including the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, seemed to realise the gravity of this problem and to admit that some steps should be taken. They were all at one, I think, on that. But those three speakers all disliked the solution proposed by Her Majesty's Government, and they all made the suggestion that there was another solution.
I noted at the time what they said, and I have read their words most carefully in Hansard to-day. Broadly, their suggestion for the solution of this problem was this. They said that it is our responsibility that people want to leave their own countries. My Lords, is that really a possible realistic solution? Is it suggested that with regard to one-third of mankind living all over the world we must be responsible for seeing that those countries are so prosperous that people will never want to leave them to come here?
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, said there were three types of thought on this subject. There were the people who said that the door must never be closed, and he said he was very nearly there himself, though not quite. Then there were the people in the middle, who said that we should not close the door unless it was absolutely necessary, and then only close it as gently as possible. And there was the third group of people who, he said, are always clamouring to have the door closed, because they are really anti-foreigners: they jump on to this bandwagon and use this opportunity. He hoped that the Government were not in the third category. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and all other noble Lords here, that the Government are not in that category. 152 The Government are in the middle category. They regret very much indeed that this door has to be ever so gently closed, from dire practical necessity.
It has been said on this subject that it is illogical to think about closing this door, which has been so long open, and taking such powers over citizens of the Commonwealth when we are at the same moment negotiating with the European Economic Community. It is said that the Treaty of Rome includes among the purposes of the Community the abolition, as between member States, of obstacles to free movement of persons. I must ask your Lordships to believe that those are broad objectives as stated in the Treaty of Rome, and the realities of the situation will, I have no doubt, ensure that the freedom to move between the countries will remain subject to some form of administrative control. In this connection, your Lordships will remember what the Prime Minister said as recently as August 2. I think his words are so important that, with your Lordships' permission. I will quote them. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 645 (No. 161), col. 1490]:it is quite unreal to suppose that we could be compelled suddenly to accept a flood of cheap labour, or to alter the basis of our social security overnight. It is well understood, for instance, that movements of workers would be related by administrative control to actual offers of employment.My Lords, I cannot help thinking that any scheme of control of movement which eventually results from negotiation with the Six would be no more liberal, and would be more likely to be less liberal, than proposals now being made for Commonwealth immigrants; though I must emphasise, of course, that this must be a matter of conjecture and probability, as must all points that we raise in connection with the Common Market. We must remember, on the one hand, that we are only at the very early stages of negotiations to join, and, on the other, that the Community is still very far from having worked out in detail practical plans for implementing the objectives of the Treaty.
I have already spoken too long, but I will make just one very brief reference to one other most important item of legislation that will shortly be before your Lordships.
§ LORD WALSTON
May I interrupt the noble Earl for a moment, before he leaves that subject? He was kind enough to quote some of the things I said, but I asked whether the Government could give us some idea as to the number of people they expected their new regulations would keep out, what proportion of the total coming in. I do not know if he can give us that information at the moment.
My Lords, I think, if the noble Lord will agree, that at this stage, before we get down to details of that sort, we must keep this question broad. The Bill has already been published. It will shortly be introduced in another place, and I think we must wait, before going into details of the figures, the administration of this Bill and how it will work, until the Second Reading speech in another place. I think we must not anticipate too much the details which will come out then.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I intervene?—because this is an important point. Is the noble Earl saying that the Government have no idea of the numbers involved?
My Lords, I am not introducing this measure. I am speaking as broadly as I can about its terms, and I say quite firmly that, before the introduction of this Bill by the Home Secretary, I am not going to be drawn into discussing details such as the noble Lord raises.
My Lords, finally I wish to mention transport. My noble friend Lord Carrington, will reply in detail to the points which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Lord, Lord Wise, have raised; but I should like, in passing, to mention one point made by the noble Lord, Lard Wise. It comes back to the point of priorities. He said that nothing is done. That is just not my experience in the Western counties. Every time I go home at the week-end by motor car I notice that something is being done. I have seen the Cromwell Road extension, the Chiswick fly-over, the Hammersmith improvement, and I 154 can now use a section of M.4. Every week there is some development going on. It is not good enough to say that nothing is being done.
Perhaps the noble Lard does. But I would suggest that if the noble Lord keeps his eyes open he will see that something is being done. He must not be too ungenerous.
The noble Lord also said that it was stupid to close down branch lines. The railways are the last thing I want to mention. In the gracious Speech it is said that the Governmentwill introduce a Bill to give effect to the proposals already submitted … for the re-organisation of the undertakings under the control of the British Transport Commission.The Government's intention to re-organise the nationalised transport undertakings was announced by the Prime Minister on March 10, 1960. The appointment of the Special Advisory Group, under the Chairmanship of Sir Ivan Stedeford, followed on April 6, 1960, and the Group completed its work in the autumn of that year. The Government's proposals for reorganisation were published in a White Paper last December, and these were approved by the House of Commons on January 30 of this year.
The main proposals were to replace the British Transport Commission and the existing organisation by a new structure; to reconstruct the finances of the Commission, and in particular those of the railways, and to give the undertakings the maximum practicable freedom of commercial operation. The Bill before Parliament is designed to achieve those ends. Your Lordships will, I think, agree with the words in the White Paper that the heart of the problem is the railways. The railways are a considerable employer of labour; they have a vast investment of capital and they have been making a vast loss. This is a major Bill, and to my mind it is in keeping with this major gracious Speech. It is a gracious Speech which foreshadows a full and important series of measures and legislation for domestic affairs. I hope that your Lordships will support the humble Address.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, not the least of our difficulties in this debate is that we all have so many subjects that we want to talk about, and I particularly want to talk about defence. But I feel I must refer to the speech of the noble Earl and to his complaints against the criticisms that have been levelled against the Government. In particular, he refused to answer the question of my noble friend Lord Walston, although he himself had gone into detail, admittedly of a broad kind, when he talked about the overflow of one-third of the world's population. That I calculate to be something in the region of 700 million. But does he really suggest that we are getting an overflow in that number? And can he not tell us in this case why the Government have introduced legislation at all? We have been told something about housing, and there are various reasons; but we do not know the numbers involved. When he talks about our not doing less for Commonwealth citizens than we do for aliens, I am very worried indeed. It is not what we do for aliens; it is what we do to aliens that I am afraid will be done to Commonwealth citizens.
We are all agreed that there is a problem. We suspect that it is, in fact, from an absence of clarity in thinking that the Government feel compelled to take action of some kind, under pressure of one kind or another; but we have not yet been told in detail how many are going to be involved and what will be its effects. The policy of this country in regard to aliens is not above reproach. I think it was said by a Member of another place some years ago that if the twelve Apostles arrived in this country only Judas Iscariot would be admitted because he would have thirty pieces of silver with which to maintain himself. I do not want these tests applied to Commonwealth citizens, nor, I am sure, does the noble Earl. We shall have an opportunity, certainly in the debate on the Bill, to deal with this matter, but I hope that before this debate ends we shall have some idea of the numbers that it is calculated will be affected as the result of this particular legislation.
The noble Earl also complains that the criticisms of the Government have 156 related to priorities. It is not only priorities that we complain about, but the unfulfilment of promises. We had a promise that there would be an Offices Bill. That is a Bill which has been going the rounds of people concerned in that field. I have seen an example of it in outline. It is really badly needed. Since the Government are unable, as I understand, to give a clear undertaking to introduce it this Session, I should like to ask whether we may not have at least a White Paper on it. I can well understand their not wishing to repeat the experiences of last Session, when we had quite a fill of Bills which failed to pass into law. We should be grateful that they do not propose to do that and are trying to avoid doing it in the coming Session. None the less, I think it would be of value, especially when so many new office buildings are going up and there is so much bad office planning going on, to have some outline, perhaps in White Paper form, of what the Government in another Session propose should ultimately be in the Offices Bill.
One other point I should like to make, which I agree would be more relevant to Tuesday's debate, concerns the reference in the gracious Speech to planning and co-operation in industry. So far the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not been too successful in his approaches to the trade union movement. There is one main reason why this is so. He talks only about wages, and asks for suggestions how wages can be restrained. It is unrealistic to talk with a body which, I say with all seriousness, is as well staffed with economists and is as responsible as any in the country—indeed, much of the Radcliffe Report emerged. I suspect, from some of the economists in the T.U.C.—unless the canvas is going to be a great deal wider; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer's responsibility in regard to taxation is undisputed, one cannot discuss the economic situation purely in terms of wages. I would therefore make a strong appeal to the Government that they should widen the canvas of these discussions if they are going to achieve that measure of planning and a willingness to support it which I think the country is anxious to see the Government try to do.
I should like to turn briefly to some of the matters that have already been 157 canvassed elsewhere. Here I speak of defence. Nobody reckons that the Government have an easy policy. We are all confused; certainly I am. What worries me is that I think the Government are equally confused about what they are trying to do in the field of defence. Here I am afraid it is again necessary to get down to this detail of the numbers of Regulars in the Army. We have moved between these figures of 160,000 and 180,000. My noble friend Lord Nathan went into this matter at great length in the summer. The painful fact is that neither 160,000 nor 180,000 men are enough for our present-day commitments.
The Government, who certainly showed anxiety in approaching what I believe is now called the trough—I do not know whether that term has been used previously—naturally fought shy of any approach to a reintroduction of conscription or of selective service. But it is no good pretending that we are now not going to have selective service. The fact that this selective service is of a particularly selective kind does not make it any less selective service, and the consequences are going to be very painful to some people. There is a young married woman who works in my office who is expecting her husband to be out of the Forces any day soon. He will come out before the curtain falls. But the commitments which these young people may have entered into are very serious indeed. They have, in fact, after enormous difficulties, obtained somewhere to live. They are all organised at last to start their married life; and for some people such prospects are suddenly going to be cut off. I should like to know how the Government are proposing to apply this. We shall have a perfectly fair answer from the First Lord of the Admiralty, but how is this going to be applied towards men when legislation is before us?
Straight away we are meeting precisely these difficulties that exist with regard to a selective service system that we have so far refused to encounter. Very regretfully I am beginning to wonder whether in fact the Government ought not to have gone ahead with selective service, even though all Parties, certainly the Government and the Opposition, have declared their determination not to 158 have it. We know there have been declines. We were threatened, I think by the First Lord last year, with possibly a less rigorous imposition of educational and other standards; and there is perhaps some evidence to suggest that this has been happening. While I shall be very glad if the First Lord can deny this, there has been evidence of perhaps rather too many people with undesirable records being in the Army. I shall not go into the details of the discussion or publicity which has been given regarding certain riots in one or two parts of the country.
What I really want to know is why the Government are doing this when in fact they have—or we thought they had —an adequate system of reserves. I do not mean just the Territorial Army, but Category One of the Emergency Reserve. It was only last year that the First Lord himself referred to that, and said that Category One plays an important part in dealing with what might be medium-scale emergencies. Now we are told by the Minister of Defence in another place that our reserve organisation is unfitted to this task. I really think that the Government might have thought of this one. They cannot really say that the situation that confronts us now over Berlin is such an wholly unexpected one. One might say that the Opposition might have thought of it also. But this suggests that our present reserve organisation is not going to play a really practical role in the world as it exists now. We pay quite a lot of money—I think it is a £60 bounty—to Category One reservists. The Government might be right not to introduce dislocation by calling up this particular category, who are limited to 15,000. But, again, we should like to know what their long-term thinking is in regard to reserves.
I am very doubtful now whether we are going to be able to cover our commitments with the type of reserve organisation we have in existence; and I am increasingly attracted to the ideas of the First Lord himself, indeed, for reducing, where possible, the number of garrisons and greatly increasing mobility of the kind that can be achieved with Commando carriers and, of course, an expansion of Transport Command and possibly even more highly-trained and specialist troops.
159 But this, of course, springs, as we know, from the misfortunes of the 1957 defence policy. I expect that the Government are hoping for the day when their critics, who are certainly not confined to the Opposition Parties, will stop talking about the 1957 defence policy. But it is very striking how much criticism there is at the moment of Government defence policy and of their administration, and also very striking is the extent to which it comes not only from others but almost equally from their own supporters. These criticisms relate not merely to the problem of manpower and call up but once again to the problem of balance of forces. Here again we are in difficulty, because the Prime Minister has sometimes talked of the balance of our forces, and at one time we had the Minister of Defence saying that there is no serious imbalance and then the Prime Minister admitted that there is a serious degree of imbalance.
There are, of course, all kinds of imbalance. It may be imbalance between atomic and conventional weapons. I am sorry that we have to use these words but I think they are well enough understood. We are told at one time that we cannot deploy and cannot organise on a non-nuclear basis because the types of organisation necessary are so different. That one can see. And then we are told that there are adequate resources to enable at least the essential pause (and this is a different kind of pause from the Government's present ill-fated pause in the wages field) which will impose a delay possibly in time for wisdom to prevent the explosion of big atomic bombs.
We have been told in the recent debate by the Minister of Defence that SACEUR'S line of thinking on the balance of atomic and conventional forces is the same as ours. That may be very nice. We should now like to know precisely what it is. We should like to know how far, in fact, we are enabled to carry out conventional operations in a situation of a kind for which presumably these young men are being retained in the Forces. The situation is of course complicated by the fact that the British Army of the Rhine virtually has no tactical nuclear weapons, anyway. They are still rather more in the notional stage than in existence, 160 although I do not doubt they are coming in.
Finally I should like to refer to the criticisms that have been made so strongly in the Press and, again, elsewhere with regard to the equipment of the British Army of the Rhine. This is not a new one. We have made this point on a number of occasions, and again it has been made on all sides. It is extremely difficult for us to get at the facts on this question. I should really like to urge that perhaps there ought to be a freer exchange of a kind that can be achieved in Congressional committees in the United States of America. Once more, this proposal has been made here and it has been made in another place. But we really have no idea whether the Opposition spokesman, to whom I cannot refer in detail, or the Minister of Defence is right in this matter. We either want our anxieties somehow resolved and settled or want to have the facts. This is the sort of situation that we have been confronted with in the past; and all too often in the past the assertions of Government spokesmen, however well-intentioned, have been shown to be inadequate to the real needs of the situation.
My Lords, I should like to apologise for the fact—I have already apologised to the First Lord and to your Lordships —that I have to leave early, but I have to take the chair at a centenary meeting to the memory of Fridtjof Nansen. I should like to end my remarks by saying, once again, that because of his tremendous achievements in the field of international co-operation, no man saved as many lives as he did, and no man believed more in disarmament than he did. Once again, we find reference in the gracious Speech to the determination of the Government to press on with disarmament. No one would suggest for one moment that the Government have not made tremendous efforts with great sincerity in that direction, but I only hope that these words do not gradually become a gesture phrase in which we lose all hope. Because, as we move through this extremely vulnerable stage (I am reasonably optimistic that we shall get over the Berlin crisis), I think there is a very fair chance that disarmament prospects will become better than they have been for some while.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ LORD NORRIE
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I will confine my remarks to two points on defence, some points on which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has just made so well. First, the question of manpower and the methods proposed by the Government to bridge the gap on Army recruiting; secondly, a few points about military bases overseas and their future.
I will not elaborate the Government's proposals to put the Army right, because they are known, have been discussed in another place and have been very well reported in the Press. It is easy to criticise and be wise after the event, but we must remember that Her Majesty's Government, the War Office and your Lordships were in agreement that conscription, as such, should be abolished. We all hoped and believed at the time that the required numbers for the Army would be raised by voluntary recruitment. Unfortunately, the voluntary response has not been sufficient, and the Army is definitely under strength. I do not think there is much to be gained at this stage in discussing why the Army is short of men while the Navy and the Royal Air Force are up to strength. However, there is, to my personal knowledge, nothing more depressing than a regiment, a battalion or a battery being under strength, when you cannot do your job properly—which, of course, affects the Army as a whole and B.A.O.R. in particular. Your Lordships, I am sure, will not dispute the fact that we do need a Regular Army capable of doing its job, and the first essentials to do this are being up to strength, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, stated, and being well-equipped.
What are the best steps to take to achieve these objects? Nobody that I know of wants to go back to conscription if we can possibly avoid it. Nor do we want to mobilise the Army, to call up the reserves or o make use of the Territorial Army. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, about calling up certain reserves. I think that the scheme suggested by the Government will achieve the result better. In other words, in my opinion the Government have now put forward a wise, precautionary scheme which will solve the problem of numbers, anyhow for the 162 time being. If any of us in your Lordships' House can suggest a better method, I am sure that it will be appreciated and considered. We need a balanced Army, strong enough to meet all our commitments and responsibilities. By approval of the method suggested, the Army will be receiving trained men—and I emphasise the word "trained"—as opposed to raw National Servicemen, who take anything up to six months or more before they can be of any use in the field.
As regards commitments, I doubt whether we can reduce these, as I think they are already down to a minimum; but no doubt they will be reviewed. I was glad to read somewhere that Army recruiting had improved during the last two months, and we must hope for still better results. The methods proposed by the Government will certainly tide the time and bridge the gap, even if it is only a temporary affair. But if the voluntary system fails again to produce the numbers required we may have to resort to some kind of selective service, similar to that used in the United States of America. We must also remember that New Zealand, where I spent five years, has also decided to adopt a small scheme of selective service; and if New Zealand can do it I do not see why we should not. I know that we at home do not want it, but it cannot be ruled out if we cannot get the volunteers.
The main intention, as I see it, of taking powers to recall National Servicemen during their part-time service is that they should operate when few, if any, full-time National Servicemen remain in the Army. Moreover, no National Serviceman will do more than an additional six months' service. It may be called hard luck; it may be called unfair on those selected, but I honestly think that many worse things could happen to them. I think it would be sounder to emphasise that need for service—"service", a term we used to know and honour years ago—instead of thinking too much of the individual. I am absolutely certain of this, too; that any selections which are made will be done sympathetically, and that each case will be treated on its own merits. Our Allies are doing the same thing, trying to get trained men, so we are not alone in this problem. To use an Australian expression, I would urge your 163 Lordships to give this scheme "a go". Give it a go "and let us stop whining about hardships. The Army is well paid, and I was brought up to believe that it was an honour to serve one's Queen (or King) and country. My Lords, there is no short cut to prosperity and freedom: it is only there for people who are prepared, if necessary, to die for it. We need our Army, so let us get on with it without too much talking.
As regards my second point, I have seen it stated in responsible quarters that military bases are considered no longer necessary by Great Britain. In fact, Lord Nathan described some of them last night (not in your Lordships' House, but as Chairman of the Council of the Royal Society of Arts) as relics and not redoubts. I admit quite frankly that some of our present bases can be considered a bit "wobbly", and that we might find it a little difficult to keep places like Singapore in the face of real hostility but, as a whole, I believe that several of our bases are still essential, so let us hang on to them, for the peace of the world, as long as we can.
I should like to ask your Lordships this question: consider what would have happened in Kuwait if we had not had a modern and well-equipped base in Aden. We saw, we witnessed, and we read about a first-class combined operation of all three Services, extremely well carried out, due to our having a base which was certainly not a relic but a most useful redoubt. Influence and not power may be our future policy, but I am sure it is unwise at the present stage to preach that we need no bases overseas. I hope that we are not going to waste several million pounds spent in Kenya by handing over our base and modern military establishment as a gift to the Kenya Government when they get their independence. If we do not need to keep troops on the spot, we shall surely require the buildings and the airstrips in case of emergency, not for aggression but for world peace. The base could be held in good order by caretakers, civilians if necessary; hut, certainly I feel that we shall need this base, and several others, for a long time.
At the end of this present summer I spent a week in Germany, so Mr. Brown is not the only person who has visited 164 B.A.O.R. I personally found the troops in very good heart, and I am proud of the Army, of what they are doing and what they have done. There may be deficiencies, and I know that there are deficiencies in equipment; but so there are in every army. But we keep getting new stuff, and I personally saw a large number of troops and heard very few complaints. My Lords, I am confident that we all wish in every way to encourage the Army, in whom I have the fullest confidence, both as regards efficiency and morale. By supporting these Government proposals we are supporting the Army. It makes all the difference to them to know that we here in your Lordships' House are doing everything we can to keep the Army up to strength, and to see that their equipment is the best.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, at one o'clock to-day, on the news service of the B.B.C., it was announced that the Minister of Health proposed to examine the conditions of patients in hospitals, and as all of us here and those elsewhere are potential patients, I am sure we all welcome that. At the same time the Queen's Speech refers to the development of the hospitals in the next ten years. I think we would all agree that one of the most desirable things in this country is an excellent Health Service, but I believe that the very foundations of a good Health Service are related to a good and adequate staff. May I just read to your Lordships part of a letter I received from a professor in a teaching hospital in London? He said:The position today is serious. The United Kingdom hospitals could not continue functioning with their present scale of medical officer establishments unless Indian, Pakistani, Jamaican and West African doctors were employed in large numbers.And, indeed, when the noble Lord who has just spoken was talking about certain technical deficiencies in the Army, I think I was right in thinking that the Secretary of State for War said this week that the most grave shortage was the shortage of doctors.
I have no need to remind your Lordships that, when we discuss Commonwealth matters here, again and again it is emphasised that one of the greatest needs in the social services of the Commonwealth is the need for doctors. There 165 are, of course, those who attribute this shortage of doctors to deficiencies in the National Health Service, and they say that it is failing to attract recruits. This can all be discounted, because in the United States, where private enterprise dominates the medical profession, there is also a serious shortage. Now, in this debate (which is a very unusual debate because we all choose our subjects, and to-day we are told we can discuss domestic matters and defence—a curious partnership), I should like to take a point which has not been stressed before; but I would say to the noble Lord who speaks for the Minister of Health that I am not asking for an answer to-day—a most unusual thing. What I would try to do is to put on record something which has not been put on record before, so that he and his right honourable friend in another place can digest some figures in time for the debate which we shall have on our Health Service.
In the Report of the University Grants Committee published in September of this year, the numbers of students in the University of London medical schools are given as: men, 4,813; women, 1,236. I want to assure your Lordships that this does not reflect the demand for medical education on the part of women; it reflects the quota system which has been devised by governing bodies which are still swayed by Victorian prejudices. I do plead with those in this House who serve on governing bodies to examine this matter, because they will find that the figures I am about to give are absolutely correct. I want to put on record what was the percentage of women in London hospitals in 1958–59. The Westminster Hospital takes 10 per cent.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I am sorry. 'These are the latest figures from a most authoritative person, but the noble Lord says 15 per cent., and I believe he is the Chairman. I will move closer to my noble friend Lord Nathan so that he will not miss a word, because in him I have someone receptive. I hope that those of your Lordships who have daughters and granddaughters will hear me, because I am hoping to plant a seed so that their daughters and granddaughters can enter 166 one of the finest professions, which is very short of doctors to-day. May I, in parenthesis, say that women are not excluded because they have not shown ability? If your Lordships examine the prize lists and the Firsts at Oxford you will see that women have served the community very well in this field.
I am given to understand that the latest figure for Westminster is 10 per cent., but the Chairman has said 15 per cent. I must congratulate him. I confess I thought he was bottom of the league until now, but I started at the bottom. St. George's take 10 per cent.; Guy's, 13 per cent.; King's College, 13 per cent.; St. Thomas's, 14 per cent.; London, 17 per cent.; University College, 17 per cent.; Barts, 20 per cent.; St. Mary's, 20 per cent.; Middlesex, 20 per cent.; and I am very pleased to say that the hospital where I was educated is the least prejudiced of the lot—it takes 25 per cent. The Royal Free, which was always a women's hospital, has shown tremendous generosity. Instead of saying to the men, "Well, you have excluded us from your hospitals; we will not take you in", they are taking 15 per cent. of the men. In the whole University of London, in this great web of London where we all agree there are so many able girls in our big schools, either working in the schools of London or living here and working in schools elsewhere, only 22 per cent. of the places in our medical schools are taken by women. In the rest of Great Britain the figure is 30 per cent.
Of course, for many years—I suppose the older women among us should be grateful for even this concession—the doors of most of the medical schools of London were closed to women, and it was only the University Grants Committee, which could exercise the power of the purse, which compelled the reactionary authorities in medical schools at least to open the door. When I say "open the door" I mean that at least it is ajar, but not fully open by any means. No one can assess how many potential women students there might be, because the career mistresses in our schools warn their charges that the chances of a girl entering a medical school in London or elsewhere are 167 weighted heavily against her on the grounds of sex.
If the Minister of Health is to achieve any measure of success in his plans for developing hospitals over the next decade, he must ensure that there is an adequate supply of doctors; and as it takes seven years to qualify as a doctor, he should examine every source of supply immediately. I do suggest that he should make strong representations to the medical schools to open their doors to women, to abolish this unjust quota, and to allow merit rather than sex to determine who should receive a medical education in the 1960's. I would say this. If he fails, the University Grants Committee must again come forward as their champions, and should reconsider the amount of grants given to medical schools which fail to adopt policies which accord with the needs of the day. My Lords, that is all I have to say on the strictly domestic side of the policy, and I hope that the noble Lord will at some time convey my remarks to his right honourable friend the Minister of Health, so that the matter can be raised again in subsequent debates.
I should like now to relate what I said about the staffing of hospitals by doctors from the Commonwealth to that part of the Queen's Speech which deals with immigration. I cannot believe that members of the Cabinet have been in any of our provincial hospitals and seen how their staffs, from top to bottom, from the most highly skilled posts to the most uncongenial jobs, are filled with people from the Commonwealth. Let us recognise the debt we owe to the immigrants. They are distributed widely in the skilled professions and industries and have proved themselves invaluable in many administrative posts. There is a tendency to think that they are only fitted for the most uncongenial jobs, but that is a complete fallacy.
We hear of the over-crowded conditions of immigrants, but they are compelled to live in these conditions because they do not qualify for local authority accommodation. How, then, is it possible, if we have opened our doors to them, for them to find any accommodation other than what they may buy cheaply and share with their friends and neighbours?
168 It is difficult to uproot prejudices. Because the colour of their skins is different some British people forget that the West Indians have been reared in the British tradition and are fond of our customs and habits. Today when we were discussing this matter my husband reminded me that the West Indian's love of cricket may even be greater than our own. This love of our customs and habits is a very important thing. On the other hand, somebody may come from Calais, twenty miles across the Channel, who has no particular affection for our way of life and to whom our traditions are alien, but he will be welcomed wholeheartedly by those whose colour consciousness prejudices their thinking.
This Bill is being introduced in a shrinking world in which much more than half its population have some degree of pigmentation of skin. May I say that I find it slightly offensive and mildly embarrassing for me to talk about people with coloured skins. As a doctor, I think of skins being pigmented and I have travelled widely in China, in Japan and in the Middle East, among people with pigmented skins. This measure will be of interest to people with pigmented skins throughout the world, who number more than half the population of the world. Let us remember that our standard of national morality is recognised and prized by the uncommitted nations.
The reason why this measure will be regarded as a colour bar Bill is that it will be found impracticable to discriminate against Irish immigrants. Nothing could exacerbate the ill-feeling between Northern and Southern Ireland more than by introducing discrimination and saying that people can come here from Belfast but not from Dublin. The test of any legislation is: can it be enforced? Shall we be able to enforce this measure? What will be the penalties for an offence? If the Irish brother or father of an Irishman who volunteered to fight for us in the last war—and there was a large number of them—came to this country, despite the fact that the Control Board said he did not qualify, and he was deported, as I presume he would be, suppose he crossed the little channel and repeated the offence, are we going to put him in one of our overcrowded prisons? If we are going to do that, would it be necessary to take back Holloway Prison, which we have just given over to the men 169 because women do not excel in crime and there were only 300 in a prison able to hold 800, and make it an Irish women's prison for those who do not qualify under the Board's regulations by coming here in order to stay with their relations?
Our greatest social problem is how to take adequate care of the aged. The expectation of life to-day is 68 years for men and 74 for women, and in ten years' time it will be higher. When I reach a senile condition, when I must be looked after, what are the qualifications I should look for in the person looking after me? The qualifications are not academic; even literacy is not demanded. I should want physical strength to lift me, kindness, compassion and a little gaiety—the very attributes of the West Indians. Yet these are the people who are not catered for in this new Bill. Those with academic qualifications, with skills and money, will be allowed in, and then it is left to the Board. The Board may well say, if some of the people with the qualifications I want are semi-illiterate, that the door will be closed to people whom we need desperately in our hospitals. No doubt there would be a tendency for the Board to say that there are people in Ireland with these qualifications who may be more suitable. Incidentally, I would remind your Lordship that the constitutional position of Ireland vis-à-vis the Commonwealth has never yet been defined.
Those who have been agitating for this measure must recognise that it will affect not only the people in the Caribbean but those in the whole of the coloured Commonwealth, who will look at this Bill and judge us by it. I suggest that there are so many loopholes in the Bill and there will be so many arbitrary decisions, involving injustice and creating feelings of resentment, that the Bill will end in harming our relations with the Commonwealth, at a cost of half a million pounds annually which it takes to administer it.
May I make a suggestion, with which I hope your Lordships will agree and which I hope the Government will consider? There is no doubt that there are second thoughts about this Bill behind the scenes. It has been announced in the last two days that the Bill will last only five years and then be reviewed. I should like to ask the noble Lord who is in charge of the debate now whether he 170 will make representations to have that five years changed to one year. It would be an excellent idea. We could see how it worked for one year, and then if we discovered we had made a mistake (and nobody can fail sometimes to make a mistake when dealing with legislation on social problems and how best to meet a difficult situation) we could change our mind. But do not let us wait for five years. This Bill will establish in the minds of the coloured Commonwealth a conviction that the Mother Country in the future is prepared only to take from her children. It is a poor kind of mother who refuses to succour them also.
It is well to remember that we are living in very curious times. The situation in the world changes from day to day and, as has already been said, perhaps as we debate here to-day we are not really concentrating on the things that matter. It is well to remember that our material standing in the world may fluctuate, but we shall always be rich if we can preserve our good name. I believe that this Bill will besmirch our good name. Let us be honest and recognise that the agitation for this Bill stems from prejudice alone. Prejudice is born of ignorance, my Lords, and the remedy is to educate the people, and not bow down to a storm whose origins can he found in the base instincts of a minority.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, the majority of speeches on the Address of Her Gracious Majesty have so far dealt primarily with the very controversial Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, on which I shall touch indirectly in a few moments. But I should like to begin by referring to that section of the gracious Speech which deals with hospitals within the framework of the National Health Service. I agree very much with what the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, has said. I would first of all pay tribute to the progress which the Government have made in the building of new hospitals and in the improvement of existing hospitals. The Report on the Health Services of 1960 gives quite an impressive picture of this.
What is very much less satisfactory is the payment of staff, particularly of the ancillary grades of hospital workers. I believe that what I have to say now is 171 relevant to that portion of the gracious Speech which deals with the hospital services. I refer primarily to the physiotherapists. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is not in his place at the moment, but he has, I know, brought up this important subject on more than one occasion. I made quite an extensive tour of the physiotherapy department of a large hospital in my area, the Epsom and District Hospital, and I talked at some length to the head physiotherapist and to the medical staff. I have here a report from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, and the overall shortage of teaching staff at training schools recognised by the Physiotherapist Society, as at November 7, 1960, was 24 per cent. The pay of a senior physiotherapist in January, 1961, according to the list I have here, was £745 per annum.
My Lords, we have been hearing a great deal, up and down the country, about the payment of school teachers, and there is something about that in the gracious Speech. I do not propose to dwell on that, except to say this: that, while recognising that many teachers are underpaid, I believe that the claims of the physiotherapists and radiographers in our hospitals are surely much greater. They work very long hours, and their work is highly skilled. I know this, because my wife has been receiving physiotherapy treatment. In a hospital a mistake can damage a muscle or cost a life. In a factory a bolt wrongly inserted can frequently be remedied, but if a physiotherapist or a radiographer makes a mistake, even if a life is not cost, a limb might be. So I would urge the Government to look seriously at this question of the payment of the ancillary grades of hospital workers and I would suggest that, When the wage pause at present operating is eased, these grades of hospital workers should be placed high in the queue. The demands on the physiotherapy services are increasing: the work they do is invaluable, and their reward should be comparable.
I should like to say a word about the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. Many of our nurses in this country come from the West Indies, West Africa or from other parts of the Commonwealth. They do wonderful work, particularly with 172 children. I hope that When this Bill comes up for discussion this aspect will be given serious consideration. I have not had much chance to study the Bill, because it has only just been published, but what I have read of it has led me to modify some of the criticism which I had before. I hope that the discrimination against our Commonwealth people will be borne in mind alongside the large number of aliens that there are in this country.
Recently I was in Yorkshire, and I had an opportunity of being shown round the Leeds Criminal Investigation Department, where I talked to police officers of all grades, both of the C.I.D. and of the uniformed police. Certainly in that city the crime rate among the coloured population compares very favourably with that among the aliens. I have not the actual figures, but the trouble which is experienced from the West Indians, the Pakistanis and other coloured people in that city is very small indeed. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the displaced-person population of Hungarians, Poles and other European nationalities. I am not asking the Government to discriminate ruthlessly against anybody, but I think it is necessary that more stringent checks should be made of those who have criminal records. I urge the Government to see that our police force and the police forces of the countries concerned keep in close touch. I think it would be inopportune to say anything more about this Bill at present. Enough has been said, and there will be ample opportunity to discuss it on Second Reading, and at other stages in both Houses of Parliament.
I should like to say one word about Scotland. I am pleased to see that the licensing laws in Scotland are to be reviewed. I can describe them at present only by the use of the adjective "grotesque", and I think that is probably a masterpiece of understatement. The other matter which I would urge the Government to consider very carefully is the closing of the railway branch lines in Scotland. In the south, transport runs much more freely; in the south snow does not block roads to the extent that it does north of the Tweed. In due course I should like to have from Her Majesty's Government more specific 173 details of their intentions with regard to the railway line from Inverness to Wick. I have mentioned this point before, but there is a great deal of anxiety in Scotland about this problem. At present, the tourist industry in Scotland is expanding, and I am rather sorry to see that in Her Majesty's gracious Speech there is not more about proposals for further helping the tourist industry. The Grampians scheme and the winter sports plans in the Cairngorms are helping the economy of Scotland considerably, but it will be gravely affected if the British Transport Commission are to come down heavily on these branch lines because, as I have said before, for much of the winter many of the roads are completely closed as a result of snow drifting and of ice. If rail transport is curtailed too drastically, one can visualise public transport coming to a standstill.
My Lords, I think that, by and large, the Queen's Speech is a workmanlike piece of legislation, or proposed legislation, though I join in the lament which has been raised that there has been no more reference to the Weights and Measures Bill. I can only assume that perhaps the question of decimal coinage has not been forgotten, but I hope that the Government will have something to say as to why this very important measure, which has been discusssed at great length in this House, has been dropped. With the reservations I have made, I would commend the gracious Speech to your Lordships.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, due to the fact that my noble friend Lord Lindgren has had to withdraw his name from the list of speakers I am following hard on the heels of the noble Lord, Lord Auckland. If in the result your Lordships have for a short time a concentration on Scottish affairs which is not entirely to your liking, I must apologise in advance. I should like to take up the point just made by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, about the closure, or the potential closure, of railway lines in Scotland. A great deal has been made in the Scottish Press of the statement by the Chairman of another nationalised industry, Lord Robens, about the amount of money which is lost in the mines in Scotland. He put it rather ominously when he said that everything, 174 which had been made in certain English coalfields had been lost in the last ten years in Scotland.
If that is an indication that the test of strict commercial merit is to be applied north of the Tweed, we shall at least have the consolation that if there are not to be many Scottish pits producing coal, there will not be any Scottish trains using up the coal, so that we shall not be faced with the need to import coal from England into Scotland by unremunerative trains. I am afraid the Government will not be able to apply strictly commercial tests—I was about to say "in another place", but I realise that has a particular meaning—to another body. I had a reference to this aspect of transport to-day, and I believe it is true to say that, apart from the main line trains to Edinburgh and Glasgow, it is exceedingly doubtful whether any rail transport in Scotland is remunerative, or ever can be.
I want now to come back to what I intended to speak about mainly, and these are points to which the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, has already referred. They are almost alien fish, even in the wide net to which my noble friend Lady Summerskill has referred: housing and housing subsidies, licensing laws and measures to amend local government financial arrangements in Scotland. May I take first of all the measure relating to housing subsidies? I see from the Scottish newspapers to-day that some people are imagining quite fondly that this will prove to be a measure which will add to the liquid resources of the ratepayers of Scotland by transferring part of the burden from them either to the Chancellor of the Exchequer through a £32 subsidy instead of £24, or alternatively to the tenants of council houses if the rents are to be raised to the gross annual value, to £60, or, under the Government's complicated suggestion, to the figure which is 50 per cent. of the difference of these two added to the gross rateable value.
I have a strong suspicion—because many of us North of the Border are naturally suspicious in these financial matters—though I hope I may he wrong in this case, that the Treasury hope that many of the local authorities will find themselves entitled to only the £12 subsidy, so that they hope to save £12 175 a house instead of adding £8 a house to the subsidy. I should like to suggest quite seriously to the Government that the proposals in Scotland as they are presently framed, while they may prove to be helpful to some local authorities, will work on a rather unsatisfactory basis by having imported into the calculation this reference to gross annual value as the basis on which the housing revenue account is to be worked. It has already been shown that the tremendous variations in valuations throughout Scotland have imparted a measure of hardship as between one local authority and another; and I hoped when I saw the reference in the gracious Speech to amending the local government financial arrangements in Scotland that this had something to do with a more equitable distribution of the Exchequer equalisation grant.
One of the unforeseen effects of the revaluation which has just taken place in Scotland is the tremendous upset it has made in the distribution of that Exchequer equalisation grant. Some local authorities who a year ago were receiving no grant at all are now to receive very large sums. It is probably a matter of very great pride in the city of Aberdeen, for instance, that last year they received nothing in grant, and under the new proposals they are to get half a million pounds. But other authorities which have been receiving as much as a quarter of a million pounds are to get nothing. Naturally that will have a tremendous effect on the burdens of taxpayers in these places. But under these proposals (I have had a very quick look at the Bill this afternoon) the people who are already being punished for the misdemeanours of their assessors —because valuation has not been undertaken on anything approaching a national basis by the Inland Revenue but has been carried out by local county or city assessors—since the assessor has fixed a high-level valuation, have already had their grant cut, and because of the method by which this Bill is going to operate they stand a chance now of having their housing subsidies cut. That there is a great deal of inequality in this must be quite easily seen.
I would, for instance, refer to a well-known United Kingdom building con- 176 cern which is building houses in many parts of Scotland. They have a number of designs which they have been building in many places. I refer to the firm of Wimpey and Company. In some cases houses built by Wimpey have a value of £40. In another part of Scotland identical houses, different only in their location, and in some cases where no one would suggest that the amenity was higher, have an assessed value of £60. I queried with my own local assessor how it worked out, for instance, in the case of Aberdeen and Dundee—as the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, knows, they are cities which are comparable in many ways—that the values in Aberdeen had been raised by approximately 35 per cent., whereas in Dundee they were up by 55 per cent. That could be quite simply understood if values in Aberdeen had formerly been higher than in Dundee. It might mean that the 35 per cent. and the 55 per cent. brought them both to the same sort of level to-day. If that were the case then, of course, nobody in Dundee would have anything to complain about, nor would other places have a right to complain if that was what had happened.
The answer given by the assessor was a most peculiar one. He said that in Dundee, as in some other places, the letting of properties, privately-owned houses, is largely in the hands of factors who are trained to do the job, and that it is their business. In the result, they have managed to extract, by and large, fairly high rents for the properties for which they are responsible. But I was told that in Aberdeen—and I must admit that this came as the greatest surprise to me—the owners of property have apparently been not so anxious to extract the last possible penny (I am not saying this is true, but this is what he believes) and the matter has been left in the hands of family lawyers who have proceeded in a much more lethargic and kindlier fashion, with the result that rents in Aberdeen are lower. Therefore the pattern of rents in Aberdeen is lower and a "prefab" has a lower assessed rental in Aberdeen than it has in Dundee. The result is that not only have Aberdeen a better chance of getting £32 for every house built after the first of this month but they have this half million of Exchequer equalisation grant as a bonus right at the very outset.
177 I would suggest to Her Majesty's Government a measure which is not referred to in the gracious Speech but which ought to come if there is to be justice to Scotland, for an examination of the basis on which the Exchequer equalisation grant is distributed. I would suggest that one possible way of procedure is some sort of measure such as there is in the Housing Bill, by which an artificial rent is taken into consideration when distributing the subsidy, instead of having this enormous variation from one authority to another as laid down by assessors. I referred to the fact that some people thought this Bill would improve the liquid resources of the ratepayers, and I express my doubts about it.
The other major and extremely controversial measure—controversial not merely between Parties but within Parties—is the Bill to amend licensing law in Scotland, and there is no doubt at all that the Government will succeed in adding to the ease of access to liquid resources of certain people on a Sunday. At the present time no one, as the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, has said, can defend the present arrangements under which the system of "bona fide travellers" leads to organised drinking parties proceeding by coach from one place to another, to the disgust of everybody else. I think that if the hirers of the coaches and the people who go in these coaches can be eliminated, then it may be that the price which will otherwise have to be paid in Scotland will be worth while. I may say that I have already committed myself, against my personal inclinations, to the idea that public houses should be open in Scotland on Sunday. I should very much like that they should not be, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion, as the Guest Committee and many other people have, that while it is a bad thing, it will be better than the evil which we at present have, and I am quite sure that it is not the case where the evil which we know is better than the evil which we know not.
The third point was this measure to amend local government financial arrangements; and it was when I read the explanatory references to that that my suspicions about the subsidies became sharper still. I had looked at this measure in the Bill expecting a big 178 distribution change of Exchequer equalisation grants, but it proves merely to be one of these measures which in due course the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, will introduce as "little but useful" measures, and both those adjectives will in this case be true. But it deals with only a very small aspect, in so far as it seeks to impose some measure of uniformity in relation to the relief from rating given to charitable organisations. I think that is a good thing, because at the present time the variation between one place and another is quite indefensible. But so far as the grant is concerned it is merely a tinkering, in that it is to take account of what the valuation position should be at March 15, after the first of these have been gone through, and therefore will be little more up-to-date in respect of the valuation roll than the position is at the present time. Frankly, that aspect of it seems to me to be hardly worth bothering about, for the small amount that will be involved; but, provided it is not taken as a substitute for the much greater revision which is necessary, then I should find it difficult to quarrel with it.
That, my Lords, is as much as I have to say about these measures except that, in relation to the housing subsidies, a great deal will be said against the Government's proposals. That will not surprise Ministers. I am not one of those who believe that the present level of corporation rents in Scotland is sacrosanct and that it must be defended in the last ditch. There is no doubt that a comparison between Scottish and English rents leaves the Scottish authorities in a rather unenviable position. I believe that the average rent in Scotland is still somewhere of the order of £26 a year—it is about 10s. or 10s. 8d. a week, and certainly under £30 a year—but in the Bill issued last night the token figure which the Treasury may take into account in calculating the subsidy is £60 a year, or such less figure as the Treasury may decide upon. I would suggest to Her Majesty's Government that to attempt to proceed at one stage to £60 would be inviting legitimate objections from people who are not taking the line that things must remain as they are.
As the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, is well aware, the Government have committed themselves, in revisions of rents 179 in the New Town Corporations in Scotland, to a figure which is much less than £60, so they have made it perfectly clear that they do not regard these as final figures but have accepted what has been worked out as being a reasonable figure for a year, two years, or perhaps even three years—certainly, for some little time from now. I hope that when Scottish Ministers are discussing the application of this Bill they will keep in mind the fact that £60, while it may seem perfectly reasonable South of the Border, would be a very difficult figure to justify at one jump in Scottish affairs.
The page of the Queen's Speech which referred to these Scottish Bills is also the one which contained the much discussed references to immigration. I could not help noticing that the page started with Bills to provide for the independence of Tanganyika and Uganda and for constitutional changes in the West Indies. As Scottish Ministers know, an increasing number of people in Scotland start off talks on political affairs by saying, "I am not a Scottish Nationalist, but …"; and if the number of those persons continues to increase I wonder how far away we are from the day when the Queen's Speech will include reference to the fact that Bills will be introduced to provide for the independence of Scotland. I wonder whether even the remote possibility of that can have anything to do with this immigration measure. Because would it not be a terrible disaster if we found that, among the first victims of the Immigration Bill—say, after the next General Election—were Scottish Ministers who had lost their appointments, and who had to satisfy the immigration authorities before they could cross the Border that they could either maintain themselves without working or that they had another job to come to?
That may be a bit far-fetched, but is it any more far-fetched than the situation which may, in fact, arise on these immigration proposals in Ireland? I do not know whether the Bill applies to Northern Ireland, and I assume—because I cannot see any reference to the contrary—that it does. But if it does not apply to Northern Ireland, it means, presumably, that there is to be freedom of movement between Eire and Northern Ireland; and how do we then stop people from Southern Ireland from coming into 180 this country by way of the North? If it is to apply to Northern Ireland, then we have the even more fantastic situation of the people in Northern Ireland trying to stop folk crossing the Border. I should have thought this was so unlikely —I obtained this Bill only two or three minutes before I came in—that one could not imagine even the Government trying to tackle that problem at this stage.
Fortunately, it does not fall anywhere within the sort of remit that I have to worry about that aspect of the situation. But I suggest, quite seriously, to Her Majesty's Government, that, if they are to justify themselves North of the Border, the sort of points in relation to Scottish affairs which I have mentioned are ones which will repay the attention in due course of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of State.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, although my noble friend Lord Dundee is not in his place to-day, I should like to say, with respect, how impressed and interested I was by his speech yesterday afternoon; and I have particularly in mind his graphic description of Communist infiltration, aggression and subversion. The noble Earl spoke of a worsening situation over the last two weeks in South Vietnam, and rightly considered it a serious threat to the peace of South-East Asia. During the course of the gracious Speech Her Majesty said that:My Government will continue to work … for the maintenance of peace in South-East Asia.It is, therefore, to that aspect of defence that I wish to address the few remarks I want to make this afternoon. I wish to do so, also, because I believe that Berlin is foremost in our minds, and I agree with the words of the noble Earl yesterday afternoon, when he said (col. 50):The strategy of Communism has always been to make us concentrate our attention upon one point in our defences while they prepare to attack another.Last September, my Lords, I was a member of a delegation which visited Singapore, and I must say that I, for one, was particularly interested by what I saw and heard there. Several of us 181 were very pleasantly entertained by the Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, at Sri Temasek, which I believe my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty knows, as he knows that part of the world quite well. The impression I gathered during that evening was of a very real fear and an apprehension of a Communist threat to Singapore, the threat being equally great from without and from within. As I mentioned earlier, your Lordships heard yesterday of the deteriorating situation in South Vietnam. In spite of the fact that that part of the world is separated from Singapore by Cambodia, Thailand and Malaya, I feel that the influence of the situation there will be felt in Singapore.
With regard to an internal threat, I believe that this could very easily exist when one remembers that 75 per cent. of the population in Singapore are Chinese. Although only a small proportion may be Communists at heart, a very large proportion of the Chinese population is very conscious and proud of the achievements of the mother country, and in their case the mother country is not Formosa but Communist China. It must be remembered, too, that labour there is organised into unions, and that intimidation does take place. This is not intended as a criticism of the unions, but just to show that intimidation through the unions has taken place and can easily develop.
At the moment that intimidation has not occurred to an alarming extent, but it could easily build up at any moment. Your Lordships will no doubt have been interested to read in the Daily Telegraph yesterday that our troops had been called out to assist the Singapore police in preventing sabotage on Tuesday night after a clash between strikers and police. I must say that I was very impressed by the organisation which I saw in Singapore which made this possible. There was a joint headquarters, and the whole set-up, Whereby one could call in our troops, if need be, seemed to me to work extremely efficiently. Therefore I sincerely hope there is no contemplation of reducing our forces in Singapore.
Also I sincerely hope that there is no intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government of reducing the number of local labour employed by the Services there. I say that from the point of view of the economic life of that State, and 182 also from the point of view of the maintenance of political stability. For in spite of the fact that we employ there around 40,000 persons in local labour there is still a serious unemployment problem. With a total population of just over 1,600,000, there are some 60,000 unemployed. I therefore sincerely hope that my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty will agree that any reduction of our Service strength in Singapore would be very unwise at a time when there is an active Communist threat in South Vietnam which is organised, directed and controlled from Hanoi. I feel that our joint commitments in South-East Asia can but increase as Communist pressure increases in that part of the world. I think, too, that in view of this situation in South Vietnam it may well be on the cards that we shall have to increase our air patrols in the Malay Peninsula or to the Gulf of Siam. Alternatively, at a later date we might—I am not saying we shall, but we might—be asked by the Government of Thailand to provide forces on the ground and in the air to combat subversive activities through a deteriorating situation in Laos.
In a communiqué issued in Canberra in 1957, on August 28, it was agreed between the then Minister of Defence, Mr. Duncan Sandys, and Australian Ministers thatS.E.A.T.O. is the prime instrument for the defence of South-East Asia.I therefore sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will stress to the Tunku, when he comes to London for discussions with the Prime Minister, the desirability of our maintaining Singapore as a S.E.A.T.O. base. According to the Press, not long ago, I see that the Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, has said that there will have to be consultation with the Borneo territories before any commitment can be entered into concerning these territories with regard to the Malaysia proposal. I trust, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government will seriously bear in mind the fact that the three territories concerned are, by implication, members of the S.E.A.T.O. Pact as dependencies of signatories. To allow Singapore to be used in the future solely in respect of A.N.Z.A.M. obligations I feel, be most damaging not only to our prestige in that part of the world but also to our interests.
183 If we wish to curtail the development of Communist infiltration and influence in that part of the world I believe that it must be possible for our Singapore base to be used for the defence of outer territories which come under S.E.A.T.O. Singapore is our largest naval base outside the United Kingdom. The Army installations, workshops and depots are of a high standard. The R.A.F. stations at Changi, Seletar and Tengah are effectively and efficiently operational. As such, provided that they are kept up to strength (and I stress that), I believe all these installations there to be our greatest safeguard against the development of Communist domination in that part of the world. And, while we are maintaining our forces there, could my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty give an assurance to the House that maximum priority will be given to the extension of guerrilla warfare exercises, air portability exercises and jungle survival courses? What we were shown there was very impressive, but I feel it may well be that those exercises and courses could be stepped up a little. To end, I should like to stress that any reduction of our forces in Singapore, and any reduction in the role they may be called upon to play, would seriously hamper Her Majesty's Government's chances of maintaining peace in South-East Asia.
§ 6.8 p.m.
LORD SAYE AND SELE
My Lords, the gracious Speech makes mention of nuclear tests, of armed forces and of school-leaving dates; but, most humbly, I regret the failure of Her Majesty's Government to bring those subjects together in a co-ordinated effort of Civil Defence. What better opportunity to rub Civil Defence into the minds of the people? Milk contamination, of course, has caught the public imagination, but only infants, I believe—I am not a doctor—can live comfortably on milk alone, and then only if their elders are there to give it to them. Most mothers know that there are arrangements made by the Government for providing dried milk which is free from contamination, but few know what those arrangements are or where they get the milk from.
The Minister of Science told us, I think the day before yesterday, that the 184 Government continue monitoring. I wonder what proportion of the population know what that means or what it does. When I read it, it conjured up in my mind a vision of a Minister of Science, perhaps with an umbrella and a teacup, sitting in Trafalgar Square; but of course I knew that could not be the case, and so I turned to my Concise Oxford Dictionary to look up this interesting word, and I found that it spoke of a lizard that gives warning to crocodiles. That did not seem to be what the Government meant either. But, seriously, this Russian bomb is now a nine days' wonder. The nation is not frightened, but I think it is interested and I am sure it is annoyed. Now is the golden opportunity to tell the nation the types and methods of Civil Defence.
The Government is responsible through several Ministries—through Science for monitoring; through Education for teaching the coming generation; through Supply for providing food for survival, and through Defence for rescue. I speak only of two of these. The Minister of Education has shown no signs that I know of that he wishes Civil Defence to be included in the curriculum of child or adult education. I know quite well that the answer is that the subjects are left to the local authorities. But surely the Minister could give a lead—and at such a time as this a lead from the Minister would in all probability be accepted. The Minister of Defence will get back some, at least, of his National Servicemen. Will he reform the mobile reserve columns which were such a pillar of the Civil Defence plan, and will he tell the people what he is doing and how they can help?
The nine days' wonder of this bomb will soon pass, and either the country will drop back into apathy—indeed, I feel myself that the impact on this House is already fading from what it was two days ago—or else it will be too late to do much preparation. I should deeply regret it if this real and psychological opportunity presented to us by the power of over fifty megatons is neglected.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I am not going to be long, but I wish to refer to a pertinent passage in Her Majesty's gracious Speech in which reference is 185 made to the Soviet Union's nuclear tests in defiance of world opinion. The gracious Speech also says:… my Government will persevere in their endeavour to promote an international agreement on the discontinuance of tests of nuclear weapons.I would draw the Government's attention to what the President of the United States has lately said—namely, that they have the nuclear weapon but will not use it first. I should also like to draw their attention to the announcement in the Evening News of yesterday about the development by the United States of an N-bomb—a fantastic death-ray weapon which kills human beings without destroying equipment and property. The function of the bomb was to release over a mile-wide areaa controlled storm of unseen, unfelt neutrons.I am referring now to what I imagine is an official statement from New York. The neutrons could penetrate three feet of concrete, kill troops in their tanks and at gun positions, yet leave the weapons ready for instant use by an enemy. The bomb could wipe out the population of entire cities without major damage to the cities themselves. An official in Washington is quoted as saying:We will be testing the neutron bomb very soon.Last night on B.B.C. television a discussion took place between doctors, medical and scientific, on the 'subject of the fall-oust. There was mention of Iodine 131 and also Strontium. I listened with great interest, but could not make head nor tail of what was their real opinion. None of them seemed to agree. Is it not conceivable that Mr. Khrushchev is confused by all this, and that there may he a misunderstanding? Should a misunderstanding be possible, surely it would be of the utmost importance that Her Majesty's Government should immediately suggest some investigation into all these questions I have mentioned, with a view to terminating these tests with their possible terrible effects. We must never forgot the effect on Nagasaki and Hiroshima mentioned by Lord Melchett in his able speech.
I feel strongly that we must try to find some way of getting a basis on which the nations of the world who have this neu- 186 tron bomb or the nuclear weapon should get together, to see whether there is not some way by which they can find a basis on which to work to terminate the whole thing. I hope that my noble friend will be able to do something in this direction.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the references in the gracious Speech to defence seem to make it clear that no change in policy has taken place since the 1961 White Paper was laid before Parliament. I imagine that within the framework of this White Paper it would be quite possible for Her Majesty's Government to adopt the suggestion which has just come from my noble friend Lord Teviot. Equally, for the same reason, since there were in the same White Paper many references to civil defence, I feel that it was unnecessary to refer to the matter again in the gracious Speech. But what is extremely necessary, to my mind, is that we should re-examine not the policy laid down in the 1961 White Paper, but its implementation in terms of manpower. And that, my Lords, is what I should like to do for a few moments.
I agree with a great deal of what my noble and gallant friend Lord Norrie said earlier on in this debate, and particularly when he said—and I repeat it—that we should give the Government scheme "a go". Before I come to the end of what I am going to say about that, I think we ought to look back, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, did, and as we must do, however much we dislike the look, to the 1957 White Paper. That, of course, was the White Paper in which it was announced that National Service in peace time would come to an end in a certain time, and that the strength of the Armed Forces was to be kept up by voluntary Regular recruiting. A good many of us, while we welcomed the possibility of doing away with National Service in peace time, felt very considerable doubts whether, in practice, it would be possible in any way to keep Regular recruits up to the figure required to keep our conventional forces efficient, mobile and well-armed, as is said in the 1961 White Paper. So at the time we took care to point out how foolish it would be, just because we had decided to attempt to do away with National 187 Service in peace time, to give the impression that never in any circumstances should we revert to National Service.
My Lords, we have now come to a state of affairs in which we have a short-term problem and a long-term problem at the same time; and I think we ought to keep those separate in our minds. To go back for a moment to the question of the abolition of National Service, this has been talked about a great deal, here, in another place and outside—and, of course, there are very considerable attractions for such a proposition. Politically, the idea of doing away with a compulsory service in peace time is always attractive, although I am not absolutely certain that when the announcement was made in 1957 it was greeted with quite such shouts of national joy as some politicians expected. After all, a good deal of the opposition to National Service, though not all, came, broadly, from the same sort of people who nowadays assume the prone position in Trafalgar Square. But even if one takes the worm's eye view of Party politics, it seems to me quite clear that the risk in reintroducing National Service, or national training in any form, is not nearly so great politically as the risk of defaulting on our national requirements and our international commitments.
But there is another set of arguments against National Service which is, in its way, a good deal stronger, and that is represented by the view of the Regular forces. As we all know, this problem is really an Army problem, because the requirements for National Servicemen in the Navy and the Air Force are very small indeed—and let us say at once that there would be no case whatsoever, under present conditions, for trying to find Naval or Air Force arguments for reintroducing National Service. The Regular Army have strong arguments against the introduction of National Service. They say, and with a great deal of truth, that it represents a considerable diversion of skilled Regulars from the business of serving in the field units to the more distasteful business of training National Service recruits. It is true that there are compensations, because the increase of Regular establishment under those conditions provides 188 a certain amount of rather quicker promotion in a certain section of the Army. Then there is the other argument: that the dilution of serving Regulars with National Servicemen is apt to make morale weaker and discipline more brittle. Lastly, there is the technical argument that National Service, in itself, does not last long enough to provide the specialists, the leaders and the technicians which a modern Army needs in increasing numbers.
My Lords, it is quite clear that this second set of arguments, the Service arguments, have been given full weight by Her Majesty's Government. The position, as I see it—and I shall be corrected by my noble friend in front of me presently if I am wrong—is this: that the Regular forces are, in fact, catching up the backlog of Regular recruiting. They are catching it up slowly. They are not, in fact, I would say, catching it up quite so fast as some people thought in 1957. If they had been, I doubt whether we should have reached the position we are in now.
Secondly, this problem is a transitional one. We are asked to suppose that these measures which are going to be taken now are necessary, not in the long term but to tide the forces over a relatively short time before Regular recruiting reaches the 165,000–or, maybe, the 180,000: the two figures which have always appeared in all the White Papers —required. If that is so, immediate reversion to National Service would not be the answer to the problem which is nosed to Her Majesty's Government now, though it may be the answer to the longer-term problem. That is why I said that we ought to keep in our minds the fact that the Government are faced with two problems: the longer-term problem, which has always been there ever since the present policy was embarked on in 1957, and the shorter-term problem, which is caused by the events in Germany which have taken place and have built up since the spring of this year, over the summer and during the Recess.
So, my Lords, it seems quite clear to me that the case for the measures put forward by Her Majesty's Government must be accepted now for what it is—as an answer to the short-term problem; but it cannot be an answer to the long-term problem. Therefore the recruiting 189 position, even when we have taken the step which is now proposed, must be kept under constant review, and with an open mind, until the numbers are right.
Here, I should like to say one word about the efforts which the Regular Army, and all ranks of the Regular Army, have made to produce recruits. If they have taken the view that National Service should be avoided except as a very last resort, they have equally done everything they can to suit the action to the word by making a bigger effort to recruit their own members than I certainly have ever known in my time in the Service. The reason why recruits are coming in is not merely because attractive conditions are offered by the Government—better barracks, more amenities and all the rest of it. None of those, I think, would have had the effect they have had but for the whole-hearted co-operation of all ranks in the recruiting effort. I think that one should say that here tonight.
We come, then, to the proposals that are going to be made. I do not want to go into them very fully, because we shall discuss them in great detail, no doubt, when the Bill arrives in this House and we know more about the detailed proposals. But there are three of them, two of which are fairly clear and one of which will require further explanation when the time comes. They are: the retention of National Service for an additional six months; the selective recall of National Servicemen; and then, the new Reserve proposals to which we shall look forward with very great interest.
The first of these proposals, the retention of the National Servicemen, I think we might say is distasteful, but is unavoidable. We are a non-aggressor country. Demands on our Forces originate not from our actions but from those of the potential aggressor, and we must take powers to meet those demands and not shrink from using them if, in the Government's opinion, the time has come. The second part of the plan, the recall of National Servicemen, is in fact an experiment in selective service. Whatever one may say, it comes to that if looked at from a certain angle. If that is so, then I very much hope that that experiment will be studied not only in the light of the need that it has to meet now, but in the light of the possi- 190 bility that selective service may be an expedient we shall have to adopt more permanently. The lessons are there to be had, and I hope they will be studied.
The third idea, that of altering the Reserve arrangements so as to place bigger responsibilities on the Territorial Army, is a most interesting and most novel idea. It is not one we can discuss very far to-night—although I am quite sure the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, will do his best in a moment—because we know very little about it. But what I would say now is that, in my thinking, it involves a major reorientation of the role of the Territorial Army and of the outlook of those who are in it. This is all the more interesting, and perhaps timely, because there has been a good deal of doubt of late as to what is the role of the Territorial Army in a modern war. Even if looked at in the context of Civil Defence, as the noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, would like us to do, it would still be slightly obscure. Anything, therefore, which focuses the role of the Territorial Army in modern war will, I am quite sure, be extremely welcome to all right-minded people who have the Territorial Army at heart.
I am very glad to think, as I believe I can think, that plans are being worked out in full consultation with those who have experience of the Territorial Army and who understand the Territorial Army and the mentality and desires of the people who are in it. And so I hope that, when the time comes, the need will be realised for a clear explanation of what is wanted, for detailed study of the effect of these proposals on the citizen soldier in the Territorial Army from a number of standpoints, including the employment standpoint, and also from the point of view of the old tradition that the citizen soldier enlists in the volunteer forces but does not expect to be called up unless his country is in imminent danger; and when that time comes, anyone who joins the Territorial Army, or, indeed, the Army Emergency Reserve, expects to have !to make a personal sacrifice for his country's good.
So I will say no more on that subject except to stress again how important is the presentation of the case, and also to remind noble Lords that as this state of affairs will not finish to-morrow, or maybe the next day, it is vitally important 191 to focus attention not only on those who are serving now or are of age to serve in the Territorial Army but also on those of the pre-Service organisations who will be affected by these arrangements in a year or two when they come to be of the right age.
To sum up, my Lords, I would say that I feel the Government's proposals are right, but in supporting them I do so in no sort of mood of thoughtless optimism. Nor do I support the proposals in any way as a long-term solution, but as a short-term solution to meet the problem which has been put before us in the gracious Speech. One can leave aside the problems of equipment, and so forth. They cannot be affected by these proposals, nor can they be affected by anything that is done now. The equipment is in the pipeline or else it is not; and if it is, it will appear, as I am sure it will. If not, we shall see. One cannot help thinking that if we had not been quite so quick in 1957 to make the announcement about the end of National Service we might not be faced with the present problem; but that is spilt milk, and I am certainly not one to cry over it. But however strong the political and professional arguments may be against the re-introduction of National Service, those arguments must in the end, if Regular recruiting does not come up to the numbers we require, give way to the overriding need for the country's safety and our engagements to our Allies.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, it was in July that I opened a debate in your Lordships' House on questions of defence in particular relation to recruiting. I remember very well concluding my contribution to that discussion by saying that I was about to attend a Territorial camp—as I did—in order to find out for myself the reaction of Territorials to the new reorganisation of the Territorial Army which had then just been effected. I suggested that when your Lordships' House resumed it would be a suitable opportunity to bring forward for discussion the question of the Territorial Army and the Reserve Army in general.
Well, my Lords, events have moved a good deal since then; but yet I think I can conceive that a debate upon such 192 subjects would be worth while in your Lordships' House, rather than that the subject should be discussed at length to-night, at the conclusion of a long day, during which a great variety of subjects have come before the notice of your Lordships. Moreover, it is obvious that there will be presented to your Lordships' House in the not too distant future certain suggestions of a concrete nature on the proposals arising out of Her Majesty's gracious Speech. Therefore I do not propose on this occasion to enter at any length into any of those questions, crucial as they are; because I think the opportunity will more usefully serve at a slightly later, though not much later, stage.
I must say to your Lordships that I find myself in a dilemma in addressing myself to this subject of defence in the light of some of the speeches that have been made to-day, and perhaps, in particular, in the light of the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, with whom I have been for years linked in discussions on defence in your Lordships' House, and with whom, in general, I find myself in more agreement than, on the whole, I do to-day. If he will forgive me for saying so, any lack of agreement with him is based not so much on what he said, or on his criticisms of what has taken place, or on his proposals for the future, as on the attitude of mind which informed his observations. For it seems that Her Majesty's Government have to make up their minds whether they are considering a mere recruiting programme, a mere strengthening of the Forces as an instrument of permanent policy, or whether we are, as I conceive we may be—and he would be a rash man who would assert the contrary—in a critical position, where formidable decisions require to be taken, upon which the destiny and future of the country may depend.
We all know that in the United States they have recently taken what one might almost call, the epoch-making course of recalling in time of peace to the Colours and putting into uniform 150,000 of their young men; and they are on the point of sending the greater number of these men to Europe, to meet what is conceived in the United States to be the crisis in Europe. That is not done for nothing. Are we contemplating any 193 steps which bear a proper relationship to those of the United States, if we take the same view as the United States of the nature of the situation which we have to meet? If Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that it is a different situation, a much milder situation, that we have to face merely a temporary situation, merely a question of extending the forces at present in the Rhine Army, let them say so at once; then we shall know the degree of seriousness which they attach to the problem that has been presented to us by others and about which a great deal of alarm has been aroused in this country.
I cannot understand how Her Majesty's Government can say to those who have made their plans on the footing that they are shortly to be released from National Service, and to those others who have already been released from National Service, that they are to accept these obligations, unless they say at the same time that the situation in which the country is placed is so serious as to involve the most serious treatment. I cannot believe that the measures which the Government propose to take are commensurate with the seriousness of the situation, at all events as others see it. I put it plainly, hoping that I may have a reply from the First Lord of the Admiralty. Do the Government consider, or do they not, that this country is in a situation which should be taken as a crisis? Do they look upon this strengthening of the forces of the Rhine Army merely as an incident in a recruiting campaign? I do not know what the answer is, but I think that the country will be greatly interested to know, because on the answer to the question will depend the response of the people.
It is written in the Scriptures that,In a multitude of counsellors there is wisdom",but in a multitude of successive Ministers of Defence is there wisdom? Or are there merely miscalculations, one after the other, not only as to the nature of the situation with which we are confronted and on the importance or likelihood of the problems which we have to face, but also as to the methods which should be adopted and the approach to the public mind in these matters?
My Lords, there is nothing in the present situation of the Army which has 194 not been pointed out, explicitly or impliedly, in your Lordships' House in a succession of debates on Defence during the last few years, a number of them initiated by myself, and one as lately as July of this year. There is nothing new and nothing unexpected. For the situation, so far as the strength of our Forces and the progress of recruiting are concerned, was foreseen, and the notice of the Government was drawn to it. They were implicitly faced with the choice between several methods—there are only two or three of them, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, has just pointed out. They have decided to retain in the Army a large number of National Servicemen, who were shortly about to be released and who no doubt have made their arrangements for their return to civilian life or who, at all events, are conducting themselves within the Army on the footing that they are soon to be released. These hopes are being disappointed.
I think it is essential that Her Majesty's Government should make it clear to these National Servicemen that it is fully appreciated by their fellow citizens that a burden is being imposed upon them—I will not call it a sacrifice; I think that that would be a misuse of words in this context—which is not shared by all their fellow citizens, and that they are indeed doing a public service imposed upon them by the necessities of the time. I think that that is the least that should be done to maintain a good spirit among them. And I would say the same with regard to those even. in a sense, more hardly placed—those already released who are to be recalled: those from the more recent batches of National Servicemen who have returned to civilian life and who now have to close their desks or down their tools, in the same way as if there were a mobilisation, when no question would arise because mobilisation would be of a general character.
If the noble Lord opposite should ask me whether I have any alternative suggestion for dealing with the present situation of the Rhine Army, I would say, with reluctance—though it is right that I should say it, speaking anyway for myself to the noble Lords opposite, specifically on the Government Front Bench—that, thought I look with great 195 dislike on the situation which has arisen, and though I think that it could have been averted by foresight and judgment and energy at the right time, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that probably it is the least of the evils with which we are confronted; and, from the point of view of general administration, it is probably the most convenient course to be adopted. But I do not absolve the Government from a grave responsibility for permitting the creation of the situation from which this unhappy result has ensued.
We shall have to debate all these matters at full length on a future occasion, but before I sit down I must say this. We know that Mr. Gilpatric, the United States Deputy Secretary of Defence, has been here in consultation with the Minister of Defence; and it is an open secret that he has been greatly worried (I think that is the phrase) by the situation in the Rhine Army and in regard to our intentions which disclosed themselves to him while he was here. We have had no clear statement from the Government as to exactly how they stand in regard to President Kennedy's insistence upon an enlargement of conventional forces, as against reliance upon nuclear arms. There is there a grave difference of opinion on a matter of the first importance. I think that the House deserves to know what is the Government's view and how they explain themselves in regard to this grave difference of opinion between the two Governments.
In that connection, I want to ask the noble Lord this question—I have given him no notice of it, and if he cannot answer to-day I would ask him to give me an answer on a future suitable occasion: who has control of the warheads for these nuclear weapons? Supposing we find ourselves embarked in martial exercises in Germany, and we have no adequate conventional Army, are we or are we not in a position, in our own judgment and at our own will, to use these nuclear weapons? Or is the essential equipment in the physical custody and under the control of the United States? Does it or does it not depend upon the United States at the crucial moment whether we of the United Kingdom shall be allowed to use the weapons upon which we seem to be relying? That is a crucial question. Are 196 we masters in our own house or not? Have we the key or not? Whether we should use the key is a quite different matter. I am concerned at the moment to know whether we have the key to use, if it appears to us to be a proper thing to do.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Norrie, referred to a speech by me reported at some length in The Times today. It was a speech not directed to defence matters in particular, but was an inaugural speech made by me as the recently elected Chairman of the Royal Society of Arts on a different subject, in which the question of defence arose incidentally, but perhaps not even as defence. It was a speech which I called, "The Shrinking World: What Next for Britain?" In connection with That speech I passed in review, among other matters, our situation and manpower in relation to bases, and I expressed the view which I hold that a great deal of our precarious strength is being applied to manning bases some of which no longer have any strategical purpose or actual usefulness and are, as I said yesterday, relics rather than redoubts. I was not suggesting that we should at one fell swoop walk out, but suggesting that we should—no doubt, over a period on a phased programme—disembarrass ourselves from such bases. I believe that if this country is to hold her proper position in the world into which we are moving, in the new pattern of the new world, that is what we shall have to do. But I did not put it as high as I understood the noble and gallant Lord to impute to me.
Nevertheless, it is important that this question of overseas garrisons should have this said. I hope that the Government are not going to withdraw from the garrisons in these various bases the technicians there—the signallers, drivers R.E.M.E. men and the rest—because if they do that then, without greatly strengthening the Rhine Army, they will destroy the effectiveness of the garrisons in those various bases. What they really have to do is to inject new men, new experience and new training into the Rhine Army without affecting the present set-up of the bases in the various parts of the world, which otherwise might be made wholly ineffective.
That is all I wish to say to-day. I hold myself free to ask the questions to 197 which I have referred, and others of which I will give notice to the noble Lord, on future occasions as we may hope to make them arise, because we are dealing with a subject which is really the most crucial and critical of all, as I conceive, of the subjects that have been discussed to-day.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (LORD CARRINGTON)
My Lords, we have had, as I think all your Lordships will agree, a very varied and interesting day's debate, ranging over a wide variety of subjects. We have discussed housing, agriculture, land valuation, road transport, civil defence, railways, immigration, defence, the Common Market, nursing, doctors, physiotherapy, Scottish housing, Exchequer equalisation grants, rent subsidies, the neutron bomb and National Service. It makes it all the more difficult to wind up in a satisfactory manner and take account of all the points which have been made during the afternoon. Indeed, I am afraid that I am not entirely qualified to do so. I remember a number of years ago that a Member of your Lordships' House, speaking on behalf of the Government in a debate on a most complicated subject for a Department for which he was not responsible, and in the face of a number of the greatest experts in the country on that particular subject, remarked ruefully in his winding up speech, "I am only A Lord in Waiting". I feel that I am rather in that position this evening but I promise that a reply will be sent to any questions which noble Lords may have asked and which remain unanswered in the remarks I have to make.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in a vigorous speech at the beginning of the debate seemed to criticise strongly the lack of progress on our road system. But he seemed to me, if I may say so, completely to ignore that we are in the middle of the biggest road programme that this country has ever undertaken. I should have thought that anybody who motors around this country at the present time could not fail to see the signal improvement in our roads system over the last two or three years, and perhaps more particularly in the last twelve months. To take only two examples, there is the Great North Road, and the 198 road which I use when going to my home, the Western Avenue. This rate of progress is to be stepped up and maintained and is running at the rate of £500 million for the next five years. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, suggested that there was nothing in the gracious Speech about this. In point of fact, there is a Road Safety Bill and there is a Railways Bill to improve the public transport, which the noble Lord criticised in the course of his remarks; and, in addition, the Minister of Transport has set up a long-range study group to consider the conditions which will arise in our major cities in the next twenty years or so.
The noble Lord also asked me about three measures which he hoped were going to be introduced into Parliament during this Session, the first being the Weights and Measures Bill. This Bill now incorporates some minor changes from the one that your Lordships saw last Session, and it will be introduced as soon as this can be done without overloading the programme. But with regard to the Shops and Offices Bill, I am afraid it will not be possible to find time for proper consideration, and this will have to be deferred until the 1962–63 Session.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I know whether the Weights and Measures Bill will be introduced into the Commons—it was there last Session—and not in this House?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, if I have anything to do with it, it will be introduced into the Commons. On the other hand, I must not be taken as promising anything.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, lastly the noble Lord asked me about the Capital Gains Tax Bill. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday, or the day before, that this Bill is ready, and that it would be introduced as soon as possible. I listened with great interest, if I may say so, to the speech which the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, made, because she knows a great deal about the subject of health and social welfare. I think she made a most eloquent and good-humoured appeal for more women doctors, and quoted some figures which I thought 199 were very revealing, if I may say so. I know that my noble friend Lord Newton, who was sitting next to me whilst she was speaking, will pass on what she has said to the Minister, as indeed I am sure he will the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland. I hope your Lordships will excuse me if I do not follow the noble Baroness and others of your Lordships who talked about the Commonwealth Immigration Bill. My noble friend Lord Waldegrave referred to it in some detail and, as your Lordships have pointed out, there will be ample opportunity to discuss this when it is introduced into the House later on this Session.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but we are anxious to get this part of the debate finished up to-night. May I have an answer to the point I think I put about immigration? Will there now be real consultations between the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth countries before this Bill is introduced? What is the state of consultation? That is what we are anxious about.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I must apologise to the noble Viscount. I did not know that he had asked that question. I was not in the House yesterday, for reasons of which I gave notice. But, so far as I know, there have been consultations between the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I will certainly let the noble Viscount know the answer to the question he has just asked.
My noble friend Lord Teviot drew attention to the nuclear tests of the Russians, and the possibility of an American neutron bomb. I do not know about the neutron bomb or whether it exists. There seem to be so many very disagreeable ways of being killed these days that it does not seem to me to make much difference whether you are atomised or neutronised. All I know—and I agree very much with what my noble friend said about this—is that these are dreadful weapons, and it is no mere platitude to say that we must come to some arrangement with each other about disarmament and about peaceful co-existence.
Most of your Lordships, however, have concentrated on various matters affecting 200 defence, and we have just had two speeches—one very notable speech from my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, and a very fair speech, if I may say so, from the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. I must say that I do not agree with what he said about Lord Bridgeman's speech. It seemed to me that it was a wise, interesting and constructive speech. Indeed, I think so because I agree with almost everything that he said, as I hope he will see during the course of my remarks. The noble Lord asked me some questions about the control of nuclear weapons. I do not want to go into this too fully, because I do not think it is a subject which one ought to take too easily off the cuff. I think it depends on which nuclear weapons you are talking about. If they are our own weapons, we have control over them, subject to political direction. If they are American weapons, the Americans have control. If they are nuclear weapons which come from the Americans and belong to us, then we both have some control over them. I will certainly let the noble Lord know the exact position in a letter later on.
In the ordinary way, this would be the off-season for debates on Defence in your Lordships' House, because in a very few months a new Defence White Paper for 1962 will be produced, and that will be the occasion for a full-scale review of the Government's performance during the present year and a discussion of their plans for the future. Moreover, the 1962 Defence White Paper will have more than ordinary significance, because it will come exactly five years after the 1957 White Paper which was designed to lay down a programme stretching over five years. That programme has now largely been fulfilled, and the time has come to set course again for the next stage of the journey. That course will inevitably be somewhat different from the one which we have been following since 1957, because, although the goal of preserving the peace and security of the West remains the same, there have been a number of important trends and changes which we must take into account. Some of the interests and commitments which seemed so important to us five years ago, now have receded; others which we could barely discern then have since leapt into prominence.
201 One lesson above all has emerged, however. That is, that if we are to continue to maintain our influence and protect our vital interests in those parts of the world remote from Europe we must learn to deploy our forces with less reliance on fixed bases overseas. With this I think the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, would agree, though, of course, fixed bases are important; and I agree very much with what he said about the importance of Aden during the Kuwait crisis. Here I would interject an answer to a point made by my noble friend Lord Merrivale when he asked me about the future of Singapore. As was stated by my noble friend Lord Perth on October 19, the Prime Minister of Malaya is coming to London later this month to discuss proposals he has made for a political association involving Malaya, Singapore and the North Borneo territories. The position of the British bases in Singapore is one of the matters which has to be considered in this connection. The Prime Ministers of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore have both made it clear that they appreciate that it is a problem which will have to be settled in discussion with us, and I do not think I can say anything more than that today.
As a result of what I have just said, I think we must increase the flexibility and mobility of our forces; and we must exploit and develop still further the ability of the three Services to work together, which was so clearly demonstrated at Kuwait last summer. During the next few months the Government will be doing some hard thinking about all these problems, and how they are likely to affect the shape and organisation of the three Services in the years to come, and I obviously cannot say more about it to-day.
But, as your Lordships will have noticed, the gracious Speech made more than a passing reference to defence. It is obvious that we are going through a particularly difficult and dangerous phase of international relations, as both my noble friend Lord Melchett and my noble friend Lord Amherst of Hackney pointed out in their two remarkable speeches in moving and seconding the Address. I do not simply mean the growing tension in Europe over Berlin, which has been heightened by the recent series of nuclear tests which the Russians have carried out, though that in itself is bad enough. There 202 is tension too in the Far East, in Laos and South Vietnam, where the spread of Communist aggression has barely been halted. And there are still anxieties in the Middle East, where we must continue to keep a watchful eye on the situation. Nowhere in the world are we wholly at peace, and in too many quarters of the globe at once the embers of the cold war are being dangerously fanned.
It is natural, therefore, that the House should wish to be assured that our defence forces are being brought to a state of readiness to meet whatever emergency may come, and that our resolve to maintain our alliances, and through them the peace and freedom of the West, remains as strong as ever. I therefore welcome this opportunity to reaffirm the Government's confidence in N.A.T.O. and our other alliances, and their determination to play as full a part as possible in the measures, both military and nonmilitary, which must be taken by the West to prevent the present dangerous situation from boiling over into war. At the same time, I must emphasise that the first aim of the Government in Europe is to achieve a negotiated settlement of the Berlin crisis; and while it is clearly right, as I have said, to increase our readiness to meet military aggression, should negotiation fail, we must at all costs avoid taking any action on our side which' would merely lead to further tension and so make negotiation more difficult. It is against this background that I would ask your Lordships to consider the measures which the Government have taken, and propose to take, to strengthen our military position.
What then have we done? No special measures are needed at present to increase the strength of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Recruiting for both these Services has been going well, and they have had no great difficulty in getting all the men they need. Indeed, the Royal Marines have had a particularly good year, and recruiting and re-engagement are at a high level. We are taking advantage of this to recruit an additional number of men who will be used not only to increase the hitting power of the Commandos but also to make them less dependent on the Army for second-line support; and this will help the Army in the direction in which they are most short, and also make the Commandos more self-contained.
203 The operational Fleet is fully manned and at a high state of readiness, and our ships in Reserve can be brought forward into the Active Fleet at very short notice if necessary. Although we are maintaining the present disposition of the Fleet for the time being, in order to have ships available in all parts of the world where trouble threatens, 85 per cent. of our ships are earmarked for N.A.T.O. in the event of war and can be redeployed very quickly to their war-time stations.
I was, incidentally, in America the week before last, at the invitation of the United States Secretary of the Navy. I then had the opportunity to see something of their Fleet and its equipment, and I was tremendously impressed by the efficiency and the power of their warships. I spent some time at sea in a nuclear submarine, and also with an antisubmarine task force, and the morale and efficiency of the officers and men, and their degree of preparedness, were most heartening. I am glad to say—and the noble Viscount knows this as well as I do—that relations between the Royal Navy and the United States Navy are as good as they ever have been.
Like the Navy, Royal Air Force operational squadrons are maintained at a high state of readiness and can be put on a war footing at short notice, should the need arise. Moreover, the flexibility of air power enables the forces in one theatre to be reinforced from another very quickly if required. Such reinforcement is part of regular R.A.F. training. In addition, as part of the general pattern of strengthening our forces in Western Europe in the light of the Berlin situation, our fighter forces in Germany have been supplemented by additional Javelin all-weather fighters.
The Army, however, presents a rather different problem, and it is clear from what we have heard in the debate this afternoon that it is the readiness of the Army, and especially of B.A.O.R., which is causing noble Lords the most concern; and I think I ought to spend a little time on it. I have spoken of the problem of the Army, but in reality there are two problems, one a short-term problem and one a longer-term problem, which, as my noble friend behind me has pointed out, must be considered separately from each other. The short- 204 term problem was foreseen from the moment we decided to abandon National Service and to place the Army on an all-Regular footing. It was inevitable that this transition would cause a major upheaval and that, in the process of running down and reorganising the Army, we should be hard put to maintain at full strength all the units we needed to meet our commitments as they were then foreseen. But this is a transitional problem.
As your Lordships know, the Government set a target of 165,000 Regulars for the beginning of 1963, and it is still the Government's aim to reach those numbers by that date; and I may say in passing that the figures for recruiting in September were very encouraging indeed. The Government, however, made no secret of the fact that 1962, when the last National Service men would be leaving the Army, would be a critical year. It was a risk we were bound to run at some time if we were ever to realise the aim of an all-Regular Forces.
There can be no doubt, my Lords, that conscription is a most wasteful and inefficient way to raise an Army. One has only to reflect on the rapid turnover of National Service men, on the vast overhead of the training and administrative machine needed to turn them into soldiers, and the very short period of effective service they can give, to appreciate what a depressing effect on both the efficiency and morale of any fighting force conscription can have. We must avoid, I am sure, a return to this if we possibly can. What of course we could not foresee in 1957-and this answers the question which the noble Lord, Lord Nathan put—was that this critical year of transition for the Army, 1962, would coincide with a period of heightened tension in Europe, when the commitments which we should be called upon to face, both there and in other parts of the world, so far from being smaller would actually be so much heavier. Nor can we at present see any end to this period of tension. It may well last through 1962, when the strength of B.A.O.R. must slowly decline, as the Army runs down, unless special measures are taken to maintain it. And this is the problem we now face.
We have already taken measures to strengthen B.A.O.R. by improving its 205 anti-aircraft defences, and, as your Lordships know, we have recently moved a regiment of Thunderbird guided missiles to Germany. But we cannot allow the strength of B.A.O.R. to decline so long as the Berlin crisis lasts; and if 110 detente comes about within a few months we shall have to do more to preserve it. Of course, the strength of B.A.O.R., and of the Army as a whole, could be very quickly increased, if hostilities became imminent, by the call-up of the reserves. The Government have never claimed that an all-Regular Army of 180,000 would be able to fight an all-out war in Europe without recourse to full mobilisation. But this would require the issue of a Proclamation and the circumstances at present are not, in the Government's view, such as to justify this drastic course. As I said earlier, we axe anxious to do nothing which might increase the tension, and there is little doubt that this extreme step would have just that effect.
It is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, pointed out this afternoon, that we have the power to call up those men in Section "A" of the Regular Army Reserve and Category I of the Army Emergency Reserve who have a pre-Proclamation liability, without a Proclamation, but their numbers are not sufficient to meet the need which may well arise during the next year, and in any case we should be reluctant to call these men back in circumstances different from those for which they originally volunteered, for this would be a breach of their contract under which they are liable for recall only when warlike operations are in progress or are being prepared. The War Emergency Reserve, as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, will know, consists of a different sort of man—dock operators and others of that kind—who are not useful in the circumstances we are faced with art the present time.
Nor, my Lords, would the reintroduction of National Service provide the answer, even if it were not open to all the objections which I mentioned earlier. Our need is for men already trained and able to take their place immediately alongside the Regular Army. Fresh National Servicemen would be no better than passengers for many months, and the effort required to train them would have to be subtracted from fighting units already at full stretch. The Government 206 have therefore decided that the best, and, indeed, the only effective way to meet the short-term problem of the Army during 1962, would be to delay the rundown by retaining for an additional six months certain National Servicemen who would be completing their full-time service next year, and we propose to take the necessary powers to do this now.
I know as well as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, that this will be a blow to those who may be affected, and I can assure your Lordships that the Government have decided to take this step only with great reluctance. Of course, it is disappointing to be retained after the two-year period is over, but by their contribution these men will be helping to preserve the peace and security on which their future civilian life as well as ours depends, and, indeed, they are the only people who can give immediate help in the present situation. If the present emergency is over before the last National Servicemen have completed their extended service no further measures will be needed to tide us over the gap; but we cannot bank on this and so we have decided to take power, which we must all hope we shall not have to use, to recall for a maximum period of six months those National Servicemen who have completed their two years with the Army and have a liability for part-time service.
This power will not be used to call back any of those whose service has been extended for six months, and it is unlikely that any men will be recalled before about this time next year. One lesson which the present crisis has taught us is that our present system of Army reserves is too rigid and inflexible. It was, of course, designed in an age which was unaccustomed to the changes of temperature in a cold war, when the threat, as in 1914 and 1939, was more immediate and general, and when the classic response to it was general mobilisation. To-day, a much more flexible approach is needed to enable the Army to be quickly expanded and contracted to meet the changing demands made upon it.
The Government have decided to set in train a thorough re-examination of the whole system of Army reserves, to see how it can best be modernised and brought into line with present-day 207 needs. This study will necessarily take some time. There is, however, one step which we feel we can usefully take straight away, which will help to give us the flexibility that we need. We think that there are numbers of trained men, many of them in the Territorial Army, who would be prepared to come forward to serve with the Colours in times of tension such as the present one, and we propose to give them the opportunity to do so by forming a new volunteer Reserve within the framework of the Territorial Army.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Would the noble Lord excuse me for intervening for a moment? I am very grateful to him for the details he has given about what Government policies may be, but I feel that he has not met the point made by Lord Nathan, about which we are all very concerned: how soon, in the present circumstances, there is to be a real strengthening-up of our forces at a time when tension has already risen. Of course, we all hope that the tension will not get worse; but it may get worse, and it seems to those of us listening to the noble Lord—although we are very grateful for what he has said—that it may be months and months before there is any real difference in the strength of the forces to meet the emergency. That seems to me to show a little weakness in the policies which have been put to us. We do not want to over-stress the seriousness of the situation, but we do think that the Government's general move towards strengthening should be more specific than it is.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
These measures are designed to prevent the Army from running down any further next year As regards the strengthening of B.A.O.R. at present, I think the noble Viscount will have followed the debate in another place yesterday, and will have seen the assurance given both by the Minister of Defence and by the Secretary of State for War, and, indeed, will have seen what Mr. George Brown has written in a newspaper in the last two or three days, that B.A.O.R. as it now stands, although it is short of some equipment and short of some men, can 208 give a very good account of itself if it is necessary to do so.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Before the noble Lord proceeds with his speech, may I ask for one assurance with regard to the men who are being kept back in the Service for six months and those who may be called up? First, of those who are being kept back, many may have taken on commitments; their wives may have taken on commitments, such as hire purchase, in anticipation of the husband's returning to get a reasonably high salary, certainly higher than he would get in the Services. May I ask the noble Lord if he will give an assurance that these people will be protected, that they will not suffer financial hardship through their being retained and, equally as regards those who are going to be called up, that they will have their jobs secured for them and, again, that they will not suffer any financial hardship through this extra form of service?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
Yes, I can give the noble Lord the last assurance, that all will have their jobs guaranteed for them, in the same way that the National Serviceman has now. With regard to their financial liabilities, they will find it possible to draw on what I think are called National Service grants, which is a system that has been operating ever since National Service came into force. This system will continue and hardship will be taken into consideration, but, as the noble Lord will appreciate, so far as I know the Bill is not yet drafted, and these are the sort of questions which are very difficult for me to answer off the cuff when the subject is not within my own Department. But they are certainly the sort of questions which are very much in the mind of the Secretary of State for War at the present time.
My Lords, before those two interjections I was talking about the new Volunteer Reserve in the Territorial Army, and I just want to finish this, because it is an important part of what I am saying. It will be an entirely new form of reserve liability which will fit in well with any new reserves organisation which may ultimately be devised. If it is successful, it should give us quite quickly a reserve of trained manpower which would make it unnecessary for 209 the Government to use the powers which they propose to take to recall National Servicemen next year. It will, of course, be open to part-time National Servicemen to join the new Reserve, and we hope that many will be attracted by the special financial inducements which we propose to offer. Those who join the new Reserve will receive an annual bounty together with a gratuity if they are called up, and, as I was telling the noble Lord, their jobs will be protected in exactly the same way as those of National Servicemen. A great many of your Lordships have given great service to the Territorial Army and have a great interest in its future. I hope that you will give this new Reserve your blessing and help us with its formation.
My Lords, I am afraid I have talked for rather too long. In the special circumstances of to-day we should, in my 210 view, be lacking in our duty to ensure the safety of this country and to fulfil our obligations to our Allies if we did not take the steps which are proposed in the gracious Speech, to maintain the size of the Army and to do the other things which I mentioned earlier in my speech. It is in that spirit that I hope your Lordships will support those steps when the time comes.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Latham, I beg to move that this debate he now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Earl of Lucan.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past seven o'clock.