§ 2.31 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Tweedsmuir—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "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."
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, we are to-day really opening a debate which will not only last to-day and to-morrow but be continued next week in three days of discussion on two Amendments which we propose to put down to the loyal Address. The speeches which the House will desire to make to-day and tomorrow will be many, and I hope that none of us will be too long in dealing with the general discussion of the gracious Speech from the Throne. In dealing with that, I should like to say that I am sure all Members of this House will wish to echo the sentiments of the Leader of the House yesterday in saying how much we desire to send our good wishes to Her Majesty and wish her to have good health and happiness in the event which she is expecting.
The debate yesterday in another place was much more prolonged than usual, and there were very important speeches by the Leader of the Opposition and by the new Prime Minister. I would say about the gracious Speech itself, as has been remarked by more than one Member of your Lordships' House, that it is unusually long. It is long, I suppose, because the Government have been preparing it for some time. Obviously, every item in it was well-known to the Cabinet and the Prime Minister before the recent election campaigns in Kinross and in Luton, and I feel just as strongly as I felt on October 24 that there was no real reason why the House should not have assembled on the original date fixed of October 29 and got on with 33 the business of the House, which we are warned now is going to be exceedingly full this Session. Moreover, we have not yet been able properly to discuss the Denning Report upon certain matters, a Report which we are all glad has resulted in clearing certain Ministers from the evil rumours that were going about and of which we have said nothing from this side of the House. But there are other points in regard to the Denning Report to which reference may have to be made. Because of the Prime Minister's illness, the Opposition, through Mr. Wilson, withdrew the suggestion of a special recalling of Parliament, but in all these circumstances we certainly ought not to have had the beginning of a final Session delayed until as late as yesterday.
This very long gracious Speech is clearly much more in the order of an election address than something which can be said to be the programme of the Government in a particular Session, and a Session which is not likely to be prolonged through the full course it usually occupies in a Parliamentary year. But I must say that between the end of October and November 7 the Government and its Press had a jolly good innings for getting the case put over. We were not surprised to hear from the Prime Minister on Monday last that the job of the Conservative membership now is never to forget that a General Election is coming, and that time, thought, study and almost every other function that they can control must be centred upon the General Election. More and more one begins to understand the reason for this. It is quite clear that after twelve years in office the Government are most anxious that their failures in those twelve years should not be brought before the public. If only they can get what the Prime Minister desires—no discussion about anything but how they see the future—then, of course, the electorate will not be fully informed as to what are the real consequences of the proposals, and what will be the likely result of the proposals in this gracious Speech.
The Queen's Speech itself contains many items which have been advocated long since by members of the working class, through their official political representatives. From that point of view, some of the proposals would, I 34 am sure, be welcome if they were going to be put into operation under the proper conditions. But when at the end of twelve years, we get a programme of this kind, with the enormously increased sum which will have to be spent if the Government are to achieve in respect of these items what they have failed to get going by stages in the last twelve years, then I say that the public ought to pay very special attention to the process that is going on.
The Prime Minister is a perfectly honest man, and so he has stated quite clearly what he wants: he wants to discuss only the future; what the Government intend for Britain in the future; what they want with regard to modernisation. The new term applied there is, I suppose, some tribute to the exposition on that whole question which was given at the Scarborough Labour Conference. It was a thorough shake-up for those who had been rather dilly-dallying about the matter for the last twelve years. But I must say that when one begins to think of that, one should bear in mind all the occasions on which we have put forward such a policy. In fact we were the first Party ever to put forward before a General Election a real book-type, fully worked out, policy for the future—not merely for the Party, but for the nation—and gradually this practice has come about.
I am reminded of what the spirit of the Tory Party really is when I come to recollect the speech of the new Foreign Secretary, Mr. R. A. Butler. We all sympathise with him in the disappointments he has had in his political life. But although he always speaks in a most friendly way when we meet, he made his position perfectly clear in the speech on the Saturday of the Black-pool Conservative Conference. Then he said: "Let us teach these Socialists a lesson. Let us see that we beat them again for a fourth time", when he dreamt, he said, that "there will be very little more heard of this thing, immature Socialism." Immature Socialism!—the policy of a Party which believes in planning and control which noble Lords opposite have scorned for nearly the whole period of their political life since the war but which in recent years they have been bound in some measure to adopt.
35 We had results from 1945 to 1950 which put the administration of this country far ahead of the administration of any other country which had suffered as we had done from the war, and especially from war damage. There never was a recovery to compare with it by way of progress. It was done by controls: controls of material, to a plan; controls of labour, to a plan. And by the end of 1951, when the Party opposite came into power, we had so far recovered that we were controlling 25 per cent. of the export trade of the world. This is "immature Socialism"! The Prime Minister announced with some pride last night that there was an increase in production of 8 per cent. in the coal mines—and here the appointment made by the Government opposite was of an immature Socialist. These are extraordinary statements to come from Mr. Butler.
Then he went on to try to teach us a lesson about democracy. What an amazing reflection of the Tory mind was that! He said that the Tories were democrats before Socialism was even heard of. Yes, he went back and selected Bolingbroke as an example. I cannot for the life of me yet understand whether he was thinking of Bolingbroke himself or of Sir Robert Walpole, but certainly Bolingbroke was a great intriguer. He wanted to get back, if he could, to a position where he could recall James III to the Throne without any reference to the Act of Settlement, but Sir Robert Walpole managed to defeat him in the end and the Hanovarian Monarchy was installed on the death of Queen Mary. This is a great example of the early knowledge of democracy by Tories, before Socialism was ever heard of—democracy in the eighteenth century; democracy at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the day of William Cobbett's Rural Rides, and the terrible state into which the Tory Government had got the people by deflating unduly the position of the peasant in this country; democracy in the nineteenth century, with the Dorchester labourers sentenced in a legal court in this country for daring to ask for more than 7s. a week, and being sent abroad; and only a great outcry by a few really well-thinking people managed to get this revised and have them returned. It was 1832 before 36 you got the abolition of that mockery of democracy the pocket boroughs, with class and interests and influence reigning in the country, and the people completely forgotten.
Mr. Butler went on to talk about the revelations of Hardwick, the great and famous actor, who talked about a visit with his father to the Black Country and the terrible conditions at the beginning of the nineteenth century. I just want to explain why Toryism is where it is to-day, and why they talk this way. Mr. Butler was proud of the fact that Mr. Hardwick reported what dreadful conditions there were at the beginning of the nineteenth century, on to the Boer War. When I look at the attitude of the Tory Party to democracy to-day, I must say that, if there is anything in this gracious Speech which is of any value at all, it has come from the long-organised pressure of the immature Socialists, the trade unions and the cooperators, many of them, and the Labour Party organisation. That is where it has come from; and you have been gradually forced into a social reform you did not want, and a social reform which the Tories in the early part of the nineteenth century voted again and again not to have. You have been pushed by the pressure of the people themselves through the gospel that we have been preaching.
My Lords, as the noble Earl has finished this history, will he not agree that he has read out a catalogue of the misdeeds of laissez faire Liberalism in the last century?
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
You can put them both together. I am not inclined to disagree with the interruption. We used to call both of them "Tweedledee and Tweedledum", and there is certainly not all that difference to-day. The real pressure has been coming from the basic people of the country, gradually, as they could get more of their citizenship recognised. I wanted to get that put straight in this House in view of the statement made at the Blackpool Conference, which was to lead you all to victory.
The next thing I want to say is this. We are not dealing with a new Government to-day. You have a new Prime Minister, but the Government is 37 practically unaltered since its reformation when the great turnout by Mr. Macmillan, the then Prime Minister, came about eighteen months or so ago. It is the same Government, with the same thoughts, the same ideas; and, in the meantime, for more than two years now, you have had nothing but a succession of messages from the electorate that your mandate is worn out. At by-election after by-election you have failed to maintain the position of your mandate. The way you are going on now, it seems to me that one of the main reasons for the legislation of last Session was to try to break finally, if you could, the power of Labour in the great metropolis. The reason for the new local government for Greater London is that you know perfectly well that the time of reckoning has now come; and the immediate situation for the Government is to put off the date of the General Election as far as possible, and to use all the enormous power behind them, with all their great money bags, to put up the great campaign posters in order to try to divert the attention of the general electorate from what their conduct has been for twelve years and on to this great programme for the future.
There is something else I want to say. The production of an Election address of this kind, with these great and enormous programmes, now, after twelve years, seems to lead to the need for the Government—and I am asking them to-day to do it—to produce a White Paper to Parliament showing what are the estimated costs of these programmes. I have already said that there are many items in the gracious Speech that we should welcome if they were properly applied and properly carried out. But whenever we have submitted a political programme to the electorate the Conservative Party have immediately asked, "What will it cost? How will you get the money?". What answer have we got now from the Prime Minister? The answer from the Prime Minister is, "Ah, we are in favour of a policy of growth; a policy of growth without inflation". Here is another point on which their record requires to be examined.
What sort of growth of production have we had, in relation to other countries, since we handed to them in 1951 38 the record about which I have spoken of our share of control of the world export trade? What sort of progress has there been? Over and over again we have had to point to the stagnation. Over and over again we have had to point to the proper remedies of investment at the right time in the right industries, and the proper controls that should be enforced in order to secure this steady growth that he now talks about.
But has there been inflation? I know that noble Lords will get up presently and say: "I think the Leader of the Opposition has said this before". Good things can always bear repeating, and this is an exposition of the failure of the Government. We have a Budget this year of well over £6,000 million. How much have you accomplished with that? How much growth, how much improvement here, there and everywhere? Over and over again we see the problems have piled up—some of which the Government no doubt have thought about in the preparation of the gracious Speech; maybe that is true. But why have they not done it before?
Let us take the not very long-established conversion of the Government to the need for planning and control. Let us take control first. The Government have actually been responsible since the Selwyn Lloyd Budget for pressing a policy of control of income. They were hesitant at first whether this control of income was to apply to anything but wages. But gradually they have had to come round to the idea of its including the control of income from profits as well. That is one control now necessary to secure the objective of this gracious Speech. Over and over again we on these Benches have asked for planning to be done, and to keep pace with the needs of the nation in a modern age. What sort of planning have the Government really done? The Government are trying to do it now with this programme.
I do not think the electorate are going to be deceived by it. I do not think they will believe a programme of this kind can be accomplished in a five or six month session in this Parliament, when the Government have had twelve years of public confidence before now in which to get it done, especially when one looks back at the way in which 39 Minister after Minister got up and declared, as they did in one case, that the country would go bankrupt in a year or two if they consented (as Mr. Wilson put it yesterday) to the increase of even a shilling or two a week to the nurses. One could also take the attitude of the Government with regard to education, all of which can be debated at greater length to-morrow and upon the Amendments next week. But the planning—why, it has been absolutely terrible in its lack of comprehensiveness and its failure to do the right thing.
I mention education, on which the Government are now going to spend about £3,500 million. This is a tremendous sum. There is the same thing with regard to defence—well, we shall come to it on Tuesday. So far as defence is concerned, we have a budget of £1,838 million this year; and the Minister of Defence has already stated that it will go up to £2,000 million, or he expects it will. What have we got for it? The minimum requirements of the ordinary Armed Forces cannot be filled at the present time, in the Army especially with regard to personnel, and in the other Services with regard to equipment. And the programme now proposed means that within a year or two there are going to be no limits at £2,000 million. Where has the Government's planning been? We will come to more details about that in the Defence debate next Tuesday.
Then we come to the question of housing. The exchanges yesterday in the House of Commons made me feel a little cross, I must say. There was an interruption and a suggestion that the housing figure during the time of the 1945–50 Parliament was less than that produced by the Conservatives, and the question was asked, "What else were they doing?" Every noble Lord on the opposite Benches knows in his heart that what was being done was the restoring of a bankrupt nation to activity. Lease-lend had ended and factories were being rebuilt. Houses were being repaired and more houses built. But how far behind is the present Government's housing programme? I will give an example. It was mentioned to us in another meeting yesterday. There has been the result at Luton of the feeling of the country in a prosperous 40 industrial area. Let me take another town. Take Slough, which to-day has over 1,500 unfilled vacancies for workers. The local council applied to the present Minister of Housing for permission to build 400 houses because they cannot get workers to the borough to fill the vacancies as there is no housing. Many of the people who have come into the borough are living in overcrowded and shocking conditions, and young married people cannot get housing accommodation. What has the Minister of Housing done in the last few weeks? He has cut down the application for 400 houses in that great borough to 245. What nonsense all this sort of thing makes when you come to deal with what has actually been done administratively to-day!
Take the planning which was so revealed during a televised debate the other night with regard to electric power. That was a very revealing thing. There was a complete misjudgment, which any Minister of Power ought to have been able to check from ordinary Government statistics and growth of population, and also the great increase in the number of electric gadgets. Now they have not been able to guarantee, after the experience of last winter, that even this winter there will not be reduced supplies of power to homes and factories if there should be another cold spell. Now they find that they will have to spend £165 million at least to begin to produce for five years ahead for the actual power requirements already established.
Criticism was made against the Labour Party on their planning. This Government have been without any really competent planning. That is why we are in the present situation. And what about those things which were not mentioned in the election address? There is not a single mention of the health services or about what is to be done in that respect. There is not a single mention of pensions or widows. There is no reference to these at all. There is no reference to the terrible increase in the difficulty of the social problem of housing arising from the fantastic exploitation of the price of land. We are faced now with the fantastic position that people have to pay from £4,500 to £5,000 for a house with two bedrooms, a bathroom and one large living room—largely because of the price of land and other inflations which 41 have occurred and the enormous profits which have been made.
Let us take another question of social cost. Why do the Government not say something in the Speech about hire purchase? We have had set up in the last twelve months a Council, under the chairmanship of that very well-qualified Peeress, Baroness Elliot of Harwood. We have not heard much from them yet—though I know that they have not yet had a great deal of time. But there is nothing in this Speech about consumers in general. Yet they are being exploited all over the country. The redevelopment, the centralised shopping and that sort of thing, is making a gradual increase in the use of the housewife as a beast of burden to carry her goods home. They have not all got cars, you know. There is all that kind of thing and there is nothing about it in the gracious Speech. The Consumer Council might have been asked to have a special look at a new exploitation: that of parasitical organisations which now try to persuade the housewife that she is making a profit by getting a gift as a result of a green or a black or a yellow or another coloured stamp. It is a shocking thing.
I said that I was not going to talk very long, and I will not do so. We shall have more to say in the course of the next two days' debate. Next week we shall have the Defence Amendment to discuss on Tuesday, and I am grateful to the official channels for the fact that we shall be able to have also two days' discussion of a more general Amendment covering social and industrial questions. There will then be far more opportunity to discuss these matters than we have to-day, when our speeches will be largely addressed to home affairs. In the meantime, I beg the House to remember that the present Government have no real live mandate at this moment. They have not changed just because there is a new Prime Minister, and I suggest that the best possible thing they could do is to go to the country now and not wait for still greater disaster to them.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I do not intend to follow the noble Earl in so long and so wide a review of the gracious Speech. Before I begin the few remarks I am going to make, I would just say that it seems to me doubtful 42 whether James III may not have proved a more satisfactory monarch than George I or George II, who took his place. I am not sure, but I think that it is a point worth considering.
I should like to say a few words about housing. I am very pleased to see that all Parties are agreed that we need to have a great many more houses built as quickly as possible. That is now felt to be a perfectly practicable thing to do, and I am pleased to see that it is proposed that it should be done in the forthcoming year. One of the things that has always surprised and depressed me is the enormously long housing lists which the local authorities have, particularly in London. I am not talking about the country as a whole, because I know more about London and would rather keep to that area. I have wondered from time to time, when I see that these lists never seem to get smaller, whether they are not like some of the waiting lists at hospitals, which, when they are properly studied, need not be quite so depressing as they appear to be. One finds that some people have moved away, or have been rehoused, and often the figures prove to be not quite so terrifying as they sound.
One thing we should try to encourage as much as we can in the building trade is that it should actively concentrate on building houses and not so much on building offices, of which there are already quite enough. At the same time, I do not think that we need the large number of so-called luxury flats which are going up at the present time. I think it is a fact that quite a number of these flats cannot be got rid of by those who have built them or converted them. I have myself seen a number that have not been let, though the prices asked have not been very high. They have seemed reasonable for luxury flats, and I wonder whether the demand is there so much as it was. I do not want to suggest that there should be quite the control of planning which the noble Earl has mentioned, but I feel that there must be some direction in this way so that the building trade can keep its energies directed to where buildings are most required.
One thing, too, I was pleased to see in the gracious Speech is that there is to be development and improvement of 43 houses which, in that rather curious phrase, are "in multiple occupation". I remember that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said that the gracious Speech was written in Her Majesty's own words. I somehow can feel the sticky finger of the Civil Service in that strange phrase, which I quoted just now. But there certainly seems a lot to be done on buildings occupied by more than one person. I believe that a large number of these buildings should be pulled down, because they are worn out and nothing very much can be done to improve them. In 1925, when I was a young medical student, I visited many houses in one of the London boroughs near where I worked. A large number were in a state of advanced decay even at that time. Although a considerable number have since been pulled down, and have been replaced, it has always surprised me to see that some of the buildings are still there and seem even more decayed; and despite the fact that they are worn out, they are still, in 1963, in what is called "multiple occupation".
I should like to mention one further point, while talking about the improvement of existing houses. I think that as much as possible should be done (and this particularly applies to the country) to preserve and modernise houses which have some historic or aesthetic merit, so that they can be turned into reasonably convenient modern houses at a not unreasonable expense. If that could be done, it would be more satisfactory than pulling them down and building new houses.
Another point is that I wonder whether many of the local authorities, particularly in the London area, are not being a little too fixed and rigid in the way they apply their housing lists. I am referring both to the London boroughs and to the L.C.C. I know that Governments do not like to dictate to local authorities, but I would suggest that it might be possible for the Government to say that in their new buildings a certain amount of accommodation on the ground floor should be kept for what I might call emergency housing, for people who urgently need somewhere to go, on medical, health or social grounds. In the part of London where 44 I work, I have found considerable difficulty, which at times has caused me great embarrassment, when people who have come into hospital and recovered have not been able to go back to their flats on the second or third floors of buildings in multiple occupation simply because they just cannot manage the stairs. So it would be a good thing if some flats were available on the ground floor. If there were lifts in these places, the people would be perfectly content, but that is not often the case, and the result is that these people have to be kept where they do not want to be, and where they do not need to be—in expensive hospital beds at the cost of the State.
At the present time when this occurs local authorities say that they have a certain number of such flats but that the queue for them is even longer than the queue for other dwellings. That seems no reply to the point at all. If they have a few, but not enough, they have to provide more. If they did, it would do a great deal to simplify matters for coping with these particularly unfortunate cases of people, who are not always old but often quite young or middle aged. I would further suggest to Her Majesty's Government that some kind of hint or advice might be given along these lines. I am sure that many local authorities would be pleased to take it if it were presented to them in a kind and reasonable manner.
The other point I wish to raise is one about which there has been a certain amount of publicity in the Press recently. I think I saw it stated somwhere that it is practically impossible for a family with nine or ten children to get rehoused in a council house, because councils do not erect dwellings to take families of that size. There again, I can see the argument that one does not want to build a large number of council dwellings for families with ten children, because there are not many families of this size; but it should be possible, by skilful and internal planning, to erect apartments or flats which can be converted into bigger dwellings, if necessary, so that the families can be kept together and not split up as they are now.
There was one family which received a good deal of notice in The Times and other papers about a month ago, with 45 six children living in two rooms in an extremely squalid part of Stepney. They were to be evicted. The mother and children were to go to an institution, and the father elswhere. Luckily, a voluntary body took care of them and got them rehoused together. It would have been a dreadful thing if, merely because of the size of the family, it had been necessary to split up the family by putting the children into custody and sending the mother away, because nothing is more unfortunate for young children than to have the family broken up. One has seen over the last few years that a big proportion of the young children who go wrong (as one might say) have come from broken families and broken homes. Therefore, I think something should be done to ensure that when people have a big family it is possible to get some kind of accommodation provided for them.
I have a good friend who is a doctor with a big practice in Kensington. She was appalled at what she saw, and finally she got the Kensington Housing Association started merely to take care of these large families. This has been a great success. People have rallied round and helped, and in the space of two years my doctor friend has obtained seven or eight houses. With the support of the L.C.C. she has managed to accommodate families which otherwise would have been in great danger of being split up, with the father going to one institution and the mother and children to another. If this success can be achieved by a purely voluntary body, how much more should it be possible for a local authority to do!
There are one or two general remarks that I should like to make. First of all, like the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, I am sorry that there is no mention of anything to do with pensions for the elderly, or about trying to make their lot a little more comfortable and easy. That, I think, is greatly to be deplored, because elderly persons living on their pensions alone are at the present time finding it difficult to make both ends meet comfortably. Finally, there are two things that I regret. First, I am sorry that there is no mention of legislation which might improve the system of electing Members to another place, so that we might have there a more representative body. Then, I am 46 sure that it would have given great pleasure to my noble friend Lord Rea if something had been done to change the start of the fiscal year from April 1 to January 1, thus conforming with most of the other parts of the world, so that your Lordships and Members of another place would be able to take their vacation at a more reasonable time during the summer.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD DERWENT)
My Lords, my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack will be dealing with many of the points raised in to-day's debate when he comes to wind up the debate. My function to-day, which I will explain in a moment, is probably to deal more precisely with the legislation that is promised in the gracious Speech. I must, however, refer to the speeches of the two noble Lords who have just spoken, though they may also be answered in greater detail by my noble and learned friend and during the course of the debate by other noble Lords. If I may reverse the order of speaking and refer to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, first, that dealt largely with housing. I would start off by saying that I am grateful, as I am sure my right honourable friend also will be, for certain ideas put forward by the noble Lord, which of course will be considered. But the noble Lord could not have chosen a more unfortunate day, both for himself and for me, to raise this particular question, because in about half an hour's time many of the questions he has now raised will be answered in a rather lengthy and complicated Housing Bill, as to which there will be a statement to the Press thereafter by my right honourable friend. I think the noble Lord will find many of his questions answered in that Bill. If, however, when he has had time to examine the Bill he still finds any of the points he has raised to-day not covered by it, then doubtless he and I can arrange some method by which we can discuss them.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether this is a statement to the Press on the scope of the Government's housing programme, in relation to the 47 Housing Bill, in anticipation of the Minister's Second Reading speech to the House of Commons?
§ LORD DERWENT
No; it is a brief note. As the noble Lord knows, it nearly always happens in the case of a complicated Bill that a brief note is given to the Press telling them the lines on which the Bill is running so that they may understand it before they have had time to read it fully. It is not a Second Reading speech or anything like it. This has been done by every Government for a long time.
As regards the speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, much of it was in the nature of (if there is such a thing) pure politics. I should only like to refer to the remarks of the noble Earl in so far as they covered the actual legislation promised in the gracious Speech. There was much talk from the noble Earl about this being electioneering legislation; that nothing had happened in twelve years, and there was a rush to get this through before the Election. And he asked what we had been doing for twelve years. I shall ask the House to examine the legislation as it comes forward, and the House will then see that in practically every case the legislation in this Session is a continuation of the policy that has been going for several Sessions.
As your Lordships know, it is virtually impossible in questions of major policy, for a variety of reasons, to complete the whole of a policy during one Session and in one Bill. It is no good saying that nothing has happened until now. When I come to the actual Bills, your Lordships will see that they are nearly all a follow-up of previous Bills or previous inquiries, because this policy has been continuous for twelve years. There are various reasons why one cannot deal with major policy all in one Session or in one Bill. First of all, there is this question on which noble Lords in recent Sessions have become expert—namely, of Parliamentary time. Secondly, in complicated and sometimes somewhat experimental policies and legislation it is wise to proceed step by step. Even after full discussion in Parliament, mistakes can be made, and it is easy to correct them if the steps 48 are taken one at a time. Certain of the Bills that will be coming forward this time are purely the next stages in a particular policy.
The third reason is that I think it is proper for a Government so far as possible to lead public opinion, but in highly controversial matters it is impossible for any Government to go too far ahead of public opinion. For that reason again, certain legislation has to be taken step by step. Finally, there is this matter of the Opposition. It is only fair to the Opposition to take things step by step. When a policy is first mooted they oppose it bitterly. Then they find that in practice it is working remarkably well, and so in the second stage they are all ready to support the policy. For that reason, I confidently expect that during the consideration of these Bills noble Lords opposite will give us full support.
§ LORD DERWENT
Without being too long, I think it would probably be of most use to the House if I mentioned certain Bills which are referred to in the gracious Speech, with a slight commentary on each to show what is our idea behind them. I am not going to make a series of Second Reading speeches—even noble Lords opposite do not deserve that punishment. May I start first with the Police Bill, which, I think I am right in saying, will be published on Friday of this week? In this particular case this is the second stage of a problem, and it follows on a Royal Commission. The first stage was, in fact, a Royal Commission. This would seem to be an appropriate Bill at this moment, in view of the public concern about certain recent occurrences. I do not intend to say anything about the details of the Bill which your Lordships will have plenty of time to look at, because it is starting in another place. I must say, however, that I rather look forward to the debate on the Bill in your Lordships' House because there are difficult problems in this Bill, and the help of the House will be very welcome. But I think it will reassure the public.
Since the Royal Commission made their Final Report in May of last year, 49 a great deal of thought has been given to the fundamental questions which the Commission considered, and there has been a lot of detailed consultation with local authority associations and the organisations representing the different ranks in the police service. The recent shock to the public, as a result of what happened at Sheffield, I think in its way is a great tribute to the work done by the police at large in this country. It was that which caused the shock. I would remind your Lordships that what happened at Sheffield would have been considered perfectly normal in many other countries. I think it is regrettable that after tremendous publicity has been given to accusations—I am not referring to Sheffield now, of course—the same publicity is not always given when it is found that the accusations were without foundation.
I have been visiting various police forces in the last fortnight, and the shock to them about what went on was just as great as it was to the public at large. I was very happy to see that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary told the police in London two days ago that, where he is satisfied that the police have behaved correctly, he will give them absolutely h is fullest support. As I work for him, I promise that should that occur I shall do everything I can to support him in that attitude. It is extraordinary how rarely nowadays the police—who are working probably under more difficult conditions than they have ever worked before, dealing with people who are not always of the most respectable—put a foot wrong. I say without fear of contradiction that it is a great pity that the public at large do not always realise what a great debt of gratitude we owe to them.
The next matter I want to mention is the Bill about the administration of justice—this is being introduced, I believe, to-day—to reorganise the arrangements for the administration of justice in Greater London. This has been made necessary by the Landon Government Act, which was passed during last Session, as we remember. I think the only point I need bring to your Lordships' attention is that it is intended that the present Bill should come into effect on the same day as the local government changes brought about by that Act. 50 There will be, I believe, widespread approval for the Government decision announced in the gracious Speech—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, before the noble Lord passes from the Bill affecting justice in London, may I take it that when he says it will come into effect on the same date as the London Government Act he means 1965 (because that is the effective date for operation) and not 1964? It would be a pity if this came into force before the physical change of the London Government Act; there could be a chaotic situation.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is right—I think it is 1965. I have not examined the Bill, but that is my impression. If I am wrong, I will let the noble Lord know before the end of to-day's Sitting.
There will, I believe, be widespread approval for the Government's decision, announced in the gracious Speech, to empower the Court of Criminal Appeal to order a new trial on grounds of fresh evidence. The absence of such power up to now has been criticised for a long time by many lawyers and on occasions by the Court of Criminal Appeal itself; for instance, there was the recent example when they allowed the appeal of "Lucky" Gordon. The Bill which we shall introduce will propose to empower the court to order a new trial on fresh evidence, both in the case where a convicted person has exercised his right of appeal against conviction, and also where the Home Secretary has himself referred the case to the court under Section 19 of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1907. I think perhaps all I need say is to emphasise at this stage that there is no question of a re-trial following acquittal whether there is new evidence or whether there is not.
Also coming forward is the matter of compensation for victims of crimes of violence. Your Lordships will, I am sure, welcome the reference in the gracious Speech to this, because it was a subject of a fairly lengthy debate in your Lordships' House, and a very valuable debate, which took place rather less than a year ago. As my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said in this House last December, the subject has been considered not only by 51 a Working Party of officials, but also by a number of outside bodies which have all produced reports differing to a considerable extent in their conclusions. In addition, there was a proposal put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and by other speakers in our debate last year, that compensation should be payable ex gratia rather than as of right. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor undertook on that occasion that this suggestion should have the most careful consideration, and this has been done. The Government have thus had several conflicting proposals to consider.
On the main question of principle, I am glad to be able to say to-day that the Government have decided to introduce a scheme of compensation. This is a new scheme, and I must warn noble Lords that any scheme will inevitably be in the nature of an experiment at this stage. As noble Lords will be well aware from a study of the suggestions that have been published, in settling the details of the scheme a number of difficult problems have to be solved, and we are at present working on these. As soon as we are ready, which I hope will be fairly soon, we shall lay our proposals before Parliament in a White Paper. This will be done this Session, but I cannot give noble Lords a date. I think the House will appreciate that it would be premature for me to anticipate meanwhile the exposition we shall then give of the nature and scope of the scheme we have in mind. Perhaps all I need add at this stage is that, whatever scheme is adopted, it will not be possible to get something for nothing.
§ LORD DERWENT
It will in due course, but I think it important that it should appear in the form of a White Paper. That is all I can promise this Session. It is a very complicated subject, and I think that we want Parliamentary help in this Matter.
I have already mentioned the Housing Bill, and it will appear this afternoon. It is a long Bill and, apart from the fact 52 that I cannot for another quarter of an hour or so, I will not try to explain the details. It is too complicated; but I will say this about it. It carries out the undertakings of my right honourable friend the Minister, in his speech of July 22, when he used these words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 681 (No. 152) col. 1085]:The Government's position is that, instead of waiting for 1964 to review the 1961 Act powers, we are embarking straight away—I have already issued the invitations—on consultations with the local authorities principally concerned to see what further powers, if any, they want.He added, after pointing out that the vast majority of multi-occupied houses were decently run (which is true):The position, then, is that urgent consultations are going on with the local authorities and the Government will introduce any necessary legislation at the earliest possible opportunity.The earliest possible opportunity, my Lords, is this Session.
I have just a brief word to say about rates, which have been in many of our minds—and out of our pockets. Noble Lords will have taken note of the reference in the gracious Speech to rates and will ask what the Government have in mind at this moment. I do not propose to anticipate the publication of the Bill. I will content myself with emphasising that this Bill will contain only interim measures. It could not be otherwise. Rates are but one cog in the very intricate machine of local government finance, and the whole machine and its relationship to central Government finance is to be reviewed next year. Not until then will the precise facts about rating be known because the Allen Committee are still assembling the data as part of the task remitted to them.
There is no doubt that the changes resulting from the last revaluation have produced some cases of hardship. It may well be—we do not yet know—that they are rather less numerous than the initial outcry may have suggested. I say this because, certainly in one or two of the areas from which the loudest protests have come, they have had difficulty in assembling any volume of evidence of individual cases for reference to the Allen Committee, which makes one wonder whether this hardship is quite as widespread as one might have 53 thought. But whether these cases are numerous or not, the Government feel that they should receive attention in advance of any long-term solution which may come about from the wider review. I trust I am not keeping your Lordships too long, but I hope that the effects of my taking this time will be to answer certain noble Lords' questions before they ask them.
On education, may I say a word about the Newsom Report? It was a coincidence that the Newsom Report appeared a short period before the Robbins Report, but I think it was a happy coincidence because it reminded us of the need to keep all phases of education in mind. The Central Advisory Council, under Mr. John Newsom's chairmanship, was asked to advise my right honourable friend on the education of pupils of average and less than average ability—that was the object of the Newsom Committee. One of the major recommendations in the Report was that an immediate announcement should be made that the school-leaving age should be raised to 16 for all pupils entering secondary schools from September, 1965, onwards. Your Lordships will not expect me to comment on this, but my right honourable friend has made it clear on repeated occasions that he will make a statement on the school-leaving age before the end of this Parliament.
The Report made a number of most interesting recommendations, some addressed to my right honourable friend, some to local education authorities and others to schools themselves. A research programme was proposed, some of which is already covered by projects supported by my right honourable friend, and he is considering what action to take at the moment to follow up the further recommendations; some are in hand already and some he is still considering. I do not propose to say anything to-day about the Robbins Report. It is still being very carefully considered and I believe it is likely, to say the least, that your Lordships will be debating it at no great distance from now.
I would mention only one other point on education—this is not an education debate and doubtless other noble Lords during the next few days will be talking on education—and that is about school 54 building. We did not wait for the Robbins Report. My right honourable friend has already cleared the ground and launched the programmes for a further massive advance at all levels of educational building. As I say, all this legislation coming on is continuous and, in fact, I would point out to your Lordships that most of the plans in the Robbins Report for attaining the targets laid down for 1967–68 have already been laid. We did not wait for the Robbins Report to get on with that work.
My Lords, I do not think I will say anything else apart from mentioning one other Bill, the Plant Breeders' Rights Bill. My noble friend Lord St. Oswald introduced it yesterday and your Lordships gave it a First Reading. I do not know whether I have been helpful to the House, but I hope I have cleared up certain points about these Bills, what they are intended to do, and that, at any rate, what I have said will give your Lordships something to think about; and it may well be that some noble Lords will find that I have satisfied them completely.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ LORD ALPORT
My Lords, I share with at least one of your Lordships the unusual experience of making my maiden speech this afternoon from the same seat, from the same Bench, from the same side of the Chamber and in the same Chamber as I made my maiden speech in another place some thirteen years ago; but I can assure your Lordships that it is not going to be the same speech. I know, however, that I shall be received with the same kindly tolerance which was vouchsafed to me on that occasion. I am assured of this for these three reasons: in the first place, the strong and long tradition of courtesy and good temper of your Lordships' House; secondly, because I have been a colleague of many of the Members of this House whom I see sitting on the Benches of both sides during the variable political climate of these post-war years; and, thirdly, because the noble Earl who leads the Opposition was for many years a constituent of mine, and one of my most distinguished constituents. Indeed, it was my duty during that period to try to ensure that his mind was directed towards the right view of politics; and 55 I must say that I was grievously disappointed at the lack of success, which no doubt was due to my fault and which was apparent when I listened to his speech to-day in the lack of appreciation he has shown of the splendid record of the Government and the bold and imaginative programme which is contained in the gracious Speech from the Throne. But it is nice to think that he never voted against me.
Your Lordships will recollect that Mr. Disraeli, on becoming Lord Beaconsfield and a Member of your Lordships' House, was asked how he felt, and he replied: "Dead—dead, but in Elysium". I do not feel dead, and this House, with great respect to your Lordships, although the climate is temperate and comfortable, is not in my view Elysium; but I regard myself as singularly fortunate in the circumstances which enabled me to become a Member of this House at this present time; and I cast no backward glances over my shoulder. I believe that during the next ten or fifteen years there will be far-reaching changes in the Parliamentary institutions and administration in this country and I believe that, as a result of this, your Lordships' House will play an even more influential part in public affairs, though perhaps there may be some changes in its character.
It is with those aspects of the gracious Speech touching on such matters that I venture to put some thought before your Lordships this afternoon. Reference has been made in the gracious Speech to regional development, and I hope that this foreshadows big changes in the pattern of Government. The gracious Speech dwells on the intention of Ministers to modernise many aspects of life in Britain, and this, I know, is warmly welcomed. But it is not sufficient to build new roads and new railways, to increase the universities, important though this is, and to make available a very large number of additional houses for our people, without at the same time modernising the machinery of government. Indeed, there may be unnecessary difficulties in carrying out a constructive programme of that sort unless hand in hand with these developments is undertaken the task of bringing the machinery of government up to date.
56 I know that there are many people who believe that the task of modernisation in government is really too big to be tackled. I would never advocate, and I am sure it would never be approved by your Lordships on either side of the House, that there should be wholesale revolutionary change. But to argue that nothing can be done because so much has to be done is, in my view, a counsel of despair. Anyone who has been a member of the Legislature and a Minister of the Crown and a civil servant during these last years—and it has fallen to my lot to be all three—knows, I am sure, that the present machinery is not entirely adequate to handle the complex technical and sociological problems which are part of the administrative field, and inevitably so, at the present time.
It is, I know, easy to make sweeping assertions such as I have just made and it is extremely difficult to make practical and constructive proposals of reform. I have no doubt your Lordships are familiar with the recent essay of Professor Chapman. He advocates that we should adopt some of the administrative ideas and practices which have been evolved in Western Europe since 1945. I am sure we can learn from the Continent and I am sure we should not be too proud to do so, but I myself always suspect advice which indicates that we can take over and apply to the particular constitutional and political conditions existing in this country machinery or ideas which have proved successful elsewhere and would therefore prove equally successful here. Therefore, while I agree and disagree with certain of the aspects of Professor Chapman's argument, I am certain he is right in this: that an attempt to formulate the right questions about the reform of the British governmental system is the first step to wisdom.
I should like to suggest, if I may, what those questions should be, or at any rate some of them. I do not pretend they are formulated as precisely and correctly as they should be, but I hope it may help in considering these aspects of the gracious Speech that these questions should be asked as perhaps a preliminary, or part of a continuing, debate so that we may find and reassure ourselves of the right answers. The first, I would say, is: What should be done to give 57 Parliament a more positive and constructive rôle in the creation of public policy than it possesses at the present time? I believe, rightly or wrongly, that it is the lack of this rôle that is the cause of much of the sense of frustration which affects Members of the other place, and it may well be that thought will move towards using far more extensively the Committee system on an all-Party basis than has been used hitherto.
The second is, How can the Government have at its various levels continuous and the most up-to-date advice from non-governmental sources in handling the growing technological and sociological problems which fall within its administrative sphere? I have an immense admiration for the calibre of the Civil Service and the high standard of administration which we possess, but it is quite clear that outside expertise is essential. Although there are already a very large number of Committees and although there is access, to a certain extent, to outside advice in many respects on subjects of this sort, I am doubtful, from such experience as I have had, at any rate, that we are making the best use, from the Government's point of view, of the wisdom and knowledge and ideas which are available outside the realms of Government in dealing with the problems with which the Government have to deal. I am not at all sure, however, that the proposals which I understand Mr. Wilson, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, has put forward, would supplement—I think they would rather short-circuit—the normal facilities which are available to the Government. But that the problem exists and can and should be solved I hope will not be disagreed to by either side of the House this afternoon.
The third question I should like to ask is this: How can the devolution of power, including power over administrative policy, be effected, geographically and functionally, without destroying the principle of ministerial responsibility to Parliament or weakening the basic policy control by the Government? I hope, as I said earlier, that the idea of regional development and the new responsibilities given to the President of the Board of Trade may be a movement in this direction. But, speaking from such experience as one has oneself, one feels that we underestimate the resources which are 58 available in the Provinces of this country outside London, in the great North Country, in East Anglia or wherever it may be, not only to administer but to undertake decisions with regard to policy directly relating to the particular problems in their part of our country. I feel, rightly or wrongly, that by extending and devolving responsibilities away from London we shall be easing the burden, which is far too heavy, carried at the present time by Ministers and also by senior members of the Civil Service, and we may, as a result, get a more flexible and more intimate administrative system in this country, which is what we need.
The last question is, What is the most effective way of safeguarding the legitimate interests of the individual against abuse of administrative power by the State, whose field of action has grown, is growing and is very unlikely to be diminished? This is a problem which Parliament has considered and tried to solve over a long period of time. It becomes more important with the passage of time. I know that the system of tribunals is effective in certain respects. I know that there is access to Ministers through Members of the other place which is of great importance in bringing the difficulties and administrative troubles of individuals before the authorities. I know that there is, generally speaking, a sympathetic approach by the Administration, by Government Departments, to those problems; but still I think it is not enough.
I do not think for one moment—and I am sure this is the view of your Lordships as well—that something like the Ombudsman is the right way of dealing with it, but there are perhaps ways in which we can help to ensure that the interests of the individual in our free society are maintained against any danger of abuse of power by the Administration. We have in this country a very high calibre of political leadership, a Civil Service of great ability and integrity and a people whose history and ability to evolve free and effective institutions of government has made its mark on all the continents of the world. It is time, I think, we applied these resources to some of our own problems of government here, so that we, in our generation, may not be merely content to abide by 59 established processes but may make our contribution in our own time and in our own decade to what the late F. S. Oliver called, "the endless adventure of governing man".
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, may I take this opportunity of extending congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Alport, on his maiden speech? Normally a maiden speaker is entitled to a measure of sympathy, but I think that the long experience of the noble Lord does not give him title so far as sympathy is concerned. I think he is entitled to congratulation on his concise and most interesting speech, and on the outstanding measure of success that he achieved in being almost non-controversial in what I am sure will be a highly controversial debate. I am sure the House will look forward to hearing the noble Lord on many occasions in the future.
The gracious Speech, which contains the proposals of the Government for the future, reminds me of many years ago when I had the job of examining a few applications for a certain post in an organisation with which I was associated. One that was magnificently written I took along to the boss. It seemed to give unquestioned title to the post. The boss read it and put it on one side. I drew his attention to the fact, and he said "Yes, it was a wonderful application, but I happen to know the fellow". I would suggest that we had better judge the Government to-day not on the vague promises that are indicated in the gracious Speech, but on the record of the past twelve years. I think it is impertinent to seek approbation on vague promises to remedy what our Leader indicated a few moments ago as being past deficiencies.
I shall be concerned with the home aspects of this programme and I will deal first with the omissions. It has already been indicated that there is no reference at all to consumer protection, despite the fact that fifteen months ago the Molony Report was issued and the Government gave an indication of their support for that document, particularly with regard to the recommendation on the subject of protective legislation relating to hire purchase. There is nothing 60 of that in the gracious Speech. I personally find it difficult to know whether this is home policy or Home policy. In saying that, I am reminded of a comment I saw in the Press concerning the recent Kinross campaign, when the Prime Minister was asked about trading stamps. It was reported that he had not a clue as to what they were until Mr. Ian McCarthy whispered in his ear. Then he said that the Government had no views on them. Perhaps someone forgot to explain to the Prime Minister about stamps, and apparently also forgot to explain about hire purchase. That I could forgive, but certainly I cannot forgive the fact of his non-reminder of the pledges that were made by his colleagues on this subject to both Houses.
Last January I had the honour of introducing in this House a Bill which gave expression to one of the recommendations of the Molony Report, accepted by the Government, which provided a 72-hour "cooling off" period for door-to-door transactions. I quote from that debate, and particularly I quote from the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, in which he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 246, col. 465]:I think it is only fair to say to the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, that since he produced his Bill, and to some extent because he has produced his Bill and we have had a look at it, we have had another think … We now think that the right course would be to have a comprehensive Government Bill covering all hire purchase matters.No doubt he will tell us later that they have got one on the stocks, and that it will be coming along very soon. I am sure of that. But the noble Lord also said:But I can assure the House that we shall be preparing and promoting Government legislation as soon as possible …. We do intend to prepare this legislation and to promote it.I attach no blame at all to the noble Lord, because he was speaking on behalf of his Government. Confirmation of that fact can be seen from Hansard of another place. The Parliamentary Secretary there repeated the pledge. He said:The Government have already announced in another place that they accept the principles embodied in the recommendations of the Molony Committee, two of the most important of which … relate to hire purchase practice connected with door-to-door salesmen, and extending the range of application of the existing hire-purchase.61 He went on to say:We have been working on those proposals and I can assure the honourable Member for Hillsborough that the establishment of the Consumer Council will not delay us in our work here, and that as soon as possible we shall be putting our own legislative proposals before the House.In view of those categorical assurances, I think it scandalous that the programme for the new Parliamentary Session contains no reference to such legislation. I have no intention of making a speech on hire purchase, and would merely say that hire-purchase debt continues to rise and abuses still operate. Only last Friday the daily Press referred to a case in the Court of Appeal where a finance company attempted to seize a car on which every penny had been paid, £686 16s., simply because the last two instalments were late. The company were not successful, but that case gives an indication of the sort of abuses that are still operative: and social organisations are still reporting practices of these door-to-door hire-purchase salesmen.
The gracious Speech goes on to deal with the subject of economic expansion, and makes vague promises of efforts to secure economic expansion. The Prime Minister has said that we need only to increase production by 4 per cent. instead of by 3 per cent. to achieve prosperity and happiness. It seems to me that this secret has been found in the brief period since the passing of the Peerage Act, in spite of the fact that twelve years of Conservative economics and Conservative operation have not provided us with the real answer to this question of production. An illustration of the sort of thinking of the Government towards production and productivity can be seen in a recent utterance of the Prime Minister. Speaking at the Mansion House, he said:I hope that those who command, control and manage industry will tell the wage-earners what each industry is doing, and why. If that is done, the results might astound them.At first glance, that is a quite worthy activity: to inform the workers. But let us look at the assumption behind that comment. The assumption is that the obstacle that dams the flow of production is the worker, and that all that is needed is to let him know what is going on and he will start working hard or will make a greater contribution. I believe that that statement in itself 62 shows either abysmal ignorance or wanton disregard of the facts. It makes no reference to the vacillating Government financial policy of the past twelve years. It makes no reference to the absence of intelligent economic planning or encouragement of technical training. There lies the real cause of the lack of real advance in productivity over the past twelve years.
The Government say that they aredetermined to maintain the expansion of the economy in all parts of the country based on a high and stable level of employment".I suppose they may have been similarly determined after the Election Budget of 1955, but in February, 1956 the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Macmillan, spoke of the "desperate urgency" of the situation in which Britain found herself, even though the White Paper recognised that world conditions had been favourable. Three years of stagnation followed in the wake of that decision. In 1959 the Council on Prices, Productivity and Incomes said:It was imperative to find some other way of dealing with inflation.But in July, 1961, the bank rate was raised to 7 per cent., and the old restrictions were reimposed. The Government talk about the need for an incomes policy applying to all incomes; but they are not prepared to do anything effective about profits and dividends. Dividends increased from £431 million in 1952 to £1,150 million in 1962, much faster than wages. The Economist of November 9 reported that dividends in October, 1963, showed an increase of 15½ per cent. over 1962. I am not objecting to this, if it is an indication of increasing prosperity; but I do object to it when at the same time the Government lay down the dictum that "incomes should not rise more than 3½ or 4 per cent.". This is a contradiction that just does not wear with the average working man in this country.
The gracious Speech goes on to make reference to a modern transport system, and states that the Governmentwill encourage the provision of a modern transport system …I think that that statement takes the first prize for impudence. I should be interested to know how they are going to achieve it, for it was the Tory Government which destroyed the integrated 63 system created by the Labour Government and which persistently refuse to recognise that transport problems can be tackled only as a whole and not piecemeal. I ask noble Lords, is it intelligent to close down 2,000 stations and 5,000 miles of track in a panic hurry before an adequate alternative of roads and motorways can be provided? Only a matter of days ago the Roads Campaign Council made a statement which was published world-wide. They said… viewed with all the objectivity that we can muster we cannot ignore the fact that the great majority of the plans for highways which the Government are offering to the electorate are ten years behind the times.Mr. James Drake, the Lancashire County Surveyor, in his review to his Highways Committee, says this in regard to Lancashire roads:Even now trunk roads are up to three and four times overloaded; by 1970 one trunk road will be six times overloaded.To-day we are spending less as a proportion of our national expenditure than we spent in 1939, despite the enormous increase in contribution to the national Exchequer made by the road user and motor car owner. I believe that it is impossible to create a modern transport system and at the same time refuse to recognise the need to integrate long-distance road haulage in such a system.
I turn now to the question of housing. I appreciate the fact, as we have heard, that there is in prospect a Bill that will deal with many of these problems of housing. I welcome the news, and we look forward with keen anticipation to the prospect of reading and discussing that Bill. Nevertheless, I feel that it is still pertinent to make certain comments concerning the basic deficiencies in the Government's approach towards the whole question of housing. The gracious Speech tells us:The rate of house building will be increased.Well, we certainly need it, and we certainly need substantial improvement in the standard of house building. We need also an assurance that something drastic will be done to deal with the question of the land rackets, which are unquestionably placing a great restriction on the development of decent working-class houses. I welcome the aid to 64 housing associations. They need help, and have come to expect it because they have had continuous promises of such help for the last three years. If the Minister wants details of such promises, I can give them to him. I agree that at the moment housing associations make little contribution in terms of actual house building—probably only 1 per cent. of the total—but there are great prospects there for improvement.
I should like to turn to one aspect of housing to which there is little or no reference in the gracious Speech, and that is an indication of the priority in tackling the slum problem. In 1955 local authorities classified 961,000 dwellings—that is 6.7 per cent. of the total—as slums. Since then 500,000 have been demolished, so that there are still 460,000 slums in occupation. But I want to make the point (I hope the Government are aware of it) that the 1955 slum census seriously underestimated the situation. And the Government bear responsibility for that, because local authorities were given no adequate standard on which they could base those estimates. In many cases they merely estimated on what they themselves could clear in five years. The results, in consequence, were grotesque.
Let us see whether we can test the figures. Liverpool estimated 43 per cent. of the houses to be unfit; Manchester, 33 per cent.; Oldham, 26 per cent.; but the estimate for Stretford, a working-class area in the vicinity, was one-half of 1 per cent. Cardiff registered under that census 141 houses—that is all—as being slum dwellings, a number less than that for Cheltenham. Those are the figures indicated as being the number of slums in this country. Even on that basis, the Government's slum clearance proposals do not take into account the large number of houses which were nearly slums at the time of the survey, seven years ago. I suggest that, allowing for the passing of the seven years, and for the original under-estimate, there are probably around one million slum dwellings still in occupation to-day. My Lords, words are cold things, and it is difficult indeed by the use of words to create a picture in one's mind of what is really meant by a slum: rat-ridden, bug-infested, no bath, inadequate toilet accommodation. One 65 can know what it means only by seeing it. Figures in themselves give no indication at all of the sheer horror of the slum problem of this country, and particularly in the North of England. And it is getting worse, not better.
One has only to look at one aspect of this problem (though I very much doubt whether it will make any substantial appearance in the Bill which is in prospect)—the problem of housing obsolescence. I believe that the Government are utterly unaware of the serious problem that housing obsolescence will assume in the years ahead. Approximately 4.4 million houses—or 26 per cent. of the total—were erected over 80 years ago, before the introduction of even the most moderate building regulations. I have estimated that one million of these houses are unfit for human habitation. If housing standards are to be raised, it is clear that the vast majority of the remaining 3.4 million houses will be due to be replaced over the next 20 years.
The housing situation demands a "crash" programme, but, even if it is spread over the next 20 years, this will be the minimum programme. If 4 million houses erected before 1881 are to be replaced by 1982, it will involve building 200,000 houses a year. It is agreed that the formation of new family households involves a demand for 125,000 houses a year, and the replacement of houses lost through redevelopment, new roads, migration from decaying areas to other areas, must involve 50,000 houses a year. The total estimated requirements are certainly not less than 375,000 dwellings each year for 20 years, as against the current level of well under 300,000 houses a year; and I believe that the programme in the last nine months was lower than in the same nine months of last year. What we are doing now falls far short of what I consider to be the minimum requirement for the next 20 years.
I would point out, with particular emphasis to noble Lords opposite, that the national figures of house construction with which we are fed so often mask many regional problems. Your Lordships will even have quoted in the Government's figures the construction of luxury flats that can find no tenants. In the London region and the South-East region there are a quarter of a million 66 more households than dwellings. Yet to-day, at this moment, there are 600 newly constructed flats in Bournemouth that can find no tenant; in Torquay 200 newly constructed flats are vacant and can find no tenant; in Eastbourne 200 newly constructed flats can find no tenant—1,000 in the records of house construction for the year, yet at the same time put in areas where there is no demand at all for these houses.
My Lords, there are many other aspects of the gracious Speech with which I could deal, but time is too short for that. I would end by saying that the gracious Speech, at least to this side of the House, far from being a battle-cry for a dispirited and discredited Tory Party and a blueprint for national development, merely provides an illuminating display of twelve years of wasted effort.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ LORD WISE
My Lords, as agriculture is again mentioned in the gracious Speech I shall confine my remarks, as I often have done in the past, to that particular branch of our industry. Year by year we have heard the same platitudes about that particular section. This year it is much the same, and I will give your Lordships in a moment a few of the Government's promises during the last few years, so far as agriculture is concerned. The wordings show no originality. If they had been read by farm workers or farmers who had spent the whole of a windy and wet day in a field of sugar beet at this time of the year, I am sure the enthusiasm for their job the next day would have been terrific. However, words to describe their next attitude to the Government fail me, but would not fail them when at last they realised the emptiness of the Government's promises, and that their lot was still to stick in the wet mud of rural areas.
I should like noble Lords to hear these references to agriculture, as they appeared in gracious Speeches in the last five or six years. In 1958 we were told this:A healthy and thriving agriculture will remain among the principal objectives of My Government.In 1959 we were told:The well-being of all those whose living depends on the land will remain one of the first cares of My Government.67 Further in that Speech this appears:Legislation will be introduced to provide grants for horticultural growers and My Government will encourage the more economic marketing of produce.This year, at least, we hear a little more about horticulture. In 1960 the gracious Speech told us this:At home My Ministers are resolved to maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agriculture.In 1961 it said:My Government are resolved to maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agricultural industry.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD (LORD ST. OSWALD)
Is the noble Lord saying that we have not done it?
§ LORD WISE
I am not suggesting that this year it is entirely devoid of change. For that, I am sure, you are very happy over on that side of the House. We are told among other things, that the Governmentwill ensure a proper balance between homegrown and imported food".I will say a word or two about that before I sit down. We are, however, told in two paragraphs of the gracious Speech:My Ministers will bring forward further proposals for the…economic and social aspects of our national life.That surely must include agriculture. Later we are told, in the paragraph relating to agriculture, thatProposals will…be made to enable rights to be conferred on breeders of new varieties of plants.68 What a stimulus to agricultural production and prosperity!
The words were hardly out of the Lord Chancellor's mouth, when the Government introduced their first new Bill of the Session. It was that gem with a long Title, and I am sure your Lordships will forgive me for reading it again. Some of you may not have heard it, and some may like to see it again in print. This is it:A Bill to provide for the granting of proprietary rights to persons who breed or discover plant varieties and for the issue of compulsory licences in respect thereof; to establish a tribunal to hear appeals and other proceedings relating to the rights, and to exclude certain agreements relating to the rights from Part I of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956; to confer power to regulate, and to amend in other respects the law relating to, transactions in seeds and seed potatoes, including provision for the testing of seeds and seed potatoes, the establishment of an index of names of varieties and the imposition of restrictions as respects the introduction of new varieties; to control the import of seeds and seed potatoes; and for connected purposes.The sting must be in the tail. What a moment for such an introduction by the Government of their much advertised schemes of modernization! No wonder some of your Lordships became hilarious and amused. We had just heard two speeches of great merit, moving and seconding the humble Address to Her Majesty, and to go from one to the other was in truth going from the sublime to the ridiculous. If other such incidents are inspired and operated by the Government, we shall have our full measure of fun during this particular Session.
British agriculture still remains in the realm of the world's greatest uncertainties. This has been brought about at present not entirely by our weather conditions, but also by the failure of the Government to realise and face up to the absolute stupidity of our marketing conditions and fluctuations; our selling and purchasing systems leading up to an unfair drain upon our taxpayers; and absence of consideration for consumer interests. I have spoken of these before, and cannot apologise for my further references.
The futility and pettiness of the methods which surround our agricultural systems are almost beyond comprehension. Our rise in production figures must 69 be the envy of all our other industries. I do not know of any which has excelled them; but, in spite of this, we drift along hoping and praying that some of those in high authority outside our industry will soon give way to those with a better understanding of our needs for stability, security and a livelihood commensurate with our day-to-day—and in some cases seven days a week—efforts. As we enter a new season of agricultural work, we cannot fail to look back upon a wet and trying hay time and harvest with difficulties of laid corn of high moisture-content, weathered hay, spoilt bales of hay and straw out for long periods and thus rotting in the fields. These are no light matters in one year of a farmer's life.
We cannot ignore the effect of rising costs within our industry—a rise over which we have no control whatever. We are bound to buy to try and increase efficiency and production, but costs are fixed by our suppliers of implements, machinery, repairs and spare parts and other services without any reference to or consultation with us, or consideration as to whether the articles or services rendered are good value for the charges which are made. Rising costs and lower returns must create exceptional difficulties for those engaged in agriculture, and many farmers will go under by force of circumstances and such economics. Control of the situation seems to be beyond the desire or capability of the Government. Small alterations year by year in subsidies, minor restrictions upon production and an annual reference to increasing efficiency provide no cure for what I believe to be a mounting and destroying agricultural disease. There is a call, and an urgent call, for a new policy and a new understanding of the positions and conditions of the industry whereby the producer can be assured of a reasonable return for his products and the consumer can be given good British quality—quality such as will satisfy the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry—without being exploited or overcharged.
Other points will no doubt be touched upon from time to time in your Lordships' House, but I should like to say a few words now about the new bacon agreement. Time will show its merits 70 or demerits, its gains or its losses to home producers. Its operation will be watched with keen interest, and maybe some criticism or applause as its consequences are felt. As your Lordships already know, I am a staunch believer in the quality of English bacon. I never buy any other; and my stamina for the day as I come to your Lordships' House is built up on a breakfast of English bacon. I can recommend it. I should have liked to see the United Kingdom's quota matching that of Denmark. There is a difference in favour of Denmark of 64,000 tons—more than the total imports from any other European country. I hope that, as the year proceeds, this discrepancy will be found to be wrong and the United Kingdom's quota will be increased. At the moment, there seems to be little profit in pig-producing, and nothing must arise to diminish our home supplies. Encouragement must be given to more production, fashionable curing and processing, advertising and packaging, so that the English product outstrips its Continental opponent. We shall also watch the forthcoming 1964 Price Review with anticipation and expectation.
Before I close, I want to say one word about something which does not appear in the gracious Speech. There is no reference in it to sport. In the last gracious Speech, I believe, there was a reference in that particular, but there is no reference this time, and I hope that the omission does not mean that the Government are going backward in relation to what help or assistance they can give to British sport. I also hope that, as the Minister for Sport has left or is about to leave us, some representative of the Government will be able to speak for sporting activities, for I have no doubt whatever that from this side of the House it will be our duty to raise questions on the matter.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, as the first Back Bencher to speak from this side, I should first like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alport, on an admirable maiden speech, and I hope we may hear him often again. I should also like to congratulate my noble friends Lord Tweedsmuir and Lord Windlesham on what I thought extremely good speeches proposing and seconding the 71 humble Address for the gracious Speech yesterday. It is a very difficult task to perform, but I thought they performed it admirably. I should also like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Carrington on assuming the great office of Leader of this House, and to convey to him the best wishes of, I am sure, all of us on this side of the House.
This afternoon I wish to talk a little about the housing problem. I was very pleased to see, on the last page of the gracious Speech, these words:The rate of house building will be, increased".Then, later, these words:Steps will be taken to help the construction industries to increase productivity and to achieve larger building programmes".From the speeches this afternoon of noble Lords opposite—the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, in particular—one would think that Her Majesty's Government had done practically nothing for housing during the last 12½ years, but when one comes to look at the figures—and I have them here—one sees that 3½ million houses have been built in the last 12½ years. My Lords, 3½ million houses is a very creditable record. On top of that, 6,000 schools have also been built in Great Britain, housing about 3 million new pupils. That is another great achievement in the last 12½ years. And then we are told that the Government are doing nothing. I think that those figures themselves provide a little of the answer. But, of course, we must not be complacent. We have a terrific job to do in the future.
The only reason why I rise to my feet tonight is that, like many others of your Lordships, I am very worried as to the future. How can we increase this programme, as we must do, unless we can get greater productivity in the building industry? I spoke on that matter last February, and my noble friend Lord Bossom, who is a very great expert on these matters, has also spoken on several occasions on the theme that we must try to obtain greater productivity in this industry. Great progress has been made, I think, towards this increased target, from approximately 300,000 houses a year to 350,000 now, 72 building up in the next eight or ten years to 400,000 houses a year.
We have got to go in for much greater prefabrication. There is a certain prejudice against prefabricated houses; they are good houses but they do not look quite so nice as traditional ones and so on. But I think that, if we are to get this extra target, we have to do all in our power to push local authorities to build a greater proportion of factory-made houses and prefabricated houses which can be put up by semi-skilled labour. I took out last night the figures for this year. Although the first three months were difficult for building, the figures are pretty encouraging. In England and Wales, up to the end of September there were 187,328 houses completed and in Scotland 18,388, making a total for the nine months of 205,716. With a little luck in the last quarter we ought to get very near to 300,000. It may be 8,000 or 10,000 below, and I guess that it will be about 290,000; but considering that during the first three months of the year very little could be done, I do not think it is an uncreditable performance.
At the same time we must look at all the new methods. In America and Russia they are able to build in extremely frosty conditions by covering the buildings with the new cellophane material and thereby keeping out the frost. I think we can learn a lot from the methods they have used as they are accustomed to very severe winters and are still able to carry on building. But I am sure we shall be able to do something on those lines.
But housing, which it is absolutely vital to increase, is not the only thing. On page 290 of the interesting Robbins Report, for which I am sure we are indebted to Lord Robbins and his Committee, among the recommendations in paragraph 171, they say:There should be an immediate announcement that the universities' capital building programme for 1964 and succeeding years will be substantially increased so that more accommodation, for teaching and especially for residence, can be provided.That is only another of the great problems that the building industry have. There are also the hospital, road and power station programmes, all of which are important. What is worrying me is that, at the present moment in England and Wales we have (and these 73 were the figures at the end of July) about 270,000 men working in the building of new houses by contractors and 13,000 men working by direct labour organisation employed by the local authorities. This makes a total of 283,000 for England and Wales. I could not find the figures for Scotland. That is to say that roughly building in England and Wales accounts for something like 275,000 out of the total of 300,000. This is approximately one man, one year, one house. It was the old formula that it takes one man one year to build one house. But if we are going to increase that number from 300,000 to 350,000 we have to try—if more men cannot be got into the industry—to get greater efficiency and greater productivity.
As my noble friend Lord Windlesham said yesterday in a brilliant seconding of the humble Address, the word "modernisation" also extends to new ways of thought and new ways of behaviour. My Lords, I think we have got to get new ways of thought in the house-building industry. I should like to suggest that Her Majesty's Government, because they give large grants to the local authorities, should look carefully into the question of whether they should not insist that a proportion of the houses built by local authorities with a heavy central subsidy should be built by these new methods to relieve traditional methods; because bricks are extremely rare commodities and bricklayers and carpenters are very difficult to find. Unless more men go into the industry—which I fear we shall not get—we must have greater productivity than we are getting now; otherwise we shall be disappointed. I do not think it has been an uncreditable performance; it has been a very good one in the last twelve years. But with the increased population of these islands we must do better than we have ever done in the past.
§ 4.37 p.m.
My Lords, speaking from this quarter of the House I think I am exempt from making an Election speech; but as the first speaker on this matter from these Benches I should like to take the opportunity of saying that in my view possibly one of the greatest services done by the retired Prime Minister to the country was the 74 advice he gave to Her Majesty regarding his successor. Those of us who come from the North may remember Lord Home's father; and I remember his father as a man who I always thought was possibly the best-loved man in all Scotland. Wherever the Earl of Home went on the Border, farm servants, who do not normally attend meetings, would flock to hear and see and talk to him. I am sorry that for the moment my noble friend Lord Greenhill is not in his place, but I am sure that he would agree with me that it was just the same among all ranks in Glasgow in regard to the affection in which the noble Earl was held; and I have heard many endearing stories about him from away in the North.
I think that possibly the noble Earl who rose to be Foreign Secretary in your Lordships' House inherited even greater ability than his father possessed. But he also inherited a name which was a passport to every door and every heart in Scotland. I think that for him to have adopted without any fuss or bother, the disguise which Parliament has decreed in order to serve his country more effectively is a very great service to the country and one for which everybody in every quarter of the House may—whatever their lips may say—be genuinely grateful.
I would also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alport, on a very interesting maiden speech. I was greatly sympathetic, particularly when he said that when one investigates any subject and examines it, the important thing is to know what questions to ask. With regard to the matter on which he was speaking I should like just to say that I am not at all sure that people engaged in the active practice of politics are the likeliest to formulate the questions that ought to be preliminary to the examination he wants.
I come now, my Lords, to two points which I wish to put to the House. The first is the Government undertakingto consider arrangements for the payment of compensation to the victims of criminal violence.I remember the passage in your Lordships' House of the Criminal Justice Act of 1946 or 1947, and that on two occasions I put down Amendments to the 75 Bill to provide precisely that. On one occasion, I was helped in drafting an Amendment by one of the greatest Law Officers of the Crown. On each occasion, the House and the Government laughed me to scorn. Since that time, noble Lords from all parts of the House have asked that something should be done in this direction, and I am very glad to find that it is now being done by those noble friends whom I have left with so much sorrow and so much reluctance.
The last thing I wish to speak to your Lordships about is only a half line in the gracious Speech—that is, the proposal "to amend the law of Scotland concerning succession." If that had been all that I knew about this matter, I would congratulate Her Majesty's Government on having seized a great opportunity—because it is a great opportunity, and there is room for something extremely useful and beneficial to be done in that direction. But I have seen the Bill and I can assure Her Majesty's Government that it is certainly not going to be an agreed Bill. It seems to me that in many ways, and in many parts of the country, it would be effective and useful, but it disregards the history of Scotland. It disregards the social habits of Scotland.
Worst of all, it seems to me radically to endanger the trust which has been committed to us by our fathers, by the races whom we dispossessed when we occupied the country, to take care of the fertility of the soil and its utility in agriculture and forestry. I always feel that even if we, as a nation, were swept away to-morrow, if we left the soil intact, then at least we should have left a good reputation to our successors. But when any measure is adopted which imperils the fertility of the soil, then I think that everybody who has ever dealt with the soil should raise his voice in protest. I hope, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to accept very great Amendments in the Bill, if they produce it as I have seen it drafted. It looks to me to be a very difficult Bill to amend, and I hope that they will treat it as their predecessors treated some Bills which they found were not suitable, and will perhaps take it back and redraft it in a quite different sense.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, it seems to be becoming a tradition in your Lordships' House that if more than one Scot is to take part in a debate, we must follow each other. My noble friend Lord Saltoun will forgive me if, as the only other Scot, so far as I can see, to take part, I do not follow him on the lines he has taken, because he has a particular interest in these questions and a knowledge of the history, particularly of the aristocracy, of Scotland which I do not pretend to match in any way.
I shall not attempt to go over the whole range of subjects contained in the gracious Speech. I should consider it not inappropriate, however, to suggest that the first eight paragraphs are paragraphs which could have figured in the Speech of any Government which happened to be in power at this particular time. They are quite non-controversial, the sort of things to which all Parties would subscribe—or perhaps, having regard to the recent acquisition to the House, I should add, to which almost all Parties should subscribe. But when we come to what I can describe as the election manifesto part of the gracious Speech. I am a little surprised. Some of the things which are said, I think, could have appropriately been put forward at the beginning of a Parliament, when a Government was succeeding a Government of a different composition altogether. This would have been appropriate for the Conservative Party in 1951, but that they should put it forward after being in power for thirteen years seems to me incredible.
Having said that, I wish, without apology, to go on to those aspects of the gracious Speech in so far as they relate to Scotland. I do not apologise to your Lordships for this, because the Government themselves have laid great stress on the need for doing things in those parts of the country where economic development has not matched up to that in the more fortunate parts of the United Kingdom, and where the rate of unemployment continues to be higher than the national average and the need for housing continues to be greater than perhaps is the case in other areas. I do not think that any of my colleagues used the words attributed to them by the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton. We 77 have not said that nothing has been done in housing during the last twelve years. No one in his senses could make any such claim. What we have said is that not nearly enough has been done. And it is no use for the Prime Minister to compare, as he did yesterday, what is being accomplished to-day with what was being accomplished thirteen years ago, in totally different conditions, and to say that an increase on what was done from then to now is all that is required.
I had the pleasure of going along to another place to hear the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister's reply, and I must say, as a Scot, that I was rather disconcerted, because the Prime Minister found himself unable on two or three occasions to answer questions directed to him in relation to the Scottish parts of his task. When he was asked to deal with the question of Scottish unemployment, he did not answer. When he was asked to deal with the question of Scottish housing, he did not answer. When it came to the question of roads, there was an interruption, particularly related to the Highlands and Islands, from an honourable Member who was obviously not a Highland Member, and the Prime Minister spoke then in some detail about the roads programme. What did he say? He said that the Government were spending seven times as much on roads in Scotland as they did seven years ago. All I would say is that, to the people of Scotland, that is no commendation whatever, because what they were spending seven years ago was trivial.
He spoke of what was being done, he said, from his personal knowledge. I think that there must have been a certain amount of Parliamentary licence in that. I wonder how long it was since the Prime Minister was on the road, say, in Ross and Cromarty or Western Inverness-shire or in Caithness, or in almost any part of Northern Scotland. I wonder whether he realises, for instance, how long it took to improve the eleven miles of road between Glen-finnan and Loch Eilort. I do not remember now whether it was two, three or four years they were on the job. I would point out that the word I used was "improve", because there is no suggestion yet of any programme to modernise the roads. What we are 78 getting in Scotland is a programme which, even on an accelerated basis, will enable us, perhaps by 1975, to attain a standard in the North of Scotland which was already out-of-date in the South of England in 1910.
If that is the Government's contribution to helping to continue—to use the words in the gracious Speech—to give special attention to the development of the Highlands and Islands",if that is the measure of the help which is to be given, at a time when Dr. Beeching is going to add to our problems by curtailing our railway services if the Government permit him to do so, then it is a very uncertain "special attention" which the Government are giving.
On the question of housing, I thought it was most unfortunate that the Prime Minister appeared either not to know about Scottish problems, or, perhaps more correctly, did not wish to talk about them, because although the figures mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, are far from indicating that nothing has been done, the interesting point about it is that so much remains to be done. I am sure the figures mentioned by my noble friend Lord Peddie must have been an eye-opener to some Members of your Lordships' House. The figures, instead of going up, are going down, and nowhere more so than in Scotland. Yet it is acknowledged that housing conditions in Scotland—and as a Scot I do not put this forward with any pleasure—are among the worst in Europe, even after twelve years of Conservative Government.
What are the figures? In 1952 the number of houses built by all agencies in Scotland was 30,947. "All agencies" is the method which the Government use. I did not seek to divide the number up into houses built for local authorities, houses built by the special Scottish Housing Association or other housing associations, or houses built for sale I was quite happy that they should all be lumped together as houses built by all agencies, even though that is the most favourable basis upon which the Government could have the comparison made. I think it is reasonable to assume that by 1952 maybe the full impetus and the policy on which the Government had fought and won the 1951 Election 79 had not taken effect. By 1953, however, they were getting the full benefit of the improvements which they had made in housing activity. These were improvements, incidentally, devoted to increasing the number of units; and remember, as we knew in Scotland so well, that a great deal of it was accomplished by reducing the size of the units; concentrating on building three apartment houses where previously it was the case to build four or five apartment houses. I was interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, had to say about the difficulty of large families finding houses. Of course it is difficult for them, because they have not been built for years. But by 1953 the figure had risen to 39,000.
Then a strange thing happened. The Government obviously thought that this Scottish problem had been broken. The following year the figure was 38,800; in 1955, 34,000; in 1956, 31,000; in 1957, up slightly to 32,400; in 1958, slightly down again to 32,170; in 1959, 27,300; in 1960, 28,600: in 1961, 27,200; in 1962, 26,700; and in the first nine months of this year, 18,300—or at an all-time low for this Government of 24,000 houses a year in the country with the biggest housing problem in Europe. I do not think that is much of a commendation for a Scottish Prime Minister, and I am not surprised that yesterday he chose to ignore the interruptions coming to him from Scottish Members of Parliament.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, may I point out that the third quarter of this year is on the upward grade again, with 6,987? The first quarter is low; but I explained to the House that it was low in England because of the bad weather and it has gone up in the third quarter.
§ LORD HUGHES
All I would comment on that is that they would have to build 21,000 in the last quarter to accomplish the figure which they thought was reasonable as far back as 1953, and I doubt very much whether that is going to happen.
I should now like to go to another subject in which Scotland is particularly interested, and that is unemployment. The Government's record on unemployment 80 in Scotland is not much better than their record on housing. In 1951, when the Government took office, the number of unemployed in Scotland was 51,081, a percentage of 2.4. It has fluctuated throughout the years, but during the month of October in only three of the years of Conservative Government have the figures fallen below those which they inherited from the Labour Government. The only reason why I choose October is that I wish to give the Government in this year the benefit of the most up-to-date figures. The last figures to be issued were those of October, 1963, and those showed improvements on preceding months. So the Government cannot complain if in 1963 I choose for the purposes of comparison their best figures for 1963; and it is reasonable, therefore, to take in comparison with them the same month of any other year, because if I had compared October, 1963, with September, 1955, and August, 1952, I could have been accused, probably with more than suspicion, of selecting the worst figures for the Government in any particular year. So some of these figures may be good for the Government and some of them may be bad. They are, however, comparable figures year by year, and, as I have said, in only three years have they fallen below figures of unemployment in Scotland which they inherited from the Labour Government.
What are the most recent figures? In 1959, after the Election, the figure was 86,000; in 1960, 72,000; in 1961, 65,000; in 1962, 84,000; and last month 90,752, a percentage of 4.2. This means that more than four people in every 100 seeking employment in Scotland are unable to get it. And remember that Scotland does not have the fortunate position that some other parts of the country have, where the Government can say: "Ah, yes; but there are more vacancies than there are people unemployed". That has not been the position in Scotland at any time during the period in office of the Conservative Government.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, could my noble friend say, in addition to the number of unemployed, how many Scots have migrated from Scotland in the last ten years because they could not get jobs?
§ LORD HUGHES
It is rather interesting that my noble friend should ask that question, because there is a by-election in my home town just now, and the Conservative candidate (I beg his pardon: he is not a Conservative candidate in Scotland, he is a Unionist National Liberal candidate) has discovered that people have been leaving Scotland and has attributed it to two things: the first that during the last twelve years they have been leaving Scotland because there was a Labour Government between 1945 and 1951, and the second, a more up-to-date one, is that they are afraid there is going to be a Labour Government next year. He has discovered that they do better than that: they do not only leave Scotland, but they leave the country, because the Labour Government made no provision particularly for scientific and professionally trained people to find employment in their own country. It seems to run in my recollection that when a noble Viscount who I gather is leaving us—that is, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham—was speaking on this subject he rather mildly reproached the Americans for luring these people away from us by giving them better conditions and salaries.
The Prime Minister said, with his desire for simplicity and straight speaking, that all that was necessary was an extra 1 per cent. per annum; that if the productive capacity of the country could be increased, not by 3 per cent. per annum but by 4 per cent. per annum, all our difficulties would be over. We could, for instance, afford the Robbins Committee's recommendations—that is, £3,500 million in ten years; we could afford the Newsom Committee's recommendations at some unnamed figure; we could afford the rehousing programme increased by one-third, and all the others; and we might even be able to afford something for the nurses and probation officers—but not, of course, a reduction in the working hours; that is still quite impracticable. I would remind your Lordships that when, in 1959, a programme, which by comparison with the gracious Speech was modest in the extreme, was put forward by my Party, we were asked where the money was to come from. When the answer was given that it would come from increased productivity 82 through a properly applied programme, and that this would be sufficient to finance it without recourse to higher taxation, we were laughed at by the Conservative Party of the day. Yet to-day this is the way the programme is to be financed. I agree that a greater programme than is envisaged in this document can be financed out of increased productivity. If we are blessed with a change of Government at the next Election, and a Government which will accomplish increased productivity, not for a few months in one, two, three or four years, but as a regular expansionist policy for the country, it can be taken care of easily.
What are the prospects of the Government being able to do that? The figures of unemployment which I have given for Scotland have been furnished to me by the Ministry of Labour; the figures of housing have been furnished to me by the Scottish Office, and I think on the question of productivity I cannot do better than to go to another Member of the Government in support of my theme. On the question of productivity, I do not want to take your Lordships any further back than April of this year when, in your Lordships' House, speaking in the debate on the Economic Situation, the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said that if we took 1950 as a basic figure of 100, the increase in the gross domestic product in the thirteen years that had elapsed was only 133. The noble Earl pointed out that the increase in incomes was very much greater than that (I did not note the figure, but it was well over 100 per cent.), and said that that was part of our difficulties; that the cause of inflation was that income was increasing faster than productivity. But other countries have increased even faster than our country, and they have not had the measure of inflation that we have had. Why? Because their productivity has gone up much more than has been possible in thirteen years of a Conservative Government.
What are the prospects of ever getting a 4 per cent. increase? It is true that the Prime Minister says that at this moment the increase is running at 4 per cent. But there have been quite a number of occasions during the last twelve years when productivity was increasing at the rate of 4 per cent. But 83 the increase continued only for about two months on end, and then it went back. It would be fair, I think, to take Lord Dundee's figures of the Government's record as a whole. If you divide the period of Government office by the 33 per cent. of increase, we find that the average annual rate of increase is 2.54 per cent. If the Government could attain only an average of 2.54 per cent. in all the years of their office, what are the prospects of their being able to create the conditions to maintain—not to reach, but to maintain—a figure of 4 per cent.-plus over the next ten to fifteen years for which they are producing programmes? It is important that they, or their successors, should be able to do so, because some of the things which are in the gracious Speech will need, on the basis of what the Government themselves have said, a great deal of money to finance them.
On the question of university education, or of further education—because the proposals take in further education establishments other than universities—I looked up what the then Chief Secretary of the Treasury (now the Home Secretary) had to say. On March 14, 1962, he said that university costs to public funds—and he made it clear that when he said, "public funds", he meant not only the Government funds, but those of local authorities and other sources of public activity—had increased from £50 million to £104 million in the last five years, and might increase by a further £50 million, or more, in the course of the next five years. That is to say, by 1967 he expected an expenditure of £154 million, or perhaps a little more. Now we are told that the Government are prepared to add to the existing expenditure another £3,500 million in ten years, and yet the justification for keeping the figure down (as we know in your Lordships' House, because we heard the Minister responsible for further education, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, giving the reason why the Government should not accede to the request of the University Grants Committee) boils down to the fact that the country could not afford it. Now, overnight, the country can afford a programme which is more than three times the figure which was rejected within the last twelve months. The position of the 84 country has not improved to all that extent. What has happened in the intervening period is that the Government's electoral prospects have diminished to that extent.
I have been most careful not to say that what is in this programme is impossible, because I do not believe that there is anything in the way of expansion in the gracious Speech which is impossible of accomplishment, provided that we have a Government which sets out to let its right hand know what its left hand is doing, and works with a plan as a whole—spelt with a "W". That is what good government means. This Government forgets the necessity for putting the "W" on the front, and they are in a hole.
My final point is one on Scotland, which I think is a fair indication of the sort of way in which the Government have dealt with these problems. They have succeeded, as the Prime Minister stated, in bringing many industries into Scotland in recent years. Two hundred firms have come in from England, 60 from America, and 20 from the Continent. I have made two visits to America, in pursuance of our aim to bring industry to the New Town of which I am chairman, and I know that it is worth while going. I was also glad when the Secretary of State for Scotland himself went over this year to seek to further it. Some 50,000 jobs have been created as a result, and yet we have 40,000 more unemployed than before the whole operation started, notwithstanding the fact that, as my noble friend Lord Stonham said, as many people as there are new jobs created have left the country. If these people had remained, the new jobs would have been just as a drop in the bucket. Because of that situation we welcomed the Government's assistance for the establishment of the pulp mill at Fort William, an area which is very much in need of jobs.
I do not say that I entirely agree with the methods by which it is being financed, whereby the Exchequer provides half of the capital at a low fixed rate of interest and Wiggins Teape and Company take the whole of the profits and provide the other half of the capital. But, never mind: getting jobs is more important than getting a division of the 85 profits, so I commend it. The interesting thing is this. If the Government had commissioned Dr. Beeching to report a year earlier, there would not have been a pulp mill at Fort William, because he would have proposed to withdraw that railway line also; and if that had been closed, or threatened with closure, the pulp mill would not have been established. That is what I mean when I say that the Government make things more difficult than necessary, because they do not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.
My Lords, I like much of what is in the gracious Speech; I like the sentiments which are expressed. I hope that in the next gracious Speech which your Lordships have the opportunity of reading many of these sentences will reappear. I do so because I am confident that when the next Government say these things, they will happen. All this conveys to me at this moment is that it is an intention of what the Government hope the electors will believe may happen.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, after hearing during the past few days tremendous praise by Scots of a Scots Prime Minister, it was a particular joy to me to hear the gusto with which Scot attacked Scot in the last speech. I thought it was a lovely piece of civil war, in which I personally do not propose to intervene; but, nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely. It seemed to me to bring a refreshing note into the whole debate that we have had, both yesterday and to-day.
I must say that, like the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, I read this gracious Speech as an electioneering programme. I thought it pretty good as the first shot fired in the Election campaign of next year; pretty good, provided that you read only the Speech as it stands and do not do what is the task of the Opposition, which is thoroughly to examine the Speech as a possibility of implementation in the period that lies ahead which remains to the Government of the day and to consider whether it is likely to be achieved in the light of the experience that we have had of Tory Governments over the past twelve years. I propose to examine this Speech from an unemployment and, particularly, 86 from a Welsh angle. Here we have the Celtic fringe, having been working on a very similar sort of subject and topic in relation to this gracious Speech as my noble friend.
My Lords, I must admit that when I read the gracious Speech my immediate attention was focused upon the first two sentences of the second paragraph of that part of the Speech devoted to home affairs. It reads:Plans for comprehensive regional development will be laid before you for central Scotland and North-East England.This I regard as important. I must say that I was tremendously disappointed when the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, in the course of his speech from the Box, told us that he could not talk about the Bills that were projected in the Queen's Speech because otherwise he would be giving information before the Minister had spoken on the Second Reading of the Bill concerned and that he would, in fact, be jumping the gun.
§ LORD DERWENT
It was not before the Minister either in this or in another place made his Second Reading speech, but before the Bill was published.
§ LORD CHAMPION
In any case, we heard so little about these Bills that what the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said did not matter, because quite clearly he was not in a position to outline what the Bills will contain. But I rather thought that having done that, he ought to have gone on and told us something about the other things for which Bills are not apparently projected. He ought to have told us something about the plans that are to be laid before us for Scotland and North-East England. Apparently, Bills are not necessary; plans are all that will be necessary, and existing Acts of Parliament will be used to implement those plans. But, I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, speaking for the Government in this connection, ought at least to have told us what these plans are, because these matters are absolutely vital to the areas that are suffering large unemployment.
Since hearing the gracious Speech and reading that sentence which I have just mentioned, I looked back on the gracious Speech for 1959 and there I read:My Ministers will give urgent attention to the problems of those areas in which there is a need to provide for employment.87 That was four years ago, and this "urgent attention" which was promised at that time has resulted in what? In Scotland, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has said, between 1958 and 1962 the position in relation to unemployment has worsened from a figure of 4.4 per cent. for the registered unemployed to 4.7 per cent. In the Northern area of England as a whole the position is even worse. In the same period, namely, from 1958 to 1962, the figures have risen from 3.2 per cent to 5 per cent. It should also be mentioned and stressed, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, stressed, that over the period of Tory Governments since 1951 the figures for Scotland have risen from 3 per cent. to 4.7 per cent. and in the Northern area from 2.7 per cent. to 5 per cent. In both these cases the total area of Scotland and the total area of Northern England are taken; but within those areas there are these appallingly large, tragic pockets of unemployment, where the position is so very much worse, which must be dealt with.
It is a striking fact that the figure of unemployment for the United Kingdom as a whole was 2.6 per cent. in 1958, and it stood at exactly the same figure for the whole of the year 1962. Clearly, if the projected "urgent attention" promised in 1959 had been implemented, it must have resulted in a fall in the total of unemployment, and certainly it would have resulted, had it been urgent and had it been urgently implemented, in a decline in those tragic figures for the areas of Scotland and Northern England.
We hear, as I have mentioned, that after four years of "urgent attention" we are to have "plans for comprehensive … development" of those areas. One is bound to ask how urgent has this consideration been—a consideration that has permitted the situation to worsen; and why has action been seriously delayed until the pre-Election Session? We shall want to know very soon what the plans are, and, as I have already said, I had hoped that we should hear something about them this afternoon. Since the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, did not tell us about the plans, I sincerely hope that the noble and learned Lord who sits upon the Woolsack, when he comes to reply, will tell 88 is what these plans are, what the Government propose to do and how they propose to do it.
However, the Government have told us about central Scotland and North-East England—that there are plans to be laid before us—but I must say that the sentence which follows that seems to me to be extraordinarily vague in its character:Plans appropriate to other regions will follow".That is what we are told. What does it mean? Does it mean that these plans are to be laid before us in this Session, or is it the Government's hope that there will be other Sessions in which they will be the Government of the day during which they will be able to lay plans before us? But this is the phrase that is used.
Wales, for example (and I said that I was going to say something about this part of the Celtic fringe) is bound to ask why the distinction in the wording for Wales, because she is in this sorry list of the high unemployment figures for this country of ours. At present, Wales has large-scale unemployment, particularly in pockets, as is, of course, the case in the other areas. I must admit that there has been a slight fall in the figures between 1958 and 1962, a fall from 4.1 per cent. to 3.8 per cent. That is a slight improvement of 0.3 per cent. over 1958; so apparently this "urgent consideration" that we were promised in 1959 has resulted in a 0.3 per cent. fall. But, of course, into this figure comes precisely the same point as was made by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes: that it has been effected by the pouring out of the manpower of Wales towards the more prosperous areas of England.
Since 1951 the rate of unemployment in Wales has risen. And during that same period 1½ million jobs have been created in the United Kingdom as a whole. Only 40,000 of those jobs have been created in Wales. During that period Wales lost 100,000 jobs in her basic industries. During that time, too, I think it should be mentioned, London and the South-East have gained over half a million jobs they are up by some 10.5 per cent. In Eastern and Southern England the total is up by 439,000 jobs, equalling 18 per cent. The Midlands are up by 11.8 per cent., while in this period Wales goes up only 3.2 per cent.
89 What I think needs to be stressed in this connection is that many of those 40,000 jobs that have been created in Wales have been created as a result of offshoots or English companies, which tend, inevitably and understandably tend, to be closed down when there is the slightest retraction or any difficulties are experienced in those industries. It does not apply to them all of course, but many of them happen to be of that nature. I could produce a fairly long list of those offshoots of English companies that have during the past few years been closed down; something has had to be done by representatives in another place to try to keep them going—delegations to the Board of Trade and the like—in an endeavour to persuade those companies to maintain their offshoots in Wales. Clearly, Wales comprises an area of high unemployment, and her problem ought not to be fobbed off with a sentence telling us that, "Plans appropriate to other regions will follow". Why has Wales been left out of the specific mention of the areas for which plans will definitely be laid before Parliament? Is it because there is little likelihood of this Government holding seats in Wales or winning them at the next Election? This might be a cynical question, but I think it is justified in the light of the past treatment of Wales by successive Tory Governments in connection with this problem of ensuring more employment in Wales.
The next sentence in the gracious Speech promises a Bill to make improved provision for industrial training. In this connection I would suggest that Wales, Scotland and the North-East need exceptional consideration—and here, of course, I would stress particularly the needs of Wales. The difficulty of this aspect of our problem can be brought out clearly by a single sentence. The fact is that the chances of a boy entering a skilled trade by apprenticeship in Wales are half those of a boy entering a skilled craft by apprenticeship in England. This is a tragic situation and I certainly hope that something will be done about it. It is true that in Wales there are some firms that shine in this connection, particularly the nationalised industries, the Coal Board, the electricity and the gas undertakings. There are others: Richard Thomas and Baldwins, South Wales 90 Switchgear and certain others in Wales. But still the fact is that there are not sufficient apprenticeship schemes operating in Wales at the moment, and I hope that this Bill which is projected and expected to deal with this aspect will take cognizance of this fact.
I recently had the opportunity of visiting a works in Wales established in 1946 and opened by the late Hugh Dalton—the Anglo Celtic Watch Company. I was delighted to learn while there that they train more boys in skills useful to them and other industries than they themselves can possibly employ. In so doing they are operating a public-spirited policy that is an example to many other industries I could talk about here to-day. But we certainly need a vast extension of the apprenticeships and industrial training. Welsh labour has in the past proved its adaptability and has earned praise by many of the firms that come to Wales. But prospective employers who are asked to go to Wales—and this pressure has to be kept up, of course—immediately want to see available to them trained skilled workers. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, nods his head in assent, because this is one of the factors which I am sure we shall have to deal with in the Bill expected. I hope that this aspect will be very carefully considered. In this connection generally, this business of the school-leaver, I think Wales tends to think that the Government, successive Governments since 1951, have lost the battle of the bulge of the school-leavers; we are not keeping pace with this particular job.
Towards the end of the gracious Speech there is a special reference to the Highlands and Islands. After the Prime Minister's election speeches I felt sure that some gesture would be made in this direction, and some gesture has been made in the words of the gracious Speech. I do not begrudge Scotland anything that might be done by this Government for the Highlands and Islands, but I am bound to ask, What about central Wales, an area which is in many ways similar to the Highlands and Islands? It is an area which has been the subject of many important reports, examinations and then suggestions for something to be done. The centre of Wales has a declining population, and 91 those who are left in the area are becoming poorer and poorer, relative to Great Britain as a whole, as the years go by. Anxiety and hopelessness seem to me to exist in the area about this perpetual drift of population towards the Midlands and South-East England; and the tragedy of this is that it is always the young and energetic who move, leaving behind those who inevitably would have this feeling of anxiety and hopelessness which I have mentioned.
Land in central Wales is available. There is water in abundance, as we all know—indeed, I rather felt last weekend there was too much water in South Wales and central Wales. However, water is essential for industry and there is plenty of it available there. It is true that Dr. Beeching is worsening transport facilities in that area, and while that has been going on—or at least while it is undoubtedly to go on—little has been done to the roads in this part of Wales. Nevertheless I think that a comprehensive plan could deal with all that. I see no reason why a plan for Wales could not cause new towns to spring up there, with universities and the appropriate technical and technological education as a necessary accompaniment. I end with the assertion that Wales has not had over the years, under Tory Governments, a fair share of educational facilities or employment and this clear injustice should be remedied. I feel that this will not come about in the life of this Parliament or Government, for the whole of this Election speech Smacks, as I said before, of a deathbed repentance.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, we are almost at the conclusion of the first innings in the great battle over the final gracious Speech of the present Parliament. It seems to me that this gracious Speech is characterised by two factors: it is forward looking and forward thinking in its approaches, and many, indeed most, of the ideas culminating in the Speech are the result of legislation which has been laid before Parliament over the past decade or so. Let us take housing. The Benches opposite have decried the housing policies and results of this Government. I would 92 be the last to deny that a good deal remains to be done, particularly, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has said, in Scotland. But development areas have been set up and the rate of slum clearance is improving the whole time, particularly in the Midlands and in Lancashire. All this takes a good deal of labour and material. We in this country are extremely jealous of our Green Belt and of our land, and the more houses that are built the more land is it necessary to acquire. This is never a popular measure.
The same applies in regard to road building. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, rather decried the progress of road building in Scotland. I am bound to confess that I have not visited Scotland recently, but I have a copy of the 1961–62 Reports on industry and employment and on roads in Scotland. In almost every county during those years considerable development seems to have taken place, although in such counties as Ross and Cromarty and Sutherland obvious geographical difficulties manifest themselves. Certainly in England and in Wales, which I visited recently, considerable road works are going on. At last the Al trunk road is worthy of being called "A1". These road improvements are often carried out at considerable inconvenience to the motorist; but they are being carried out, and more money than ever before is being spent on road works.
May I turn to another subject which has been much in the public eye recently and which was touched on by my noble friend Lord Derwent, the problem of the police? The happenings in Sheffield are regretted by everyone, and those who have read the Report will no doubt be most disturbed at its contents. I do not claim to know Sheffield; but I do know Leeds, and a few years ago I spent a day touring the C.I.D. headquarters at Leeds where I was shown a lot of material and had explained many of the methods which are used in the detection of crime and the apprehension of criminals. I share, as I am sure the whole House does, the view of the Home Secretary, that where it is proved that the police are in the right (which I submit is in most cases on these matters) he will give full co-operation to the police forces. What is more disturbing in the Report 93 on the Sheffield incident—this is not the time to discuss that in any detail—is the large amount of overtime which the detectives in question seem to have worked. This is going on in many parts of the country, and is obviously leading to detectives becoming tired and possibly irritable, and they do perhaps at times tend, to take it out of, prospective prisoners rather too harshly. But some of the types with which the police have to deal are themselves indeed tough. I would withhold any further comment until the Bill is published and brought before us; obviously, it will be a most necessary measure. I should certainly hope that the watch committees continue to exist, to preserve the pride in the county forces, and that the Home Office are not given too much control over the whole police administration.
May I turn now to the vexed subject of rates? Again, we have not seen the proposals, but the Allen Committee has been sitting for some time now. I must declare a small, although not financial, interest here, as a Vice-President of the National Union of Ratepayers' Associations. There have in fact been a great many letters of distress sent to the Ministry, particularly from the headquarters of the National Union of Ratepayers' Associations, because many cases of hardship have occurred as a result of rate increases. This is particularly true in seaside areas where many people live on fixed incomes, and where there is little industry to cushion these increases. Any legislation regarding rates is always difficult to furnish, and even more difficult to implement; but certainly this Government have not fought shy of the problem of rates. We have had a number of rating Bills, none of them simple to understand, but they have at least shown that the Government view these matters with concern. The great problem is that, whatever measures are taken, rates have to be paid by somebody. There are, of course, a number of ultimate solutions which the Allen Committee will no doubt consider, but taken as a whole, the measures which the gracious Speech brings before Parliament are sound.
There have been criticisms that there are but vague references to further measures to be brought before Parliament. But Parliament sits for only a limited time in the year, and we have 94 had many complaints of over-weighty legislation. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that Wales needs consideration. On the other hand, a number of industries have been set up there and such constructions as the Clwydog Reservoir are taking in labour. I hope and believe that the Government will take action on these matters as soon as possible. But whether it is in home affairs or in foreign affairs, the Queen's Speech has shown the real urgency of the situation. These are not new measures, and for the very reason that they are vigorous and, as I have said earlier, the culmination of a decade of social improvements at home and of great improvements in the international sphere, I support this gracious Speech.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I did not wish to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, while he was speaking, because he himself is always so courteous to others. I therefore thought that I would wait until he sat down until I made this point. He referred to roads in the north. He indicated the geographical difficulties of Cromarty and seemed to accept those as reason for little or nothing being done. For how long would the noble Lord be prepared to accept that as a reason for a continuation of single type roads, with occasional passing places; and does he think that is a major contribution towards making the north of Scotland a tourist attraction?
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I am quite sure that the surveyors of the county councils are the best judges of that, but I am only going by what the official paper says, that many improvements have in fact taken place, even though they are slow.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, we come now to the end, or the near end, of the first day's general debate on the gracious Speech. I listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, said about the police, and I have a good deal of sympathy with some of the things he said. We are all sorry about the Sheffield matter and the White Paper which has resulted, but it would be wrong to make a general condemnation of the police from the unhappy experience of one force—and, indeed, it almost certainly 95 is not true of the general body of policemen in the city of Sheffield. I have an affection for the police, partly because my father was a metropolitan police constable, partly because I am a Cockney, I suppose, and have come up against the police a good deal, not in any unfriendly way; and partly because I have been Home Secretary. I think there is at times a little tendency in some quarters, if any individual trouble arises in a force, or if some force goes over the line, to draw general conclusions which are rather disheartening to policemen in general, as has been recently manifested by members of the metropolitan force.
The Minister of State, Home Office, said that they are proceeding step by step, which reminds me of a former Leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, who, in answer to the Left Wing, said, "One step is enough for me." Well, the Government go step by step, but these quotations which have been given by my noble friends Lord Wise and Lord Champion from quite a number of Queen's Speeches tend to remind us that the Government have been making promises of the same character, through the Queen's Speech, Session after Session, time after time. And if, at the end of the twelve years, they are making in the Queen's Speech the same kind of undertakings they made four, five, six or perhaps more years ago, then that is prima facie evidence that the Government have broken undertakings which they made years ago.
Arising out of the observations of my two noble friends, I hope that the appropriate officials of the Labour Party at Transport House read the proceedings of your Lordships' House. I am sure that they read the proceedings of the other place, and I hope that they read ours, too. If they do, I would suggest they go through all the Queen's Speeches of the last twelve years and make comparisons with what has been said time after time, for I think that my two noble friends have drawn attention to the possibility of a first-class political pamphlet on behalf of the Labour Party which could be exceedingly effective. I hope that that will be done. I have referred to the police, to which the Minister of State, Home Office, also 96 referred in terms with which broadly I agree.
The Minister said that a statement will be made about an increase in the school-leaving age before the expiration of this Parliament—which presumably means that nothing legislative whatever will be done while this Parliament lasts. He referred to the school-building programme. Here, again, I think is justification for the allegations that the Government between Election times get into a panic and slow things down—possibly have to, because of their maladministration—and then, when an Election is approaching, begin to expand and loosen up. For two or three years now local authorities, including Middlesex and London, and various denominations, have been declaiming about the restrictions the Government have imposed on school building. But now, with an Election in sight, the Minister of Education has begun to allow expansion of the school-building programmes. It really is a cynical business that restriction should be imposed when there is no Election in sight and that the restriction should begin to be lifted when the Election is coming along. It is not calculated to do any good for politics or for the cause of good Government. I sympathise with my noble friends Lord Hughes and Lord Champion in their references to Scotland and Wales in relation to statements which are made in the Queen's Speech, and I hope very much that attention will be paid to what they have said.
It is perfectly clear that the Speech has been written for the purpose of making a contribution to the victory of the Conservatives at the next Parliamentary General Election. That is its main purpose. It is a curious vehicle in which to conduct general electioneering; but there it is, and we must not be surprised. Indeed, the Prime Minister on the occasion of his election as Leader of the Conservative Party—the pro forma election as Leader—on Monday was perfectly frank about it: that elections, politics, mattered at this time, and must matter for the months to come, more than anything else. And, by implication, politics must matter more than the welfare of the country—that is the implication I draw from what he said.
97 Consider these words, extreme and dogmatic, especially coming from a Scotsman, because I thought the Scots were cautious. He said:So from this moment on, the fact that there is a General Election ahead of us must never be out of our minds"—never, presumably, not even when they are drafting the Queen's Speech.Every act that we take, every attitude that we strike, every speech that we make in Parliament or elsewhere, must have that in mind …So here we have a confession that every single administrative action of a Minister, every legislative provision, every minute a Minister writes, must have relationship, not to the welfare of the country but to the political, electoral welfare of the Conservative Party. Surely that is a legitimate deduction from the quotation from the Prime Minister which I have read. I know, for two reasons, that his speech has not been misreported: I have quoted it from The Times and, moreover, it was issued to The Times and other newspapers by the Conservative Central Office. I say that this is a somewhat disgusting observation to have made: that everything in governmental administration, Parliamentary life and legislative provisions must be subjected to the electoral advantage of the Government at the next General Election and that the welfare of the people, the good of the nation, must take second place. But there it is, and I think I have put it on the record perfectly legitimately.
Not only is that so, but on Sunday there was an announcement in the Sunday Telegraph, which I regard as a reasonably respectable Conservative newspaper, though it is not always, thank goodness, slavish to the official views of the Government or the Conservative Party. This was followed by the Prime Minister's remarks on Monday. The Sunday Telegraph had a splash headline story on page one by the political correspondent:Big Publicity Drive By The Tories. 6,000 Sites.This is how the article began:The largest advertising campaign ever run by a political party is about to be launched by the Conservatives. Already over 6,000 poster sites have been booked in England and Wales alone, more than in the 1959 Election, and reserved 'until further notice'. The cost until April is estimated at £250,000 and the party are prepared to go on spending 98 at this rate until the General Election. The poster campaign will be backed by Press advertising concentrating on provincial newspapers covering 104 key marginal constituencies.This is pretty big, my Lords; and although I believe the courts have ruled otherwise—and we must, of course, accept their decision—I think all this business of pre-Election electioneering, months, perhaps a year, before the date of the General Election, is in spirit a breach of the Representation of the People Acts. It means that they are running an Election campaign before reaching the official date for permitted electoral expenditure, which has to be returned. I think it is utterly improper, and it was started by the Conservatives. It is perfectly true that the Labour Party is to some extent now following on, and I am sorry that that should be so, but it is almost inevitable, if the Conservatives do this sort of thing. The Liberals have not yet followed, but if they get enough money they may feel they must do the same thing. But this means an addition to the cost of electioneering. It means additional political power for rich men who can put their money into a given political Party. It is perfectly true that the trade unions subscribe generously to the Labour Party, but I do not think even now that the Labour Party funds for Elections are as great as are the Conservatives', by a very, very long way.
But here is another trick which I think is, again, a breach of principle, against the spirit of the Representation of the People Acts. Not only does the Tory Central Office run Election campaigns, and pre-Election election campaigns, but they persuade their capitalist friends, the industrialists, the big firms and others, to do the same, side by side with the political campaigns. As this respectable Conservative newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph, says:Strong pressure is also going to be put on business and industrial organisations to give their support by a repetition of the 'free enterprise' advertising drives run so sucessfully before the 1959 Election.It goes on to say curiously:Their reluctance to do so hitherto has been a great disappointment to the Conservative leaders. The steel industry, in particular, decided some months ago, after a heated internal controversy, not to run an anti-nationalisation campaign.99 They go on to give the reason.This decision reflected what is now the dominant view in the industry, that a Labour victory is likely"—that is comforting—and that they had better concentrate on negotiating terms for an inevitable take-over rather than deliberately antagonise the Labour party.That shows that, even in some capitalist circles, there is a reasonable degree of political intelligence and that they are not putting their money into a sinking ship—I hope not—which is what appears to be the case. But this is another method of bringing in great vested interests, great capitalist corporations—and I have no doubt landowners are in the business, too, including the speculative landowners. I have no doubt that they contribute to Tory Party funds. This is the method of mobilising corporate private wealth in the political struggle.
My Lords, I say, first of all, that it is wrong. But even if it were right, it ought to be legally compulsory for these concerns to declare what they are doing with this money. Their shareholders have a right to know, and they even ought to have a secret ballot, like the trade unions must have, in order to become involved in political expenditure. The Conservative Party also ought to be compelled to publish its accounts; and if, as we expect, we win the next Election, the Tory Party had better be ready, and these industrial concerns had better be ready, for a Labour Government bringing in legislation to these ends. I shall be very pleased if they do.
The question in this gracious Speech—which is, of course, a Government Speech, which is constitutionally right—is whether the Government will live up to their promises. I must say that all history for the last twelve years shows that the Government will not live up to their promises. The gracious Speech on a number of previous occasions has made similar promises, though their slogan language was not quite up to date at that time, but they have done their best to bring it up to date now.My Ministers will bring forward further proposals for the modernisation of Britain, covering many of the economic and social aspects of our national life.It will be noticed that it says "Britain". My noble friends have referred to the 100 neglect of Scotland and Wales. I would refer here to the neglect of Northern Ireland, a Tory stronghold, which suffers from being a Tory stronghold. The Government say to themselves: "We cannot lose seats in Northern Ireland. Therefore let us treat it rough." It would be a very good thing for Northern Ireland if they returned at least three Labour Members to the House of Commons. More notice would be taken of them. But the Speech says "Britain". Northern Ireland is out of it. Yet the reply to the gracious Speech was seconded, without a word of protest, by a lady, a Member of Parliament from Northern Ireland, who should have refused to have anything to do with it.
The Speech goes on:Plans for comprehensive regional development will be laid before you for central Scotland and North-East England.Again, Northern Ireland is left out. Merseyside, which I believe the Government have declared to be a development area—which was a welcome decision—is left out. Wales is left out. Why have the Government got spite against Northern Ireland, Merseyside and Wales? I do not know, but it is a most extraordinary thing, because it is notorious that these are areas of economic difficulty.
The gracious Speech goes on:My Ministers are determined to maintain the expansion of the economy in all parts of the country based on a high and stable level of employment. They will continue to encourage growth without inflation …".My Lords, let us have a look at how far these promises of expansion without inflation are true after twelve years. We have not expanded enough during those twelve years. In fact, the rate of expansion has diminished in some respects as compared with what it was in the days of the Labour Government; there has not been enough expansion. The amount of industrial productivity has not gone up sufficiently—and that was beaten at any rate during part of the period of office of the Labour Government—and inflation has been occurring, not all the time but during a great part of the time of the occupation of office by this Administration. Noble Lords have only to ask themselves: What is the pound worth to-day in purchasing power as compared with what it was worth in 1951? It is 101 materially less in purchasing power to-day, which shows that we have been living under inflationary influences, notwithstanding the fact that the productive output of the nation has been inadequate. It is noteworthy that there is no provision in the gracious Speech for legislation for the protection of the consumer. There is, so far as I can see, no mention of it at all.
Then, the Government have got a biased attitude towards public and private industry. They do what they can to help private industry; they do something to help public industry, but not enough. In the gracious Speech there is a reference to transport, but what have the Government done with transport? They have impaired the efficiency and the financial wellbeing of publicly-owned transport. They broke up the British Transport Commission by separating commercial road transport from the railways, which in itself has increased the financial difficulties of the railways and therefore has been harmful to transport. They are doing a lot about road building—and they must do a lot about road building, I agree, but I think we must have a sense of proportion about the building of roads. For example, it is sometimes argued that if motor cars increase in number by 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. over a given period of years, you must have enough road-widening to take care of that growth for private cars or commercial road transport. I am not sure. There was a valuer to the London County Council who, in an exaggerated statement, it is true, said to me, "Mr. Morrison, do not go mad about roads. We cannot necessarily cater for all of the increased number of motor cars, and if we are not careful we shall be a city of roads with no rateable value." That is an exaggeration, but there is something to be remembered about it, something to be taken into account.
Take the recent Piccadilly project, when the scheme of the London County Council was disapproved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government after consultation with the Minister of Transport. Although it had been approved in principle some couple of years before, it has now been disapproved because it does not take enough account of the growth in road transport. There is an 102 enormous cost in land value in making improvements at a place like Piccadilly Circus. Are we now to accept the doctrine that there should be an unrestricted access to the centres of cities by private cars and commercial road transport and that the highway authorities have got to make highway provision for them? My Lords, I do not accept it, and I think the time will have to come when, at any rate so far as Central London is concerned, and possibly Manchester and Birmingham as well, the community will have to say, "You cannot drive private cars into the middle of these cities without special permission and a special licence which shows that you have got justification for so doing". Of course, justification would no doubt be properly afforded to Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords. No Minister would dare to upset them all at once; he would have upset enough people already.
I do submit that it is worth thinking about. It will have to be done, I believe, at some time—and this is an adventurous Minister of Transport, courageous in some ways, although he has not yet been sufficiently courageous to do this. However, I cannot expect that he will do it until after the General Election and in accordance with the Prime Minister's directive, and after the General Election he will not be there to do it, anyway. So in transport the Government's economic policy has been wrong. They have damaged the railways—they have a bias in favour of road commercial transport—and the economic wellbeing of the transport industry. Despite all their promises of further industrial expansion and progress, the Government have damaged the economic wellbeing of the transport industry, I think probably both road and rail.
In civil aviation, their bias against public service is shown. If ever there was a case for efficient, comprehensive, co-ordinated, consolidated transport services surely it is in the field of civil aviation. What is the good of inventing additional competitive routes when, as a matter of fact, they have got to conform to substantially the same fares and pretty well the same facilities? But the Government have deliberately imposed private capitalists competition on the 103 publicly-owned airlines for the purpose—for the deliberate, malicious purpose—of damaging the State-owned airlines, simply because they are publicly-owned. This is the "Government of broad vision, of fair mind". My Lords, it is not: it is a Government criss-crossed with vested private interests, that hate the very name of anything that is publicly-owned, even if they have got to put up with its continuance.
They talk about expansion without inflation. We had a crisis in electricity supply last winter, and, of course, Tories and some Tory newspapers blamed the publicly-owned electricity undertakings—why were they not ready for a bad winter? In the first place, you cannot run an undertaking on the basis that if a bad winter comes perhaps one in ten years you have got to make provision for it—not necessarily. On the other hand, it is as well to keep the possibility in mind. But what happened in the electricity supply industry? They wanted to expand their generating plant, they wanted to expand the availability of supply, but the Government, with their bias against publicly-owned industry, cut down the amount of capital expenditure they were permitted to spend. Consequently, the responsibility there, if there is a responsibility, rests with the Government and not necessarily at all with the electricity undertakings. Electricity supply in public ownership has been a brilliant success. In fact, its very success and the increase in public demand have been a partial contribution to the problem, which ought, however, to have been met by greater capital expenditure years ago in order that the supply should be there. The gas industry, socialised, has also been a very fine success.
These are some of the records of the Conservative Government since 1912, and many—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
No; thank Heaven it is not as bad as that! I mean, for the past twelve years. My noble friend Lord Latham says it seems as long as that. That is a very useful contribution, and gets me out of my difficulties. I mean twelve years, of course. The observations made by my 104 noble friends, and in particular by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition in the forthright speech which he delivered this afternoon, show that the Government have never really gripped the economic situation, that they have not taken care of it, that they have not promoted an adequate expansion of industry or, over a great part of the period, an adequate balance of trade, although we are all very glad that it is better at this time. And it must be remembered that they inherited after the war, after we had been in office five or six years, an economic situation which they were very lucky to inherit And my Lords this laughter on the part of noble Lords and of the noble Lord the Leader of the House just shows how profoundly ignorant they are.
§ A NOBLE LORD: It shows what a short memory you have.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Not at all. If the noble Lord is to be Leader of the House, he will have to have a more responsible view of history. Consider the situation. We had a great war, with extensive bombing; houses were destroyed and blasted; factories, schools, hospitals were destroyed or blasted. Railways were damaged; businesses were damaged. Savings in foreign countries had had to be parted with, notably those in the United States of America. Our trade overseas had pretty well stopped. This was the situation the Labour Government had to face.
We did it—as my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition has said—not altogether by controls. I do not believe in controls for controls' sake. But we did it partly by controls; and if the Conservatives had won that Election then, according to the statement of the then Mr. Churchill at the time of the Election in 1945, they would have scrapped the controls, as was done by a predominantly Conservative Government after the First World War. And we should then have been in a mess. If the Conservatives had won the 1945 Election then they would have lost the 1950 and 1951 Elections, because they would have made such a mess of things. As it was we brought the country through that trouble. We did an enormous amount, not only of building but also of repairing; 105 not only of houses but of schools, factories and all sorts of things. And we initiated various things in the international field, including NATO. In the economic field we had to go in for a certain amount of controls; but we relaxed many controls. Indeed, the Leader of the Labour Party, when he was President of the Board of Trade, boasted that he had a bonfire of controls.
But I am sure that we came through that period with a substantial degree of success. We did socialise; we had public ownership. Now it is sneered at by the Tory Party, but what have they done about it? They have messed up transport by taking out a lot of road commercial transport. They denationalised steel, but the Tory Party did not have the guts enough in their anti-Socialist bias to denationalise coal. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, will tell us, when he comes to reply, why they did not denationalise coal. They have not denationalised the railways and handed them back to the railway companies who were on the road to bankruptcy anyway. Why not that, if they do not believe in nationalisation? They have not done it with gas or electricity. No; they preserve a lot of nationalisation and therefore this cry of anti-nationalisation is humbug. It is nonsense; and it ought to be dropped.
So I say that the Labour Government preserved, or at any rate maintained, a not impossible economic situation; and when the Conservatives took over in 1951 they took over a not fundamentally unhealthy plant. If they had won the 1945 Election they would have ruined the immediate post-war period and brought the country to a bad end. I say that the ex-First Lord of the Admiralty should study home affairs a little more now that he is Leader of the House of Lords and let him understand that you do not get truth merely by laughter and scorn. These are the facts which I am sure that history will bear out. Now my Lords, I not only believe in planning in Government—that is to say, in the Government being efficiently organised (because that is what planning means)—but I think it ought also to have a financial programme and financial planning.
I do not want to argue whether some promises given by the Government are extravagant or not sufficient. This is not 106 the time to argue all that in detail. I am not arguing whether they are trying to spend too much or too little. But I do say that any Government—even the Party in Opposition—should, when it makes undertakings, work out the financial implications on all subjects and then consider how, by budgetary means, they will find the money; so that it is a check-up, as the plan progresses, on what can be afforded. I do not know whether the Government have done that for the next three to five years, or whether they did it during their twelve years of office. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will tell us. And on this point, my Lords, I am preaching not only to the Conservative Government but to my own people as well. There should be financial "looks-ahead" and financial programmes along with other programmes in public administration, because these "looks-ahead" check against making impossible and irresponsible Election promises.
My Lords, it is good that there should be more housing, and now is the time when that can be done. But what about the land cost, which is an enormous element in the provision of houses? The speculative builder is there and the speculative owner is there. The great cost of land is one of the big factors in the high rents of some houses and in the purchase costs of some houses. That is another channel of inflation which the Government are doing nothing to check. What about inflation in land costs? It affects not only housing but the clearance of slums. Urban redevelopment is a vast need that certainly cannot be met in the lifetime of one Parliament. It is a vast thing to clear away the ugly slums and replace them. But all these things must be done, and we need, therefore, to look at the price of land, this enormous cost of land, which is itself inflationary. We also need to take care that the Green Belt is substantially protected and not nibbled at, as the present Minister of Housing and Local Government seems likely to do.
There is a considerable legislative programme in the gracious Speech. I do not know how long the Government estimate they will take to carry out this programme, but obviously there is a limit to what can be done, bearing in 107 mind the date of the next General Election. A Government that believes in political organisation, which the Prime Minister has told to put election considerations before anything else, should therefore know when the Election is coming; otherwise it would not have produced this gracious Speech. According to the gracious Speech the Election could not come until next autumn; but they may have good reasons to think it ought to come before. But obviously the length of the legislative programme has some relation to the time when the Election may come. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, can tell us when the Election is to come, so that we can get a reasonable estimate as to whether this programme in the gracious Speech is likely to go through or whether the Government know that half of it, or less, or more, will not go through so that they can include it in the gracious Speech without the obligation to implement it. They can do anything after an Election by way of abandoning the promises made before.
There is a new Leader of the Conservative Party. I must say that when we passed the Peerage Bill, which was to prevent young men from being pitch-forked from the House of Commons into this noble place, none of us dreamed that it was going to be used by a noble Earl for the purpose of pitching himself from this gilded Chamber into the other place down the corridor, but it has been so used. The new Leader has been chosen after "the usual process of consultation", which is a lovely term, repeated time and time again by the returning officers as well as by the scrutineers—the Government Chief Whip in this House and in another place, with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor as the chief returning officer, just to prove the judicial character of the high office which he holds.
I venture to say that the gentleman who determined the election of the Leader before it began was the former Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, who knew what he wanted and knew what he did not want, too. But we have had no election figures about this ascertainment through "the usual process of consultation". In by-elections, we get figures—very interesting figures. 108 Why should not we get figures about this? They would be interesting. And I invite the noble and learned Lord to publish them to the House and to the public to-day
I think that this "usual process of consultation" is much the same as the process by which Mr. Khrushchev became First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Russian Prime Minister. I think that they do it in much the same way as the British Conservative Party, which just shows how near the extreme Right and the extreme Left, so-called, are. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord could expand on that, too, and explain to us whether that be true or not true. But I guarantee that it is much the same. They take soundings: who will they stand best? Who will they stand least? These are the things that have to be found out, and up to now the Communists have done pretty well on Mr. Khrushchev, though they were not so successful on the dual Prime Ministers, before Mr. Khrushchev took over the sole command.
Having regard to the bias of the former Prime Minister in favour of the present Prime Minister, I must say that I think the present Prime Minister is being rather ungrateful. We had the Kinross by-election after the Luton by-election and the Prime Minister was asked what he thought of these two. That was easy for him. He said:Luton was the last page of the last chapter; Kinross and Perth is the first page of the new chapter.Modest sort of lad, is he not? He meant: "Thank God, the end of Macmillanism has come! That was the last chapter and Luton was the last page of the Macmillan chapter." In effect, the Prime Minister said, "That is a good thing, too. You now have a good Prime Minister. Kinross is the first page of the new chapter." I think that is ungrateful to Mr. Macmillan, who, after all, exercised great influence to put the Prime Minister where he is. The Prime Minister might have been a little more considerate of the record and the history of Mr. Macmillan.
All the Government's actions are directed to electioneering. The public welfare and the public good are not the first consideration. Take even this Bill to lower the rates: where is it going 109 to lower them? Primarily in the areas of local authorities covering Tory seaside resorts. That is politics. The talk of modernisation, which does not ring true in Tory mouths, is politics. I do not expect the matter to be contested, because the Government would certainly lose. I would invite them, on behalf of my noble friends and my honourable friends in another place, to have an Election now. The country wants an Election. It is demanding an election. The country thinks it has a right to judge the record of the Government now, and although I think that the Government will be too afraid to have an Election now, nevertheless, for the sake of Parliamentary propriety, I invite them to go to the country, and then they will find out what the country thinks.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it is my task to-night to wind up the first day's debate in your Lordships' House on the gracious Speech. My task is to some extent facilitated by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, because I am sure that he found it difficult seriously to criticise the content of the gracious Speech. I think the words of the Walrus are apt as a paraphrase of his speech. Your Lordships will remember them:'The time has come,' the Walrus said,'To talk of many things:Of shoes—and ships—and sealing wax—Of cabbages—and kings.'That is the kind of variety in which the noble Lord engaged in the course of his speech. As your Lordships will remember, he began by seeking to give some advice to Transport House on the compilation of a political pamphlet. No one will doubt for one moment the need of his Party for a first-class political pamphlet. But I venture to say to him that, if he uses the resources of Transport House in going through Her Majesty's Speeches in previous years and seeing how far they have been fulfilled, he will be wasting the resources of Transport House, however vast they may be, because when that is done the result will not be anything like a first-class Socialist political pamphlet.
The noble Lord went on to talk about the two by-elections. My mind went back to 1945, to the Caretaker 110 Government, and how the noble Lord claimed, before the Election started, to "Let us face the future". My mind went back also to the fact that it was the Representation of the People Act, passed in the days of the Socialist Government, which prescribed what it was wrong to do in the course of an Election. We heard nothing then about some new electoral procedure. But, of course, what is always wrong is for anyone to put forward a policy on behalf of the Conservatives. It is never wrong when it is put forward by the Socialist Party: it was not wrong in 1945. The noble Lord went on to make a speech which made me feel that the years had not slipped by, because I think that I have heard him say much the same on at least one occasion, and probably more than one, with his diatribe against those who subscribe to the Conservative Party. He appears to think that a political levy is far preferable to anything in the nature of voluntary contributions. I do not intend to follow through every point made by the noble Lord, but there are one or two to which I wish to come back later.
In the course of the speeches made by noble Lords to-day, many different points have been made, and I will reply to them, so far as I can, in the course of a speech which I know your Lordships would not like to be a long one. First of all, I should like to add my congratulations to those already extended to the noble Lord, Lord Alport, on his very interesting speech on, in my view, a very interesting topic. The machinery of government is something which poses many problems and what he had to say is certainly worthy of careful consideration. I hope, indeed, that we shall hear him speak in this House often and have the benefit of his advice and assistance.
In listening to the speeches made in your Lordships' House to-day I, at least, got the impression that noble Lords of the Labour Party were finding it difficult to attack the content of the gracious Speech. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that he would not say there was anything in the programme which was impossible, and he liked much of what was in the gracious Speech. That, I think, was the trend throughout the debate. Indeed, I would assert that the measures foreshadowed in the gracious 111 Speech are well suited to the needs of our time. They are progressive and in the national interest, and it is really ridiculous to try to assert that they are put forward in a spirit of mere electioneering. That it should be sought to suggest that it is something in the nature of an Election manifesto is perhaps to be expected, because I think (I have not taken the time to check on the point) that in the last Session of previous Parliaments we have had that kind of thing said.
It is true that we have had a number of speeches from noble Lords who sit on the Opposition Benches which I would describe, without fear of misrepresenting your Lordships, as of a a merely electioneering character. The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, began his speech with a series of statements which I must say I found somewhat astonishing. He said in an early stage of his speech that the Government were most anxious that their failures in the past twelve years should not be noticed. Let me say straight away, speaking as a member of the Government, that I should be very glad if the full record of the Conservative Government for the last twelve years was not forgotten, but was remembered.
But then the noble Earl went on to say something which led me to suppose that he, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, also, hoped that what would be completely forgotten was the position in this country in 1951 after six years of Socialist office. The noble Earl went on to say this in relation to the period 1945–50: that the Socialist Government then put the administration of this country far ahead of any other country, due to controls and planning. What the noble Earl did not mention was that we were still in 1951 a strictly rationed country: bacon and ham, 5 oz. a week; cheese, 1½ oz.; cooking fats, 2 oz.; meat, 1s. 7d. worth a week; sugar, 10 oz.; tea, 2 oz. a week. And it had stayed like that since July, 1945. Six years of Socialism and not an extra ounce of tea!
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I must say that I find this argument very peculiar. 112 I listened to my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth (I happened to come in from another meeting) and he put the same point in another way. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor knows as well as anybody else that for the last three years of the war we lived on a ration which could not even be maintained at that level without Lease-Lend, and that within six weeks of the Socialist Government taking office Lease-Lend was taken away. We were, as I said in my speech, absolutely bankrupt as a nation, yet we had to try to build up an export trade, repair 3 million houses, rebuild and retool factories and everything else. I think the noble and learned Lord is being most unfair.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I have no desire in the least to be unfair to the noble Earl, and I had not intended, in thinking what I would say in winding up this debate, to refer to these subjects which are so painful to the Socialist Party. It was the noble Earl's assertion that the administration of this country in 1951 was far ahead of any other country, and that it was due to controls and planning, that made me think it necessary to remind your Lordships of some of the facts. There is also the painful fact of bread rationing during those six years, which we never had to endure even in the worst year of the war.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I think perhaps the Lord Chancellor ought to add the real words I put into those sentences. I said that we were far ahead of any of the other countries who had been war-damaged as we had been damaged.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I hope that I have not done an injustice to the noble Earl. I took down his words to the best of my ability, but if I have done him any injustice I shall be only too glad to apologise. But I do not think I have. Then, having said those things, the noble Earl went on to claim a degree of paternity for the gracious Speech: for he went on to say that if there was anything in the Speech at all it came from the long pressure of the Labour Party and other organisations. It makes it difficult for the noble Earl and noble Lords who sit on that 113 side of the House, if that is their view, to condemn what is in the gracious Speech.
There are four topics in the gracious Speech which are of particular interest to me. One, of course, is the Administration of Justice Bill, which was foreshadowed in the course of our debates on the London Government Bill. I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that the intention is that its provisions should come into effect at the same time as the changes in local government. I cannot remember the precise date, but it is in the Bill and it is tied to this.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I should like to put this point to the noble and learned Lord. He will remember, as he was in charge of the London Government Bill, that the transitory provisions come into force in 1964, including the side-by-side elections, but that the physical operation of the Bill, the transfer of property and so on, does not come until 1965. I gather from the Minister of State, Home Office, who kindly sent me a note, that it is 1965.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have not had a chance of checking the actual date, but I know that it is geared to the changes taking effect under the London Government Act. It is a complementary measure. I hope that it will not prove so controversial, and I do not see any reason why it should. It is a most important measure, and whether or not we had a London Government Act, in my belief the time has come for a review of the system of the administration of justice in Greater London.
Great emphasis has been laid on the need for modernisation in Britain, and I should be very sorry indeed if the modernisation of our legal system lagged behind. I do not propose to say any more about that subject, because if I do I may have difficulty in finding anything fresh to say when moving the Second Reading of the Bill, if it should fall to my lot to do that. I should say this, however: that while the Bill is primarily concerned with the administration of justice in Greater London, it also proposes some desirable changes affecting the whole country, which I trust will be acceptable to all your Lordships.
114 Then there is a reference in the gracious Speech to compensation for the victims of crimes of violence. As your Lordships will remember, we had an interesting debate on that subject in your Lordships' House some months ago. Many efforts have been made by many people to formulate a satisfactory scheme. The fundamental problem, of course, is that most of the criminals cannot themselves pay compensation because they have not the money to pay it. But I am sure your Lordships take the view that where criminals can pay they should be made to do so; and, under our law as it stands to-day, it is, of course, open to the victim to start proceedings in our courts if the criminal is known and if it is worthwhile to do so—that is to say, if there is any prospect of the criminal being able to pay. There are many cases where the criminals clearly cannot, and I think it was your Lordships' view that it was a proper development of our social welfare system, in which we rightly take such pride, that the State should make some provision for the victims.
I think your Lordships also were concerned lest any proposals to this end might be open to abuse; and it is very necessary that any scheme put forward should have safeguards, so far as possible, to prevent the successful preferment of fraudulent claims. When the scheme comes before your Lordships, I am sure we can look forward to another very interesting debate. I would say, if I might, to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that although at the end it may be that legislation will be required, we are hopeful that we can devise a scheme which it will be proper to bring into operation without the need of legislation. Indeed, there are some advantages if we can, because we are moving into an entirely new field, and there will be some advantage in having a flexible scheme which can be adjusted administratively in the light of experience.
The third subject which is of particular interest to me is, of course, the proposal that the Court of Criminal Appeal should have power to order a new trial. This has not come about just because of what was said by the Lord Chief Justice in the course of what is now referred to as the "Lucky" Gordon case. This has been a subject of discussion and argument among lawyers for 115 many years. Indeed, if I might remind your Lordships, no fewer than 25 Bills proposing to provide for new trials in criminal cases were introduced unsuccessfully before the Court of Criminal Appeal came into being in 1907. When the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, was passed, your Lordships accepted an Amendment providing for new trials which the then Government introduced. But there proved to be a great division of opinion in another place, and the Amendment was disagreed with on Report. This is a limited proposal, for it is not proposed that there should be any right to order a new trial where the prosecution have made a mistake, or where there has been anything in the nature of a misdirection. No man who has been acquitted will be able to be put on his trial again for the same offence. It is a very limited power to order a new trial where new evidence, which was not available or could not be produced at the trial, comes to light which raises doubts as to the propriety of the conviction.
Nothing has been said about the proposed Bill dealing with the hardship which may result where legal aid is given and the unassisted litigant succeeds against the legally aided litigant. We debated that last Session. Indeed, we discussed a Bill dealing with that in your Lordships' House. I am very glad to-day that that takes its place in the programme. Of course, it will not be introduced first in this House, but I hope that when it comes here your Lordships can join me in seeing that it reaches the Statute Book as speedily as possible.
I should like to deal with a number of points which have been raised by certain noble Lords in the course of this debate, and I hope they will not think I am dealing with them too shortly. First, there is the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Peddie. He complained, and used strong language, about the fact that there was nothing in the gracious Speech dealing with hire-purchase legislation, and he drew your Lordships' attention to pledges that had been made to him in that regard. I would say this to him, if I might. It has already been said that the gracious Speech this year was of considerable length, but it is never the case that the 116 Speech sets out in detail a list of all the Bills that it is proposed to introduce. I am quite certain that within a period of a few hours he may learn—and I am sure he will be delighted to learn—that his observations of a rather hostile character in relation to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in this regard were, in fact, unfounded. I cannot say any more than that about that problem at this time.
The noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, made an interesting speech about the changes that could be made in building methods. I know that my right honourable friend the Minister of Public Building and Works is very concerned and active with regard to that. The noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, paid a great tribute to the Prime Minister, which I am sure will be appreciated. He referred to his activity in suggesting compensation for victims of violence, and then he spoke, as indeed I thought he might, with regard to the proposal that there should be a Bill dealing with the law of succession in Scotland. I am not going to embark on a discussion of that to-night. He assured me that one could not regard that as an agreed matter, but it is very seldom that I have found any measure that is 100 per cent. agreed. The noble Lord, Lord Wise, made some reference to agriculture. I am sorry I did not hear the whole of his speech, but he said that there was some originality in the gracious Speech with regard to that subject. I think there is, and that the steps forward indicated in the gracious Speech in relation to that are desirable in the public interest.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, followed Lord Saltoun in a speech on Scotland. He did not talk at all about the first eight paragraphs of the gracious Speech. He said that they were not controversial, and they might have been included whatever Government had been in power. I do not think myself that the Socialist Party—I may be wrong—would have been able to secure a nuclear test ban treaty. Then the noble Lord drew attention to the road-making programme in Scotland. I must say that I was surprised that he picked out as an example of that the eleven miles of road between Glenfillen and Loch Eilort. It happens to be one of the few roads in Scotland with which I am fairly familiar. I well remember the narrowness of the road as 117 it was before the war. I should have thought that that was one of the most difficult bits of road reconstruction that could be done in this country. Last time I went along that road I was full of admiration for the progress that had been made.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, if I might interrupt the noble and learned Lord, I was not complaining about the quality of the work but of the tremendous length of time that it took. That was my only criticism of that particular stretch.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I should have liked it to be completed earlier, because it was very tiresome with all that work going on. Having regard to the magnitude of the geographical difficulties, I was not surprised that it took a considerable time.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am afraid that is not the only subject on which we must agree to differ. I was delighted to hear that the noble Lord liked very much what was in the gracious Speech and thought it is capable of accomplishment. I think he will find that great progress will be made in the course of the next Session.
The noble Lord, Lord Champion, asked me to give him details of the plans which were appropriate to the other regions. I am afraid I am not going to take up your Lordships' time in doing that tonight. Your Lordships will see that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade will be making a speech, I have no doubt quite soon, on that subject. Not much has been said about the proposals in relation to training skilled workers. I think the noble Lord, Lord Champion, was the only speaker to touch upon that subject. I must say I think that it is one of the more important parts of the programme for the next Session that we should be contemplating and, indeed, hope to provide for very increased facilities for training men to become skilled workers in fields where skilled workers are much required.
The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, made an interesting speech dealing with the police, and I was glad to hear what he said on that subject, as, indeed, I was glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said at the very 118 beginning of his speech with regard to the police. I am sure your Lordships entirely agree with him, both in regretting what has occurred at Sheffield and in believing that that business in Sheffield was not in any way typical of the conduct of the police either in Sheffield or elsewhere, as a whole.
My Lords, I think I have dealt with most of the points that have been raised in the course of to-day's debate. Of course, despite all that has been said about electioneering, the fact is, in my belief, that the programme which we are now considering is the fruition of work started a considerable time ago, and the fact that we are now able to embark on it is an indication of the soundness of our economy and the result of the progress made since 1951.
I would just add this, if I might. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, made great play with the statement that the Prime Minister had made at a Party meeting, a meeting in which the Prime Minister was elected Leader of the Party, when a Leader of any Party could be expected to say something about the next Election, whenever it might be. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, with great respect, seemed to think that you could not have any political activities without in some way doing something which was not in the interests of the country or for the welfare of the country. He tried to represent that for the whole of the time ahead all that the Conservative Party would be concerned with would be politics and not the welfare of the country and the good of the country. I would say this to him: that the Conservative Party believe that the policies they have put forward are for the welfare of the country and the good of the country; and that is the basis for the gracious Speech.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to mention, as the Lord Chancellor kindly said he would endeavour to answer any points or questions that have been made, that I asked that we might have a White Paper setting out what was the overall cost of the programme. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has spoken of the necessity of doing that, and I think it is something which might become a practice for all Parties.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am sorry if I omitted to answer that. It was not deliberate and I will certainly consider that with those responsible. I am sure something will be said about it during the course of the week. Whether further information is best given about that in a White Paper or not perhaps could be left open.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Henderson, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.