§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, it is a real pleasure to follow the noble Viscount, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and be the first to congratulate him most heartily on his charming speech. It would have been vastly appropriate if the task had fallen to my noble friend Lord Listowel, who would no doubt have hastened to bestow on him comments of the kind the Chancellor of the Duchy mentioned or seemed to expect—stern and critical—but I am sure they would also have been forgiving and appreciative. I have at least this qualification: that I first met the noble Lord when he was a history specialist at Eton and I was deputising as his instructor for a few weeks for the much revered headmaster Dr. Alington, father-in-law of the Prime Minister. I was a little uncertain how to fill up the time and I asked each boy to choose his favourite piece from the Oxford Book of English Prose and then to declaim it. That took up one period. Still working up my stuff, I suggested we should spend the next period holding an election, and that we should all vote as to who had done best. I recall that the boys almost unanimously voted in favour of the present Chancellor of the Duchy. I myself would have placed him second. In fact I gave my first vote to a friend of his and mine since that time, Mr. Randolph Churchill. But the boys, for some reason best known to themselves, preferred the noble Viscount the Chancellor of the Duchy.
I do not know what the moral of that story is, but from that day to this he has gone forward doing excellent work and being justly rewarded up to the full level of his performance by the esteem of his fellows, and I feel sure that he has added to that esteem to-day. I hope that we shall hear from him often, and that he will not allow his duties as Chairman of one of the great Parties to distract him from the duties for which the grateful taxpayer enjoys the thought of paying him. I hope, in fact, that we shall see him here the whole time and that he will regard these extra-Parliamentary 359 duties as Chairman of the Party as a minor distraction—at any rate, the more we see of him here the better.
This debate is on a Vote of Censure and I have been asked to speak entirely on education this afternoon. Certainly there is plenty of material for censure there. I hope the noble Viscount, who I realise was not asking for any protection, but was making a maiden speech and therefore was not subject to interruption, will not mind my saying that he struck me as extremely complacent about the position of teacher supply. If he had been with us in the summer and listened to and participated in our long debate then, I am sure he would not have spoken as he did; but I do not mean to chivvy him on points of detail this afternoon. I myself, at the end of July, as the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, remembers all too well, spoke at great length about education. On looking back at the debate I am sorry to say that I spoke for forty-two minutes. I promise the House that I shall not come anywhere near to that point of time this afternoon.
As one speaker has mentioned, we shall shortly be debating the Robbins Report—that splendid State Paper. In spite of certain mild criticisms I might make of it, I have found it the most satisfying State Paper for many years, and I feel that we ought to congratulate the noble Lord who had so much responsibility for it. At some point I hope that we shall be able to draw just as much attention to the Newsom Report, which is quite as fundamental, and certainly on both sides the House will listen with special interest to my noble friend Lord Taylor. The Taylor Report on Higher Education was a notable success for a Committee working outside Government, and I have an idea—Lord Taylor will tell us—that 30 out of the 33 recommendations of the Taylor Report were accepted in substance by the Robbins Report. Of course, yesterday the leaders of my Party deployed the Labour case against the Government, remorselessly and comprehensively elsewhere.
All this, while it imposes upon me the duty to avoid, if I can, repetition on the one hand, and anticipation on the other hand, allows me, I hope, to be rather more general than might otherwise be the case, and rather more brief. I am 360 so pleased to think that I shall be followed by the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, to whose work as Minister I tried to pay tribute on the last occasion. He knows his whole subject so well that I fear that I shall say hardly anything to surprise him, but I hope he will none the less contain himself, even though a lot of what I say will be quite familiar. What has happened on the educational front since our major debate in this House at the end of July? There have been two things which have emerged. There has been the appearance of the Robbins Report on Higher Education, and the appearance of the Newsom Report on the education of pupils aged thirteen to sixteen—to use the words expressed in the terms of reference, the Newsom Report deals withthe education of pupils aged 13 to 16 of average and less than average ability.Lord Taylor will be dealing with the Newsom Report, I understand.
The Government have said frankly—this was not challenged; indeed, it could not be, because the quotation was read out—that their minds are now dominated by electoral considerations: they have said that. I do not remember anyone ever saying this so boldly as the noble Earl, Lord Home, as he then was, but perhaps he is the most honest Prime Minister for a number of years. At any rate he came out quite openly and said that the Election is now everything. It may be for that reason that the Government are taking pride, as I understand it—the noble Viscount used the expression "pride". He is really proud of almost everything that has happened in the last twelve years. There has been no apology, nothing to regret. Outside my own Church, I have never found such an infallible team. In any event, they are wunderbar, as they say. Of course, he is proud and I am sure they will be proud of him; indeed, they are proud. I imagine that among other things they are proud, or so it seems, of having accepted large parts of the Robbins Report. Yesterday in another place when some Minister was, I think, congratulated on accepting the Robbins Report, he hung back and said that large parts of it had been accepted. However, that may be, the Government have accepted much of the Robbins Report.
361 Towards the Newsom Report they have exhibited an unpleasant reserve, reminiscent, I am afraid, of their attitude to the ill-fated Crowther Report. It was clear yesterday that the Government spokesman would not have mentioned the Newsom Report had not the Leader of the Labour Party asked him to say something about it. He made an extremely guarded comment. To-day—I do not know whether I missed something—I did not hear the noble Lord say anything favourable about the Newsom Report, Was I wrong? Did he praise the Newsom Report? Did his remark escape me? I thought perhaps it may have slipped out at the corner of his mouth. I remember hearing no mention, and certainly no praise, of it. That is most extraordinary, one way or the other. But I am leaving all that to Lord Taylor.
I want to pose a question on the Robbins Report, bearing in mind that we are going into much greater detail on another occasion. Does the Government's partial acceptance of the Robbins Report give the Government any grounds for self-congratulation? Noble Lords, even a newcomer like the Chancellor of the Duchy, will probably know the answer I intend to render to that question. But some of the issues that arise in this connection are these. First, are the targets of the Robbins Report themselves sufficient? Secondly, can we trust the Government? Supposing that by some extraordinary chance they were given the opportunity, can we trust the Government to carry out the Robbins proposals, both in the short run and in the long run? Thirdly, how far is the crisis in higher education due to the Government themselves? As noble Lords are aware, I did not import the word "crisis" into this discussion. The word "crisis" is used and emphasised in the Robbins Report itself. So with all this pride and self-congratulation the noble Lord must bear in mind that he and his colleagues, after twelve years in power, are confronting us with what is recognised as a crisis in higher education.
In regard to the Robbins targets, the Committee themselves recognised that these are the absolute minimum required. I myself, speaking with less authority but obviously after a good deal 362 of thought, would describe them as below the minimum essential. It is quite true that things have now been left so late as the result of Government policy that it may well be impossible to include all the Robbins targets for 1966–67. But it should be realised—I am glad that Lord Robbins is here; I do not wish to draw him this afternoon, and he will no doubt speak at much greater length when we have the Robbins Report debate—that the Robbins Committee themselves say this:There is impressive evidence that large numbers of able young people do not at present enter higher education".The Robbins Report are assuming that the competition will be just as great in 1966–67, so it is certainly the minimum they are setting out for 1966–67; though I can well believe that in fact, things now being where they are as a result of Government policy, we could not provide more places by that time. Taking the longer view, and taking the targets for 1980–81, I myself would suggest that these targets represent a counsel of pessimism.
The Committee themselves say that they are more likely to err on the low rather than on the high side. Let us study that. In paragraph 31 of the Report something is said of tremendous significance—perhaps the most important proposition of this kind since the days of the Beveridge Report, to which the Robbins Report is comparable. The Committee say:Throughout our Report we have assumed as an axiom that courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.Certainly the noble Lord, after twelve years of Conservative rule, would not say we were very close to that at the present time. Therefore, if the Government are accepting this proposition—and I rather think that on paper they are—it is a tremendous step forward. The Labour Party have accepted it for some time.
That is a vital commitment even if accepted in relation only to the children who are 17 to 18 at present and who are hoping to go to university. But if we accept that proposition, as the Labour Party accept it, in relation to those who are being born now and who will be 17 or 18 in 1980 or 1981, the 363 implications become much more far-reaching and, I would say, more inspiring. Surely, if we accept it in relation to the future young people, it involves an obligation to make sure that between now and 1980 all our children are given an education in the schools which will qualify them for university places by 1980 if they have sufficient natural talent.
May I make my meaning a little plainer? In the Robbins plan, 17 per cent. of the age group concerned will be receiving higher education in 1980 to 1981. That appears to be less than half the proportion of those who go to universities in the United States at the present time. But in Appendix 1 of the Robbins Report there is a table, Table 27 on page 66, which I find the most interesting among all these fascinating tables. The figures are given to show the extraordinary disparity between the proportions of our young people receiving higher education in the various areas. In the counties the proportion varies from 24.9 per cent. in Cardiganshire to 5.9 in Norfolk and 5.1 in Ely. In the county boroughs the spread is from 17.9 per cent. in, I am glad to say, Oxford, to 3.3 per cent. in West Bromwich and 1.7 per cent. in West Ham. One sees that the spread in the counties is from 24.9 to 5.1 per cent., and in the county boroughs from 17.9 to 1.7 per cent. I think that those figures must have surprised all of us and perhaps have shaken us up.
The Report goes on to say that the proportion of grammar school places (the question of the comprehensive schools does not arise here, because there is not enough evidence to go on; and in so far as there is evidence, it is quite satisfactory) appears to be significantly linked with the proportion entering higher education. Therefore, one can fairly enough conclude that the more enlightened the authority in providing grammar school places the higher the proportion of young people who find themselves in universities.
There are these extraordinary disparities between one part of the country and another. I do not want to go into this matter further to-day, but I am anxious to point out that the Robbins aims for 1980 provide us not only with a much 364 smaller proportion of young people in universities than the proportion in the United States, but with a smaller proportion that is actually found in these two Welsh counties at the present time. I dare say the Welsh are more intelligent than the English, but they cannot be as much more intelligent as all that. I think it gives one a great deal of food for thought. I should like to emphasise—here again the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, will correct me if I have misunderstood the Report—that the Robbins Report, in its calculations, appears to make no allowance for raising the school-leaving age during this period. So if the school-leaving age is raised during the period, as has been insisted on by the Crowther Report, the Newsom Report and the Labour Party (among other bodies) for many years, obviously the targets of the Robbins Report must be lifted accordingly.
In view of the time, I should like to deal shortly with two other questions which I have already indicated: how far have the Government got us into this mess, and how far can they be expected to pull us out of it, whatever the professions on their death bed? The relevant passages in Robbins are a damning indictment. I could hardly expect that the Minister, certainly in his maiden speech, would read them out. This is what the Robbins Report says—and I am anxious that the Minister should hear this, because it is rather essential:The universities already have cause for lack of confidence in the Government's intentionsin spite of the Government's pride in their performance.In the last few years the universities have wished to go forward more rapidly than they have been enabled to do. The many representations"—I repeat "many"—made in recent years to ensure that their resources should match the rise in demand have met with an inadequate response".Not much cause for pride there.Neither capital nor recurrent grants have been sufficient.Coming from a Government Committee, this should be plain enough speaking, even for the most thick-skinned, complacent and self-satisfied.
We have had three debates in this House on higher education, in 1957, 1960 and 1962—the first and third 365 initiated by me—and Lord Taylor and others spoke on higher education in our general debate in July. I may perhaps be forgiven for pointing out that in 1957 in the first debate I suggested that we should need 176,000 places by 1967, at a time when official policy contemplated no figure remotely within that range. The Robbins suggestions have come remarkably close, as it happens, to the figures I put forward six years ago. I am more concerned to ask any Member of this House who is inclined to regard the Government's attitude towards the universities as more or less respectable to turn back to our debate of May, 1962, in this House. I then moved a resolution which I called a severe vote of censure on the Government's university performance. We have not heard much about that from the noble Viscount this afternoon. I quoted the pronouncement of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors who said that they wereprofoundly disturbed by the Government's announcement of policy".They felt surethat the target set by the Government could not be reached by the date specified with the limited provision which the Government proposed to make".That was the collective verdict of the Vice-Chancellors and Principals in 1962 on the Government's university performance. It will be recalled that for the first time in history the Government had overruled the University Grants Committee.
In that debate speaker after speaker denounced the Government. No one, so far as I can recall, said a good word for them—except the unfortunate Minister at that time, Lord Hailsham, who made what I thought was the most unhappy speech of his career. We were joined in the Division Lobby on that occasion not only by the Liberal Party, but by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and by university leaders like the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, and by both Lord Cohen and Lord Cohen of Birkenhead. In other words, this crisis we are confronted with has been manufactured by the sloth and muddling and lack of genuine interest on the part of the Government, so I do not think we can look forward with any confidence to their dragging us out of it. Against this background I hope the Government will not have the effrontery to ask for anything 366 in relation to their university record except a profound and merciful oblivion, and that perhaps is asking rather too much in the circumstances they have outlined to us. I have already made it plain, I hope, and my noble friend Lord Taylor will make it plainer, that the Newsom Report, if properly implemented, could benefit the mass of our children as much as the Robbins Report, and that is saying a great deal.
There are just two more points I wish to make before I sit down, and then the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, and my noble friend Lord Taylor will speak. There is no better chapter in the whole Report than Chapter 7, "Spiritual and Moral Development," and no better passage surely than this one—I am now quoting from the Report of the Newsom Committee; a Committee which represents the teaching profession to a remarkable degree:We can only say that we believe it to be wrong to leave the young to fend for themselves without guidance, and wrong to conceal from them (as if we could) the differences on this issue"—they are talking of sex—which separate men and women of real moral sensitivity.Then there is this key sentence.For our part"—say the Newsom Committee—we are agreed that boys and girls should be offered firm guidance on sexual morality based on chastity before marriage and fidelity within it.They go on—and this is surely very encouraging when we bear in mind the expert educational knowledge of the Committee:We believe … that this is predominantly the standpoint of the schools.I ask the Minister who is to reply or, if it is outside his province, the Minister who winds up to-morrow, to say deliberately whether this statement of the Newsom Report is his own standpoint; and I ask him to say, also, whether it is the standpoint of the Government. This question has recently become intertwined, I am sorry to say, with the way in which one particular Minister—a man of much personal rectitude—has handled a complaint against a particular official, and that is certainly the worst possible setting for 367 a grave moral and, in a way, constitutional issue. I want the Minister to follow this very closely, because I am choosing my words carefully. I am not asking the Minister to dictate to local authorities. I am asking him, in the words of the Newsom Report, to givefirm guidance on sexual morality based on chastity before marriage and fidelity within it.This has nothing to do with Party politics, but any Government which abdicates—in other words, keeps silent in face of this question—cannot hold up its head among men. And any Government which regards pre-marital fornication—for this word "intercourse" only means that—for the children in the public care as an open question, is even more in need of moral guidance than the little ones or the young people it is failing to protect.
My Lords, there is one other point from the Newsom Report. In paragraph 16 there is this important saying:The results of such investigation increasingly indicate that the kind of intelligence which is measured by the tests so far applied is largely an acquired characteristic.They mention as particularly important… the influences of social and physical environment; and, since these are susceptible to modification, they may well prove educationally more important.I would say myself, in conclusion (and here I am sure I have everyone on my side with me, as well as many in other parts of the House) that the whole philosophy of segregation, of dividing children into first-class and second-class people, linked inevitably as it is with the 11-plus examination—though it goes deeper than that—falls to the ground if the passage that I have read to the House is at once accepted in all its bearing. We in the Labour Party, and surely all serious and enlightened citizens, are agreed that the educational policy of this country must aim at the good of all our children. That, I should think, was common ground everywhere. But there is more to it now than that. We in the Labour Party—and I should like to think people everywhere—are agreed that there is much greater capacity for development among all our children than was ever supposed by those who were guiding our destinies in the past. I can only say that we hope and 368 believe that the educational policy of this country will be inspired in future, not only by a much greater sense of social justice, but by much more faith in the capacity of every single human being who is born into the world.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ LORD ECCLES
My Lords, it falls to me, and I am particularly glad of the privilege, to be the first from these Benches to congratulate my noble friend Lord Blakenham on his robust and encouraging speech. I knew the noble Lord well in another place—we were colleagues for many years—and I think it is a great gain to your Lordships' House that he should come here with his experience. I am sure that we shall greatly appreciate his interventions in our debates, and perhaps on no subject more than labour relations, where he will find that there is a wealth of experience in your Lordships' House, and, if I may say so, superior to that in the other place.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, prodded me to say something about education, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, also waved a hand in my direction. I will do my best, and I will try to avoid politics which I quite understand is very much in the minds of noble Lords opposite. It may be that I also am suspect, because I was in charge of the Ministry for six years out of the last twelve, and there has been quite a lot that I should reply to in the attack that has been made on our record in education. But I comfort myself, that your Lordships do not need to rely on any of us on these Benches to defend the expansion in the public system of education, which has been so evident since 1951. Far more instructive and convincing is the opinion of the families, of mothers and fathers, who can compare the schools, the elementary schools, to which they went themselves with the schools which their children are attending to-day. Testimony of this kind comes sometimes unsolicited.
Quite recently I overheard two women on a bus competing with each other on this very topic; one praising her daughter's grammar school, and the other the junior schools where her two younger children were obviously leading lights. These enthusiastic ladies, talking at once to save time in listening, threw at each other example after example of their 369 children's accomplishments and progress at school. I gather that the elder girl could speak French like a native and had twice been on a school trip abroad; and as for the younger children, they could read anything; they were keeping a wonderful diary, and they knew all about music.
My Lords, such spontaneous evidence as that, even though it may be a little exaggerated, can be heard everywhere every day; and it is the best kind of confirmation—the one that gives me the most pleasure and comfort—for all those statistics which we can so easily produce, to show the relatively unsatisfactory state of education, and particularly technical education, in 1951 and how great are the advances that have been made since then. But for fear that your Lordships should think that I am complacent about education—and I should think that the record shows that I never have been—let me say at once that, of course, there always is, and there always will be, very much more to do in education than one is able to do in the time when one has responsibility.
In the last four or five years we have seen the standards in the schools rising fast, and the faster they have risen the more the contrast has struck the public between what has already been done and what remains to be done. Your Lordships will know that every time a new school is opened the old school in the neighbourhood suddenly, from one day to the next, looks horribly dingy, and the clamour goes up that it should be replaced at once. That may be very awkward for the Minister, but it is infinitely to be preferred to a public who does not care whether the school is old or new. So one can say that it has become one of the rules of modern education that progress anywhere calls for progress somewhere else. The Crowther and the Newsom Councils and the Robbins Committee were appointed because the rapid progress being made in the schools showed up particular areas which were lagging behind and required urgent education. These Reports provide unchallengeable evidence of the immense change for the better that has been achieved in the schools over the past decade. I quite admit that we face a crisis for those over the the age of 18, 370 but it is a crisis of success, my Lords, and that is the best kind of crisis to have.
If I may just refer to the Newsom Report, Chapter 2 is a very fair assessment of what has been done in the secondary modern schools. Paragraphs 43 and 44 should be read by anyone who wants to know how well these schools have got on and yet what a lot there is to do, and who is not anxious to have his judgment clouded by political considerations. The success of the Government's expansion of technical education is most generously acknowledged in paragraph 777 of the Robbins Report. This is what it says:Any fair observer must admit that, in forwarding the various branches of higher education with which it has been concerned, its record"—that is, the record of the Ministry of Education—has been outstanding, both in fostering existing institutions and in a willingness to experiment with new developments".And the paragraph concludes:This is an aspect of recent administrative history that has not yet received the recognition it deserves".My Lords, it did not receive that recognition in the speech of Mr. Harold Wilson yesterday in another place. Nor, I am sorry to say, has it yet received any recognition from the Benches opposite.
This is our first opportunity to welcome the Robbins Report. When that Committee was appointed it was generally realised that the number and complexity of the institutions to be examined was equalled only by the stubborn traditions and high hopes to be found among those who work in the field of higher education. Three years ago I wondered whether anyone could reduce this ocean of separate islands to a clear picture of what is being done now and what should be done in the future. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and his Committee have set all those misgivings at rest. They have given us a Report orderly in construction, lucid and lively in language, and embellished with copious facts and figures but never superfluous. I think we can already say with confidence that this great State Paper will dominate higher education in Britain for the rest of this century, and greatly influence many universities and colleges in other parts of the world.
371 The recommendations raise one or two matters of such urgency that I feel bound to press the Government to take decisions upon them well before Christmas. For instance, there are the plans for coming to the rescue of the exceptional number of school-leavers who, next year and the two years following, will be looking for places in a university. If thousands of these young people, armed with their two "A" levels, are not going to be disappointed, the recommendations for dealing with the short-term crisis must be carried out with the very greatest speed. In particular, could we be told, this very day or to-morrow, if possible, that more grants will be available for post-graduate students who wish to become university teachers? And also that the National Information Service, proposed in paragraph 825, is already being set up?
One has to have first-hand information of the distress and the confusion which are caused by the difficulty of discovering what opportunities are available in the whole of full-time higher education. I heard of a girl, not a scholarship candidate but doing well in her grammar school, who wanted above all things to fit herself for a career of teaching English abroad. Teaching a language to foreigners is, of course, a very different thing from teaching it to people whose native tongue it is. But where was the girl to apply? She and her parents spent months, with growing anxiety, trying to find a suitable course. I believe that they did at last run one to earth in the College of Advanced Technology in Bristol. But my point, my Lords, is that there are going to be thousands of these cases; and if we wish to help them quickly and effectively then the National Information Service must be set up at once. I hope, with other noble Lords, that we shall have a debate wholly devoted to the Report, because we can then discuss such delicate questions as the recommendation to take the teacher-training colleges away from the local authorities; the supply of technicians; the rather unsatisfactory references to technology; and whether the estimates of the recruitment of university teachers can be accepted.
There is, however, one large issue which cannot wait: it must be settled very quickly, or progress will be held 372 up on the recommendations which the Government are accepting. This is the problem of ministerial responsibility for higher education. The arrangements announced yesterday in another place are an unsatisfactory stalling operation. I hope that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister heard what Sir Harry Legge-Bourke had to say on this subject. He said that if you did not get the headquarters right you would have trouble down the line very quickly—and that is surely going to happen here. So I hope that my right honourable friend will be able to name his Minister very soon.
From days long before the Robbins Committee was set up I have been in favour of one Minister of Education, and I was astonished how long it took Mr. Harold Wilson to come round to this obvious point of view. Nevertheless, he did yesterday, and that at least is a good thing. It is a complicated subject, so perhaps I may trouble your Lordships with a little of the background. We can never inquire into the whole of education. The field is too vast. On each occasion the Government are compelled to select one part of this great living entity, to isolate it in the terms of reference to the Committee concerned and to ask them to respect boundaries which in real life do not exist.
The experts on the Committee know very well that what happens in their prescribed area is affected by what happens in other areas. But the public, who are now so splendidly eager for educational advance in all directions, do not readily understand why there should be any hesitation about accepting all the recommendations of the Report the moment they are published. Murmurs and growls are heard when those who represent other parts of the education service speak up, and demand that the priorities be looked at over the whole field before very large sums of money are earmarked for one particular section. Someone has then to relate the proposals of the Committee to the needs and plans elsewhere. Decisions have to be taken which do justice all round; and usually the crucial question is not whether the recommendations should be accepted but when they can be carried out.
373 May I take up the example raised by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, which is, I think, apposite here? In my view, the case made by the Crowther Council, now reinforced by the Newsom Council, for raising the school-leaving age to 16 is unanswerable. But it would not have been safe to name a date for this reform until we were certain we should have enough teachers and until we knew a good deal more about how to teach and how to hold the interest of those boys and girls who would not volunteer to stay on after the present compulsory age of 15. Now, at the end of 1963, the teacher-training colleges are being expanded at such a rapid rate, and we have had from the Newsom Council such an excellent Report on the education of children between 13 and 16 years of age, that the position has changed radically for the better. I think the Government could and should name a date before the end of this decade when the school-leaving age can be raised by law to 16. It cannot be done very quickly after naming the date, because in all the studies made of this problem in my day it was found that at least four or five years must be allowed from the time when the decision is taken.
Now, my Lords, I come back to the Robbins Committee. They were asked to report on the top-most section of the pyramid of education. Below them were the schools; beyond were the research institutions and all those careers which called for graduates. As a result of this demarcation the Report raises, indirectly, a very critical issue in educational policy and administration. This is in no way the fault of the Committee. They define the demand for higher education as the number of young persons who could benefit from it; that is to say, they insist that for all boys and girls who prove their ability in the sixth form places shall be provided at a university or another institution of higher education.
I do not quarrel with this criterion of need. The other way to determine the demand for higher education would have been to calculate the number of arts and science graduates required to meet the claims of a modern society. You cannot apply this method, however, because employers cannot tell you how many graduates they will want for more than a very short time ahead—or, at least, for 374 far too short a time ahead to be of any use in planning higher education. So the criterion of need is seen to be both the right and the only test. But could it ever be fair, and would it ever be accepted by a nation in which everyone has a vote and pays taxes that this criterion of need should be applied only to the 15 or 20 per cent. of young people clever enough to benefit from higher education? What about the needs of the other 80 per cent. or 85 per cent. of the population? How important are these?
Here, my Lords, one sees the inseparable connection between what still has to be done in the schools and the extent and timing of the expansion in higher education as recommended in the Robbins Report. Any Government which accepted the whole of Robbins, without being prepared to give the rest of the education system a visible and lasting guarantee that their needs would not suffer by comparison, would run into great trouble in Parliament and outside. Your Lordships will have seen how this duty to act fairly towards all parts of the education service has a bearing on the ministerial responsibility for higher education. The resources are limited—and always will be—and their allocation must be seen to be fair. Is it not just as important to increase the number of boys and girls capable of benefiting from higher education as it is to provide places for those who could benefit from it, as things are, to-day?
My Lords, there are endless conflicts of priorities of the same nature. They cannot be brushed aside. Decisions have to be taken in some central place from which the whole field can be surveyed. What makes this so difficult in relation to long-term planning is that educational priorities can never be settled once and for all. Education is always on the move. Either the population produces more babies than expected, or very many families shift to new districts and make their homes where there are no schools. As one bulge in the birth rate moves up the schools and is followed by another, so the pressure for teachers and buildings is greater now at one stage and now at another. And all the time fresh advances in knowledge point the need for new institutions or for the transformation of old ones.
My Lords, this will always be so; and the larger the sums of money which 375 the nation is ready to spend on education, the harder it becomes—as it did in Defence—to strike the right balance between so many costly and long-term programmes. Not only have we to keep in balance the various stages in the process of education but we have to arrange for the smooth transfer of pupils from one stage to the next, taking care that the influence exerted on the content of education by the stage above should be helpful and not harmful. This is no easy matter; for, as the result of many centuries' experience, we have come to divide rather sharply the journey from infancy to maturity into periods spent at different establishments of education which correspond roughly to the normal development of the child as he grows up.
But not all children are ready to move on at the same time. Many need a second chance, and all should have a wider choice of courses when they reach the stage of further and higher education. The child is a single person and the more we understand his needs the more his education should somewhere be considered as a whole. This is the basic reason for preferring one Minister of Education to two Ministers. We owe it to all young people that their needs should be fairly met both according to their gifts and over the whole period of their education.
For a long time, as I have said, I have been advocating one Cabinet Minister responsible for the policy, assisted by two Ministers of State, one for higher education and one for the schools. The Minister of State in charge of higher education would have no reason to direct the Grants Commission in any more detail than the Treasury has directed the University Grants Committee. Indeed, if the basic policy were more clearly laid down and for longer periods ahead—and here the Robbins Committee are certainly right—it is probable that the interference would be less than it has been in recent years.
But, my Lords—and I want to make this point as strongly as I can—the relations between the universities and a single Minister of Education ought not to be a one-way affair. I wish I knew how to convince the universities of the extent to which the Ministry of Education 376 and the local authorities need their help in the formation of policy, in educational research, in the transfer arrangements between the schools and further education, and above all (this is often forgotten) in raising the status of the school teacher. Up to now, with few exceptions, the universities have given the education service very little systematic thought or sympathetic assistance. Do they now mean to turn their backs, cutting themselves off, symbolically and in practice, by holding out for two Ministers, one for higher education and one for lower education? To do so would deepen a division in society between the highly educated and the rest—
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, may I point out to the noble Lord that it is his side that keeps on using this term. "lower education", not the universities?
§ LORD ECCLES
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to finish my sentence. To do so (I repeat) would deepen a division in society between the higher educated and the rest, and this at a moment when, by offering all children equal opportunity according to their ability, we should begin to create a new harmony.
Just a word about research before I sit down. The universities want to make sure of their money for research, which is absolutely vital to their existence. They doubt whether a single Minister, a Minister who had also to provide for the needs of the schools, would get them as much money as a Minister of their own. For myself, I cannot see why a single Minister of Education should be any more difficult to deal with than the Treasury have been, especially now that everyone accepts the principle of the Grants Commission. In many respects, I believe that the single Minister would be easier to deal with than a special Minister. Rumours may have reached your Lordships, as they have reached me, that the candidates for the new post of special Minister, who must be modest, malleable and unambitious, are Mr. Hogg and Mr. Crossman. Well, I wonder, considering how much time these gentlemen would have on their hands, whether the Grants Commission would be quite so happy with them as with a Minister who had a much wider responsibility.
377 The universities are also concerned about a second source of money for research. They think that they could get more if the Research Councils, as well as the Grants Commission, were under a special Cabinet Minister. It is not obvious to me why the universities could not go on making satisfactory arrangements with the Councils under another Minister, as they have done up till now—and, for that matter, with the charitable foundations, which are under no Minister at all. I find it difficult to understand precisely their point of view, but I think it comes to this: that the universities, supported by the majority of the Robbins Committee, feel that an exclusive tie-up between themselves and the institutions giving money for research, including the Grants Commission, is more important to them than a closer relation with the rest of further education and the schools.
But, my Lords, if we stand back and take a view from outside those artificial boundaries within which the Robbins Committee were confined, do we not see that the national interest would be best served, in this reorganisation of the machinery of government, if we did not separate the responsibility between two Ministers, and, indeed, that the separation is not true to life? We should see that the universities could be given a guarantee about their income for research, but there is no guarantee that anyone who could give that would be a substitute for looking at education as a whole. Nothing on paper, nothing one could do by a series of advisory committees, could take the place of working together with the schools, from which their students come, and with the technical colleges, which train the technicians without whom the honours degree scientists and technologists will, as they grow in number, be largely wasted.
The Robbins Report offers us more than the opportunity to improve higher education. It gives us the chance, a chance that we have never had before, to reform the policy-making and administration of the whole system of British education, a job so vast and so vital that I refuse to believe that the best academic brains are bent on contracting out. Let them take a larger view and join in helping to build up our education till it becomes a model for the 378 world, academically free and socially responsible.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, it has always been said that the Ministry of Education is a very good Ministry, good at its job of educating people, and I think that it has done a marvellous job in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Eccles. The one thing I am not quite sure of is whether he agrees with almost all Labour Party policy, or whether the Labour Party agree with almost all of his policy. Before I follow him into the sphere of education, I should warn your Lordships that I am about to "stick my neck out" in quite another direction.
Before I do that, I should like to add my congratulations to those of noble Lords who have spoken already, to the Chancellor of the Duchy. I was not sure whether his new name rhymed with "Paikenham" or "Packenham", but fortunately the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, used his name, so I was put out of my dilemma, and I now know that it is Blakenham with a long "a". The last time I saw the noble Lord he was down at Harlow and, like Lord Longford, I was trying to teach him—about our Industrial Health Service—and, like him, I found he was a quick learner.
I must say that it is very nice, when so many are leaving your Lordships' House, that a familiar face should come here. When I entered your Lordships' House five years ago, I thought that we were here "till death do us part" and that we were bound together in a community more binding than holy matrimony. I am bound to say that I liked, and still like, the idea, because if you have to put up with your colleagues and they have to put up with you, so long as they or you live, which I am glad to say is usually a pretty long time, one has to learn to tolerate foibles and seek out the best that is in everybody. The surprising thing is that one always finds it. But now it has all altered; the Parliamentary shuttle service is in full swing between here and another place, and it may go on until next July. It is all fair enough, but it is a little surprising that the Conservative Party should have to come to us to find a Leader to lead it into the modern world, although it is a little bit of a compliment, too.
379 I always thought that membership of your Lordships' House carried with it both a privilege and a corresponding disability. The privilege was a voice and place in the Parliament of the United Kingdom for life, without the necessity of submitting oneself to the ordeal of the hustings. The disability was that one had to set aside certain ambitions to which only a Member of another place could aspire. Those of us who come as first creations or Life Peers still accept these conditions. But those who may reach us through the illustrious activities of their forefathers now have the right to set both privilege and disability aside. And it is a Conservative Government who have accepted this position and made use of it on a grand scale.
It is, as I say, fair enough. But if fairness is to be the criterion, is ennoblement of a minute part of the population, by accident of birth, not just a little unfair? Have not the present Government, by their own actions, dealt something approaching a technical knock-out blow to the theory behind the hereditary membership of your Lordships' House? It so happens that I, I suppose almost alone among my colleagues on this side, like the idea of hereditary Peerages. Some may doubt its genetic justification, but I like the idea of being born to do one's duty at a price of some personal self-sacrifice. But noble Lords opposite have undone it all. Now that the whole thing is optional, this argument falls to the ground, and we are left only with the pragmatic argument that the results justify the means.
In one respect I think this is true. If we were all new or first creations, I think that we might well be less representative of mankind as it really is. We might be a little too exotic or meritocratic or, in the words of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, which my noble friend Lord Silkin has already quoted, we might be "Too clever by half"; and unless special steps were taken, we might well be too old. That, I think, is now the only substantial point in retaining the hereditary principle, and I am very much afraid that it is not one which will prove universally convincing. Indeed, a wise Prime Minister might be able to produce synthetically a fairly mixed bag of first creations.
380 The other pragmatic argument, that your Lordships' House works well, is true only when there is a Conservative Government in power, when the elected Government can be sure of governing without frustration by a non-elected majority. Any future Labour Government must be sure they can pass their legislation at the time of their own choosing, just as a Conservative Government can; and I cannot believe that a future Labour Government will wait until there is a crisis or a dispute between the two Houses before making sure of their position. So, with a Labour Government the House of Lords must either be powerless to stop any legislation on which the House of Commons is determined, or it must have a Labour majority of a size not disproportionate to any Labour majority in the House of Commons. It follows that we have two alternatives: a powerless House of Lords with its present composition, or a House of Lords with its present powers and a different composition. I personally think that your Lordships' powers are unimportant, and that it is the influence of our debates on the Government of the day which matters. I should prefer to see our powers removed and our composition essentially unchanged. But the introduction of opting out substantially alters the picture, and it is just possible that composition, as well as powers, may be an issue at the next General Election. It may turn out that the actions of the electors in the Bristol, South-East Division, and the unexpected consequences which have flowed therefrom, will prove to be the beginning of the end of the hereditary right to sit in your Lordships' House.
Since I prepared my thoughts for this speech my attention has been drawn to an article in the Economist on November 9 which puts the case in a slightly different way, and if your Lordships will excuse me, I intend to quote a little of this article. It says:The Peerage Act, 1963, has already made a bigger mark on British history than its sponsors or its few original critics expected … The system of renunciation has opened with a dramatic thump, and there is now speculation as to whether this could lead, almost unwittingly, to major long-term constitutional changes. … On such a matter one can only hazard guesses. Our guess is that the events of 1963 will probably lead within less than a 381 generation to the abolition of the right of hereditary peers to sit in the upper House, and possibly eventually to the abolition of hereditary peerages as such; but that—contrary to the usual assumption as more members of the Lords become men who have got there on merit, the Upper House of Parliament may become more important than it is now rather than less. … It may very well become commoner for Prime Ministers to recruit technocrat Cabinet Ministers from the ranks of distinguished men outside the Commons, as the Americans do … and put them into the Lords. Once there, it may be seen that they have more time to carry out their Cabinet duties more efficiently than Ministers with seats in the Commons. More and more Ministers from the lower House may then want to join them perhaps eventually—odd though it may seem to say this, in a week when the Prime Minister is coming down from Lords to Commons—it might not seem too anachronistic for the over-burdened Prime Minister himself to be in the upper House.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? I have been reading the Amendment that we are debating with some care and interest. I am enjoying the noble Lord's speech very much, but is he dealing with the "care of the sick, elderly and less well off"?
§ LORD TAYLOR
Certainly I am. I cast my fly, and I hoped that some noble Lord would rise; and at last one has done so.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
May I ask my noble friend this: is he not specifically dealing with the mortality of a certain category of the community?
§ LORD TAYLOR
Yes, indeed; and with many other factors, as well. Once one starts tinkering with composition, your Lordships see where it can lead. Personally, I do not like the idea of rule by a meritocracy which escapes the hazards and the virtues of direct contact with the electors. So I hope that we may give up our powers and retain our illogical composition. But if things go the other way, and composition becomes an electoral issue, I say that it is the Conservative Party who made it so by sponsoring and using the Peerage Act, 1963, in the way they have.
Now I turn back from the question of one kind of privilege to another: yet, as it will emerge, there is a link in the story. One can contrast the speed with which the Government accepted the Robbins Report—a speed without parallel in Parliamentary history, I 382 think—and their attitude to the Newsom Report. I listened carefully to the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, when he made his speech, and he did not use the word "Newsom" once; and I did not expect that he would. I like to think that the publication of our own Labour Party Report, The Years of Crisis, which, as my noble friend Lord Longford remarked, so closely foreshadowed what Lord Robbins, with much greater facilities and much greater accuracy, in fact found—and which was, incidentally, laughed at by The Times under the headline "Paper Universities"—had something to do with the speed of the Government's acceptance of Robbins. As Mr. Wilson said in another place, "Imitation is the sincerest form of political flattery." But there is more to it than that. Robbins is an educational charter for the intellectually élite. We believe that the size of the élite may well be larger than the Robbins Committee suggest. But no one can accuse us of being backward in recognising their importance to the nation and their right to the best we can provide, and I am glad that we shall be debating this matter fully on December 11.
This élite is, in terms of the ultimate number of people qualifying for it, a small élite. In America, most boys and girls are born with the right to go to a college, but relatively few of them complete their college education. Never mind, they have had their go. With us, no boy or girl is certain of going on with schooling beyond 15. If Robbins enables us to cream off and specially nurture a group of potentially first-class citizens, what about the rest? Are they to go on for ever getting second-class treatment? Should they not get the best, too? Of course they should. If you live in a slum, the chances are that you go to a slum school, with all the disabilities that follow therefrom. Is it really right to go on building luxury flats and great blocks of offices, which stand empty for months—you can see them all around London, being advertised all the time—when for millions of boys and girls school is still a dreary and dismal place? Each year the Government have slashed the local education authority school estimates so as to give building capacity for non-essential, but highly profitable, 383 speculative development. So still we go on being two nations.
I said earlier that there was a link between privilege in government and privilege in education. There is, indeed, as the Conservative Party well know. It is an old Conservative idea that, when you have to, you enlarge the area of privilege so that privilege may remain. That, I think, is why they have accepted Robbins, and why they are being so slow to accept Newsom. But, as usual, I do not think they have thought the thing through. If we have Robbins without Newsom, then the danger might be that in the long run we should develop into what might be called a serf and an egghead society, with an eight-year educational gap between the two. Remember that the initial difference will be no more than a few pips on an IQ scale, or a few marks in an "O" level exam. We may well have 16 per cent. of favoured citizens and the rest relatively nowhere. The Newsom remit was the average and under-average child—4 million school children, half the child population. The Newsom Committee was far bigger than the Robbins Committee, yet its Report was unanimous in every respect—there was not a single reservation. As my noble friend Lord Longford has reminded your Lordships, they made two essential recommendations. The first was that the school-leaving age should be raised to 16 by 1970. My noble friend Lord Silkin said 1965. He was, I think, referring to the fact that they said that every boy and girl entering secondary school in 1965 should be entitled to go on until they are 16, so that in fact the proposed time is 1970, which gives the nation seven years to do it. The second recommendation was that quality in schooling is as important as the quantity, and must be improved.
Now take the school-leaving age. Why is it necessary to raise it? Obviously, to give all our children a better chance to lead a good life. My noble friend Lord Longford quoted some of the Report about the differential qualifications in different areas. There is no inherent difference between the children in Oxford and East Ham. This is a difference of schooling that they are getting. The evidence is so overwhelming that I do not need to quote it. The reservoir of untapped 384 talent is there, and we need it as a nation. But the moral reason to me is far more compelling: that everybody must have a proper chance. The only argument the Government can possibly advance is: why not let things gradually develop? Already 20 per cent. are staying on voluntarily after 15. Here I must say that the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, did a very good job, and I would congratulate him on having succeeded in getting this result. But the tragedy is that nearly all those people are South of the Trent and most of them are South of St. Albans. In other words, the further North you go, the worse does the situation for voluntarily staying on at secondary school get. If we rely on voluntary staying on, we are simply increasing the gap between people of the under-privileged, heavy industrial North and the pampered, industrial South. That is why we must make it universal.
Now take the time factor. Can it be done in seven years? The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, I think, said five, and I think it certainly could be done in five. In 1945 we started from nothing. We were at the end of a most awful war and "on our uppers"; yet Ellen Wilkinson, in those far more difficult circumstances, raised the school-leaving age from 14 to 15 in two years. So of course it can be done now. France is committed to raising the school-leaving age to a two-year rise in one go. So of course it can be done in five, and I had written down, "Can be done in five years" before I heard the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, say it. I quite agree with him.
Can we find the teachers? Yes, easily. Last year between 2,000 and 3,000 suitable candidates who applied with proper qualifications for teacher training colleges were turned away. They were just rejected. The applications were so numerous that the Government had to push up the minimum qualification for entry to teacher training colleges to two "A" levels. This was simply a dodge to make selection easier, because no one really believes that two "A" levels are essential to make a good primary school teacher. Almost all our present teachers got there on five "O" levels, and no one denies that they are doing a spendid job. In fact, all the secondary school teachers we need are already available in the primary schools. We could get them out to-morrow if we had the pri 385 mary school teachers to replace them. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, that the problem is in the primary school teachers. So it is just providing places for training primary school teachers. The need is for day training colleges, and there should be one attached to every technical college in all our big cities, so that the teachers can be trained while they are living at home, without this infernal business of every teacher being in a boarding school. I think it is a mistake that we do have that kind of teacher training college, though admittedly many are good, and there is a great deal to be said for learning to teach while you are learning to live in an ordinary community.
Even if you insist on two "A" levels, the material is there. At "O" level, the proportion of boys and girls passing exams is exactly the same. At "A" level, twice as many boys as girls pass. What has happened? Every year 6,000 girls are leaving school after "O" level who are potentially "A" level material. They are absolutely right to do so, because if they stay on there will not be any places for them in teacher training colleges or universities. But if we had the places, at least 3,000 more girls a year would, and could, stay on to be teachers.
So there is no problem here at all except money. What about money? What about the cost? The Government in the twinkling of an eye have accepted Robbins's £3,000 million. This job would cost, I am told and assured, about £120 million, of which £20 million would be a recurring cost—20,000 more teachers, that is the recurring cost—and £100 million for buildings. Why so much less than for universities when it comes to doing so much more for our school children?—because the only additions that are needed for this job are additions to existing building. We do not have to create a lot of new ones; we do not need new assembly halls, new gyms, or laboratories; at least, not in order to raise the school-leaving age. We need a lot of new classes and work rooms—I prefer to call them that rather than laboratories because they are not technical laboratories in that sense but simple affairs. The schools are there already; it is just a question of saying the word "Go".
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, would the noble Lord just give way for one moment? From my own experience the secondary modern schools are now extremely full, and we have been concentrating, in the counties, on finishing off the secondary modern education for the schools so that they can all get a place up to 15. We have been looking forward to trying to improve the primary schools, which we have hardly been able to do because we have been concentrating, and told to concentrate, on the secondary schools under the Butler Education Act. How can you do that and concentrate on the primary schools which need lots of money spent on them?
§ LORD TAYLOR
The noble Lord is quite right. There should be a three-pronged attack, one on universities, one on secondaries and one on primaries. You cannot leave one alone and not do the lot. That is what has been happening all too much. When the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, was describing the very nice primary schools there were, my noble friend, Lord Walston was saying to me that the primary school where he comes from is exactly the same as it was when he was a boy; and there are a great many primary schools which are exactly the same. Of course this has to be done. The noble Lord is absolutely right.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I should like to say one word about this matter, since it has been raised. One can do a lot by modernising existing buildings if one is imaginative and prepared to spend a great deal of money on paint alone. Mr. Newsom in his Report stresses how, if you really go to town on redecoration and re-internal construction of existing school buildings, it is possible to make something exciting even of something old and miserable. This is true. There are some schools in Bristol where this has been done, and I would urge the noble Lord to visit them. I shall let him have the particulars if he wishes. And it has been at a small cost only. It raises the morale of the teachers and pupils alike, simply by showing teachers and everyone that somebody cares.
387 Will the Government accept the Newsom proposals? Of course they will, if we press them hard enough. This year they will accept anything. The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, promised a firm statement on raising the school-leaving age in the lifetime of the present Parliament provided the economic situation did not worsen. I think I have got his words correct. Well, has it worsened? We really must have this statement. When the Government give way, who will have done it? I do not think the people of this country will be in any doubt at all and I am sure they will show their opinions in the proper way in due course.
I should like to say just one word about the second part of the Newsom Report on the quality and nature of teaching. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, that the training of teachers inside the universities is something to which we, as politicians, cannot be indifferent. Let me remind you of a simple relevant fact: that 48 per cent. of all arts graduates and 50 per cent. of all women graduates are now becoming teachers. At Oxbridge the figure for women is 32 per cent.; at Hull the figure for women is 80 per cent. So the University of Hull on the arts side is really a glorified teacher training college. I would suggest that it is our concern, as politicians, as to what and how these students are being taught. Has it any relevance at all to their future career? Often, I am afraid, as was the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, too, the answer is "No". Teaching, especially teaching children, is a skilled professional job, and the ultimate quality of our schools depends on one thing only: the quality of teachers.
Newsom has a great deal to say, wise and good, about the content of secondary education for average children. But, whatever the content, the problem of class size will remain. In the secondary modern schools the staff-pupil ratio is, I think, one in twenty-two, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, knows very well, sometimes it is higher for some classes. And for other classes, for example, where practical teaching is done, they are split in half, and it is fifteen for the practical subjects. So it is not quite as had as it looks. But for the primary schools, there is still a long way 388 to go. I think that the optimum size for a primary school class should be about 25, but we shall need many more teachers before we can achieve that.
The achievements of secondary modern schools have been remarkable, and it is really a wonderful thing when one finds in some areas children from secondary modern schools getting as many "O" levels as, or even more than, children from the grammar schools. The simple truth is that the average or below average child is often just as good as the quicker developer who gets through the 11-plus, if he is given a proper chance. The sad fact is that in many great industrial and slum areas they are not given that chance in home or at school. If they look at page 108 in the Newsom Report noble Lords will see school buildings in the industrial areas, and contrast them with new schools. These school buildings are sub-standard and I am afraid that sometimes in these schools, too, the teachers are also sub-standard. There are some of the finest teachers in the world in these industrial areas, dedicated, front-line troops, but the majority are there because they cannot get jobs anywhere else, and Newsom in his Report tells us how to put this right. In the West Riding there is a commando of teaching shock troops, as it were, to go out and tackle the worst areas, and they are properly rewarded financially and given assistance with cars, and so on. We could, and should, have such a national plan, with the prosperous areas linked for teaching purposes with the areas of educational under-privilege.
Suppose we have Robbins without Newsom. We shall simply widen further the gap between the educationally privileged and the under-privileged. When Robbins is in full swing, it will be eight years' extra education for the élite. Here, indeed, will be two nations with two quite different cultures side by side. Is our brave new world to be Robbins minus Newsom, a world of alphas, betas and gammas—with the betas and gammas condemned for ever to be second-class citizens, where democracy has a real meaning for only a small academic aristocracy? It might well be a worse aristocracy than the aristocracy of birth. "He's only a gamma—he likes repetitive work; it's all he's really fit for." I can hear them saying it now. 389 Or is it to be Robbins and Newsom, with a start of a fair chance of the good life for all, and a steady growth of true democracy where everyone plays a real part in the shaping of our society?
§ 5.30 p.m.
My Lords, the great thing about embarking on a debate on the gracious Speech is to have no copy of the Speech in one's pocket and not to have read the Amendment to it. Then one has no inhibitions on what to say.
I should like to say a word in welcome to my noble friend Lord Blakenham and to commiserate with him on having to make a maiden speech in quite the circumstances that he had to do. I am not going to follow the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, but I should like to warn medical students at large that if they ever see a second-hand book on the stalls labelled Dr. Taylor on Heredity, they must not buy it thinking they have a bargain on Mendelism. They will find it a very less digestible subject. I greatly welcome the economic policy of the new Administration. Of course, now that a General Election is looming the tribal warriors are gathering round the standards; they are stamping, shaking their spears, beating the tom-toms; and naturally the Opposition describes all the Government measures as pure electioneering. This is only natural and not worthy of consideration, because we should do exactly the same thing if the boot were on the other leg.
The Government's economic policy can be called a logical development from the past. In the earlier days of this Government, whenever the economy ran full out we had a wage-push inflation resulting in distrust of sterling and balance of payments crises, and so we had to put the brakes on. Now, after years of painful effort and a lot of inflation, there is more general acceptance of an incomes policy, and the world has at last recognised that international liquidity is inadequate and has taken some halting steps to alleviate this situation. In addition, the foreign holders of sterling have cried "Wolf" so often that they are getting a little less flappable, though I did hear of a foreign holder who this summer changed £10 million of gilt-edged for German bonds 390 following upon certain events in another place.
The Government are trying, so far as possible, a policy of heavy investment, discriminating in favour of areas of the highest unemployment. This is a splendid idea, but there is a danger that in achieving full employment in those areas we might spill over and bring overfull employment in the Midlands and the South and thus lead to an auction for skilled labour and to a wage price spiral, because we have had the same problem before. Government enterprise sets off optimism which stimulates private enterprise to the point where there is no room in the economy for the projects of the Government sector and the private sector; the brake has to be applied and the private sector insists that Government expenditure should be cut, if not completely, at least pari passu. Yet it is this Government expenditure which is the infrastructure for future growth and it is extraordinarily difficult to cut it. It is nearly all investment in very long-term projects.
Public expenditure to provide for future growth has never been more important than to-day. Until recently we had taken for granted that Britain's future lay in a static and ageing population. In the last year or two the Government Actuary has presented a very different prospect, and this is very new. The population to-day is about 53½ million. The Government Actuary in 1957 expected the population in 1986 to be 55 million. That is a very slight increase on that of the present day. But in April, 1963, he changed his tune to such an extent that the expected population for 1987—that is, one year later—is 63.7 million, an increase of approximately one-fifth on the population to-day. If we can rely on these projections, it means that the long-term plans of Government must take account of them, and investment in power, communications, water and all those things which take many years to mature must go ahead, even if there is an all-round shortage of resources and some private investment has to take second place. This will not be a popular move in a community still haunted by the ghosts of laissez-faire Liberalism. Nevertheless it is common sense, and our straight-talking Prime Minister and his extremely 391 intelligent Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to put over the case to finance and industry. But of course they must keep their hands clean themselves, and such projects as pulling down the Foreign Office and rebuilding it can hardly be deemed to be vital public expenditure at the moment.
The whole question of future population needs looking into. The Government Actuary's projections are based on certain assumptions. Do we accept those assumptions? What is the margin of error? Could he still be underestimating? This is an awful thought. When Her Majesty's Government have decided what are the probabilities, I suggest that they set up in Whitehall an interdepartmental committee to examine the various consequences of a sharply rising population. For instance, water is going to be a most serious problem. At the moment I do not think there is enough inducement for the under-populated water-rich parts of the country to sell water on a commercial basis to the drier over-populated parts. The present basis makes for too much delay and bad feeling.
Where are these extra people to live? We must have new towns. I am glad to see from a Ministry of Housing local conference that people are turning to ideas which I have put forward to your Lordships before now, and that there should be a great deal more building in villages. The technical term is now called "in-filling", I think. It seems quite extraordinary to allow Dr. Beeching to close down commuter feeder lines in Sussex which within a generation may be required to move a considerably larger population to London. At what stage, too, are we going to have to spread the population into Central Wales and East Anglia by locating new towns in places which have not been thought of before? And has somebody told Dr. Beeching what the future population may be, and where they may hope to live?—because otherwise we shall find the sites for new towns will have lost their railways. All these things want looking into.
Whatever the population may or may not be in 25 years' time, it is quite certain that in parts of Britain we have not enough houses to-day. I welcome all the 392 efforts of the extremely able and energetic Minister of Housing. I am glad that he is going to make a determined effort to introduce non-traditional housing. There are great snags, of course, in trying to build nearly every type of house that is not traditional. Nevertheless, it has been done for schools. The prefabricated school is very common now, and extremely good; and it has a reasonable life. Let us hope that the factory-built house can be used in the same way, because the traditional housing industry in the whole of the South-East of England is overloaded. This results in two things: first of all, building contractors enter into an auction for skilled labour, and then they make higher profits than they need.
We in Sussex know well, for instance, that for a new rectory, an architect-designed four-bedroomed house of high constructional standard, the price has gone up over the last three years from £4 to £5 per square foot—that means from £8,000 to £10,000. Yet if one goes to the North of England, or to other more remote parts of the country a similar house can be put up a great deal more cheaply. Of this increase over the last three years only about half can be accounted for by the official increases in wages and materials. The deduction is obvious—the rest must be due to the factors that I have mentioned, unless there is something one knows nothing about. It is no good trying to put more work on these people; they have too much already; hence the importance of bringing in factory-made houses of various sorts.
What to do about land in the Home Counties is a most difficult problem. It is an interesting thought that the high price of land is entirely due to planning—a most necessary planning, I agree; but it is a little tough on the rising generation that they should have to pay so much as a result of planning to preserve the amenities of Britain when our generation did not pay and hence did not preserve. Nevertheless, the high price of land is everywhere bringing out bits and pieces which would never be voluntarily sold. If, by some miracle, the Labour Party managed to reduce considerably the price of building land, it is certain that a lot of land would never be offered for sale at all. Aunt 393 Agatha may be tempted to sell half of her garden for a few thousand pounds, but if you want to acquire it compulsorily for a few hundred pounds what a hornets' nest you raise! I can see that going on all over Sussex, where, in dormitory towns, houses with large gardens are being disposed of. I know of a recent case where neighbours got together and sold at a high price a large piece of garden for development. That has brought land in. I know of a charitable trust which is in a bad way. We hope to sell an acre of our land for anything up to five figures, and the resultant endowment will just keep us afloat. None of that land would come on to the market at all voluntarily under any system so far produced by the Labour Party.
In view of these considerations, in the parts of the country where land is especially high in price I do not think it unreasonable that the general body of taxpayers should in some way contribute to mitigating the high price of land as in fact the price of planning or the saving of the amenities. Reading the speech of my right honourable friend the Minister, I have a feeling that his line of thought is not far from that one.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that the proposal he has made, taking South-East England, would only raise the price of this scarce land of which he is speaking? If it came about that there were a subsidy available to a person who wished to buy this land, surely it would only push up the price?
The noble Lord is absolutely right in regard to a number of cases, but not necessarily in regard to all cases. Sometimes the price works backwards. The people concerned calculate what they think the ultimate purchaser will pay, and then they work back to the price they would pay for the land. Sometimes it works the other way. But he has a point there, I fully admit. That is the danger of any form of land market that is not a reasonably free one. I do not know whether anybody has ever thought of making it possible to have mortgages on the land for a longer term than mortgages on the houses. After all, the land will be there after the house has disappeared; and though it would not 394 make a great difference to the monthly instalment it would be some mitigation of the matter. Still, I have no doubt that at some future date we shall debate all these matters in connection with the Housing Bill.
To sum up, I think I can say that I greatly welcome the new idea of using the accelerator, even at the risk to the balance of payments. After all, we are one of the largest importers in the world, and the whole world has a stake in our economy. We can do far more for the underdeveloped countries of the world by buying their products at reasonable prices than we can by buying on a depressed market and salving our conscience by doling out aid. In this our interests are the same as those of all the other industrial countries, and we all have an interest to rally round the currency of any one of us which has become overstrained by giving too much help to our poorer brethren. I am glad to say that this view appears to be beginning to be accepted in the world. The old order or habit was that if anybody got into difficulties a committee of hard-faced bankers sat and said, "The first thing you must do is to deflate." Now it is beginning to be recognised that the whole world has a universal interest in seeing that everybody keeps moving forward. I think that is one of the most hopeful signs in the world to-day, and much credit is due to Britain and to Britain's financial representatives, particularly the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, in achieving this state of affairs.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ LORD WISE
My Lords, this is a domestic debate, and I shall not go beyond its bounds; but I think it is appropriate that some mention should be made of matters at local and county level. These are the happenings which affect so many people: they are near at home; they can be seen, and the lives of some folk who reside in rural areas are far removed from the comings and goings of those engaged in national and international politics and affairs. Perhaps matters which cannot be righted by local representation may receive more consideration by being voiced in your Lordships' House. That is partly the reason why I hope to speak on two particular matters this afternoon.
395 I wish to speak of what I know and of what I have been asked to raise here in your Lordships' House. I want to impress upon the Government the need for spreading expenditure over the whole of the country. The Government have laid themselves wide open to criticism by their change of heart, enthusiasm and intention as outlined in the speeches in the last few days. To me, these appear to be signs of a deathbed repentance. I wish to speak upon the defects, as I see them, in the handling of educational and traffic problems.
Let me say at once that in certain respects we who live in East Anglia seem to be almost a forgotten race, so far as this Government are concerned. We are part of the community and are of equal importance in it as those who dwell in the metropolis, its suburbs, or in the industrial and more densely populated areas. Our two counties jut out into the North Sea, and although our main roads to the north and east lead along to the coastal towns and villages visitors flock to those in great numbers, for they are unsurpassed, either at home or abroad, in their attractiveness and sometimes natural state. The future for them, however, is full of uncertainty.
Before I come to local education, I want to deal with traffic problems. Dr. Beeching is seeking to close most of our country rail services, and the Minister of Transport is making it difficult for us to improve our roads. These two errors, so far as we are concerned, are deplored. Briefly, I should like to comment on the problem of facilitating road traffic through King's Lynn. This problem had been known to the Government throughout their term of office. Reference upon reference has been made to it by local authorities and others, and the Ministry has remained obstinate and short-sighted. Those responsible have failed to grasp the facts of the case. Probably the problem in the King's Lynn area is no greater than elsewhere, but there is a solution if only the Ministry would tune its mind to a realisation of it and act accordingly.
The provision of a by-pass around King's Lynn has been discussed over a number of years. At last something is happening, and the Ministry has suggested the construction of a part only in the not-too-distant future, leaving 396 the rest to be completed in ten years or more. The Ministry's proposal deals with the outlet of the by-pass on its way to Hunstanton, Sandringham and the Cromer districts, and leaves the inlet area as it is at present. Those who know the position and the traffic congestion have not been silent in telling the Ministry that its proposals will not in any way solve the problem. The construction of the new road should be done as one operation, and it should be carried right through from beginning to end. The present hold-ups are caused by the converging of traffic at the Western end of the town, at the South Gates roundabout and in reverse as the traffic returns at the Northern end with the two level crossings. People are late for appointments; doctors are delayed in visiting patients; buses run late and the whole system has become chaotic. Sometimes it takes an hour and a half to get through the borough, and 15,000 vehicles may use its narrow roads during the day.
The Ministry's proposal would be practically ineffective to overcome these difficulties. They do by now know all about them. We in East Anglia are not concerned with the construction of motorways for fast traffic. We want our road facilities improved and made safe, and our towns and villages to be accessible. We are not interested in spectacular and expensive flyovers, bridges and such like. We pay our just dues for licences, fuel tax, and we consider that a fair share of the road expenditure should come our way. The trade, welfare and prosperity of our boroughs and small towns depend almost entirely on the ability to attract shoppers and visitors from outside. These people require easy access to the town centre and will not tolerate road blocks or stoppages of any length of time. If these occur they will go elsewhere. The same applies to visitors wishing to reach coastal resorts.
Where peoples' livelihoods depend upon these things, they are more concerned that national money should be spent on roads and other improvements than upon re-erection of extravagant office and housing accommodation for Foreign Office, Civil Service or other officials. The Government should readjust their thinking and comprehension of priorities. Thoughts and talks of 397 modernisation are much in the air at the moment. If the Government are in earnest, then let us have immediate action, unhampered by stubbornness of anyone in high or lower authority. We in East Anglia shall not be dumb if someone considers our part of the country can be written off as a future "dead end". The judgment of the people will be swift, sure and effective.
I want to follow up what has already been said upon education with some information about our problems in Norfolk. Here again I must be somewhat local. Recently the Minister of Education spent two days in the county. It is not for me to say what will be the outcome of his visit—I hope that it was worth while. He alone knows. Our needs are great, our spending capacity limited, our schemes are in pigeon-holes to be dug out this year, next year, sometime, never. Who knows?
We have been hearing much about higher and scientific and technical education, but I wish to deal mainly with education in its earlier stages. Our boys and girls cannot take advantage of higher and more difficult education unless they have been well-grounded. I would send every child born of rich or poor parents to primary schools. If they are born in the country, let them go to the village school and mix with other village children. It will do them no harm, and then at a later stage they can go off to the secondary, grammar, high schools, public schools, technical schools, or whatever school fits them efficiently for their future occupation or welfare. I am sure that the first grounding in education, discipline and childish companionship and games provides the best entry for later citizenship that a child can have. His or her upward progress should also be adequately catered for.
The Minister saw our needs in King's Lynn for new and adequate buildings for the Girls' High School and hostels for students of various ages at the Technical School. The land for a new Girls' High School is already available, and the present school could be used to advantage. Young students for the Technical College cannot attend unless hostels are provided. Much money is spent in London and elsewhere upon providing hostels. Why not spend some of it in rural areas in Norfolk 398 and elsewhere? The Government are talking in terms of expenditure after 1964–65 for ten years and then for five years afterwards. The expenditure programmes—much curtailed—for 1964–65 have been settled with county education authorities, not without some annoyance and objection. Why not spend some of the additional money now, and not wait until the 1965–67 programmes are being dealt with? This, again, would show the sincerity or otherwise of the Government, and whether their promised programmes were bona fide or mere platitudes. Let them spend additional money while they can.
I can name the other urgent educational projects which call for implementation in our own district. In Terrington St. Clement—one of the largest and most affluent rural parishes in the country—the secondary school is old and there is need to build a new school; but no money has been made available. I know this old school. It could be used for primary purposes if the Ministry would provide the approval and means to build a new secondary modern school. King Edward VII School at King's Lynn is overcrowded, and there has been a need, which has become apparent and urgent during the last few years, for the building of additional accommodation. At the moment, admissions have to be restricted, and this is bad for education facilities and for the boys who cannot find place room in the school.
The question of overspill for King's Lynn is held up by the Board of Trade, but when the order to proceed is given additional schools and housing will be required. The primary school position in the country, which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, requires new thinking and action. There is need for new schools in suitable centres to replace the old, out-of-date buildings which are now in use in some villages, and it would be good economics to carry out amalgamation of schools, teachers, scholars, school meals services and transport expenditure. Action of this sort would release more teachers for other schools. As I said I would, I have spoken of what I know, but I imagine that what I have said about Norfolk could be said of every county and district in the country. I have confined my remarks solely to my own area, in order to impress upon 399 the Government that the time for drift and curtailment is over.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
My Lords, I want to speak very briefly, mainly about land, but before I do that perhaps I may be vouchsafed a sentence or two about some of the matters that have arisen to-day. I call to mind that this is the day upon which our friend, and recently the Leader of the House, Lord Hailsham, goes to the other place. I should just like to wish him good luck. I would observe that it was not Wedgwood Benn who started these events, but Lord Hailsham. May I congratulate and welcome Viscount Blakenham to our Front Bench here. Having known him on the Front Bench in the other House, I am sure he will be a very great help to this House.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who opened this debate, seemed to me to get his facts wrong and put his criticism in the wrong place when he talked about the 300,000 houses built during the early years of the Conservative Governments, and built as an average by them over the whole of their recent period of Government, and complained that a large number of these houses were occupied by better-off citizens. Whenever a better-off citizen takes a house he vacates some other house; therefore the whole of the people are helped. But it seems to me that my noble friend Lord Blakenham fairly well answered the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, when he pointed out that the average of council houses that were built was also quite high during the period—I think he said 187,000 houses per annum. Do not let us be sorry if houses are built by private enterprise for private people to live in who can afford to pay for them or who can only just afford to pay for them or who have to borrow to do it. That surely is a good thing; it is a good thing for them, a good thing for the country and a good thing for those who need the houses at a lower level of income—the council houses.
The Labour Party—and I understand it very well: it is part of their philosophy—are desirous, wherever possible, to limit the extent to which people can make profits, and to divert people from making profits as if profits were a bad 400 thing to make. I, for one, believe that they are a good thing to make and that it would be a good thing if as many people as possible could make profits. It would even be a good thing if nationalised industries made a profit. It ought to be remembered that without the profit made by the profit-making industries there would be no money to pay for the nationalised industries.
The relevance of this is in relation to getting more land. It is recognised on all sides that we must do two things: build houses more quickly—I shall say a word about that a little later—and also get more land available. I thought my noble friend Lord Hawke was quite right a little earlier when he warned that one of the effects of taking the profit out of land development—he did not say it in these words, but in effect this is what he said, and I am saying it in these words—is identical with that of taking the profit out of anything else: namely, that you get less of the development. That follows just as night follows day. For this reason I am anxious that the Government should give us an even fuller explanation than my noble friend Lord Blakenham gave us of exactly what they propose to do in this matter of extending the purchase of land hitherto used exclusively in the New Town field to the extension of existing towns.
My belief is that from the moment that Sir Keith Joseph said what he did say yesterday in the House he will have started "freezing" land. People who were going to develop land in, say, days, weeks or months will now take longer to develop it or hesitate to develop it because they will be waiting to see exactly what is intended and what is meant. So he will have defeated the very noble and splendid purpose which he had in mind, which is to get more land. The Government can remedy this by giving us as soon as possible an exact explanation of what they mean to do; secondly, by making the money available to do it as quickly as possible; and, thirdly, by urging the local authorities, or whatever the other authorities are who are going to buy this land, to get on with the job and buy it, so that it is over and done with.
It is one thing to follow the policy of buying a little land in advance, a little land here and there, for a New Town. There have been only a handful of New 401 Towns over twenty years. It is one thing to do that. You do not upset the whole market or frighten all landowners. The moment you extend this, and particularly if you extend it vaguely, you do irreparable harm to the free market; and it is my feeling that the Government can recover from the shock which they will have given to the property market yesterday only if they swiftly and quickly tell us exactly the limits of what they are going to do, how they are going to do it, and get on with it and do it. I am not indicating that I am at odds with Sir Keith Joseph in what he is doing; I am only warning him that directly he goes down this path of trying to take the profit out of the provision of development he will get less land for houses rather than more. He must therefore be careful.
There are two ways in which you can get more land more quickly without upsetting the play of the market. One is by making the obtaining of planning permission easier, making the rules easier, and making up our minds to sacrifice for the national interest some pieces of land we should like to see left alone. Take an individual—my noble friend called the person whom he cited by way of illustration Aunt Agatha. Aunt Agatha would sell her garden if the price were high enough; she would not otherwise. The nation must be prepared to sacrifice a bit of its garden as well. Unless we are prepared to do this we cannot get more land. Therefore we must make the obtaining of land by planning permission, and the obtaining of planning permission itself, easier. Secondly, we must make it quicker. It sometimes takes two years for a major scheme of development to get through the process of planning permission, public inquiry, appeal to the Minister, perhaps, and all the rigmarole which has to be gone through. We must make it quicker. Those are two ways of getting more land quickly.
Now I have just two remarks to make about houses. A speaker on the other side (I believe it was Lord Taylor) complained that houses of to-day are no better than they were twenty years ago —"not much better", he said, or "no better". That is not a matter of complaint. If we want more houses we must be prepared to have less good houses, 402 not better houses. By that I do not mean houses without bathrooms or houses without internal lavatories. I do not mean that; I mean smaller houses. When people build for themselves they are very willing to build smaller houses because they build within the means they can afford, and they build what they think they want and what they can afford. But when the council is building for you it seems to be the idea that it must be 10 per cent. better than it was before, or 10 per cent. bigger or 10 per cent. more expensive, simply because you are not paying for it yourselves. Now that is unwise. If we want more houses quickly we must build, and be content to build, smaller houses. There are plenty of young families who thank heaven for a smaller house rather than to continue to live with mother-in-law. Then we must be prepared to have a greater density of houses. The number of houses to the acre must be allowed to be greater. Again, when people build freely to please themselves they are not unwilling to have more houses to the acre. Why then should the public authority have to adhere to high and very expensive standards?
Finally—and it is my last observation—I have noted that some local authorities of all Parties are now charging differential rents; that is to say, a lower rent for the man who is young and has a young wife and children and is earning an average wage of £16 a week, than for a professional man who also is in a council house but is earning £20 or £25 a week and has a wife at work and perhaps a child as well, so that the house has £30 or £40 coming in. The council says, "You can pay nearly an economic rent whereas the other man will pay a sub-economic rent". Some councils are doing this, councils of all Parties. I think the Government should have the courage to make this differential renting compulsory, so that no longer will it be necessary for neighbours who are poorer than people who live in the council houses, and often have to pay full rents and rates, to pay taxes as well in order that some of their neighbours who can well afford to pay can live cheaper. I think that ought to be made compulsory, and I believe that if that were done it would again relieve the claims upon council houses, because one of the reasons for 403 wanting a council house is that you are living at your neighbour's expense. Another reason, of course, is because you do not know where to lay your head. But do not let us escape the obvious fact of life, that one of the reasons is that you can get it at half its value. That should not be allowed for people who can afford to pay.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, I should like, as a Back-Bencher in this House, to welcome a Front-Bencher on the other side—namely, the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham. I had the great privilege in another place of serving opposite the noble Viscount, on the Opposition Front Bench, on the subject of agriculture, and I must say that, in the period when I did so sit, I had a tremendous admiration for the quality of the man who has now joined us. Afterwards, when he became the Minister of Labour, I watched his work in that capacity; and there he gained additional respect from me, as a trade unionist, and certainly the respect of all knowledgeable trade unionists in this country. I am sure that his coming here has enriched this House, and I certainly, together with, I believe, most of my colleagues who know and have sat with the noble Viscount, welcome his presence here. We shall listen to him with great respect, because he always speaks out of knowledge and hard work put into the subject on which he speaks. If I have spoken of the noble Viscount at rather greater length than is usual, it is because of the fact that I have mentioned and also because I owe him a personal debt.
Most of the debate to-day has, very rightly, I think, been devoted to education. I do not begrudge a moment of the time that has been devoted to this subject. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Melbourne, who, when he was Prime Minister over 100 years ago, wrote to Queen Victoria as follows:I do not know, Ma'am, why they make all this fuss about education: none of the Pagets can read or write, and they get on well enough".I do not know what is the position of the Pagets to-day. The only one I know can read and write and express himself very forcibly, and certainly I would not agree with the noble Lord, 404 Lord Melbourne, of 100 years ago. I do regard education as being absolutely vital in the circumstances of our time, and I do not begrudge a moment of the time which has been devoted to education in this debate. Nevertheless, I should like to turn for a few moments to the problem of the elderly, and I want to do it in as non-Party a way as is possible for a politician.
The 1962 Report of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance shows that over 5½ million people are in receipt of retirement pensions. Of that number, over 1½ are receiving supplementary payments from National Assistance. These make up 68 per cent. of the people who are aided under the work of the National Assistance Board. The basic scale of National Assistance stands at 95s. 6d. for husband and wife, as against £5 9s. 0d. for retirement pensions for a married couple. To that £5 9s. 0d. there is added, by way of National Assistance Board discretionary additions, some 8s. 4d., on average. These discretionary additions are for rent and special needs; and I say at once that they are made on as generous a scale as the regulations permit by the Board and the Board's officers.
As often as I am able I sit on a National Assistance tribunal whose function it is to consider appeals from the decisions of the Board's officers; and the more I sit on these tribunals the greater is my respect for the Board's officers and the more am I struck by the fact that they carry out their duties with a kindly sympathy which so often takes them outside the strict range of their duty of assessing the needs of the applicant. I believe that the comparatively few appeals that are made in this country as a whole against the decision of the Board's officers is an indication of the manner in which they carry out their duties. The second fact that always moves me is the clear evidence of the biting and miserable poverty of so many of the old people one sees before these tribunals. The sum of £5 9s. 0d., plus the discretionary additions, for a married couple is miserable poverty in relation to the comparative prosperity of the rest of the community.
I recognise that, with a continually improving standard of medical care and 405 general hygiene, an increasing proportion of our population has to be kept by those who are actually producing the wealth of the country. We are living longer in retirement; we are, at the other end, entering production later and later; so the burden of keeping the nonproductive falls on a narrower group, proportionately, of our working population. Despite that fact, I believe that the poverty of the aged could and should be overcome by devoting a higher proportion of our national income to them. I know that this is more easily said than done. It is comparatively easy in Opposition to tell the Government how much they ought to spend in this or that direction—we have heard what tremendous sums are called for in education. But I believe that we ought, somehow, to remove very soon this blot on our Welfare State. It is one of the blots that remains in this area of biting, miserable poverty that I have mentioned.
My Lords, the second matter that I wish to raise relates to the care of the aged who are sick and unable to look after themselves. In this connection we have to recognise the fact that there is within our society a lessening acceptance of responsibility for aged relatives; we tend more and more to shuffle off our family responsibilities on to the community. However much we may deplore this, it is one of the facts of our time; we must accept it as such and make increased provision by residential accommodation for the helpless and sick old people. The various authorities under Part III of the National Assistance Act, 1948, provide residential accommodation for 90,450 people, of which some 68,000 beds are provided for the aged. This is not enough; and neither is the accommodation so provided of a high enough standard.
I happen to know very well two of the hospitals that are provided under the Health Service. One is in my old constituency of South-East Derbyshire and the other happens to be very near my home in South Wales. Both of these are old workhouse premises, and in both of them, I am bound to say, the responsible Regional Boards have done a tremendous amount to improve the accommodation. But to me they still smack of the workhouse; and I have always come away from both these places with the prayer: "Please spare me from end 406 ing my days in such a place." We know of these places; we have seen them; and that is what I always feel about them. It is true that the one in Pontypridd is to be replaced by a new long-stay geriatric hospital of 128 beds. This will cost in the region of £750,000. But it will only scratch at the problem for the area that it has to cover. Somehow we must find a way to increase and improve the provision of residential accommodation.
The last point I would make is that housing accommodation, in suitable conditions and in which someone is keeping an eye on them, must be provided for the old who are not immediately sick or helpless. The 1962 Ministry of Health Report says of this sort of residential service:Local housing authorities have provided in recent years special flatlets designed for the elderly on labour-saving lines and with a resident warden, who is on call in emergency, looks after communal facilities, often gives additional help, and can call in other forms of assistance when required.In December, 1962, 5,800 of such units had been provided or approved. My Lords, I regard this as a derisory figure, when we consider that over 5½ million persons are in receipt of retirement pensions and that, of that number, 3½ million are over 70 years of age. I happen to know one of the first of these blocks of buildings with a residential warden, and it is absolutely first-rate. But our rate of progress in this matter is much too slow. We are lagging behind the small country of Denmark. As far back as 1947 I saw what they had achieved in provision of this sort. I forget the exact figures of the proportion of the aged for which they provided, but I came away ashamed of the fact that we just had not started to tackle the problem. To-day, after all these years since the passing of the Act of 1948 and the various Housing Acts, we still have only these 5,800 units of residential accommodation provided for the purpose which I have described. I believe that that is pitiful by comparison with the provision that has been made in Denmark. I believe we could and should do a lot more.
The noble Lord, Lord Silk in, dealt with the reduction in numbers of houses built by local authorities. It is down to a figure of 100,000 a year. Therefore, 407 unless special help is given to the local authorities for the type of buildings I am now talking about, the local authorities will have to be very careful about providing such flatlets and bungalows, otherwise they will be overweighting their housing accounts with units carrying not only very low rents but also the cost of the free accommodation given to wardens in return for their services.
I have said, rather brutally perhaps, that we are tending more and more to shuffle off our family responsibilities on to the community as a whole, and I cannot end without a word of tribute to the voluntary services who do so much to help the community to shoulder those responsibilities. The Report of the National Assistance Board has this to say of their welfare work:The Board would like to place on record, not for the first time, their gratitude for the prompt and willing co-operation which their officers receive from the voluntary and statutory organisations working in the same field.My Lords, I heartily endorse what was said in that Report about the work of the W.V.S. and other voluntary organisations, who give so much relief and succour to our old folk. I personally should like to thank them, having seen their work and how they can help us all to shoulder our communal responsibilities in this connection.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, in his admirably non-controversial maiden speech, the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, spoke of the new towns, the enlarged towns, the new houses and factories, which would have to be built in future. With that we agree. The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, told us that the nation would have to sacrifice some of its garden in order to do this. With that we also agree. But what we want to know is whether the sacrifice of the garden is going to be haphazard or a thought-out sacrifice to ensure that those parts of the garden which are taken, in order to make room for this extra building programme, are the parts which ought to be taken.
The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, also made the point that in his view it was right that we should have smaller houses built by local authorities at a lower standard—though 408 he allowed bathrooms and indoor lavatories; and he thought the density of building would have to be higher than to-day. I would specifically ask the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, to tell us whether this is only the personal view of the noble Lord, or whether it is part of Government policy, and whether we have to look forward to smaller houses more densely built or to something more in keeping with present times.
We have also heard many interesting speeches on education. My noble friend Lord Longford pointed out the lack of planning in the whole of our education in the pre-Robbins era and the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, speaking with great experience of this subject, also pointed to the results of that lack of planning. He actually said that we faced a crisis, though a crisis of success. For all that, it is a crisis, and a crisis is something which comes unexpectedly and without foresight. The noble Lord said that we shall have to come to the rescue of the exceptional numbers of school-leavers who will soon be wanting to go to universities. He referred also to the unsatisfactory manœuvre of Her Majesty's Government in the arrangements which are being made for the administration of higher education. All these are indications, from somebody who knows the subject well, that there has been too little foresight and too little planning. And what planning there has been has clearly been, from its results, of an unsatisfactory nature.
In the last few years, there has been a great and gratifying change in the attitude of the present Government to this whole question of planning. Planning has now become not only a respectable thing to do, but also a wise thing to do. But the fact that there has been on the part of the Government a change of heart which we on this side cordially welcome, does not necessarily mean that the head is co-operating with the heart. It is not enough simply to say that they want to plan: they must know how to plan, and I am afraid that that is something for which we still have to wait.
In the last two days, we have had two plans produced by the Government, for the North-East and for Central Scotland. They have been received fairly well. We are pleased that there 409 should be such plans, but I think it worth reminding your Lordships that the current issue of the Economist says that:The regional plans for Central Scotland and the North East of England are disappointingly unradical".The Economist goes on, through an interesting article, to point out how these plans have been wrongly conceived and are without sufficient authority for some of their purposes. When confronted by a crisis, whether it be the sort of crisis in education referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, or the crisis that has been with us too many years in the North-East, it is no good suddenly creating some ad hoc Committee to deal with it; or suddenly to send a Minister, even a Minister of the standing of our former colleague, to deal with it, and then to think that you have done your duty. That is not the way to solve this problem.
Plans, to be effective, must be far more comprehensive and on a far wider basis than the Government's present conception of such things. If the Government are going to plan for the North-East, it is not just a regional plan that is needed, as the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, mentioned in another context. It is essential to bring in the Ministries of Transport and Education, and the whole gamut of Government Departments, not simply to plan for that locality but to develop the whole country. That is something to which so far this Government appear to have given singularly little thought. Whether or not the creation of the new Ministry which Mr. Heath is now looking after is a step towards this more comprehensive planning, we must wait to see. But for the Government merely to say to-day that they believe in planning will not achieve the correct form of planning which is essential for the appropriate development of the nation and its resources.
This whole question of planning is intensely complicated, and it is far too late to attempt to go into it in any great detail. But I would suggest that we are planning from the wrong end first. Our planning starts at the regional level, at county level, or even lower than that; and then the plans move up to the centre, where they may be altered, approved or disapproved. Surely, my Lords, planning should be on 410 a national basis. It should start at the centre in Whitehall and devolve to the regions, to the counties, getting their opinions and advice, and eventually getting them to carry out the plans. We cannot expect a county council, or even a wider area composed of a group of county councils, to have the national picture sufficiently in their mind to be able to plan this whole country. We cannot expect East Anglia, about which we have heard from my noble friend Lord Wise, and which until recently was so well represented on the Front Bench opposite (all three Ministers at that time, I believe, came from East Anglia), to form a plan for the development of Norfolk and Suffolk, because they do not know the position in the North-East, the South-West, the Midlands and the rest of the country: they have only their local and regional allegiances to pay attention to. The plan must come, in the first instance, from the centre, and then, as I say, be referred to them for advice, consultation and eventually implementation.
I do not want to give the impression when I say this that I believe there should be a central planning authority in Whitehall which should hand down orders to be carried out by subordinates at county level; over-centralisation is the worst form of planning, because we are in danger at the present time of a withering away of true democracy. True democracy is where the people themselves have a say in what is happening and where their voice is heard. If too much is done by the expert commissions and committees set up in Whitehall, and by the experts in Whitehall themselves, the elected representatives of the people will lose heart and lose interest and we shall become an autocracy.
The challenge before us to-day is to set up an organisation which has the efficiency of the experts, the "know-how" of the people who have really studied these problems, and all the figures available to them, but, at the same time, retains the drive and initiative which can come only from having the locally and democratically elected representatives of the people concerning themselves directly with these matters. The Times yesterday had a leader on just this subject, and I should like to quote some of its words. It said: 411Local government is one of the means by which the people are given a say in how public matters affecting them should be conducted. As such, it is proving of declining use.There is a warning there. Later on it says:A vigorous and influential system of local government affords an opportunity for enough men and women to be associated in a way that really counts with the management of public affairs. It thus counteracts the ever-present tendency of Government and its apparatus to become divorced from the people.That is a timely warning. We are in danger of Government and Whitehall becoming divorced from the people. While I maintain once more that our need is for an overall development plan for this country—for location of industry; for location of houses, as well as factories; for differentiation between the rural side of the country, the amenity side and the industrial side—we must not have that done in an impersonal central manner, nor must we have it done in a parochial manner. It is the Government's duty to find a way of doing this.
There is to-day a great disquiet among the people, particularly those living in country districts, as to just what is going to happen to the rural areas. Are these still fairly extensive areas of countryside slowly to be encroached upon, in spite of the form of planning that we have at the present time, so that in the next ten years we shall be presented with some villages which have simply died, with a few tumbledown houses in them and no more, and others which have become small towns and small industrial centres? If we are to be presented with that, is it to be done in a haphazard fashion, or is it to be thought out so that the planning can be done in an orderly way?
This is not simply a question of amenity, although that in itself is of great importance; it is also a question of the future of the agricultural industry of this country. There is no getting away from the fact that to-day increasingly young men in country districts are moving away from villages into the towns. We know that there is a drift from the land, and I, for one, do not deplore this, because I believe we can produce more food with less 412 men, and it is right that we should do so. But it is disastrous for agriculture and for the country to have the fewer men who are going to be left in agriculture every year becoming older and not being replaced by active and eager young men anxious to take up an agricultural occupation. Unless we have this general development plan, how will it be possible to have the appropriate housing in the places where the houses are needed, the schools for the children of the people who work on the land—and farm workers' children need schooling just as much as the children of factory workers—and the transport to move them from the villages into the towns where the shops, amenities and amusements are? We cannot have that sort of thing without this general comprehensive plan.
I hope that the very tentative steps which the Government have been taking in the last year or so towards planning are not steps which will falter and then stop with the setting up of one committee here and another committee there, but will lead towards what I think is the logical goal in this type of progress—namely, the central overall planning mechanism, with concentration and devolution of authority down to the local, democratically-elected level. In that way we can get the right form of development and the right form of democratic government in this country; and without it we shall fail.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, we have had a long and interesting debate in which, from this side of the House, criticisms of the Government have been expressed so far as their activity or non-activity in the social field is concerned, and from the other side we have had a defence of the Government's attitude. One thing is, I think, crystal clear: that the achievements so far in the field of education and housing, in particular, are far from being adequate to modern needs and certainly not commensurate with the technological development that has taken place over the past few years.
Of all the speakers who took part in the debate I think none was more honest and frank than the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale. My noble friend Lord Walston asked whether or not what the noble Lord expressed was 413 Government policy, and the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, indicated quite clearly that one could not expect any development in housing or any increased provision of housing unless there was a substantial lowering of the standards. It may be asked: is that the Government's policy? I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that it certainly appears to be so, because there has been a steady fall in the general standard of housing over the past few years, and there has been a trend in local authority building towards both fewer rooms and smaller dwellings. The average floor space per three-bedroomed house declined from 1,032 square feet in 1951 to 898 square feet in 1960. That all goes against the long-term trend which one would expect: that the development of our economy, would make possible higher and better living standards. It seems to be falling.
A very interesting comment on this can be seen in a recent article in the Economic Review in which it was pointed out that the current trend towards smaller dwellings is putting up the costs per person housed. It went on to state, and prove, that the number of rooms in a house can be doubled from three to six for only a 35 per cent. increase in the annual cost. From the standpoint of practice over the past few years, it would appear to be Government policy that, in order to achieve the higher number of houses produced, there will be a fall in the standard of housing.
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, I think he should know that this may apply to only a certain type of housing, and that in the general field of housing those figures are not acceptable.
§ LORD PEDDIE
I certainly agree that it applies to only one type. It applies to that type of house provided for the working class. Of course it applies only to one type. If you go outside that type, you can build any type of house you like. You can have as many bathrooms or bedrooms as you like. I am speaking of the smaller houses.
The noble Lord speaks of "as many bedrooms as you like". The vast majority of houses or flats now being built for private owner-occupation have a smaller floor area 414 than the council houses he is mentioning.
§ LORD PEDDIE
I should like to see evidence that the average house being constructed for private ownership is smaller than that produced by local authorities.
§ LORD PEDDIE
This is but a justification of the criticism that has been expressed from this side. I would express the viewpoint that the gracious Speech gives little indication of any real effort on the part of the Government to deal satisfactorily with this problem, except in the provision of more promises. It gives us very little confidence for the future. In fact, our opinion is that the gracious Speech seems to be a very hurried document. I think that circumstances not unconnected, possibly, with de Gaulle threw the Government off balance, and it meant a swift rearrangement of the shop window. One can see proof of that in this hurried document, which overlooks the promises of the past.
Hire-purchase legislation, to which I have made previous reference in this House, was one of the promises made in the past, but it is completely ignored in the gracious Speech. One year ago, a Private Member's Bill was presented to this House, and was defeated largely because of the promise on the part of the Government that a Bill dealing in a comprehensive way with hire-purchase would be introduced. I will deal with that point in a few moments. I know that the Government have stated subsequently, and almost pathetically, "You cannot put everything in the gracious Speech". They cannot have it both ways. Either they have forgotten the promises, or they consider the matter of consumer protection unimportant and not worthy of inclusion in the gracious Speech. I would draw the attention of the House to the statement that was made only a matter of a week ago by the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development, in which he stated one day after the Private Member's Bill was introduced in this House [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 684 (No. 3), col. 325]:… we shall be introducing a Bill during this Session to amend the Hire Purchase Acts.415 He went on to state:The Hire Purchase Bill is intended to deal with those questions where we know action is immediately necessary.…He stated later:We are now studying these in the Department and, while we are doing so, we shall welcome the views of the finance houses, or any other bodies concerned, about these deeper problems which will not be immediately dealt with in the Bill which we shall soon be presenting.I would remind noble Lords that, in the first place, the statement was made one year ago that there would be a comprehensive Bill. There is no promise of that, according to the statement made in another place.
Furthermore, I would ask the Government what steps have been taken over the past ten or eleven months since the promise was made that a comprehensive Bill would be introduced. Apparently, they are only now starting to consult the various interests; they have started subsequent to the presentation of the gracious Speech. What has happened over the past eleven months? What has happened on this question of consultation? I know of many organisations intimately associated with this problem who have not to date been consulted at all.
One very important aspect was that Government policy in the past—and policy is indicated in the gracious Speech—was of expansion of the economy, because that is the basis of all the problems we have been discussing this afternoon. We all recognise, irrespective of our political opinions, that we cannot achieve more education, more schools and more housing unless we secure increased production. I think the greatest criticism of the Government over the past years has been their apparent inability to stimulate and encourage productive capacity. They now tell us that it is the intention to maintain expansion of the economy. I hope they will not maintain the methods of the past twelve years.
I would agree that no single formula can provide a solution to all these problems. But Government policy and Government attitude is of enormous significance. I believe the Government have failed over the past years to harness the resources of this nation, not only the 416 scientific resources, but the human resources. If one wants evidence of this, one need only quote the experts of a non-political character and even experts who have association with the Party opposite. I would quote from a recent issue of the Spectator, which drew attention to the miserable performance in the economic growth of this nation and went on to state that there wasno simple explanation of our miserable performance in the growth league. We have not suffered from any lack of investment resources. We can only point to the fact that demand has been constantly restricted in the alleged interests of the balance of payments, and that is a further example of bad political and financial administration.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I ask whether this statement was made after Mr. Macleod became the Editor or before?
§ LORD PEDDIE
It was made after, and I sincerely hope that it does not lead to a further dismissal so far as the Spectator is concerned.
In support of the point of view that was expressed in the Spectator, I would quote from the Economic Review of the National Institute of Economic Research. It stated a few months ago:…if gross national product had grown since 1955 as fast as the slowest growing member of E.E.C. we could have had in 1961 £2,500 million more resources.And this was in the year when Selwyn Lloyd was imposing his pay pause. Quite seriously, if we could transform that fantastic sum into terms of schools, educational facilities, hospitals, new roads and better transport facilities, what an enormous injection into our economy it would have been! This is an age of swift, technological change. Nothing that either Party can do can stop it. We can retard it; we can assist it. I believe it is the responsibility of the Government to assist that trend.
There are many factors that may be brought to bear upon this problem. I need mention only two: first, the encouragement of technical research; second, education and industrial training. In civil industrial research the Government have left such development to private enterprise, and the limited help they have given has been distributed among numerous research associations, where there has been such diffusion of effort that we have not 417 secured the best result from that amount which has been spent by the Government themselves. To give an indication of the vital necessity for the Government to centralise their industrial technological research, for taking it under their own wing to a far greater extent than they have done in the past, I need only quote the recent statement of the Federation of British Industries: that thescale of modern research is of such a character as to be even beyond the consortium of major firms in this country".The speed of change will necessitate greater mobility of labour, and I believe that in the future that will be one of the most serious of our industrial problems; one that will need not only the attention of the Government but also the co-operation of the trade unions. There will be swift changes; changes that will demand people moving from job to job, and I should have thought the Government would have realised that, if we are to secure the full benefit from the technological development of the future, they must provide facilities to assist mobility for workers, but more particularly for the youngsters in our schools. I suggest that in that particular field, relating to the youngsters, the youth who will be training for this new age, there has been less effort so far as the Government are concerned.
I need only draw attention to the fact that in September of this year, at least five weeks after the school year ended, there were still 39,622 boys and 27,140 girls under 18 years of age wholly unemployed; and of these, 19,462 boys and 12,900 girls had been unemployed for more than five weeks. To give an indication that that demonstrates a worsening of the situation—and that is bad enough—twelve months ago 34,000 boys and 23,800 girls were unemployed, of whom 15,400 boys and just under 10,000 girls had been unemployed for more than five weeks. This indicates clearly that the trend is towards increased difficulty on the part of youngsters leaving school to find profitable employment or any employment of any kind.
The worst feature of all lies in the fact that these particular youngsters were those who spent their school years under the worst of the "bulge" conditions, with overcrowded classrooms and 418 understaffed schools, both at the primary and secondary stage, and they are now called upon to face the fiercest competition since the war. I would point out that the Carr Committee foresaw their plight. In 1958 they reported:These young people will expect—and we think that they have a right to expect—that their opportunities of obtaining training for skilled employment should not be adversely affected because they happen to have been born at a particular time.What have the Government done in the five years since then to prepare against this day? For two years, they did nothing. Then, in November, 1960, the Minister of Labour said that the responsibility for industrial training belonged not to him but to industry itself. He did add, rather reluctantly, that if industry failed to meet the challenge of the bulge, the demand for Government action might be hard to resist. Even as he spoke he could see that industry was failing and was unable—I do not think unwilling—to meet this challenge.
In 1962 the proportion of boys who became apprentices fell (not increased) by 1.7 per cent. compared with 1961; and although 33,000 more boys entered employment, the number who took jobs leading to professional qualifications actually dropped by 400; while the number who took up employment where training lasting at least a year was provided was 2 per cent. less than in 1961. And this at a time when we talked about being forward-looking and at a time when we wanted to seek the very best for our youngsters. I could go on. I could mention that in 1962, four years after the Carr Committee warned that the summer of 1962 would see the peak number of school-leavers, the Government published its White Paper Industrial Training: Government Proposals in which they promised a Training Billto strengthen and improve the existing partnership between industry, the Government and the education authorities in the provision of industrial training.My Lords, it is still only a promise. In the light of that experience I believe that one is justified in issuing from this side of the House the criticism that over the years the Government have failed to recognise their obligations and failed to recognise the tremendous potentialities that lie within our own people, particularly our own youth.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS)
My Lords, it is now my duty to wind up the first half of this two-day debate which we are having on the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin and to-day we have been concentrating our attention, or most of us have at any rate, by agreement, on the problems of housing and education. To-morrow we shall deal with the sick and elderly and the less well-to-do; and, referring to the intervention of my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn, I am quite sure that he does not come in the first two categories, and I think he does not come in the third.
§ LORD HASTINGS
But I would remind your Lordships that this is an Amendment which is being moved on the humble Address in reply to the gracious Speech and, as was pointed out by my noble friend Lord Blakenham, and also by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, it amounts to a vote of censure, and, therefore, of course we are going to take it seriously. I should like to say straight away to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that he introduced his Motion with moderation—perhaps with less than the customary moderation but certainly with the customary perspicacity, and, as he knows, his remarks always receive the careful consideration of noble Lords on this side of the House and I hope they will again to-day.
First of all, I should also like to make reference to the somewhat unusual event we have experienced in having the maiden speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, from the Front Benches. It would be presumptuous for a mere Parliamentary Secretary to congratulate my noble friend on the excellence of his speech—we take that for granted—but I can at least join in the general welcome which has been accorded to him not only from this side of the House but also in notable instances from the other side of the House as well. Noble Lords opposite have had one or two surprises recently. We have lost two noble Lords from this side of the House, and one of them 420 has made his appearance again already in another place as no less than the Prime Minister. By way of exchange we have received two honourable Members from the other place, both Front Benchers, who have come to your Lordships' House and are remaining on the Front Bench. I think it is fairly unusual and I do not know whether there is actually a precedent for a Cabinet Minister from one place to come here and remain a Cabinet Minister; but we are certainly exceedingly glad that he has done so.
I refer to these surprises, but of course they are not the only ones I think that the other side will be receiving. On reflecting on this debate, as I heard it go on, it struck me that the Party opposite have to do very much better than they did to-day if they are not going to receive the biggest surprise of all in about six months' time, or perhaps, if necessary, in eleven months' time. I will explain this remark. The Labour Party seem to have two theses. The first is, in these chosen fields of housing and education that we are discussing today, that we have done very badly; that in fact it has been a position of stagnation; and the corollary of that is that they, the Labour Party, would have done very much better. The second thesis is—and this was notable in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—that we are promising far too much and that we cannot achieve what we are promising, or pay for it.
May I examine these two theses? First, I would just indicate that my noble friend Lord Blakenham made an absolutely cast-iron case, I should say, showing how there had been a steady build up in education, an increase in the percentage of the gross national product spent on education, an increase in the number of students, an increase in the number of teachers and an enormous increase in the building programme. In housing, is it nothing that we built 3 million new houses in the last ten years and that we have kept pace with the new number of householders, which could not have been foreseen at the time? Because of the rising prosperity, entirely achieved under a Conservative Government, there is a greater demand for houses, and young people can afford to get them sooner than they 421 did. We have reduced the 1951 shortage of three quarters of a million; we caught up on that, although of course there is still a shortage. Moreover, we have improved one million out of the 3½ million improvable houses in the country. Is that nothing? Is that stagnation?
We are told that it is not enough. But could the Labour Party really do better? That is, surely, the crux of the matter in their accusation; they must believe that they could have done better. I do not want to taunt the Party opposite with their performance when they were in office before they went out in 1951, because conditions were different. They have often said that and explained it, and we accept that. But at least they had thoughts about the future, and what were they at the time of the 1951 Election? Mr. Herbert Morrison, as he was then, said that the target that the Conservative Party had announced wasa cynical and irresponsible attempt to exploit the housing difficulties of the people.Mr. Bevan said:If the Conservatives adopt a policy of setting the builder free … it is not 300,000 houses they will get—they will not get 200,000—they will not get 100,000. All they will get will be housing riots.Mr. Attlee, as he was then, said:We cannot at present go beyond the 200,000 a year".And the late Lord Dalton declared:The figure of 300,000 houses a year was the greatest of all the promises dangled before the more credulous electors: that figure has now gone down the wind of polling day.Some wind! It has been continuing pretty fair for twelve years, and we achieved that target within two years of the Labour Party's saying that it could not be done.
Are we to suppose, in view of their criticism, they would have done it? No doubt they would have learned in due course that it was possible to build 300,000 houses and they might perhaps have been able to do it; but to come here and accuse us of not having done enough in spite of the figures I have quoted is really sheer bunk and humbug and hypocrisy. It cannot be named as anything else.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, would the noble Lord define the 422 difference between humbug and hypocrisy?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am not going to be diverted by the intellectual interventions of the noble Earl.
Let me turn for a moment to some of the specific criticisms which have been made in this debate. First of all may I deal with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin? He complained that we had not been building enough local authority housing, to which my noble friend Lord Blakenham replied that we had in fact been building on the average about the same amount as the Labour Government were building when they went out of office. But the noble Lord said, of course, that that has not gone up at all, whereas private building has gone up two and a half times. In fact, private building was so insignificant in his day that it has gone up a great deal more than that, I am glad to say.
However, it leads one to wonder, if the Labour Party had been in power, what they would have done even when they had increased their building programme to 300,000 houses a year. Presumably the increase would mainly have been in local authority housing, and although private housing would have increased to a certain extent, it would not have been by very much. I am thinking of the fact that we have increased owner occupation from 25 per cent, to 42 per cent. of all the houses in the country, and I should have thought the first thing people want in this country, after a motor car probably, is a house of their own, and the noble Lord's policy would have denied it to them. I think they have to meet that argument and refute it, and I do not think they can very easily do so.
The noble Lord was talking about mortgages and what people could not afford, on the grounds of too great expense. I have no doubt that he has read recently the latest survey of the Co-operative Permanent Building Society dealing with about 7½ per cent. of the house purchase loans of the entire building society movement, and I think it is pretty representative. It is interesting to note from that survey that nearly two-thirds of all the new and existing houses bought cost under £3,000 and one-fifth under £2,000, and that two-thirds of house purchasers are under 35 when they purchase 423 and one-fifth under 25, between 21 and 25. If we make a comparison with three years ago from the same source, we find that the proportion of purchasers under 25 was 16.9 per cent., and now it has gone up to 22.5 per cent. When we turn to occupations, wage earners represented 37.7 per cent, three years ago and now they represent 43.7 per cent. So I do not think it is very easy for the noble Lord to argue that houses are too expensive for many classes of people.
Then he says that housing societies will not be able to fill the gap as regards rent. But of course we are going also to increase very considerably the number of local authority houses as well, when we go not only up to the 350,000 mark—which is in sight; we know that—but up to the 400,000 mark. Of course, local authority housing will increase very substantially, and we do intend to make provision for that so that there will be more houses to rent. Then the noble Lord came to the question of de-control of rent and evictions.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves local authority housing, could he answer the question I put to him with regard to density and size of houses?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I will come to that: the noble Lord's name is a little lower down my list. It is a little easier to do this by name, but I will join the names up as much as I can in relation to subjects. With regard to decontrol of rents and evictions, of course this is an evil; but I would remind the noble Lord that my right honourable friend has appointed the Milner Holland Committee to look into the conditions of housing in London and to get the real facts. Then we shall be able to study this matter more deeply.
Still on the subject of housing, I will turn to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, who I think rather warned my right honourable friend that, by his statement in another place the other day, he was going to dry up the land coming forward for development. But that, of course, would be the result of the Land Commission scheme put forward by the Labour Party, and not the result of the scheme put forward by my right honourable friend. I think there must 424 be a misunderstanding here. Although the noble Lord is not in the House I think it as well to reply to this point. Of course the main intention is that where major developments, in the shape of new and expanded towns are decided upon, the land needed for these should be bought in advance by a public authority, both to control and phase the development and to help meet the cost. This will be the application of an already established principle to the major land problems thrown up by the regional studies. I hope that this is some clarification of what the noble Lord desires. If not, no doubt he will let me know.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, does he mean that there will be a designated area within a development, and that in such area a corporation will purchase the land? Or how will it work?
§ LORD HASTINGS
Without getting entangled in too much detail, I would say with regard to New Towns that a corporation is the most likely method. But of course there will be also expanding towns which may have local authorities operating them. And there may be other cases, but the details will come out later.
§ LORD HASTINGS
No, that is not right. It will be more extensive than the noble Lord thinks, and it will come out of these regional studies as they appear, not only for the North-East and Central Scotland, but those which will appear in due course for the South-East, for the West Midlands and for the North-West. It will amount to a great deal of land.
The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, also talked about planning procedures. I know that they take time. They are taking more time largely as a result of the Report of the Franks Committee, because they are guarding the interests of the individual. But my right honourable friend is studying methods 425 which, without requiring legislation, will improve the administration of this planning procedure, and he hopes that it will help speed things up.
The noble Lord referred to smaller houses. He said that we must have many smaller houses—I do not think he specified the quality. He referred also to high densities—a point which interested Lord Walston and Lord Peddie, who came in very strongly on the question of smaller houses. I must say, first of all, to Lord Peddie that I am astonished that he could be so misinformed as to believe that it is Government policy that the houses should be smaller and worse than they have been in the past. Of course that is not true at all. They may be smaller in the total area they cover, but with new design the living space is not at all smaller. We know that is happening in regard to offices where the 10 per cent. increase in the cube allowed for a 40 per cent. increase in the floor space. We had to take action about this only last summer. The same question arises in the design of houses, and the living space is no less. Of course they are much better equipped than the houses in the past.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, is it not a fact that the actual floor space has declined over the past few years? Is that not a statement of fact?
§ LORD HASTINGS
The gross floor space may appear to have declined, but the living space in fact has not, and the greater convenience of modern equipment makes them much more acceptable and much better houses than was so in the past. We are here quite clearly aiming at Parker Morris standards, and there is nothing that my right honourable friend is doing to prevent local authorities from building to Parker Morris standards if they wish; it is up to them. In the first place, we are carrying out studies in regard to the cost of this to help them. That is the aim for the future—especially when we come to industrial building techniques. We are in touch now with twenty firms and another twenty or thirty will come into the field for housing, and not merely for flat building, who are prepared to build with these modern, new techniques and to the Parker Morris standard.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, I am concerned with the living area. What the noble Lord has said would indicate that the Government are refusing to accept responsibility. If I heard the noble Lord aright, he said it was solely and wholly the responsibility of the local authorities that this trend was taking place.
§ LORD HASTINGS
The building is the responsibility of local authorities. We are giving them every encouragement and advice, but we cannot instruct them actually what to build—that is the point—unless the noble Lord wishes the Government to take over all local authorities. I hardly think he would agree with that.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene again, but in my ignorance I do not know the difference between living space and floor space in the normal council house. I can see in regard to factories that there may be a difference between floor space and available working space. But can the noble Lord explain this, and say precisely what he means by the difference between living space and floor space in the normal rural council house?
§ LORD HASTINGS
Well, it is really clue to fittings and equipment which take up much less room and are more compact—such things as staircases and cupboard units.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I will try to get more detail if the noble Lord would like me to write to him about it.
My Lords, may I suggest to my noble friend that he should refer noble Lords opposite to the Building Trade Exhibition which is going on at the moment? I spent this morning there. They could quench a lot of their curiosity if they visited that Exhibition.
§ LORD HASTINGS
In regard to the question of density, the aim is to get the best use of land—this is nothing new; I said it several times last summer in housing debates. It is well known that our policy is to get higher density where pressure on the land is greatest. That can be done without producing unpleasant 427 buildings or unattractive surroundings, by lay-out and design and modern architecture. It is being done with great success, and it must be done.
This is a convenient moment, I think, also to refer to the building of smaller houses. Lord Fraser of Lonsdale brought it up, as did Lord Champion. We are trying, and hoping, to get through the local authorities a much better balance of the building stock in general, and more one-bedroomed and two-bedroomed houses are being built now than have been built in the past. In particular, so far as the elderly are concerned, no less than one-quarter of all local authority building is of one-bedroomed flatlets or bungalows. These are for elderly people in local authority buildings, whether in the form of flatlets with warden service or self-contained bungalows with or without warden service. I hope that meets the point of the noble Lord.
My Lords, I think that I have dealt with most of the important points which were brought up by noble Lords on housing, except for differential renting. Of course we are not going to make these schemes compulsory, but my right honourable friend is examining this matter with the local authorities and is now working out a new system of subsidies that will take differential rents into consideration. We certainly believe that people should pay proper rents and that those who cannot afford them should be helped by rent rebate and differential rent schemes, and these matters are being gone into now with a view to producing something new on housing subsidies.
Now I must turn to education. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, started off by saying that my noble friend Lord Blakenham had been extraordinarily complacent about education. Noble Lords are very fond of coming here and saying that we are complacent, and I notice that a right honourable gentleman in another place referred to "smug satisfaction". But they must prove it. There is no reason to suppose that we are complacent or smug about the conditions we know exist and which need improving, whether it is Rachmanism, or rent difficulties or anything else. The basic thing to be cured is shortage. The Party opposite, if they ever have these responsibilities, will very soon find out the truth about that.
428 The reply was given by my noble friend Lord Eccles, who made a most interesting and constructive speech over the whole field of education, in which he is a great expert and for which he was responsible for six years.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, since we are on the subject of Lord Eccles's speech, which was certainly very interesting, I would point out that it was primarily devoted to demonstrating that there ought to be one Ministry and not two Ministries for education. If the speech was so powerful and constructive, does the noble Lord, on behalf of the Government, accept the main contention of Lord Eccles?
§ LORD HASTINGS
Lord Eccles spoke in the last part of his speech on that subject. It was most interesting and I know that it will be studied by my right honourable friend, but I obviously cannot be expected to reply to a very detailed and technical speech of that nature at the end of to-day's proceedings.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I must interrupt the noble Lord. It was not a speech on questions of detail it touched upon major questions of policy. There is no reason whatever why the Government should not have something to say about it.
§ LORD HASTINGS
But I am not the person to come to for policy on education, as the noble Earl knows very well.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am sorry, but this is something quite new in this House. We are told that we must go to the Minister of Education for a statement on policy in education. I think that in all the eighteen years I have been here I have never heard a statement to that effect. Does the noble Lord mean that because we have not got the Minister of Education here, we can get no statement on policy in this House?
§ LORD HASTINGS
The noble Earl knows perfectly well that that is not the 429 case: he is just trying to be rather difficult. Of course, we have a spokesman in this House on education when we have an entirely education debate. At the moment we are debating an Amendment of a rather compendious nature.
My Lords, I must remind the noble Lord that he has charged us with being responsible for talking humbug, hypocrisy and bunkum. That has been his charge to-night in a debate on education. Surely we have a right to know whether or not what we say here is right. Who, then, is going to tell us?
§ LORD HASTINGS
It was on the question of housing that I thought there was a lot of hypocrisy and humbug. On education I said merely that I thought the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, replied very effectively to Lord Longford opposite; and I went on to say that he made a constructive speech and an interesting one, which he did.
§ LORD HASTINGS
Yes, he did. He said we had a very good record in education, and proved it to our satisfaction, and that we were not at all complacent. That is the point. If the noble Earl wants to stay here all night, I am willing to oblige—
§ LORD HASTINGS
—but I should like to come to the Newsom Report.
My noble friend Lord Blakenham referred to the White Paper on Secondary Education in 1958, but my right honourable friend, the Minister of Education, made a speech on November 11, which the noble Earl may have seen, when he was announcing a further advance, including the programme of £80 million in the next two years (which was a very substantial increase) for primary and secondary educational building. One reason for that increase he gave in his speech as:The Newsom Report has fully emphasised the very great importance of continuing the policy of improving our secondary schools.After dealing with further expenditure in education, including the results of the Robbins Report, my right honourable friend ended: 430You will see, therefore, that far from waiting for Robbins and far from allowing Robbins to cramp Newsom, we have already cleared the ground and launched the programme for a further massive advance at all levels of educational building.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I have not finished talking about Newsom yet. In another place only yesterday, Mr. Boyd-Carpenter said this, referring to the Newsom Report [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 684 (No. 6), col. 844]:It contains one major recommendation in respect of the school age, about which … the Minister of Education has already told the House that he will make a statement in due course.As one speaker has asked for a statement about this matter he must have it, and you are going to get it. To continue with the quotation:The other matters are of great interest, but they are essentially for discussion in the educational world before decisions are taken.I hope that that is an answer also to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who asked if it was going to be Robbins minus Newsom or plus Newsom.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, in a sense it is not an answer, because it is merely saying that the Government are going to do nothing; they are just going to talk about it, whereas if they accept Robbins they just do so, with no discussion in educational circles. It does not require discussion in educational circles.
§ LORD HASTINGS
It does need discussion, and you are going to get your statement. There is no question whatever that we are refusing to accept Newsom, because we are not doing anything of the sort.
Lord Longford also drew attention to Chapter 7 of the Newsom Report which, of course, is a serious and thoughtful discussion of the problems that confront teachers in giving religious or moral instruction. I am sure that my right honourable friend would wish to commend it to teachers for careful study. I believe that the advice given in that chapter will command general support. I cannot say more on that at the moment. Whether or not the noble Earl wishes a more authoritative statement, I certainly cannot give it to-day.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am grateful to the noble Lord, but when he says that his right honourable friend will commend it, to which right honourable friend is he referring?
§ LORD HASTINGS
But it was an important matter which the noble Lord brought up and it will, of course, receive attention.
One matter to which Lord Eccles referred was of some importance—the question of grants to post-graduates to fit them to become university teachers. He hoped that these grants would be stepped up. They are the subject of consideration by a Standing Advisory Committee appointed jointly by the Minister of Education, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Science. The grants were last reviewed by the Committee in March, 1962, and they will be reviewing them again in the spring.
The noble Lord, Lord Wise, who made a speech entirely about East Anglia, made a number of complaints about education. I think that the rest of his speech hardly comes into the debate to-day. But on the educational side, I would say that at least in Norfolk and Suffolk they have benefited very greatly from the Government's five-year plan for improving secondary education. The other matters he dealt with were transport and roads, and possibly—although I do not know—my noble friend may have something to say in the general winding-up to-morrow.
I do not know that there are really any other points of detail to which I need reply. As I think I have taken most of the main points, noble Lords will not expect me to go in detail into every single matter that has been brought up. I would now, having got through that bundle of notes—
My Lords, before my noble friend finishes, could I ask him about one matter which concerns his own Ministry and on which he might be able to throw some light? What progress is he making with managing to secure the railway lands for building 432 houses, a matter in which this House has taken a very prominent part?
§ LORD HASTINGS
My right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is very anxious to procure all the land for building that he possibly can, including railway land. He is working on that now and it is certainly not going to be overlooked. But I cannot say exactly when we shall be able to say any more about that.
I now come to the Labour Party's second thesis, and especially to what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said. He said that we are doing too much and we cannot afford it—
§ LORD HASTINGS
That we are promising to do too much and cannot afford it. He made a series of references to the Prime Minister, electioneering and all that. As we all know, in a General Election the other side always behave like this, and there is nothing wrong in that. But to say that we are promising too much, when they cannot prove that our past record is bad or stagnant, when I have been able to prove that it is quite the opposite, and when my noble friend behind me has proved that the economy has been progressing the whole time, does not carry any weight at all. Incidentally, the Labour Party have not been able to prove their case, or the likelihood of their doing better either in the past or in the future. We are not operating from a stagnant position now, but let me remind noble Lords opposite that we were operating from a stagnant position in 1951. The most wonderful remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, earlier—I think it was last week—and which was comparable to his famous statement last summer that he had never regarded himself as a politician, was when he said what a very lucky economic position we had inherited in 1951. I do not know which of those two statements is the more extraordinary.
My Lords, our plans for the future have been carefully laid. They are based on sound economics and on the estimated needs of the country. I think my noble friend Lord Hawke referred to it as a logical development, and he is quite right. But it seems extraordinary 433 that the Labour Party, in spite of their talk of automation—and we had more of it and of technology from the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, this evening—do not seem able to appreciate the present possibilities in accelerated expansion. My noble friend Lord Blakenham, to give one small example, showed that the percentage of the gross national product spent on education rose from 3.2 per cent. to 4.1 per cent. during the two previous Governments of ours; that is to say, by 0.9 per cent. But during the time of the present Government, in the last three or four years, it has gone up by 0.8 per cent—almost as much as it did over the two previous periods, which is an acceleration of twice as much. There is no reason why we cannot accelerate proportionately again, but noble Lords are unwilling to recognise this quite simple fact. They do not want to know of it, but it is perfectly true.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I promise not to interrupt the noble Lord again, but if he will do me the honour of looking at a long speech I made in opening the debate on education in July, he will see all this stated almost in the same way.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I do not know what the noble Earl means by "stated in the same way", because I am stating something which presumably is not very welcome to him.
§ LORD HASTINGS
But there it is. We have had an accelerated expansion and we know we can carry this out; we have proved we can.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, is it not a fact that, as a percentage of national expenditure, we are spending less on education to-day than we did in 1939?
§ LORD HASTINGS
No, so far as I know that is completely untrue, and my noble friend gave the figures earlier this afternoon. We are spending more as a proportion of the gross national product.
§ LORD HASTINGS
To sum up, the Labour Party have failed to prove 434 neglect or stagnation on our part in the fields of housing or education. They have failed to prove that they could do better, and the supposition is that they could not have done as well. They have failed to prove that we cannot fulfil our promises, and we have gone a long way to prove that we can. Finally, the Opposition have not even stated what their own policies are.
§ LORD HASTINGS
They have not said whether they are going to do more, or whether they are going to do less on the ground that the country cannot afford it; and if that is so they will have to explain why. Really, I can only express surprise that noble Lords should bring an Amendment of this nature. They talked about electioneering, but as a matter of fact we welcome this debate, because it gives a chance to expose the fallacies of the Labour Party and to show them for the empty things they are; it gives us a chance to prove to the country conclusively that our policies are soundly founded, carefully planned, and will certainly be carried out with success by the Conservative Party in the next five years.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Baroness Summerskill.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.