§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HEALTH (LORD NEWTON)
My Lords, we now come back to the Amendment before the House, if your Lordships can bring your thoughts down from the upper atmosphere to the ground again. At the beginning of her speech the noble Baroness made some observations about a certain aggressiveness which she says she has noticed on the part of Ministers in your Lordships' House. I thought at one moment that she was making a mild attempt to mollify me in advance.
§ LORD NEWTON
All I want to say about that is that I can assure her nobody has charged me, at any rate, to be more aggressive or less aggressive than I usually am.
§ LORD NEWTON
The noble Lady made some reference to my right honourable friend Mr. Powell, the former Minister of Health; and I was sorry that she did not feel able to make more complimentary references to him. I was his Parliamentary Secretary for a year, and his spokesman in your Lordships' House for three years, and that is something which I have regarded as a great honour. I have not the slightest doubt at all that Mr. Enoch Powell, as the inspiration of the two great long-term plans for the development of the hospital and local authority services in this country, will go down in history as one of the great Ministers of Health of this country.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
§ LORD NEWTON
I should like straight away to reply to what the noble Lady said about the Nuffield Report on Food in Hospitals, which was published this morning. Your Lordships will appreciate that I have not had time to study this Report with the detailed attention which it deserves, but I should like to make some observations about it. The first is that many of our hospitals, including their kitchens, are old, badly designed and inconvenient. Indeed, that is why we have a massive building programme in progress. The Report is based on visits to 152 hospitals in 1961 and 1962, and since then much has been done to improve the quality and service of food in hospitals generally.
In January, 1962, my Department issued a booklet giving comprehensive advice about all catering matters, including the avoidance of unnecessary waste; and more catering officers have been appointed by hospital authorities, and training at all levels has been developed. Nearly all the Report's recommendations are fully in accord with what is already the policy of my Department, and it is most helpful to have our policy endorsed. The Report brings out that when the visits were made some hospitals were not acting on the advice I have just mentioned. My right honourable friend and the hospital authorities are determined to secure universally high standards, and I certainly hope that the Nuffield Report will contribute to the attainment of that end.
If I may invite your Lordships' attention to the terms of the Amendment which we are debating, it charges Her Majesty's Government with having failed to provide adequately and satisfactorily for the care of the sick and the elderly. That is not the whole of the Amendment, but is, I think, a perfectly fair paraphrase. Those are strong words. I interpret them as being an attack on the Government for having neglected the sick and the elderly for the twelve years in which the Conservative Party have been responsible for the Government of this country. I therefore expected a massive attack upon our record. What have we had? Yesterday we had the noble Lord, Lord Champion, 473 who talked to us, with considerable knowledge, about residential accommodation for the elderly. Had he been here, I should have liked to say at more length that I find myself virtually in complete agreement with his views on how these matters should be dealt with; and later in my speech I hope to say more about it.
Then we had the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, a distinguished member of the medical profession and a Member of this House who frequently addresses us on matters appertaining to health. Lord Taylor entertained and delighted us with some philosophical reflections on the future of your Lordships' House and said, among other things, that he had always thought, until the Peerage Act this summer, that we were here until death us did part. That was the nearest the noble Lord got to the care of the elderly. Then we had the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who did not even get us near as that; and the noble Earl is a Member of your Lordships' House who frequently addresses us with great knowledge, particularly about problems of mental health.
To-day we have had the noble Baroness. She talked about the Nuffield Report, with which I have dealt. She talked about staffing problems of all kinds, as she has done frequently before, and to which I have replied. She talked about amorous wives as well. But she ignored—and I think she must know this—the fact that the latest available figures, which were those for March this year, show that the number of nurses and midwives are the highest ever recorded. In the opinion of the noble Baroness they ought to be higher still; but, at any rate, they are higher than they have ever been.
Again, the noble Baroness returned to the charge she has so often made before: that the Government are gravely responsible for the severe strain to which the maternity services in some parts of the country are being subjected. The noble Lady knows, I think, that the reason for this pressure is that the number of births has been increasing much more rapidly than has been expected, and our forecasters did not predict what has happened. One of the hardest predictions to make in this world at any moment of time is what 474 the birth rate is going to be a few years hence. Then the noble Lady gave us once again the benefit of her views on the cost of drugs and the testing of drugs.
My Lords, that is the evidence upon which, apparently, noble Lords opposite are prepared to invite your Lordships to agree with them that Her Majesty's Government have failed adequately and satisfactorily to make provision for the care of the sick and the elderly.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Order, order!
§ LORD NEWTON
May I just go on to say this, my Lords? I wish to make two submissions to your Lordships. The first is that the evidence so far advanced by the Party opposite in support of their Amendment is inadequate; and, secondly, that when your Lordships have permitted me to present to you certain facts, which I think will put the picture in a different light, you will agree with me that this Amendment ought to be rejected.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, has the noble Lord forgotten that my main charge now, as it has been on every other occasion, is that there is no domiciliary service? Everybody knows that, and he has omitted that. We cannot care for the old people in homes, unless we have a comprehensive domiciliary service. That is my main charge, and that is relating to the Amendment.
§ LORD NEWTON
The noble Lady has mentioned that question before. But I have a great deal to say and perhaps, with your Lordships' permission, I could talk about community care, including the domiciliary services, later on in the course of my speech.
My Lords, to begin with I want to give your Lordships some facts about the hospital building programme. We inherited (and when I say "we" inherited, I mean my Party), when we came into office in 1951 capital expenditure on hospital building amounting to £9 million a year. By 1960–61—which was the last year before the Hospital Plan was published—that figure had risen to £23.7 million. Then we had 475 the Hospital Plan, and since then the figures for capital expenditure on building have been: 1961–62 £30.8 million; 1962–63 £33.9 million. The estimated figure for the current year, 1963–64, is £46 million; and the estimated figure for next year, 1964–65, is £51.6 million. To each of these two last figures, for the current year and next year, has to be added £2 million each year for salaries. During the first four years of the Hospital Plan we shall have spent £160 million upon capital building projects. When the Plan was published nearly two years ago the value of work in progress was about £70 million; it is now nearly £120 million, and we expect over the next ten years, 1964–74, to spend around £600 million on hospital building. This has all been said before, my Lords, and it cannot be claimed that this is something which the Government have decided in view of the forthcoming General Election.
Now what about the content of this capital programme? The programme includes some 250 new or substantially remodelled hospitals, as well as some 350 other major schemes for the improvement of existing hospitals. There are at present 65 new or substantially remodelled hospitals in the course of construction, and over 100 other major schemes. Since April, 1961, 90 major schemes, including phases of new or substantially remodelled hospitals, have been completed and their total cost was nearly £25 million. In the same period, 144 major schemes have been started, and the total estimated cost of those schemes is nearly £80 million. The present position is that new or substantially remodelled hospitals are being started at the rate of one every nineteen days.
When we debated the Hospital Plan in your Lordships' House nearly two years ago I introduced that debate. I then pointed out that the Hospital Plan—of which I have just been giving your Lordships the bare bones—provided for modernising the whole pattern and content of the Hospital Service, and that it explained the need for bringing together in district hospitals a wide range of modern facilities for diagnosis and treatment. In practice this has entailed giving an intense study to the problems of designing and building new hospitals. 476 The fruits of this study (and it is still going on, because we are learning all the time) have been applied, are being applied and will be applied in planning the new hospital departments and facilities which have been built, are being built and will be built.
I have given your Lordships the facts and figures of what is happening. But bare statistics leave much to the imagination, and I want to give the House some idea of what these new buildings are actually like. I think that the best way of doing this will be to describe a few of the major projects which I myself have visited in the years that I have been Parliamentary Secretary.
In June this year I opened a new ward block of six wards at Poole General Hospital providing altogether 180 beds, and those wards are a complete breakaway from the traditional open pattern. To many people, I suppose, the image conjured up by the words "hospital ward" is of a long room with beds, fifteen or more ranged down each side, and giving an impression of a military precision which is incapable of being wholly dispelled by the kindness and compassion of doctors and nurses, however great that kindness and compassion may be. My Lords, the new wards at Poole are not like that at all. The space is divided up into attractive smaller rooms and bays, each holding no more than four beds, and there are day rooms for those who are not so ill that they must stay in bed. Of course this is not the end of the story at Poole; there is more to come: another ward block; new supporting departments; a nurses' home; a nurses' training school, an isolation unit and so on. But why I particularly mention Poole, and why it is significant, is that it is one of the first of the new generation of hospitals designed both to serve needs which we can now foresee and to have built-in capacity for adaptation to meet future needs which we cannot yet foresee.
A pilot project, which points the way to important future developments, is the long-stay geriatric unit which I opened at Heath Lane Hospital, West Bromwich, in April. The significance of this pioneering unit is that it is the outcome of work by a research group whose aims were, first, to provide a modern standard 477 of accommodation which would make for efficient nursing of elderly patients in a homely atmosphere—and I think that will please, or at any rate, interest the noble Lord, Lord Champion, whose speech I listened to yesterday, and about which I ventured to make a few observations while he was not in the Chamber.
The research group's second aim was to speed up hospital planning and building by the introduction of industrialised building techniques. A system of dimensional co-ordination was used, and a range has been developed of factory-produced components which can be rapidly erected on the site. This particular project, about which I am talking, demonstrated that such techniques are economically sound, and that savings can be achieved by forward-ordering of components for a programme of similar projects. That is why this is a pilot project. These methods are of considerable interest to the building industry, because they provide long-term orders and because they simplify the processes of setting out and site erection. And, of course, the use of industrialised building techniques is not limited to geriatric units. These techniques are being directed towards a system of standardisations, in which components will be developed for use in any type of hospital building. This is a contribution by the Hospital Service to the age of technology, and I hope that noble Lords opposite who are so interested in technology will take note of that fact.
Lastly, while I am on this subject of new hospitals, I want to mention extensions to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital, which I opened last month—extensions which are the first phase of that hospital's development. The most notable feature is a highly original accidents department designed to deal with all types of accident. Walking cases are kept separate from ambulance cases, and they arrive by separate entrances. In ambulance cases the patients are placed on trolleys, where they remain until treatment is over and they are ready to be put into bed. In other words, my Lords, the trolley serves as a stretcher, X-ray table and operating table.
I should like to go on talking to your Lordships for a long time about this 478 particular accident department, but there is not time. However, there is one other feature of this hospital that I would mention, and that is a really superbly equipped X-ray department with a processing plant that produces a developed, fixed and dried film in seven minutes. I have selected these three building projects more or less at random, but they are indicative of what is going on and of what will go on under the Hospital Plan. It is a continuing process, and a process which, I submit, completely exposes the inaccuracy of the charges of neglect which are made in the Opposition Amendment.
Next I want to move on to community care, to the health and welfare services of the local authority. The last fifteen years have seen not only great social changes but, at the same time, a considerable development in the whole conception of care in the community, and to-day there are services which, fifteen years ago, were either non-existent or barely envisaged—for example, the home-help service, "meals on wheels", hostels for the mentally handicapped and training centres for the mentally subnormal. The first aim of the health and welfare services is to promote health and wellbeing and to forestall illness and disability by preventive measures. But where illness or disability occur, then the aim of these services is to provide care in the community—at the individual's own home, at centres or, where necessary, in residential accommodation—for all who do not require the types of treatment and care which can be given only in hospitals. But, of course, hospital is to be regarded as the last resort.
With the publication of the Hospital Plan in 1962 the local authority health and welfare services could also be planned on equally comprehensive lines, and during 1962 the local authorities went ahead and prepared their development plans. These were presented and analysed in Cmnd. 1973, entitled Health and Welfare: the Development of Community Care, which was published in April of this year. In the preface to this Command Paper we surveyed the various services, and suggested aims and standards which should govern development, but we did not attempt to state principles and objectives dogmatically. The purpose was to stimulate discussion, 479 study and experiment, so that the local authorities might consider and revise their own intentions in the light of the picture as a whole and in the light of what other local authorities were doing. Revision of the plans already published is particularly appropriate, since whole new fields of prevention and community care, above all in relation to mental disorder, are coming into view, as well as new concepts of training for many types of staff.
The local authorities have therefore been asked by us to review their ten-year plans for their health and welfare services and to let us have summaries of the developments they intend for the next ten years from the beginning of next year. From conversations which I have had with local authorities in the last six months up and down the country, since the publication of the Blue Book, Health and Welfare, I am inclined to think that there may be some quite substantial revisions.
Concepts of training are being actively developed by the Council for the Training of Health Visitors and the Council for Training in Social Work, which came into existence in October of last year, and whose inaugural meeting I had the honour of addressing. Also, a council for the training of staff of training centres for the mentally subnormal is now being set up.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Would he make it quite clear—perhaps I just missed it—that what he has just said about the setting up of a council is for the training of teachers for the mentally subnormal?
§ LORD NEWTON
Yes; for teachers.
I come now to the record up to the present time in the local health board welfare authority field. In the years preceding 1958–59, loan sanctions for local health and welfare authority capital building projects averaged about £4 million a year. Since then, the figures have been: 1959–60, £9 million; 1960–61, £14.6 million; 1961–62, £16 million: 1962–63, £15.2 million; and for the current year the Government have allocated £19 million. In addition, authorities have been providing about £3 million annually for capital projects from revenue and other sources, and 480 the figure is likely to be nearer £4 million from now onwards.
The result of this investment has been the opening of new premises as follows—and I should like the noble Baroness to hear this record, because I think it is quite impressive. Between 1959 and the present moment, residential accommodation under Part III of the National Assistance Act has been provided in 346 homes, with a total of 16,450 places. In the current year, new homes have been opened at the rate of three a fortnight. Between 1960 and the present moment (and I mean the present moment, because there will be more next week) there have been opened 212 clinics and 7 health centres. In the current year, the rate of opening has been at least one new clinic or health centre each week. In the same period about 100 ambulance stations have been provided. In the current year, the rate of opening has been about one new ambulance station a fortnight. Then, there have been opened 52 hostels for the mentally ill and 211 training centres for the mentally subnormal. In the current year, the rate of opening has been at least one new training centre a week. In passing, I would mention also that, whereas in 1949–50 the revenue expenditure of local authorities on health and welfare services was £39 million, in 1961–62 it was £103 million, and the plans of the authorities assume that the figure will rise by 1971–72 to £163 million at constant prices.
My Lords, I have talked about what has been happening up to the present moment, but, to return to the capital programme, the plans summarised in the Blue Book, Health and Welfare, forecast the following net increased provision by 1972—and I would emphasise that I am talking about additional provision and not replacement projects: 1,100 homes for the elderly, providing 40,000 places; for the physically handicapped, 100 centres and 48 homes, providing 1,500 places. For the mentally subnormal, 79 junior training centres, providing 6,600 places; 200 adult training centres, providing 16,500 places; and 420 hostels, providing 4,450 places. For the mentally ill, 80 centres, 190 hostels and 145 maternity and child welfare clinics and health centres. A further 1,080 clinics will be built to replace existing premises. My 481 Lords, I wish the noble Lady, Baroness Summerskill, would be kind enough just occassionally to listen to what I am saying.
I should like to repeat that these figures in the Plan at the moment are subject to annual review. As with hospitals, bare facts and figures about local authority health and welfare services convey nothing about the quality of these services. They are very human services and personal to the individual. I want to tell your Lordships something about two of them; the training centres for the mentally subnormal and the care of the elderly.
Compared with other forms of community care, provision for the mentally disordered is still in its infancy. I take it that the reason is that the treatment of mental disorder is the least advanced branch of medical science. In my experience, the standard of the mental health services varies more between authority and authority than do the standards of the other health and welfare services.
In the course of this year I have visited about twenty training centres and hostels for the mentally subnormal in different parts of the country. I have seen some fine new ones, four of which I have opened. The thinking behind these training centres is akin to the concept whereby a normal child is first educated and then, as an adolescent, trained to do a job. An indication that there has been a change of professional thought in recent years is the fact that people now talk about "training" centres rather than about "occupation" centres. A few of the children attending junior centres are ultimately able to earn a living. Others graduate to sheltered workshops and work alongside those who are physically handicapped but mentally normal. The remainder, although unable to progress beyond the adult training centre, may be expected, under supervision, to do useful work and to be wage-earning. It is immensely important if they can do that.
The nature and suitability of such work depends much upon the location of the training centre. I have found that centres near light industrial areas can usually obtain appropriate contract work, and the local factory managements and local Rotary Clubs are anxious to 482 be helpful. Suspicion of mental disorder is deeply rooted in social history. I fancy that a certain amount of public misunderstanding of it has been dispelled in the last few years; but there is still too much. In particular, I doubt whether many people appreciate that more often than not subnormal children, especially mongols, are gay and happy by nature.
§ LORD NEWTON
No, my Lords, I should like to finish this part of my speech. Even limited achievement at training centres in this field is rewarding, as anybody knows who has watched children respond under imaginative handling; and it brings enormous relief to their parents. Not long ago I saw a most interesting experiment under which a local medical officer held regular clinics for the mothers of backward children. While the children played together the mothers discussed among themselves, or with the doctor, their problems and experiences; and several of them told me that they had derived much encouragement from this sharing of progress reports. The point about community care of the mentally disordered is that it is a social service par excellence. It is up to the community to provide the facilities, the framework within which skilled work can be done and the community has accepted that responsibility. At the end of last year 26,000 people of all ages were receiving treatment in 480 centres. The long-term plans of the local health authorities in England and Wales forecast that another 25,000 places will be provided in the next ten years.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. This is a point of some importance. Twice in the last few sentences the noble Lord has mentioned the "mentally disordered" mixed up with arrangements for treating the "mentally subnormal." If by "mentally disordered" he means "mentally ill," then I would agree with him; but the mentally subnormal are not mentally ill. These are two different classes of people altogether and the noble Lord must realise that it is no good talking about the mentally disordered when he means the mentally ill.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, thinks it necessary to give me a lecture.
§ LORD NEWTON
If he has taken offence at my description of the mentally disordered, I am sorry. But I am surprised that the noble Lord is not prepared to credit me with knowing the difference between the two types of disorder.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I will now turn to community care of the elderly, and I shall now be dealing with some questions that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, discussed yesterday. Ten years ago residential accommodation of the elderly was almost entirely in former workhouses, the former Public Assistance institutions. But as the 1950s proceeded, in order to add to and replace that accommodation, new and smaller homes were erected. To begin with, almost all of them were conversions or adaptations of existing private houses. Latterly, practically all the additional accommodation brought into use has been and is built specially for the purpose. And the old institutions are disappearing.
During this year, in my capacity as Parliamentary Secretary I have visited at least two dozen homes for the elderly all over the country, and I saw all kinds of them. I have no doubt at all that virtually all those former workhouses that remain should be run down and closed as quickly as possible. Moreover, when the old people in them have been rehoused, the buildings should not be used for any other residential purposes; and any local authority which may contemplate some other use for them will have to be discouraged by everybody who is in a position to exercise discouragement. It will be very seldom that one of these buildings will he capable of adaptation into a place which will conform to modern standards. I have seen only one which in my view might be converted successfully: it is architecturally rather good and in charming surroundings; but, even so, 484 the cost of conversion would probably be prohibitive.
The most important thing about a home for the elderly is that it should be as home-like as possible. It follows from this that a home must not be too big—about 40 places is probably about right, as well as being the soundest proposition financially—and it follows also that there should be a high proportion, and I would say a very high proportion, of single bedrooms, with a few doubles. It is for these reasons that the emphasis to-day is on purpose-built homes. Converted premises tend to be too large and to have too many dormitories. On the other hand, in purpose-built premises much more active efforts have to be made to promote and preserve a homelike or homely atmosphere. I went to one which my local authority escort mistook for a school—and indeed from the outside it looked exactly like a small new school.
Another advantage of the purpose-built home is that it can be sited where it is most needed. It is tempting to a local authority, when it already has a site on which there are already other services to build on that site a home as well. But this is not really desirable. Old people do not want to be segregated from those younger than themselves or from children. So the right answer is probably a purpose-built house on a housing estate; but, even so, I have seen one or two small adapted or converted homes which struck me as absolutely ideal, since the atmosphere was so nice. A very great deal turns on the personality of the warden or superintendent; and on the whole the local authorities seem to select their staff very wisely. I have been enormously impressed by the care with which local welfare authorities study all the factors I have mentioned and experiment in order to discover the best possible solutions.
But I am really putting the cart before the horse, because, in terms of community care of the elderly, the residential home is, so to speak, the last resort. Before that there is special housing—flatlets, specially designed for old people, with a resident warden. I have seen some very successful examples of this type of provision. It is extremely popular with the old people themselves and, from the point of view of the local authority, 485 cheaper than providing places in residential homes.
Provision of these flatlets began in about 1957–58, as they are a comparatively new conception. At the end of September of this year, there were 3,132 specially built ones in England and Wales and a further 1,505 provided by conversion. We have asked local welfare authorities, when making the first revision (to which I have already referred) of their ten-year plans, to include a forecast of the special housing with warden service which they expect to provide in the course of the next five years. I am most optimistic about this. From the talks I have had with local authorities about this type of provision, I feel that they are becoming enthusiastic about it. This may well be one of the most beneficial consequences of the publication of Health and Welfare.
Finally, and again in the wrong order, there are the domiciliary services, which enable elderly people to go on living in their own homes and in which the noble Baroness is particularly interested. Particularly important in this connection is the work of the home nurses, home-helps and members of the voluntary organisations. Elderly people are reluctant to leave their own homes and move into special housing or residential accommodation, unless there is no alternative, and it is remarkable how, in places where the domiciliary services, statutory and voluntary, are well organised, even quite severely handicapped people remain very happy in their own homes. The local authorities are planning to increase their domiciliary staff, as can be seen in the Blue Book, and they may well have to plan for more. It is encouraging, too, that voluntary effort is growing. For example, the number of "meals-on-wheels" provided by the W.V.S. rose from 1,890,000 in 1959 to 3,460,000 in 1962. In my experience, for what it is worth, there is nothing in which local authorities take more pride, at councillor level and at officer level, than in their provision for the elderly. The discovery of this is a stimulating experience, and there could be no better augury for the future.
My Lords, I apologise for having spoken for so long but, in view of the 486 strong language with which this Amendment on the Order Paper is worded, I felt that it was not sufficient for me merely to suggest that noble Lords opposite are not justified in the terms of that Amendment, but, in addition, that the facts of what had happened in hospital work and local authority work showed that these charges cannot be sustained. I am content that the facts speak for themselves. I believe that the great long-term programmes for the development of both hospital and local authority services, which are well under way, are the best possible answer to the charges of noble Ladies and noble Lords opposite.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Silkin, in his powerful and penetrating speech yesterday moving this Amendment, characterised the gracious Speech for what it is. It has length without breadth or depth. It is in fact a meretricious effusion and, as The Times has inferred, is really a pre-Election manifesto. I suppose that it is the first expression of the adjuration of the Prime Minister to his uncertain followers to regulate their actions and their sayings in terms of the impending General Election, not as to the interests of the people or of the nation, but in the interests of Party. The gracious Speech is an incomplete catalogue of the things which successive Governments should have done years ago. Now the present Government is rushing, not necessarily to do them, but to promise to do them, in inadequate and insufficient measure, and without, I fear, any real sincerity either of intent or of purpose.
To-day we are discussing Home Affairs and the Amendment we are debating condemns the Government for their sustained failure to make adequate provision for the social services. The Government have no comprehensive policy or pattern of social services. They still see them in isolation, not as a process of human progress to fit into the changing forms of modern society. Still less do they look upon them other than as first-aid provisions for people who fall by the wayside as a consequence of the operation of our social and economic system; not as attributes of civilised society, wherein national affluence should make for dignified and gracious living, where social justice should prevail and affluence be fairly and justly spread and enjoyed.
487 Particularly have successive Governments failed in housing and education. Other speakers have dealt with these two matters or will deal with them in the course of the continuing debate. For myself, I propose to confine my remarks to certain problems which beset our economy at the present time, problems which are due, for the most part, to the manifest and manifold failures of Tory Governments and for which no positive policy is to be found in the gracious Speech. Reference was made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor the other day in critical terms to the state of austerity which prevailed for some time immediately following the last war. The policy then, which was pursued with regret but yet with courage and resolution by the Labour Government, saved this country from bankruptcy, its people from misery and the nation from the danger of civil commotion. If the conditions which prevailed after the First World War had prevailed after the Second, no one could say what would have happened in this "tight little island".
Irksome as rationing was, it preserved equality and equity on a basis of need and not on that of the length of one's pocket. Especially was this the case with the children. In the shortages that prevailed, rationing enabled them to have a fair chance and a fair provision of food and other essentials, with the result that we avoided a generation of children afflicted with ill-health and debilitation. This policy avoided our becoming once again a C3 nation. The Tory Party's opposition to rationing did a grave and indefensible disservice to the people and especially to the children. Those who opposed rationing from Party political policy should ever be ashamed, and there were many of them.
Since the question of austerities after the war has been rather unwisely raised, let it be said that the grave crime of the Government since 1951 is that they have wasted the fruits and potentialities of the austerities which restored the economic structure of the nation and which had been borne with understanding and fortitude by the people. Instead of building upon the foundations which had been laid, the incoming Tory 488 Government threw the economy to the winds of unplanned and unrestrained scramble of so-called private enterprise, which the former Prime Minister described, in his more enlightened days, as "exhibiting the ethics of the casino". The Tory Government of the day set the people free, and consequent Governments continued the so-called freedom—freedom to be complacent; free to let the economy stagnate; free to let production fall away until we were at the bottom of the league of industrial nations; free to allow our share of world trade to drop from 25.5 per cent. in 1950 to 14.6 per cent. in May of this year.
Complacency reigned supreme, and the people were invited to admire and seek the opportunity State. My Lords, opportunity for whom? For the unemployed; for the school leaver without a job; for the homeless trudging the streets; for unmarried couples with nowhere to live? Yes, opportunity—for the landlords' extortionate activities. Indeed, so smug and satisfied were the Government that the former Leader of the House, who has "been and gone and left us", said on July 30, 1962, in the debate on the Finance Bill [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 243. col. 5]:The first thing I wish to say is that there is nothing radically wrong at the moment with our society.Forsooth, this is Dr. Pangloss in excelsis, Strange to relate, in the very same speech the former noble Viscount delivered what I thought was a blistering indictment of our industrial and commercial affairs. In July, 1962, when this statement was made by the former Leader of the House there were unemployed no fewer than 397,000 persons—nothing radically wrong, I suppose, from the point of view of the Government. In October this year the number had gone up to 474,000, including, 14,000 school leavers. And yet we are told by a leading Member of the Government that "there is nothing radically wrong".
The unemployed generally were greatly pleased to know that; and so were the people of the North-East, where the rate of employment in this October was nearly twice the national average. The position there became so menacing that the former Prime Minister sent the 489 noble Viscount the former Leader of the House to the area to inquire and report, with special responsibilities. The Report of that effort was published the other day. Whatever may be the merits of the Report—and informed opinion does not seem to be impressed—the former noble Viscount and those associated with him had made a shattering discovery, a real break-through: to wit, that the North-East Region is not in decline; it is only in transformation. Really, really! The people of the area will, I am sure, be greatly comforted by that discovery. The cynic may well say that words are given to us to conceal our thoughts. But, in either case, according to the former Lord President of the Council, there is nothing radically wrong with our society. It has been static and contractionist, when it should have been dynamic and expansionist, and we have succeeded amazingly well in getting to the bottom of the league in production and in exports, and one from the bottom in prices. What an achievement, my Lords! Conservative planning works! So it does—in reverse. And still it leaves nothing radically wrong.
The gracious Speech says that the Government will encourage growth without inflation. What growth? What sort of growth? Growth of the number of unemployed? Growth of the number of school leavers scrambling to find employment? Growth of the homeless? Growth of the evicted? Growth of the strong-arm landlords and their activities? As the editor of the Economic Review of the National institute of Economic and Social Research said, Britain could have created in 1961 £2,500 million of extra resources by matching the performance of the Netherlands, the lowest expanding nation of our Continental neighbours.
Let me be fair and bring the record and achievements of the Government and their Tory predecessors right bang up to date in the field of growth. After all, even the present Government are entitled to their failures. I quote from The Times of yesterday. This is an excerpt from the London and Cambridge Economic Bulletin; it is part of the editorial review, and it says:Since Selwyn Lloyd's 'little budget' in July, 1961 the British economy has been running well below its potential. The most visible sign of 490 this has been the increase in unemployment; but this factor was actually a relatively minor cause of the loss in potential output. In addition, some people—mainly married women and elderly men—were 'lost' from the labour force, who would have sought and found jobs in a period of more active demand; and output per person actually at work failed to rise in the normal manner, let alone at the higher pace called for by the National Economic Development Council.That is a very ominous statement, and we unhappily know that it is true. The excerpt also states that for the third quarter of this year there was still a considerable slack in our economy. So, it appears, in the Government's view, that slack is the road to growth. We have had no growth of the right kind in our economy. What we have had is inflation without growth, and the £ is to-day worth about 13s. of what it was in 1950. The retail price level, taken in 1956 at 100, was in August of this year 121. That's inflation that was, and the growth that wasn't. And, my Lords, we proceed from the growth that wasn't to the modernisation that isn't.
The gracious Speech says that the Government will bring forwardfurther proposals for modernisation of Britain".For twelve years the Tory Governments have been in power, and only now do they discover that much of our economic and social structure is out of date, is decrepit and needs to be brought up to date. In support of that, I refer to the Committees which sat and reported on the shipbuilding industry, on a large section of the engineering industry, and on the antiquarian and antiquated condition of the canals in this country; and in the cotton industry, where a special Committee was appointed, the Government undertook to make certain advances to acquire new machinery. One of the persons intimately concerned with that said in February, 1962, that some of the new machinery, the purchase of which had been subsidised partially by the Government, was standing unused and idle.
What proposals have the Government brought forward to modernise our economy and social structure? None, my Lords. Throughout the twelve years of Tory Government the facts have cried out for review and modernisation. Now, when the lost years can never be recaptured, modernisation has become the sacred cow of the Government, to be 491 kept available to worship—I will not say "milked"—until after the Election. Somebody has told the Prime Minister about modernisation and automation, and he has become a privileged worshipper of the docile animal. True, he appears to know very little about it, but it is impressive to talk about—it sounds fine. Moreover, the Prime Minister who is going to lead the nation into the promised land of modernisation, growth and expansion, has frankly admitted that he has no economic knowledge, and that when he reads economic documents he has to have a box of matches and start moving them into position to simplify and illustrate the points to himself. So he said, with obvious self-approval, in September, 1962, and there has been no denial of that statement. This is the person who, self-disqualified, is to redeem the nation by modernisation. He is to lead the nation. He does not know where he is going or how, but he is going there guided by a box of matches. That is the fate of this tight little island.
My Lords, not since Alice in Wonderland has there been such a burning faith for illumination in Downing Street. I understand that the students of economics are already—with proper obeisance, of course—exchanging their texts books for matches, that Mr. Macleod is writing a critical appreciation of the P.M.'s technique and that the Spectator has acquired the serial rights. After this confession, not the severest of his critics would say that the Prime Minister is "matchless". We may applaud the former frankness of the Prime Minister as to his personal deficiencies, which, in any event, let us be fair, have already become discernible, but we must deplore the fact that devious Party actions have put the former Foreign Secretary in charge as Prime Minister of the interests and future of this nation's affairs at this most critical time in our peace-time history. Decidedly a bleak outlook. Happily, it is only for the next few months, and then the long night will be over and the people of this country will rejoice.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, before I come to the main topics of debate, there is one point 492 which I might almost have felt was extraneous to our discussions. But as it was raised, I understand, by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, yesterday when he introduced the Opposition Amendment which your Lordships are discussing, I feel that I should like to give him, if I may, some reply.
I have noticed, from reading the debate, that the noble Lord to whose speech I referred repeated the taunt which was flung last Wednesday by the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, at the Government: that the proposals of the gracious Speech were nothing more than an Election manifesto. Noble Lords on the other side of the House may regard that as a good debating point, though I very much doubt whether it is even that. But it is certainly no more, for they must know, with their long experience of politics, that any pronouncement, by whatever Party, in the last year of a Parliament is in the nature to some degree of an Election manifesto. That is not confined to Governments; it is equally true of Oppositions. Those brilliant highly coloured speeches which have been made in recent weeks by Mr. Wilson and other Labour leaders, who paint so rosy an account of a Britain under a Labour Government—are they not all in the nature of Election manifestos? Are they not all aimed at persuading the electors of this country of the extraordinary advantages of voting for the Labour Party? It is quite true they are not framed in the form of a speech such as the gracious Speech, but that is only because the Labour Party are not in a position to do that. It is not because they would not if they could. Of course they would.
There was a suggestion, I thought, in the noble Earl's remarks, at any rate, that the proposals of the Government in the gracious Speech were in the nature of a bribe. It is paying a handsome compliment to the Government, if I may say so, that the Opposition should think that these proposals are calculated to attract the support of the electorate, because that is what a bribe is. But, surely, that is a very jaundiced way of looking at this Speech.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Is it not factual in our 493 experience in these twelve years—the programmes published immediately after a Budget before going to an Election on two occasions, and then having to run away from it and put on restrictions afterwards? A real bribe by a special Budget.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Perhaps the noble Earl will allow me to finish my remarks. I did not interrupt his. I still think that that is a very jaundiced way of looking at the Speech. What the Speech is, in fact, is a catalogue of the measures which the Government intend to introduce if the Opposition make that possible. The Government may be slightly optimistic in thinking that it is practicable to pass all these proposals into law in a single Parliament. I am bound to say that they seem that to me. At any rate, the Speech is not promising anything which the Government do not intend to perform; and if it does not prove possible in the space of this Parliament—indeed, if the Opposition themselves make it impossible—then the Opposition themselves must surely take a share of the blame which results. So much for the Election address point. I really do not think, if I may say so, that there is very much in it.
Now I should like to turn to the subject of the Amendment itself. My purpose in intervening, quite briefly, as I shall, in this debate this afternoon is to draw attention to what appears to me, and I have no doubt to others, too, to be the strangely selective character of the subjects mentioned in the Opposition Amendment. In his speech with which he opened the general debate on the gracious Speech last week, the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, remarked, a trifle acidly I thought, that the Government seemed most anxious that their failures should not be put before the public. If I may say so, reading the Amendment, the Opposition seem equally anxious that the Government successes should not be put before the public. They mention housing, education, care of the, sick, and so on, all of which everyone of us agrees are subjects of the greatest importance—and all, incidentally, subjects on which vast sums are, in fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Newton told us this afternoon, 494 being spent and on which considerable advances have been made, though so much still remains to be done.
But there was no mention in the Amendment, nor, indeed, in the speeches of the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, in the general debate, or in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, this afternoon, of the equally important subjects of employment and wages—no mention at all. That is, surely, a very strange omission, for employment and wages are a subject about which one would expect the Labour Party to be particularly concerned. Indeed, to press for more employment and higher wages was regarded, when I used to be in the House of Commons, as one of the main reasons for the Labour Party's existence, I was so intrigued by this omission that I took the trouble to get the most reliable figures I could on this important subject. They come from the Monthly Digest of Statistics, issued by the Central Statistical Office.
What did I find? I found that the number of men and women in civil employment in October, 1951, when the Labour Party left office, was 22,146,000; and the number of men and women in civil employment in July, 1963, when the Tories had been in power for twelve years, was 23,963,000; that is, an increase of 1,817,000. Why did not the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, or the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, mention those extremely interesting figures? And what about wages? The total wage and salary bill, divided by the number in civilian employment, gives an annual income per head in 1951 of £348 and in 1962 of £645. If some noble Lord on the other side of the House is burning to point out to me that the cost of living has risen considerably since then, I would reply that I have been at special pains to find out what the increase has been, not in nominal but in real wages; that is, what those wages will buy; and I find that the answer is that real wages are up by 35 per cent. Surely that does not justify the melancholy picture that has just been painted to us by the noble Lord, Lord Latham. Indeed, one has only to go out into the streets and shops 495 in practically every town of this country to see what a travesty his account was.
I remember being engaged a good many years ago, when I was still leading your Lordships' House, in a verbal tussle with a noble Lord on the Benches opposite. That noble Lord had described the system of free enterprise which was championed by the Conservative Party, rather as the noble Lord, Lord Latham, has done to-day, as "the economics of the jungle". I, in my reply, said that there was one thing to be said for the jungle: it was at least productive and if it were to be tamed and pruned it could provide fruitful land. I added that I thought it vastly preferable to what I described (perhaps rather impertinently) as the "economics of a desert, where nothing grew at all", It must be remembered, my Lords, that this exchange of views took place at the end of a period when Socialism had been tried for the first time, with a big clear majority in favour of the Labour Party in another place, and it had been tried, too, with the aid of loans from those capitalist countries United States and Canada amounting to £1,900 million; and it had not proved so successful as all that.
The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, may say—I think he did say in his speech—that this was an especially difficult period in which, considering the circumstances, the Labour Government did very well. But that was not the view of the British people in 1951. What they did was to turn out the Labour Government and put in the Tories; they have kept the Tories in ever since, and the result has been what I quoted earlier: employment up by nearly 2 million; real wages up, on the official figures, by 35 per cent. I quote those figures only to suggest to noble Lords opposite that my metaphor of the jungle and desert—though perhaps it was unduly frivolous—was not so very wide of the mark.
My Lords, I speak to-day as one of those whose speeches during the last few years will surely not have been regarded as unduly laudatory of the Government, but, on the contrary, strongly critical of certain aspects of their policy. There is, indeed, one aspect, which I believe 496 is down for discussion in this House next week, on which we are likely to be perhaps more critical than ever before. But there is one thing for which we have never criticised the Government. We have never suggested that the Government have failed to build up the material prosperity of the people of this country. Our criticism has been, if I may say so, exactly the opposite. It has been that everything—the needs of defence, our solemn obligations to our own people in our dependencies and Colonies overseas; all these important things—has been sacrificed to the one object of increasing the material prosperity of the people of these islands. In that object I believe that the Government have succeeded, whatever the cost may have been in other directions; and I do not for one moment believe that the policy of Socialist planning, to which the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, pins so much faith, a policy which means, in practice, putting the community back into the straitjacket from which they freed themselves in 1951 with a sigh of relief, will do any better than the Government's policy, or even nearly as well.
I certainly would not be convinced by the arguments that have been put forward by the Labour spokesmen in this debate, who first attack the Government by saying that they have promised to do too much and that they could not possibly afford it (and those were the words I think of the noble Earl, Lord, Alexander of Hillsborough) and then attack them, as the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, did this afternoon, for not spending more. They cannot both be true.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not want to misrepresent the noble Earl, but I think he did say that in the gracious Speech we promised more than we can perform, and he asked where were we going to get the money. If I have misquoted the noble Earl I hope he will tell me so.
I do not, of course, deny for one single moment that a great deal, an immense amount, still remains to be done. That would be true, I believe, under any social 497 and economic system. We all know that, in spite of the fact that upwards of 3½ million dwelling houses have been put up in the last twelve years, very many more houses need to be built if the people of this country are to have the homes which all of us want them to have. We all know that in spite of the very high rate of employment which exists to-day there are certain particular areas where the spectre of unemployment is still lifting its ugly head. We are all aware of many of those other things about which the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, spoke to us this afternoon. But that should not blind us to what has been and what is being accomplished. On the contrary, as I see it, it should only spur us on to further efforts. For politics, as F. S. Oliver said a good many years ago, is an Endless Adventure, always reaching out for something better than we already have.
That leads me to the last thing I want to say to your Lordships this afternoon. There is one aspect of the modernisation of Britain (to use the popular jargon of the day) that seems hardly to have been mentioned in most of the speeches of either Party, either here or in another place; yet it is surely very important. It is what I may call a modernisation of the relationship between capital and labour in this country, a subject on which I think I have often in past years spoken to your Lordships. I submit that it is still far too much assumed that the relationship must continue to be in future what it has been in the past, a relationship between a buyer and a seller: of a buyer of labour at the cheapest rate he can get it, and a seller of labour at the highest price he can get for it—a price that is only too often finally settled by a strike.
I am not saying this, my Lords, in any spirit of criticism of trade unionism. I am quite ready to believe that the employers are just as often responsible for industrial conflict as are the men. All I am saying is that this conception of a buying and selling of labour is an antiquated and should be, I think, an outmoded conception. A time is surely coming, and in my view must come, when capital and labour must be regarded not as enemies but as partners in a common enterprise, in which it is to the interests of bath that profits to 498 be shared, and shared fairly, should be as large as possible. That is to the interest of labour as much as it is to the interest of capital; and it is to the interest of the country perhaps most of all. For it is only if the wealth of a country can be increased to the greatest possible degree—and industrial strife is one of the great hindrances to that—that we (by which I mean all Parties alike, the country as a whole) shall be able to tackle our major problems, such as housing, with the speed and scope required. That—the increasing of the wealth of a country to the fullest extent and with the greatest speed possible—is perhaps the most vital need to-day, and it can be achieved successfully, I am sure, only by co-operative effort between those who lend their labour and those who lend their money to what both regard as a joint enterprise.
My Lords, I know that in making these remarks I am saying nothing new. I know that it is only what has been long in the minds of many of the more forward-looking trade unionists and employers of labour. But it has struck me that this, perhaps the most important thing to all of us in this country to-day, has as yet bulked very small in this debate on the gracious Speech, and it is for that reason that I have felt impelled to raise it to-day in your Lordships' House.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, it appeared to me that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, having first of all repudiated the Prime Minister's advice to the Conservative Party that with every breath they draw and every blow they strike they should think of the Election, then proceeded to make a very fair electioneering speech. He twitted my noble friends with giving only part of the story when they quoted figures, but I would remind him that in referring to the utterly disparate conditions in 1951 and 1963 he himself was giving only a partial picture, because if he referred to almost every civilised country in the world he would find that the advance in those countries was considerably greater than that we have achieved in the same time in this country, although we had a better start than most of them.
I do not propose to make an electioneering speech. In fact, I am going to devote my remarks to a topic in which 499 in my view there are no votes whatsoever. I want to come back to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Newton, and first to agree with him to some extent—possibly the only time in my speech I shall agree with him—in regard to his remarks concerning the Nuffield report on hospital food which was published this morning. Like him, I have not read the whole report; I have read only the newspaper accounts of it; and I must confess that so far as my own hospitals are concerned I am unable to recognise the figures in the report as applying to anything of which I have knowledge. The noble Lord said that in so far as the report could be justified it was because hospitals were falling by the wayside and not carrying out his Department's instructions. In the hospitals of which I have knowledge I am quite sure that the food, in variety, content, adequacy, cooking and presentation, is as good as it could possibly be. But I believe that is because we have disregarded his Department's instructions when the conditions of financial stringency were imposed on us; we refused to comply with them if it meant giving the patients an inadequate diet.
The noble Lord complained in his speech that we on this side of your Lordships' House had not attempted sufficiently to justify the terms of our Amendment. I hope he will have no cause to complain on that score of the speech I propose to make, because I want to deal with the services for the mentally subnormal—not with castles in the air and the future or future plans, but the position as it is now. At one time during the noble Lord's speech I ventured to intervene when on two occasions he referred to the mentally disordered right in the midst of sentences when he was dealing with the mentally subnormal. I am, of course, perfectly well aware that the noble Lord knows the very important distinction; it is not a fuddy-duddy thing, it is a vital and important distinction. But he must realise that his speeches will be read, and to those parents of mentally handicapped children it would appear, unless the point were corrected, that he in fact was unaware of the important difference, and that might account for some fundamental deficiencies in the present service.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will be good enough to read to-morrow what I said, and if he really believes anyone reading what I said thinks I do not understand the difference between mental illness and mental subnormality, that individual ought to have his head looked at.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am sorry the noble Lord said that. Of course I was listening most carefully, and that is why I intervened, because he said that twice. But of course I shall read the whole of his speech again, and I hope he will too, and he will know my intervention was quite justified.
In the early 1950s I was Chairman of the Mental Health Committee of the South Western Region. That Committee had responsibility for some 17,000 beds in 100 mental hospitals and mental deficiency institutions. To-day I am Chairman of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children. That is a voluntary organisation comprising more than 300 local societies and more than 20,000 members. I think, therefore, I am in a fair position to judge the position as it was twelve or thirteen years ago and the position to-day, and the need to-day. Twelve years ago conditions in some of my hospitals were such as to prompt me to feel that we ought to have a sign above the door, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here". Since then I am very glad, and we are all glad, that the wind of change has blown through our mental hospitals, and whilst there is still an enormous amount to do it is not too much to claim that there has been a beneficial revolution in both the public and the official attitude towards the problems and treatment of the mentally ill. Unfortunately, in my opinion no such revolution is discernible in the treatment of the mentally retarded. True we call them to-day subnormal, or severely subnormal, and we have abandoned the terms "imbecile" or "idiot"; but the patients are just the same and the adequacy and efficacy of their care and treatment shows, to my mind, little general improvement.
The noble Lord gave some important figures of what is now being done. But let us look at the situation as it is, and judge the proportion of those being cared for compared with those who need care. To-day there are probably almost 501 250,000 mentally-handicapped people of all ages in the country; yet only some 61,000 are receiving treatment in sub-normality hospitals, and even so these hospitals are 24 per cent. overcrowded. Only people who know what the hospitals are like and what their establishment is know what 24 per cent. overcrowding means. Only 21,000 subnormal children are in the care of local authorities in England and Wales, and of that 21,000 about one-third—I am quoting the official figures—are not receiving training of any kind.
The noble Lord spoke about an increase in the local authority domiciliary services, but the one-third of the 21,000 children are only visited at home—they are receiving neither training nor care. Some adults among the remaining 175,000 are being trained for employment in voluntary and local authority hostels and workshops. But even in the figures that the noble Lord gave this afternoon the plan which he described intends, over a number of years, to provide 16,000 places. That is compared with 175,000 people not receiving any care at all. That means that there are at least 150,000 people hidden away with no chance of receiving the expert training and education which would enable them to realise to the full such capabilities as they possess. I am delighted to hear the noble Lord agree that these people can be trained.
I say that this is a national calamity, which could be removed if we exercised the same determination as we are now applying in the field of mental health. Last night on television the Prime Minister said this:It is the rôle of a Government to help each individual to make the most of his talents, his personality and his character.That is an unexceptionable sentiment. But when are the Government going to apply it to the mentally handicapped, who of all members of the community are the most in need of help and the most neglected? I freely concede that this is by no means entirely the problem of the Government; but I submit it is entirely a matter in which the Government must provide the necessary leadership. For example, in the field of medical education these children—and all of them are perpetually children, whatever their age—are not usually either physically or 502 mentally ill; they are just of limited mental capacity. Yet the problem is handled at present almost entirely by doctors with psychiatric qualifications; whereas in the first instance it is almost always a problem for a pediatrician. It is an important part of his function. At present, he just makes a diagnosis and little more. I do not know of a single out-patient clinic in London, or indeed in the country, where there is a consultant pediatrician to help guide and encourage the parents of handicapped children. There are medical problems which are peculiar to the mentally handicapped and which are almost a closed book to the psychiatrist.
We need these special out-patient clinics. It would be a good beginning if we could have one in each teaching hospital. We should also encourage pediatricians, by means of scholarships, to specialise in this subject, and we could make a good start by setting up a professorship in mental retardation. It seems incredible that we have not such a chair already. Of course, if the public are to be educated, their knowledge can only come from doctors who have themselves been properly educated in this subject. The teachers of medical students barely mention this particular problem. A great deal of attention is still given to obscure and rare medical conditions, and questions about them are faithfully asked in all the examinations. But post-graduate courses in general medicine put little stress on mental handicap, a field where a quarter of a million patients are awaiting treatment. I ask: when will the Minister give attention to this glaring need?
Then there is the no less important question of a sufficient supply of skilled trained nurses. Almost all our hospitals for the subnormal are chronically understaffed, and we are nowhere near the one to ten nurse-patient ratio. We have to remove the feeling which still lingers in nursing circles, that this kind of nursing is the poor sister of the profession. It calls for people of the highest intelligence and the widest range of knowledge who, when properly trained, find that they have the most rewarding job in the whole field of nursing.
I am sure that the Royal College of Nursing is becoming increasingly aware of this fact. But it is obvious from their 503 report on The Rôle of Psychiatric ward sisters and charge nurses in the rehabilitation of patients that they cannot yet see the problem in the round. They still talk about occupational therapy, as if the division of rôles in the hospital for the subnormal must be treated as between nurses and occupational therapists. They make no mention of the importance in the patient's development of psychiatric and educational methods. Occupational therapy, designed to prevent early senility and atrophy in long-term adult patients, is not relevant to the needs of a child, whose personality has yet to emerge and who cannot be assumed to be inferior merely because his intellectual capacity is limited.
Therefore, my first question to the Minister is: what steps is he taking, what leadership is he giving, to see that the training of doctors, nurses and teachers of child development is related to modern knowledge and to the educational methods most helpful to subnormal children? Has he, indeed, consulted the distinguished consultants whom he brought together on the Scottish Committee, and has he consulted the General Nursing Council on this point? Will he ask them to include in a training syllabus for nurses who are going to work in these hospitals a study of child development? Indeed, the whole problem is vastly more one of special education than it is of nursing or medical treatment. I would ask: is the Minister determined to ensure not merely that the content of their training is right, but that the numbers of specially trained staff are sufficient to enable the hospitals to fulfil a therapeutic as distinct from a custodial purpose? In conjunction with this, will the Minister take steps to ensure that the educational needs of severely subnormal children are fully attended to?
Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Newton, has said, I could from my own knowledge quite fairly say that the educational position of these children is at the moment really appalling—in fact, the majority of them are not being taught at all. We want these needs met by suitably qualified teachers, and if the noble Lord will take vigorous action in these fields it will introduce new life and a new spirit into the existing hospi- 504 is action. These children in hospital are tals. Over and over again we have had verbal agreements; what we want now still institutionalised. The staff caring for them are largely cut off from modern psychological and educational techniques. The parents, who are such an indispensable part of their children's training, are still excluded from all but the most formal and impotent relationship with the hospital authorities.
The Scott Report has now been before us for some time. When are the Government, I would ask, going to take action on its recommendations? I know that these things take time, but I suggest that some steps could and should be taken at once. If we have a Committee sitting for two years, if we take another two years to implement its recommendations, and then take another two years to put them into operation, that means a total of six years. They are the vital, formative years of a child's life. It is not long in the political and Parliamentary sense, but it is a very important time in the life of one of these children. I would ask that we should begin immediately to humanise and personalise our hospitals for the mentally retarded so that they can reproduce the life, not of hospital but of the home.
I would suggest, first, that we should include parents and representatives of local authority services on every management committee. In many cases this is a lifetime's business, and those looking after the interests of the patient throughout his life should have a say in the administration of the hospital. It is never sufficiently realised with regard to these children that their parents care for them quite as much as for their normal children; that they think of them not as a burden but as a blessing, and they therefore have a right to a partnership in their care. After all, consumers of gas and electricity have a statutory right to be consulted through consultative councils—why not the parents whose children are permanent or semi-permanent residents of mental deficiency institutions? Secondly, I would ask that the Government should take immediate steps to ease the transfer of a patient from one hospital to another nearer to his parents' home. This should be as normal a practice as changing schools. For there are many cases where a parent would not take a new 505 job or take promotion if it meant moving to a district away from where his child is in hospital.
Thirdly, there should be a greater degree of co-operation between hospitals and local authorities. For example, hospital patients should be able to use local authority training centres. Hospital boards and local authorities should get together in establishing and administering, under special supervision, hostels in the community. Fourthly, there should be joint consultation about the training of nurses and teachers to work both in hospitals and in the community, and there should be clarification of the present uncertainty about the future prospects of staff whose jobs may be transferred from the hospital to the community.
The noble Lord, Lord Newton, drew particular attention to the advances in community care and the provisions for it. Everyone welcomes the steps that have been taken, but so far they are hopelessly inadequate. I would submit to him that the problem is now greatly aggravated by the policy which is being operated (a policy to which I do not object) of, as it were, pushing patients out of hospital on to the local authority. The vitally important problem which must be settled is the financial one: who is to pay? The local authority cannot meet this cost out of the rates. Is the Minister going to provide the money? Will he perhaps have the cost partly offset by an appropriate transfer of money from the Regional Boards to the local authorities? There can be no really decisive action, and we shall make no progress towards caring for the 150,000 unfortunates who are hidden away, until there is bold action to settle the financial question.
I would submit that it could best be settled by a discussion between the Regional Boards and the local authorities, with the Minister in the chair. Both types of authorities have to work together in serving the public need, and they can no more carry out their duties towards these children fully and properly if their resources are divorced from each other than can divorced parents. In fact, unless joint action, properly financed, is taken, community care is a fraud—just a device to lighten the hospital load without providing the 506 care the patient needs elsewhere. The patient will obviously benefit by a transfer into the community only if local authorities are in a position to provide enough centres and workshops and residential accommodation in hostels for those who need it.
This year my Society opened a residential training and work centre at Slough, and a research centre and hostel home at Dymchurch in Kent. Both in their respective ways are proving that the subnormal can he trained to lead useful lives in the community. No doubt we shall provide other centres, but it cannot all be left to voluntary and charitable organisations. Centres such as these should be copied all over the country, and local authorities are becoming increasingly anxious to provide them—but they do need financial help.
I ask whether the Minister is ensuring that the necessary arrangements are being made, and whether he will agree to take action to see that hospitals do not discharge patients until training facilities and residential provisions in the community are available to them. Is he also aiming at the same standard of accommodation throughout the country? The noble Lord, Lord Newton, mentioned the wide variation between those standards, but surely wherever parents live they should have the same right to expect the same quality of service as that provided in places like Middlesex and Essex. There should be no question of parents being told that a centre is not available or available only on certain days.
It is unthinkable that we should continue to tolerate the present situation where three-fifths of those in need can get neither training nor education. Rural areas are perfectly capable of solving the problem in a scattered population of providing subnormal children with full-time adequate training facilities. If it is not practicable to arrange daily transport, they can provide hostels for the children to live in during the week. This is being done very successfully in Essex, and can be done wherever a child is deprived of full-time training because he lives too far from the nearest centre.
There is no excuse for any local authority to fail to provide full-time 507 training for any subnormal children. The parents, by law, are under the same obligation to send these children to a centre as they are to send normal children to school, and the local authority must see to it that arrangements are made to enable them to do so. And it is not only a question of providing teaching where none exists. Even when it is available, the standard of teaching varies enormously. Some centres still have no qualified teachers at all.
I am glad to see that the Minister has set up the Central Advisory Council which was recommended in the Scott Report, but it is just another highly-qualified talking instrument. What we want is action about the Committee's other very important recommendations. What is he doing to see that we get a 1 to 10 ratio of teaching staff to pupils in all centres and to see that refresher courses are available to the staff already working for local and hospital authorities? Subnormality is a very large problem which has been persistently misunderstood and neglected for years and there is an acute need for research into the learning processes of the severely subnormal. For these children "treatment" is quite literally education. What action is the Minister going to take to establish a central college with research interests linked with an Institute of Education? These are not matters for which the Central Advisory Council can be responsible. They are the recommendations made to the Minister by the sub-Committee he set up to advise him on the training of staff of training centres for the mentally subnormal. I think we are entitled to know—and I hope we shall know to-night—what it is intended to do to carry out these recommendations, because when a subnormal child lacks a qualified teacher he lacks treatment, and when the teacher lacks opportunities for training and research he lacks the tools which he needs for his job.
Finally, I would ask what research projects the Minister has in hand for the prevention of certain types of subnormality or for its alleviation. I know, of course, about the research project in the Wessex region into the prevalence of mental subnormality, but that is, as it were, almost an administrative inquiry. My society is inundated with 508 requests from consultants for research grants. We have set up a medical advisory panel to advise us on priorities and, if the money is available, are to spend something like £15,000 or even £20,000 a year in this field. It is money provided by the devoted, anxious, frustrated and often bewildered parents who comprise our membership. Gladly they will give all they can, but it is not enough, and they look—and I think they have a right to look—to the Government of the day for leadership and help in this field.
They have noted the leadership given by President Kennedy in the United States, where all the resources of Congress have now been pledged to the solving of some of these cruel problems; and on December 4 in New York President Kennedy will present international awards to consultants. I think we want similar action here and an end to half-hearted efforts or no efforts at all. I am asking that the wind of change should blow in the field of mental retardation and that, in the words of the Prime Minister, the Government will do their duty, and provide our quarter of a million perpetual children with the chance to live happily, and to develop to the full the potentialities of which they are capable. My Lords, they have waited far too long.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I have listened with a great deal of interest to all the speeches that have been delivered this afternoon, and particularly to the last speech, of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. I do not suppose there is anybody on this side of the House who would not support him in his plea for handicapped children. We would most earnestly hope that the Government will do all they can in this field of child care. But I am not going to attempt—and I am sure the noble Lord would not want me to do so—to make any answer to all the various queries he has put to the Government, since I am no authority on this matter. But on the general principle, that one wishes to do what one can for this very sad and deprived section of our child population, I certainly do not believe anybody on this side of the House would disagree with the noble Lord.
509 I listened also with great interest, and as always with great respect, to the opening speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. I think there is nobody in this House who has greater knowledge and who puts her case better than she does. But I thought she underestimated a little the amount that had been done; and when the noble Lord, Lord Newton, answered her, he did in fact give quite a different picture of the work being done by the Ministry of Health from that painted by the noble Lady. There is one other thing I want to add because I am interested, too, in what Lady Summerskill had to say about the training of people for domiciliary care work, to which the noble Lord, Lord Newton, was alluding, and which is being done now in quite a big way throughout the country. I have seen the implementation of the Young-husband recommendations on training in a great many places where there are training centres, and in addition there is the Institute of Social Work, of which I am a member, which is also training social workers. Of course, we cannot train people as fast as we should like for a very rapidly expanding service, but it is being done, I think, very effectively.
However, I rise—as, indeed, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, did—to say that on reading the gracious Speech I was immensely encouraged and impressed by the wide range that the Government's programme is covering at the present time. Almost all aspects of our national life appear in some way or other in the gracious Speech. I know that some members of the Opposition think that perhaps this is too wide a spread. I personally am only too delighted that we should look at the whole of our national interest, and try to do what we can for the whole nation, and not for one section only. So I personally am rising to support the gracious Speech and to speak against the Opposition's Amendment.
I listened yesterday, too—as I think many noble Lords did—to the debate on education, which I thought was also immensely encouraging. The fact is that we now have a tremendous head of steam up for education, engendered first by the Newsom Report, then the Robbins Report and then the Trend Report. On all sides of the House, 510 and throughout the country, so far as I can find out from going around, everybody is anxious to do what they can for the education of the children in this country; and it is, in my opinion, a very exciting prospect that we face on the educational front.
I wanted, if I might, to speak about one or two other matters which are not mentioned in words in the gracious Speech but which have been mentioned since, and are in fact mentioned by implication. I am a little encouraged to do so because the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who leads the Opposition, was kind enough in the remarks that he made to mention something in connection with the work which I have now undertaken as chairman of the Consumer Council. So if I might, with your Lordships' permission, hoping that this can be included in the debate on the gracious Speech, I should like to say just one or two things. I was very glad indeed when the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack told us that there was going to be an announcement about a Hire-Purchase Bill; and very shortly after, as we know, the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development announced in the House of Commons that there was to be a Hire-Purchase Bill.
In my capacity as chairman of the Consumer Council I have received very much evidence of the problems arising from the abuse of the hire-purchase system. The noble Lord, Lord Peddie (who was here a moment ago, but told me he had to leave for a dinner) has, I think, done a valuable job in promoting a Bill on this subject. So I think we are united in this House, anyway, in that we want a Bill on hire purchase. I should like, if I might, to offer one or two suggestions as to what I want to see covered by the Bill, and I hope it will not be taken amiss by the Minister if I do this before I have seen the draft of the Bill.
The Molony Committee in its Report recommended that in a hire-purchase agreement there should be provision for a period of 72 hours in which the purchaser can think over whether or not he was wise to take on this hire-purchase commitment. I think we are all agreed that this is right. The Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, mentions this, and 511 I think it is the right thing to do. But I should like to ask for one or two other things in this connection. First of all, that the consumer—that is, the person who is entering into the agreement—should understand what he is undertaking; that the terms of the agreement should be expressed in the simplest language and as clearly as possible, so that the ordinary person can understand it. The agreements are not very easy to understand but are rather complicated. The 1938 Act makes it obligatory that they should be easily understood, but from what I have heard, and from the evidence the Council have gathered which has come to them from the Citizens' Advice Bureaux and in other ways, in many cases these hire-purchase agreements are not in the least clear to the ordinary person, although they may be clear to a lawyer or someone else. I should like to see a copy of the form that should be left with the buyer, or consumer, left, not after seven days, which is what is provided in the 1938 Act, but at the time at which he signs, so that he knows and keeps a copy of what he signs. That should not be very difficult. Since many of us who buy in shops are given carbon copies of accounts which are charged to us, it should not be very difficult for the man who comes to the door with a little book to do the same, if one makes an agreement.
Then I should like to see yet a further thing—namely, that even after the 72 hours have elapsed it should be for the buyer, the purchaser, to tell the firm that he wants to buy the article. In other words, I believe the purchaser should contract in to buy the article, and that it should not be automatically considered after 72 hours that the person is going to buy the particular article. I should like to see, too, the ceiling for purchases which cannot he taken back without a court order raised much higher. The limit is at present £300, and this does not include purchases of motor cars. There was a case the other day in court of a man who had almost completed his payment for a car and then the firm took it back. However, the man took his case to court, the Judge overruled the company and the man kept his car, and presumably completed the payments. I feel sure that any new Bill we have on 512 hire-purchase must take care of these points, because they are really of the greatest importance.
I hope the House will not mind my mentioning, as the noble Earl kindly mentioned them in his opening address, the activities, such as they are at the present time, of the Consumer Council. I do so because I think that it is a matter of some interest and because, in the gracious Speech, reference is made to the prosperity and conditions under which our people live—a matter with which the Council over which I have the honour to preside is deeply concerned.
We are pursuing our work as quickly as we can, and we are getting information through the Citizens' Advice Bureaux. They have provided us with immediate matters for investigation, and I want to mention just one or two of these. The first, I think, is the inconvenience—indeed, I should like to use a stronger word: the menace—of the door-to-door salesman who comes and tries to sell to you things which you do not want, and whom, unless you are very strong-minded, you cannot keep outside. They can be a great nuisance to many householders. I should like also to say that we are actively pursuing this very intransigent problem of the labelling of goods that people are asked to buy. We all know that this is most important. There are many people who are pursuing this cause very actively. The noble Baroness who is going to speak after me is one of the people who has, I think, done more than anybody to try to get clear, simple, well-written and accurate labelling of any package, whatever it is, that the consumer wants to buy. I want to see that that aim is pursued, and that we do it on as wide a range of goods as we possibly can.
There is another point which has been raised and which has come to me, again, through the information that comes to the Council via the Citizens' Advice Bureaux. That is whether or not the guarantees and/or seals of approval that are given by many manufacturers and are put on many goods are really worth while. Sometimes an existing Act of Parliament might carry a stronger guarantee under another law than a form of guarantee issued by a manufacturer with his goods. Then, we have been asked (and this has come from 513 Members of Parliament in the other place) whether we can do anything to investigate the problems of the materials used in school uniforms. These things are in some ways not of vital importance to the world, but they are of importance to individual households, and that is our job—to protect the consumer and to do whatever we can for individual householders.
Those are just a few things, but there will be many others that will come up. I am particularly anxious to try to get an education programme (and this is where education comes in again) on this matter of consumer protection. I think it is most important, not only with the young growing up but also with older people and with groups of women in organisations like the women's institutes, or adult organisations of one kind or another—women's guilds, co-operative guilds and so on. One wants to get a great deal more information and knowledge into the minds of the general public, because there are so many Acts of Parliament that already protect women which they do not know anything about. In many cases a great deal of legislation is already there, but people do not know how to use it. So I am hoping very much that we can try, through our work on the Consumer Council, to educate a generation of discriminating shoppers. I do not want to press these matters further, because we are only at the beginning, but I have been questioned by noble Lords on this matter and I wanted to say just one word, because this is part of the work of the improvement of conditions in the country mentioned in the gracious Speech in a good many different aspects.
There is one last word that I should like to say, and it is on a different subject altogether. In the gracious Speech we had the sentence about the plans for regional development, and we have already had the two plans for Central Scotland and the North-East of England. There is another sentence which says:Plans appropriate to other regions will follow".I should like to urge on the Government that they should look at other regions—and I need hardly say to your Lordships that the region I am thinking of is in Scotland. I hope very much that we may have an inquiry into, and a survey of, the Border area. The Border area is one 514 of the loveliest parts of Scotland. It contains two important industries—agriculture and the hosiery industry, as well as the tweed industry—but it is now suffering very much from people leaving the countryside, leaving the Borders, and going to other parts of the country. I very much hope that we may have for the Border area some sort of survey and plan similar to what we have for Central Scotland.
My Lords, those are the one or two things that I wanted to say in this debate. I would only repeat that I think the policy of the Government is a very exciting and challenging programme, and I shall vote with considerable enthusiasm for this gracious Speech, for the policy of the Government and against the Amendment which the Labour Party are putting forward.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Baroness opposite, who is always most generous in her comments. I hope she knows—and I am sure she does—that I wish her Consumer Council very well, but that I am very dubious as to whether it has enough "teeth"—though that is not the fault of the noble Baroness. I should like to pay my tribute in that I have found the noble Baroness and her Council, both officially and unofficially, most helpful and most co-operative. I regret, as other noble Lords want to speak to-night, that I shall not he able to develop that theme much further but I should like to take up one point that she made but, I hasten to say, in agreement with her.
To-night I want to devote my remarks principally to the sentence in the gracious Speech which says:My Ministers will bring forward further proposals for the modernisation of Britain, covering many of the economic and social aspects of our national life".When I first saw this gracious Speech on November 12 and glanced through it I could hardly believe what I thought was missing. I read this two or three times and it then seemed to me—and I recorded this in the notes I began to prepare—that the Government had broken a pledge which was given to this House in the previous Session. I am, of course, referring to hire purchase. It seems to me quite extraordinary that in another place 515 on November 14 the Minister for Industry, Trade and Regional Development said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 684 (No. 3), col. 325]:Among those Measures not listed in the Queen's Speech we shall be introducing a Bill during this Session to amend the Hire-Purchase Acts. This will be an important part of our policy of extending consumer protection.Obviously, as the noble Baroness said, there will be much discussion of this whole aspect of hire purchase. I agree with what she said. I would prefer no ceiling at all to a ceiling of any price; but I would hope that the Government, when they bring forward this Bill, will have a comprehensive one and will not tinker with the present system of hire purchase.
What I would want to ask the noble Earl on the Front Bench—and I do not know whether he could tell me now—is why it was that this hire-purchase measure was not included in the Queen's Speech on November 12. I must ask this question; I am really seeking information; because it seems to me quite extraordinary that, two days later, on November 14, we had this statement, and on the day between, the 13th, it leaked to the evening papers—and it seemed to be a well-informed leak—that this was going to be done. I would gladly give way to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, if he could enlighten me as to why this was not in the Queen's Speech on the 12th.
My Lords, I was afraid that he would not intervene, but I should like to tell him the second reason why I think it so extraordinary. As I understand it, this Session was delayed by two weeks to enable Ministers in new jobs to become acquainted with those jobs; and it seems to me very strange that anyone so industrious as the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development did not know on November 12, when the Queen's Speech was made, that he was going to bring forward this measure, but that the papers knew the next day, and he spoke on it on the 14th. It seems to get curiouser and curiouser.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
My Lords, if the noble Baroness is so interested, I will do my 516 best to find out the information she wants. My only comment is that the noble Lord who moved this Amendment has complained because the gracious Speech was too long.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
Yes, my Lords, but this was before the Speech was made, and I am quite sure my noble friend would not have complained if hire purchase had been mentioned in it. I take it from the noble Earl's reply—and I am grateful—that he will be letting me know if he is able to find out why this matter was not included in the Queen's Speech. On the question of guarantees, the Molony Committee failed hopelessly. The noble Baroness is nodding her head; I am sure she agrees. They went through all the difficulties and then said that they could not do anything about it.
I now wish to turn to something which is vital to both sides of the counter in Britain. It is something which I think the Government should have dealt with in the gracious Speech. Without being electoral in my manner, I would say that they have not dealt with it because they are afraid of losing some votes in an Election year. I am coming now to the question of resale price maintenance. I think it is no secret that the Report made to the Board of Trade on resale price maintenance came down heavily against this practice so far as most goods are concerned, the exception being a few products on which service is important and expensive to provide.
I think noble Lords would agree that, for the past two years, anyway, it has been evident to most people that resale price maintenance was weakening, and it was weakening altogether, apart from food where, as we all know, it broke down on groceries really some long time ago. Any noble Lord who looked at electrical goods in the shops, which were grossly overstocked after the 1959–60 boom, could see for themselves what was happening. But after those stocks ran out maintained prices returned, and from the end of 1961 it has seemed to me that the opposition to the cutting of prices has grown once again. Whether what I want to say now is quite apart from the political aspect I must leave to the House to decide; but I think it is a matter of commercial common sense. I do hope that the 517 noble Earl who is going to reply will feel able to comment on this.
If shopkeepers may not reduce at their own discretion the prices of goods they sell, I think it follows that those who have lower selling costs cannot pass the advantages of these on to the public. For example, if we take some of the reasons for these lower selling costs we may find that they are due to efficiency or to a different location of a shop. We may find some shopkeepers adopting this method have self-service or that some may give no credit. Again, others may provide no delivery or no after-sales service. I maintain that if costs are cut by these or by other methods, and if prices cannot be cut at the same time, then obviously this must be checking the rate at which efficient, enterprising, low-cost sellers can extend their business. I have always believed that resale price maintenance bolsters up the inefficient.
I want to submit to your Lordships that Section 25 of the Restrictive Practices Act should be repealed. As the House will know, this allows manufacturers individually to enforce their resale prices. I think that probably any rule either for or against resale price maintenance would have to make provision for exceptional trades so that either way each case would be treated on its merits. I would have no objection to that. I think it is the fair and right thing to do.
I expect that noble Lords will remember with me, if we go back to October, 1962, the claim made by booksellers and publishers for special treatment was upheld, after a hearing of 24 days and a reserved judgment by the Restrictive Practices Court. I want to submit to the House that if such judgments as that can be made it would seem to remove any reasonable impediment to action by the Government on this problem. I should have thought it right that any trade should be required to prove its case for exemption from unrestricted prices. I did not raise this matter tonight simply to illustrate that the Government are afraid of losing votes, and are therefore not prepared to tackle this matter, but because I believe there is another aspect which must be brought home to the Government and which I venture to suggest this House might also consider. It seems to me certainly to 518 be one of the "economic and social aspects" referred to in the gracious Speech.
I am coming to the question of trading stamps. I have no intention to-day of taking sides on this matter; but I hope that we shall have the opportunity of discussing it very soon. I am quite sure that many noble Lords, as well as myself, have a great deal of information, and much that they would like to say on this matter. I certainly have. But I should like to say here and now—and I am aware that I shall be treading on a few toes this evening—that I think far too much fuss has been made over what is, after all, only another selling gimmick. But I think the Government have a responsibility here.
I would say straight away to the noble Earl who is going to reply that I do not think the Government should ban trading stamps. I believe that it is for the shoppers to decide whether or not they want them; and they should decide this by the way they spend their money. It should be perfectly obvious whether they wish to shop at the shops that give trading stamps or at the shops that do not. I myself am not drawn to stamps, but it is obvious that many people like collecting them, and I do not see any reason or right to sit in judgment and say that collecting is wrong. At the same time, I feel that the Government have a responsibility here, because I think that they have helped to prepare the background for this upsurge of trading stamps. Resale price maintenance does mean that large suppliers can prevent retailers from cutting prices.
If we take, for example, manufacturers of household appliances, cars or petrol (I do not know whether my own Front Bench is agreeing or not, but I feel a little distracted; I said that I should probably have to tread on some toes to-night, so perhaps they will not mind), they have regained their grip on their prices which they lost in 1960. As everyone who has looked at this matter knows, the case for and against resale price maintenance can be most complicated. I have tried to find the real heart of the matter, and it seems to me that this surely concerns the right of consumers or customers to decide what mixture of price and service they want from their particular retailers. And I think 519 that they should be able to choose it. I should not think that any Government of any Party would deny that right; but to obtain it, resale price maintenance must be ended. After all, as I have said, it would take only a small Amendment to the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956, to do it.
I believe that most shoppers and most large retailers would agree and would like this to be done. I also believe, as I said at the beginning, that the internal committee reporting to the Board of Trade on this matter came down in favour of such a change. I had hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, would be here because I wanted to say two nice things about him, but I see my old friend, or opponent, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, on the Bench opposite, and I hope very much that this particular suggestion will reach the Board of Trade. It seems to me that if the Board of Trade would look at this matter, the Board would then become a real contender in the stakes for modernising Britain, of which so much has been made in the gracious Speech.
My primary concern in raising this matter is anxiety for the consumer, and if the Government do nothing about this then the consumer is going to suffer. On the legal aspect, I think that the Government must have a look at what is involved and is likely to be involved in the boycotting that is now taking place. I am convinced that, as a result of this boycotting, the one person who is definitely going to suffer is the consumer. Your Lordships will remember that the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956, has made illegal a form of embargo which is directed towards enforcing conditions as to resale prices. It is now unlawful for any two or more persons who are dealers in any goods to make or implement any agreement or arrangement by which they undertake to withhold orders for supplies of goods from any supplier who supplies goods otherwise than subject to some stipulated condition as to the price at which they may be resold.
I hasten to say to noble Lords that I hope that when they read this in Hansard, if they are kind enough to do so, it will become a little clearer, because 520 I had to read it a great many times and put in a lot of stops before I found out where it got me. I am no legal expert, but, having looked into this. I think that this provision does not apply directly to the present boycotting of goods. On the other hand, I think that some attention will have to be paid to such aspects, probably in the near future, because I think that at some stage we shall have to determine in Parliament to what extent the provisions of the 1956 Act, which enables resale price maintenance to be enforced, are breached by a sale at the maintained price, but accompanied by a "gift" of trading stamps.
I read in the Press last week, in the Daily Express of November 12, that the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers, Confectioners and Allied Workers, Mr. Halliday, was extremely worried by the present boycott. I understand that a statement issued by the Union said:We are deeply disturbed by the impact on the livelihood and working conditions of our members. The attempts to counteract the introduction of this form of trading by cutting the price of bread and cancelling long-standing orders of bread from the group responsible for introducing trading stamps into the supermarket sphere has created a chaotic situation on the productive side of the industry …Mr. Halliday is worried about his members and I am worried about the consumers. It is obvious from all that we have been reading lately that some people believe in trading stamps and some do not. What I want to raise here is: is it necessary to have boycotts?—because these do not improve service to the housewife: they have exactly a reverse effect; they restrict it.
In common with many other noble Lords, I have given a lot of thought to this over the last few months. I have a big file, as probably most of us have. I gather that in a good many countries trading stamps are not redeemed by the customer. I believe that I am correct in saying that New Jersey, U.S.A., is introducing a law that stamps must be redeemed for cash, if the collector or customer insists. And, as your Lordships will know, a cash option is in force in some overseas countries. Obviously, this must reduce the profitability of the stamp companies, if there is a high yield from those stamps which are at present unredeemed. It follows 521 from that that if stamps were redeemable for cash, they would be taken much more care of by customers. Let me ask the Government whether they would be prepared to take action along these lines. Leaving aside for the moment resale price maintenance, would they be prepared to take action to see that stamps are redeemable for cash; or, alternatively, if they are not prepared to take that action themselves, would they be prepared to support a Bill from a private Member putting forward the same thing?
There are three points that I should like to make here. In the first place, I believe that shoppers do not want trading stamps banned. Secondly, many shoppers feel that the first-class quality, and prices, provided by the leading opponents of stamps will be proof against any stamps, however attractive these may be. It certainly is the case with me that I shop where stamps are not given, and nothing would induce me to change; and I should have thought that this was a sufficient answer. But the third point I want to make to the noble Lord is that I feel that many other shops would like to counter trading stamps by reducing prices. The Government could help this free competition in this modern Britain by ending resale price maintenance. Otherwise we really are going to have complete chaos, and the Government will have to step in in the end: of that I am convinced.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
I disagree with my noble Leader. I do not know whether he meant me to hear, but I think this is very strong, Socialism. On Friday last, November 15, the John Lewis Partnership started carrying out its threat to introduce price cuts equivalent to the value of trading stamps until manufacturers take effective action against shopkeepers offering gift-stamps with goods subject to resale price maintenance. Twelve large Waitrose supermarkets, including the big variety store at Slough, have reduced the retail prices of a wide range of confectionery, pharmaceuticals, razor blades and kitchen equipment. The discounts offered to the Waitrose customers correspond to the value of the stamps distributed by local competitors selling similar goods. Mean- 522 while, the legal advisers of a number of manufacturers have been giving careful consideration to this problem posed by retailers using stamps as a sales incentive on price maintained products.
I am indebted to the Financial Times for much of this information, and I have given this amount of detail because I want to show the House how widespread this whole problem is. It is not said in criticism of the John Lewis Partnership, which is a store for which I have the highest regard. But anyone who has read the newspapers this week will know that the problem is not confined to this. We have now got it in chocolate and confectionery, and, if I read my newspaper correctly to-day, I see that Cadbury's, Rowntree's and Fry's are all basing their decision to refuse supplies to their customers on resale price maintenance. It has gone to furniture, where the Branded Furniture Association has refused on the same grounds; it has gone to the electrical industries, and it has also gone to gramophone records manufactured by the E.M.I. group. It is unnecessary for me to suggest that this will spread throughout the whole of industry.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, my noble friend will forgive me for interrupting. I have been interested in listening, and I am sure she will appreciate that I have been listening to her argument. But, looking at it from the point of view of the subject of the Amendment we are discussing, that does not come very much within our policy. I should certainly, as a member of the Labour Party, be more inclined to take the view of our organised trade unionism for the maintenance of standards, a view which has been taken not only by the operatives my noble friend has quoted but by one of the distributive organised unions. They do not hold the view held by my noble friend on this matter. They regard the introduction of trading stamps operations, imported largely from America, Canada and now from Eire, countries outside our own State, as being just the work of a parasitic organisation which neither manufactures anything nor does anything to add to the retail industry, and as something which, in the long run, even though you start facing it by cutting prices, will be injurious and not beneficial to the consumer.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
I am sorry to differ from my noble Leader. I think that eventually, at the end—not the end of my speech, but at the end—we shall arrive at the same conclusion on trading stamps. I would only say that, with regard to speaking on the gracious Speech, I am absolutely in order in regretting that something is not included in the gracious Speech. I inquired about this, and I understand that it is not necessary to confine oneself to this Amendment. If I have to fight this battle by myself, I will fight it by myself against the whole House and anybody else, because I think I am right. After that, I should like to say that my noble Leader is most tolerant.
The Financial Times of November 16 made four points which I think are good points and are relevant to this particular matter. Perhaps I may read these to the House, and then I shall have finished. This is the first:Although the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956, prohibits, among other similar practices, the collective enforcement of price maintenance, one of its provisions specifically enables individual suppliers of goods to enforce such conditions by legal action.The second point is:It is, however, difficult to see how anything which, however indirectly, may be translated into money's worth is not in law a discount on price as much as if it has been given in actual cash.Thirdly:Clearly, the matter is one of importance and, until it has been tested in the courts, no more than a tentative view is possible. But trading stamps are clearly valuable—indeed, they have been described as a kind of inferior currency'.And lastly:The fact that they"—that is, the trading stamps—are not themselves directly convertible into cash would not appear to be in point, if only because by a roundabout method of 'cashing' them for some easily disposed of article which could then be sold, cash can be obtained for them.Before I sit down, I would only say to my noble Leader, in all humility, that I said at the beginning that stamps did not attract me. To return to the beginning, may the House hope, in view of the urgency of the matter, that this problem of trading stamps and resale price maintenance will be dealt with in 524 another measure not listed in the gracious Speech?
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I find some curious similarity between Scottish Nationalists and the Socialists, in this way. When I meet a Scottish Nationalist he seems to think or imply that I am indifferent to Scotland's welfare; and when I meet a Socialist he seems to imply that I am probably not interested in the aged, the poor or the sick. Nothing is further from the case in either of those conditions. For when I first addressed your Lordships' House some five years ago I chose the subject of the provision for old age, and, consequently, noble Lords will forgive me if I turn to that subject first in my speech this evening.
I am satisfied that the Government's record in regard to pensions is a good one. The fact is, as I see it, that the Government have been right in resisting the demand for a further general increase. That demand may not have been made in this House, but it has been made outside, and I regard the clamour for such an increase largely as electioneering. In saying this, I emphasise that the Government and the Party that I support are desperately anxious to do as much as the nation can afford for the old, the needy and the sick. Indeed, if the proposals contained in the gracious Speech had really been electioneering proposals, and only that, they might well have included some such general proposal.
Why do I think that there should not be a general increase? It is because such an increase would undoubtedly be to distribute pensions to too many people who in terms of basic living conditions do not need them. Any extra money which is available should go to the really indigent, and to this end the Government have taken, and are taking, real steps in developing National Assistance by bringing in the words "Supplementary Pension" in papers relating to National Assistance for the aged. Now this is a step in the right direction, for that is the way to help those who are too proud or too stubborn, or both, to seek National Assistance under that name and that name alone, which to them may seem to be "going on the rates".
525 On the subject of national health, to which I will now turn, I hesitate to step a measure with the noble Baroness who moved this Amendment in what has become her ritual dance. But I would remind your Lordships that I am personally engaged in the pharmaceutical industry, though I do not assume to speak for it. I am proud of the fact that I do belong to that industry. I am not a pharmacist, but I feel a sense of fulfilment in my association with that industry, from which your Lordships will appreciate how much importance I attach to the noble Lady's tirade which we heard this afternoon. The more so do I regret the hue and cry which has recently been raised; and in saying this I do not belittle the dreadful tragedy, to which the noble Lady has referred, of the thalidomide drug.
In an Election debate, I suppose it is fair to conjure up a picture of grisly Tories crowding round their retorts producing compounds to sell at exhorbitant rates regardless of the consequences. It is in fact a false picture, if such were even to be conjured up. The industry is a respectable, responsible and reputable industry. This is no Tory monopoly—far from it. On the subject of the testing of drugs, I, for one, welcome the appointment of the Dunlop Committee, under its distinguished chairman, and one hopes that their procedure will meet with what the medical profession and the Government feel is required, but not so much as to delay unduly the availability of some new drug yet to be devised.
On the subject of costs, the time will come when the public gets matters into perspective. The noble Lady referred to the rise in the cost of prescriptions. But the cost does not apply to the rise in the cost of drugs, because no such rise has taken place—in fact, the reverse. I have here some figures. Between 1954 and 1962 the Board of Trade price index for all manufactured products rose by 19 per cent. Over the same period the index for pharmaceutical preparations decreased by 1 per cent., while the index for pharmaceutical chemicals fell by 30 per cent. Those are the figures taken from the Board of Trade returns.
There is another item to which the noble Lady referred, and that was the question of the testing of drugs. Perhaps 526 before I turn to that I would make clear that I am referring to the increase in prescription costs. The noble Lady cannot have been referring, of course, to identical chemicals.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, before the noble Lord goes on from the question of cost, would he not agree with me that time after time the Public Accounts Committee have questioned the cost of drugs; that time after time they asked the Ministry whether they would take action to try to reduce the cost and whether an expert committee had been set up? In fact, the Public Accounts Committee have echoed time after time the kind of thing that I have said in this House today. And I might say that it is not a Party Committee; it is representative of both Parties.
§ LORD FERRIER
I thank the noble Baroness. Possibly an exchange of technicalities like this would be better in a debate on the subject. I go all the way with her on the criticisms of the Public Accounts Committee. I am simply stating facts from this pamphlet I have here called Facts about Drugs. The fact is that prices have fallen, and the fact that prescription costs have gone up is quite another matter. After all, prescription is in the hands of the medical profession.
As for the testing of drugs, the Cohen Joint Sub-Committee on the subject of drugs, appointed in 1962 to advise the Health Minister, reported that the pharmaceutical industry as a whole discharges its responsibilities for the experimental laboratory testing of new drugs effectively within the limits of existing knowledge, and recommended that this responsibility should remain with the individual manufacturer andnot be transferred to a central authority.The noble Baroness referred to the report on food in hospitals—I am still on the subject of the cost of drugs—in a general sort of way.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
If the noble Lord has finished on toxicity, he has shown his approval. I understand the noble Lord has a vested interest in the pharmaceutical industry, but I presume he declared that, as he has done before in this House. Before he leaves the question of testing, surely he agrees 527 with me that there are a large number of doctors and, indeed, members of the lay public who have expressed strong views, and said that only an impartial body should decide whether a drug is toxic, and not the company which produces it. Surely the whole thing about thalidomide was that it was never tested on pregnant animals, but that in other countries where it was so tested it was not sold. The whole point is that it never had an adequate clinical trial.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I repeat that this is not, I feel, a debate in which we can enter into exchanges of this nature. I did declare my interest.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
I am sorry, but the noble Lord has invited me to do it. He keeps mentioning me and denouncing what I have said. Surely I have a right to show him that, in my opinion, I was right.
§ LORD FERRIER
The noble Baroness has been informed, I take it, that I declared my interest, as I have done before. I am sorry if the message I gave to the Whips was late in reaching her, or if I gave too short a notice to her. I will go on with what I was saying about the cost of drugs in the hospital service. The noble Baroness referred to the Report on food in hospitals and mentioned wastage. The cost of food in hospitals is estimated at £41 million in the year. Of course, one appreciates that, no matter how well a hospital is run, there must be waste in some measure. Let us take the huge figure of 35 per cent. as correct. The actual saving would be about the same as the whole cost of the drug bill to the hospitals, which is some £15 million. That amount is the cost of the laundry in the hospital bill: the laundry cost is about the same as the whole cost of the drugs consumed in hospitals.
There is another factor which I should like to emphasise, and that is the contra entry. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, spoke about the treatment of mental illness. I take it that it is appreciated that in the last ten years 21,000 beds which were occupied by the mentally ill are now empty, thanks to the use of drugs. Of course, it is well-known, and the noble Lady will hear me out, 528 that the whole pattern of hospital planning has been altered beyond belief by the treatment of tuberculosis over the last quarter of a century. I have been tempted into these remarks by the noble Lady's speech, but before I leave hospitals, and seeing the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, on the Front Bench as Minister of State for Scotland, I shake my head sadly at developments in Lanarkshire. I hope it is not too late for the Secretary of State to revise his thinking on the replacement of the Law Hospital. If their decision is complete, could some adjustment be made so that the nurses training school in the Law Hospital should not be lost?
There is one other point I should like to make specifically in regard to such areas as that from which I come, namely, the wide-flung, rural areas, that when planning new hospitals proper provision should be made for adequate parking facilities, added to proper public transport for the use of visitors, to be run at times suitable to visiting. I think I am right in saying, and I am open to correction, that a modern planner has said that for a hospital in present conditions, built for the next half century, parking facilities should amount to four cars per bed. I should like particularly that this problem should be borne in mind in designs for hospitals in rural areas.
My Lords, I greatly regret I have not been able to attend the House throughout the debate on the gracious Speech but I did hear the noble Lord, Lord Hughes last week: and I love hearing the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, speak. First of all, he is audible; secondly, forthright, knowledgeable and concise; and I am sorry he is not here. I wrote him a note but he must be out of London. However, in the criticisms of the Government's Scottish housing plan which were contained in his speech he overlooked an important fact: that is, the uneconomic rents which are being charged by local authorities in Scotland, with the consequent restriction in building. I deliberately say that, because rents can be so low that occupiers are, in fact, living on the rates, with the result that I think the Secretary of State has been quite right in threatening, if he has not actually done so, to refuse grants to local authorities who let or 529 propose to let houses at uneconomic rents. These rents affect the mobility of labour in a way which is not really acceptable to labour itself as far as their earning capacity is concerned. I feel in what I have said that the Secretary of State can trust on the stout and outspoken support of all reasonable men on the stand he is taking on the matter of rents for local authority houses. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, would have a look, if he doubts what I say, which I do not think he does, at the housing deficit, shall we say, of the Lanark County Council, which shows a colossal figure chargeable to the rates.
If the noble Lord is going to look at the Lanark situation, another problem which applies, and must apply throughout the United Kingdom, is that there are new houses lying empty because they are built in unsuitable places by local authorities. It might be worth enquiring into what methods the councils are using to persuade people to move into such houses from houses which, if not of the first quality, are certainly suitable for residence to-day, and, with a minimum of expense, would be rendered suitable for to-morrow. Further, I would ask how it is that houses are going up in the town of Forth, where the pit has been closed for two years.
While on this subject of Scottish housing, health and social services, including community care, I trust that those of your Lordships who saw the "Panorama" programme will forgive me if I draw attention to it. It was a travesty of the situation in Scotland and I would ask the noble Earl who is going to reply whether something cannot be done to stop this sort of thing. The houses portrayed in Bothwell Haugh were condemned long ago and will soon be demolished. They have been replaced by the modern housing estates of Orbiston, only half-a-mile away. Why was that not shown in the programme, which was reputed to be a documentary? I am informed that those in Bothwell Haugh who sought better accommodation have moved, and long since, to the Orbiston building area. Those who remained in what was shown in the pictures as being little better than hovels have been described to me by one who knows the locality as "only layabouts". The young men portrayed in the billiard saloon—an old miners' recreational 530 hall due to be demolished in the next two years—are not typical of Glasgow youth. The pit there was closed two years ago.
Admitting that vandalism is prevalent all over the United Kingdom, how did the B.B.C. get photographs of vandals breaking windows in empty buses, empty trains and empty houses'? How? Presumably, it was prearranged. Why? Who paid? To whom? Were these vandals on the screen actors? If not, who taught them their parts? And can such be treated as part of a documentary film? I hope that the noble Earl who is going to reply will be able to give your Lordships some assurance that the attention of the B.B.C. will be drawn to the public outcry which has happened in Scotland at inaccuracies like this, which, in my view, are becoming too frequent in this programme. Antics of this sort on the television can do much to nullify all the efforts of the Government and the Scottish Council and those who are endeavouring to get industry to Scotland and to promote the popularity of this Stirling countryside. I have detained your Lordships long enough. I have tried to show briefly that the Government can count on robust support from their Back Benches for what they are doing for the aged and the sick and for their policy regarding housing in Scotland, and I will oppose the Amendment.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Silkin described the gracious Speech as an Election address, a description with which I find myself in full sympathy, and it is really on the lines of that that I prepared my comments to your Lordships in my speech this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has already pointed out that the Prime Minister has been quite frank about exhorting his Party to "keep their eye on the ball"—by which I mean on the General Election, which is no doubt much the same thing from his point of view—during the coming months, and, undoubtedly, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, indicated, the gracious Speech has been written very much with this exhortation in view. No doubt the condition of the Conservative Party in the country at the present time is so 531 parlous that in fact they would have kept their eye on the approaching General Election without any such exhortation, but it is a little brash to come out with it to the public quite so boldly as did the new Prime Minister.
I suppose that is all part of the Prime Minister's integrity, which we have been hearing so very much about from the Conservative newspapers in the last few weeks. They indicated that he might not have many of the qualities which are required in a Prime Minister, but at any rate he did have this integrity. Indeed, the quality was so rubbed in that I began to wonder whether his predecessor might not begin to feel a little pained about it. If one reflects on the subject of integrity one soon begins to realise that there is a good deal of difference between personal integrity, which all of us who got to know the Prime Minister in this House over these last years would agree he had 100 per cent., and political integrity, which often does not seem to be quite the same sort of thing that one would have in one's private actions. And it may well be that it is within the bounds of political integrity to write a General Election address in the gracious Speech. At any rate, that is pretty obviously what has happened here, and it seems to me that it is a little unfair to the people as a whole that they should be fobbed off with electioneering of this kind at a time when the condition of the country is not an easy one and when the people are entitled to have something rather better.
I had intended to concentrate my speech on some of those matters which are not of sufficient political excitement to be written into an Election address of this kind, and to leave my comments on the Robbins Report, which was a good deal discussed yesterday, to the full-dress debate which I am glad we are going to have a little later on. Yesterday, however, the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, made an important speech against one of the main proposals of the Robbins Committee; that was, the proposal that there should be two Ministries of Education. I find myself in complete disagreement with him about this, and I therefore decided that as the other side of this matter has not been put in this debate I would tear up what I had intended to say to your Lordships 532 and concentrate my speech on that topic; although I appreciate that I am a little out of order, because it was agreed that this matter should be discussed yesterday. Unfortunately, I was not in a position to stay late yesterday and therefore could not take up the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, or indeed the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who followed on much the same lines, as I should have liked to do. I appreciate that the noble Earl who is to reply may be a little out of his depth here, but as Lord Hastings who is sitting opposite now obviously was not briefed to deal with this matter yesterday either, I do not think that aspect of it matters very much.
What I particularly disliked, if I may say so, about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Eccles (I disagreed with him on the main points of his speech, which, however, were very well argued) was the way he aligned himself with those who, by talking about "lower" and "higher" education, are conducting what I regard as very dangerous emotional propaganda. This matter is not to be dealt with on lines of that sort, or, if it is, it is going to be very much contrary to the public interest. He and they—and it is very common to hear these expressions used in these discussions—are really not doing any good to the cause of education by attempting to arouse this prejudice in respect of a proposal which must be considered on its merits and dealt with on the basis of rationality and not sentimentality, as is so much in danger of being done. I think personally that it is unfortunate that we have this expression "higher education" at all and that it is now being used so much in this debate, particularly to describe the work of the universities. It has conveyed to the general public a fundamentally misleading conception of the universities, and I am afraid it has conveyed it to quite a number of politicians who really ought to know better.
The universities are basically institutions for original thought and research. Of course, they make their discoveries known by teaching, and therefore they must always play a very important part indeed in the general educational system of the country. But, as The Times put it, admirably I think, this morning, they differ from the schools "in kind as 533 well as in degree", and if ever they come to be regarded as "tertiary schools" (another expression which I take from The Times), which I think will become almost inevitable if they are in fact put under the control of the Ministry of Education—for which Lord Eccles was arguing and as he always has been arguing since he was Minister of Education, because it is not new with him; he has argued it in this House, in The Times and in a number of speeches made in public during that time, as he was perfectly entitled to do—the eminence of this country as a leader of thought in the world will be in very great jeopardy.
Education is no doubt, as he said, one continuous process; but even if that were all there were to it and my contention about its not being the fundamental work of the universities at all were not true, it does not mean it should all be dealt with by one Minister. The national economy is a unity, too—its commerce, its industries, the personnel who work in it, the finance necessary for it; they are all part of one great unitary business on which the wealth and strength of the country is built up—but that does not mean we have just one Ministry to handle it. We have a number of very important Ministries: the Treasury, the Board of Trade, which is now becoming the Ministry of Industry or Secretary of Industry, or something of that kind, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of National Insurance; all these Ministries are concerned with various aspects of the national economy, and it could not be run by one Ministry.
And neither can education. It is a vast and complicated business, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, more than once indicated during the course of his speech; much too vast and complicated to be dealt with by one Minister. And do not let us be fobbed off with the suggestions for Ministers of State, who are really only (with respect to any who may be present this evening on the other side) glorified Parliamentary Secretaries. Even the schools, which is what the present Minister of Education is concerned to deal with, are a good deal more than he can successfully manage, because the work of the Ministry of Education at the present time is a vast business.
534 I do not myself subscribe to the view that the Ministry of Education is one of our most efficient Departments; I do not think it is at all. I think it appeared perfectly clearly from Lord Taylor's speech yesterday that we have all over the country many primary schools very little better than slum schools, which over all these years the Ministry has not been able to get rid of; and if I had more time there are plenty of other counts in the indictment which I could bring against this Ministry. I certainly would not trust the universities to them. Even if Lord Eccles were right in the long-term view, and even if, in the end, I should be proved to be wrong—one must admit that one may not always be right—it would be lunacy, in my submission to your Lordships, at the present crisis in higher education to entrust this really frightening task to a Ministry of Education which is already tremendously overburdened and which is going to be still more overburdened, quite apart from anything to do with Robbins, by putting the Newsom Report into operation—because the Government must accept some of its recommendations. Obviously, this is going to mean a great deal more work for the Ministry of Education, and I submit that it would be lunacy at this time to entrust all the business of coping with the crisis in higher education to such a Ministry. Clearly, what we need is a new and vigorous Minister to cope with the emergency, which is one of the most frightening with which we have ever had to deal—as frightening even as the wars which we have been through in the present century.
Lord Hailsham—or should we now call him "Mr. Hogg"?—has evidently cast himself for this rôle and, after surveying the extinct volcanoes on the Government Front Bench, I would say that he is one of the few volcanoes which shows some signs of fire and activity. This is no doubt one of the reasons why the House of Commons has welcomed him back. Obviously, that Front Bench needs a little livening up. I am sure, too, that the universities would much prefer to have him to help 535 them with their task than to find themselves under one omnibus Ministry, which at the present juncture could, in my view, result only in a failure in its fortunes in the realm of higher education which the nation cannot really afford at a time such as this. When we have dealt with this crisis, which is clearly going on until the end of this decade, into the 1980s, and if we can deal with it successfully, then let us look again at the whole business and see whether one Ministry of Education is the right solution. But I submit strongly that during this testing period it will be absolute lunacy to put all this work under a Ministry which is already overburdened with work.
There is this further important point, which I have not time to enlarge upon and which has not been discussed in this debate: that the Robbins Committee see in the new Ministry something a great deal more than just a Ministry of Higher Education. They see it as taking charge of many of the general cultural aspects of the nation's life which are of immense importance and which, as compared with other leading States, have never received Governmental support and have never had a Minister to look after their interests. Indeed, they suggest that the title of the new Minister should be not "Minister of Higher Education" at all, but "Minister of Arts and Science," which I agree with them is a much better title for him. It is a pity, I think, that this germinal aspect of their proposal has been overlooked, not only in the debate in this House but in the debates in the country as a whole.
I appreciate, and much regret, that I find myself in disagreement with my own colleagues in regard to this matter, but it is one which I think is of such great importance to the nation's future that I felt I could not keep silent about it. It appeared from the really great speech which Mr. Harold Wilson made at Scarborough, and which, of course, preceded the publication of the Robbins Report, that he was himself in agreement with the need for an independent Minister to handle the problem of our universities and higher education generally at the present time. I am sorry that in the interval he has given way to heavy persuasion which has no 536 doubt been brought to bear upon him. The trouble in a matter of this kind is that the Labour Party, which came into existence to fight the battle of the underdog, always has a chip on its shoulder; and if ever some sort of a case can be made out for showing that the privileged classes are being favoured, instantaneously it reacts like a horse shying at a dog. There was a strong streak of this sentimentality, if he will forgive my saying so, in the speech of my noble friend Lord Taylor yesterday evening. It is a most unfortunate matter if this question is to be dealt with on that sort of line.
Finally, I should like to remind my Leaders that the crisis in higher education which confronts this country at the present time is one which can be solved only by the men and women who work in the universities. During the next seven or more years the university teachers will be called upon to undertake a heavy burden of responsibility—long hours, a great deal of drudgery, sacrifice of leisure, and postponement of much valuable research work. This has not been mentioned by the speakers in this debate; but it is a real thing, and it is clear that the Robbins Committee understood that side of it very well. In an important passage towards the end of the Report they say thatany inroads on present standards must be transitory and ought to be redressed as soon as possible.It was most unfortunate, I think—because this point has been much commented upon in university circles—that the White Paper in which the Government accept the Robbins Report, makes no reference whatever to this condition. When the Government, in time of the war, called upon the workers in the factories and the workshops to give up their hard-won rights in connection with conditions of work, they undertook in the most solemn terms that at the end of the crisis the status quo would be restored. I hope that they will take an early opportunity to make it perfectly clear that this will be done in the case of the universities as well.
I hope that the Government—and indeed, the Labour Shadow Cabinet also—are aware that opinion in the universities is massively against the view which was propounded and argued for by Lord Eccles, as well as by Lord Taylor and 537 his Committee. It is a most dangerous policy to override the strongly held opinions of the people who are primarily affected by your decision on the ground that you know better than they do; and that is what has been argued for here. This is what happened in Rhodesia. We have had to spend a number of difficult and painful years getting back to the situation which existed before we tried to thrust upon these people something which they did not want.
I am puzzled, and rather alarmed, at the indifference which my own political Leaders have been showing to the opinion of the universities in regard to this most important matter. If they were considering the adoption of some new and basic policy for, shall we say, transport, it is inconceivable that they would overlook the Transport and General Workers' Union—obviously Mr. Cousins and his colleagues would be brought into consultation at once. I should not like to describe myself as the opposite number of Mr. Cousins, but I have for a long time been the Honorary Secretary of the Association of University Teachers, and I can assure your Lordships that this body, which represents the great mass of the teachers in the universities, has not been consulted—except by Lord Taylor and his Committee, who did us the honour of seeking our views. We left them in no doubt as to how disastrous we thought it would be to be put under the Ministry of Education.
It was clear from the speech by Lord Hastings in answer to yesterday's debate that the Government have not yet made up their minds on this important matter; and the Press seems to reflect that there is a swaying backwards and forwards in relation to this question. Perhaps they are waiting for the result of the St. Marylebone by-election. As it is too much to expect that this will be a Labour gain, I should like to express the hope that the next Member for that borough will be the first Minister of Arts and Sciences.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I think that the rather cynical remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, on the Prime Minister's integrity were very unnecessary. 538 It is surely a sign of weakness in a party when it attacks personalities.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I did my best to make it perfectly clear that I regard the Prime Minister's personal integrity as 100 per cent. It was the political integrity of him and his Party in using the gracious Speech as an Election address which I was bringing into criticism.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
Surely it comes to one and the same thing.
I am going to talk for a short time about modernisation, because it is only by modernisation that we can achieve economic growth and produce wealth in order to have more education, more schools and more social services. Of course, "modernisation" is a very attractive word; rather like "freedom". It is extremely attractive to use, but unless it is put into practice with sound common sense and human understanding behind it, it can destroy our civilisation. The gracious Speech says that economic growth must be matched by social advance. I would rather have said "social happiness". Advance smacks rather of regimentation. The Prime Minister, in his television talk last night, said that the society he was aiming at was a society of opportunity and not orders, and I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government can carry that out. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in his very able speech seconding the humble Address, called for an acceleration in the process of change. We do not want change just for change's sake, but we do want change for progress. As we all know, evolution does not always mean progress. There has been the urbanisation of large areas of our country, and I do not call that progress. We suffer terrible traffic jams, with people in their cars breathing in poisonous gases; and we suffer frightful noise. It is no doubt evolution, but we cannot call it "progress".
We have heard the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and other noble Lords opposite call for more and more houses, social services, and education; but, judging from what noble Lords opposite have said, one would think that we were lagging behind in every sphere. In actual fact we are in the forefront of the most modern nations of the world. Our 539 social services are second to none. If one takes our agriculture, how many noble Lords realise that every farm-worker in this country produces food for 23 people—which is the highest in Europe? The next country is Denmark, where the farmworker produces food for 17 people; then comes Germany, with a figure of 9; France, 8; and Italy, 7.
We heard the noble Lord, Lord Latham, deliver a dreary Jonah of a speech, as if this country were completely at the bottom of everything. Our agriculture is by far the most highly mechanised in the world.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, we accept that in regard to agriculture. Our criticism is of the other industries.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
The noble Lord, Lord Latham, appeared to be criticising all industry; but in some industries, particularly the aircraft and motor industry, I consider that we are extremely up to date. I do not know any employer who is not all for automation and modernisation, but there are great stumbling-blocks. There is the human element. It is in some ways far easier to employ machines than to employ men, because machines do not argue and they do not strike, though, admittedly, they do break down. However, one does not have the frustrations of employing a great number of people. Every employer I have known—and this certainly goes for me—is all for modernisation. There is the stumbling-block of capital, and there is also the stumbling-block—and I do not mean this nastily—of the great vested interests of the unions. I have some sympathy with them. I think that on the whole the more responsible union leaders of to-day realise that the object of production is to produce wealth, and that the more wealth the country produces the more wealthy, in the long run, every member of it will be.
The automation of industry is the greatest challenge from the social point of view that Great Britain has ever had to face. It is quite possible that in the next twenty years, or perhaps even fifteen years, automation might mean the loss of 5 million or even 8 or 10 million jobs. It is a frightening thought that to- 540 day we find two or even three men doing work which, with machinery, could be done by one man. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, that we require change to make life worth living. But, my Lords, what does make life worth living? Is it to have an extra car, or more television sets? Surely not. I think that this materialistic outlook is really going quite crazy in this country. What makes life worth living is a job well done and a happy family life. In the small works that I have, one can see a machine operator standing by two or three machines and—of course I do not blame him—he gets extremely bored. How are we to combat that? It is a very difficult problem.
Perhaps the Socialists' idea is that in the days of automation everyone will have a free income from the State, and people will all be trained to use their leisure. I was interested to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, has a Motion down on the problems of leisure, and I hope that the House will be able to debate it soon. But if we are going to have that state of affairs, where perhaps half the population is idle, I do not think that our civilisation will survive, because a civilisation that is not founded on personal responsibility must surely finish. We rose to our greatest power and wealth under the fiercest individualism; as did America, which has had the fastest economic growth in history. I only wish that the noble Lord, Lord Latham, were here to hear that. I am afraid that here I have to criticise my own Party, as to-day both the big Parties of this country appear to vie with each other in trying to find new ways of paying for the individual, and thus dispossessing him of his personal responsibilities. Surely in the end that is the road to disaster. It is rather like the bread and circuses of ancient Rome.
The Opposition's Amendment to the gracious Speech draws particular attention tohousing, education and the care of the sick, elderly and less well-off members of the community",and they say that Her Majesty's Government have failed in this respect. I might have had some very slight sympathy with the Opposition Amendment on Defence—but only very slight—but I cannot have any sympathy with this 541 Amendment, because we have heard from various Government speakers about what Her Majesty's Government have done in this respect, and how the Opposition can criticise it is really beyond me. The only criticism I have is that, where a man is less well-off through his own fault, I do not: really see, provided his basic needs are catered for, that he needs any extra benefit from the State. I quite agree that the sick ought to have everything that can be done for them. But regarding the elderly, I should have liked to see some form of means test so that in these days of high wages people should try to help their elderly relatives. I think it is a great mistake automatically to have elderly people as a complete 100 per cent. charge on the State. There, again, you are doing away with personal responsibility, which is extremely bad for the national character.
My Lords, perhaps I could just say a short word about housing, and I will be as fast as I can. I feel that in the building industry employers are rather to blame about the question of apprenticeships. In France, for instance, apprentices to the building trade are fully trained in three years, but in England it lakes from four to five years. This is quite unnecessary, but I am afraid that employers in the building industry probably rather like having the cheaper labour of apprentices. There is room for improvement in the training in the building trade. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, who suggested that we ought to have far more prefabricated houses, and, of course, that would certainly make building faster. But we are trying to clear the slums, and the danger of prefabricated houses is that in a short time they rather turn into slums. Automation cannot help us a great deal in the building trade at the moment, but it is helping us with fittings.
Speaking of house building, I was absolutely astounded the other day to read in the newspaper that a council in, I think, Yorkshire, were proposing to build twelve specially constructed houses, at great expense, with unbreakable fittings, for twelve badly behaved families in council houses who apparently smashed up the houses into which the council had put them. Surely, if people behave like that in council houses, they ought to suffer some withdrawal 542 of privilege. It seems quite fantastic that, at the expense of the taxpayers and of the ratepayers—at the expense of good citizens—they should have special houses with unbreakable fittings built for them. There again, you come back to my point: that, irrespective of your behaviour, in this country, apparently, you suffer no form of withdrawal of privilege. I also think that this pampering is responsible, to a great extent, for the increasing crime to-day; but that is beside the point.
May I just say a word, on the subject of this great social danger of automation? We have heard a great deal about education. I do not intend to speak on education, but we have heard that we spend £1,100 million annually on education. There appears to be great concern in the House regarding higher education, but I should rather like to start at the bottom, with elementary education. If only, from an early age, the children of this country could be taught more of their responsibilities—or, shall I say, their duties—and less of their rights, it would, I think, be a great help; because I am afraid that in this country we are rather seeing the attitude, "The country owes me a living." If only we could instil into people that it is only one's own effort, either mental or physical, that deserves recognition, deserves payment!
Before I end, my Lords, perhaps I could take again the example of France. In the age of automation we are going to have, as I have previously said, several million people out of jobs. We have had great concern in this House during this debate about 100,000 or 200,000 unemployed here or there, and I quite agree that it is an extremely upsetting thing. But I can assure your Lordships that in ten to fifteen years you are going to have four or five million out of jobs and we shall really have to start thinking then because it is going to transform the whole of our society. So I was pleased to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, say that the Government are introducing an industrial training scheme. In the future, the scope for training is going to be extremely important, and we shall have to train a great number of people for jobs outside industry. For instance, in France they are training comparatively 543 old men, men in their forties—not old men, perhaps; middle-aged men—in six months to be craftsmen in metal working. If, under this training scheme, we can really train people in the crafts and arts, there will be great scope for all those who are going to be out of employment. We cannot have them out of employment, for obvious reasons. We shall have to find other employment for them, and I think that in the arts and crafts, outside industry, there is probably scope.
But, my Lords, if we are to meet the challenge of automation socially, I believe that it can be done only through the Conservative Party. It is only through Conservative principles that we can meet this challenge because if one can imagine automation under Socialism, I think it would be dreary indeed. It is all very well for a noble Lord to laugh, but we have seen it in other countries. We should have a nation of characterless morons ruled by equally characterless technocrats. I sincerely hope that the country will rally to the Prime Minister's call to put opportunity before orders and seize the chance, through the vast store of character and individualism in this country, so that automation technocracy may be tempered by humanity and man remain master of the machine.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SANDWICH
My Lords, as the hour is so late I will not detain your Lordships for long, but I should like to start by expressing some surprise at the nature of the speech and the nature of the movements of the noble Lord, Lord Latham. I should have thought it perfectly proper, in this or in any other House of Parliament, to reside temporarily in the Chamber and to make an uncontroversial speech—what we might call in another place a constituency-type speech; but I should have thought that if one deliberately prepared, and almost read out word for word, a controversial speech of the most extreme character, it was beholden of the speaker to spend some time in the Chamber after the speech in case there were Members who wished to refer to it.
544 The noble Lord, Lord Latham, came to his seat just in time to hear his predecessor in the debate. Then, hardly had his successor in the debate started speaking, when he walked out of the Chamber and has not been seen here since. I feel altogether inhibited, even at this late hour, in his absence now, from criticising, as I should like to do, fundamentally and root and branch, almost every sentence that he uttered. It was a really quite disgraceful, partisan speech: one that defended every aspect of the Socialist Party of 1945 to 1951, leaving out whole tracts of the truth, and then proceeded to castigate the Conservatives for what they have done to elevate the country to the present generous standard of living. I wish that we had time, and I wish that the noble Lord were here, to listen to a reply which I think he should have received.
I want to speak on a subject which has not been much discussed in this two-day debate, except for the speech of my noble friend Lord Ferrier, who alluded to it and said in passing something which I thought was of tremendous significance: that in this day and age we cannot afford to dole out bountiful money to those who are not really in need of it. I refer to the system of national pensions and National Assistance, and all the other benefits that go with them. It is 21 years since Sir William Beveridge promulgated his great plan of National Insurance. It captured the imagination of the country in the dark days of 1942 to 1943; but, as we look back on it to-day, from this distance in time, we can see what that policy of Sir William's owed to the dim past, to Lloyd Georgism and to the whole pre-Keynesian era. It had its roots in the Poor Law and in early Socialism, and it compromised also with the capitalism of the period after the 1914–18 War.
For example, the tables which Sir William drew up—for instance, those on the expected unemployment ratio at the end of the last war, which was rated as high as 8¼ per cent. (and that figure also was introduced in the famous Coalition White Paper of 1944)—show that his plan which the Socialist Government incorporated in the Act of 1946 is widely out of date. Then, too, the principle of universality enshrined 545 in the Beveridge proposals drew upon common and shared experiences of war time which are not, by and large, with us to-day to the same extent; nor does the nation wish to maintain and reintroduce them. Altogether that document and the system of National Insurance that followed it is a document for another age.
The present system of National Insurance which derives from this contributes little to the affluent society in which we now live and nothing at all to the Government's renovation plans for Britain. Rather it is the reverse, because there is every need to direct unnecessary or wasted resources in National Insurance into the creation of new physical assets. The Prime Minister's drive to modernise Britain is going to call for great thrift in certain places, and this is one of the places. We are not so wealthy in this country that we can drive a coach and four into the future and throw out largesse from the windows on the way; but that seems to be what we are doing at the present time.
The Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance is not an insurance office at all; it is a cornucopia. Seven-eighths of the pension benefits are not contracted for by premium pence and the greater proportion of this non-contracted-for money passes to pensioners not absolutely in need of it, as was indicated a few moments ago by my noble friend behind me, Lord Ferrier. Let me give one figure only. In December, 1962, 23.6 per cent. of all households in receipt of National Insurance benefits were also receiving National Assistance. In the last few years the figure has varied by 2 or 3 per cent., but not more, according to the changes which have taken place in benefit rates and in the cost of living. If you go so far in charity as to double the percentage of 23.6 so as to provide for imagined, as well as actual, need in households, you are left with more than 50 per cent. of households in this country for whom payment to them is a pure Exchequer bonus. As the total amount paid in pensions last year was some £784 million, the sums in question are very large indeed.
My Lords, let us look at some of the improvements in our society since 546 Beveridge's day. We have to recognise that our Welfare State is drawing many thousands of people every year into beneficial practices which were far beyond the reach of their parents and grandparents. People now accept wages by the month, drawn by cheque, and are opening deposit accounts with the banks and taking advantage of the banks' schemes for personal loans. They are saving and investing on the Stock Exchange. They are taking out insurance for many risks, including life cover and hospitalisation. I think it is true to say that a diminishing proportion of our people to-day are still observing the old disciplines of cash to hand and cash in outlay.
What else do we see around us? We see roads and cars, houses and television, new hospitals, schools and universities, and we see Ministers vying with each other in departmental activity. My Lords, I have made a small calculation. Out of the 23 members of the Cabinet there are 19 who hit the headlines with new schemes almost every day. The exceptions are the Minister without Portfolio in another place, whose Portfolio is to explain what other people are doing, and the Leaders of the two Houses, whose activities cannot easily be swelled. There is also the Lord Chancellor, who is a "great swell" already. It is when you look down the list of Ministers not in the Cabinet that you pick out the single black sheep. He is the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance—without offence at all to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, whom we are very glad to have with us, or to the present incumbent of this office. Somehow, this Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance has been left out of all the exciting plans which make up the new birth of opportunity for the Tory Party. A more obvious field for further advance I can scarcely imagine. Electorally, this is the most sensitive Department of all. Crudely put, there are more votes in a shilling to the old age pensioners than in ten new motorways or twenty New Towns. A scheme that was generous to those in need, that saved money and did not wallow in financial immorality, and that was easy to understand and instantaneous in operation would be of enormous practical and political value.
547 I am sure that the time has now arrived to dismantle the entire insurance system and to substitute benefits as of right, but subject, after a period, to a test of means. Let me start with the National Assistance Board. Before the war public assistance was for the most part capricious, irregular and sectionalised. For all that it had splendid personalities associated with it, the system itself was meanly conceived and meanly administered. The National Assistance Board to-day, on the other hand, wins universal acclaim. Its officers are popular everywhere. Their tests of means and of needs are carried out with the utmost sympathy and discretion. The Board has won a position in our national life that justifies expansion to higher levels and wider opportunities. I would rename it the Social Security Board and charge it with the duty of administering all the recognised insurance benefits at National Assistance rates or whichever rate was the highest.
These benefits would be payable on demand to the sick, the unemployed, and to those with industrial injuries, to the retired and to those who claim benefit from any cause. The national pensions scheme would be wound up and become a closed account. On the appointed day contributions and benefits received on the weekly National Insurance cards would cease and contributors would be given the option to withdraw all their past contributions and leave the scheme or, without further contributions, await the date of their retirement and draw a stated amount in a lump sum, as for post-war credits.
I do not believe that there is any reason at the present time why a State-operated endowment assurance should continue—and that is what retirement pensions are to-day or, at least, to the extent of one-eighth of it. Life and endowment insurance through the tariff and industrial offices is widely recognised, as are the personal loan schemes of the Big Five banks. I believe that if a plan of this sort were put into effect the farce we all recognise of moving in and out of National Assistance according to whether a Pensions (Increase) Bill is being introduced in Parliament would be eliminated. The earnings rule for pensions between the age of 65 and 70 would also disappear. 548 Both these things have a stigma attached to them and are consequently very unpopular.
I am well aware how tedious it always is for your Lordships to listen to personal ideas and plans expanded at any length, especially from one who is known not to be a great expert in this vast field of the social services. I will therefore end by merely stating my belief that the time for changes in our present system has arrived, and I would urge the Government to act promptly and with resolution. It was left to the Labour Party to implement the ideas which our great war-time Prime Minister in the Coalition Government called forth from the mind of the then Sir William Beveridge. The Conservative Party now have the chance—and not a dying chance by any means—of drawing ahead in the struggle to make Britain again a leader among States in public charity and social justice.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, one thing I am quite sure about is that all my colleagues on these Benches will be uttering a prayer to-night, because the speeches we have heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, can be repeated for the benefit of electors wherever a Conservative candidate is put up, and nothing could make it more certain that our victory at the polls would be overwhelmingly increased. It is an amazing thing. As I listened, my mind went back to the speeches of the late Lord Winterton, not when he was a mature politician but in the early 1900's, and also to the speeches of the Cecils and all the young Tories who were then hard after the heels of the Liberals of that day. At certain stages the Tories have always voted against social reform, until their electoral prospects made it absolutely essential that they should steal the Whigs' clothing while they were bathing.
§ THE EARL OF SANDWICH
My Lords, if the noble Earl will do me the honour of reading my speech in Hansard to-morrow, he will see at once that there are no votes in it for the Labour Party. He was so busy talking to those on either side of him that he missed the point of my speech altogether.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
The noble Earl forgets how useful all he has been saying to-night will be to Labour speakers.
I want to thank all those who have taken part in this two days' debate, and especially the speakers on my own side, for the magnificent: way they have kept the debate going. May I say that as a person the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, is absolutely charming, and we are all very fond of him, but it seems to me that he was trying to get rid of the Welfare State, though perhaps not so directly as the noble Earl.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am prepared to accept the view of my noble friends who were listening.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I did not say a word; I was listening to the noble Earl. I should like him to understand that while he has been saying things over there, we have kept practically silent and now he must contain himself a bit and take his own medicine. As I was saying, I should like to thank my noble friends for their valuable support to this Amendment, which was so effectively moved by my noble friend Lord Silkin. I was a little doubtful about how much support I got from my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry, but we shall still be good friends.
The debate yesterday, which dealt largely with housing and education, was notable for the opening speech of my noble friend Lord Silkin and for the follow-up by my noble friend Lord Longford, whom I was able to hear, though I had to go to a speaking engagement later in the evening. But I have read through the debate and I am bound to say that I did not read anything like an effective reply to my noble friend from the new Minister, Lord Blakenham. Although he was exceedingly kind and calm in the way he offered his particular side of the argument, he really did not answer the case. The Conservatives always want to take 550 the actual increases in the figures in this or that department and boast about them. I quite understand that, but when we come to examine the figures, we find that they fail to provide for the needs of the country. Figures totalling the sums spent have very little significance in measuring the amount of increased provision.
The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who I am sorry was not able to stay, as he kindly informed me, made a reasonable and calm Conservative speech, dragging in figures which he had carefully collected from some source or other about wages, the number of employed and the purchasing power of wages. Surely it cannot be out of the minds of Conservative Members of this House that the whole basis of present values, of wages and production values, was entirely changed by the policy the Tories adopted in 1951. They removed all controls that were keeping us within reasonable bounds. "Set the people free!" was the actual challenge of the Tories when they fought the 1951 Election. With what results? The Budget we handed over in 1951 was just over £4,000 million. I doubt whether the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, will be able to say that the actual expenditure by the end of this financial year, April 4, will be much less than £6,500 million. That is a measure of the position.
Let us take the figures of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. He said that there were nearly 22 million employed in 1951; that now there were so many over 23 million, and that this was a great gain. But perhaps he has not taken sufficient notice of the increase of the whole population in the meantime, starting with the large number of war-time births and the unexpected development of the birth rate after the war. In relation to that, it is not unreasonable to expect that there would be a larger number employed. Then he called attention to the purchasing power of wages. Of course the wages of many skilled workers are up, but surely the noble Marquess realises that at the present time over 2¼ million workers do not get more than £11 a week.
Then he puts forward the argument that the purchasing value of wages today is 35 per cent. more than it was in 1951. I am shocked at the idea. What can be included in the calculation to 551 give 35 per cent. more purchasing power in wages than in 1951? It is an amazing statement. Of course, if you deal entirely with food commodities, and the limited number of articles for sale covered in the usual inquiries before the Ministry of Labour Index is published, you may be able to show an increase in purchasing value. But you get a different result if you look at the results of the 1953 Act setting up an extra television channel under the I.T.V., if you look at all the pressure salesmanship, and then take into account what has resulted: hire-purchase running into hundreds of millions of pounds—I think nearly £1,000 million is outstanding to-day. Does that point to an increasing purchasing value? Not at all.
To take the other standards that have to be met by workers to keep up with the cost of living, look at the difference in cost of living of the worker in housing alone. I listened to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, speaking about what the worker gets that he ought not to get; saying that you have to do this and that for him. The noble Viscount seems to forget what has happened to the worker, as a result of Tory policy, in the abolition of the great majority of the area of rent control and the actual increases in rents and rates. He has forgotten what are now the rents for municipally built houses. Where a man was paying, before the war, anything between 7s. 6d. and 15s. a week, he is now readily paying in rent £2, £2 10s., and more a week—plus rates.
It was very good of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, to come back; I had almost explained that he was not going to be here, and I said it was all right for him to be away. I cannot imagine for one moment that the figure given to him, that wages had increased 35 per cent. in purchasing value, is correct; it is completely out of reckoning in dealing with this matter.
May I say to the noble Marquess, while he is here, that I was most interested in his remarks with regard to the need for modernisation of the relationship between labour and employers in actually settling their disputes. But, as he recognised when he was speaking, 552 that was not new. There have always been efforts on the part of trade unions to have good relations with employers. I have visited them many times in their friendly talks in between times. I remember Lord McGowan of I.C.I. doing all he possibly could to keep up good relations; and I remember Ernest Bevin and many other trade union leaders at that time responding and having very good relations. It is not a question of modernisation, but of the maintenance of good will and to have what is best for industry as a whole. Nobody on this side of the House is against that. On the other hand, when you come into the kind of finance I have been talking about, the change in the value of money and the differences the worker has to meet in the present situation, then you have to remember that the trade unions still have to keep the confidence of their members in how they are to maintain a reasonable standard of living, of education and of progress for their families. May I say to the last two speakers from the Tory Benches that what is desirable is just as much the right of the working class of this country as of any landed proprietor or descendant of the landed aristocracies.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Thank you very much. I am obliged for that acknowledgment. The case that was put by my noble friend Lord Silkin in regard to housing has never really been met. Of course the percentage of houses now being provided by public authorities has gone steadily down. Of course the control of rents has meant that there has been a great increase in demand upon private builders. And of course, as a consequence, because there has been no real planning and control of that industry, in the circumstances, prices have soared that is, prices not only of houses but of land. How much have we heard from the Government in the course of this debate of the effect upon housing of the price of land? It is shocking, the state into which things have got in this direction. I spoke the other day of three small houses built which I saw myself in a suburb twelve miles north of Westminster. They comprised two bedrooms, stairs going straight up from the 553 small hall door, one large living room and a bathroom on the ground floor. The price was £4,500 each. How can the worker, with his present wage and this increased purchasing power suggested by the noble Marquess, get a house like that?
Yet you are launching a scheme going into thousands of millions of pounds after twelve years in office, with these conditions going on outside; and this is to win the electorate back and to maintain the support they have given you over the last three Elections. I do not think they are going to be caught this time. As I suggested to the noble Marquess when we had our little interjection, they have been tried now, twice following. There have come, twice following, great offers of gifts before an Election, and then those offers have not materialised; tax was taken off and put back on again almost as soon as the Election was over. This was so in 1955, and the same in 1959. I do not think they are going to be fooled by the sudden launching of schemes some of which will take years to carry into effect, to catch up the arrears you have set for the nation in the last twelve years, and for which I suggest you will have to pay thousands of millions of pounds.
That will be paid not only by the taxpayer; it will be paid not only by the users of many of the services thus provided, but it is going to add considerably to the burden of rates. Why it is that nearly all rating valuation assessments have been made at three times the current figures, I am not sure. But you will not be able to disguise from the ratepayers and the municipal authorities concerned, even if you raise your new money at a lower rate in the pound because you have a much higher valuation assessment, the effect this has upon their pockets; and you will not be able to hide what is the actual final position of the consumer.
We have had a reasonable discussion about the consumer's position. I very much appreciated the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, who is Chairman of the Consumers' Council set up by the Government, and I wish the discussions they are having well; I hope they will produce good results. But when you are dealing with consumer issues, you are not dealing with them from the point of 554 view so much as was put in her own inimitable way by my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry. You have to look at the history of the working class. The working class have been fighting, as it were, along two roads during the whole of the last century and a half to get a proper position as consumers. They went through all the dreadful sweating and being half starved until the Truck Acts. It took years to get rid of them, as soon as the poor trade unions could get free from the anti-combination laws by which it was made a crime for men to organise for better conditions. From then on they have been trying to get rid of these consumers' positions.
The other thing is when they got a reasonable wage with which they could feed themselves and their families and be able to get prices which were within their means. I am proud to belong to the movement which really organised consumers. They were really organised in 1844 by a few working men who gathered and said, "We must do something about this. We have tried political action, and we have not got any power. We have not got the votes. We have tried by the Chartist organisation, and we have not got it there. We must do something for ourselves. We are poor because we are robbed, and we are robbed because NAT are poor". They were the words they put into their resolution; and so they started the Co-operative consumers' movement in 1844. The people who have maintained that movement have always been defending the consumer, and doing something that, especially if Governments from time to time had been more lenient than they were in regard to political action, would help to improve the general status of the worker, the housewife and the household, not always by nationalisation, but by voluntary ownership by the people, for the people, under their own voluntary organisation. That is the kind of consumers' action that I like to see, yet at the same time conforming to ordinary reasonable business status and standards.
So I say to my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry that I am not going to argue much with her about the arguments she put forward, except to say that the movement to which I have belonged for well over fifty years is not going to be a party to an organisation 555 set up outside to become a complete parasite on the distributive industry to the extent of a levy upon the retailers themselves of maybe just slightly under 5d. in the £. That 5d. in the £ is an additional cost that the retailer has to make prima facie, and that prima facie charge is divided into three. There is a so-called gain of trade by the retailer because he is giving the stamps that he is purchasing. That can be a real gain to him only if all the other retailers do not buy them and give them. Next, who is to meet the cost of this great new headquarter organisation, whether it be the American, the Canadian or the Eire organisation, or others that come in? Where does that come from? It comes out of the 5d.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I think my noble friend must allow me to interrupt here. I have—if he will not be more angry still—not only a great respect but a great affection for him. I hope that does not annoy him. I do not propose to develop this, but I do not think he is talking about my speech. I only wish to make two points. I said that I was not taking sides to-night on stamp issuing. I also said they did not attract me. How my noble Leader can construe that as he has in his remarks I really do not see.
My Lords, I am trying hard to follow the noble Earl's argument. What I do not understand is this. What is the difference between trading stamps and the "Co-op. divi."? They seem to me exactly the same thing.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am very much afraid that the noble Lord has not learned from all his Parliamentary experience the very great difference. It is this. The Co-operative Society is a separate and legal trading organisation, in which its trading members are shareholders in the business. It is their business. They sell at market prices, and they distribute their surplus at the end of an accounting period as they see fit. That is the answer. It is in no way at all to be compared to this parasitic organisation which is now being attached to ordinary retail trade.
My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government responsible for either trading stamps or the Co-operative dividend?
The noble Earl is attacking Her Majesty's Government, but are they in any way responsible for trading stamps or Co-operative dividends?
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am sure they are responsible to some extent for the Co-operative dividend system, because they have always protected that organisation to a large degree in Parliament under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act. They are doing it also for the agricultural co-operatives on the same basis. Until Mr. Chamberlain, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, set up the Inquiry in the 'thirties they were getting their proper share in what they were working to do for the consumer, but he restricted it to a certain extent. That is the position, so it is no use saying that the Government are not interested in that.
I want to say one other thing to my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry. She is perfectly entitled to express her opinion. We, as a Labour Party, are not fond of supporting a case of price cutting. I have been talking about the history of wages, the consumer's position and the workers in the country for that very reason. If you go in for price cutting—and my noble friend seemed to support that to-night—on behalf of the consumers, I say that in the long run that will bring down the position of the consumer and the working class.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, because I am sure this can only benefit the Government. This week in the papers I have seen big advertisements of the Co-operative Society with prices crossed out and cheaper prices put in. This is the Co-operative Society.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Certainly. So it is the case with others and great chain stores. They are faced by the other things that have been set up. But in the end 557 it must react upon the wages of the people themselves. It must do very largely, and that is why I am saying it is not the policy of the Labour Party.
I want to say one or two words more. I have listened with great interest to the debate to-day, as well as reading the debate yesterday. I feel that we have made out a case that in relation to housing and land profits the Government have not met the real needs of the situation. I say that, with regard to education—that very great social service—they have not met the needs of the situation. You are now proposing a huge expenditure upon education which ought to hava been spread over the last twelve years. In consequence, this year large numbers of students, who were ready for entry into the universities, and qualified to enter, were not able to secure a place due to the cuts in university grants.
In the second place, in spite of the figures that we were given yesterday by the Government Minister about training colleges, many people have had great difficulty in getting into a training college this year. It was estimated within the last twelve months that if you are going to meet the proper demands for the number of teachers required in a developing educational system, you will have in the meantime to overcrowd practically all the existing training colleges as well as build a very large number of additional training colleges. This has all been largely due to an old miscalculation by Government authorities as to what would be the needs of the people in numbers and in style of education in those years. You have not met the need here.
The Government certainly have not met the case put by my noble friend Lady Summerskill this afternoon. We had the usual gentlemanly reply by the noble Lord, Lord Newton—I want to hand it to him—but he did not meet the case. In fact, to-day in many of the hospitals the conditions are not up to the standard they should be as the right and due of any citizen in this country, and proper provision is not made. It is admitted now that the huge sum that Lord Newton has put to us which is to be spent ought to have been provided more rapidly by spreading the expenditure over the last twelve years.
558 In relation to the general case for the Amendment, I feel that we have made our case. I hope that all my noble friends will be as full of pleasure and gladness in going into the Lobby to support it and to make sure that the Government know exactly where we stand. This is, indeed, an Amendment to a Queen's speech which, as I said last Wednesday, is really an enlarged Election address. That is what it is. We are convinced that if the Government are returned as a result of it, then the country will soon find, and the people will begin to understand, that they have had played upon them the same kind of trick as was played both in 1955 and in 1959. We shall go into the Lobby with delight.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, my first duty in winding up the debate is to congratulate the only maiden speaker, my noble friend Lord Blakenham, whose virginity, I think, was not at all sullied by his membership of the Government; and I think that your Lordships' enjoyment of his speech was in no way diminished by the fact that he was perhaps slightly prejudiced in favour of the Government's policy. At the present time the trade between the two Houses of Parliament seems to be in a flourishing condition. At the moment it seems that our exports are greater than our imports; we have what is called a favourable balance of trade; but I am afraid that the severe limitations of the late Peerage Act make it unlikely that this can go on indefinitely, and that we shall soon return to more or less one-way traffic. My noble friend is one of the most welcome of immigrants and I think your Lordships are probably looking forward to hearing him again very much more than he looks forward to the hard labour which he will have to perform in your Lordships' House.
The debate has ranged over a very wide field indeed—sometimes I thought a little wider than the terms of the Amendment. A vast number of subjects have been discussed which have been of very great interest to me, as I am sure they have been to your Lordships. The noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, talked about the Hire Purchase Bill which is not in the Queen's Speech and wanted to know why it was 559 not and why it had been announced so soon afterwards, and I promised to find out for her. It was discussed whether or not it should be in the Speech, and the only reason it was left out was because the Speech was so long that there was not room for it. The reason it was announced so soon after was simply that it had not been in the Queen's Speech. I must, however, firmly decline to say a single word to the noble Lady about stamps, because I am most anxious not to quarrel either with the noble Lady or with her noble Leader.
It is getting very late and we are about to divide upon an Amendment which censures the Government for failing to provide enough for our social services, particularly housing, education and the care of the sick, the old and the less well off, which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was suspected of trying to identify with all of your Lordships. I shall try briefly to conclude the debate by suggesting to your Lordships not only that the Amendment is unrealistic, as I think it is, but that this Government have, in fact, done more to advance and improve our social services and have done it more quickly than any Government at any time in the history of this country.
In the last five years it has been my duty from time to time to explain and defend Government policy on all the items which are listed in this Amendment. I do not think I have ever tried to exaggerate our performance or to claim that we could always do as much as we should like; and I have certainly always tried to appreciate and to acknowledge the peculiar difficulties which faced the Labour Government in the six years after the war. Therefore, I am not going to attack the performance of the Labour Government and I am not going to contrast the relatively small amount which Labour were able to do with what we have done. I always feel that is rather like stealing toffee from a child.
But I am not going to claim, either, that the Government's policy has always been entirely free from any kind of imperfection. In your Lordships' House, as my noble friend Lord Blakenham will soon find out, the errors of the Government are exposed, attacked and rebuked sometimes less frequently by 560 the Opposition than by our own supporters, who are less inhibited than in another place from voting against the Government and often from defeating us. I think that may be so in other Parties, too, in your Lordships' House. When I looked at the Division List on the Amendment to the Defence debate the night before last I drew the inference that if we were to have a Liberal Government in this House, two-thirds of the Government supporters would vote against the defence policy of their own Government. As for the possible future Labour Government I think we must wait, even if we do not ever see.
What I should like to say to the noble Earl, the Leader of the Opposition, is that, as I understand the word, certainly I have never been against, and I do not think our Party have been against, planning.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I said this much more than two years ago, and I think it is true. There may perhaps have been sometimes a certain amount of verbal misunderstanding. Some people who argue about planning use the word in the sense of Socialist planning. I do not use it in that sense at all. I think everybody will agree that if you are to have a policy you must have a plan, and I think you could not have a better example of the possible difference between our ideas of planning than on this question of housing which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, raised yesterday.
I am not sure whether it is still so—I think it is—that the Party opposite are in favour of reimposing building controls. That is quite a reasonable thing to argue for, if it is going to result in preventing the kind of building you do not want and getting more of the kind of building you do want. We do not agree that that would be so. We certainly would agree in certain circumstances, as, for instance, an emergency like a war, that controls would be necessary. We do not think that wrong or immoral. We think that in present circumstances it is better planning not to have physical restrictions and controls upon the building industry. But if you are going to have a housing target—300,000 houses or whatever it may be 561 —that target must be worked out in relation to your estimate of what the construction industries of the country will bear and what the priorities ought to he. Therefore, you must have a national plan, whether the plan includes the control and limitation of the supply of materials or whether it does not.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
When Mr. Aneurin Bevan and others of the Labour Party said in 1951: "You cannot build 300,000 houses a year; you will be lucky if you can get 200,000", of course they did not mean that it would not be possible to do it. If the whole resources of the building industry were concentrated on housing and if we did not build any factories or schools, or did not put any new buildings in the development areas and did not build any hospitals, it would, of course, be possible to do it. But that is not a plan. In a plan you must decide what your economic priorities are going to be, and you must judge the amount of housing you will aim at in the light of that estimate. That is what we did. We were right, and the Labour Party happened to be wrong. We thought that we could build 300,000 houses in accordance with the best economic development of the country, and I claim that we did so.
Even as late as 1957, six years later, Mr. Harold Wilson wrote that the Tory achievement of building well over 300,000 houses per annum was socially desirable but it placed a great strain on our economic resources; these were the years when Britain should have been developing her basic industries. Mr. Wilson was attacking us not for building too few houses but for building too many. He thought that we ought to devote more of our economic resources and more of the construction industry load to equipping factories and not to building houses. That is not what the Opposition are saying to-day: they are suggesting that we have built too few. I put it to your Lordships that our plan, our estimate, has been broadly right. No one, in either Party, suggests for a moment that we have ever built as many houses as we want. Of course, we should all like to abolish the slums the day after to-morrow, if it were a physical possibility. But you must relate these 562 things to your estimate of the economic capacity and future economic growth of the country.
The housing achievements we have reached in the last twelve years are 34 million new houses built (like Lord Silkin I am giving only the English figure, because I agree that it is better to discuss the Scottish ones separately), and 700,000 reconditioned; and the emphasis is now on two things, slum clearance, which is the only one that is getting financial support in England (though the situation in Scotland is different), and home ownership. In the last twelve years the number of families living in their own homes has increased from 4½ million to 6½ million and I thought your Lordships were very much impressed by the figures which my noble friend Lord Hastings gave us last night, showing that of these new houses built for ownership the majority of them were not luxury building put up for rich people; that the majority of them were being built for people often in the lowest income groups and very often in the younger age groups—a large proportion under 35, and a great many under 25.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
What does the noble Earl think is being done at the moment by the Department concerned? I raised a question, on the first day of our debate on the Address on the gracious Speech, over the case of Slough, where there are 1,500 unfilled vacancies at the labour exchange. The place is overcrowded; the young people cannot get houses. The local council asked the Minister for permission to build 400 houses, and he cut it to 245 recently. Is that the policy of the Government?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I think the noble Earl has enough experience to know that if a Parliamentary speech becomes as discursive as he is seeking to make mine it might well become both unmerciful and indecent. I wished to make a general reply and I think I have done so. What the Department is doing now is making plans to increase, and we believe that we shall reach 350,000 next year and 400,000 a few years afterwards. That is, we believe, within the bounds of practicability. I do not know whether or not the Party opposite have any plans which are comparable to that, because they have not told us.
563 I am not going to add very much to what has already been said about education, except perhaps to break the bad news to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that I shall be taking the debate on the Robbins Report in two or three weeks; and that makes me all the more anxious not to anticipate any part of it now. He particularly asked a question last night about the administration, and pressed strongly for an answer. He repeated it several times. He will find it all in the speech of my right honourable friend the Chief Secretary, Mr. Boyd-Carpenter, two days ago in another place, if he will be good enough to look at it. In view of the lateness of the hour, I do not want to pursue the matter now. I think that the achievements which we have accomplished in education—raising the number of people who are having higher education from 100,000 to 216,000, including the colleges of advanced technology; building more than 5,000 new schools, and increasing by 150 per cent. the number of boys and girls staying on after school-leaving age—are indications that our policy has been steadily growing, and the advance we are going to make is not a new thing but the natural corollary of what we have been doing already for the last twelve years.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, had several critical things to say about the Queen's Speech. He thought it was an Election manifesto and he thought it was too long. He said that it did not say anything at all about social services. As a matter of fact, it has quite a long paragraph about education, and it has quite a long paragraph about housing. I expect he was thinking of other social services, and that is why I think he was wrong when he described this as an Election manifesto. If it had been an Election manifesto I think it would have said something about the other social services, as all manifestos are likely to do.
§ LORD SILKIN
I do not want to interrupt, and I am not going to do so again. I said that those things which have been omitted from the speech and which I thought should have been included would have involved immediate action and immediate expenditure, and that is why they were not included.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I quite accept that. What amazes me is not the omissions from the gracious Speech but the omissions from the speeches of noble Lords opposite. I have been in both Houses of Parliament off and on for 34 years. I do not know how many debates I have listened to about care of the elderly and the less well off, and this is the first one I have ever listened to in which not one single Member of the Party opposite has said one word about old-age pensions or National Assistance. I think it is a most extraordinary omission and one which I take as very complimentary to the Government.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, there was no need to answer the speeches of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
That is not very convincing because they happened to be the last two speeches in the debate. The only two noble Lords in any part of the House who have referred to retirement pensions or National Assistance are my noble friends Lord Ferrier and Lord Sandwich.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, if I may intervene, may I ask whether the noble Earl was here when I spoke? I mentioned old-age pensions.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Yes. I was going to mention the noble Baroness and I hope I shall never he discourteous enough to leave her out. She only mentioned it in a sense I was coming to. It is. I think, necessary that someone should say, having regard to the nature of the Amendment which we are discussing, that in the last twelve years retirement pensions and unemployment benefit have been increased from 30s. for a single man and 50s. for a married couple to 67s. 6d. for a single man and 109s. for a married couple. They have been increased five times and have now reached this unprecedentedly high figure, while the workers' contribution has gone up proportionately less for the lowest paid wage earner. The noble Lady mentioned the earnings rule in this connection. She referred to widows, and I was rather surprised when she said that when a woman or a widow was earning wages the Tory Government "imposed" upon her this 565 earnings rule. But the Tory Government has relaxed, not imposed, it.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I am sorry, but I must interrupt. I know what the noble Earl is going to say, and he has a good point. But I have said before in this House, and I think I indicated this earlier, that twelve years have passed, and when we had unemployment the trade unions felt that it was fair that this should be. But, twelve years having elapsed, there is a considerable change.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I think the noble Lady has said that. But it was not only the trade unions; it was one of the recommendations of the Beveridge Report which was adopted by the Government of which she was a member. At that time the earnings limit was only 40s. Anything over 40s. came off. Now we have raised it to 85s., and as regards the widow with children to whom the noble Lady referred, I think the noble Lady's case is really even much weaker, because there it has been raised to £6. In addition, however much the woman is earning—if she is earning £15 or £20 a week—she has still to be left 26s. of her own allowance in order to provide for the expenses of the household. Of course, the allowances for her children, which in her case would be 30s. a week for the first child and 22s. a week for the others, would not be at all affected by this earnings rule. I felt it was a little hard, when we had relaxed the earnings rule, especially for a widowed mother, to this large and liberal extent, that the noble Lady should suggest that the Tory Government had imposed an earnings rule on the working mother.
The future growth of all these social services, which is our aim, depends, as your Lordships know, upon the growth of our economy. Since the war, our economy has grown and expanded far more, two or three times more rapidly, than it has ever done in any previous period in history. But the continuity in its growth has been interrupted and retarded
§ again and again by inflationary rises in personal incomes. I think your Lordships will agree that in a free country we cannot interfere with freedom of wage contracts, and however much we try to help, as we must, by advice, by information, by research and by persuasion, we must rely in the last resort upon the common sense of all parties who are engaged in industry; and I think there are good grounds for hoping that common sense is going to prevail.
§ For quite a long time now wage increases have, with a few exceptions here and there, not exceeded the upper limit which has been advised by the National Economic Development Council to the best of their calculation. Wages have been increasing in real value without inflation. Our exports have been going up—they are 8 per cent. higher this year than they were last year, which is a new record. Our industrial production for the third quarter of this year, which we get before we get the G.N.P. figures worked out, is 5 per cent. above the level of 1962 and 3 per cent. above the figure for the earlier part of this year. Real wages are going up, savings are going up, investment is going up, and confidence is going up. It is neither an idle dream nor an irresponsible Election promise, but in my submission it is a realistic expectation to your Lordships that these high targets which have been set in the gracious Speech will be achieved.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am entitled to reply, but I am not going to exercise that right, because I think that there is nothing to which to reply. Neither the noble Earl nor the noble Lord who spoke last night have really met the case that was made against them, and I think the best plan at this late stage is to divide the House.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 51.567
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Lindgren, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Listowel, E.||Shepherd, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Longford, E.||Silkin, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Stonham, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Henley, L.||Mottistone, L.||Taylor, L.|
|Latham, L.||Peddie, L.||Walston, L.|
|Lawson, L.||Sainsbury, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Alport, L.||Dundee, E.||Lothian, M.|
|Amory, V.||Drumalbyn, L.||Mabane, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Effingham, E.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Blakenham, V.||Ferrers, E.||Milverton, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Ferrier, L.||Newton, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Fortescue, E.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Colyton, L.||Furness, V.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Salisbury, M.|
|Croft, L.||Grenfell, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Hailes, L.||Sandwich, E.|
|Denham, L.||Hastings, L.||Savile, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Hawke, L.||Somers, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Hertford, M.||Soulbury, V.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Howard of Glossop, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Dudley, E.||Lansdowne, M.||Waleran, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.