HL Deb 11 November 1964 vol 261 cc328-420

2.45 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Tuesday, November 3, by Baroness Wootton of Abinger—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in the following terms:

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."


My Lords, as we resume this debate my task is to address myself to that part of the gracious Speech which deals with transport. If I were to match brevity with brevity, this would be the shortest speech on record in your Lordships' House; because we are told in the gracious Speech only that "a progressive transport policy" will be adopted. In order that we can judge whether it is progressive or not we must first find out what that policy is, and we must examine whatever evidence is available in relation to it.

I have spent the last five years in devoting myself, as best I could, to the interests of transport. I believed that I understood the position of transport today quite well—that is, until October 16, 1964, after which the situation became, for me, as incomprehensible and, in some ways, as chaotic as peak-hour traffic travelling too fast along a fog-bound motorway. Your Lordships will know that on a number of occasions I have inquired in your Lordships' House about exactly what the Labour Party's transport policy might be. Your Lordships will also know that. I never received any better answer than that there would be a survey of the country's transport system and that that system would be properly integrated, or words to that effect. So I had to turn to other sources for the information I wanted, and, indeed, the information that I still want.

I turned, for instance, to the Labour Party's Manifesto, where I found some five paragraphs devoted to the subject of transport. The first paragraph was a restatement of facts which everyone had known for years. The second paragraph made merely an electioneering noise. The third, fourth and fifth paragraphs contained a number of pious and hopeful platitudes and references to plans yet to be made. In particular, the third paragraph began—and I quote— Labour will draw up a national plan for transport covering the national networks of road, rail and canal communications, properly co-ordinated with air coastal shipping and port services. The rim regional authorities will be asked to draw up transport plans for their own areas. The first thing that struck me about that was that Labour drawing up a national plan, what time the new regional authorities draw up their own plans for their own areas, seemed at first sight a contradiction in terms. But it may be that these varying plans are also to be integrated, although it does not say so. That is the first question I should like to put to Her Majesty's Government.

Secondly, and what seemed more important to me—and, indeed, I noticed that Mr. George Brown seemed to put considerable emphasis on this point in his speech at Derby on Saturday—this is all in the future: Labour "will" draw up …; the new regional authorities "will" be asked…. Is there no plan of any kind now, or is the situation such as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, described to us not long ago in one of his more engaging moments of truth? Your Lordships will not have forgotten that he then told us that when the Labour Party took office in 1945 their transport plan had not been properly worked out. I am left wondering whether we are not facing the same situation to-day.

Therefore, I feel bound to ask Her Majesty's Government a number of questions about it. And before anybody gets the wrong idea, I should say that I have given notice to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, of the questions I propose to ask. I must apologise to him now if I ask two or three more than those of which I gave notice, because I have thought of them since. I put them forward not only in order to make it clear that I do not want to score off him or anyone else in a debating manner (particularly as I understand to-day is his birthday and I am sure we all wish hint Many Happy Returns), but because they are all questions which the Government should certainly be able to answer at once, in support of the kind of specious promises which one finds in the Labour Party Manifesto. Above all, they are questions asked because we want the information.

My third thought, on reading what the Labour Manifesto said about the proper co-ordination of all the transport systems, was: what a splendid start the Government had made with it! Consider, my Lords. We have the Ministry of Transport responsible for roads, rail and, presumably, canals; we have aviation in its own Ministry; we have the Board of Trade responsible for shipping; we have the Home Office responsible for the police. Then we find the Road Research Laboratory floating about in an as yet unallocated position, though, personally, I hope that it will end up in the Ministry of Transport where I consider that it belongs. But if that is co-ordination, then I should very much like to know just who is going to disentangle the knitting from around this particular bunch of kittens.

I must say that, if that breakdown is good enough for the Government in their policy, it is good enough at least for my speech, and I will turn now to roads. In the last period of Labour Government roads clearly formed no part of their transport policy, except in so far as they tried to make it difficult for heavy transport to operate on them. In 1951 we inherited a miserable road programme, running at a mere £5 million a year spent on new roads and major improvements, with no forward planning of either a technical or a financial kind. That contrasts very sharply with the £135 million being spent on the same work in this year in which we are living. It contrasts even more sharply with the £675 million which has been spent on this work in the last five years, and the £1,200 million which we had planned—and I say again, with emphasis, "planned"—both technically and financially, to spend over the next five years. Even if this brought a lot of welcome relief on the best part of 1,000 miles of motorway, and welcome relief on miles and miles of other roads, it has to be admitted that that relief is probably barely adequate. Nevertheless, that road programme is far and away the biggest that has ever been undertaken in this country; and that in spite of the limitations imposed by the many other urgent demands on our resources.

So now, my Lords, I want to ask the Government this question. Can we take it, and take it with assurance, that this great programme will be preserved and carried on intact? Can we be assured that it will continue at full pressure, as it has been, and will not be delayed or suspended pending some procrastinating survey into a national plan for transport? Further, if the answer to those questions is, Yes, can the Government assure us that they will have the necessary funds available for maintaining the momentum of this great programme? We know that the cost of all those lush carrots that were recently dangled before the electorate must be vastly greater than Government expenditure has been up to now, and all this money has to come from somewhere. Of course I have to speak without the benefit of knowledge of what is to be said later to-day by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am not specially concerned whether he serves us a full-scale goulash, or merely with a sort of political Slivovitz distilled from ripe plums extracted from his own and Mr. George Brown's speeches; but I am specially concerned to find out, and to find out to-day, whether or not the great Conservative road programme is to be maintained, and whether the Government can see their way to afford it.

I come next to the railways. I have always thought it a great pity that the Labour Party, apparently—so we were told—with the enthusiastic support of the Liberal Party have focused their entire attention on the negative aspects of modernising the railways—that is, closures. But they have constantly and consistently ignored, and even at times seemed to oppose, the positive side, which is to enable the railways to clear the tracks and give the country the service which they are best equipped to give, and to give it efficiently and economically. We have invested over £1,000 million in the railways in the last ten years, and we have given them the green light to go ahead and do just that. Is it all now to be wasted and brought to a halt? We had the Government statement last Wednesday that passenger closures were largely to be suspended, pending the preparation of regional transport plans, although I noticed that at that time there was no mention of a national transport plan. I do not know, and I should like to ask, whether that was an oversight; or does it by any chance mean that the Government have had second thoughts about this national plan?

May I also ask how long the Government think it will take to prepare these plans? May I ask whether holding up the modernisation of the railways in this way—for that is what the Government are doing—really accords with their promises of modernisation of Britain, and of the "progressive transport policy" which is so briefly mentioned in the gracious Speech? May we also know just what this policy of delay in cutting out the dead wood is going to cost the taxpayer, in view of the loss at which the railways are running?

It certainly seems to me, my Lords, that this much-heralded progressive policy of modernisation is a great deal more "Stop" than "Go". Talking of stopping, I should have liked to ask a few questions about the Concorde, but as I know perfectly well that I shall be told only that the matter is under urgent review, I will now say no more than that I can foresee a number of questions which I shall want to ask later, depending on the outcome of that review. But I think that I might ask to-day about the Channel Tunnel. I expect that I shall also be told about the need to wait for the results of the geological survey which is at present taking place. But I do not think that this will quite do. I think we may well ask in this case whether this is another of the technological modernisation projects which is under some sort of review. Therefore, I now ask that question.

I want now to come on to what I regard as a much more important ques- tion, this business of the national plan for transport and proper co-ordination of the various services. As I have already said, I have time and again asked in your Lordships' House exactly what this coordination means, and how it is to be achieved. Never, I say again, have I had anything like an adequate answer from noble Lords on the Labour Benches. Never have I had anything more than the somewhat airy theories which I found in the Manifesto. Only the noble Lord, Lord Hughes (I think it was), said anything realistic, when one day he referred, in passing, if my memory serves me correctly, to "control by the appropriate authority" in this context.

Therefore, in order to inform myself I had to look further afield. I have been grubbing about in the public pronouncements of the Labour leaders on the subject. I found Mr. Wilson in April, 1963, talking about taking the lid off British Road Service. In the same month he was talking about putting it on the "A" and "B" licence hauliers, and about planning to provide for the right distribution of traffic between road and rail. In January, 1964, he was talking about an integrated transport plan, and of co-ordination between road and rail and the allocation of traffic between them. In July, 1964, Mr. Ray Gunter was saying that free individual choice is not possible under a rationalised system.

My Lords, that is enough. We are therefore entitled to ask—and we do ask, and we ask now—what is going on. What is this wonderful plan for integration or for co-ordination, call it what you will? Just who is going to select and allocate this traffic "rightly" between road and rail? If the British Road Services are to have much more freedom, what restriction is to be placed on the private sector of road haulage? Will it extend this time to "C" licence lorries, and will it extend to private cars? If it does not do those things, then this talk of proper coordination is no more than a pious platitude which will only flop as disastrously as did the half measures that were taken between 1945 and 1951. If, on the other hand, that is what it does mean, and the restrictions will so extend, then we want to know when the necessary legislation will be introduced.

My Lords, we want to know about road safety. I found one reference in the Manifesto about acting vigorously to stop what were referred to as "cut-throat haulage firms" from flouting regulations covering maintenance, loads and driving hours. Is this something new? Does it mean some departure from what has always been the Conservative policy up till now, of firmly stopping such abuses on the part of all haulage interests, whatever they may be? Apart from that, can we know just what other measures the Government have in mind over and above and beyond the vigorous action that we have been taking on the road safety front up till now?

All these, my Lords, are only some from the mass of pertinent questions behind the veiled half-hints which are all we have so far seen or heard of the Government's policy—if they have a policy. I have contented myself with asking twenty of those questions, and to those twenty I want clear answers. Of course, I do not suppose it matters very much to anyone whether I want those answers or whether I do not: but the country wants them, and it wants them quick!

3.4 p.m.


My Lords, may I preface my remarks by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, upon his maiden speech from the Opposition Front Bench? It also gives me the opportunity to thank him for the unfailing courtesy and consideration that he has always given me during the past five years, when he has been on the other side of the House, when I have asked him the same questions that he is now asking the Government and when I have received the same answers that he expects to have. It also gives me the opportunity to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, not only on his appointment to the Government Bench but also, as the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has said, upon attaining 64 years of age. He does not look it but if he shares the common experience of us all he will look about 160 before he leaves the Ministry of Transport, because, although the noble Lord cannot claim to be a novice in ministerial experience, as some of his colleagues who sit next to him can, I can assure him that he has not plumbed the depths of despondency, frustration and despair until he has served a stretch at the Ministry of Transport.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has asked a number of questions. I do not intend to traverse all the ground that he has, but I should like to ask one or two. First, I should like to ask what has happened, not over five years but over eleven years—for I have been asking these questions for eleven years—to the much-vaunted modernisation scheme of the railways? Because, if I put myself in the position of just an ordinary citizen—an habitual train traveller now, because I am too old and I get too frustrated and bad tempered to drive on the roads—I find that the trains on the line I travel on are just as late as they always have been; the diesel engines break down just as often as the steam engines did——




I do not want to exaggerate. The carriages are just as dirty; the toilet arrangements are just as scandalously filthy; and, if one lives in the rural areas as I do, it takes twice as long to get any goods delivered to your house, from either London or the Midlands, as it did eleven years ago. So where is this modernisation? Where is it, other than, as the noble Lord said, in closing down railway stations and making it still more difficult for the rural dweller? Perhaps we shall all have to move back into the cities, so increasing the congestion, and be commuters. I think I would rather starve in the rural areas than be a commuter from the London suburbs to-day.

My Lords, I would say this quite frankly. When the Government think out a real transport policy—they have not one now, as the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has said—let them remember that there is room in the transport system of this country for some measure of integration, rationalisation or call it what you will. But I have the unhappy feeling that what the present Government mean by "integration" is the curtailment of one form of transport for the benefit of another. I say quite frankly to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, who cannot say he is quite unbiased, having been brought up on the railways, that what I am unhappy about is that this Government look upon the railway system of this country as a means of providing redundancy employment, and not, as it should be, as an integral part of the economic and industrial life of this country. This is what I am afraid of.

This country has for far too long adopted a policy of seeking the restriction of others and not our advancement by our own brains and initiative. That has been our besetting sin; that is the besetting sin of a restrictionist policy when it comes to transport. I have said this in your Lordships' House for nearly twenty years. Road transport is only an extension of the conveyor lines of British industry. Because of the peculiar setup of the industrial fabrication in this country, the mass of supplementary factories where the whole article, never built in one factory, is brought together, necessitating short hauls, the roads are nothing other than an extension of our factory coveyor lines. And it is nonsense for any Government to start talking about automation or the modernisation of industry yet to curtail it by not giving the free choice to the producer of the avenues of transport which suit his particular business best.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, mentioned "C" licences. I have fought the restrictions on "C" licences ever since they appeared in the original 1947 Bill to nationalise transport. I am very happy to think after all these years that I played a not inconspicuous part in having them taken out of the 1947 Act; and if ever the restrictions make their appearance again they will find in me a bitter opponent. British industry must have freedom to choose that method of transport which suits its particular circumstances best.

My Lords, I now come to roads. I hope sincerely that the road programme will be extended and not curtailed. I certainly think that the Government would perhaps be well advised to put a toothcomb through the present programme, not for curtailing it, but for getting its priorities right. To make some constructive suggestion, I am going to mention one instance in which I know I shall excite the enthusiastic support of the noble Earl the Leader of the House. That is the £1½ million of the taxpayers' money which I see is allocated for that piece of vandalism, the ploughing-up of Christ Church Meadow and the building of a road that is not wanted at all and will be useless when it is finished because in about six to twelve months' time a £3 million or £4 million project will be completed which will make it entirely useless. If the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, wants to hear more details about that, I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will be only too happy to tell him what a piece of spoliation that is.

However, there is one further matter I cannot resist touching upon, and I ask your Lordships' indulgence in doing so; but the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, mentioned it. That is the cost to this country in hard cash, travail and grief of the present rate of road accidents. We are now getting to the figure of killing 7,000 people upon the roads of this country every year. Official estimates anticipate that the figure will soon reach 10,000. The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, mentioned one very pertinent point: the sad condition of most of the goods-carrying vehicles that travel the roads of this country. But I mentioned this subject and made a big point of it, not five years ago but eleven years ago. I argued with the Government that what they wanted were spot checks on the roads to check whether vehicles were overloaded. Some of your Lordships must be sick and sorry of the examples I gave of the overloading of goods vehicles. But what was done? Nothing—nothing at all!

If there is one complaint upon this matter that can be levelled against the late Government it was that it was always tomorrow when they were going to do something—never today. And tomorrow never came. Why the Minister or anybody should express such great surprise when the official inspection of goods-carrying vehicles disclosed that 50 per cent. should not have been allowed on the roads, is beyond me. I told the Government that for years; and now we are still messing about with it. Can I give the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, a cure for this? It is a simple one; I have argued it for years. The reason why goods-carrying vehicles are under-mechanised for the loads they have to carry is the ridiculous taxation system we have in this country of taxing goods-carrying vehicles on the unladen weight of the vehicles and not on the total load which is p at on the four wheels on the road. If you had a plate on each goods-carrying vehicle showing the maximum total gross load that it was allowed to carry you would aid the police and the Weights and Measures officials, and do away with this silly business of stopping a vehicle but having no statutory power to take it on a weighbridge to be weighed.

My Lords, this matter now comes to a question of what we are going to do about our traffic problem, because the better we make our roads—and I am not arguing they should not be made better—the more traffic they will attract, and this is only natural. I cannot see any Government stopping the British people from having the freedom to have their individual piece of transport if they want it. Nor can I see any Government trying to stop it. I am going to make a plea—and I put it to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack coupled with the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren—that what we have to do is to have another look at our road traffic laws. We have too many of them; half of them are useless and the other half are brought into complete contempt. The noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack does not need me to tell him that in any democracy like ours a law that is treated with contempt through its being unenforceable or unacceptable to the public should be scrapped because it is useless. We must have a greater enforcement of the law. We are not giving our police a fair chance; though, admittedly, we want more police.

I was delighted to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, whom I wish to congratulate on his elevation to the Front Bench; and I am sure that Dr. Beeching must now sleep far sounder at night, and the vice gangs and the clip joints—I think that is the expression—in the East End of London will now go in fear and trembling. I was glad to hear him say yesterday that the number of crime squads is to be increased. I hope he will use his good offices to have the numbers of mobile police enlarged, so that they can detect all this dangerous driving by hooligans (in the well-chosen phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Chesham) and treat it as a crime.

I hope that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will not be mealy-mouthed, as the last Government have been, over this question of tackling the drunken driver. We have to take this question out of opinion and put it in the category of fact. Whether a man is drunk or sufficiently under the influence of drink to make him unable to have proper control of a motor vehicle should not be arguable by a doctor, who is a useless adjunct for this particular crime. It should be a question of fact. When the 1962 Act was going through your Lordships' House, we tried to alter the definition of being under the influence of drink. I should like to refresh your Lordships' memories of what we said by quoting two lines from the Road Traffic Act, 1962: A person shall be taken to be unfit to drive if his ability to drive properly is for the time being impaired through drink or drugs. Before that, a motorist had to be drunk and incapable, or, as it is sometimes rather crudely put, he had to be "as drunk as a Lord".

Over the passage of years I have had the privilege of addressing many meetings of magistrates, members of the Magistrates' Association, on the question of the enforcement of the road traffic law. I have taken it upon myself, since the passing of the 1962 Act, to ask them politely whether they were aware that Parliament, in its wisdom, had altered this definition and whether they had read Section 1 of the Act—and not one in a hundred have I been able to get to admit that he has read it. How can we expect the wishes of Parliament to be enforced in such circumstances? Is it right that we in Parliament should pass laws to the best of our ability, after taking every factor into consideration—circumstances, means and everything else—and laying down maximum penalties, including suspension of licence, and that then the will of Parliament should be treated with contempt? How long can we in Parliament go on like this, while the toll of road casualties goes up?

I make this plea. There is only one way in which we shall ever be able to curtail road accidents; that is, by the simple process of ensuring that if any individual cannot behave himself on the road with respect for other users, he shall not be allowed to drive a vehicle on the roads at all. Until we have the courage to say that, until we do away with this discretionary power and make suspension of licence automatic upon conviction of an offence, we are just playing about with the problem and, in the ultimate, making ourselves look foolish. Since 1956, we have doubled the maximum penalties for serious motoring offences, but the number of suspensions of licence is still only 5 per cent. of convictions.

I want to mention one other matter which is near to my heart—the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, mentioned it yesterday. I hope that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will not mind my pulling the legal leg by reminding your Lordships that an eminent predecessor of his used to sing a song, which went like this: The law is the true embodiment Of everything that's excellent. It has no kind of fault or flaw And I, my lords, embody the Law. I know that the noble and learned Lord will not mind my saying this, because there are so many of us who would not agree that the law is without fault or flaw.

And with this great extension of administrative law, I would remind your Lordships of those words of the late Lord Birkett, perhaps one of our greatest lawyers: No longer can the ordinary citizen of this country rest assured that no one will do him wrong because in the ultimate there are English judges who will see that right is done by him. To-day, tribunals, discretionary and statutory, are being set up which are above the law. There is no appeal from them. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will recall the Chalk Pit case, Crichel Down and the North Oxfordshire Ironstone case. In the Oxfordshire case poor citizens, farm labourers, would have been turned out of their homes because a great nationalised concern had the right to apply for compulsory purchase to dig iron there, and arrived to make their application with an army of "silks" and juniors to steamroller it through; and if it had not been for a debate in your Lordships' House, they would have succeeded.

Call him Ombudsman or what you will, we have got to have some protection against administration by the Departments. Justice is not available to a large section of the British people to-day, and that is evident from the proliferation of new Government Departments. Think of the number of Government Departments armed with powers of all kinds and not answerable in a court of law. In his speech yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, made a very humorous remark. He said [col. 268]: I think the noble Lord, not surprisingly, will not find a single civil servant in Whitehall is in favour of an Ombudsman. To me, that is conclusive evidence of the necessity to have one.

I know that this question is very near the noble and leaned Lord's heart. It may not be on the Scandinavian principle; it may be an extension of the Council on Tribunals; but there must be some individual, some body or department, who can listen to complaints and see that justice is done to the ordinary common man where he cannot get it to-day; and through this great spread of administrative law it looks as if he is going to have less chance of getting it in the future.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I have been a Member of your Lordships' House sufficiently long to know that brief speeches are welcome, and therefore what I say to-day will be said with despatch But first perhaps I might crave the indulgence of your Lordships by apologising to you, and especially to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, for not having been in my place here to take Prayers to-day. As your Lordships may know, I am a firm believer in the laity taking a greater place in the life of the Church; but that was not the reason why the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack took Prayers to-day. I regret to say that it was due to a false entry in my diary, for which I am wholly responsible. Therefore, I stand in a white sheet; I crave the forgiveness of the House, and I only hope that the noble and learned Lord will not despatch me to the Tower for having failed in my duty to-day.

Last July I had the privilege of addressing this House on the subject of crime and penal reform, and it would be improper to repeat anything I said then in rising to express appreciation of the legislative proposals in the gracious Speech. When these proposals are formulated I hope that they will take into account four factors. The first is the need to emphasise personal responsibility.

The pressures in modern society are tremendous, and there is much to encourage wrong doing and, indeed, antisocial behaviour. But, while we must show understanding and compassion towards those who fall by the wayside, this must be done in such a way that we do not diminish the idea of personal responsibility for our own actions. It is not sufficient to preach these things; instead, we should seek, through education and experience, to deepen the sense of personal responsibility.

We hear much these days of the younger members of our community who create disturbances at holiday centres and who resort to violence and crime. All that is true. But it is also true that members of the same generation, often from the same districts, do voluntary service overseas and spend weekends decorating the houses of old-age pensioners and invalids. I know that this is the case in my own diocese in South London. In determining whether a child will belong to the irresponsible or to the responsible group, no doubt much depends upon the influence of parents. But not everything. Already a great deal is being achieved in our schools, but I wonder whether the Government would give further thought to the possibility of community service. In the war, and indeed after the war, we accepted conscription. I certainly have no wish to see this sort of national service reintroduced, unless defence demands the contrary. But would it not be possible to provide—I am not saying necessarily compulsorily—greater opportunities than exist at the moment for young people to spend periods of months or a year in voluntary community service? This would be an example to the country and would, I believe, encourage personal responsibility.

The second fact is the need to realise those pressures in our society that encourage anti-social behaviour. Perhaps to a higher degree than many of us are prepared to face, we live—and not only in this country—in a "spiv" age. The maximum of money for a minimum of work is the ideal of no one group. Expense accounts are elastically handled at all levels; profit, irrespective of the use to which the product is put, is the aim of some directors, some managements, some shareholders and some workers. The scientist sells his knowledge and is held not to be responsible for the use to which it is put; and, indeed, the general pressure of society is concerned not to say that each man should share responsibility for whatever it is that flows from his thoughts and actions, but rather to tell each man to make his own contribution and to ask no awkward questions. There are too many ways in which we have become an irresponsible society, so that the man or woman we imprison is often the caricature of the man we extol and honour. It is because I believe this to be entirely true that I welcome the legislative proposals of Her Majesty's Government which will reduce this "spiv" element in our society and change some of the unhappy values which have beset our thinking for far too long.

The third factor is the necessity to improve the relationship between the public, especially the younger section of it, and the law. I have two prisons in my diocese, Wandsworth and Brixton. This gives me an opportunity to appreciate the tremendous problems that confront the police. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that the police have an unenviable task, which in the vast majority of cases they discharge with patience, wisdom and courtesy. Even so, great importance must be attached to the establishing of better relations between the police and the public. This requires a blend of deliberate policies, which we look with confidence to the Government to provide, and a great increase of voluntary work in many fields. Here there is a clear responsibility upon the Church to give a lead.

The fourth factor is to make up one's mind what we believe to be the aim of prison centres. Obviously, punishment has to be taken into consideration. Every community must make it clear that crime does not pay; in fact, it is possible that it should be made even clearer than it is to-day. But, having said that, I would add that our primary objective is to prepare prisoners to play their part in the life of the community and to become useful citizens. For this reason, I rejoice that the Government propose to permit a free vote in another place on the question of hanging. This is not a subject upon which the Bishops, in particular, should be proud of their record in the past; but we have now reached a stage when the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury has expressed itself unanimously on this subject in a 100 per cent. vote by the Bishops against capital punishment. In the name of mercy and for the dignity of the whole community, I hope that their view may prevail in your Lordships' House. Murder is a terrible thing, but it is not for us to usurp the prerogatives of God. Our task is to reclaim the murderer, as I know from personal experience can happen.

But murderers are a tiny proportion of the prison population. My main concern is the men whom I meet and talk with in prison cells. Is the present prison routine as constructive as it might be? Are we preparing prisoners for the day when the prison gates open and they tread their way back into the workaday world? Are we helping them as much as we might to become responsible citizens? Those are questions to which there are no easy answers.

Those are the four factors that I hope will be taken into consideration by Her Majesty's Government. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy", is a practical, not a sentimental policy. I am convinced that if Her Majesty's Government go ahead with all their plans as outlined in the gracious Speech they will do much to help our population, including our prison population, to make sense of life and to pursue life for the benefit of the community with purpose and with dignity.

3.40 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome the announcements made in both Houses during the last few days on the question of future rail closures. I expect that the Minister may this afternoon make further announcements, and I do not anticipate throwing twenty questions at him in order to get replies. It is obvious that a new approach will be made towards solving the difficulties of road and rail transport. Methods of co-ordination will no doubt come before us later for discussion and acceptance. I hope that, in order to check the present chaos, these will be welcomed in your Lordships' House.

To-day I want to speak on rural rail conditions; to bring to light the hardships which have been imposed upon country folk, particularly in my own area, and to initiate the hope that in some way an alleviation may be found. My speech, therefore, must be of a local character, and I make no apology for this, because I think it is right and proper that in your Lordships' House these speeches should be made now and again. In the past, the late Government were tempted to regard finance as being more important than human needs, and were prone to brush aside appeals, which some of us made, by saying that rail questions were not in the national interest either at that time or in the future.

The hardship of cutting off vast areas from means of rail travel are beginning to be felt. In the past they have only been foreshadowed, but now they have become realities. We have indeed become victims of modernisation. Later I will refer to some which have come to my notice. It is nice to realise that statesmanship in this matter will take the place of a long period of showmanship and self-aggrandisement, and that a national service, supported by all of us, will he run as such.

In our civilised, democratic community, which can be an example to the whole world, we are all entitled to an enjoyment of the facilities which can be provided for travel, leisure and other social amenities. Can anyone deny or find fault with that assertion? When you cut off existing rail services, and thus curtail facilities and advantages, you are denying to a large number of our population, the rights which should be theirs, as taxpayers and citizens. You are now differentiating between city and rural populations. You are studying the interests of the city merchants, managements and commuters to the disadvantage of country residents. Fairness should be the motto of all national undertakings.

Is it any wonder that we whose lives are spent in the country districts should protest more strongly? In the last year or two we have met with little success, and much unwarranted opposition, but our hopes for the future are high. We speak with some enthusiasm of going forward to the developments of the space age, but some of those in authority seem to think that the carrier's cart of old is still a suitable means of transport for country folk. One may have to revert to that, or something akin to it; for without rail services, motor cars or adequate bus or coach services, people are now being compelled more and more either to walk to and from market towns, in the hope of being helped by passing motorists of generous disposition, or to stay at home. The latter will certainly be the lot of many old folk. Those who cannot afford holidays on the Continent or at sea, and who in the past have had to be satisfied with a day's excursion at a nearby coastal resort in Norfolk, will not undertake the slow roundabout journeys by bus. Coastal towns and villages are not now served by any railway, and the absence of visitors who spend their money in their own country will adversely affect the prosperity of these places.

Without going into too much detail, and so becoming wearisome, I will refer to a few of the hardships which we in mid-Norfolk and North Norfolk are experiencing as a result of recent rail closures. Some of these affect my own way of life, and my experience could no doubt be duplicated throughout the whole country. I will confine myself to rail, and will not enlarge upon the inadequacy of our rural roads for the increasing heavy traffic. The line between East Dereham and Wells-next-the-Sea has been closed for passenger traffic. It used to carry a fair volume of country traffic to the towns through which it passed, and to outside cities and towns. Now Wells-next-the-Sea, Walsingham, Fakenham, and the adjacent villages, have been cut off entirely from passenger rail usage. The line is still open between Fakenham and East Dereham for goods traffic. In the past, I understand that those in authority did not encourage the handling on the railway of considerable quantities of sugar beet and other merchandise. It will be interesting to have information as to the profitable nature of the agricultural traffic which passed over the whole length of this line and ended up in all parts of the country including Scotland.

The air base at Sculthorpe, on the outskirts of Fakenham, has recently been vacated by the Americans. Its future use for industrial and residential development will be jeopardised by the closing of passenger rail facilities at Fakenham, which is itself a busy market and shopping town. Inadequate bus services have been instituted to start from, or finish at, East Dereham station; but in some cases the buses are timed to arrive after the trains are due to depart for King's Lynn, or are too late to connect with the London trains at Norwich. Passengers may thus have to face a wait for an hour or more before continuing their journey by rail. Anyone wishing to reach home by bus in the area of the closed line must leave London not later than the 3.30 p.m. train from Liverpool Street. In those circumstances a businessman or resident of Wells-next-the-Sea wishing to make a day trip to London will spend nearly nine hours in the bus and train and about three hours in London—always assuming, of course, that the train arrives at Liverpool Street on time.

What are described as "limited" bus services are shown on the bus timetables, and it is announced that those buses which pass through some villages and large hamlets will not stop there, even by request, to pick up or set down passengers. It is known that passengers have to leave or board these buses approximately one and a half miles from their homes. What a prospect in winter or wet weather for those who have to use this transport daily in going about their usual occupations! Only this morning there is a paragraph in the county paper recording, that at a meeting of the Fakenham and District Chamber of Commerce a protest had been sent to the bus company concerning the working of the bus services. It is estimated that 60 working hours per week were lost by employees having to leave work early to catch the 5.17 p.m. bus to Walsingham and Wells. Complaints were also made of the inefficiency of the railway parcels service. This information is topical news and reports the protest of responsible local traders.

I have tried to make a case for the reconsideration and review of the closing of this section of the railway, which for years had played an important part in the daily lives of those who live within its boundaries of service. I have not spoken without a knowledge of the bitterness which our Norfolk folk feel towards those who are responsible for this retrograde and tragic step. I have done so knowing full well that in order to achieve the blessings of leisure and pleasure which should be available to all, our needs to travel are as great as those of other people. The past Minister has gone. We shall look forward to the future trusting in the present Government to do what is right, just and fair in mitigating the real, but I hope only temporary, hardship of country folk.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to speak, in the main on a single topic to which I shall come in a moment, perhaps I may be allowed at the outset, since this is the first speech I have made in this Parliament, to add my congratulations to some of my friends now in the Government, friends I have formed either in another place or here. I would mention only the Leader of the House, an old friend, and perhaps the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who is to answer to-day's debate and who came to the House not only with a reputation as a very great advocate, which he certainly is, but with a reputation for a great interest in law reform. That interest, I dare say, will have the effect that from time to time we may be intervening in the same debate and frequently, I expect, in opposition. May I say that I shall try to keep an open mind about everything he is going to say, and I hope that occasionally he may find something of value said on his own topics, no matter from which section of the House the speeches may come.

The passage in the gracious Speech to which I wish to devote attention is this sentence: A Bill will be introduced to give workers and their representatives the protection necessary for freedom of industrial negotiation". It is now known that this refers to a Bill which Her Majesty's Government consider is rendered necessary or desirable by the decision in Rookes v. Barnard, which was given by the House of Lords in January of the present year. Apart from a little information that was given in another place by the new Minister of Labour, that is about all we at present know about the intended legislation.

Because I have from the first days when I went to the Bar taken an interest in trade union law and have also been greatly concerned in Parliament with questions of individual liberty which are involved, I intend to confine myself to this single topic and to put some matters before the House on which I hope the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack may be able to enlighten us. I do not know whether he will be able to add to what was said in another place by his right honourable friend the Minister of Labour, but perhaps I may assure him that I would much rather he gave me no information than that he gave some premature information which would prevent his giving further consideration to some of the points which I intend to put before him.

May I make one preliminary observation? I shall have necessarily to say something about the facts of this case and the legal issues which it raised, and I wish to do so as simply as possible in language which I hope will be clear to laymen. But I know that I do so before the critical eyes and ears of two men who, apart from the Law Lords who heard the case, know more about it than, I suppose, anybody else. One is the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who appeared for the defendants both in the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, and the other is the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, whose firm acted for the plaintiff and whose son. Mr. S. C. Silkin, Q.C., successfully argued the case for the plaintiff in the House of Lords with great learning and hereditary skill.

I think I should very briefly give the facts of the case, and perhaps I can most conveniently do that by shortening a few paragraphs of the headnote. The plaintiff, Mr. Rookes, a skilled draughtsman, employed by the British Overseas Airways Corporation in their design office at London Airport for nine years, on November 24, 1955, resigned his membership of the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen, his trade union. By an agreement made in 1949 between employers and employees in the civil air transport industry, which formed part of each contract of employment between B.O.A.C. and members of the trade union, it was provided that no lock-out or strike should take place and any disputes should be referred to arbitration.

The design office was the subject of a "closed shop" agreement and on the plaintiff's refusal to rejoin the trade union all the union members in the design office decided, on January 10, 1956, by resolu- tion, to inform the Corporation that, if the plaintiff was not removed from the design office within three days, the other employees of the Corporation who were members of the union would withdraw their own labour; and notice was served accordingly on B.O.A.C. The Corporation, being informed of the resolution by the defendants, officials of the union, and having reason to believe that some of the employees in other unions would do the same in sympathy, suspended the plaintiff from his work and two months later dismissed him, giving a week's salary in lieu of notice. The plaintiff brought the action, the subject of this case, against the defendants for damages for using unlawful means to induce the Corporation to terminate its contract of service with him.

Let me say at once that the issues of law are extremely difficult, and many students when the decision was first given were puzzled about its full consequences and the possible effects on industrial negotiation and trade union practice. It was indeed even suggested in some quarters that the decision withdrew from the protection of Section 3 of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, the threats of a trade union official to the employer to call a strike in breach of the contract of employment. The case has no such extreme result, and I am very glad to say that the noble and learned Lords, Lord Pearce, Lord Upjohn and Lord Donovan, have made that fact amply clear by their speeches in a later case that came before the House of Lords, the case of J. T. Stratford and Son Limited v. Lindley, which is at present reported in [1964] 3 Weekly Law Reports, p. 541. In addition to this reassurance given by the noble and learned Law Lords, the T.U.C. has itself, after taking legal advice, issued the reassuring advice which was quoted by my right honourable friend Mr. Godber in another place last Friday.

Nevertheless, I want to make it clear that I feel a good deal of sympathy with the new Minister of Labour and indeed with all other laymen who may feel some confusion when they seek fully to understand this important case. The report in the High Court and the Court of Appeal covers no less than 73 pages and the report of the proceedings in the House of Lords, even as it appears in the Weekly Law Reports, covers 69 pages; it will be rather longer when fully reported in the Law Reports. Therefore I am not at all without sympathy for the Minister of Labour and other laymen who seek to discover precisely what the case decided.

If the sole purpose of the proposed legislation were to clarify the law as it is now established to be, there might be much to be said for such proposed legislation, even though it would be untrue to say that it is urgently needed. But it is one thing to clarify the law. It is quite another thing to change it. The noble Lord, Lord Williamson, in his agreeable speech in which he seconded the Motion for an Humble Address used these words, after mentioning the paragraph about which I am speaking [OFFICIAL REPORT, November 3, 1964, col. 25]: I would only say in this connection that the purpose of such a measure would be to remove any doubt or dubiety which might have arisen out of recent interpretations of the law. I have no complaint about that; not a word there about reversing the decision and the legal rights which that decision established in such a manner as would secure that no future Mr. Rookes would succeed in similar circumstances. I would ask this very simple question: will the new Bill clarify the law as now established or will it alter the law so that no future litigant treated as Mr. Rookes was treated will have any remedy at all? Whatever the answer to that question, I think noble Lords will think that the question is a fair one.

Let me make my own position absolutely clear. I do not suggest for a moment that the Statute law affecting trade unions could not be improved. But the questions raised by trade union legislation are very difficult. They raise problems which affect not only trade unions and their officials, not only employers and employed; trade union law affects the public and individual freedom and human rights. Even a man who quarrels with his union has a right to justice and must not be treated as an untouchable. My own view is that far the best thing would be an expert examination of the whole problem of trade union law such as has found favour in many quarters. The proposal that there should be such an inquiry received very strong support from my noble and learned friend Lord Radcliffe in his recent speech to the Law Society's national conference, which noble Lords may have seen reported briefly in The Times of the 23rd of last month. But if Her Majesty's Government reject that view and are determined to alter, and not merely to clarify, the law established by the Rookes v. Barnard decision, how are they going to do it? They are quite wrong in thinking, as I shall try to show, that there is some easy and fair method of restoring the position which in the words of the Minister of Labour last Friday in another place "everybody thought existed".

Here I must return to the actual decision. What Rookes v. Barnard established is this: first, that there is a tort of intimidation, that intimidation is an actionable wrong; and, secondly, that Section 3 of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, provides no defence to the person who commits such a tort. The result of those two propositions was that Mr. Rookes succeeded in his action. What is the nature of the tort? Perhaps I may describe it most simply in the words of a very celebrated textbook, Salmond on Torts, in a passage expressly approved by Lord Justice Sellers in this case: Any person is guilty of an actionable wrong who, with the intention and effect of intimidating any other person into acting in a certain manner to the harm of the plaintiff, threatens to commit or procure an illegal act. That is the tort. The Court of Appeal thought that the illegal act must be something criminal or tortious and that the mere threat of a breach of contract was not enough. For that reason they reversed the decision of Mr. Justice Sachs. On appeal to the House of Lords they were in turn reversed and the judgment, except as regards the measure of damage, of Mr. Justice Sachs was upheld.

What I would point out to your Lordships at this stage is that all the Judges, in all three Courts, Mr. Justice Sachs in the High Court, the three Lords Justices in the Court of Appeal and all the Law Lords in the House of Lords, were of opinion that this tort of intimidation existed, that it was an actionable wrong. The only point on which the Court of Appeal differed was whether a threatened breach of contract was sufficient to constitute the wrong. So much for the tort. If the tort had been committed, then the Law Lords decided that Section 3 of the 1906 Act provided no defence. Perhaps I may read that section, which is quite short, in order that your Lordships may have it in mind. It says: An act done by a person in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute is not actionable on the ground only that it induces some other person to break a contract of employment, or that it is an interference with the trade, business or employment of some other person or with the right of some other person to dispose of his capital or his labour as he wills. That is the section which, it has been held, does not protect those who commit the tort of intimidation. When the Minister of Labour speaks of "restoring the position", which is apparently to be the purpose of the legislation foreshadowed in the gracious Speech—restoring the position which everybody thought existed—what does he mean? Which of the two propositions is it proposed to reverse or amend? The point about "the position which everybody thought existed" is highly misleading, and I shall show why.

Let me be absolutely frank with the House. I admit that I did not myself expect the decision which was reached in Rookes v. Barnard. In fact, I believe that my first conversation with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack in this House was a discussion on this particular case on which I asked for enlightenment on certain points. I freely admit that I did not expect this decision. But that was not because I had made any mistake in interpreting Section 3 of the 1906 Act; it was because I did not know enough about the law of intimidation.

Here I went wrong in very good company indeed, because the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack argued most forcefully, both in the Court of Appeal and in the House of Lords, that there was no such tort. It is fair to point out that there are in our reports few cases of a plaintiff recovering damages for this tort—in fact, the one principally relied upon by the plaintiff in the present case was the case of Tarleton v. M'Gawley, a decision of Lord Kenyon in the year 1793. Nevertheless, as I have said, every Judge in this case has held that the tort existed in Common Law, and I have read the passage which appears in the textbooks.

I have admitted, therefore, that, in common with others, I did not expect this result, through insufficient knowledge of the tort of intimidation. But it would be quite untrue to suggest that, once it had been established that this tort existed, everybody agreed that Section 3 of the 1906 Act would give protection. There was no such general agreement. Here I can speak with complete confidence, because eighteen years ago I happened to write a little book on trade union law, and this point I managed to get right. If I may quote the passage in dealing with Section 3 of the 1906 Act (I will not bother the House with all I wrote on this section, though it occupies only two or three pages) I said this: The word 'only' in the section is important. If there are other unlawful acts such as violence, the section will give no protection. My question, therefore, is whether it is intended to suggest that once the tort had been established there was any general agreement that persons would be protected in the course of trade disputes by Section 3. I say that there was no such agreement. I have quoted from my own little book. I could quote from a book of my friend the late Cyril Asquith, later the noble and learned Law Lord, Lord Asquith of Bishopstone, who had written a little book on the same subject a few years earlier—in fact, I think that no legal commentator on the Act of 1906 could conceivably overlook the importance of the word "only" in the section.

Having put, I hope reasonably clearly to the House, what are the two propositions which were established in this important case, what I want to know is this: which proposition is it now proposed to modify? Is it proposed to abolish or redefine the tort of intimidation? If it is so proposed, how is it proposed that this tort should be redefined?—because it is now established that this tort exists at Common Law, and, contrary to what the Court of Appeal thought, to constitute a wrongful act a threatened breach of contract is sufficient. That then is one alternative—is it proposed to abolish or redefine the tort? Perhaps that is not intended.

The other alternative is this: Is it proposed to leave the tort as it is, but to give those who engage in trade disputes a new immunity to commit it? Those seem to me to be the alternatives if the new legislation is not for the purpose of clarifying the law as it now exists, but for changing the law so that in any future case the same result will not be reached. If the proposal is to abolish or redefine the tort, I beg the Government to study, as I feel sure they will, the speeches of the noble and learned Law Lords before they come to any such far-reaching decision. If, however, they are considering, as a possible course, restricting the tort to the limits which the Court of Appeal thought applied, then I hope they will carefully study the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid, in, among other passages, a passage which I should like to read. He said: Threatening a breach of contract may be a much more coercive weapon than threatening a tort, particularly when the threat is directed against a company or corporation, and, if there is no technical reason requiring a distinction between different kinds of threats, I can see no other ground for making any such distinction. That is the one alternative—abolishing or redefining the tort.

Perhaps, however, they do not propose to legislate about the tort, but propose to add an additional immunity to those conferred by Section 3 of the 1906 Act, if the act is in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute. If that is what Her Majesty's Government are contemplating, I hope they will remember that, in the opinion of many learned commentators, that section already goes too far. Far from its being extended, there are serious grounds raised by learned commentators for thinking that it already goes too far. Perhaps I may cite for that proposition a learned Law Lord whom I have already mentioned, my late friend, Cyril Asquith. This is what he said in his little book on trade unions, dealing with that section: It is true that a 'lightning' strike in breach of contract is more effective than that which allows existing contracts to run out. It is often possible to profit (temporarily at least) by violating solemn engagements or procuring their violation by others, but there seems no sufficient reason for legalising the practice, whether it is indulged in pursuance of a trade dispute or in any other connection. If it interests the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, I also made some observations on the same subject in my little book.

The House has been very patient. I beg the Government, and particularly the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, to consider these matters most carefully before bringing this legislation forward. My remarks are prompted by no hostility whatsoever to trade unions. On the contrary, I believe that, if they demand and secure a measure generally proved to be unjust, they will tarnish, and tarnish quite unnecessarily, their reputation. If I may quote from Measure for Measure: O, it is excellent To have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant". I repudiate entirely the suggestion which seemed to be implicit in the remarks of the Minister of Labour that only the trade unions and employers need be consulted. Human rights are also concerned, and they are involved either directly or indirectly. May I remind this House of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations as long ago as 1948? Article 20 of that Universal Declaration says: 1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. 2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association. My Lords, the man who breaks with his trade union may be a troublesome fellow. He is not an outlaw to be denied all legal remedies for oppression.

There is only one other thing which I wish to add. I have never myself agreed with either of the two extreme doctrines that are put forward about a mandate. I have never thought that, if a Party have mentioned something in an Election Manifesto and win the Election, they are automatically entitled to pass it into law, unless they can convince at least the House of Commons of its wisdom. On the other hand, I do not think that the mere omission of a subject from a Party manifesto means that, if there is a good case for legislation, the Government may not be entitled to bring that legislation forward. But since it is sometimes important to see whether a Government have a mandate or not, I would say just this, in conclusion. I note that from beginning to end of this document of not inconsiderable length, "Let's Go With Labour for the New Britain: The Labour Party's Manifesto for the 1964 General Election" there is no mention whatever of this proposed legislation. I am very glad that the Bill foreshadowed is not a Bill for which they either sought or obtained any mandate.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to listen to the noble and very learned Lord, Lord Conesford, in debate, even when one happens to sit on the opposite side of the House from him, and even, as must occasionally happen, when one disagrees with him; although I am happy to say that I find myself able to agree with Lord Conesford on many occasions. On this occasion I must say that, as a complete layman in the business of the law. I have been plunged into the most utter fog, both by the whole business of Rookes v. Barnard and also by the noble and learned Lord's explanation of it. The only thing of which he has managed to persuade me—no doubt there are other more learned persons in the House who have been persuaded to further things—is that I cannot understand the matter, that it may go a great deal further even than the noble Lord thinks, and that legislation is certainly needed to do something. We cannot leave the matter as it stands.

I rose to my feet with the intention of speaking about transport, and in many ways, of course, I am extremely glad that I shall now be addressing my remarks to a Government represented in this matter by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, rather than to one represented by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham. Nevertheless, I feel 3 little sad, because there were many occasions when I very much enjoyed the "turn ups" I used to have with Lord Chesham, even though the position was usually won by him by a vote of the House. I used to believe—I still believe—that he was extremely good at putting his case. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, was magnificent at studying his brief. But I always used to think what a rotten brief it was in the matter of the waterways.

In many ways I am glad to know that there has been this change of office by the two noble Lords, but I do not think the present incumbent of the office will suffer from what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, called the "despon- dency and despair" normally to be found in the Ministry of Transport. I quite understood why the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, suffered from this despondency and despair. Frankly, I think he had a very dirty deal. I think he had an extremely dirty deal because I do not consider that most of the problems which affected and afflicted the Ministry of Transport were the fault of that Ministry. I think they were the general fault of the whole Conservative Government.

The fact of the matter was that in the course of letting what they called "freedom" work, and in the course of a long period of laissez-faire, they produced an effect which I have noticed very much in passengers in small boats. If you do not do something, there often comes a point among passengers in a small boat when they all become attracted to something which is happening on one side of the boat. They then all flock over to that side, if you let them, and the effect, if you let it go far enough, is that the whole vessel will turn bottom up. I am not saying that Britain has reached that sad state yet. Nevertheless, it is true that Britain has developed a very ugly list to starboard owing to the laissez-faire policies of the previous Government, which permitted, and indeed encouraged, the population of this very small island to flock into the South-Eastern corner of it.

There is a small incantation which I should like to see all Ministers, and, indeed, all those with responsibility on the opposite Benches, repeat to themselves every day. It goes like this: Factories attract workers. Homes attract people. Roads attract traffic. If they were to repeat that to themselves every morning and every evening, I think that this country might be in a much better state. I am in entire agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that the road building programme of this country should be extended and not curtailed. But it is a question of where these roads should be built, as, indeed, it is a question of where the factories in this country should be built, and where the houses in this country should be built. The extreme example which we have just had called to our notice was the question of where the offices in this country should be built.

Until we get some rebalancing of this country we have absolutely no chance, as I can see it, of ever getting sense into our transport policies. We have to arrange things so that people can move about freely. We have to get away from complete overcrowding and over-use of our transport in one corner and complete disuse of our transport in other places. It is no good trying to compete with the transport problems and the other problems of this country simply by accepting them, as the Conservative Government did in the South-East Study, and hoping that, by adding to the general facilities down in this South-Eastern corner of the country, we are going to get the matter straight. We shall merely attract more people here, we shall attract more traffic here, and the position will simply get worse and worse.

We must, indeed, build more roads, but they must be in the other parts of the country. We must build more factories in the others parts of the country, and more homes and all the rest of it, and in that way we shall be able to get the matter straight. Once we have done that we shall start to solve the problems, we shall start to attract the traffic away from London which is rapidly reaching a position of seize-up and standstill, and we shall start to solve Dr. Beeching's problems, because we shall start to reduce that terrible commuter traffic which costs the railways such vast fortunes every year. We shall start to put more life into the more distant parts of the country, and thus, again, solve Dr. Beeching's problems in parts of the periphery.

Here I must say how much I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Wise, when he spoke about a part of the country which I know and from which some of my ancestors came. I know very well that that sort of problem occurs in Devon and Cornwall, where I was politically campaigning recently, in my own native Wales, in Scotland and everywhere else. We cannot solve any of the problems of the roads, of the railways, or, indeed—and these are the transport problems which I know best—of the waterways, unless we get a considerable rebalancing. In the case of the waterways we have precisely the same thing happening. It is no coincidence that there is now talk of opening the Kennet and Avon Canal, which is in the South, at the same time as there are suggestions that we should close the Leeds and Liverpool Canal far in the North. It is all part of the same overall picture, of a country which has developed a very serious list due to a shifting to one side of all its passengers.

I want to say a few words about the waterways. I imagine that this is expected of me by now. In any case, it is a subject which I do not think any of your Lordships is likely to tackle. The waterways are in a quite extraordinary position. After the resistance of the Conservative Government for many a long year to anything such as the Inland Waterways Association suggested being done, for multiple use of the waterways rather than for cargo, they surrendered and said, "Yes". I will tell your Lordships the net result of that change, because it is really worth knowing.

At the end of a year of operation of the waterways for multiple purposes rather than as purely cargo waterways, it was discovered in their first accounts that the waterways had halved their working loss. They had reduced their working loss from something over £1 million to something over £500,000. That figure, of course, does not include the capital and interest side. If that is included it amounts, I believe, to a reduction of 26 per cent. in their working loss. It is still a very notable figure, and if Dr. Beeching had managed to do anything like that on the railways I feel sure that many people would have been willing to have him canonised, or, if they had not made him a saint, they would, at least, have been willing to give him a coronet. We who suggested this new policy on the waterways have been extremely glad to see that it has achieved so much. It has not, of course, cured the troubles of the waterways; they go deeper.

I remember that when the Transport Bill was going through this House (the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, was speaking for the Government at the time) I was considered extremely rash because I got to my feet on Second Reading and said that if that measure was passed, and if a further measure which I foresaw was also passed—presuming, of course, that those two measures were passed reasonably near the beginning of the five years—the waterways would pay within five years. I said it then. Marty politicians have got up and said things which they have later regretted, but I not only said it then: I have repeated it is print several times since, and I say it again now.

I know very well that a further measure is at the moment being prepared by the British Waterways Board, and that when that measure goes through, which I hope will be very soon in the future, the waterways will pay. I am not saying, of course, that this measure is the work of the new Government. In fact, I know that much of the preliminary work was done by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, and I know that the only reason it was not put through earlier was that it was an extremely complicated measure.

The waterways, your Lordships will be amused to hear, are at the moment controlled by 600 antiquated Acts of Parliament, many of which are over 200 years old. Almost all the remainder are over 100 years old, and almost the entire lot are inapplicable to the present circumstances. I could amuse your Lordships for hours—naturally, I will not; but I could—with the many extraordinary things to be found in these Acts. The one small one I quoted in Parliament was quoted in Punch, which does not necessarily show it was amusing but does mean that there is a certain element of it which is worth reprinting.

When these old Acts go that will make a proper policy possible on the water; and not only will it make a proper policy possible on the water, but, with the new and reasonable powers which will come, it will be possible to charge for a great many services which the waterways now have to give free, or at very small cost. This is not only my opinion. I have spoken, of course, to many other people interested in the waterways, many of them extremely good business men, and it is their opinion also that within a very short number of years after the passage of that measure we shall have the extraordinary situation that, among all the non-paying parts of the British transport system, the poor, old, antiquated waterways will be the only ones that break level financially. This is actually going to happen, and it is perfectly extraordinary.

However, that does not necessarily help us very much. The waterways, even when they have broken level, are not necessarily the waterways we wish to have. The fact of the matter is that our waterways, as a system used for multiple purposes—used for water distribution, for fishing, for pleasure and all sorts of other purposes for which a waterway can be used, apart from the carrying of cargo—will pay; but they will not carry the traffic which we require to be carried.

The fact of the matter is that, as cargo carriers, they are too small to serve the purposes we need, and that no simple increase in the size of the existing waterways will do the job at all. What is required if we intend to carry by water is an entirely new system. It may even be necessary, in my opinion, to put the new system under a different board from the present British Waterways Board; or perhaps it might be better to take such waterways as we have which are capable of carrying heavy cargo and hand them to the British Waterways Board; to let the present British Waterways Board build the new system which is required; and to hive off the small waterways, which are more in the nature of light cargo, amenity and water-supply waterways, and put them under some separate body whose purpose is not, in the main, the carrying of cargo.

That is not to say that these minor waterways cannot carry cargo. In point of fact, there is every possibility that they can—and here I want to bring to the attention of Her Majesty's new Government the fact that it has been shown that, by the licensing of the cargo narrow boat (licensing it as a lorry is licensed, rather than charging it tonnage and mileage, as it has been charged so far), it is possible to make cargo-carrying on the waterways pay. Under tonnage and mileage, a cargo-carrying narrow boat, it works out, pays about £180 a year in tolls. Under licence, they have been licensed at a rate whereby they pay £25 a year in tolls—that is, slightly less than one-seventh of the amount. That may seem a very great reduction, but it is fair, my Lords, because under the tonnage and mileage system a cargo narrow boat was in fact paying seven times as much as heavy road transport which had the capacity to carry out the same mileage and tonnage in the course of the year. In other words, the cargo narrow boat was being made to pay seven times what its rival paid—and how it was expected to flourish in these circumstances I do not know. That it survived at all is extraordinary, and the fact that it has survived is a matter for pleasure and congratulations. I only hope that the cargo narrow boat will now be placed on the same financial level as the heavy lorry.

That does not mean that I am tied to the figure of £25 a year. It may be that in the future the heavy lorry will come to be charged more. There have been many studies which go to show that the heavy lorry is, in fact, on its present licensing figures, very considerably subsidised. If the licensing of the heavy lorry is raised, then let the licensing of the cargo narrow boat be raised in the same measure. But they should be put on an equal and equitable basis if they are meant to compete with each other. It is clear that in the past they have not been meant to compete with each other.

However, that is a minor matter. What we need now are major waterways which can really carry cargo. The whole of Europe is going in for building waterways which will take a standardised craft, one of 1,350 tons. That craft, with the completion of the Rhine—Danube Canal and other waterways, will be able to take a load of German tractors as far, if necessary, as Asiatic Russia without transhipment and return, of course, with valuable cargoes from Russia right throughout Europe.

Such a vessel can even cross the sea; it is big enough to use the whole of the North Sea as an inland waterway. Yet once it gets to our ports it cannot go on right up to our factories. It has to tranship, and transhipment is the most expensive operation in the transport set-up. The whole success of road transport is due to the fact that it does not have to tranship. There is only one point missing from that, so far as road transport goes: if we were connected by a solid land bridge to the rest of Europe the set-up would make beautiful common sense; but we are an island and all heavy goods arrive in this country by ship. That means that at some point in every journey there has to be a transhipment, a transhipment at the ports. If we could re- move that last transhipment and bring the goods right inland, as they are doing in Europe, one of the greatest single factors which stands against our goods, both imports and exports, would be removed. This, of course, has nothing to do with the present small canals; this means big waterways, giant waterways.

My Lords, there is only one other point I wish to make. Let nobody think that there is a great advantage in speed in transport. People say: "Oh yes, road transport is so much faster." This is a great advantage for some things, a great advantage for "one-off" types of deliveries, where something is needed in a hurry and where the value of the transport is greatly increased by its brevity. But the major part of all cargo carrying by all commercial firms is not of that kind; it is what I might call "pipe-line" transmission of goods, a steady flow of goods. This was clearly explained to me (it is not, I am afraid, my own simile) by a well-known operator of cargo craft. He said "Have you ever worried about how long it took the water which came out of your taps to travel from the reservoir? You never have! I should not think that you have ever thought about it. The fact is that so long as it keeps coming, you don't mind in the least."

The truth of the matter is that it is the cost of transport that really counts in business, which of course is why we must leave a very wide margin of freedom to the businessman to use the transport which suits him best. But the cost of transport is not affected by speed in the way that might be imagined. There are two costs in transport. One cost is the actual cost of carrying the goods, and the other is the percentage per annum, of the capital cost of the goods in transit. If goods are in transit for one day, it is one day's worth of, let us say, 6 per cent. per annum, or whatever is the percentage figure that the firm has to put against its capital. If it is two days, it is two days' worth of that 6 per cent.; but the difference between one or two days does not represent a very great sum. If the transport is speeded up so that the journey takes one day instead of two, then one day's worth of interest is saved: and this is not a very great sum. But if the speding-up is more expensive than that one day's worth of interest, then the process is financially not worth while.

That is the sole criterion, so far as the steady flow of pipe-line goods is concerned. In practice, the halving of the time of a journey like that is an extremely expensive business, and in almost any case much more expensive than the interest on the time saved.

For these reasons, slow transport is much more valuable in these "pipe-line" transmission operations than fast transport. It is interesting to note in this particular case that where a rate of interest is high, there is, of course, an advantage in faster transport; but otherwise the slow transport has a greater advantage. If, on The other hand, roads are subsidised so that it becomes more profitable to carry "pipe-line" goods by road, that creates an entirely different situation. It means pushing the slow goods on to the fast lanes, and so blocking the fast lanes themselves. It is most important that we sort out this problem; that we get the goods which ought to be travelling slowly to travel by the slow media and, by that very method, get the fast goods travelling fast. Until we can do this, there is no hope of getting any sense in British transport.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, you will undoubtedly be very pleased to hear that I have three very compelling reasons to be extremely brief. The first reason is that I have already this afternoon been accused of being unduly verbose over the subject of a supplementary question, and for this I must offer my apologies. The second reason is that I know your Lordships are all most anxious and keen, as I am, to hear the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, who immediately follows me. I am pleased to see that he does not look unduly weighed down by Lord Chesham's "Twenty Questions" the answers to which are going to receive a lot of attention. The third reason is that, coming in to bat after the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and other noble Lords, there is really not very much left to say on transport.

However, there is one little point which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has already touched upon but which I should like to stress because, as a manufacturer, it very strongly affects me. Our transport system is only one of the many machines which we use to produce our exports. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth (I am sorry to have to keep referring to him) used a most descriptive phrase. I do not entirely agree with it but it was most descriptive. He said that our transport system is an extension of our conveyor belts. I do not quite agree with that because normally a product goes through a machine but once before it ends up in the customer's hands. But this is one machine through which it goes time and time again. So it is not just an extension; it is right in the middle of the conveyor belt and on the end as well. It is important right from the moment when the raw materials come from the mine, get machined and then go somewhere else to get machined again, until the last minute when the goods are received in the customers' hands.

It is no good saving seconds of floor-to-floor time in producing a particular component when, having got the order at considerable expense somewhere abroad, you pack it nicely and off it goes, only for it to be found very often, as I am sure noble Lords in a similar position have found, that the lorry arrives back again, because it has not been able to get to the docks in time or has missed the ship. One knows what is going to happen then, The agent abroad or the customer is going to ring up and ask where it is. We cannot afford to have the transport machine as the weak link in our chain of production. I know that it will be said that everything we want to do to the transport system will cost too much, but I cannot emphasise too strongly that we cannot afford not to invest money in this machine, because we have to go on using it time and time again in all our processes. We cannot have an archaic transport machine working at half-throttle.

I agree most thoroughly with the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, that the last Government started to do something, more than has ever been done before. Perhaps it would be a little unkind to say to them, "Too little, too late", for it was a start. We have had a change of Government. Do not let us go on being lulled by the argument that everybody else in other countries has trouble with transport. That is no reason why we should have it. Do not let us indulge too much in great festivities at the opening of motorways, saying, "How wonderful it is!", because, after all, as one noble Lord said emphatically when addressing a conference elsewhere, we are only doing what most other nations on the Continent did a quarter of a century ago. Our appetite has been considerably whetted by the last Government. We have great hopes that the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, is going to tell us not only that he is going to continue—we do not want just to continue—but also, please, at an increased rate. We just cannot afford not to.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, first of all, may I thank noble Lords who have made personal references to me—except perhaps for those references to my birthday, because I am getting like the ladies and want to forget birthdays now. I have listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, and to other noble Lords who have spoken on transport in this debate. I am sure that the House will understand if on this occasion I do not attempt, as the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, tried to encourage me to do, to set out in detail the policy which my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport will follow on all the aspects of transport.

We are developing this policy and the details are now being prepared. As the noble Lord will appreciate, the first and proper place for a full statement on the future transport policy of the Government is in another place, where it will be made by the Minister of Transport.


My Lords, are we to understand from that that the statement will not be made in this House?


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is a lawyer. He ought to understand constitutional law so far as this country is concerned.


My Lords, I hope I do. The noble Lord stated that the statement was to be made in another place. I was merely inquiring whether it would be made here as well.


Statements generally are. Surely things have not changed in the last few days. Statements are normally made in another place by the Minister responsible and, for the convenience of this House, they are repeated here. As a Government we will carry out that time-honoured Parliamentary tactic. I see that noble Lords already have on the Order Paper Motions on road safety and on roads and road transport. I think that this will split up the debate in a way which will enable us to deal with these questions in perhaps more detail. I am sure that we shall have other opportunities to debate the Government's policy on transport as a whole and the detail of different parts of it when our policy is announced.

I will try to answer some of the points that have been made in this debate, but if time does not allow or if I overlook some of them, I will check to-day's debate and write to noble Lords on any points that I may leave unanswered. First of all, I want to fulfil a promise that I made to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, and to other noble Lords, following the statement on railway closures made by my right honourable friend in another place and repeated in this House on November 4. On that occasion noble Lords put a number of questions, which I said I should be prepared to answer in to-day's debate. If I may, I will fulfil that promise and concentrate on this vital question of railway closures.

I was particularly struck by one thing that the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, said, following the statement on November 4. He quoted the section of the Statement which read [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 261 (No. 4), col. 39]: I shall accordingly consider all closure proposals against the background of future economic and population trends, taking fully into account the possible economic and social consequences, including road congestion". The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, went on to say: My Lords, that has always been the case. There is here nothing new whatsoever". I do not propose to follow him in quibbling about the words used or not used in the Statement, and I have not troubled to compare the words used in it with words used in Statements made by the previous Government on closures. But if the noble Lord really believed that there is nothing new in the policy of this Government, then he is very much mistaken. It is not a matter of drafting. What matters is the whole approach and policy of the Government to transport and its place in a fair and thriving economy.

Unlike the previous Government, we believe that transport must be properly planned and co-ordinated on a national basis to ensure the most effective use of resources, judged in terms of what will give the greatest benefit to the community, instead of merely what gives the greatest profit. Here is the real sting of our policy so far as the Party opposite is concerned. We are concerned with the nation as a whole, with service to the nation, and not only with profit. Where there can be viability, of course so much the better, but the social consequences of a closure must be taken into account. So when we come to deal with a closure, it will be against a totally different background. If I may, I should like to sketch this background, as briefly as possible.

We shall have effective central and regional plans for the economy as a whole. As the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, said—and I am glad that he said it—my right honourable friend the First Secretary of State has already outlined in another place the broad framework within which these plans will be developed. Transport will be an essential element in these plans and the whole process of planning, national and regional, will provide the economic and social background, which our transport plans must serve. It is a two-way operation.

We believe, for instance, that with the growing congestion on the roads, particularly in urban areas, we should not lightly set aside the advantages of the railways, particularly for carrying large numbers of people o and from work. It is not sufficient to consider only what is happening at the moment; rather we suggest that we must look ten or possibly twenty years ahead and try to assess what the transport requirements will then be and see how they can best be met. We think that when we have done this we shall find that there are many railway lines which, although not used to capacity now, will prove to be among our most important transport assets. As the roads become more and more congested, people will be glad to revert to the speed, comfort, safety and regularity of rail travel into city centres. We, accept, of course, that our forward planning may well show that some of these rail services are not likely to be wanted in the future. In those cases we shall not hesitate to close the services. But it seems important to us to work out the transport plans, both national and regional, first, and to make sure that no decisions are reached meanwhile to allow closure proposals, which are likely to conflict with those plans.

In all this we shall be getting away from dealing separately with each form of transport. We see transport as a whole. We shall see what are the real economic and social needs of the community for transport, and how these can best be met by the different forms of transport, planned and working together. We will cut out wasteful competition, both in services and in investment. We will take full account of a wide range of social factors, not forgetting many people who are often forgotten when everything is judged on a purely commercial basis—the very old and the very young, and the people in the scattered rural areas to which my noble friend Lord Wise referred this afternoon.

We have inherited a transport system which has been allowed to develop piecemeal. Our roads are overcrowded and our cities are jammed with traffic. The number of road casualties is appallingly high. Public transport is struggling to continue to provide a service that people need. It is bound to take time to put transport on a properly planned basis, serving the real needs of the country. But we have already made a start on the new national planning which is the only way to sort it out. We have said that we shall consider railway closure proposals against the background of future economic and population trends, taking fully into account the possible economic and social consequences, including road congestion. Noble Lords opposite—if the noble Lord would like to have a committee meeting with his noble friend perhaps he would do it outside.


I really do not think I should incur that observation from the noble Lord. If I say just one thing to my neighbour sitting on the Bench beside me, it is not usual to comment. I was not seeking to interrupt the noble Lord.


I am sorry; but it was a little distracting. I withdraw. I was about to say that noble Lords opposite may say that they have used similar words in the past. But here there are two big differences. First, we mean them; secondly, we are developing the overall economic and transport planning, without which the words would be meaningless.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, raised a number of points on the Statement. First, he suggested that my right honourable friend was arrogating to himself decisions about day-to-day running of the railways. I take it (the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong) that he was referring to the arrangements made with the Railways Board for a preliminary look at closure proposals before they are published by the Board. I really cannot see how this can be said to be interfering with day-to-day management. The Minister has the last word on a passenger closure. If on national or regional planning grounds—which the Railways Board may not know of—a proposed closure is clearly not a starter, what is the point of going through a long procedure of advertisement and consideration by the Transport Users' Consultative Committee? This causes a lot of anxiety, trouble and expense, to a great many people. Surely it is sense to avoid this wherever possible. The Railways Board themselves have recognised that this is a sensible minor modification in the procedure.

Next, the noble Lord referred to the cost of deferring closures and to the effect of building up a new streamlined railway system. On the first point, we fully recognise that there are substantial savings to be made for the railways and the country through the implementation of closure proposals. The Statement made a week ago referred to them specifically. We shall pay full attention to this aspect in considering particular closures, but I suggest that we must not be blinded by the cash accounting. We must recognise that in broader economic and social terms there are even bigger amounts at stake if wrong transport decisions distort our planning and stop the economic growth that we must have.

On the second point, I cannot accept that by taking the time necessary to find the right answers on closures we shall slow down the build-up of an effective railway system. Our policies for trans- port are far more likely than those of noble Lords opposite to provide a proper rôle for a modernised railway system in the future pattern of transport in this country. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, over wide sections of the community in this country the previous Minister of Transport was not looked upon as the Minister of Transport at all; he was considered to be the Minister for Roads and Road Haulage.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, in a series of other questions, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, referred to modernisation. It ill becomes the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, to suggest that this Government might in some way impede the modernisation of the railways. The modernisation of railways has been upset over the last thirteen years by the previous Government for purely political reasons. The railways have suffered from modernisation, reappraisal of modernisation, centralisation, decentralisation and reorganisation. If only railwaymen had been left to get on with their job, instead of having to prepare new sets of plans for successive Ministers of Transport, modernisation of the railways would have proceeded much better.

One thing that the past Government succeeded in doing was to bring the morale of all grades of railwaymen, from officers to the manual grades, to the lowest ebb it has ever reached and it is this that has caused some of the problems to which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, referred. I am certain that a new approach to transport, with the railways playing their full and proper part within the transport system, will raise the morale of railwaymen and enable the railways to develop in the manner in which they should.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, asked some further questions to-day and, as he said, he kindly sent me a list of the questions he was likely to ask. I think that in the statement I had already prepared to make to the House I have met, if not fully to his satisfaction, most of his points on a general basis. But if, w hen I have finished dealing with his points, there are any others and he cares to raise, I will gladly give way to him.

The noble Lord asked, as did the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, what was going to happen to the present road programme. He chided the Labour Party with doing very little between 1945 and 1951. He was entitled to say that, but I would remind him that we had come through one of the most devastating wars, and that there were not the national resources which could be afforded to the development of trunk road services in this country. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, reminded Lord Chesham, the record of his own Government is not very good. They failed to do anything at all until 1960. The present road programme developed from the plans made at that time, and the plans which he has left "in the pipe-line" are to be continued. As the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, well knows, from the conception of a project to starting work is a good five years. I can assure him, on behalf of the Minister, that the programme which he left will be proceeded with, and even, if possible, subject to resources being available, extended.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, referred also to the question of the Channel Tunnel project. The question hardly arises at this stage. The Channel Tunnel is not yet committed as a firm investment project. It was not so committed by the last Government, and a whole range of problems must be solved in agreement with the French Government before that stage is reached. As my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport announced on October 29, we are to continue with the arrangements in hand with the French. Apart from the geological survey new in progress, these arrangements provide for joint official studies of the legal position of the Tunnel and of how it should be financed. To put it briefly, the noble Lord is well aware what the position was under the last Government, and it is exactly the same now. Officials are going ahead and, again briefly, it is "business as usual" so far as the previous Government and this Government are concerned on the Channel Tunnel.

The only other points to which I think I must specially reply, out of courtesy to the noble Lord, are those he put in regard to the freedom of British Road Services. The previous Government did not believe in competition. They believed in restricting the public sector of industry in order to give free opportunity to the private sector. British Road Services were restricted in their activities by the previous Government; they were restricted by legislation. We shall put British Road Services in a position in which they are free to compete on an equal basis with any other road haulage contractor. We will give them every opportunity which the other contractors have. Further than that I cannot go at the present moment, because, as I say, the Minister will have to make a general statement on future policy for transport.

Now we come to "C" licences, and I am afraid that here I have nothing to say, because the matter is under consideration. But I must admit that I have a bias which is against that of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I do not think that any efficient, effective transport system can be worked out unless the problem of "C" licences is tackled. It is quite right for the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, to refer to the question of the manufacturer or the trader transporting his own goods. But he will equally admit that there is a considerable amount of violation of the "C" licence by certain "C" licence holders in the transport of goods other than their own, particularly on return loads. The question of "C" licences will have to be taken into account when the full policy is determined.

The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale (who is not here at the moment), asked me, following the Statement of November 4, whether our new policy would delay bringing the railways into a state of efficiency in which they could give higher wages to a smaller number of men who will be usefully employed in that part of the system which is viable. If I may say so, I feel that that was rather a "loaded" question. First of all, our policy—and I have made this point already—will be to improve, not to weaken, the efficiency of the railways. We believe that their rôle in our transport system must be looked at against economic and social needs as a whole; and it is a very big rôle. We must not confuse size with efficiency.

Secondly, we believe in a fair policy for everyone on wages, profits and incomes generally. I could not accept the suggestion that it is a question of sharing out a limited amount of money among however many people work on the railways. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, will not mind my calling attention to this point, because the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has already done so in his Statement this afternoon. I have spent my working life as a railwayman, and I should think that I am the first spokesman for any Government who, speaking on behalf of transport, has undertaken that responsibility from this Box proudly wearing his trade union badge. I wear that badge as proudly as many noble Lords opposite wear their old school tie, and I hope that I shall always be conscious of the welfare of those from whom I sprang.

My Lords, I have talked about the principles we intend to follow in our transport policy and about railway closures against this background. I have purposely not talked about individual closures. I know that many noble Lords will be concerned about particular cases (we have had one, with which I will deal later, from my noble friend Lord Wise), and will want to know what we propose to do about their particular case. I can assure noble Lords that my right honourable friend has already many proposals to consider, and I cannot say when he will reach decisions on them. But I can assure your Lordships that he will reach those decisions as quickly as possible. If any noble Lord has a point on any case in which he is particularly interested, then my right honourable friend will be only too pleased to receive a communication from him, and will give the fullest consideration to it.

My noble friend Lord Wise spoke earlier this afternoon about the closure of the line between Fakenham and Wells-next-the-Sea. As my right honourable friend said in his Statement on closures, he is advised that he has no power under the 1962 Transport Act to withdraw a consent which has already been given or to insist on the restoration of a service which has already been withdrawn. Consent to closure of passenger services on the line mentioned by my noble friend Lord Wise was given last March. However, my right honourable friend has, as he informed the House, now arranged with the British Railways Board that the track will be retained for the time being where rail services have been withdrawn and where there is no commitment by the Railways Board to dispose of it or the land carrying the track. The Board have no such commitment in the case of the Dereham—Wells line. It will, therefore, be retained for the time being, in accordance with this arrangement. I hope that this will be some consolation to my noble friend.

My noble friend Lord St. Davids said that we should not be surprised that he was going to talk about inland waterways. We were not surprised; but I cannot hope in a short speech such as this to answer all the many varied and interesting points which he made. But I should like to assure him that I share his interest in this subject? It is a fact that wherever one goes and whoever one meets in every type of society, whenever waterways are mentioned there is always a friendly reaction to them. Most of the inland waterways, as the noble Viscount has already said, are vested in the British Waterways Board, which came into existence on January 1, 1963, under the Transport Act. 1962. The Board have a statutory duty to review the whole of their system and to put forward proposals for putting their waterways to the best use. The Board have moved very quickly indeed, and at the end of their first year put forward an Interim Report in which they reached the tentative conclusion that the best policy for the future was likely to be the operation of the system on a multi-user basis in which all the potential and valuable uses of the waterways—not only for goods traffic, but also for water supply, land drainage, pleasure boating, angling and amenity—would be fully developed.

The Board are now well advanced in the further stages of their review, which I hope will enable us to decide what policy to adopt and to start preparing the necessary legislation. But I can assure my noble friend Lord St. Davids that these are very complex matters which concern not only my right honourable friend but several of his colleagues, and I should not like to suggest that they can be settled overnight. But I can assure my noble friend that I have taken careful note of what he has said and shall take these points into consideration in our discussions.

I should like now to turn to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who, first of all, spoke about transport as a whole and the question of modernisation. I have assured him that modernisation will proceed and there will not be the constant interference with those responsible for railway management that there was under the previous Administration. I think that generally he will find our policy is much more to his liking than that of the previous Administration was.


My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting him. The noble Lord will appreciate that Dr. Beeching, I think I am right in saying, since his advent has been given a completely free hand. He has been responsible for the railways. I wondered whether the modernisation has kept pace with what we had a right to expect during that period.


I can speak only as one interested in railways. One of the problems has been that the constant administrative changes which were forced on the railways have interfered technically with the ability of the officers to proceed as well with modernisation as they otherwise would have done. This constant breaking up of the organisation, the bringing in of lines and the taking out of lines, splitting the organisation up into regions, chopping off half one region and putting it into another, have not been done on a basis of railway operations but purely, as I look at it, for political purposes.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, raised a number of points on goods vehicles and their safety. As he said, we are going to have another debate on road safety, and I shall deal more fully with some of the points that he has raised this afternoon, if I may, when we come to that de Date which is going to be held, I believe, next week or the week after. The noble Lord spoke about the standard of maintenance of many of the heavy goods vehicles on the roads of this country. I think there can be no doubt that the standard of maintenance is not good. The intensified roadside checks which were carried out this summer attracted much publicity as "blitzes", as they were called, and vividly showed the dangerous state these vehicles were in. Over half the vehicles inspected had serious faults. In about 10 per cent. of them the defects were so serious that the vehicles had to be taken off the road immediately. One must be fair to the road hauliers and the road hauliers' associations. The Ministry's inspectors deliberately challenged those vehicles which looked least roadworthy, and, of course, the vehicles which, on the surface, looked most roadworthy were allowed to go unchallenged. There is a limit to what the inspectors can do.

I am glad to say that the responsible leaders of the industry are aware of the position and both the Road Haulage Association and the Traders Road Transport Association have written to the Minister of Transport indicating what they propose to do and making suggestions for joint action between the industry and the Ministry. Discussions are taking place with the Associations at official level and we hope that they will provide a satisfactory conclusion to this very serious matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, also referred to the question of lorry weights and the "plated" lorry. This matter is at present being gone into by the Ministry, and a statement will be made as soon as possible. I hope that I may be in a position to make a more full statement when we come to the debate next week. I am afraid that this has been rather a sketchy reply to the discussion that we have had, but I hope that I have met most of the points. If I have missed any points I will certainly try to reply to noble Lords by letter.

To sum up, briefly our policy is towards an integrated transport system, covering road, rail, inland waterways, air and coastal shipping, using the most suitable vehicle for the journey to be made and the traffic to be carried; and above all, geared to meet the economic and social needs of the country.


My Lords, could the noble Lord kindly tell the House—he has talked a great deal about rail closures—whether there are to be any rail extensions? For example, there is a great urgency to increase and develop London's Underground services, and that is a matter of great priority. Will the men and machines working on the Victoria Tube be transferred to any extensions in the South-East area? If he could give us an assurance now that it will be done, I am sure that noble Lords will be very grateful.


My Lords, that is hardly a matter of closures or extensions; it is a question of London's traffic problems. It will be for this Government, or some other, to decide how far transport is an industry or a service, how much it can meet costs; how much it can receive as a contribution from the Exchequer. Tube development is extremely expensive. Whether or not the road programme is more expensive is a matter for consideration. As the noble Lord will know, the Victoria Tube is now under construction. There are four other proposals by London Transport, but I shall be surprised if London Transport do not want some financial guarantees before they proceed further.


My Lords, I did not interrupt the noble Lord at all in the course of his speech because I did not want to. I wanted to take advantage, though not in the middle of his speech, of his offer to give way if I wanted to say anything about the question; I thought it better to do it now. I must not, of course, comment on what the noble Lord has been saying; that would savour of speaking twice. But I would ask him if he would do me two or three favours. First, in view of the fact, as he admitted, with the possible exception of the Channel Tunnel, that he has not given an answer to any of the questions I asked—for the reason, as I suspected, that an answer does not exist—may I ask him if he will take my speech away, when he gets a copy of it, and consider it very carefully together with his right honourable friend and think whether his answer this afternoon will not have the same effect in the country as it has had on me? Will he therefore pay considerable attention to those questions? The other thing is this. Will he also reconsider the speech he has made, again together with his right honourable friend, in conjunction with my speech? I think he will then find rather curious conclusions coming out.

Finally, to change the subject, the noble Lord apparently resented the fact that my noble and learned friend actually spoke to me while he was speaking; the noble Lord withdrew, but I wondered whether I might just say this. Perhaps the noble Lord will cast his mind back to the end of my speech and the noises that were coming at me from the Bench on which he sits. I wonder if he will discuss that with his colleagues.


My Lords, I have been warned not to make another speech; it is very tempting. I will certainly, in conjunction with my right honourable friend, look at the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, and so far as it is possible to expand what I said I will write to the noble Lord and give the answers. Perhaps it would be better if I gave him the opportunity of putting down a Question so that the whole House will know the answers. If they are interesting to him they will be equally interesting to the House as a whole.


My Lords, may I, in conclusion, assure the noble Lord that I have every intention of putting down not one Question, but many.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, it seems clear that the Minister, in his reply, has not given satisfaction in the answers to all the questions put to him, but I must say, with great respect, he went very far indeed in trying to give answers to the many questions that had been put to him on the subject of transport during this debate. The trouble I found was that in the course of his answers he raised in my mind a great many more questions to which I should like answers. I had not intended to follow the subject of transport at all, but the noble Lord has provoked me into asking this question. He said that the policy of the present Government with regard to transport and with regard to the railways in particular was that it should follow the principle of service, not profit; and it is a slogan or a principle that many of us have heard many times in the past. I hope that the noble Lord will elaborate that on a not too distant occasion.

Does this mean that the Government no longer adhere to the principle which I think was incorporated in all the nationalisation Acts, that the nationalised industry should break even, taking one year with another—I think the formula was something of that sort. Does it mean now, so far as the railways are concerned, that it is no longer going to be incumbent upon their administration to break even, taking one year with another? Does it mean now that they are no longer to run their service on commercial lines? If so, to what extent are the railways to be allowed to continue to run at a loss which has to be paid for by the Exchequer? If the noble Lord will answer that question, he will answer one of the questions he raised in my mind.

Secondly, he castigated the previous Minister of Transport as being popularly regarded as the Minister of Roads and Road Haulage. I think he was somewhat unfair to the Minister. But does that mean that we now have a Minister not of Transport but of Railways? And was he not a little unfair to the railway modernisation programme when he gave us the sort of description which would have conjured up in anybody's mind the impression that the railways had made little or no progress during these last years?

I must say I took some exception, as a keen supporter of the railways, to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, about his line. I happen to live on a line which provides a service which I think is as good as any in Europe, perhaps in the world. I can only say to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that if he will leave the backward and primitive parts of England where he apparently at present lives and come to the progressive and modern East Anglia we will ensure that his transport difficulties, unless in the case of fog or frost, are removed completely, so far as the railways are concerned.


My Lords, the noble Lord must not say that I live in the backwoods. He will affront the noble Earl, the Leader of the House. It is the city of Oxford.


It was always a centre for lost causes.

I had not intended to follow transport as a subject for my remarks. I was taking the opportunity that your Lordships promised of returninig the debate to the somewhat wider subject on which it started some days ago. It has always been accepted as a convention in our Parliamentary life that a new Government is given a limited period in which to play itself in before being subjected to the full blast of Parliamentary opposition but I am sure that this does not mean that we are precluded from subjecting it, its actions and its policies, to mild and helpful criticism right from the start of its term of office.

In any case, it seems to me that the circumstances in which the present Administration has been returned to power are almost unique. Along with so many people in this country and overseas, I have always been a strong admirer of the political skill and judgment of the British people, and never more than at this particular time. They have, after all, contrived, amid all the complexities and anomalies of our electoral system, to produce a clear-cut decision. Last month they wished to see a change of the personalities in the Government without any radical change of policies. They did not vote for the nationalisation of steel. They did not vote for any revolutionary new process of redistributing wealth. They certainly did not vote to place their economic destinies in the hands of Dr. Balogh or Mr. Kaldor. Those who took an extensive part in the Election campaign could not, I think, fail to note the lack of passion or violent partisanship. There was something rather majestic in the calmness and deliberation with which that electoral decision was reached. I may be wrong—and I certainly do not want to discourage the devoted workers of the various Parties—but it is my view that the decision of the electorate would have been almost exactly the same if the vote had been taken at the beginning instead of at the end of the campaign.

Therefore, it seems to me important that the Government of the day, the Labour Government, should not misjudge their position or misinterpret their mandate. Yet, from reading and studying the gracious Speech, this is precisely what they appear in danger of doing. The electors wanted an alternative Government and not a Socialist Government. They, the electors, realised, instinctively I think, that if the two-Party system was to work there must be a strong Opposition; that one Party cannot remain indefinitely in the wilderness without being subjected from time to time to the disciplines of power and the burdens of responsibility. Prolonged power and prolonged parlousness are equally corrupting where politics are concerned.

In those circumstances, it seems to me that the present Government are misinter-preting their mandate in their attempt to apply fully, and without regard to the limitations which the electorate attempted to put upon them, the policies set out in the programme with which they started their Election campaign. The nationalisation of steel is one example of this. But it is quite clear not only from the gracious Speech but also from the Budget speech which has just been made in another place, that the Socialist Government intend to carry out a policy for which, as I say, I do not believe they have a mandate from the last Election. I believe that in due course they will rue the day that they made up their mind to follow through, without regard to the real significance of the results of last October. I think they will come unstuck; but, in the course of that, they will do considerable damage to the prospects of this country and our chance of a stable economy and social future.

Let me, if I may, refer immediately to one of the actions that has been taken—namely, the imposition of the 15 per cent. surcharge on imports. Like many of my noble friends on this side of the House, I regard that surcharge as being wrong from an economic point of view. I believe it is the wrong way of applying a protectionist instrument, and it is being applied in the wrong circumstances. I believe that the result of that 15 per cent. surcharge will be to give to British industry a further incentive to concentrate upon the home market, precisely at a moment when everything should be done to try to ensure that it concentrates upon the export trade. I do not believe that this surcharge was essential, whatever the Government may say; and if urgent action was necessary, it would have been possible to use many other instruments in its place.

Not only have they taken a wrong step so early in their career, but they have done so in a way—with an uncouthness, if I may use that expression—which has alienated our friends in Europe. They do not seem to realise that over the last thirteen years, and despite the disappointment of many of us—at any rate of myself—at our failure to achieve a closer association with the European Common Market, a nexus of commercial and economic relationships has been created between ourselves and European countries, as well as the Commonwealth countries, which is of immense value to us and which must be extended rather than restricted or curtailed.

It seems to me that we are going back to the late 1940s, and many of the speeches which we have heard from noble Lords opposite during these last few days have been nostalgic in that respect. Unless there is early realisation on the part of the Government that the problems which they are dealing with cannot be solved with the old formula of Socialism, but must be approached freshly, without prejudice and without an attempt at a doctrinaire imposition of their policies, I fear that they will do not only themselves but the country immeasurable damage. Those are quite general remarks, and before I sit down——


My Lords, I am sure that the House has listened with tremendous interest to what the noble Lord is saying, but before he moves on can be indicate what proposals he would make as an alternative to the action of Her Majesty's Government in the grave economic situation, which I am sure he recognises confronted the Government when they took office?


We have to see how bad that economic situation is when we hear the trade returns in about ten days' time. I am not prepared to accept the word of the Government in this matter without a certain amount of analysis and support from evidence which is not yet available. This conception of Britain on the brink of ruin was created—and none of us objected; after all, we understand politics—as part of an Election campaign, although the present Prime Minister, and Leader of the Labour Party, as he was at that time, denied early in the campaign that the situation was particularly serious. It was only latterly, when he felt perhaps that there were reasons for doing so, that this great emphasis was placed on the seriousness of the situation. I do not for one moment say that everything was all right and that no action was required. I am only saying that the action which was taken was wrong; and, as I am a Member of the Opposition, I am fortunately not required to give to the Government the policies which with expert assistance they should be able to discover for themselves.

There is one other subject which I wish to raise, and it is a delicate and difficult one. It is the question of immigration. I hope that this very sensitive question will not 5e considered in Parliament or in the country simply with cries and counter-cries of, "Smethwick!" I am sure it would not be in the interests of either Party for that to be done. It would certainly not be in the interest of the Labour Party, nor would it be in the interests of Britain. I would recall to your Lordships the fact that control over immigration from the Commonwealth would have been introduced many years ago, if it had not been for the historic fact that Britain occupied the position of a metropolitan country. We felt very sincerely—and this applied to all Parties—that we had an obligation, as a metropolitan country at the centre of a great nexus of dependencies, to allow anybody who was a British subject to come to Britain to live or work. We were, as noble Lords will remember, alone among Commonwealth countries in operating this "open door" policy, and, frankly, we were proud of the fact that we were able to do so.

Under the previous Government we maintained that policy for as long as we could, and certainly for as long as there was any constitutional or moral obligation for us to do so. It was when it became clear that the possible social and economic consequences on this country of allowing unregulated and uncontrolled Commonwealth immigration to continue might be cumulative and serious, that we first attempted to bring to bear on it some form of control. I would remind noble Lords opposite that the control we attempted to operate was one that was to be fir posed voluntarily by the Commonwealth countries from which the immigrants came, particularly India, Pakistan and the West Indies. That was the Conservative Government's policy, and that was carried, so far as we possibly could, sincerely into effect. But it did not, and will not, work.

The reasons why that is the case are very simple indeed. In the first place, it is very much more difficult to administer control over emigration at the country of origin than to administer control over immigration at the ports or airfields of the receiving countries. Secondly, control over emigration of that sort is very unpopular with public opinion in what I would call the exporting countries. India or Pakistan are not by any means anxious to discourage a certain proportion of emigration of populations which are already too large for the existing resources of the countries concerned. Therefore, it is not in the interest of the exporting Governments that, in our interests, they should prevent their citizens from leaving their shores to come here. We cannot transfer the difficult moral, administrative and political problem from our shoulders to those of other Commonwealth countries, and it is wrong for us to try to do so.

In so far as I understand it, and I may be open to correction, the policy of the present Government and noble Lords opposite is that they should try to reintroduce that voluntary system of control of immigration to be operated by the countries of origin or the exporting countries. Again, one is always liable to be wrong, but experience has shown that that will not work, and it cannot work. Yet at the same time I am quite certain that noble Lords opposite are as clear as we are that some form of control of immigration must be maintained in this country. I therefore hope that there is going to be no exploitation of this issue for political purposes. I say this quite clearly, because it is an issue which we know is explosive, and at the same time it is one on which, if noble Lords opposite are going to handle it with skill and integrity, they on their side must realise some of the difficulties which have involved those who on previous occasions have had to try to deal with this problem. Those are the only points I wish to raise; and in view of the late hour of the day I am sorry that I have done so at such length.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, in this four-day debate we are covering even wider fields than perhaps we have done on previous occasions in discussing the gracious Speech. I should like, with all humility, to join with others in paying a tribute to Her Majesty for the great contribution which our beloved Sovereign makes to relations within the Commonwealth and, indeed, to international understanding far and wide. Never have I felt so strongly that we are blessed indeed by our Queen, by her humanity and, indeed, by the system of constitutional monarchy under which we live. When I visit other countries, I recognise how well the British Constitution, which, as we all know, does not in fact exist, does in fact function.

However, I must say that when I witness the uproars in another place, I think of the plea which is contained in the Prayer Book that, under Her Majesty, we should be godly and quietly governed. In this connection I think the Deity would permit me to emphasise the word "quietly". I trust that debates in another place do not degenerate into the kind of disturbances which I witnessed in the French Chamber after the war—which I believe were equally severe before the war—and which developed almost into fisticuffs. I hope that we are not going to experience that kind of thing in this country. History shows us that the abuse of Parliamentary procedure in other countries can well lead to the introduction of a dictatorship. I sincerely hope we shall continue the ancient tradition and welcome graciously each and every new Member in both Houses of Parliament.

I will not detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes. I have merely risen in the first place to endorse what my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State for Education and Science has said in another place about the Government's proposals regarding the organisation of civil science. I am not happy that a new Department has been created, but in this sudden uprush of new Ministries I suppose that science and technology could scarcely have escaped the epidemic. My own belief is that the Industrial Research and Development Authority, which was proposed by the Trend Committee and endorsed generally by the last Government, would have filled the bill in so far as it was thought desirable to distribute the work of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which in fact covers very broad areas. However, we must look carefully into the Government's detailed proposals when they are put forward.

There is still, as we have heard from my noble friend Lord Chesham, some uncertainty in regard to certain research stations which he mentioned, for example the Road Research Laboratory. But otherwise, I suppose the Government's proposals, apart from the creation of a new Ministry, are perhaps not so very different from those of the past Government, at any rate in so far as the present Government have supported the plan to set up a new Council for Scientific Policy, as well as a new Science Research Council and a Natural Environment Council. Indeed, on the level of the Research Councils it does not appear that the Government intend to make any very drastic changes; and this, I think, is right. I hope that they will continue (although I have not heard them state it) to accept the Haldane principle regarding the independence of these Councils.

But there is one point, in addition to the creation of a new Ministry, on which I regret the policy of the present Government in the matter of research. That is that they have taken their decisions without consultation, which I think is always a sign of weakness and a symptom of haste. The Institution of Professional Civil Servants were fully consulted over a period of months by the previous Government, regarding the Trend Report and the organisation of civil science, and were, I think, fully informed of the previous Government's intentions. As noble Lords opposite know, it is often very difficult to satisfy all parties in these matters, but it is at least possible to consult them. Indeed, not only the Institution but all the Research Councils were given an opportunity of putting forward their views.

By contrast, the decision to set up a new Ministry was the subject of no such consultations, and I feel that this was a mistake. In fact the whole episode is sadly reminiscent, I regret to say, of the sudden and precipitate introduction of the 15 per cent. surcharge and what I understand is politely called the "review" of the Concorde project. Your Lordships will, I know, share my hope that abrupt action without consultation will not prove to be one of the principal characteristics of this Government.

In regard to the Concorde, if I may go a little beyond home affairs (the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has already mentioned it), I should like to support what has been said by the Opposition in another place, and also the views put forward in an excellent letter by Air Commodore Heycock in The Times of November 6. I think we should go ahead with this project, in co-operation with our French friends. Indeed, when I read, as I did in The Times only a short while ago, and in the New Scientist this week, of the Douglas Aircraft Corporation's design study for a 260-seat rocket aircraft which would, I think, get us to Australia in 40 minutes, I wondered whether we shall be going far enough, or should I say fast enough, in the Concorde. At any rate, it would be sad to think of Britain as a country permanently confined to conventional aircraft flying at subsonic speeds.

In the field of science I have found some comfort from the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, whose admirable interview is printed in his month's Director. The noble Lord, as we know, might well sit on the Government Benches and will, I hope, favour us from time to time in this House with his wisdom. But what impressed me in that interview was the point which Lord Rothschild made, regarding the emigration of scientists from this country. He said that there was no serious loss, and he referred, as others have referred, to the tradition of allowing our scientists to go overseas, as well as to the number who had in fact returned to this country. I was very interested to read that, coming from a noble Lord who, I presume, supports the present Government and who has unmatched experience in various scientific fields, especially during the war, and, of course, as a former Chairman of the Agricultural Research Council.

Just before the General Election campaign I spent a fortnight in America inspecting a number of research establishments there, including their space centres: not Cape Kennedy, which I had already visited, but, in particular, the Headquarters of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Washington, as well as the Goddard Space Flight Centre which is concerned so much with the launching of our own scientific satellites, and the Manned Space Flight Centre at Houston in Texas. I need hardly say that these visits were of the greatest possible interest, though I am not proposing to give your Lordships a little lecture on all these very interesting topics to-night. All I am going to say is that in America as a whole I was greatly impressed by the very high opinion which they have, not only of our contribution in the instrumentation in our scientific satellites and space research generally, and in what the Royal Aircraft Establishment has done, but also in the broad range of civil science, whether in nuclear physics and atomic energy, in medicine or agriculture, or even the conservation of nature.

I was, of course, immensely impressed by what the Americans themselves are doing. But I came to the conclusion that in many of these fields they would not have gone as far as they have done, had it not been possible for them to develop certain ideas and inventions emanating from this country. Many American scientists would, I know, endorse this view. At any rate, our own scientific standing in America, and indeed in the world as a whole, is at the present time very high.

One of the numerous subjects which I discussed at meetings while in Washington was the de-salting of water, on which the noble Viscount, Lord Weir, made a most interesting maiden speech yesterday. I should like to say how sorry I was not to be present to hear him make that speech and to congratulate him, but I read it with great care in Hansard this morning. Had I been here yesterday, I could also have told him that when I had a meeting with Mr. Charles McGowan (who, as the noble Viscount probably knows, is the Director of Saline Water in Washington) and his colleagues, he made it clear that Americans greatly value the co-operation which they have had with us in the de-salting field and would like to see it extended. I feel certain that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the newly formed Desalination Research Committee, will in fact be actively following up these matters. At all events, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his remarks on this subject and, also, about me personally. I know what an excellent record his firm has in the building of such distillation plants.

I think I am right in saying that a short while ago certain new financial measures were being introduced in another place. I hope that these will not prove to be too much of a Hungarian Rhapsody, nor, perhaps, as impetuous and, shall I say, presumptuous as some of those to which I have already referred. If, however, we cannot agree with the policies of the present Government in certain matters, I would express the profound hope that all the great questions to which reference is made in the gracious Speech, as well as those which were omitted from it, will be examined and discussed dispassionately and calmly. Above all, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, I hope that we shall be quietly governed and that in each case proper consultations will be undertaken.

6.19 p.m.


My Lords, in my time I have on a number of occasions made the final speech in a debate, either for the Government or on the Opposition side, but I cannot remember doing so in any debate which has lasted as long as this one or which has covered such a wide variety of subjects, ranging from the de-salination of water (although that was not mentioned in the gracious Speech) to various forms of transport. It is quite impossible for me, my Lords, and I am sure your Lordships would not wish it, to deal with every topic that has been raised. This is, I think, my maiden speech from this Box, and I am sure your Lordships will agree that this debate has been on a very high level, and as interesting as it could be in the light of the information which the Government have so far given us about their plans.

I should like, my Lords, to add my congratulations to those already expressed to noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite on their appointment to ministerial office. And I would say a special word of congratulation, if I may, despite his absence (the reason for which he explained to me), to the Leader of the House. We were in fact at the same house at Eton, and I am glad to know that the prejudice of the Prime Minister and some others not infrequently displayed to old Etonians did not prevent the noble Earl from becoming Lord Privy Seal. If my memory serves me aright, the noble Earl the Leader of the House was in those days an accessory before the fact to the infliction upon me of some corporal punishment, which even now he might seek to justify; but I like to think that his well-known views on corporal punishment and other forms of punishment stem from that occasion.

I should also like to congratulate someone who it would not be right for me in this House to call an old friend, but another old Etonian, a former captain of the Oppidans, the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, who, after a long service in another place, has achieved office as a Member of your Lordships' House and who made such an extremely pleasant maiden speech yesterday, although I thought that he did, indirectly, try to establish that he really ought not to have been at Eton at all.

To my successor in office, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, I should also like to extend my congratulations. Your Lordships will remember that not long ago he made a speech in this House about the duties of the Lord Chancellor. I suspect that he is finding them somewhat different from what he said then and from what he anticipated. I do not doubt that, coming fresh from the Bar to his high office, he finds the burden which now falls upon him both heavy and strange, and I am sure he would be the last person to expect me to lighten it for him. But he will find, as indeed I found, that he has to help him a wonderful staff, a staff of great experience, who will, I am sure, help him to avoid many of the pitfalls and overcome many of the difficulties which confront a Lord Chancellor.

My Lords, I am inclined to think—indeed, I am sure—that the burden he will have to discharge will be heavier than the one which fell upon me, because in this Parliament there are in your Lordships' House only two members of the Cabinet, and your Lordships will, I know, expect a Cabinet Minister to speak in our major debates. If they do not, then the noble Earl the Leader of the House can expect to be reminded of the words on this subject uttered by the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, when he was Leader of the Opposition. The fact that there are only two Cabinet Ministers in this House must mean that an additional burden will fall upon the Lord Chancellor; and two Cabinet Ministers in this House is not, as I am sure the Leader of the House and the Lord Chancellor will come to agree, really sufficient for the discharge of the functions of this House. There is in your Lordships' House not one Minister who is the head of a Department, yet we have the largest Government we ever had, with many more Ministers than were found to be necessary for the conduct of the war.

This matter was referred to in his speech by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition. In his reply, the noble Earl the Leader of the House said that quantitatively there was not much difference from the last Parliament; nor do I suppose that there was really much difference in weight. But that is beside the point. The noble Earl the Leader of the House cannot deny that there has been a significant reduction in the number of senior Ministers in this House. Your Lordships art not, perhaps, directly concerned with the number of Ministers who sit in another place, but we are concerned with the number who sit here, and the fact that there are only two Cabinet Ministers here must mean, if they are to deal with this House as faithfully as their predecessors did, that each of them must frequently take part in our debates.

I should like the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, when he comes to reply, to say whether there is any precedent for the appointment in peace time of someone as a Minister when it is not intended, as the noble Earl the Leader of the House has made plain, that he should take part in the business of Parliament. I refer, of course, to the noble Lord, Lord Caradon. I know that in the course of the war Ministers were appointed whose duty it was to function abroad, but they did come back to Parliament. Now we are to have a very distinguished civil servant replaced by a Minister at the United Nations. I must confess that, apart from the fact that it means adding to the number of Ministers, I fail to see what advantage is to be gained by the appointment of a former civil servant as a Minister, and making him a Peer when it is not intended that he shall attend your Lordships' House. My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord has filed his application for Leave of Absence, or will do so in due course.

We are glad to know that we shall see something of Mr. Gwynne-Jones, and I, for one, shall look forward to hearing him explain why the Labour Party's Defence policy, such as it is, and if they have one, has more attractions for him than that of the Liberal Party. Before I pass from the subject of Ministers there is one question I wish to put to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, and it is this: Does he agree that the purpose and object of Section 2 of the House of Commons Disqualification Act, 1957, was to place an effective limit on the number of Ministers who can sit and vote in another place, and, indirectly, to ensure that there should be a sufficient number of Ministers in your Lordships' House?

Over the centuries, Parliament has been much concerned to prevent the Executive having too much power. In Erskine May it is said that one of the objects of the limit was—and I quote the words— the need to limit the control or influence of the executive Government over the House by means of an undue proportion of office holders being members of the House". Whether this was right or wrong I am not going to take up time in debating, but I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor whether he does not agree that the object of Section 2 of the 1957 Act was to place an effective limit on the number of Ministers who can sit and vote in another place.

Now the Bill which preceded that Act had a somewhat curious history. It was first introduced and received a Second Reading in, I think, 1956. It was then referred, not to the usual Standing Committee but to a Select Committee, on which the present Minister without Portfolio and Mr. Chuter Ede sat. That Bill, so referred to the Select Committee, contained a clause similar to Section 2 of the Act, and although some amendments were made by the Select Committee, that Committee did not amend or seek to amend what is now Section 2 of the Act. Nor, so far as I can ascertain, was the clause criticised in the course of the passage of the Bill through either House. From that it is, I think, a fair deduc- tion that both Parties thought that a limit was necessary, and that the limit should be that provided in the section. So I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor this question, if I may repeat it—it can be simply and unequivocally answered: Does he not agree that the object and purpose of that section was to impose an effective limit on the number of Ministers who can sit and vote in the Commons?

My Lords, I have given the noble and learned Lord notice that I proposed to ask this question, and also of other questions I propose to ask, and I shall await his replies with interest. I am sure he will agree that the fundamental rule of interpretation of a Statute, to which all others are subordinate, is that a Statute is to be expounded, to quote the words of Coke, according to the intent of them that made it". If the intent was to impose that limit, then that Statute would require so to be expounded. But what in fact has happened? The list of officers in the Second Schedule to that Act includes Ministers of State, and in the Interpretation Clause Ministers of State are defined as members of Her Majesty's Government appointed at a salary.

So the Prime Minister, and presumably his legal advisers—for presumably they were consulted—appear to have taken the view that they could get round the intention of Parliament and avoid the operation of the prescribed limit by appointing Ministers of State without salary, and promising to pass an Act to enable them to be paid later. Whether this is within the letter of the law is open to argument. Section 2 (2) of the Act refers to the holders of ministerial offices, and that must relate to the offices named in the Schedule. It also refers to the holders of "ministerial offices of any class". It is not easy to see the reason for the inclusion of the words "of any class" unless they were meant to go wider than the offices mentioned in the Schedule and apply to offices of any description. If these words were omitted from the subsection, the two limits provided in the first subsection would still, I think, be operative.

But whether or not what has been done is within the letter of the Act, it is, I suggest, clearly contrary to the object of that Act that the limit imposed should be evaded by such devices. I do not think this was the proper thing to do, and I would ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to express his view on the propriety of it. For I cannot think that either he or the Law Officers advised that this was the proper course to take. The right course would have been to come to Parliament and seek Parliamentary authority for a change. But this is not the Prime Minister's way. In this instance he has preferred to act first and to seek to legislate later. This is not, as I shall show, the only instance in which he has done this.

We have had three new Ministries created: Land and Natural Resources, Overseas Development, and Technology. None of these, so far as I can see, was created under any statutory authority. The older Government Departments owe their creation largely to the direct exercise of the discretionary authority of the Crown. In Halsbury's Laws of England one finds this statement: The constitution of the more modern Departments—and the powers and duties of the various officers and functionaries of whom their staff is composed, are usually regulated from their inception by direct Parliamentary enactment or by Orders in Council issued under statutory authority". It is interesting to note that when the Ministry of Defence was created by the last Socialist Government a White Paper was first published announcing the creation of the Ministry. That was followed by a Bill, and it was only after that Bill had been enacted that the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, was appointed Minister of Defence. Again, in 1961 an Act was passed establishing the Department of Technical Co-operation, and it was only after that Act had been passed that my noble friend Lord Vosper was appointed Minister of that Department.

I do not know whether there are any precedents for what the Prime Minister has done—the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will no doubt tell us if there are—but the modern practice surely is to have statutory authority for the creation of a new Ministry, either by an Act or by an Order in Council, and I ask the noble and learned Lord Chancellor to say positively whether there is now any statutory authority for these three new Ministries. I understand that Permanent Secretaries have already been appointed and the staffs appointed. Is it not the case that the Ministers appointed have taken the Oath of Allegiance? Yet I understand that there is a Bill now before another place which provides that the Minister of these Departments shall take the Oath of Allegiance and that they must appoint such secretaries, officers and servants as they may determine, with the consent of the Treasury.

The fact that that Bill is now before another place confirms my belief that there is, in fact, at the present time no statutory authority for the creation of these three Ministries. If I am right, is this not a clear indication of the attitude of the Prime Minister to the Statute Law and to the rule of law? And again I suggest that this is not the only instance.

In the course of this debate we devoted a day to the economic situation of the country, and a considerable amount was said about the imposition of the import levy. It has been repeatedly stressed that its imposition is temporary. What exactly does that mean? One thing is certain. There is no doubt at all that the present Government is temporary—and that is some consolation to the majority of the electorate. But no one knows—it would be useful if one did—how long this temporary Government will last. While one hopes that this temporary import levy will have the desired effect, I should like to draw the attention of the House to an anonymous passage in last Friday's Times. It was as follows: Evidence is quietly building up that the controversial 15 per cent. surcharge is unlikely to have the desired effect. Importers are proving more ingenious than the Government may have expected. Following the rising tide of overseas criticism from business interests as well as international organisations, the Government has been at pains to stress the temporary aspect of the measure; a great deal it seems will depend on the interpretation of what is meant by temporary. If British importers and foreign manufacturers believe this is only a matter of a few months, the measure itself will lose much of its sting. They might then continue to import it the previous rate and absorb at least a high proportion of the extra impost. That I regarded as a rather ominous statement, and if it is thought that "temporary" means, indeed, only a matter of a few months, there might well appear to be considerable substance in it. I should also like to know what effect this import levy is likely to have on the balance-of-payments position at the end of this current year. We have been frequently reminded of the estimated deficit without this levy. I think we ought to be told what effect this levy, so suddenly imposed, is likely to have on the balance of payments this year. It was put on in a great hurry and without any consultation.

My Lords, I now come to another question that I should like the noble and learned Lord to answer. I should be grateful to him if he would tell me whether there was any statutory authority at the time for the imposition of this levy. When we have a Budget, as we have had to-day, it is followed, as it has been to-day, by Ways and Means Resolutions, and when those are passed the Provisional Taxes Act, 1913, applies. But we had nothing of this sort with the levy. We could not have had. Parliament was not sitting. And if, as I suspect, there was no statutory authority for the imposition of this levy at this time, then that would appear to be yet another instance of the Government acting first and seeking to obtain lawful authority afterwards.

The imposition of this levy involved, I understand, a breach of two (that has been admitted) and it may be three international treaties: EFTA, GATT, and the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The First Secretary said that the levy offends against international agreements. The Economic Secretary said that it was a breach of EFTA and of GATT. In a speech, which attracted great publicity at the time, to the Society of Labour Lawyers on April 20, 1964, the Prime Minister said that the Labour movement stands for the rule of law both in the domestic and international spheres. My Lords, I am quite sure of one thing, and that is that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor stands for the rule of law. It is, of course, easy to pay lip service to it, but I would ask the Lord Chancellor this question: How does he reconcile the action taken—taken, as I suspect, without any statutory authority—involving the admitted breach of two treaties, and possibly a third, with "standing for the rule of law"? I think that no lawyer would regard a breach of a treaty as a small thing. I am not going to remind your Lordships of what happened in 1914. But if ever we are going to get international peace securely established throughout the world, surely we must be able to rely upon the sanctity of international treaties.

The matter does not end there. Last week we had the sudden announcement that office building in London was to be stopped and that in future a Board of Trade permit would be required in addition to planning permission. It was made clear, too, that those who had invested large sums of money in perfectly lawful development would receive no compensation for the loss they suffered by reason of the Government's decision. I am not going to argue the merits of the restriction on office building in London. But, again, I want to ask whether there was any statutory authority for the imposition of this restriction to take effect from November 5. So far as I can see, there was none.

If I am right in this, this is yet another instance of the Prime Minister acting, not in a presidential but in a dictatorial fashion, seeking to use Parliament as a rubber stamp to endorse action already taken. His action in evading the clear intention of Parliament, as I see it, as to the number of Ministers in the Commons, in creating new Ministries without statutory authority, in imposing without statutory authority an import levy and the ban on office building, make, it seems to me, a hollow mockery of the statement that the Labour movement stands for the rule of law in both the domestic and the international spheres. Instead of seeking Parliamentary approval for proposed action, he expects and demands that Parliament should approve ex post facto. As I see it, your Lordships will be asked to digest and to approve a mass of retrospective legislation.

I thought it right to draw attention to these matters. I fully appreciate the desire of the Party opposite to do a great deal in their "hundred days". I also appreciate their need to create a kind of electoral alibi by talking so much about economic crises to justify the imposition of fresh taxes to pay for their proposals, when they have so frequently asserted that the cost of their proposals could be met out of increased production. But I do hope that in future the Prime Minister will be persuaded by those of his colleagues who have some regard for constitutional proprieties not to embark on action which requires statutory authority without first getting that authority.

It is not possible for me to refer to all the excellent speeches that have been made in this debate. If I may, I should like to single out one for special mention. That is the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Fleet. I thought that what he said merited the greatest consideration, not only of this House but outside this House. Restrictive practices inimical to the national interest must be abandoned. I think that we are all agreed on that. I must say that I regret that the gracious Speech is not more positive about this. All that is said is that the Government will call on trade unions and employer organisations to co-operate. What do the Government propose to do if there is any lack of co-operation on one side or the other? I do not myself believe that there is any single factor more conducive to the efficiency of the nation than the elimination of undesirable restrictive practices, on whichever side they may be. Great emphasis has been laid on the need to increase exports. The noble Earl, Lord Shannon, I think was the only speaker in our debate who mentioned the situation in the docks. What do the Government propose to do about increasing efficiency at the docks?

The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, made a speech to which I listened with great attention. I was puzzled by the first part of it, when he sought to make a distinction, where at least so far as I can see there is no difference except of language, between the criteria applied by the last Minister of Transport and those applied by the present one in determining upon rail closures. But he alarmed me by saying that already a start had been made on the new national plan, because this was coupled with the statement that rail closures would be held up until they could be fitted into the national plan. He gave no indication of how long it is going to take to construct the national plan and then fit these closures into it, Like my noble friend Lord Alport, his speech gave rise to more questions in my mind to which I should certainly like to have positive answers, and perhaps we shall have other occasions on which we can press him further.

The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said nothing about the docks. Articles in The Times and in other papers clearly show how serious the situation is. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, despite his severing his connection with Northamptonshire, will probably have noticed that in recent weeks there has been much delay in delivering from the docks leather for the boot and shoe industry in Northamptonshire, the raw material on which so much employment depends. What are the Government proposing to do about this? It is easy to talk about modernising industry and there might be a great deal of force in it in certain respects, but this is one of the natters which require tackling urgently, and it would be interesting to know what, if anything, is proposed in the way of action.

I know that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is an enthusiast about law reform. In the speech made by a e Prime Minister to the Society of Labour Lawyers, to which I have already referred, the Prime Minister said that in this Parliament there would be an urgent need for Bills at the beginning of this Session, when they were urgently considering new measures, and this picture would provide, to quote his own words, "a Heaven-sent opportunity for the law reformers within our ranks". I ask: Where are these promised Law Reform Bills? The only or e we have had introduced in this House, the Administration of Justice Bill, is, I am sure the noble and learned Lord will admit, a Bill which he has inherited, and not one which has been devised or created during his tenure of his office.

I say straight away that I am glad to see that that Bill will shortly come before your Lordships' House, as indeed it would have done if there had been no change of Government. But does not the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor think that the time has come for review, and possibly reform, of the law relating to trade unions generally? He made a speech, which he will remember, drawing attention to the condition of the Statutes on the Statute Book, in which he made a great plea for codification and consolidation. Does he not think that this is a field in which that work could usefully be done? My noble friend Lord Conesford made a most interesting and important speech this afternoon. I do not want to repeat what he said, but I hope that at some stage, if not to-night, we shall have a comprehensive answer to all the points he raised.

There are two further matters on which I would wish to touch. The gracious Speech says that Her Majesty's Government "will take action against racial discrimination". That, as has already been pointed out, is a pretty vague phrase, and I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to tell us what that really signifies. Does it mean that there will be legislation on the subject? If it does, and if there is to be, I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to ensure, so far as he can, that it will at least be an effective and practical measure, and not just a piece of window dressing.

The gracious Speech makes some reference to immigration. That, as my noble friend Lord Alport has said, is an explosive subject, and I do not want to add any heat to it. But it is an important subject, and it is a problem which I think both Parties ought to face as dispassionately as possible. It is in that light that I approach what appears in the gracious Speech on that subject. All that is said there is this: They"— that is the Government— will take action against racial discrimination and promote full integration into the community of immigrants who have come here from the Commonwealth. I ask your Lordships to note that that statement relates only to those "who have come here".

The gracious Speech is entirely silent about the Government's policy on immigration. The Lord Chancellor and the Leader of the House must know what it is and I think that we and the country should be told what it is. The Leader of the Opposition in another place has made his views perfectly clear. He did so in a letter which he sent to Mr. Gordon Walker, and which was published in the Press, on September 28. The two main points he made—and I should have thought they would command general acceptance—were these. First: Any applicant and his family who are accepted in this country will be treated exactly like one of us. I am sure that this is what we must all seek to secure. We shall not obtain it by using rough or dictatorial methods. Secondly, he said: A Conservative Government would keep strict control over the number of immigrants so as to make sure that no undesirable social problems arise in the future. I am sure people will recognise the need for that control, as indeed I think the Party opposite must now recognise it. I would ask: how is that control going to be exercised? The power to exercise it is there. What rate of immigration is going to be allowed? It is important that we should know this. As I have said, the statutory authority is there.

I had a good deal to do with the passage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill through the other place, and it was most hotly opposed. The Party opposite fought it as hard as they could, and no one played a bigger part in opposing the imposition of any control on the flow of immigrants into this country than the Foreign Secretary. I think everyone knows that. I personally was not surprised that this should not have been forgotten. But I must confess that I was surprised, and indeed shocked, by the words reported in the Press to have been uttered by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Southwark. As reported in the Press, he said this: All I can say to the voters of Smethwick who voted for the Tories is, one day they will stand before God at the Bar of Judgment, and God help them! To-day he said in the course of his speech that it was not for us to usurp the prerogatives of God. I must say that I think he should apply that to himself.


My Lords, it has already been said that we do not want to put up the temperature on this matter, and I am sure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Dilhorne, feels that way; I certainly do. Therefore I will not say much. But let me say this. First of all, I recognise that at 3 o'clock on an Election morning many people say things which they would not wish to be recorded exactly. Nevertheless, I do not go back on the main things that I said. The noble and learned Lord has stopped short in the sentence. I never condemned people for having voted Conservative. I was brought up Conservative and a great many of my friends are in the Conservative Party and opposite. The report was so fantastic that I am sure noble Lords will realise that what was reported was never meant. I have the actual typescript of what I said. I went on to say: I believe that they, having voted for racial discrimination … It was not for having voted Conservative. I thought that many people who voted Conservative in Smethwick—and this is the view of many of the clergy in the area—believed that they were voting for racial discrimination. If I am asked what evidence I have, I tell your Lordships that I have the evidence of the clergy there. The most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, your Lordships will remember, was approached, and he in his reply made it clear that he felt there was reason for the clergy to protest on this matter. Then, in the neighbouring constituency, here is the leaflet—



I should like to say to the right reverend Prelate that I gave way to him to give him the opportunity to correct or withdraw what he had said, because I thought from a communication he made to me that he might not accept the words published in the Press. But surely it is not right for the right reverend Prelate now to make another speech. I have not finished my speech.


My Lords, I hope the noble and learned Lord will accept the fact, then, that what he quoted was only half of what I said and it gives a wholly erroneous and false view.


I should feel more impressed with that if the right reverend Prelate had taken the trouble to correct what was reported in the Press, to make his views known. I certainly had no further communication or correction from the right reverend Prelate. Indeed, to-day he says that one can say things at 3 o'clock in the morning which are not so well considered. That is hardly a withdrawal or an apology. I do not wish to add heat to this, but I must say that I think it was quite unfitting for the right reverend Prelate to make that kind of observation of a purely Party political character, whether it was at 3 a.m. or 6 a.m. And when, he now tries to assert that there was racial discrimination, I would ask him to consider the speech made by the honourable Member, and if he desires to persist and seek to justify his observation, I think he should try to produce some concrete evidence. The right reverend Prelate began his speech to-day with an apology. I must say that I think it is unfortunate that he did not take the opportunity of putting the record straight about this.


My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord—


That is all I wish to say about that matter.

What I want to know is the Government's policy on this matter. They are not, I gather, going to repeal the Act which they opposed. What I should like to know, and we shall expect to be told perhaps it is asking too much to ask the Lord Chancellor to deal with it this evening—is: what is the Government's policy with regard to the operation of this Act?

I have asked the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor a number of questions in the course of my speech. I am sorry to have added to his burden, even at this late Lour. I will not add to it any further, but I think I ought to say this. We will during the course of this Parliament do our best to fulfil and discharge the proper functions of an Opposition in your Lordships' House, and seek to get such Bills as come before us for our consideration improved to the best of our ability.

7.0 p.m.


My Lords, in the course of what has been a long debate ma y Members of your Lordships' House have asked for indulgence, either because they were making a brief maiden speech and, if I may say so, we have heard a number of excellent speeches from those who have not spoken before, and whom we shall certainly want to hear again—or because it was their first speech from the Government Front Bench or from the Opposition Front Bench. I hope I may be right in feeling that if anyone is entitled to indulgence it should be one who was a mere Back-Bencher in your Lordships' House for a few months before occupying this great position, so lately held, if I may say so, with such great distinction by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne. I do not know whether or not one ought to have any additional pleas for indulgence if, in the course of one's office, one is required to walk downstairs backwards.

The course which the debate has taken has been one in which opinions have been expressed without giving rise to offence, and in which courtesy has been maintained. Indeed, the debate has been enlightened with humour and wit, and I thought the prize ought really to be given to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, for his remark about a "Freedom from Hungary Campaign", which I thought was a lovely one. I hope that the mere fact that there has been a sort of "general post", and everybody is now occupying seats other than those they occupied before, will not in any way detract from the long tradition of your Lordships' House that one can in this House discuss public affairs rationally, putting any view one may hold, and putting it strongly, but, nevertheless, doing so with that courtesy which has always distinguished your Lordships' debates.

We started this debate on Tuesday of last week in what was almost a formal day, and then on Wednesday we dealt with foreign affairs, when, to all the speeches made on the Opposition side of your Lordships' House on that occasion, my noble friends Lord Walston and Lord Taylor replied. I personally feel very tempted to add a word or two on the very real problems which confronted the Government the moment they took office. They were, first, the very real problems which existed as to mineral rights in Northern Rhodesia, and, secondly, the apparently imminent declaration—a unilateral declaration—of independence in Southern Rhodesia. But I have a lot of ground to cover, and maybe some later opportunity will arise.

On Thursday we had a debate mainly on economic affairs, to which my noble friends Lord Rhodes and Lord Champion replied. So I can come, I think, to yesterday, when the present debate, largely on home affairs, began with speeches of authority, if I may say so, by the noble Lords, Lord Hastings and Lord Amulree, but which in turn were answered by my noble friend Lord Mitchison. If it is not out of order, perhaps your Lordships would allow me to say, Lord Mitchison being an old friend of mine, what a great pleasure it is to me, as I am sure it is to a great many of us, to have him in your Lordships' House. We have already had a maiden speech which, if I may say so, we should not have known was a maiden speech if we had not known it was a maiden speech.

Then the right reverend Prelate spoke to us about slum clearance. I can only express the hope that in maintaining his interest in that subject he will not cease to harry the members of the present Government if they leave slum clearance in the position in which it was left by the last Government. Then your Lordships will remember we had a most interesting maiden speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Weir, on the distillation of water, on which, I must confess, I am not an authority, but equally plainly he is. I can only say that the Government will give the closest attention to his most interesting speech.

My noble friend Lord Silkin addressed your Lordships' House on the Land Commission and partly on law reform, and it became evident that the fact that my noble friend has not been burdened with the cares of office is not going to deprive us of the advice from him to which we have been so long accustomed. If I may say so, I have received perhaps more in the way of learning and guidance from Lord Silkin since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House than from any Member, and I am sure we shall all continue to look forward to the advice which he has so often given to us.

The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in a characteristically ebullient speech, made some observations about law reform and about Ombudsmen, which perhaps I might conveniently deal with at the end. Then we had a number of speeches which were replied to by my noble friend Lord Stonham, including one from the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. Perhaps I may be permitted to make one or two comments on the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. First of all, he insisted on saying again, as he said in a speech in the last Session, that I had disclaimed and dissociated myself from a report on Penal Reform by a Committee of which I was a member and of which my noble friend Lord Longford was the Chairman. When he said it at the time I pointed out that that was quite untrue, that I did not dissociate myself from anything in the report at all, but that I was devoting myself on that evening to dealing with one subject shortly, rather than trying to cover a lot of subjects. It was an evening in which, as some of your Lordships may remember, I devoted what I had to say to what I thought was the important subject of decreasing the increase in crime by the only way in which we shall, and that is by increasing the police to match the increase in crime. But I said on that occasion that the fact that I was confining myself to that important subject did not mean that I was dissociating myself from anything in that Committee's report; and so, as he has said it again on this occasion, perhaps I may say what I said again too.

In referring to the prospect of your Lordships' House considering the question of capital punishment, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, observed that we must protect both the warders and the police if capital punishment is abolished; and that, of course, would be a consideration very much in the minds not only of the Government but of everybody, I imagine, who considers that question. I would only remind the noble Lord that we have had more than 500 reprieved and released murderers living among us this century, and no reprieved murderer has ever yet killed a prison warder. So far as the police are concerned they must be protected. The whole question is what is the best way.

I remember that at the time when the matter was last before your Lordships' House the Attorney General for Norway told me that there had been articles in the newspapers in Norway because of the discussions which had taken place over here. The Norwegian police are unarmed, as ours are. He told me that he had asked the Commissioners of Police to take a census of all the policemen, as to whether they would like capital punishment restored for the murder of policemen. That was done; and by about an 85 per cent. majority, they having had experience of both knowing what it was like to be unarmed police with capital punishment, and knowing what it was like to be unarmed police without capital punishment, said no, they felt safer without it.

The noble Viscount, Lord Gage, was concerned about the Lands Commission. He felt that it would take some time to get it started, which, of course, may be quite right. He felt that if we were going to change that sort of thing every few months it would lead to general uncertainty. I can assure him, however, that will not be the position at all. We have had one method for thirteen years and now we are to have another method for the next thirteen years, and we are not going to be troubled about changes every few months. But the noble Lord complained that this would lead to the forces of inertia. Well, I appreciate, of course, that in Conservative newspapers there is criticism of the Government—that is only right. But I have not thought so far that one of the criticisms was that the Government were showing marked signs of inertia.

My Lords, I think I owe an apology to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who asked a somewhat complex but, if I may be permitted to say so, very important and proper question, and also one of public interest, as to the precise, detailed divisions of responsibility between three or four different Government Departments. I apologise for the fact that I cannot give him those details tonight, but I promise that they will be supplied to him as soon as possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye (I do not think he was applying to be appointed the Government's public relations officer) was very concerned that the Government might lose the confidence of the public, and said that if there were more cinemas and playing fields this would get an enormous amount of public support. As those of your Lordships who heard him will remember, he was also literally advocating, I think, that we should paint the town red; or, at all events, that the houses should be painted different colours. I can only say that I entirely agree with everything he said: I do not think we have enough public gaiety or enough festivals. It ended up that he was not wholly disinterested in a Commonwealth Arts Festival for next year, a subject about which I do not know a great deal, but I am sure it is an admirable thing.

My Lords, to-day we have been mostly concerned with transport, and my noble friend Lord Lindgren has largely replied to several speeches which have been made on transport problems. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who was courteous enough to come and see me and tell me what he was going to talk about, is, I know, concerned about magistrates' courts and drunken driving. So are a good many of us, and a good deal of what he said does, I think, deserve most careful consideration. The noble Lord also explained that he was in favour of an Ombudsman, and naturally I was glad to hear that.

There were other speeches in relation to transport. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, dealt with water. I am not an expert on waterways, but I found what he said most interesting. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Dilhorne, must have been very surprised—I know that he considers English law to be practically perfect—to hear that there were 600 different Acts of Parliament dealing with waterways, going back, I gather, some hundreds of years, hardly any of which are applicable to the circumstances that exist to-day. I confess, knowing a good deal about the archaic state of English law and the grave need there is for overhaul of it, that I did not know this, but this is absolutely typical. I can say perhaps something more about that when I come to deal with law reform.

The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, gave us a most interesting discussion on Rookes v. Barnard, and I am quite sure he will realise that if I say that the noble Lord spoke for over half-an-hour, that is not to suggest that he was one moment too long, but that if I am to do him justice on this, after all, technical, subject, I should also like to have half-an-hour and I feel that your Lordships would not think that right at this time of night. However, I shall be very happy indeed to discuss the subject with him.

The position cannot, I think, be left as it is. The Government have not finally decided—and I rather gather it would be with Lord Conesford's approval that they should not be asked to decide to-night—what form legislation should take. One of the difficulties, of course, is that while I have seen a great many opinions about the Rookes v. Barnard case, no two of them are alike; and nobody could quite discover—the Court of Appeal could not discover in the Stratford case—how it was to be applied to other cases.

But the Government are pledged to bring in a Bill. Whether it will do more than put the law back to what it was believed to be before that decision I do not know—and I say "believed to be", because there are always differences between laymen and lawyers. If, whenever you go to law for forty years, the decisions of the judges are all one way, then the laymen says that obviously that is the law. If, at the end of that forty years, the House of Lords decides they are wrong, then the lawyer says that what the House of Lords has decided was the law all the time, although the judges did not know it. The lawyer will not agree that the House of Lords has changed the law, whereas the layman, with a much greater sense of realism, says that what the judge decides when you go to law is the law, and if it is all one way for forty years and then, as the result of a decision in your Lordships' House it is changed, it is quite obvious that your Lordships' House changed the law.

But here was a case in which, since 1906, there had been no real doubt as to what the law was. Nor had the Court of Appeal much doubt: they were of the opinion that the plaintiff could not succeed. Now that the law has been declared to be otherwise, the great difficulty, I think, is its uncertainty. But I am sure we should be right in taking into account the observations about it which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford.

The noble Lord, Lord Alport, will not expect me, as indeed I think he said, to develop to-night his further point on transport. He referred to what had been suggested in an earlier part of the debate (on, I think, the first day) as the mandate theory, which I am sorry to tell him I cannot accept. This is the theory that if a Conservative Government is duly elected, but by a minority of votes, it has a mandate to carry out the whole of its policy, plus a few things like de-control and so on which are not in its policy; and that that is quite all right. But (the theory goes on) if a Labour Government is elected in similar circumstances then it has a mandate only to carry out the policy of the Conservative Party, and it is rather a shocking thing if, being a Government of the Socialist Party, it proceeds to carry out the Election programme. I cannot, as I say, with great respect, accept that theory.

So far as immigration is concerned, the Government policy I thought was clear; namely, to leave the present Act as it is—and it will shortly require renewal for a year—but thereafter to consult with the Commonwealth and see what agreement can be arrived at together. Finally, the noble Lord dealt with the question of immigration and race relations. This is, indeed, a serious subject. There is a problem. It is no good pretending that a problem does not exist. I do not propose to say anything more about it, except that I rather regretted the rather savage attack which was made on the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Southwark by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Dilhorne. I feel that, when he thinks about it quietly afterwards, he will be sorry that he did that.

With regard to the observations made by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, we appreciate his views about the organisation of science, a subject on which I cannot claim to be a particular authority, and I am sure he will not expect me at this hour to reargue the question of the Concorde, on which already so much has been said, both ways. I should like to say how much I agree with him in his concluding observation about the possibility of discussing our differences in a courteous and friendly way.

My Lords, to come now to the observations made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Dilhorne, I should like to say how grateful I am to him for the kind words he said about me, and I should like to reciprocate them and to wish him a long and well-earned rest.

I do not think that at this hour I should start on law reform or the Ombudsman. But in Answer to one or two points that were made in the course of the debate about the Ombudsman, may I just say first of all that there is no reason why the Ombudsman should interfere in any way with the ordinary Member of Parliament. We might, for example, provide that complaints should be made to the Ombudsman only through Members of Parliament.

Secondly, it was said that there was a case for an Ombudsman to consider matters affecting local government. Well, it will be, of course, for Parliament to decide what form a Bill appointing a special Parliamentary Commissioner should take; but there have been countries like Denmark which have started with an Ombudsman confining his attention entirely to Government Departments and then, after three or four years, when it was very successful—and it is a function which has been a great success wherever it has been tried—it has been extended to local government. That would perhaps not be out of accordance with our own tradition, which is, as a whole, to try something out on not too big a scale to start with, to see how it goes.

I am left with a lot of questions which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Dilhorne, has asked me, of which he was good enough to give me notice, and I propose to deal with them. I am afraid this is rather long and they are rather dull, but as he has given me notice about them it would be discourteous on my part if, whatever the hour, I did not answer them. The first is whether there is any precedent in peace time for the appointment of a Minister to perform duties outside this country when it is not intended that he should take any part in the business of Parliament. This, I think, denotes a misapprehension.

This is not really Question Time, and there is, I think, a limit of four Questions a day. Some of these questions have very little to do with what we have been discussing, which is the gracious Speech from the Throne. But if this is a reference to the duties of the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, at the United Nations, I would say that his appointment is not one that leaves him without a part to play in Parliament. He will be the Government spokesman on matters within his responsibility whenever he is available here to speak. He is, of course, representing us at the United Nations. I am afraid I must make it clear that whether there is any precedent for something is not a thing which necessarily impresses the present Government. I know, of course, that one of the reasons why lawyers are the most conservative section of the community is that we are brought up to believe that if there is a precedent for something it is all right, and if there is not a precedent for it it must be all wrong. I am afraid the present Government have already done a number of things for which there is no precedent, but I think they were elected to get on with the job and I dare say there will be a lot of other things done in the future for which also there is no precedent.

Then we come to a rather long and troublesome matter: "Do you agree that the object of Section 2 of the House of Commons Disqualification Act, 1957, was to place an effective limit on the number of Ministers who could sit and vote in the House of Commons?". Of course, when you are trying to find out the object of an Act you find very often that it is contentious in itself. There is a long background of history, starting with a Report of a Select Committee on offices or places of profit under the Crown, I think generally called the Herbert Committee, which reported in 1941 and distinguished three principles which they said should be the main considerations affecting the law on this subject. These were, in order of historical sequence, first, the incompatibility of certain non-ministerial offices with membership of the House of Commons which was to be taken to cover questions of a Member's relations with and duties to his constituents; secondly, the need to limit the control or influence of the Executive Government over the House by means of an undue proportion of office holders being Members of the House thirdly, the essential condition of a certain number of Ministers being Members of the House for the purpose of ensuring control of the Executive by Parliament.

A Bill was introduced in another place in 1955 and the then Home Secretary, the present Lord Tenby, referred to those three principles but he did not put them forward as a means of limiting the number who could sit and vote in another place. Then there was a Select Committee, and the whole of its Report is devoted to matters other than the number of Ministers in another place. A Bill was then introduced in 1956 which implemented its recommendations, and the learned Attorney General, who opened the Second Reading debate, made in his speech no reference at all to the provision concerning numbers, and the matter was never raised at all in another place. The then learned Attorney General was the present noble and learned Lord, Lord Dilhorne.


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord will recollect that in the course of my speech—I, of course, knew perfectly well that I had moved the Second Reading of that Bill and conducted it through the other place—the point I made was that neither in the Select Committee nor in the course of debates in that House, nor, I think, in this House, was any criticism made of, or attempt made to amend, what is now Section 2 of the Act, which was present for everyone to read in the Bill when it was first introduced.


It seems a funny thing, if that was the object of this action, that it was an object never mentioned by the noble and learned Lord when he was moving the Second Reading.


Whether it was or was not a funny thing not to mention a clause of which I think the intent and object is perfectly clear, the question I put to the noble and learned Lord, which he has not endeavoured to answer, was this: What, in his view, was the object and intent of that section of the Act?—and that does not depend on what was said in either House of Parliament.


I was not there, but I am trying to deal with the history of the matter and how it arose. If that was the object, the legislation which has been introduced in another place will have exactly the same purpose; that also will have the purpose of limiting. All we are quarrelling about is not whether there should be a limit but what the limit should be.

The next question was: "If so, do you consider that it was proper to evade this limit by the appointment of Ministers of State without a salary?". Of course, no limit has been infringed in forming this Administration. Parliament has been presented at the first opportunity with proposals for amending legislation which will put an end to a state of affairs in which the requirements of Government are met only by appointing a number of Ministers without payment. This would seem undesirable and unfair; unfair because it gives a manifest advantage to the Conservative Party, so many of whose leading members are men of very considerable wealth, which is not usually the position in the case of other Parties.

The fourth question was: are there any precedents—we are back to precedents again—for the creation of new Ministries without an Act first being passed authorising their creation? And the next question, which I think I can take with that, was: is there now any statutory authority for the creation of the new Ministries of Land and Natural Resources, Overseas Development, and Technology? The position, as I understand it, is that the appointment of a Minister is not made pursuant to any statutory power. We do not have a written Constitution. It is an exercise of the Prerogative. That this is so is clear from several appointments made by the previous Government: for instance, the Minister for Science and the Minister for Wales.


The noble and learned Lord will, I am sure, recognise that I was not dealing with the appointment of Ministers. I dealt with the creation of Ministries, and I would ask him again—perhaps he did not catch it enough from my speech—whether there is any statutory authority for the creation of those three new Departments.


If the noble and learned Lord will allow me to finish the answers, I will do so. I was pointing out what the position is as to the appointment of Ministers, because for a Ministry you must have a Minister and staff, and so forth. So far as the Ministries are concerned—that is, apart from the Minister himself—a Bill has been introduced in another place seeking statutory authority for the expenses of the new Ministries, including the remuneration of the staff, to be met from voted monies, and it will be for Parliament to decide whether or not to pass that legislation.

The sixth question is: what effect is it estimated the import levy will have? I am not sure that the noble and learned Lord asked that question, although it is one of which he gave notice. I rather think he did not. I think that the next question he asked was whether there was any statutory authority for the imposition of the import levy. The answer to that is that, as announced by the Government on October 26, proposals will be put forward in another place for charging a temporary 15 per cent. duty as from October 27. It is proposed, in reliance on Section 265 of the Customs and Excise Act, to take security for goods imported after to-day. There will be no statutory authority for recovering any duty from importers until a Finance Bill confirming the duty becomes an Act of Parliament. That, I think, is quite clearly what the position will be.

Then, there was a question about the imposition of the levy involving breaches of three agreements, and how that was to be reconciled with the rule of law. Again this has already been fully publicly debated. The agreements provided for import restrictions to be imposed in circumstances of balance-of-payments difficulties. The restrictions provided for are quantitative; but it was the view of the Government that quantitative restrictions could not have been imposed with sufficient speed to cope with the grave external financial crisis which they had inherited, and that quantitative restrictions might well be more hurtful to our overseas trading partners than the temporary import charge. Full explanations on these lines have already been given to the parties concerned in the agreements under reference.

Nobody who supports the rule of law can fail to regret that it is ever necessary that there should be a breach of contract of any kind. But if we are considering questions of precedence, I can think of no precedent of a political Party which, for its own Party advantages, postponed an Election from June to Octo- ber, knowing the gravity of the growing economic position. I thought myself during the Election that the economic question was much the most important one, and usually spoke only about that. But I am afraid I must have misled people to some extent because I did not realise how serious it really was.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, because I know he is making a long speech. But why does he speak of the General Election being postponed from June to October?


It was an unhappy phrase. By "postponed" I meant that instead of, as they could have done, having an Election in June.


They could have had it three years ago.


Yes, but in particular they could have had it earlier, but they chose to postpone it for reasons which are fairly obvious to us all, and the situation which faced the present Government when they took office was one of real gravity. After all, we have not made any money since March of last year, and every quarter we have lost more and more money. No country can go on in that way. I think most of us realised that we had been losing about £1 million a day. We had not realised it was really £2 million. No country can go on indefinitely borrowing and living on borrowed money without, in the end, becoming insolvent; and our friends abroad, I think, have realised well what the position is. There is no country which can go on buying £800 million worth a year more than other countries are buying from this country; and no one, I think, can have expected us to do so. The situation was one of real gravity, and the stability of the pound had to be considered and urgent measures taken.

The last question was: was there any statutory authority, and if so what, for the imposition of the ban on office building from November 5? The Government have made it clear, in their statement of November 4, that they intend shortly to introduce a Bill to obtain from Parliament the necessary powers to impose control on office building, and to enable it to apply with retrospective effect to buildings for which a contract to build was not entered into before November 5. The details have been fully stated by the First Secretary of State in another place, so that the question which is being asked is one to which everybody knows the answer. As the First Secretary of State has said, the Bill will be introduced and permits for new buildings will be required even if planning permission has been given, unless a contract to build has been entered into before November 5. He then explained the other circumstances in which permits would or would not be granted if the legislation is passed.

This is a case in which something has been done and, if I may say so, it is a case in which I am particularly pleased about what has been done. Before having the honour of becoming a Member of your Lordships' House, I was an alderman of the London County Council, where last year we had an average of three families every day put on the streets and nowhere for them to go. One perhaps might think that they were problem families. But not at all. We found that they were perfectly ordinary families, mostly young, the man with a job in London and earning £9 or £10 a week, with several children and quite unable to find anyone to take them in at a rent they could possibly afford. This sort of thing had gone on increasing ever since the Rent Act became law. There is now an average of five or six families a day in this position. And, since last year, of course, we have had the most savage cuts in our essential school-building programme that we have ever had, while all the time these office buildings were going up, a number of them standing empty, not being let.

If there is one thing which this Government have done, and in a sense retrospectively—I personally am delighted; I believe that it is a thing which every ordinary person thought ought to be done—it is to stop this rather tragic extension of new offices in London.


My Lords, would the Lord Chancellor give way for a moment? I am sorry to interrupt him, but I was told that in the White Paper it was said that there would be no compensation given under this legislation, which Parliament has not yet passed. I was told by a friend of mine that a company had planning permission and had entered into a long lease of a building for which they would have to pay. Naturally, they got planning permission and they thought they would be able to go ahead. Now, if they are caught by this measure, it will be a great obligation upon them. They have entered into a lease to take these premises and to redevelop them. Parliament has not yet passed this legislation, and some people are anxious in regard to this point of there being no compensation.


My Lords, I appreciate the difficulty, but the details of compensation and so forth will have to be left until the Bill is produced. In relation to industrial certificates, it has not been the practice to give any compensation if an industrial certificate is refused.

My Lords, I am sorry to have spoken longer than I intended. I feel that this has been a most interesting debate. I cannot help feeling that political Parties tend to exaggerate the degree of difference between them. What I am sure we all want really is the welfare of our country. We may have different views about it. We can, I am sure, in the months to come discuss these views in a rational way, and I am sure that the Government will always be glad to take into consideration any suggestions which come from experienced Members of your Lordships' House.

On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.

House adjourned at twenty minutes before eight o'clock.