§ 4.11 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, it might meet your Lordships' convenience if I were to intervene now to reply to the Private Notice Question which was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn.
The present cold spell has come exceptionally early, at a time when such severe weather is almost unprecedented, and the Boards' preparations for the winter are not yet completed. The North Thames Board has consequently had difficulty in meeting the very heavy demand for gas, and there has been a fall in pressure in 473 some districts. The West Midlands Board, mainly because of a breakdown at one of its plants, has also had to appeal to consumers to reduce consumption. I am assured that all possible steps to restore and maintain normal supplies are being taken by these Boards.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for having answered this Question. From the first sentence of his reply, it certainly looks as if the Boards were caught somewhat unprepared. The noble Lord started by referring to "the present cold spell". According to meteorological reports, I gather that it is likely to last some days still. Can the noble Lord assure us that we shall not have cuts made on a succession of days? That is the first question I should like to ask him.
My second question is this. Is he certain that we have the warning system for these cuts right? This question applies to both gas and electricity, for there were substantial cuts in electricity in the London and Home Counties area, in the West Midlands area and in various other parts of the country. Is it possible, for example, to arrange for warnings to go out on the B.B.C. and television? Could he consider this, in view of the risks involved, so far as both gas and electricity are concerned, when there is a complete interruption? Would he consider this question of giving early warning in the widest and promptest way possible?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his questions. With regard to giving a positive assurance about what may happen in the next few days, I think that is beyond anyone's power, because I understand that the temperatures recorded in the last few days are likely to occur in November only once in a hundred years; and, despite the weather forecasts to which he has referred, I do not know whether we can be certain that, although the weather is going to be cold, it is going to be quite so cold as it has been.
With regard to the question of minimising any danger, the Boards are taking all possible precautions to minimise any danger and inconvenience to the consumer, and if it should be necessary to ask consumers in areas other than the two I have mentioned (which it has not yet been) to reduce their demands, then 474 I hope that they will co-operate. I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his suggestion of assistance in regard to early warnings. It certainly is not in the power of my right honourable friend to ensure that warnings are given in the manner he has suggested, but I will certainly put the proposal to him, particularly as these difficulties are likely to arise, if they arise at all, regionally rather than nationally, and it may be helpful to consider whether local warnings could be given in the way suggested.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I do not know about the weather being unprecedented, but does the noble Lord know of an old Buckinghamshire saying which goes as follows:When the ice in November can hear a duck,The rest of the winter will be sludge and muck"?If the events of the last two days are any augury, we must earnestly hope that this will prove to be true.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I wonder if the noble Lord is aware that I telephoned the North Thames Gas Board this morning, and they told me that they would get the proper pressure going as soon as they possibly could because they were so cold in their own office.
§ LORD STONHAM
If I may reply to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington (and I will not reply in another saw; they do not always come off), what is important is that if either the cold weather continues for a week or it is going to be a cold winter, there may be local and temporarily falls in pressures in other places; but, generally speaking, even if it is a very severe winter, the Gas Boards feel that they will be able to cope with demands of the present order, certainly throughout the winter, when the temporarily immediate difficulties have been overcome.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, why does the fact that cold weather occurs in winter fill all nationalised industries with intense surprise?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I think the surprise is somewhat less than it was when the noble Lord's Government were in power. But there is one factor which 475 was constantly mentioned by Ministers of Power from the other side, when they were responsible; and that is that both for electricity and for gas it would be some years (it is fewer years now) before increasing capacity would be able to catch up with the constantly and amazingly increasing demand every year, which we are very happy about. In really severe weather—perhaps for the next two years, even—there is always the risk that there may be temporarily cuts of this kind.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, could my noble friend tell us whether November is in the winter or in the autumn?
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is able to exercise any influence over these two public utilities to restrain their sales advertising campaigns until they are able to meet their present demands?
§ LORD STONHAM
I am quite sure that what the noble Lord has said will be noted by both the organisations he mentions.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord how much plant, on the electricity side, is still out of commission for the summer overhauls? I think that is very important. By mid-November, most of the plant ought to be back in operation. I read in a newspaper a substantial amount of plant is still being overhauled on the electricity side, and, also, that they are very short of labour, which is a serious matter in some of the power stations which they are now bringing into operation again.
§ LORD STONHAM
The noble Lord is probably not aware that his noble friend's Question referred only to gas, and to reductions in gas supply, and therefore the noble Lord's question does not arise, and I certainly could not answer it without notice.
§ ADDRESS IN REPLY TO HER
MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, I wish to say a few words—and I shall, of course, prodigiously reduce the average length of speeches made hitherto in the course of this debate—a few words of congratulation and admonition to the Government on their immigration policy, which in the allotment of subjects of these two days of debate would seem to fall most naturally under "housing and local government". It is perhaps regrettable that immigration should not have been specifically mentioned in the allotment of subjects; but it is natural enough, for none of us enjoys speaking on this distressing subject, and in fact, since the publication of the White Paper there has been a marked tendency, not only in the Press but among politicians, to sweep the whole subject back under the carpet where it lay at the time of the last General Election. In spite of which I have little doubt that there are more electors deeply concerned about this subject than about any other topic which will be discussed during our two days' debate on home affairs.
Therefore, I wish to begin by congratulating the Government on their intention, which is certainly implied in the gracious Speech, to adhere to the decision in the White Paper to place some further restrictions on the inflow of immigrants. In this way Ministers have shown that they can act not only as wise men but as democrats; for there can be no doubt that the country as a whole had been impatiently awaiting some further restrictions. Last September an opinion poll reported that 90 per cent. of the electorate approved these increased restrictions, while rather less than 5 per cent. disapproved. In the Labour Party itself, 90 per cent. approved and only 5 per cent. disapproved. So the vociferous Left-wing critics of the Labour Party would seem to be representing in this respect a mere 5 per cent. of its membership.
As for the Liberals, they were even more whole-heartedly in favour of the restrictions in the White Paper; they came out with 91 per cent. in favour and 477 only 4 per cent. against. In spite of which, more than once since the White Paper was published Liberal spokesmen have denounced it as undemocratic. As to which one can only say that if to do what 90 per cent. of the electorate, and 91 per cent. of your own Party, wants you to do is undemocratic, then democracy can no longer mean what most of us were taught it meant: government according to the will of the majority.
Of course, the danger now is that we should all heave a sigh of relief and assume that we can afford to forget this distressing problem. An acquaintance of mine who is a "big shot" on one of the daily newspapers wrote a few weeks ago a topical article on an important aspect of immigration, only to be told by his editor: "We do not want to revive that subject now". I am afraid that the general public has not yet fully realised that, whatever restrictions are imposed upon voucher holders, the inflow of dependants must remain uncontrolled and unpredictable. The last figures available, so far as I know, are those for last July, and they showed a decline of 1,757 male immigrants but an increase of 2,657 women and 1,789 children; that is a net increase of 2,680.
I think there can be no doubt that the recent spectacular increase in general support for the Government, as shown in recent weeks on the opinion polls, was largely due to their immigration policy. Like their decisive action is respect of Aden, this suddenly transformed their image in the eyes of the unattached voters. Not only were they doing things which a Labour Government might have been expected to do; they were now seen to be doing things which a Conservative Government might have been expected to do. And paradoxically—and who could have dreamed this two years ago?—to-day Labour is seen as the Party which has given a turn to the tap and the Conservatives as those who allowed the floods to mount.
As to the Government's intentions with regard to integration, we must, of course, wish them with all our hearts every possible success. But we must also remember that, if integration were to be understood, as it seems sometimes to be understood, as signifying anything remotely approaching assimilation, as distinct from increasingly friendly co- 478 existence, then we should undoubtedly be chasing a will-o'-the-wisp; for the evidence is abundant that the vast majority of Asian immigrants have no wish to be assimilated either with us or with the West Indians, and that the vast majority of West Indians have no desire to be assimilated with the Indians. In spite of this, of course, on every ground of morality as well as prudence, we must do everything possible to advance the interests of the immigrants and to alleviate their distresses, which must be many and grievous, so long as, after already admitting more immigrants than we can effectively absorb, we continue to admit large and unpredictable numbers in addition every year. That is the crucial issue.
As I ventured to say to your Lordships in 1956, and as I have said more than once since, fundamentally this is not, and never has been, an issue of colour. It is an issue of numbers. Some day some Government will realise, as I believe the majority of the electorate has already realised, that we can never expect to offer tolerable conditions, much less first-class citizenship, to immigrants, or to our own urban populations, so long as we continue to admit tens of thousands of additional immigrants every year. The two policies are incompatible. You can have one, or you can have the other; you cannot have both. You can admit tens of thousands more immigrants every year or you can effect a slow build-up of better conditions for those who are already with us. You cannot do both. That is why the Party which first advocates a temporary ban, with generous repatriation grants for hard cases, is likely to win the next Election.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, the atmosphere of this House to-day is very different from what it was at this time yesterday. Yesterday, if one had stood up at this moment, one would have been addressing a full House. The drama is missing. But I would venture to suggest that the matters we are discussing to-day are far more important to the ordinary man and woman of this country than even those that we debated yesterday. We are discussing matters which affect the everyday lives of the ordinary man, woman and child, and I feel that even though one is speaking to a less numerous 479 audience, those who are here do, at any rate, appreciate the vital nature of the subjects under discussion.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who introduced the debate, criticised the gracious Speech because of its vagueness. He thought that a great many subjects were mentioned but that none of them was elaborated; and he found it difficult to appreciate what the Government were going to do. He knows as well as I do, because he has played some part in the formation of gracious Speeches in the past, that it is not the practice for the gracious Speech to be a full statement in detail of what the Government are proposing to do. It is merely a general statement, designed to inform Parliament and the country of the nature of the programme for the coming year. If it set out to do more, it would become an elaborate document which I am afraid very few people would read. The present gracious Speech is in exactly the same form as previous Speeches, as the thirteen preceding the one of 1965, and all the Speeches that I have known in the last thirty years.
If it is desired to have an elaboration of some of the measures which it is proposed to introduce, that is to be found in the White Papers which have been published, and there are quite a number of them. Even there, the purpose of the White Paper is not to detail legislation but to give your Lordships' House and the other place an opportunity of discussing, and possibly of influencing the Government on, the details of the legislation which they will eventually introduce.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, referred to a number of matters which are contained in the gracious Speech and one or two which are not. I do not propose to refer to those that are not, but I will say something about those that are. His first comment was on the Land Commission. I am very interested in the proposal for a Land Commission. Your Lordships will not be surprised that it gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction to find that the financial provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 are to be restored, and to be restored with the general consent of both noble Lords in this House and Members in another place. The principle of a 480 levy on betterment is being generally accepted.
It is true that the Conservative Party did not accept it, even a few months ago, when an independent committee of members of their Party was set up, under the chairmanship of a former Member of Parliament whose name escapes me for the moment. This committee recommended that there should be a 50 per cent. levy on increases in land value brought about by planning permission. That report, which was a unanimous one, was not accented by the Conservative Party last year, but I am glad to find that it is accepted in principle to-day. I hope that that will be the end of dispute about the desirability of a charge of this kind. I recognise that in one respect it is different from the provision in the 1947 Act—namely, that under that Act we had a levy of 100 per cent. of the charge. I have frequently thought that was a mistake. The circumstances of that mistake I will one day explain, but perhaps this is not the moment to do it.
The noble Lord's main criticism was on the setting up of a Land Commission. He thought that it was unnecessary. I should like to say a word or two about that, because I think it will almost certainly be debated in the weeks and months to come, particularly when we get the measure itself before us. To my mind, the purpose of a Land Commission is not primarily to collect the levy. I agree with the noble Lord that the levy can be collected by other means, without the complexity of a special Commission, and if that were all, I would agree with him that it is quite unnecessary. But, to my mind, the purpose of the Commission is to facilitate positive planning.
Your Lordships will appreciate that there is planning of two kinds. There is restrictive planning, about which we hear very much—the way in which local authorities refuse planning permission and take a long time over it. This is quite notorious. The other side of planning is the positive planning of the rebuilding and redeveloping of large areas of towns and cities which have become obsolete. In practice, this planning can be carried out satisfactorily only by the local authorities themselves. It is here that the Land Commission will be of the greatest possible value.
481 It is only the Land Commission which will be in a position to buy land in anticipation of requirements. The burden on the local authority of buying land in anticipation and of reserving it until it is needed would be unduly great, and most local authorities would not be in a position to do it. Power will be conferred upon the Commission to charge rents or to dispose of land at less than cost, where circumstances justify it. One special circumstance is this. Frequently where a local authority has a plan to redevelop an area, possibly with the desire of building houses on the larger part of it, they come across development which is called non-conforming—forms of industrial development which they would like to get rid of because it is badly located but which they are unable to do because of the high cost of land involved. The Land Commission will be able to acquire that land from the non-conforming user, not at a price below its market value but at its market value, and will be able to dispose of it to the local authority at a price commensurate with the purpose for which it is proposed to be used. In other words, while the Land Commission might be prepared to pay industrial value for the land in acquiring it, they will be able to sell it to the local authority at a price corresponding with housing land.
I have known the L.C.C. to pay as much as £100,000 an acre for land for housing purposes, though even they have not done much of it. The G.L.C. of today may be in a position to afford that sort of thing, but in the case of smaller authorities it is prohibitive and it has prevented decent development. These authorities have been forced to allow non-conforming users to remain. They have had to allow noisy and sometimes smoky industrial premises to remain in the middle of a housing area, simply because they have not been able to pay the price which would be involved in getting rid of this kind of development. I would suggest for that reason alone—and there are many others—that a Land Commission will be of the greatest value; indeed, a Land Commission is absolutely essential if we are going to carry out the kind of positive planning that we have in mind. I do not think I need say any more about the Land Commission. As I say, we shall have ample opportunity of discussing it in the months to come.
482 The noble Lord talked about leasehold enfranchisement and the reform of the leasehold system. Frankly, I know no more than he does about what is contemplated by the reform of the leasehold system. I know that there are a good many defects in the leasehold system; but which of them it is proposed to remedy I do not know. Nor do I know (and we have not had a White Paper on it) exactly what is contemplated under leasehold enfranchisement. I appreciate that the intention is that where persons hold ground leases, but not leases at rack rents, it will be possible for the lessee to acquire the freehold.
The noble Lord was rather under a misapprehension, I thought, when he talked of there being fewer houses to let as a result of this proposal. I cannot see how it can possibly make any difference. If he is thinking of houses which freeholders have contemplated letting, and which they will not now let because of the possibility of leasehold enfranchisement, then I think he is completely misunderstanding the purpose of the proposal. It is not intended to cover houses which are let at ordinary rents. It is proposed only to cover houses which are let at ground rents.
§ LORD DERWENT
By Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but he has said that he does not know what the Government's intention is. According to the newspapers (I know that they are frequently wrong), I am right and he is wrong. But if he does not know, I am not prepared to argue about it.
§ LORD SILKIN
That is all right. I do know a little about the Government's mind on this matter. What I was saying was that there is no White Paper; and nothing in the Address. But I cannot think that the Government would be so mad as to try to give anyone who has a lease at a rent for three years the right automatically to acquire the freehold. I cannot think that that is what is meant by the leasehold enfranchisement. Where I think they are vague and that we might have had a little more information is in regard to the terms on which the lessee will be able to acquire the freehold. Here we are completely in the dark. I hope that the terms will be such as to be fair both to the landlord and to the lessee. The intention is not, I hope, to confiscate 483 a lease, but to give a lessee an opportunity to acquire the freehold at a fair price. If that is the Government's intention, then I think it is wholly admirable.
I am not unduly worried about the large estate owners whose property may be dislocated because some parts of it may be acquired by lessees and some not. I think that probably, if the price is a fair one, almost all their property will be acquired by lessees, and that town and country planning will do the very good job which in the past large estate owners have done in London and many other large cities. I do not want to decry the great value of the work which many of these large estate owners have carried out in making London the beautiful city it is to-day. But I should hope that town and country planning could do as well.
I want to say one or two words about housing. I am afraid that there has been an obsession on both sides of the House about the number of houses built. We have not come up to the numbers that we had hoped to build; noble Lords opposite have fallen behind in other years. I do not think that the number of houses is the primary consideration. If one were to set everything else on one side and concentrate only on housing, I think it would be possible to build one million houses a year in this country. It is all a question to what extent we want to allocate our resources of labour and material to housing, and to what extent we can afford to do it.
As I have said, I think it is true that we could build one million houses a year, if we so desired, and if we allocated all our labour and material to this one purpose. But the real thing we have to consider, and far more important than numbers, is the right kind of house, in the right place and at the right price. If we take that criterion, then I am afraid that in the years gone by we have not built the right type of house, in the right place and at the right price. The noble Lord has referred to houses which are standing empty. I can refer him to a considerable number of houses and flats which are standing empty. If he would like to come with me to Bournemouth, Brighton, Hove, Bognor Regis, Bexhill, Hastings, and many other places, he will find all the dwellings he would like standing 484 empty; and they have stood empty for years, simply because they are not dwellings of the right kind, in the right place or at the right price. To include those, and to boast about them as dwellings which have been erected under one form of Government or another, is completely misleading.
There is also this controversy of owner-occupiers. It was said—and I think wrongly—by the last Government, and is said to some extent also by this Government, that the vast majority of people prefer to own their own houses. This is not my experience. A large number of people do prefer it, I readily admit. But to say that the vast majority of people prefer to own their own houses is, I think, mistaken; and in my view it is undesirable that the vast majority should. It makes for people becoming fixed in their way of life. It prevents mobility, which is one of the things we shall need to have in the years to come. We shall certainly need greater mobility of labour. Once a person owns a house it is a complete deterrent to any kind of change in his way of life, which I think we should encourage to the fullest possible extent.
But there is also the economic factor. The price of a normal new house is something of the order of £4,000, as a minimum. I suppose that in some outlying places you can get a new house for less, but I believe that £4,000 is a normal price; and obviously the number of people who can afford to buy a house for that sum is fairly limited. If we assume that a fair proportion of one's income to be allocated to housing is about one-fifth—and I think that is generally accepted—it would need an income of between £1,500 and £2,000 a year to pay the cost of buying a house of that kind; and the number of people with that income is, naturally, very limited.
It is a great mistake, therefore, in my view, to overstress the desirability, and the possibility, of large proportions of our people at the present time becoming owner-occupiers, and so we ought to do everything possible to provide houses to let at reasonable rents. I therefore welcome the Government policy of encouraging housing associations, both by means of letting them have land at a reasonable cost, through the Land Commission, and also by providing them with 485 the necessary moneys, through building societies and through their own second mortgages, to enable them to carry out the development. I hope that this kind of encouragement will continue to the fullest possible extent.
I should like next to touch upon two other matters with which the noble Lord dealt. The first is the Ombudsman, or the Parliamentary Commissioner. I hope that we shall be able to find a somewhat better name than either Ombudsman or Parliamentary Commissioner—some name that people can remember with ease. I find it very difficult to remember either of them. But I am glad that there is a promise of early legislation. The noble Lord said that we had very little information about it. He may have overlooked a White Paper which has been published on the subject quite recently and which gives us a good deal of information as to what is proposed. I do not want to enlarge on that White Paper at the moment, except in one respect.
The principle set out in the White Paper is that a person who has a complaint should first go to his Member of Parliament and, presumably, if the Member of Parliament cannot get satisfaction, or if there is no machinery for giving him satisfaction, the matter will then be referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner. That is all right so far as it goes, but the White Paper contemplates that a person may go to somebody who is not a Member of Parliament. It also contemplates that this machinery will be available to companies and corporations, who are not legally entitled to vote at all, and to persons who are foreigners. I am not complaining of that, either, but it seems to me that to limit the medium for bringing this machinery into operation to the particular Member of Parliament who represents, or misrepresents, the complainant is unduly limiting. I should like to see it widened so that a complaint can he made to other people.
Why should not noble Lords be in a position to refer a complaint? After all, many of us do receive complaints, either because people are reluctant to go to their own Member of Parliament. or for other reasons. I receive at least two complaints a week on various matters which I refer to the appropriate Department, and I should have thought that it is not necessary to limit this to Members of Parlia- 486 ment. However, that is a matter with which we can deal when we get the legislation. But I hope that the Government will take it into account and consider this point.
The last matter with which I wish to deal is law reform. Here we are promised legislation, and I am very glad that the Government have acted very promptly in setting up the Commissioners under the Law Commissions Act which they passed in the last Session; and I have read with great interest the First Report of the Law Commissioners. I should like, if I may, to read paragraph 3 of their Report. This is what they say:It is desirable that the law should be simpler, more readily accessible, more easily understandable and more certain than it is to-day.I am sure that every noble Lord will echo that. The Report goes on:Consolidation and codification are important means of simplification. We intend to recommend the use of both these instruments for the reform of the shape and substance of our law. Whilst these projects go forward, we shall continue to investigate other means of simplifying our Statute Law, paving particular regard to the forms in which it is cast. It is very important that Statutes should be interpreted with common sense it is by no means certain that our existing rules always allow this to happen. Therefore we propose an examination of the interpretation of Statute Law.That statement is very welcome, but I should like to make just one or two comments on it.
The Law Commissioners refer to "consolidation and codification". We have all had experience of Consolidation Bills on which it is impossible to move any Amendment, because the consolidation is merely a reproduction in a more convenient form of the existing law. There is no simplification of the law; there is nothing to make it more understandable, and if, then, there is any Amendment required, a new Statute is needed to amend the Consolidation Statute. That seems to me silly, and I therefore hope that we shall have a new conception of consolidation and codification; namely, that any necessary and desirable amendments, either by way of simplification of the language, or by way of bringing the law up to date, or making it more in accordance with common sense, as is stated here, would be possible under consolidation and codification. If that 487 is what is intended, then I think we are making welcome progress towards what I know the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has very much at heart. I hope that we may have some answer on this point at the end of the debate to-morrow.
There is only one other thing that I want to say. I hope that I shall be forgiven for taking up too much of your Lordships' time, but I felt I had to get some of these things off my chest. I wish to refer to the Business of this House—I am glad that the noble Lord is here. This is a very heavy programme with which we are faced, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to carry it out. I have some doubts myself. The number of days are limited—Parliamentary time is limited—and, as we learned yesterday in both places, more and more noble Lords and honourable Members are desirous of giving expression to their views, very often at increasing length. It is by no means certain that this legislation will be carried through, or, in the alternative, if it is, we shall find that the business of this House will become so congested that it will be virtually impossible for us to do our job properly. There is only one way in which this can be helped and that is by entrusting this House with a greater amount of legislation at the very beginning.
I beg of the noble Lord to take this matter seriously. None of us is getting younger, and we none of us welcome the idea of spending May, June and July sitting up late at night, with wet towels round our heads and having to deal with legislation under very great pressure. In the coming months we shall be finding it difficult to fill up our time. I realise there is a certain amount of legislation which is forecast with which we are not able to deal, for one reason or another, but there is a considerable amount that we could deal with, and if my noble friend would make strong representations that we should get, as soon as possible, some of the legislation which is forecast in the gracious Speech, I am sure it would be for the benefit of the business of Parliament and the country as a whole.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, I hope to earn your grateful attention by stating that I am not going 488 to speak for more than ten minutes, and I shall speak on one particular point. It deals with the mention in the gracious Speech of new means of dealing with young persons who now come before the courts, and the advancement of penal reform. I was for six years chairman of a juvenile court and I think the greatest compliment I have ever been paid was by a Labour colleague of mine on the Bench, of the same vintage, who said, "You know, your young delinquents have nearly all made good and become responsible citizens." I mention this in a spirit of real thankfulness and not to boast, but in order to persuade your Lordships that I have some little experience and knowledge of these matters.
I am not really very happy about the suggestions in the White Paper. The family court conjures up before my eyes a sort of meeting of the tribal elders. I am not persuaded that this is the best way of dealing with a responsible child, almost behind his back, as it were. I think this is a fundamental fact—we must not make a mistake about this—that we must look upon a child as a responsible individual. I think there is too much danger in the White Paper of treating a child as a child and not as a responsible individual. I think it is the wrong way to bring up children, not to stress responsibility. In fact, I should say that one of the principal objects of education is to draw out of the child, and strengthen, this sense of responsibility. It does not seem to me either that the family court could do very much more than a good probation officer does now when he reports to a juvenile court on all the circumstances of the child who is before it. I feel that in this new system the child will be submerged among adults, and specialised adults, which I do not think will help us very much.
While one might go on discussing this particular point at some length, I really want to deal with another matter and highlight a point which to my mind is a weakness at present in the juvenile court system and which it appears to me is going to be pursued if the new suggestions are adopted. I think what really matters with children is that they should be dealt with by people who understand them and have not themselves any specialist axe to grind. I do not think that the criticisms I am making are valid in an urban 489 area, where there is a stipendiary magistrate sitting the whole time, but in the petty sessional divisions of a county such as mine I think such criticisms are indeed valid. With us, and I think it is the same everywhere else, all magistrates under the age of 65 are eligible to sit on the bench of a juvenile court. To my mind it is a curious line of demarcation. It means, of course, that the moment anyone is 65 he or she is no longer qualified; but what I think is worse is that it means that anyone under 65 is qualified, and to my mind that should not be the case. What happens is that on a bench of, say, 14 to 20 magistrates it is extraordinarily difficult for these people, who sit close together, week in week out, year in year out, and who know each other extremely well, to say out loud, "I do not think this colleague of mine, although under 65, is suitable to sit on a juvenile bench". Therefore what happens is that all magistrates under 65 take their turn to sit on the bench in a juvenile court.
There is the further aspect that in the petty sessional divisions in a country area there are some courts which have mercifully very few child delinquents. The courts may not sit more than once every six weeks, and then have only two or three children up before them. As a result those juvenile court magistrates get very little experience and very little continuous knowledge of the job. What I should like to see done now, and if the suggestions in the White Paper are brought in, is that juvenile court magistrates should be appointed for the whole county and not for each petty sessional division, and that they should be chosen from each bench to do this specialised work, to sit whenever required and whenever necessary in the county, and so have continuous experience of dealing with children the whole time. I think there are relatively few people suited to be juvenile court magistrates but if the best in each county were picked there would be a solid core of people who were good at the job and would make a success of it.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lady would tell us how she would select these people. As a magistrate, I see a difficulty.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, I was coming to that point. I have an open mind about it and should 490 be glad to hear any suggestions anybody has to make. Personally, I think the best way would be for the noble Lord, the Lord Chancellor, to consult confidentially with the chairman of each bench. The chairman would have a very good idea of the type of magistrate he has sitting on his bench. But, as I say, there may be better ways of doing this. If these juvenile court magistrates pursued this form of work successfully, then from them one could draft some of those to sit on the foreshadowed juvenile offenders' courts at a later stage.
I am convinced that this change is necessary. I have seen very unsuitable magistrates sitting as juvenile court magistrates, simply because they are under the age of 65. If a child is mishandled at the time when he first comes before a court, the danger is that we shall be making a criminal instead of saving one.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD ARWYN
My Lords, I must apologise to the noble Baroness for not being an expert on her subject, which fascinates me, because I thought so much of what she said was true. My noble friend Lord Silkin mentioned at the beginning of his speech that, while the drama is missing, nevertheless that which we are discussing to-day might prove of greater importance in the end. I hope the subject I shall discuss might make some small contribution.
In a speech on March 18 this year I emphasised the urgent need to increase our producion of tin, and I mentioned the dangers that could follow from rapid political changes in other parts of the world. These dangers are increasing, and our stockpiles of vital metals such as tin, copper, lead and zinc may not be sufficient by a long way to enable us to have more than a short breathing space in an emergency. This debate on Home Affairs is, in my opinion, an opportunity to re-emphasise the dangers we are in and to indicate how these dangers might be diminished. The development of our own metalliferous mines is indeed very much a Home Affair.
In July 1949, the Mineral Development Committee, set up by the Government in 1946 and of which I was a member, made its Report recommending the immediate setting up of a Mineral Development 491 Commission, the purpose of which was to develop our own resources. Between that date and the change of Government in 1951 the legislative programme was too crowded to provide for the necessary legislation. We recognised the trends quite clearly, and that which we feared is now becoming evident. During the sixteen years since that Report was published nothing has been done and our total imports of minerals now cost us over £150 million a year. I know we cannot provide ourselves from our own resources anywhere near to that extent, but we might reduce the imports substantially if we are determined to develop our own resources.
Having previously said enough about the fact that we are producing only less than one-twentieth of our tin requirements, I should like to be allowed to bring to your notice our position regarding iron ore, copper and lead. With the limited time at my disposal I can go only just beyond the headlines. During the last war we had to reduce imports of iron ore to the absolute minimum by mining our own deposits. They are inferior to the high-grade haematites which we import. To use them meant an increase in smelting costs and the production of excessive quantities of slag. We have considerable reserves of bedded iron ore produced from our own bedded ironstone by opencast methods, and we mine the richer haematites in relatively small quantities in Cumberland and South Wales. Therefore, we have to import large quantities of haematites to enrich our own mixed output, thus keeping our smelting costs within economic limits. If we could remove the deleterious compounds from our own considerable fields of bedded ironstone, we should make very substantial savings in import costs.
The problem of enriching all our base metal concentrates has exercised the minds of scientists all over the world, but the methods studied have mostly been physical. We have had sporadic but limited successes, no dramatic breakthrough. The problem is really one for the chemical engineer, not the pure metallurgist. Until recently we have had no laboratory equipment for the course of research which is so necessary. Today we can do something about it, and I was delighted to hear that the Govern- 492 ment have taken the initiative towards solving some of these problems. A research unit has now teen established at the College of Advanced Technology, Birmingham, and it is to be hoped that the results will spearhead a revolution in metal mining in this country. We could do with many more units under this designation. There are also other laboratories now equipped for this type of research, and the rewards of success can be enormous.
From 1851 to 1860 we produced an average of 14,450 tons of copper a year in this country. To-day our output is negligible, and to-day's price is over £560 per ton. Years ago when overseas copper prices fell below our cost of production we ceased to produce and to prospect. Our knowledge of our potential resources is therefore not sufficient, so much so that the Mineral Development Committee omitted copper from its list. Yet there are several areas which together might yield substantial tonnages. For instance, the famous Parys Mountain in Anglesey had at one time the largest copper mine in the world. A deep exploratory borehole of at least 2,000 feet to probe the rocks below the Carmel Head Thrust might prove that these deep-seated rocks may enter the same geothermal zone which carries the exposed veins of tin and tungsten and copper in Cornwall. This does not seem very exciting, but, believe me, as a mining engineer I can say that it is very exciting to my profession.
The production of lead has fallen to a tiny fraction of our maximum output between the years 1850 and 1870, but even if that output could be revived it would not satisfy more than a quarter of our present domestic requirements. About thirty years ago we produced some 40,000 tons a year which at that time meant only 15 per cent. of our requirements. By 1948 this had dropped to 3,000 tons, which is around to-day's figure. Any real attempt to increase production of lead means first of all an extensive exploratory programme to find out whether there are any new deposits. There are geological indications, but as with drilling for oil, it would first of all have to be quite speculative.
In view of the world political situation, a programme of thorough mineral exploration can surely be regarded as a 493 Defence measure. Geologically, these islands are unique in containing samples of every type of structure and rock formation known in the earth's crust. Cornwall is known to have one of the two highest mineral concentrations in the world; the other is in South China. We have mined tin in Cornwall for over 2,000 years and lead smelting was carried on in the West Country about 1500 B.C. as far as we can trace. From such a historic background there has developed a widespread belief that our reserves of metalliferous minerals have been exhausted. They have been considerably diminished, but are far from being exhausted. Minerals have over a period of time become more costly. Lead has, within living memory, gone from £5 per ton to to-day's £110 per ton. I would emphasise this point; I feel very deeply about it. We should take as much prudence in stockpiling strategic minerals for the economic war which is always with us as our atom bombs in anticipation of a war which may not occur; it might prove more profitable. In any case, whether in physical war or in economic war the sinews of war have to be preserved.
My Lords, I am not a pacifist. In fact, I was very much a belligerent in both wars. But why should we, a great industrial nation, jeopardise our life by being more dependent than is necessary on others? We have never made a real national comprehensive mineral survey. In this country, minerals are owned by a multiplicity of mineral landlords, and it is necessary to negotiate prospecting terms with these owners—I have spent some of my time in prospecting, and have never been able to negotiate a prospecting lease. Some of these owners are not the surface owners, but these are the persons with whom it is necessary to negotiate before exploration is possible. Quite frequently, they are completely unaware that anything of value exists below the topsoil. To make a thorough survey under the present state of the law would require prospecting licences from a myriad of mineral landlords, scores of whom it might be impossible to trace.
We are now better equipped for a programme of deep boring than we were even a few years ago—and when I refer to "deep boring", I mean below 2,000 feet, not the 11-feet auger drills, which 494 up to about twenty years ago were the sole tools of the geological survey. We have made great advances in drilling, but none, since the first laws on the subject were proclaimed, in the control of mineral ownership. It is about time we brought ourselves up to date with other countries. In addition to deep boring, the new techniques include geophysical and geochemical prospecting, and we are now able to make accurate surveys which have not hitherto been possible.
I now come to the development of that which, in comparison with the recent past, we can well describe as a super-efficient technique in metal extraction. It was developed by Imperial Metal Smelters and could revolutionise our present methods. For instance, from a rough calculation it is estimated that some £25 million worth of lead metal could be recovered from the old waste tips. Under present laws, this metal recovery process from waste dumps could be held up by mineral owners who have no hope at, all of extracting one pennyworth for themselves, especially if they cannot be traced.
I have covered briefly the needs for a mineral survey, the need for the beneficiation of lean ores, the increasing of the metal content of concentrates before smelting, and I have just mentioned the recent advance in the recovery of metal contained in waste. I now come to the consideration of quite different areas of possible mineralisation—namely, the seas around our South-Western and Western coasts. The areas between us and Eire are not yet complicated by legal and international difficulties. In recent years the Royal Navy has been active in developing accurate methods of plotting the configuration of the sea floor. It should be possible to use their resources for a survey to locate likely off-shore mineral deposits. This more extensive use of acoustic equipment by the Royal Navy could prove a most worthwhile exercise. From such a preliminary undersea mineral deposit search, data could be furnished to those universities which are engaged in investigating the possibilities of ore deposits of economic value in these areas but which do not possess the equipment to expand their dossiers of information.
There is every reason to believe that the extension of granitic intrusions in 495 these coastal areas could contain rich deposits of metal eroded from the outcropping lodes of millions of years. It is now a simple matter to extract metals from the sea bed. Until recently it was thought impossible. It is already being done four miles offshore in the Indonesian Islands. This would help. There might even be a hope of gas and oil from the Westward extension of the carboniferous Devonian rocks. It is not impossible. We are at present inclined to be too preoccupied by the results in the North Sea.
Apart from sucking up mineralised sands from depths, we have only begun to realise the commercial possibilities of the extraction of some of the 60 elements known to be dissolved in sea water. But this is too big a subject to approach in the abbreviated manner I have been using to-day. I hope to have an opportunity of dealing with it later, as a separate subject requiring careful examination within the pattern of our future economy, because we have to think of the future. Too much attention has been paid to the solution of problems in isolation when we consider the pattern of development of our mineral and natural resources. Too many Ministries have been involved, each engaged in promoting its own aspect. Too much energy has been expended on voluminous reports which have never been implemented, and have often contained information previously published and never used. Noble Lords will have far more experience than I have of these matters. Lip service has been paid to so many reports, and that is the last we hear of them.
My Lords, not since the war have our scientists been faced with such challenging problems. Not since the war have they received such a stimulus from the Government. There are to-day in this country opportunities as great as, if not greater than, they can expect overseas. Raw materials are the basis of the survival of Britain as a great nation in the everlasting economic war ahead of us. This is one certain way in which minerals play such a vitally important part. The Prime Minister has made it plain that the Government will unshackle the scientist and unleash his ideas—one of the most urgent outlets in the development of our own sources of minerals on land and 496 around our coasts. I hope that, now that the wheels have been set in motion, nothing will be allowed any longer to arrest the progress which can be made. Let us be determined to produce every possible ounce of our own minerals, and cease to be so dependent on others.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, will forgive me if I do not follow his most fascinating geological pursuits. I turn rather to buildings which are made of such materials as he has been inquiring into. I wish to deal with only one matter—hospitals and doctors. I promise the House that I shall be quite brief because my noble friend Lord Lothian has a Motion on the Health Service under "No Day Named".
I was most disappointed that the word "hospital" is not once mentioned in the gracious Speech. Even in the Prime Minister's initial speech in another place, again the word "hospital" was not mentioned. Yet when we on this side were in office, the then Opposition constantly taunted my right honourable friend Mr. Enoch Powell, and the then Government, on the failure of its hospital programme. I have not attempted to conceal my own criticisms of that programme. It was not a perfect programme, but at least it has proved to be a useful blueprint.
A good deal was done in the last Parliament to modernise a good many of our hospitals. I would not deny that a good deal more might have been done, but the time has come to press the Government to say what are their intentions about the hospital programme and the shortage of doctors. In the gracious Speech there is one paragraph relating to doctors which reads:My Government are studying with the medical profession ways of improving the family doctor service and will introduce the necessary legislation.Good! But I hope we are going to hear very soon how this is going to be done and, above all, what is going to be done about the acute problem of junior housemen, a matter which is causing very serious concern in our hospitals. I do not want to make a Party point on that, because that particular grade of doctor cannot be produced by some conjuring trick. We have to rely very largely on doctors from overseas, a number of whom 497 arrive only partially trained. I hope the Government will give very serious thought to this problem.
We ought also to hear from the Government about the cuts in the hospital programme. I understand that the rebuilding of St. Thomas's Hospital is going to be put back, and I hope that, even if we do not get an answer to-day or tomorrow, we shall have an answer soon. In a debate which I promoted in this House on February 3 on the future of the Hospital Plan I pressed the Government on this matter, on which last summer I put down a Question. The then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health—who, I know, has the hospital world in his heart and is anxious to do as much as he can; and I know your Lordships all regret the fact that he had to leave the Government Front Bench—said, at column 1234 of Hansard, on February 3:… the Minister will be making a Statement about the Hospital Plan very shortly.It is now the middle of November, eight months later, and we have had no statement on the Hospital Plan. When my noble friend Lord Newton last July pressed the Minister to say when this statement was going to be made, a very ambiguous answer was given that it would be early next year. I do not think one can be vaguer than that, and I suggest that the country at large is entitled to know very soon what is going to happen. Your Lordships will have read about the serious position at Harlow Hospital, a new hospital, many of whose wards are closed through lack of staff. If I may mention the new hospital at High Wycombe, which is due to open early in the new year, how many wards will in fact be open and how serious is the staff shortage there?
I must come back to make a point on prescription charges, a matter which I have mentioned before in this House. I know the Government get very nettled when Members from these Benches mention this, but the point is that medical research is being greatly starved, and the £50 million which I believe is the cost of withdrawing these charges could have been used at least to improve three of our hospitals—for example, St. Thomas's could have been considerably improved with some of that £50 million. I should 498 also like to know from the Government whether the removal of these charges is, year by year—assuming they are in power year by year—going to be an ever-increasing burden on the nation. I am not suggesting that the removal of prescription charges is something which should never be done, but I think that, having regard to the present serious staffing shortage and building shortage in our hospitals, the removal of these charges was a mistake. I hope that we shall have an answer to these matters.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ LORD COHEN OF BRIGHTON
My Lords, it is quite obvious that this afternoon is an afternoon of anti-climax, but, just the same, the matters which we are going to discuss will probably be of greater importance in the years ahead than anything which has been dealt with in the past week. Having said that, I would say that the matter in the Queen's Speech with which I wish to deal is the question of housing. First of all, I must, in courtesy to the House, state that I have an interest to declare, in that I am the chairman of one of the largest building societies in the country; but, even apart from that, my experience in housing ranges over many years. For over thirty years I have been a member of a local authority, a member of a housing committee, a planning committee and a health committee. The planning committee for a long time has been meeting every week, dealing with the different problems arising from planning. Therefore I feel that I have had the opportunity of considering housing from both points of view—in relation to local authority houses, remembering the long housing lists which are the lot of almost all local authorities in the country, and also the question of loans for people to acquire their own homes, and the related problems.
I was somewhat surprised at the picture which was painted to us by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, which I found a little incomprehensible. I rather gathered that in his area there were a large number of empty houses, some of which were being held empty because people had bought them in the hope of occupying them in the years ahead (I do not know of many who do that) and some that were held empty because of the capital gains tax and the thought that if they are held 499 long enough another 40 per cent. will be obtainable from purchasers. That, if I dare say so, is just nonsense, because the prices of property depend entirely on supply and demand.
Then it was stated that the demand for houses is slowing down and that there are many houses with no purchasers for them because of the policy of this Government. In fact, during the last month the building society movement generally—and I speak for pretty well all the large organisations in the building societies of the country—have advanced more money to help house purchasers than at any time before. Last month was a record, as were the two months before that, with the figures gradually going up. So it does not exactly look as though the demand is diminishing and that there is any difficulty in regard to the housing market.
Another factor we must bear in mind—I hope it will be appreciated on the Benches opposite—is that more houses will be completed this year than last year. It is difficult to foresee ahead, but it is anticipated that even more will be completed in the years ahead. The position is that the gracious Speech referred vaguely to the question of housing policy—not fully, but generally as an indication that the housing policy is on the lines of a comprehensive plan and that we are going to have more houses. The policy of the Government is that the housing programme in the years ahead will be increased year by year from the present figures, up to 500,000 a year. Last year 155,000 local authority houses were built, and 218,000 private enterprise houses, making a total of 373,000. More will be built this year. It is the policy of the Government that the number shall be increased to roughly 500,000 a year, but it is also the policy of the Government that the proportion of houses for private enterprise and the proportion for local authority houses for letting shall be radically altered; because, as every one of us knows, the demand for houses to let is far greater than the demand for houses for sale.
I am in favour of home ownership but, as I think most people know, there are a very large number of people who do not qualify to obtain loans either from building societies or from local authorities, because they must not pay more 500 than a quarter of their income in repayments to the lending organisation. Unless he is earning at least £21 a week, it is virtually impossible for a man to obtain a loan from a lending organisation, and there are a great many people who do not come up to that standard and who, as a result, cannot obtain houses. Although they can get on corporation housing lists they may have to wait years before they have a chance of obtaining a house. So, quite rightly, because housing is a social necessity, a social duty of the community, the Government have said that in future they are going to increase the number of houses built by private enterprise from roughly 220,000 a year to approximately 250,000 (I shall deal with a question on that in a minute) and are going to increase the number of local authority houses from 155,000 to 250,000 a year so that we can deal with the slums.
A number of people in the slums have no chance at all of obtaining a house if it has to be bought; and, Heaven alone knows! the slums in this country need dealing with—as do the near slums as well, for if any one of your Lordships has gone round investigating housing conditions in the great towns of our country he will know that it is not only the properties that come under the ban of the medical officer of health which are really slums; there are many more which should be dealt with, and the people living in houses which are intolerable under twentieth century standards should be re-housed. So it is proposed that the programme shall be 500,000 houses a year.
As is well known—I am sure that Members of this House know this quite well—there have been discussions between the building societies, the builders and of course the Ministry on this question of seeing that that number of houses is available, that the finance is available for the private enterprise houses, and that the builders will be able to increase their efforts to build up to 500,000 houses a year. The question of the negotiations with the building societies is very interesting, because although I am sure that noble Lords opposite have said at all times in the past that they support building societies, there has been a kind of thought that on this side we are not in favour of the building society movement. In fact, the Minister has called in the 501 building societies to discuss with him a national plan.
I was very interested when we went to see the Minister some few weeks ago, because as we came out of the Ministry one of the representatives said to me, "Do you know, Lewis, this is the first time that we, as a building society movement, have been called in to consult with the Government on a housing plan? It is good that the building societies, which, after all, are a very great part of the housing finance of the country, should have been called in." It is curious, indeed, that the first time that we were called in was when we were called in by this Government. That rather deals with the question of whether we on this side are in favour of home ownership.
I said that roughly 500,000 houses a year would be built, but it is fair to say that in the discussions with the builders and the building societies it has been suggested that the proportion may be a little wrong. So it has been agreed that there can be a 10 per cent. tolerance either side; that is to say, the 250,000 private enterprise houses may well go up to 275,000 to 280,000, and the number of local authority houses may not be quite so high. Noble Lords may well say, "That all sounds very good, but is the building industry going to be capable of building 500,000 houses a year?" The position is this. It is thought that roughly 400,000 houses a year—and nobody can question whether that is within the ability of the builders of this country—should be built by normal methods, which we know so well, and that possibly about 100,000 houses should be built by factory methods, prefabrication and the like.
I do not know whether it is generally known, but a very short time ago a Committee was set up, under Sir Donald Gibson, to consider the question of factory building of prefabricated houses. It was recommended by that Committee that a board should be established to consider, and give certificates for, new methods of building, new products in building—something on the lines of what is done in France and some of the other Western European countries. Accordingly, it has been decided to set up this board which, working with the Building Research Station, will investigate new methods of building so that we can make improvements and bring into housing all 502 the new ideas which might be helpful to us in building the other 100,000 houses. The Government decided to appoint the board and it has now been nominated, and I have been asked by the Government to take the chairmanship of this body.
It will be the board's duty to consider all new methods of building, and to see whether they are suitable for the country, and whether they are going to be of value to the building industry, so that we can make certain that we do have those 500,000 houses a year. If we do have them, it will be the first time that we have got up to building 500,000 houses a year in this country, and it will be because we have a comprehensive plan, which has never existed before, and which has been prepared in co-operation with the builders and the building societies, providing for local authority housing and private enterprise housing with a certain amount of money available for each. Wu have set out the plan so that it will be possible—and I am sure that this Government will be able to do it—to see that we have 500,000 houses a year, and in good time that is going to make a very great deal of difference to the housing problem. I say "a very great deal of difference", because it is going to take a long time to deal with the housing problem. It has been allowed to go by default for too many years.
Having said that, a question certainly arises on the problem of home ownership. I think I have made it quite clear that I personally am a local authority man first and last. I joined a local authority before I really had anything to do with business in any major way, and I see the need for houses to let. But I also see the need for houses for owner-occupation. One of the problems, as I said earlier, is that a large number of people cannot afford to buy their own house because they cannot afford the repayments, and because they must not spend more than a quarter of their income on housing. I think we must find some method whereby we can reduce the repayments of the less well-off prospective house buyer.
Professor Merritt has an idea—I do not know whether noble Lords have read his book, but it is a book worth reading—which might be very helpful, particularly if it is developed along certain lines. He points out that if you buy a house 503 and borrow the money to do so you get a very substantial tax concession on the amount you pay in interest. If you rent a house and pay £250 a year, there is no tax concession of any kind on the rent. But if you have borrowed to purchase a house and pay £250 a year in interest you get a tax allowance for it. So the curious thing is that the richer the borrower, the more money he borrows, the greater the concession he gets from the community because the greater is his tax allowance. But if the borrower is poor—and some of them with, say, £1,000 a year and two children pay virtually no tax—he gets no tax allowance whatever.
Why is it not possible to take the mean of the two; that is to say, to reduce the tax allowance of the man with the higher income, so that everyone gets a certain tax allowance? That would very much reduce the payments of the man with the smaller income. I cannot see why that is not a possibility, because when you consider it, years ago—and it is not so very long ago—we had Schedule A tax. Schedule A tax meant that if you owned a house you had an asset and you paid tax on the value of that asset. For political reasons, I think, Schedule A tax was abolished. So you are in that particular position with regard to a house, in that the more you borrow the more tax relief you have—which, of course, is ludicrous and ought to be dealt with.
But, quite apart from this suggestion, there could well be additional concessions for people with lower incomes—concessions which I do not think would cost the community anything. I have just had an experience with my own local authority. We have built an eight-storey block of two-bedroom flats, and each flat has cost £4,865. The rent of those flats should be £7 10s. a week, plus rates. We are letting them at 35s. a week; so there is a very substantial contribution, both from the national Exchequer and from the rates. If more of that contribution could be made available to people who wanted to own their own houses, it would be possible to house some of those people and not make them corporation tenants. A lot of them should be corporation tenants, and I am in favour of their being so; but, also, many might own their own houses, if it were possible to make the repayments more suitable for them. 504 Then there is the other question. Even though we build 500,000 houses a year, there are the twilight houses. In fact, as your Lordships may be aware, there are 4 million houses which were built before 1914. At the moment, over 1 million of those—and nothing like all of them are condemned—have no flush lavatory in the house, and nearly 1 million have no proper water supply. There should be a much greater drive towards grants from local authorities to bring those houses up to a certain standard, and there should be much greater development from those grants. I very much hope that that will be so. I forgot to mention, when dealing with this question of housing, and particularly so far as building societies are concerned, that the Consumer Council has been extremely valuable and very helpful in certain negotiations with which I have been associated, and I want to pay tribute to that Council, under the chairmanship of the noble Lady, Baroness Elliot of Harwood, for their assistance in this matter.
It is now suggested that all houses should have the very much stronger guarantee of the National House-builders Registration Council. If that guarantee—it is a guarantee of good workmanship—is given there will not be the difficulties that have arisen in the past, when people have bought houses and very soon afterwards found shoddy workmanship. In association with the Consumer Council (and I have been to their meetings) and the Building Societies Association, it is proposed (and I hope it is going to be carried into effect) that no loan should be available on any house to buy unless that house has been granted a certificate by the National House-builders Registration Council, and that it should be a condition of membership of the Building Societies Association that every building society in the Association—and it includes virtually every building society in the land—should not make an advance except when a guarantee of good construction has been given. This is an agreement which has come about with the help of the Consumer Council, with the help of the Minister of Housing and Local Government—and he has done a good deal in this—and with the co-operation of the building societies. I think that shows an excellent step in the right direction.
505 It seems clear from what I have said that we are going to deal in an energetic and comprehensive way with the building problem. I could say a very great deal about the question of land, but I do not want to keep your Lordships' House too long. Obviously, though, land is one of the problems with which we must deal as well, and if any of your Lordships know the problems of local authorities so far as land is concerned—the difficulty of obtaining land and of doing so at anything like a reasonable price—you will know why those of us on this side welcome the proposals for a Land Commission, because this is going to help us tremendously in the problem that lies ahead. Of course, there is also the fact that housing societies will, in a modified way, be able to help a little in the direction of housing by providing some properties to let. I say "in a modified way" because the problem of housing societies is the problem of the cost of building and the cost of borrowing the money. You cannot build a house—I have said this so many times—for under about £2,500, and you cannot get land under about £1,000 a plot. That amounts to £3,500; and when you realise that you pay 6¾ per cent. interest for part of the money and 7 per cent. for the rest of the money you will see that you cannot build a house to let for less than about £6 a week, and rates, which is too high a rental for the average person. I see I am being looked at, but I assure your Lordships that those figures come from my own local authority.
Finally, this one point. There has been a lot of discussion about the rates of interest at the moment, and Members opposite will know that there has been criticism of the high rates. I do not know whether it is realised, but in 1961–62, during the Selwyn Lloyd period of economy, the rates of building societies were put up from 6 per cent. to 6½ per cent., which is only a quarter per cent. below what is being charged now in very different circumstances. I never heard any word at all from those on the other side, either in this House or in the other place, criticising the 6½ per cent. which was being charged for mortgages in those clays. Now, of course, even though building societies are having to pay a higher rate for their money, 4 per cent., they are charging only a quarter per cent. more than in those days.
506 As I say, we have a comprehensive plan. It is a comprehensive plan that is being operated in co-operation with the voluntary bodies, in co-operation with the building societies, in co-operation with the builders, and in co-operation with the local authorities. It is a comprehensive plan which will go a very long way to deal with the housing problem of this country. It is a comprehensive plan which will, year by year from now to 1970, increase the volume of houses being built and will increase appreciably, very appreciably, the number of houses that are going to be built by local authorities, which are the houses for those thousands—and there are thousands—on the housing lists up and down this country.
Finally, my Lords, may I say this? I have been a Parliamentary candidate, though never a successful one, and I have run a "surgery" (as they are called) every Saturday where people come with all their problems. I do not know why they are called "surgeries"—it sounds very posh. I can assure this House that 70 or 80 per cent. of the cases that come before one there concern problems of housing. Housing is the most vital and important problem affecting the people, and it is the great problem that this Government—for the first time, I think, comprehensively—are going to deal with by provision of the very large number of houses that are needed and by making a very great dent in the housing shortage in this country.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Brighton, would answer me a simple question. It is about this comprehensive plan. Just how comprehensive is it? Does it include planning against ribbon development, preserving Green Belts, and site planning?
§ LORD COHEN OF BRIGHTON
I think the noble Lord knows quite welt that preservation of the Green Belt conies under another Minister. But I can say that, in all the discussions that I have had, everyone has said that we must preserve the Green Belt—and, as a matter of fact, as the cities grow we may have to extend it.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKET
My Lords, in view of the very able and persuasive speech to 507 which we have just listened, I was surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Brighton, admit that he had stood as a Parliamentary candidate on one or two occasions. It was most unfortunate for the sake of housing that he did not get in, but it is fortunate for us that he is now with us as a Member of this House. I feel that we in this House have a great advantage: we seem to have experts on everything. We have heard this very interesting speech from the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Brighton, who is certainly an expert on building societies, and a short time ago we had a speech from an expert on mining. There is no doubt that on certain interesting subjects we can always get somebody from the House of Lords who is an expert. I can now understand that another reason why the last Government did not call in the building societies for consultation was that they had not had the opportunity of hearing the great persuasive powers of the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Brighton. Now that we have heard the noble Lord, I feel that I know why the present Government have called in the building societies for consultation.
I do not apologise for bringing up the subject of agriculture. The fifth paragraph of the gracious Speech on the second page says:My Ministers will pursue their policy for the selective expansion of agriculture, based on increasing productivity. They will introduce legislation for the longer term development of agriculture through better farm structure, co-operation, and improved hill farming and to establish a Meat and Livestock Commission. They will promote the economic development of the fishing industry.I have been a member of this House for just over thirty years, and I have heard mention of the economic development of the fishing industry in nearly every gracious Speech during those years. However, I am not going into that matter this afternoon; I am to speak on agriculture.
It may be of interest to those of your Lordships who were not Members of this House in 1941 that on July 30 of that year I moved a Resolution in the House, and that Resolution was:That an agreed long-term policy for agriculture is essential in the interests of the nation.508 It was supported by the late Lord Addison, the Leader of the Labour Party, who was a great friend of mine and a helpful person in agriculture, by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, a Liberal in those days, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, replied for the Government. The Resolution was carried unanimously. It was not one of those Motions for Papers that are withdrawn at the end of debate. It was rather an unusual Resolution: and, as I say, it was carried unanimously. I am not claiming that that Resolution had this effect; but, as the years have gone on, agriculture has become more non-Party than it used to be. I remember that when I stood for a constituency in June, 1931 (and I was more fortunate than the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Brighton, in that I did get in), the policy of the Labour Party was one of complete nationalisation of all land of any kind. As the years have gone by it has become apparent, I think, that whereas it may be a good thing for local authorities, or even perhaps, as we are going to hear now, a Land Commission, to have a certain amount of land, the policy of wholesale land nationalisation is not with us, particularly as regards agricultural land.
I feel that this question of agriculture being non-political and non-Party is most important. On July 30, 1941, I said—and I do not wish to quote much of my speech:The key word, in my opinion, for agriculture and for the long-term policy should be 'security'."—That sounds almost like Lord Cohen of Birkenhead's building societies—This word 'security' divides into the following points: (1), security for the land itself by the maintenance of fertility; (2), security of good wages and improved amenities for the farm worker; (3), security and guaranteed reasonably profitable prices for the farmer; (4), security of tenure for the efficient landowner; (5), security for the provision of adequate finance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 119 (c. 981), July 30, 1941.]A great many of those securities are really common property between political Parties. I should like to make an appeal this afternoon that agriculture should be even more looked upon as non-Party and should be allowed and encouraged to fulfil a much greater role in this country than it has done in the past.
509 I remember going with a deputation, a long time before the war, when I was chairman of an organisation called The Central and Associated Chambers of Agriculture, to the Minister of Agriculture to try to increase production in those days. It was possible then, in 1935 and 1936, that war might come. But the answer we were given was that it was not safe to increase agricultural production at that time in case there was not a war. That was a most deplorable answer from a Minister of Agriculture in those days. I think it absolutely essential from the point of view of imports, exports, our balance of payments, and so on, that agricultural production should be increased as much as is humanly possible, not just by a small percentage but by a large percentage. Agriculture is still the most important industry in this country, and it has always struck me as extraordinary that there is no representative of agriculture on "Neddy". I have raised that subject once or twice, and I should like to ask the Government again whether there can be a representative of agriculture on "Neddy". There may be reasons against this; but there are so many good reasons for this suggestion that it has always struck me as extraordinary that agriculture itself did not have an official representative.
My Lords, I am also very pleased to see in the gracious Speech (in paragraph 5) that Her Majesty's Governmentwill seek a successful conclusion to their discussions with the Government of the Republic of Ireland on the establishment of a Free Trade Area between the two countries.As it is the habit nowadays to disclose one's interest, I must say that I happen to farm in both England and Ireland, and therefore I get a certain amount of the farming politics of both countries. I feel that if agricultural production in this country is going to increase this process can be helped considerably by hooking on to this country the increased agricultural production in the Republic of Ireland. Agricultural production there could increase—certainly it could be doubled, or perhaps trebled—if it had the right organisation, the right capital and the right markets. If we do have a Free Trade Area for Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland I am quite certain that it will redound to the good of both countries. Therefore I hope very sin- 510 cerely that the negotiations that are to be resumed in a month or so will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, for the good of both countries.
I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Brighton, said about money rates, because I was reading the Farmers Weekly earlier to-day and I noticed that Yugoslavia is going to invest £3 million in a piggery. That is probably very good. I had a piggery at one time, though it was not quite so expensive as the Yugoslav one. But pigs are always a gamble. They say in farming circles that they are always "either muck or money". And that is true. I hope that in Yugoslavia, which is a controlled country, they will be able to control the prices of their pigs and their litters.
They expect the sows to produce 10.2 piglets per litter and hope to have 5,200 sows and to produce 100,000 finished carcases a year. That is all very well; but, of course, management comes into it. The pigmen have to be taught to look after their pigs satisfactorily and to feed them correctly. And those of your Lordships interested in farming will know that it is not all quite as it appears to be on paper. What interests me in Yugoslavia is that this £3 million piggery is going to have a Government loan which will be charged at 2 per cent. interest and amortised over fifteen years. I think that if Mr. George Brown had seen that it might even have made him blush.
§ LORD COHEN OF BRIGHTON
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord is aware that the Scottish Development Association has just lost three-quarters of a million pounds on a piggery in Scotland.
§ LORD BROCKET
My Lords, I am interested to hear that. It is certainly very unlike anyone from Scotland to lose three-quarters of a million over anything. Perhaps the Yugoslav borrowing at 2 per cent. will make the affair more fortunate for them. I hope it will. But to get back to this very serious question of increasing the agricultural production of this country. I hope that agriculture will continue to be looked at as a national, non-Party and non-political industry. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will do all they can to increase agricultural production as much as possible in the months to come.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, your Lordships will recall that in the gracious Speech reference was made to the intention of the Government topromote the provision of improved services for the family, the development of new means of dealing with young persons who now come before the courts and the advancement of penal reform".It is in respect of the White Paper, The Child, the Family and the Young Offender, that I intervene in this debate. Before doing so, I hope that your Lordships will allow me to say two things. One is that I should like warmly to support what the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, has said this afternoon, and, secondly, to remind your Lordships of something that I have said before; that I was a probation officer in London for a good many years and for the past twenty years have been a magistrate, sitting during the greater part of that time in many of the well-known London magistrates' courts.
The White Paper set out the Government's provisional proposals for practical reforms to support the family, to prevent and reduce delinquency and to revise the law and practice relating to offenders up to the age of 21 years. For children and young offenders—that is, those under the age of 16 years—there are proposals for family councils, family courts and methods of treatment. For young offenders—those between the ages of 16 and 21—there are proposals for courts for young offenders and for their treatment. The purpose of these proposals would appear to be to take children and the young persons out of the ambit of the criminal law and of the courts and make it easier to provide the most appropriate method of treatment. They also seek to separate the arrangements for trial and treatment of those between the ages of 16 and 21 from the system of criminal courts and from the penal system as it applies to adults.
So far as children and young persons are concerned, it means radical changes in the juvenile court system, changes which I feel ought to be looked at very carefully. The White Paper states:… the right place to begin, therefore, is in the family.This, if I may say so, is no new discovery. The White Paper goes on to refer to the 512 need for a family service. I want to say this. We must not overlook the fact—and it is a fact—that the Probation Service for many decades, and the Children's Service for several years now, have been called upon in the normal course of their duties to deal with the total family situation. The Probation Service deals with a large number of adult offenders, which means direct contacts with their families, involving, as it so often does, dealing with matrimonial problems and undertaking conciliation work which is certainly of a preventive nature from a delinquency point of view. At the present moment, leaving out the number of adults on probation, there are under the supervision of probation officers about 40,000 children and young persons, and this does not take into account the 7,000 who have been placed under the supervision of probation officers by juvenile courts for other reasons.
If the proposals in the White Paper dealing with family councils and family courts become effective, it means the end of the juvenile court. Four reasons are advanced in the White Paper for this proposal, a proposal with which I disagree. The four reasons appear to be, first, that it will spare children the stigma of criminality; secondly, it will provide a better means for directing social inquiries and discussing treatment with parents and social workers; thirdly, it will persuade parents to assume more personal responsibility; and, fourthly, it will allow more flexibility in developing treatment according to the child's response. I do not suggest, not for one moment, that there is no room for improvement in the conduct of some juvenile courts or in the facilities available to them, but to abolish them is in my view both drastic and unnecessary. The Ingleby Committee was of the opinion that in dealing with delinquents and their liberty:… specific and definable matters must be alleged and there should be no power to intervene until these allegations have been adequately proved.This is surely a principle with which we all agree and which we should defend. This will not be the case if we have family councils. I think that it is reasonable to suppose that some parents will be afraid to stand up to the family council and may well agree to its suggestions in the hope of making things easier for their child.
513 I know that I shall be told that if the parents and the family council cannot agree, then the matter will be referred to the family court for a decision.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I agree with very much that the noble Lord has said, but he included a suggestion for persuading parents to take more responsibility for their children. I wonder what methods he would suggest for doing that because, judging from my own experience with parents, it seems an almost impossible feat.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord—I say this kindly—will allow me to continue and I hope that it will emerge in what I have to say. The weakness and undesirability of this course is that the family court will know by the very reference that the family council and the parents have failed to agree. This could easily have a prejudicial effect.
Perhaps at this stage your Lordships will allow me to return to the four reasons why juvenile courts are to be abolished. The first is the suggestion that the stigma of appearing in court is harmful. But may it not be a good thing and perhaps act as a deterrent? If the stigma takes the form of disapproval by the offender's family and by the neighbourhood in which he lives, and perhaps his temporary exclusion from the group to which he belongs, is this such a bad thing? Are we really asked to believe that appearance before a non-judicial body known to be dealing with delinquents is going to remove that stigma? So far as the public is concerned, it would be the same set up only bearing a different name. Still an offender will be appearing before an official body. I think that this argument is unrealistic.
The second reason, that it will provide better means for social inquiries and discussion for treatment, seems to me to have no validity at all. The White Paper suggests that members of the family council should be appointed by the local authority and that the councils should be far more numerous than juvenile courts. Most people know that at the present moment it is extremely difficult to find a sufficient number of suitable magistrates for the existing juvenile courts. If there are to be more family councils than juvenile courts, frankly I 514 do not know where the suitable people are coming from. Family councils are to be encouraged to do their work "in an unhurried manner", and the thought of leaving the creation of family councils to the local authorities fills me with horror. The way that some local authorities function on the social service side leaves much to be desired. Some have no professionally trained social workers, and many have not yet implemented the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963, which provides for the establishment of family advice centres as a means of trying to prevent juvenile delinquency. I do not think that the majority of local authority children's committees are in a position to undertake this responsibility: they have neither the staff nor the ability, and I doubt whether some of them will have the inclination to do it.
In my view, it is quite wrong to deprive society, when dealing with children and young persons, of the wealth of experience and the fund of knowledge possessed by probation officers. For the proposal is that social workers from the local authority children's department should undertake social inquiries for the family council and the family court. Probation officers provide over 70,000 social inquiries a year for juvenile courts, and these inquiries not only provide the court with factual information, but seek to interpret the facts so that the causes of delinquency in a particular delinquent can be understood, in order that the appropriate treatment can be found. We know—and I think this is generally recognised—very little about the cause of delinquency, but there is no other group of social workers who know more in this field than probation officers.
The work of the juvenile courts has been hampered in the past, and still is to-day, by the failure of some local authorities to provide a sufficient number of remand homes and psychiatric facilities at a child guidance clinic, which in many areas cannot be obtained at all. In addition, many local authorities have failed to provide sufficient places for educationally subnormal or maladjusted children, while some others are reluctant to take into their care young persons referred by juvenile courts. In my view, it would be disastrous to give them more responsibility, when some of them are not carrying out their normal obligations.
515 With regard to the third reason, I cannot see that the proposed new set-up will encourage parents to assume more responsibility. At present, the decision regarding treatment is the decision of the court, and any resentment which may be felt by the delinquent or by the parents is rightly directed at the court; and it is desirable that this should remain so. Delinquent children, no matter how delinquent, should always feel that their parents are behind them, no matter what they have done, and that their parents have not rejected them. A feeling of rejection must be felt by many children if the parents are expected to participate in the decision of what is considered to be the most appropriate treatment, which may be depriving the child of its liberty. It is common practice in juvenile courts for the court to try to help the parents to understand why it is taking a particular course, and I think it is desirable that it should remain so.
As for the fourth reason—that family councils and family courts will have more flexibility in determining treatment—I am not persuaded that this will be so. For this to be so, the social workers advising these two bodies would require a very high degree of professional competence, and case-work specialists know that this would not be available if the skilled knowledge and experience of the probation officer was no longer available in family councils or in family courts. I know that the suggestion in the White Paper—a suggestion to which the Association of Principal Probation Officers in this country take the strongest possible objection—is that probation officers could be transferred to children's departments. I do not think this is the answer, however. The problem of staffing will not be solved by "robbing Peter to pay Paul."
The Probation Service is already understaffed, as my noble friend Lord Stonham knows, and with the normal increase in their work, and the additional responsibility they are having, and will have, in respect of the after-care of discharged prisoners, a further 1,000 probation officers will be required to bring it to the proposed strength of about 3,500. This figure of 3,500 probation officers within the next few years was decided upon before the advent of the White Paper, 516 and was, in fact, given to this House by my noble friend the Leader of the House on July 14 last, in reply to a matter that I then raised. This raises the whole question of training of personnel to do what is envisaged in the White Paper, and which I cannot, because of time, even touch on this evening.
I am, broadly speaking, in general agreement with the proposals for the treatment of offenders between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one years, but I should like to reserve myself on that and perhaps make comments at a later stage. I hope that my noble friend Lord Stonham will feel able to look again at the proposals in the White Paper as they affect children and young persons; and I hope that the Government will not be in too great a hurry in respect of legislation in this matter. I would even ask that consideration be given to leaving the matter until the Royal Commission on the Penal System has reported; for the Commission will surely deal with many of the matters referred to in the White Paper.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, I must ask your Lordships' indulgence, and particularly the indulgence of noble Lords on the Benches opposite, for my making what is in effect a second maiden speech. A little over a year ago I was sitting in front on my television, I must admit, applauding the few Conservative gains. Shortly afterwards, I began to sit fairly regularly in your Lordships' House on the Cross Benches. Now I am proud to be a Member of the Labour Party, and to be sitting on these Benches for the first time. I am quite sure that there are thousands of young and older men in this country who have been converted in the same direction.
With your Lordships' permission, I should like to state briefly the reasons that have induced me to take this plunge. First of all, I support the present Government and the Labour Party because they are getting things moving. When they took office, it was more a question of stopping things going backwards, at least so far as the management of the economy was concerned. In this context of the economy (I ask your Lordships' indulgence for bringing it up once again), I think one of the most damaging arguments I have ever heard came from the 517 right honourable gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in his speech to the delegates at Brighton. He said and I quote from The Times report:But there was the gap"—that is, in the balance of payments—because in 1963 and 1964 the Conservative Government, under Mr. Maudling's guidance, were trying to break out of the cycle of recession and expansion since the war".What greater condemnation can there possibly be of the Tories' whole economic record than this admission that, after thirteen years in power, they had been quite unable to break out of the "Stop-Go" cycle?
Despite this, the Government's record of essential and progressive legislation has been admirable; and now from a position of economic strength they have shown in the gracious Speech that they are ready to press forward on a magnificent programme of vigorous reform. I should like especially to mention the proposal for the Public Schools Commission, as I was at a public school myself only eight years ago. I had a very good education, but I believe that it is as unjust for a man to buy a better education for his children as it was for him to buy them a commission in the Army, I am quite sure that the proposed Commission will find ways of putting the undoubted virtues of the public schools to good use within the State system. Secondly, I support this Party and this Government because they stand for a fair deal for all people, and because they are in close touch with, and compassionate towards, their needs. The proposed reforms affecting leaseholds, rates, National Insurance benefits and public service pensions, and a host of others, are examples of genuinely needed reforms affecting the welfare of individuals. Finally, I support the Labour Party because it is led by a dynamic team of Ministers—not least among them noble Lords on the Front Bench and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and by a Prime Minister who has shown more energy, more command, and a keener sense of the needs of the people, and of the priorities of politics, than any other peace-time Prime Minister in this century.
I now want to turn to the one part of the Government's policy on which I must take issue—that of immigration. I do so at this moment because I am very deeply disturbed about it. I will not read the 518 paragraph in the Queen's Speech, since it has already been read to your Lordships. It starts with the proposals for greater integration, and I want to say straight away that I recognise that these proposals are the most important part of the Government's policy on this subject. If I concentrate on other aspects of the Government's policy, it is because I believe that the harmful effect of those other parts may nullify the positive effect aimed at by the integration proposals.
The proposal mentioned in the gracious Speech is of strengthening controls. I think it emerges quite clearly from the Government's White Paper that "strengthening controls "means, first, the allocation to the Executive of considerable powers to impose restrictions on entry conditions, and to deport, subject to no recourse. Secondly, "strengthening controls" involves a curtailment of the numbers of coloured people who are allowed to come into this country. I will not speak in detail about the deportation proposals. I find them utterly contrary to the traditions of British law. They allow the Executive to decide the fate of an individual, subject to no right of appeal whatsoever. Apart from that, they are quite unnecessary in this context, as it is already an offence, under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, punishable with imprisonment and, therefore, with deportation, to obtain entry into this country by fraudulent misrepresentation. But I welcome the Government's concession on this point. They have agreed to appoint a Committee to study the whole problem of appeals against these decisions as it applies to alien and Commonwealth immigrants. I hope that this marks the start of a more humane and more rational attitude towards the whole problem of immigration.
I would ask the Government this one question: Will they consider including in the Committee's terms of reference the consideration of appeals against conditions imposed by immigration officers? If an immigrant has, in the words of the White Paper, "a clear right of permanent residence", there is no justification for the imposition of conditions on his stay.
The second part of the policy of control consists in the imposition of a ceiling of 8,500 vouchers issued. I should like to say at this stage that I 519 was appalled by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, because I felt that he was calling into question the right of dependants of immigrants already admitted to come over here. I think it should be beyond any question at all that dependants have an absolute right; that the wives and families of immigrants already here have an absolute right to come and join them. In view of the Government's vociferous and, I thought, high-principled opposition to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, I think it is fair for me to ask—I may be young and I may be naïve about politics, but I think it is fair to ask—on what basis they have now turned and have begun to advocate such a drastic policy of control. Do they consider that there is such a shortage of housing and other social services that the entry of new immigrants must be strictly limited?
That is a fair view; I think that is probably an accurate view, provided—and here is the only issue on which I found myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Elton—that the question here is not a question of colour; provided that it is a question of numbers; provided that the necessary limits are imposed on all newcomers, whether they be Commonwealth, alien, or even Irish. Commonwealth immigration has not caused the housing shortage, and the shortage will not be improved one iota if the cut-back in Commonwealth immigration is compensated by an increase in alien and Irish immigration. As the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, pointed out quite recently in this House, there are some signs that this may happen.
It may be—and we have no clear indication from the Government on this matter—that there is another reason for the ceiling. Do the Government consider that the extent of prejudice and animosity against coloured people in this country is so great as to justify special measures against their entry? I am fully aware of the appalling hostility and discrimination which is the lot of coloured immigrants in this country. I do not believe that it is because of their colour. The antagonism follows the pattern of similar antagonisms which were shown to successive waves of immigrants—Flemish, Huguenots, Irish, Jewish and Polish. It arises from insecurity and ignorance be- 520 cause they are strange, because they are poor, and because they are lowering the tone of the neighbourhood. It will not be cured by placing limits on the further entry of coloured immigrants. Quite the contrary. This limit only serves to reinforce the rapidly growing idea that it really is the coloured immigrant who is the cause of their troubles.
Even if this is the Government's view, and even if it is a valid one, there has been absolutely no expression of regret that this terrible situation should have arisen. In my view, the whole tragedy of the Government's policy, their blunt restriction on entry, the special inclusion of the Maltese, and the power of deportation, is that it appears—I do not question their motives—to encourage the extreme racialist in his horrible attitudes. It appears to say to the people in the country, "Yes, these coloured immigrants are rather a menace, are they not?"; it appears to say to the immigrants, "We do not like you; we do not want any more of you". This is having the effect of hardening the attitudes on all sides, and in a way which a hundred national committees cannot solve.
Finally, it will lead to increased bitterness, not only towards the immigrant—and immigrants in this country have always had a raw deal—but towards his children, ordinary English children, educated in English schools, who must not be allowed to suffer from the prejudices which have been shown to their fathers. I hate to think of the cries which will be raised at the next Election: "Aha! you see we were right after all. Even the Socialists, for all their fine words, have come round to our way of thinking." I do not say more, because the way in which these people can increase and intensify their demands is something I would rather not talk about. But I appeal to the Government to take a much more positive lead in fighting these attitudes, and to live up to their great principle, the principle that they are the Party who really care for the oppressed sections of the community.
My Lords, may I say to the noble Lord that you were at school with my three sons, and you have admitted what school you were at—
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF LONGFORD)
My Lords, will the 521 noble Lord give way to me for a moment? May I respectfully submit to the noble Lord that he should not address a noble Lord in that way; he should refer to him in the third person as a noble Lord and not say "You" in that way.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
May I suggest to the noble Lord that he should restrain himself a little, because some of us are getting rather worried about these constant interventions of his.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, I think I may be able to help the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, a little. I think that what he wants to say is that the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, will be relieved to hear that colour television is on the way, which means equality. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, does not want to say anything further.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I had the privilege of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, on his first maiden speech, and now he has made a second maiden speech. It was not quite such a gentle maiden this time. Maidens can be problems, but I do congratulate him on his speech. I am all in favour of Back-Benchers speaking their mind, and I am totally opposed to any subservience to Front Benches. I know he will never fail to please the whole House and to live up to our best traditions by taking a tough line with his Front Bench whenever he thinks they deserve it. I will not follow the noble Lord into the colour problem, but I propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amber-ley, on the subject of children. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, also was not backward in making it clear that he did not agree with the views of his Front Bench. I do not propose to discuss at any length the paragraph on the reform of the law relating to children, but I would rather question whether there is very much sense in putting it into this gracious Speech at all. What is the use of legislating on this subject? How disadvantageous the times are for such legislation!
We are going to deal with improved services for the family, new means of dealing with young persons who come 522 before the court, and the advancement of penal reform, well, family services—that is the Longford Report. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, considers the Longford Report is woolly. That is as may be, but for my thinking there is a great deal of very good mutton underneath the wool. On the whole, I support that Report. I rather wonder whether the Government did not show a little lack of determination in submitting that Report to another Committee for scrutiny. Anyhow, they have so submitted it, the Report is under consideration and will be under consideration for some time, for I know that not all the memoranda that will be sent to the Committee have yet been considered and I wonder when they are likely to report—hardly, I should say, before the early spring.
Then we have the young persons, and in that connection we have the White Paper to go on. That was only published in August and the social services have just got round to discussing it. It was not until October that Child Care News, which I read, was able to deal with it at any length. There are various conferences, both among sociologists and among magistrates, on the subject, and it will clearly need full and careful discussion before it can form the basis of a Bill.
Finally, there is penal reform. In that connection we must remember that the Royal Commission on Penal Reform is still sitting, and I think it would be the height of folly to attempt to legislate on penal reform until the report of that Commission has been received. The mere proposal to legislate on that subject in this Session has aroused unfavourable comment. We are all out to please the Liberals to-day, and so I will quote a very intelligent letter which was published in the Guardian newspaper. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, reads the Guardian, but there was a letter in it yesterday which deserves his careful attention. I am not going to read it all; I am not going to read the more critical passages, but I will read this part on legislation.
This letter, let me say, is signed by seven social workers from different social disciplines which make up the Manchester and District group of professional and social workers. They have a right to 523 speak and a right to be heard, and they say:Legislation, which might be ill-considered and very hasty, will not necessarily produce a dramatic change in human behaviour. A surgeon in a hospital would not, we hope, start to operate on a patient before making a preliminary examination and diagnosis. The White Paper remarks that 'The causes of delinquency are complex, and too little is known about them with certainty'. In spite of this admission, the Government makes no attempt to justify radical changes in this field while a Royal Commission on the Penal System is actually sitting.Far-reaching proposals of this nature are surely precisely those which ought to be given careful consideration by a body such as the Royal Commission. Frequently in past years such Commissions have suggested progressive and liberal policies based on carefully collected evidence and facts. All too often, however, such proposals have been shelved by a too cautious Administration. This Government has an opportunity to use the recommendations of a Royal Commission in a constructive way.It is quite clear that to introduce this legislation before those Committees and Commissions have reported will mean its introduction in a most unsatisfactory shape, and even if the Commission reports earlier than I anticipate, the Bill cannot possibly be promoted until early summer, in which case both Houses will have to consider it in a most regrettable hurry. I beg Her Majesty's Government to remember the motto, "More haste, less speed", and to reserve this Bill for the next gracious Speech.
Finally, I wish to say a word about the training of social workers. We may make any laws we like, but if there are not enough social workers to implement those laws they will remain a dead letter and a scandal on the Statute Book. I think the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, mentioned probation officers; I know more about children's officers. The Children's Service has been constantly loaded with more and more work: first in the increasing use of fostering, which means a great deal more case work; then in taking over a good deal of adoption work, which means more case work; while in some areas immigration has greatly added to the problems of the Children's Service. Then we have had given to us preventive work under the 1963 Act, and that means an enormous amount of work. There are also the provisions for accepting children for friendship and guidance, which again increases the child care officer's case load.
524 What is Her Majesty's Government going to do about the desperately important matter of training social workers? How soon can they do it, and what is the use of legislating until they can do it? Speaking of training facilities, I quote from a memorandum sent by the Association of Child Care Officers to the Home Office in connection with the White Paper. They say this on the subject of training:Children's departments already have extreme difficulty in meeting current objectives because of the shortage of qualified child care officers. In fact, because of the vast increase in demand the proportion of qualified social workers in the child care field is now lower than it was five years ago. Recent surveys have indicated that to meet anticipated demands for staff for present responsibilities 650 child care officers need to be trained each year. The indications are that the present limited objectives of 400 newly trained officers in 1967 will not be reached. A vast addition to the range of duties is now proposed"—that is in the White Paper—and will be generally welcomed by the profession, but the probable need for 1,000 additional social workers which is anticipated may well prove to be an underestimate. The local authority social work service is facing a situation similar to that which confronted the teaching profession at the end of the last war. An immense additional range of work has been laid on it in the past decade and little has been done until recently to increase the output of trained workers.I will not quote the remainder of this memorandum, but I beg Her Majesty's Government to remember that there are grave doubts in professional circles as to the adequacy of their training plans, and I would ask them boldly to say that while this shortage of trained workers continues they will not be able to implement any of the social legislation which they are proposing.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent has rendered a valuable service by giving us an opportunity this afternoon to take a view of so many important human problems. I rather gathered that he does not think very much of the Labour Government—I want to be non-controversial—and I think he made it quite clear that he did not like the Queen's Speech. He tried hard to find the worst thing he could say about it, and at last he hit on the right phrase; he said that it is "just like an Election Manifesto".
525 My Lords, what is wrong with an Election Manifesto? I have one here. It was issued by the Conservatives at the last Election. It says "Manifesto—Manifesto—Manifesto—"—presumably they had been in Whitehall so long they had assimilated the Whitehall liking for everything in triplicate. But I would not have called that an unworthy document; I would not have been ashamed of it. Obviously the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, is. So be it. He tried to frighten us, I think, by saying that some measures referred to in the Queen's Speech will ensure that houses will become scarcer. That was a very vague statement to make. He did not back it up with any evidence; he did not give any figures. He is probably rather shy about figures, like some of those ladies on the Australian racecourse the other day. But I want to take the opportunity to put one or two figures before your Lordships.
I want to turn on to a happy note, if I can, and say that for many years I have been campaigning for a drastic reform in the rating system in this country: campaigns through local authority organisations, through professional organisations, through the Press, especially the Press associated with local government. In my view, the present rating system is unfair. It is regressive. The poorer you are, the bigger the proportion of your income you pay in rates; and, contrariwise, the richer you are, the smaller the proportion you pay in rates. It was bad enough twenty years ago, but with the enormous increases that have taken place in local government expenditure in these last twenty years, and the further large increases that are destined to take place in the years to come, what was just barely endurable twenty years ago has to-day become almost unbearable for large numbers of ratepayers.
I have always taken a twofold line on this question of rating reform. I felt that old-age pensioners, and people in similar economic conditions, should be excused either the whole, or at least a considerable part, of their rates. Secondly, I have always felt that many of the services which local authorities are called upon to undertake, and which they have to finance partially out of their local rates, are not really local services but national services, and should therefore be paid for to a 526 greater extent out of the national Exchequer, out of national taxation, which, when all is said and done, is levied on a more equitable basis.
Civil Defence is one of these obviously national services for which the ratepayers have to make a contribution out of local rates—a small one, I agree. But education is another such service, and here the contribution required from the rates is a staggering one, and one that is going to become heavier and heavier as the years go on. Unless something is done whereby the national Exchequer will take over responsibility for a larger share of the educational expenditure, then either local government finance is going to burst or, alternatively, there will have to be disastrous cuts in many of the public services at present provided by local authorities. For these reasons I very much welcome the reference in the gracious Speech to the rating reforms which the Government have in mind, and I hope that before many weeks have passed we shall have the details of the immediate ameliorative measures to be taken, and some hint as to the major reorganisation that is to take place in twelve months' time. I am sure that millions of ratepayers will be grateful for this action.
I think there are three main things which occupy the thoughts of most men and women: work, wages and homes. I will not say that these three embrace the whole range of human thought. Some men occasionally think about women: quite a lot of women often think about things like dress. But outside those special factors with their special appeals, I believe that work, wages and homes are the fundamental considerations of most ordinary men and women. They are even more important than a matter like Rhodesia, which we were discussing yesterday. Last week we were discussing work and wages. To-day, I should like to say a few words about homes.
In the first place I want to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on completing more homes this year than have ever been completed in any year in the history of this country: and on completing that record number of homes in economic circumstances which were about as difficult as they could he. It looks as though there will he about 10,000 more homes completed this year than last year, 527 even when allowance is made for the fact that the figure for last year was boosted because it was an Election year. The latest statistics take us up to the end of September, and in England, Scotland and Wales during those nine months there were completed 10,419 more houses than in the corresponding nine months of last year; and under construction on September 30 of this year there were 23,602 houses in excess of those under construction on September 30 of last year.
The Conservative Party are fond of talking in terms of 400,000 houses, creating the impression that they have a 400,000-a-year image in housing. One would imagine from all the propaganda that they built 400,000 houses a year; but they never have done so. Last year, was their best year in history, and even with the pre-Election boost they built only 370,000. And, during the thirteen years that they were in office, the average number of houses they built annually in England and Wales was 271,000. If we add another rough average of 30,000 for Scotland, that brings the yearly average during the thirteen years of Conservative rule for the three countries up to about 300,000 houses.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would say what was the corresponding average of the Labour Government when in power?
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
Yes, of course. The noble Lord will remember that we were emerging from the war; that half the country had been blown down by Hitler's bombs, and that it was necessary to put roofs on old houses before we started on new ones. On the other hand, the Conservative Government were reaping all the benefits of thirteen years of marvellous economic reorganisation and reconstruction in the country.
I think that the Tories themselves are now recognising that this performance during the last thirteen years is not good enough. That is why they have lifted their target from 300,000 to 400,000. But there are a good many Conservatives who, like us, feel that that 400,000 is not enough. At the 1963 Conservative Party Conference there were loud demands from many delegates for the figure to 528 be raised to 500,000—the figure which we think it is reasonable for this country to build. But those delegates who were asking for 500,000 were roundly rebuked by Sir Keith Joseph, who was then Minister in charge of Housing under the Conservative Government. This is what he said—and some of his words I might italicise:The Government's plans are based on reaching and maintaining an eventual output of 400,000.That was putting the 400,000 some little way in the distance. Then he went on to say:With the authority of my colleagues in the Government"—that included noble Lords now sitting on the Front Bench opposite—I reject as unrealistic the suggestion that a target of 500,000 should be adopted.Well, I am glad that Mr. Crossman has built more houses this year than the Conservatives did, and I am glad that he has had the courage to plan for the 500,000 which the Party opposite said was "unrealistic". Those extra 100,000 houses are going to be a useful bonus, and one that will be much appreciated.
Both in the inadequate number of houses which the other side built and the timid target that they have set, I do not think the Conservative Party have measured up to the needs of the nation, and certainly—
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? He says that it is an unrealistic target. I would remind him that everyone in his Party said that it was impossible to build 300,000 houses a year.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
Yes, and Mr. Macmillan did it only by cutting down the quality of houses, and by making a boost in the one year, dropping down in succeeding years. To return to what I was about to say, they certainly have not done the right thing by that section of the community which is in most dire need of houses. As my noble friend Lord Cohen of Brighton said, there are millions of people in this country who receive less than £15 per week, let alone the £16, £17 or £18 which might bring them just inside a building society mortgage. They have to be catered for somehow. The Conservative Party badly 529 neglected that deserving part of the community. They went further than neglecting them; they snubbed them. They cut down council house building from over 200,000 a year in 1953 to under 100,000 in 1959; even last year, with the election on their doorstep, they went up only to 120,000, arid in three of their years in office the figure was under 100,000. Yet this is the kind of housing that was needed for people who were in the direst need of all.
Look at the waiting lists of our big towns. In my own little area we have a waiting list of 800. In Birmingham, they have 45,000; in Leeds, 19,000; in Sheffield, 16,000; in Manchester, 14,000; in London, 65,000, and in Glasgow, 70,000. Look at it this way, In Liverpool, one family out of every nine is on the housing waiting list. In Manchester, the proportion is one in every fourteen. In Birmingham there are over 4,000 houses in multiple occupation, with an average of five families in each house. One-third of the families in Liverpool have no access to a bath, and one-quarter of the families in Manchester are in the same position. This may be "sob-stuff", but it is enough to make anybody sob if he has to live in conditions of that kind.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him? Are not many of these towns he has referred to governed by Socialist councils?
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
Yes, and the Socialist councils have had to have their housing requirements rationed by Conservative Ministers sitting in Whitehall. That is the scandal of the whole situation.
Now we come to London and to the Milner Holland Report. It was suggested that there were seven boroughs in London where one out of every ten households was overcrowded, and in nine of the boroughs this overcrowding increased in the ten years from 1951 and 1961. This was in the years when the Conservative Government were not building the number of council houses needed.
There are one million households in London in which those in occupation have to share either hot water, or a bath or a w.c. or a kitchen sink. Noble Ladies in this house will realise how awkward it is for two women to have to share one 530 kitchen. There are half a million houses in London without the use of a bath, let alone with their own bath; and there are nearly half a million houses in London where the occupants have to share a w.c. I am glad that Mr. Crossman has realised that the provision of council housing is an aspect of this matter that has been badly neglected during the last thirteen years, and that he is going to give it the attention that it needs.
I know that council houses need subsidies. That is one of the things the Conservatives do not like very much, and that is why during their period of office they cut the subsidies two or three times. I agree that the system of subsidies probably needs some alteration, and that is why our present Minister is making some alterations, the basis of which will be that the council which undertakes the biggest housing scheme will get the biggest subsidy. That seems to me to be a very encouraging line to take. There is also foreshadowed a special subsidy if expensive land is to be purchased. Those of us who sit on local authority bodies realise that land is sometimes expensive.
We hear a good deal about the moral aspect of these subsidies, but I think we must face the fact that houses are needed, and if they cannot be built without subsidies then they must be built with subsidies. A subsidy must be given in aid of the tenant, just as subsidies are given to farmers, shipowners, and the owners of landed estates. Another moral aspect of this subsidy question was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Cohen of Brighton. The tenant gets no bigger subsidy from public funds than does the man who buys his own house. The man who borrows £3,500 from a building society, if he is paying tax at the rate of six shillings in the pound, gets a tax benefit of £857 during the twenty years. That is roughly £43 a year, and is roughly what the average council house tenant gets by way of subsidy. A further factor is that the man who is buying his house at the end of his repayment period owns the whole house, while the council house tenant has been paying to the council thousands of pounds in rent over twenty or thirty years and he does not own a single brick of the house.
We must get out of our minds the prevalent idea that council house tenants 531 are a specially pampered sect of sacred cows. They are not. We have all heard the odd story about the council house with two Jaguars outside the front door. This may occasionally be the case, but I think it would happen very rarely. I think that such people should pay the economic rent. They can certainly afford to buy houses, and in the long run it would be much cheaper for them to do so.
Whilst I do not think it right that old-age pensioners should have to subsidise people with those incomes who live in council houses, I similarly feel that public funds should not have to subsidise the owners of 40,000-acre estates, where the landowner pays no rates on his fields and the farm buildings, where he gets big subsidies for his fertilisers, and where he escapes some death duties on his land because of a special tax subsidy. He is not only subsidised when he is plowing the fields and scattering the good seed on the land, but he is subsidised on his way up to Heaven as well. So if we are to have some humbug about subsidies, if we are to have criticism about paying out public money to council tenants, if we are going to denounce the subsidy system, then let us also denounce the system all round and not just pick on one section of subsidised people for our denunciation.
There is another section of the public who have not had a square deal, and that is the dwellers in the slums. During the last ten years we have heard a great deal about the slums, but in the first five years of the much-heralded Conservative slum clearance scheme, they fell 120,000 short of the target—and that five-year target had not been met at the end of eight years. At that rate it would take thirty or forty years for some of the big cities to get rid of their slums. As long as ten years ago 400,000 houses were designated as slums, and last year people were still living in them. That is in addition to another 100,000 houses—old crumbling houses which each year are degenerating into slums.
How are we to get rid of the slums? Obviously we cannot build new houses on the sites of the slums to accommodate all the people who have to be saved from them. Tall blocks of flats will solve some of the problems, but there will certainly have to be overspill schemes, 532 town expansion schemes, New Town schemes on a very much bigger and bolder scale than hitherto. Some of these overspill schemes have been very small, not nearly big enough to cope with the magnitude of the problem. I hope that the Government will get on very quickly with these overspill and New Town schemes. I know one particular overspill scheme which has been talked about for nearly ten years, but so far not a single brick has been laid.
The task of building 500,000 houses is going to be enormous. It will not be done by a building industry operating as it has operated in the past. It has been spending far too much of its labour and materials in modernising public-houses, big office blocks, shopping arcades, many of which are now standing half empty. Therefore I am rather glad that Mr. Crossman has imposed some restrictions on this kind of building. It has led to sneers about rationing houses. Mr. Enoch Powell is one of those who sneered at the way the Socialist Government are rationing houses. But does Mr. Enoch Powell matter? I do not know whether noble Lords opposite are going to spring to his defence. If there is rationing of houses, who started it? It was the Conservatives who started rationing houses by cutting down the building of council houses so that the materials and labour which would have gone on them has been used for these various kinds of luxury building. All Mr. Crossman has done is to switch the rationing round so that houses to rent have priority.
Even when we have cut out these extravagances, it is not going to be easy to get these 500,000 houses. There is too much muddle in the building industry, not enough planning, too much waiting for materials, too much lagging behind by sub-contractors, too many small builders in the industry. On the other hand, there are quite a number of big and highly efficient firms with modern plant, mobile teams of specialists, and big mechanical and financial resources and with their own experts capable of working on a critical path analysis system. This roughly means that they avoid hold-ups on stage three of a job because stage two is not finished on time or because too much labour and material has been put on stage four long before it was needed. I should like to see mass construction on these housing estates, with 533 contracts placed for houses in their thousands, not in merely fifties and one hundreds, as is the way in which many housing contracts are placed at the moment.
Something more is needed than the placing of big contracts of that kind. We have to rely, as my noble friend Lord Cohen of Brighton said, much more on industrialised building. The day will come when you will be able to turn off production lines half houses, like Ford's turn out motor cars. Only a day or two ago I was invited by a contractor to go and see the whole side of a house produced in one piece, and the whole house takes only a couple of days to erect on the site. Even the chairman of the National Building Agency has said that with the present industrialised building industry we could put up 125,000 industrialised houses now. I am not suggesting that industrialised building is the remedy for everything. It is good for tall buildings; it is not anything like so good for ordinary houses or low blocks of flats. It is satisfying to see that 25 per cent. more industrialised building is going to be done by local authorities in their housing schemes this year than was the case last year.
But whether we have industrialised building or whether we have private building, I think that the placing of massive contracts is the key to a good deal of success in this field. Where a council is not big enough to place a massive contract on its own, I think the Ministry should encourage adjoining councils to come forward in consortia, as is being done already in Greater London, so that house contracts on a big scale can be placed.
One more thing is needed, and that is some acceleration of the present system of obtaining planning permission. Far too much of the work and the papers have to go through Whitehall, whereas it would be immeasurably better if Whitehall would settle the general principles and then say to the local authority on the site, "Get on with the job". I shall not continue with what I wanted to say, but I will say just this. We know that Sir Keith Joseph rejected these 500,000 house targets, but I am glad that Mr. Crossman has set his heart on them. The other day one of our leading statesmen said, "We stand for the family".
534 Well, we do stand for the family, especially for the family that is in the greatest need.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, I should like to intervene in this debate for one moment. I am afraid that I did not put my name down to speak, but I have been very interested in housing for a number of years and have spoken in your Lordships' House a good many times on the subject. I do not disagree that we now need a good deal more housing for letting, but of course the difficulty has always been about where the subsidy is going to be found. The subsidy now is about £50 a house and costs the nation about £7,500,000 a year, which will have to be increased from somewhere.
The gracious Speech said that subsidies are going to be revised, and I should like to know whether we can be told how they are going to be revised. I do not think we are going to be able to get any extra money. I think it is going to be very difficult to get extra money from the Treasury with our economic position as it is to-day. But at the end of March, during the debate on the Milner Holland Report, I made a suggestion which I do not think will be very popular in some areas, that the areas which are most needy should perhaps get a bigger subsidy.
What is happening to-day is that council rents are going up very steeply all over the country. More houses are being built at enormous cost, but the councils cannot get into debt with their housing revenue and they have to keep their housing revenue account in balance one year with another. With a subsidy of 10s. a week they sometimes have to take about 30s. a week out of a pool, which means that the rents of the older houses have to go up to pay for the modern houses.
I was very interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Brighton, when he told us about the big block of flats which has just been put up in his area. I think he said that each fiat unit cost £4,865, and that the economic rent with rates would be about £7 10s. a week, but they were let for 35s. If you pay £4,865 and require a 10 per cent. return on your money, which is not too much these days with borrowing at 6½ per cent., and then take into account the repayment of the loan and the management, I 535 estimate that that would amount to a rental of about £9 a week, so there is a large element of subsidy there. Modern council houses are to-day let at somewhere around £3, when the economic rent ought to be £5 or £6. So far as I can see, we ought to have a subsidy somewhere in the neighbourhood of £2 for those areas whose need is very pressing, and then I think local authorities will build more houses. But I feel certain that they will not build more houses unless they get more subsidy, because it makes them very unpopular if they have to keep going to their tenants and saying, "You must pay more."
In my own area of Newmarket they are building quite a lot of houses, and the rents are going up on average by about 8s. a week. That is quite a big rise, but they must keep the revenue account in balance. I should like to know whether we can be told between now and to-morrow night what is the Government's view about subsidies, because we are not told very much in the gracious Speech. We are simply told:Legislation will be introduced to establish a new system of Exchequer subsidies for local authority housing.With those few words, I shall finish.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ LORD SIMEY
My Lords, it is very daring on my part to get up at this late hour and detain your Lordships yet further, and I shall try to do so for as short a period of time as possible. I shall revert back to the part of the debate on the passage in the gracious Speech dealing with the suggestions that are to come before your Lordships regarding the reorganisation of courts for juveniles and young persons. This debate became rather more warm, I am sure, than those who were taking part wished, and I hope to put the matter into the rather wider context in which I think it was designed to be presented to, and discussed by, your Lordships.
For the last few years the treatment of young offenders has tended to change very considerably indeed in various countries of the world. The principles of justice have been pretty fully explored. We have juvenile courts in this country just as there are in other countries, and the juvenile courts have laid down a 536 well-established procedure which is followed with some care. But the avalanche of work which has descended upon the juvenile courts has compelled their procedure to be rather more summary in some respects than it ought to be. It has also meant that ways of disposing of the cases have been extremely meagre.
Court after court has been held up with a wild surmise, looking at some wretched young offender, some miserable, dirty, gangling youth, and has said to itself, "What can we do? Can we merely remand this boy and not proceed with the case at all, or can we convict him, or make some finding or other which will mean in effect that he goes scot free for a long time?" For instance, we are unable on many occasions to send a juvenile offender down to an approved school, because there is simply no approved school to send him to. The proceedings are brought to a halt and the court is, in effect, mocked. In my opinion, the affairs of the courts at the moment have now come to a complete stop and the situation is intolerable.
This is where the principle of welfare comes in, and the principle of welfare in some respects undoubtedly conflicts with the principle of justice. This needs looking into very carefully indeed by a properly constituted committee of inquiry, and this has been foreshadowed in the White Paper. A departmental committee is, I understand, to be appointed and is to go into the whole matter. What sort of lines could we now adopt? First of all, we could be much more inventive in the kind of institutions to which we send children to be looked after. For instance, what we need is the sort of institution in which a boy can naturally recuperate. Old ideas of punishment should be abandoned. We shall go on in the future to new ways of looking at the problems and new ways of dealing with them.
It has been said over and over again, and this is only too true, that we cannot get much done without more professional social workers. We must train more and more. I am the head of a department of a university now responsible for training social workers of various kinds, all the way through to child care officers. There are far too few for the services as they are. Why is this? As I have pointed out over and over again to the 537 Home Office, it is largely due to the fact that they present me with students to train who are young women, and the life of a young woman who is in professional social work is not much longer than her period of training. I reckon that the two periods are about the same. There is a constant procession through professional social work, therefore, of women in their twenties.
I have asked many times whether it would be possible to find some way or other of employing part-time staff on functions of this sort, and I have been told repeatedly that it is quite impossible. We seem to achieve a kind of blank mind on this subject. I have said to the officers responsible for these services, "If you cannot think again, that looks to me like the end of your service. I cannot see where we can get more people to come through our departments, be trained and go out into the world to work in services in which you are interested, particularly as in some of the other services—such as for instance, psychiatric social work or work as a hospital almoner—it is possible to find a career for a married woman". I would have said myself that the employment of married women who have been trained for social work in these occupations ought to produce the finest kind of professional social worker we could possibly conceive. The fact that marriage is now an ultimate bar to the employment of women in such occupations is, I think, nothing more nor less than a complete folly.
I should therefore like to be more inventive about the kind of institutions I would create for the treatment of juvenile offenders. I should like to be much more inventive about the kind of social workers I employed on looking after the offenders, and I should also like to be much more flexibly minded about the procedure that the children go through when they have become notified in one way or another to the authorities as needing special attention. I think that the stereotyping of the work along the lines of a legally constituted court may not prove to be, and I think almost certainly will not prove to be, the right solution in the years to come, and I therefore commend the Government's proposals.
Furthermore, I believe that flexibility of mind and breadth of vision are what we 538 now require. For instance, we ought to be dealing with the family. That is a truism that people are always saying. On the other hand, what exactly are the consequences of that? When you start dealing with the family as such what sort of administrative operations do you have to conduct? I want to see some sort of public authority somewhere in the apparatus of government which will be responsible for the family as a whole. In our system of administration there is now no Ministry of the Family, and I feel that this gap is now making itself felt in the affairs of the twentieth century around us. It is time that this gap was filled. I think that the extended family is an institution which is of the greatest importance, not only for young people—young people who lack, for instance, proper care by their natural parents—but also in dealing with other fellow citizens, such as the aged and the isolated individual, who is probably isolated on the grounds of mental illness.
We have to try to link things together, and to make out of this process of linking, which is so frequently called coordination, an administration and a new sort of service altogether. We ought to think of a young person—or, for that matter, anybody else; but a young person in particular—as a member of a family and as a citizen. This is where I agree wholeheartedly with what the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, said: that a child must be encouraged to grow, to take power and responsibility to itself, to become a citizen and an adult.
There are also a variety of other needs. For instance, under the heading of delinquency a child needs to be considered as a member of a school, as a person who can be thought of as being understood, as being capable of being explained to, helped and sympathised with, by his schoolteachers. Schoolteachers have changed a great deal in the past generation, and they can be extremely helpful to the child in situations where everything has gone from him and left him isolated. We therefore need to give the closest attention to school welfare and to the school welfare service. Welfare officers need to take the initiative when they find, or when their colleagues the teachers find, that the pupils are going astray.
539 Then, again, in regard to employment, there is the Youth Employment Service, which I like to think of as functioning in regard to the welfare of the child, dealing with the child for his own sake rather than dealing with an industrial employee. I ask myself: what is good in the interests of the child in this matter? What can be done? I find that we can derive a great deal of profit from this Youth Employment Service, which has done excellent work in many ways but to-day badly needs extension. These are some of the many objectives which we ought to have in mind when we are carrying out this survey of the work of the juvenile courts to-day. We need to link this work in many other ways. We need to reconstitute them and perhaps recreate them. A large amount of discussion and negotiation and some investigation will have to be carried out.
My Lords, I think the argument is summed up in this way: that for young people there is a possibility of developing out of the ambit of delinquency a new sort of service which can be developed in the ambit of welfare; that we can, in other words, have an entirely new objective for our social policy in regard to that small group of citizens—and it does happen to be the sort of group of citizens for whom our concern is very directly aroused and in respect of whom we are all on their side so far as making life more worth living for them is concerned. Not only are the children in need of our sympathy, our attention and our help, but also their immediate parents and siblings. The strain on them in the situations in which they are now placed is far too heavy; we ought to try to underpin the lives of these people as best we can.
May I say that I feel very strongly about this subject, and, if it is not too strong an expression to use, for God's sake let us try to look at the circumstances of many of these deprived families in the meaner quarters of our big cities! This is, after all, a big-city problem; not mainly one of the countryside. It is in the big cities that the families are so utterly and impossibly overburdened. It is there that these people try to help these other people—the probation officers, whom we all praise, the schoolteachers and everybody else.
540 Finally, as I sit down, let me say that, if I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to give the impression that I am attacking, criticising or undermining the work now being done. I have tried to say that, having done so well and gone so far, let us now try to reorganise, marshal our resources, and go on a good long way ahead from here. Do not let us make the relatively good the enemy of the very much better of the immediate future.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Simey, for what I regard as an important speech. It was extremely helpful and encouraging to me and to the Government. We shall certainly study it with great care, particularly because of the way in which he stood back and looked at the whole subject.
This has been a wide-ranging debate which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, started in his kindly manner with the underlying theme which is so frequently used these days by Conservative Leaders: "England expects a Labour Government in the second year of office to do everything that the Tories left undone or did not want to do, or did not know how to do, in their thirteen or fourteen years of power." My Lords, the Government accept the compliment and the challenge, and the task; and we indicated in the gracious Speech that the task will be accomplished.
I shall try to answer as many as possible of the points that have been put to me on subjects which are the responsibility of my Department, and I hope that noble Lords who spoke on other matters will forgive me if I do not deal with their speeches because I am hoping that they will receive replies before the debate ends to-morrow. First, however, I feel that I must congratulate my noble friend Lord Gifford upon his heartwarmingly sincere speech, which was passionate and excellent in matter and delivery. I am sure we warmly welcome his conversion and the increase of strength that it means. If I can express one wish, it is that his peripatetic journeyings are now ended and that his only further progress will be from the rear to the Government Front Benches.
I shall start by dealing with the subjects mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, when he opened the debate. He 541 said to me pleadingly: "Are we at long last to see the end of preventive detention?" and he asked also whether I shared his anxiety that "P.D." should be soon abolished. It may help the noble Lord to restrain his impatience if he reflects that although his Party, when in power, appointed a Committee to consider the problem in March, 1961, preventive detention was still not abolished when they went out of office in October, 1964. Indeed, all they left us in the pipeline was an alternative method of dealing with persistent offenders which, in my view, would have created a situation just as had as, if not worse than, the present one.
Our method, when we announce it, which I hope will be soon, will, I believe, satisfy both the need to protect the public and the need to avoid the danger of excessive sentences for trivial offences. It has been difficult to arrive at that; but we do not propose to deal with preventive detention in isolation. We have given a great deal of thought to more flexible ways of administration for long-term and medium-term sentences. Experience shows that in a number of cases such prisoners are ready for release some time before the expiry of two-thirds of their sentence. In a sense prison can do no more to help them; their training has reached the peak of development—so much so that they may start to go downhill if they have to complete their sentences. The persistent offender falls to be dealt with in the same context. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is not yet ready to make a statement, but he will announce his proposals as soon as possible. Legislation will be necessary, but the exact date when we can bring it in will depend on the progress of an already over-congested Parliamentary timetable.
On another subject, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, complained that the gracious Speech contained no mention of shop hours or of the proposals for Sunday entertainment and sport in the Crathorne Committee Report. So far as the Crathorne Committee recommendations on Sunday trading are concerned the Government retail trade hours booklet which was published in September is now the subject of discussion with interested organisations. With regard to 542 the recommendations on Sunday entertainment and sport, the Government consider that Parliament should be given the opportunity to pronounce on them. In a matter which so closely affects the consciences of individual Members this could best be arranged by the introduction of a Private Member's Bill on which all decisions would be left to a free vote of the House. Government facilities would be offered for the drafting of such a Bill. Let us hope that a private Member will be able to come forward and deal with it.
With regard to a general review of shops law, and in particular the removal of all restrictions on weekday trading contained in the Shops Act 1950, the Government do not consider it possible to introduce legislation during the present Session. Proposals for amending the Act—to which, by the way, the Government are not in any sense committed—are also contained in the booklet Retail Trading Hours, but there are many national organisations, including trade, employee and consumer interests, and, of course, those responsible for enforcement, who have been consulted. They have been given until February, 1966, to submit their views on the proposals. When their replies are received the Government will consider, in the light of them, whether legislation is possible.
The noble Lord also asked me a number of questions about the police, about recruitment, and so on. In particular, he asked me to comment on the Police Federation request for an independent inquiry into recruiting. In fact, I have no knowledge, and have been unable to obtain any knowledge, of a request in those terms. But it is the case that the Police Federation have made a proposal for an independent inquiry into the matters raised in their memorandum, The Problem.
My right honourable friend had a full discussion with the deputation from the Federation as long ago as last June, and the Federation then put their views in writing in amplified form. The Home Secretary, in his reply, told them that in his view all the matters they had raised would be dealt with by the Police Council of Great Britain or by the arbitrators or by the Police Advisory Boards. The Federation, two weeks ago, asked my right honourable friend to reconsider his 543 view that the case for an inquiry had not been made out. He is considering their letter, and will reply shortly; but at this stage I cannot say more than that.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, surprised me by suggesting that there was a sort of promotion blockage in the police. He thought that opportunities for promotion were too few and, indeed, as I took it by implication, less than they were.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I do not want the noble Lord to get this wrong. I am complaining about promotion in the senior ranks and not throughout the service.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am glad that has been clarified; but even so I do not accept it. I know the noble Lord spoke of compulsory retirement at sixty in order to clear the "old boys" out, and to make room for the young thrusters. But opportunities for promotion in the Police Service are better than they have ever been. I will give an example. In the case of inspectors, in three successive periods of eighteen months, the third period ending at the end of next year, the numbers promoted to the rank of inspector were, in the first period, 847; in the second period, 922; and it is estimated that the number for the third period will be 1,086.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I am sorry to keep interrupting. I would not call the rank of inspector a senior rank. I particularly mentioned chief constables, superintendents and chief inspectors. The others I call the middle, or warrant officer, or N.C.O. rank.
§ LORD STONHAM
Still, when a man is promoted to inspector, he is getting on. We have policemen taking university courses, and the selection for places at the Police College for junior and senior staff courses is by competition open to the whole Force. I want to make it clear—and I am sure the noble Lord will agree that this is desirable—that in the Police Service to-day the young man of quality has great opportunities to rise to a position which will compare with those in almost any profession. I think that that should be generally acknowledged.
The noble Lord also said that he agreed with the Police Federation on the ques- 544 tion of recruitment. In their memorandum, the Federation declare thatIt is not the recruitment record that can be blamed for undermanning.The figures support this. Last year, the last year for which the noble Lord's Government were responsible, 6,004 men joined the Force, but 5,208 left, so there was a net increase of fewer than 800. Under our Administration there has been a substantial improvement. In the first nine months of this year, recruitment was at an annual rate of 7,500 and wastage at 4,230. If these averages are maintained during the last quarter of the year, at the end of the year we shall have well over 3,000 more police officers than we had on January 1.
We are not complacent about the situation but it is a good beginning, and it would appear that our intensified national recruitment campaign is having the desired effect. To-day there are 20,000 more policemen than in 1938, and if we go on at the present rate we may hope that rising strength will begin to overtake the ever-increasing authorised establishment. It is well to say these things, because of the constant statements to the contrary by people who are not at all sure of their facts. In any case, it is beyond dispute that while the country is enjoying full employment, high wages and easy changeability of jobs, police life still has its attractions for an increasing number of young men and women.
Premature wastage, even this year, is still higher than it should be, but this has been a feature of police service for a long time. When a man joins, he knows what his pay will be, but he cannot know in advance how he and his family will react to the special features of police life. Our police must protect society round the clock. This means shift work, night work, week-end and holiday work and emergency calls, which inevitably create difficulties for the men and their families and involve some resignations in the early stages of service. While over large parts of the country there is no serious undermanning problem, there is a serious manpower shortage in London and some other large Forces. This inevitably aggravates the disadvantages of normal shift work and increases the proportion of wastage in precisely those forces where serious strength deficiencies exist, the 545 very ones where the volume of work is heaviest.
Of course, we do not lack for advice as to the remedies. Some put the question of pay in the forefront, and I should be the last to underestimate its importance. Your Lordships will recall that I had the privilege of initiating the debate on police pay, which the Royal Commission was kind enough to indicate, in their Interim Report, had a considerable effect on their thinking. The Commission recommended the largest-ever increase in police pay, of some 38 per cent., and the previous Government, to their great credit, implemented it. Since then, there have been further increases, culminating a year ago in a two-year pay agreement designed to maintain the relative levels which the police had achieved as the result of the Royal Commission's recommendation.
Only a few months before The Problem was published, the Federation were expressing their satisfaction at the existence of this agreement, and it is impossible to escape the view that they have put forth the somewhat extreme opinions in the document in an effort to justify themselves and to show their membership that they were right to put forward a large general claim so soon after they had accepted the two-year agreement. My right honourable friend naturally has been most anxious to attempt to relieve undermanning in London and certain other areas by the adoption of differential rates of pay, and he was greatly encouraged when the Federation appeared to drop their longstanding opposition of differential rates, and agreed to co-operate in this obvious approach. But it is a bit hard that when we were so anxious to do this for so long, and they were opposed, we are now accused of dragging our feet by the very people who failed to help us. The matter has now been referred to arbitration and will be considered on the 24th of this month, so I will make no further comment.
Other questions of pay and conditions are matters for the Police Council, which has and will discuss those parts of the Federation's memorandum within its purview. Meanwhile, whilst I am sure that there is room for improvement in many forces, I am satisfied that the general feeling of the Service is one neither of frustration nor of dissatisfaction.
546 The average policeman of any rank is still reasonably satisfied with his job. Despite some exceptions, which we are tackling as quickly as possible, he is generally well housed, the owner of a car and of most of the other accepted conveniences of modern life, and finds an interest in his work. I believe that some of the Federation's criticisms apply to a minority of police forces. Certainly a large number of forces have told us at the Home Office that they do not apply to them. I simply do not accept that the Service as a whole is backward, or lacking in essential equipment. There is, of course, a very great deal to be done in the face of mounting crime figures and ever-increasing traffic, but it is a travesty to suggest that the Service as a whole is in bad heart or standing still. That is just not true.
I believe that the general morale of the police is high. They would like more money—who would not? They are concerned, I believe unnecessarily, about the new procedure which Parliament put into the Police Act for dealing with complaints by members of the public. Above all, they are anxious about the support of authority and of the public, to which they are entitled, when carrying out their ever-increasing and ever more onerous tasks. It is the constant endeavour of my Department to effect every possible improvement and to give all the support in our power. I think that the increased manpower figures I have quoted are indisputable evidence that our efforts have not been wholly unsuccessful. And in saying that, I acknowledge that it has not all been done in the last few months. Some of it was done by the noble Lord opposite and by his Department when he was there.
I should now like to deal with a subject which was referred to by five noble Lords and by the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, whose eight-minute speech I greatly appreciated. She said that she thought that the family council bid fair to be a gathering of the elderly. It seemed to me afterwards, when she described how magistrates were loth to push off those of their number until they had reached the age of 65, that the juvenile courts are self-perpetuating gatherings of the elderly. However, we shall look into the point made by the 547 noble Baroness. We think it might not be too cumbersome to apply the system adopted in London, where these magistrates are appointed by the Lord Chancellor and a selection board on which the Home Office is represented.
We shall have to consider carefully how magistrates are to be chosen for the proposed family and young offenders' courts. I agree that it is extremely important. We say in the White Paper that they will be selected for their capacity to deal with children and young persons. But I do not agree that, because it is sometimes difficult to find enough magistrates of the right quality, it is necessarily going to be still more difficult, as my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell said, to staff more family councils. We do not conceive it in the same way. We want family councils to be far more informal and far less professional. When I listened to my friend putting so ably the case which I have studied before from the Probation Service, it seemed to me that his speech, and all the other speeches that we heard on this subject, were not a constructive criticism, which as the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said was the purpose of putting out the White Paper. My noble friend did not want me to amend it; he wanted me to tear it up.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, perhaps my noble friend would allow me to say this. I was not advocating that it should be torn up. What I asked was whether this matter could be looked at afresh.
§ LORD STONHAM
Unquestionably the whole purpose of publishing the White Paper was for it to be discussed; and as the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said, in respect of a number of organisations, not merely have their reports not been considered, but we have not received them; including the report of the local authority associations who in many respects are the most important of all. Indeed, the two organisations which in the main, so far as publicity is concerned, have criticised the White Paper are the magistrates and the probation officers; and my noble friend was a distinguished member of one and is a distinguished member of the other. He has channelled this criticism, and I am glad that he has stated his views so clearly.
548 I should like to put a few thoughts which occurred to me as I was listening to the debate in general. Our proposal is for a family council. My noble friend said this would mean that the children would lose the safeguard which is, as it were, wrapped up in the juvenile court by a trial and a finding of guilt. That is the whole purpose of the exercise. If we are right—and I believe we are—then 60 per cent. of juvenile offenders will never go to a court. There will be no trial. The council will ask: "Did you do it, Johnny?" And if Johnny says, "Yes", that is it. The council then decide, with the parents if possible, what shall be done. If Johnny says, "No", that is the end of the proceeding, so far as the family council is concerned, and he goes to the family court, which seems to me to be, in essence, not very different from the juvenile court, except that reports will be made by social workers instead of by probation officers. So far as the young offenders court is concerned, the position of probation officers is not affected at all. We really must think of these things, and think, as was said by one noble Lord (I believe it was my noble friend Lord Simey) of the child.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, will not this procedure greatly draw out the whole business with the child? It will go on and on and on. After all, with a child, one of the things we want is to get it settled quickly.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am glad that the noble Lady has raised that point. Unquestionably, she will be right in some cases. Whether the procedure in those cases will be longer than it would have been under the present procedure is anybody's guess. But certainly in the 60 per cent. of cases—and we think it may be more—which are dealt with without a trial and a finding of guilt, and without going to a court of law, the procedure must be much shorter than in a court. That is our belief. It is our belief also that in the majority of cases the council would reach agreement with the parents as to the best way of treating the child. I cannot for the life of me see why parents going to a family council will lose their influence over the child, any more than the same parents will in going to a juvenile Court.
The White Paper did two things. It stated broad objectives, and it proposed 549 certain particular pieces of machinery designed to achieve them. As I say, the first objective was to keep children of school age out of court. I am happy to say that among the bodies intimately concerned with this vital subject who have made their views known so far there is a wide volume of support for this objective. I am convinced that the aim of taking as many as 60 per cent. of children out of courts will commend itself to all those who have the welfare of children at heart. What have not received a lot of publicity—and, apart from the remarks of my noble friend Lord Simey, have not been mentioned in this debate—are some of the other major proposals in the White Paper. There is the committee of inquiry to consider the scope of the family service, the proposals to abolish approved schools, and the proposal for more flexible arrangements for providing treatment for children who in their own interests need to be removed from home.
My noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell, and the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, both urged us to leave all these matters to the Royal Commission on the Penal System. Naturally, my right honourable friend has kept the Royal Commission fully informed of our proposals, and will continue to do so; and we made it known to them quite early that we hoped to make progress with regard to changing conditions as to juveniles. The Royal Commission has a colossal job to do, and admittedly it will take at least some years yet before it reports. We felt that we had to make progress with these children now because, if we waited until the Royal Commission reported, they would no longer be juvenile delinquents, but married men and women. It is now that we think these changes should be made. But it does not mean that the Government are going to act precipitately in bringing legislative proposals before Parliament. We have been urged to allow adequate time for discussion, and we are going to do so.
I believe my noble friend over estimated the effect on and the attitude of probation officers. Two months ago I had the privilege of attending the Conference of Principal Probation Officers, and I spoke to them not only from the platform, but for, I think, three solid hours standing up surrounded by them. Since then, in a number of parts of the country I have had absolutely informal discussions with 550 groups of twenty probation officers, and I have no hesitation in saying that I am confident that they are far more aware of the meaning of our proposals now, and they know that in our view the Probation Service is an expanding and increasingly adult service. Nothing in the White Paper is going to make this less true.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will allow me again to intervene? I should not like the noble Lord to give the impression that I have overstated the position of the probation officer's point of view. If he reads this month's copy of Probation, which came out about two days ago, he will see that it more than confirms what I have said, and if he is able to see the report published by the Association of Principal Probation Officers I think again he will find that I have not overstated it.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am still of the same opinion. I have read the document issued by the National Association of Probation Officers, not once, but a good many times. I have discussed it with at least six meetings of probation officers. I have told them where I considered it was wrong, and where I thought their case was overstated. I have, in the main, been able to increase understanding of the position, and I shall go on doing so.
One thing that it is very necessary to make clear is that we are going on with our training programme for probation officers. We have 2,400 of them at present and we expect to train 1,100 more yet, and to have a force of 3,500 by 1970; there has been no difference in that target. If some probation officers want to go into the Children's Service, then of course they will be free to do so, just as any of them can change their jobs. That is what the reference in the White Paper means. So far as I am concerned, I say to your Lordships, as I said to them, that I do not want them to change their job because there will be so much more for them to do, particularly in the field of voluntary after-care of discharged prisoners, where of course they have become the principal agents for rehabilitation. Next January, probation officers on secondment will take over the new job of manning prison welfare officer posts in prisons. There are all sorts of further responsibilities in the field of 551 penal reform which will be added to them as the Government's policy develops.
I believe that, so far as the Probation Service is concerned, when probation officers fully understand our proposals and look at them as a whole they will be well satisfied with what we propose to do. Of course, it is agreed, as the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said, that it is going to be a big task to get another 1,000 children's officers trained. Of course it is a big task, but there is no essential difference between the quality of the people you would select out of the pond to be trained for these two different jobs. Our trouble is that there are not enough fish in the pond for this kind of work.
Finally, I want to deal with the points raised on immigration. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who told me he had to leave, said that if the words of the gracious Speech meant what they said the Opposition could promise full support. I think the meaning of the words in the gracious Speech referring to immigration are quite clear, but I will endeavour to amplify them. My noble friend Lord Gifford raised a number of points, and I would at once welcome his underlying approach and his abhorrence of racial discrimination, which is shared by every member of the Government. At a time when problems of race relations are of increasing importance throughout the world, this country must not only preach but must practise multiracial harmony at home if it is to preach it effectively abroad. If we cannot solve our problems without surrender to racialism, what hope can there be in other parts of the world, where the difficulties are immeasurably greater? I was distressed to hear my noble friend use words like "appalled", which he used three times; and to suggest that our proposals make the immigrant feel that he is not wanted, and the extreme racialist feel that his attitudes are justified. I cannot believe that the Race Relations Act, which we passed last Session, the setting up of the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants under the Chairmanship of the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the positive measures to ease difficulties in housing, health, education and the special assistance to 552 local authorities being co-ordinated by my honourable friend Mr. Maurice Foley, can leave any doubt about our determination that immigrants shall be full members of the community with the same rights and responsibilities as anybody else.
It is an inescapable fact that if the real problems, particularly in housing and education, are to be kept within manageable proportions, so that the positive side of our policy shall succeed, it is essential to limit the volume of immigration to what we can absorb. That is the clear answer to my noble friend's question: what is the basis for such restrictions as we impose? That is the basis. Indeed, it is the only thing upon which he agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Elton—that this is not a question of colour, but of quantity. By "volume of immigration" I mean the number of people who come to settle here on a permanent basis. This may sound obvious, but it is far from obvious to those people who, for dubious motives, as I see it, wallow in a morass of confusing statistics and false comparisons. For example, last year nearly 2½ million aliens entered the United Kingdom—vastly more than came from all the countries of the Commonwealth. We were glad to have them all. But what really mattered was not how many came in, but how many of the 2½ million came to stay.
In answer to a question by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, earlier this month, I said that roughly three Commonwealth citizens took up permanent residence for every alien. The actual figures in 1964 of people accepted for settlement were: Commonwealth, 55,900; aliens, 19,211. Two-thirds of the Commonwealth citizens and half the aliens were the wives, husbands or dependants of people resident here. The latest figure which I can give the noble Lord is that in the first nine months of this year 43,600 Commonwealth citizens were accepted for residence. This is equivalent to an annual rate of nearly 60,000, and your Lordships can draw your own conclusions and judge whether we are carrying out the policies we said we would carry out.
There is one other question that I would hope finally to answer and so silence the allegations which are made 553 of less favourable treatment for Commonwealth citizens than for aliens. That is certainly not true. For example, last year we accepted for settlement 26,389 Commonwealth citizens from Asia, compared with 643 aliens; for Africa the number was 5,752 Commonwealth, compared with 656 aliens; and for the American Continent as a whole the figure was 17,054 Commonwealth, compared with 1,386 aliens, all but a hundred of whom were United States citizens. The fact is that the majority of aliens admitted for work stay only for a year or two and then return home, and it is misleading to compare them with Commonwealth citizens admitted on employment vouchers, who settle here and are usually accompanied or followed by wives and children.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, I would not deny that the numbers my noble friend has quoted certainly show that the volume of Commonwealth immigration is larger than that of aliens accepted for permanent settlement. Also, I would certainly not accuse the Government of preferring aliens to Commonwealth citizens in their policy of acceptance of entry. But I should like to have one point which worries me cleared up. If in future, because of the shortage of labour in this country, to which the National Plan has drawn attention, employers wish to find extra labour, and if they look to foreign countries or to European countries or to Ireland and apply for a considerable increase in the number of permits for alien workers, and therefore there is a cut-back in Commonwealth immigration compensated for by an increase in alien immigration, will the Government assure us that the two kinds of exercise are subject to the same kind of procedure?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, the noble Lord asked me precisely the same question when he put a Parliamentary Question to me and then a supplementary. The fact is one cannot do the same because the conditions of entry of the two parties are different. The alien worker does not come over here and is not accepted on arrival for permanent settlement. He comes here for less than a year or else for a year in the first instance. If he stays longer, he is allowed after four years to apply to have his conditions cancelled and to be a permanent resident.
554 On the other hand, the Commonwealth citizen, from the word "Go", comes as a permanent resident and is admitted as such, with all the rights of British citizenship. So with the best will in the world no one can say "Yes" or "No" to that question. All I can say is the undoubted fact that, wherever comparisons are possible, the rights and privileges of Commonwealth citizens are equal to, or are better than, those afforded to aliens.
It is misleading to compare aliens with Commonwealth citizens admitted on employment vouchers who settle here, and are usually accompanied or followed by wives and children. If we are to honour our pledges to those categories of dependants and others whom we have contracted to admit, and give them a fair chance of a full and comfortable life as full citizens, we must exercise control over immigration. However much it may hurt, this is inescapable; and I am sure the House will agree that, if we are to control numbers, that control must be effective. The worst possible solution would be to impose a control which allowed widespread evasion, by which the liar was admitted and the honest man was turned away.
In our White Paper we proposed further measures to reduce evasion. I do not accept that this makes our policies less liberal. It means merely that applicants waiting their turn in the queue will not have their places stolen by people who arrive at the ports and say they are coming for a short visit or to study, and then stay for good. It just is not true that we discriminate between coloured and white immigrants, but because the majority of those who wish to settle here are coloured people any overall numerical restriction must affect them most.
It is sometimes alleged that our controls are administered harshly. This also is just not true. Let me take one example—namely, paragraph 20 of the White Paper, which announced the Government's intention to reduce the scope of the concession under which, in order to avoid the break-up of immigrant families, sons and daughters aged between 16 and 18 were freely admitted to join a parent resident in this country. We found that in practice it was being used on a substantial scale for a different purpose. Too often the pattern was for the father to 555 come here as an immigrant worker, leaving his wife and family behind, and for the older children (but not the rest of the family) to be brought over as and when they were old enough to start work here. This, in effect, was an evasion of the requirement for vouchers and it was therefore necessary to withdraw it.
But the White Paper clearly states that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is still prepared to consider applications for the admission of sons and daughters aged 16 to 18 where their exclusion would cause hardship. I can give your Lordships a positive assurance that my right honourable friend is not exercising his discretion in any narrow interpretation of the word "hardship". Thus, in deciding whether or not hardship exists, he regards as an important consideration the natural desire of parents to have their children with them where there is no reason to think that the intention is simply to avoid getting an employment voucher. Normally a dependent son or daughter of 16 or 17 coming to join both parents, or an only surviving parent, in this country would be allowed entry.
Where we could implement the White Paper proposals by administrative action, we have already done so, but we have delayed introducing legislation on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, regarding questions of deportation because we believe that the existing immigration law—particularly as regards aliens—does not provide the right foundation on which to build. The law regarding aliens depends on an Act which formed part of the emergency legislation of the First World War and which, for lack of anything better, Parliament has renewed annually for nearly half a century. We have therefore decided to bring this up to date and especially to have a fresh look at the safeguards which should be provided for both aliens and Commonwealth citizens who may be refused admission or required to leave the country. As the Prime Minister announced in another place on November 16, the Government have decided to appoint a small Committee—and I quote:To consider whether any, and if so what, rights of appeal or other remedies should be available to aliens and Commonwealth citizens who are refused admission to, or required to leave, the country.556 The noble Lord. Lord Gifford, asked me about appeals against conditions imposed on entry. That is an interesting suggestion, and I will put it to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, but I think the noble Lord will agree that the crucial decisions are where one refuses admission or deports. These are being referred to the Committee, and I think we must leave it at that. When this Committee have reported the Government will prepare the necessary legislation. Meanwhile, it continues to be the policy of the Government that Commonwealth citizens should in general enjoy more favourable treatment than aliens do; and under this Government, my Lords, they always will.
I am afraid I have taken rather longer than I intended, but I wanted to deal with the points, and there were many, that had been raised, and I hope your Lordships will feel, even if I have not satisfied everyone, that I have attempted to answer them. It is your Lordships' right, indeed your duty, to criticise, to prod and probe, and it is my right—and I do so—to express the view that, considering the burdens that this Government inherited a year ago, we have so far succeeded beyond the expectations of friend or foe. I am confident that that progress will continue and will in some fields even accelerate. To-day I believe that a substantial majority of our people know that Great Britain is led by a great Briton, and that under his leadership we shall achieve not only social justice and new heights of prosperity, but a level of influence and power that will guide the world on the pathway to peace.
§ LORD DENHAM
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hastings, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.