§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Thursday last by Lord Cohen of Brighton—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty's as follows:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
My Lords, I am never particularly happy when I am about to be launched into a speech, especially in this rather ritualistic debate. I think it is perhaps something of a hangover from the deep unease which I felt on the occasion when I had the honour to move the humble Address. I was, unfortunately, unable to hear the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Brighton, and the noble Lord, Lord Soper, last Thursday, but I have read their speeches and I have read the tributes rightly paid to those speeches, and I should like to associate myself with those very well merited congratulations.
But my unease also stems from the nature of this debate. The Queen's Speech is inevitably somewhat "bitty", or, as its authors might prefer to term it, selective. For the same reason, my speech this afternoon will be somewhat "bitty" or, as I should prefer to term it, selective. So for the benefit of noble Lords who will be replying, may I say at the outset that the bits which I have selected are those which deal with housing, rating and construction, with education, and with crime and punishment. I 232 can assure the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that I shall not try to bowl him any agricultural googly. By the same token, may I congratulate the noble Lord on his appointment? Those of us who have admired his performances in this House know the humanity, the versatility and the independence of mind which he will bring to bear in his new Ministry—my old Ministry and, indeed, his father's old Ministry. The noble Lord's fertility of mind never fails to astonish me. I know, of course, that he is an authority on the Bomb and on Eros, but only recently. since I swapped jobs with him in Western European Union, did I come to appreciate that he knows almost as much about submarines as I and my noble Leader do—very annoying!
My point of departure this afternoon is, I suspect, common ground to most of us. We are rapidly moving—perhaps under the present Administration a little less rapidly than possible—from a condition where poverty was accepted as the norm, to that in which plenty is within the reach of all, or almost all, the inhabitants of these Islands. Of course, there are still the visible relics, the stigmata, of an earlier, harsher age around us. Yet by and large our problems today increasingly centre, not around quantity, the alleviation of gross material want, but around quality. It should be the search for quality in our physical, our mental, and, yes! in our industrial and economic environments, which should stamp our society to-day.
Yet, my Lords, there is already one great exception to what I have just been saying, and that exception is housing. To-day few of our fellow citizens are hungry, few need be ill-clothed, but many millions still live in homes which are a reproach to our society. Lytton Strachey once reminded us that it was the Elizabethan, Sir John Harington, who one day, suddenly inspired, invented the water closet. Yet those of us who are interested in these matters know that there are still hundreds of thousands of houses in these Islands to-day in this cybernetic age, four centuries since the inventive Sir John, which still lack proper indoor toilet facilities.
The fact that so many of the nation's houses are out of joint with the times is perhaps understandable. The average house lasts, say, a century or so, and the 233 great housing building wave hit this country about a century ago, plus or minus. But this situation confronts the Government—any Government in this country—with one of their greatest and most tangible challenges. Few things can contribute more to the greater happiness of a great many of our fellow citizens than the comfort of a good home, especially a home owned by the family which lives in it. So I make no complaint about the priority for housing which that persuasive Minister, and astute propagandist, Mr. Crossman, has managed to win in the Queen's Speech. No less than six of the promised quiverful of Bills bear directly or indirectly on housing. I notice, incidentally, that the subject of water and its possible nationalisation does not figure in the gracious Speech this time. I think it did last time, or the time before that. In my view, any such legislation would be quite irrelevant to the nation's needs, or indeed desires, and I hope that the once-promised Bill has been indefinitely postponed. I hope, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, when he replies, can confirm that this is the case.
But to revert. I have no complaint about the spate of promised Bills on housing, rating and the like, but I would proffer two comments: first, that they have a curiously familiar look. We have seen them all, at least once or twice, before in the Queen's Speech. My second point is that they are a pretty mixed bunch. I do not suggest that your Lordships should necessarily reject these gift horses of Mr. Crossman, but I do suggest that you would be wise to examine their teeth pretty carefully. For example, there is the Land Commission Bill which will presumably be coming to us. I think I understand—indeed, I think I sympathise with—the motives behind this Bill; at least the avowed ones. But I would remind your Lordships that the method chosen by the Government has been rejected by a weight of independent and authoritative opinion. The establishment of this complex new machinery involves a great waste of time and of money. It is a waste of time, since it will clamp yet another bureaucracy upon these already rather over-regimented Islands. It will duplicate many of the functions of the local authorities and hold up the release of much-needed land. It is a waste of 234 money since, for this and other reasons, it will contribute to a rise in land and, thereby, house prices. I believe that the purpose behind this Bill could have been served far better and far more simply by the simple expedient of a moderate development charge.
Then there are the proposals for leasehold reform, and for relief to the domestic ratepayer. The first of these I am sure your Lordships will wish to look at very carefully, and not least, perhaps, its compensation clauses. The second, since most of us are ratepayers, we may be inclined to look at quite kindly in principle. Yet by his own admission Mr. Crossman has made it clear that he regards these measures as merely tinkering with the vexed and rather painful problem of rates until he or someone else can hit upon a brighter and more radical idea. He seems to be hoping—at least as I read it that is what he has intimated—that the Royal Commission on Local Government may be able to produce some bright new rabbit out of its hat: in much the same way as his colleague Mr. Jenkins seems to hope that the Royal Commission will come up with a ready-made plan for reconciling police efficiency with democratic local control. Since so much hope is being placed on this Royal Commission, can the Government tell us what priority they will accord to its work'? When will it report? When, indeed, will its composition be announced?
The other Bill in this group on which I should like to offer a few preliminary comments is that for reorganising Exchequer grants to local authorities. There is no dissent from the need that everything possible should be done to assist local authorities with their most severe housing problems, in particular slum clearance. But just because the problem is so big and so pressing, we need to concentrate our limited resources to the greatest possible extent. This principle would seem to be ignored in the Bill, at any rate as it came before another place in the previous Parliament. No attempt was made in that Bill to require local authorities, as a condition for receiving these increased subsidies, to introduce fair and sensible rent schemes. That is so far as individuals are concerned. So far as places are concerned, no attempt was made to distinguish between local authorities really in need of help, with really big slum clearance 235 problems, and those not so in need. There are reports now that some element of discrimination may be introduced before the new Bill is presented. If this is so I should be glad if the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, can tell us so.
In any event, it is quite clear that the noble Lord will have a pretty busy time piloting his shoal of Bills through your Lordships' House. He could save himself—and I believe he could save us—an awful rush at the end of the Session if he could persuade his colleagues in the Ministry and the Government that this House should be allowed the first crack at some at least of these six Bills. I proffer that as a well-meant suggestion.
Important though housing Bills may be, legislation is only part of a Government's housing policy, and perhaps not the most important part. The real heart of it, the criterion on which it should be judged, is the houses built. So far the record of the Government has been, at best, gamma. They fell 20,000 short of the target of 400,000 houses which one of their Ministers announced last summer they would reach. What does this mean? It means hope deferred for some 60,000 or 70,000 people. Worse still, since last mid-summer the figures for house completions, with the exception of one month, have month for month, the current year compared with the year before, been worse this year. February, 1966, was particularly bad—3,000 or so less completions than in February, 1965. We were told on no less an authority than the Daily Express on April 7, that there were 10,000 fewer housing starts in February, 1966, than there were in February, 1965. Incidentally, can the noble Lord confirm whether the Daily Express is right? All this has been accompanied by an inexorable rise in the price of houses. What hope can the noble Lord hold out that, on the one hand, this downward curve in house completions and, on the other, this upward curve in house prices, will be reversed?
If our aim is to raise the quality of our society, then clearly we must apply a very high priority indeed to education. At most of what is said in the Queen's Speech on education one could not possibly cavil. Increasing grants to voluntary schools in England and Wales —cordially agreed. More expansion of 236 higher and further education, and more steps to increase the supply of teachers. Again as a statement of intent one can but agree. But these statements read rather oddly when one recalls the drastic halt to university and technical college building, and the deferment of teacher training projects imposed last summer by the Chancellor and accepted last summer by the Minister of Education. I trust the Government realise that there is now more than six months lost ground to be made up here.
Finally, there is that sibylline utterance:My Government will promote further progress in the development of comprehensive secondary education.Well, my Lords, we shall see what we shall see. All I would emphasise now is that we on these Benches are not opposed to the comprehensive system as such. Our approach, to use the now hallowed phrase, is pragmatic. What we are opposed to is a dogmatic and inflexible approach to this matter; an approach which, for the sake of doctrinal purity, would lead to the extermination of good existing schools.
I should like for a moment to break out from the restricting corset of the Speech to put a special plea to the Government about the quality of our physical environment. So much of our postwar development has been second-rate or third-rate. So many of our towns are unnecessarily drab. So much of our poor, abused countryside, still, at its best, the loveliest man-made landscape in the world, seems only too likely to succumb to the pressures being piled upon it. Can we not brighten, can we not freshen up all this? I know that the replanning and redevelopment of our towns and cities, and especially perhaps those in the North, will be a long job. But is there not quite a lot we can do mean-while?
The Government can set the pace. Paris shows something of what can be done here. Every time I visit Paris I am delighted by some fresh and lovely aspect of that city revealed by the hand of the cleaner. What M. Malraux can do, surely Miss Lee, or someone else, can do as well or better; and it is really quite easy for the Government to set an example. They own, for example, almost all of Whitehall. Mr. Geoffrey Rippon 237 has shown what can be done with the Banqueting Hall. Could the Government not decide now to clean and face-lift the whole of Whitehall, from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square? And what about brightening up our cities at night? How seedy Piccadilly looks, for example, at night, compared with the Champs Elysees! Is this odious comparison necessary? I cannot believe that, with a little imagination and perhaps more flexible shopping hours, it need be.
There is so much else crying out to be done. There is the reclamation of dereliction; the slagheaps and pitheads of our outrageous Industrial Revolution. Here again the Government can spur and stimulate action. It could itself begin by tidying up some of the mess the military made in the war, 20 or 25 years ago. It is really absurd that now, 23 years after the Normandy invasion, the country should still be scarred and littered with broken-down Nissen huts. And there is that new litterer, British Railways. I hope that someone can give them a sharp rap over the knuckles for the mess they leave behind when they close railways or abandon country stations.
Then there is the quality of our architecture, both ancient and modern. I confess to being an unashamed preservationist in most respects, and I think that we should do more to preserve the best of our heritage than we are doing to-day. In particular, I hope that the Government will consider some extension of the preservation order principle, to cover not only individual buildings but also groups or, in some cases, whole villages, or parts of our towns and cities. Something like the French system of "zones protégés".
We also need to build much, much better what we build new. Take but one simple example, the rash of small bungalows now spreading through some of our loveliest villages—" in-filling ", as I think, the jargon is. I have no objection to the idea; it is good that more and more people should have a taste of country life. But what I do object to is the dreary little samples we see. Could not the Government encourage planning authorities at least to insist that these bungalows are designed by qualified architects? I know that in this respect I am not calling for 238 anything particularly new. I know that much is being done. What I am calling for is a concentration and focusing of effort; a concerted drive by the Government to raise the quality of our physical environment and to tap the effort and enthusiasm of Mr. Brown's regional bodies, the local authorities and, perhaps above all, the voluntary societies and voluntary effort. All this effort needs pulling together, possibly under one Ministry and preferably co-ordinated by one Minister. I know that the noble Lord feels deeply about these matters. I think he might ask for the job while he is about it.
May I meanwhile put two questions in this context to the Government? I believe all Parties like the idea of a Countryside Commission, and all of us agree that it is time to bring the National Parks Act up-to-date. I think, incidentally, that the Party opposite were pledged to do it at a very early date, but so far as I know this is not going to find a place in the current legislative programme. Can the noble Lord tell us what their intentions here are; are they honourable? Secondly, what about the Minister responsible in this field? The Ministry of Land and Natural Resources has proved something of a Cinderella in Whitehall, and it has been, I suspect, pretty well kept in its place by its elder sisters. Are we right in assuming that this Cinderella is never likely to get to the ball?
I wish to conclude on a rather more sombre note. Great advances on the domestic front are within our grasp. Much can be done to raise the quality of life lived in our islands. Yet this advance will be brittle and precarious if we permit the foundations of our society, the whole framework of law and order in these islands, to be sapped. This problem of delinquency and crime is common to all advanced industrial countries or societies, from Los Angeles to Vladivostok. It is seen perhaps at its most acute in the great American cities. One wanders at one's peril at night in the heart of Washington, the capital of the United States. This alienation of large sections of the urban population from society, albeit aggravated in the United States by racial tension, is an awful warning of what could come to pass here if we let crime rip.
239 This is no Party matter. Yet I cannot but regret that whilst the conflict in Vietnam and the confrontation in Indonesia—or should I say the late confrontation in Indonesia?—get their due mention in the Queen's Speech, not a word is to be found there about the war right here on our doorstep, the war we are not winning, the war against crime.
Your Lordships may have read an article by the Shadow Home Secretary in this week's Sunday Express. I must confess I did not read it on Sunday because, at. the very moment when I was about to, my pug dog, who had had a surfeit of lunch, decided—I had to save my carpet and I sacrificed the Sunday Express by preference. In any event, this is not the moment to go into the details of police reorganisation. All I would say is how cordially I endorse Mr. Hogg's view that we must secure a coherent network of national and regional forces under a Home Secretary with real responsibility to Parliament. The counter-attack of our society against crime and the criminal must be pressed home and the police must be given every encouragement, through better organisation, better equipment and, above all, better evidence of public support and Government backing. I believe this to be quite essential if we are to prosecute this war successfully.
That is one side of the coin. The other is that when the criminal is detected and apprehended we must not strike out blindly in revenge. I found myself in substantial agreement with almost everything said by our new and very able Home Secretary in an interview in this week's Sunday Times (which I was able to read on Sunday).
Both were important, and both good articles. We shall be discussing penal policy next week. I do not want to go into details now. Nevertheless, I hope the Government will pursue two objectives with absolute determination. The first is to reduce, by every safe and sensible means, the size of our prison population. The second is to see that the residual population of our prisons are trained—above all by 240 hard, adequately paid and purposeful work under modern conditions—to re-enter society as useful citizens. In short, I would recommend the intensification of that reforming penal policy to which a long line of Conservative Home Secretaries have contributed. But—and this is the rub—such a policy cannot be pursued, and public support for it will not be maintained, unless our defences against crime and the criminal are strengthened. There is a great opportunity here for the new Home Secretary. He may expect a broad measure of support if he tackles both flanks of this problem with the imagination and, above all, the determination which we expect of him.
May I in this final context put two questions to the noble Lord who sits on the Woolsack? First, can he tell us anything more about the scope of the promised legislation for penal reform? Will it cover the question of short sentences, as suggested by the Home Secretary in that article in the Sunday Times? Many of us have very real doubts whether short prison sentences serve a useful purpose. And will it embrace provisions for the child and the young offender? Again, as the Lord Chancellor well knows, many of us have serious reservations about some of the proposals in the White Paper on The Child, the Family and the Young Offender. Secondly, may I repeat the question my noble friend Lord Derwent put to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor yesterday? Can the noble Lord assure us that the reports of the Home Secretary's new Advisory Council will be published? May I myself express the hope that a place will be found on this Council for some of the members of the disbanded Royal Commission of my noble friend Lord Amory? They have acquired much knowledge of these matters and it would be a pity, in our view, if their expertise were not fully used.
I have detained your Lordships longer than I intended. I believe, in conclusion, that it is fair to say that there is a wide consensus of opinion in this House, and indeed in the country, about the ends to which our social policies should be directed. There is possibly less wide agreement over means. I trust that in this Parliament the Government will not strain such agreement as exists too hard.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD KENNET)
My Lords, may I start by thanking the noble Earl for his kind remarks, and by saying also what a personal pleasure it was to me when I learned that I was to be marked by him during this Parliament, at any rate as regards housing and local government matters. I look forward to collaboration, salted with disagreement, and I am sure I already perceive that we are facing in basically the same direction about what needs to be done.
Let me answer quickly one or two points he raised; I hope the rest will be covered in what I have to say later. On the question of nationalisation of water supplies, I think the phrase in the 1966 Election Manifesto was thatthe Government will be pledged to improve the water supply situation by all means, including extension of public ownership where that is necessary.The whole water problem is very high on the agenda. It is not yet clear what combination of means we propose to adopt to improve it.
The noble Earl asked if there was any truth in the suggestion that the reorganised Exchequer grants for housing are to be so devised as to give priority to towns and districts with bad slum problems. The answer, broadly speaking, is yes. But whether the priority which we wish to give, and which any Government would wish to give, to such towns and districts, can best be achieved by manipulating these grants, or by other means, or by a combination of grants with other means, is something that we will put before Parliament in due course and debate. But that is the general direction which we hope to follow. On the question of the Countryside Commission and the National Parks Act, we still rest in this respect on the White Paper, Leisure and the Countryside, which sets out the broad intention. On the future of the Ministry of Land—
My Lords, may I just ask the noble Lord this question: Are they not resting a little too leisurely on their Paper in this respect?
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, nobody likes to rest leisurely on a paper. I 242 would remind the House that the gracious Speech finished with the customary phraseOther measures will be laid before you".The fact that this or that particular piece of legislation was not specifically referred to in the gracious Speech does not by any means signify that it will not be brought in during this Parliament. The question of the future of the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources is very much under consideration at the moment, following up the statements made during the Election campaign. There will be an announcement: I hope it will not be long delayed.
My Lords, I propose in speaking this afternoon to give a general picture of the housing situation and a sort of roundup of some of the legislation connected with it which will be coming our way shortly. The governing fact about housing is that a roof over your head is a necessity. It is much the most expensive necessity in the life of the citizen. Other complicated things to be provided—the mind turns at once to cars, refrigerators and television sets, and so on—are not necessities. We have to behave a little differently when we see people in trouble about paying for such a necessity as their housing, from the way we behave if we see them getting in difficulty about the things which are good to have, which we agree that they should have, but which cannot be squarely described as necessities.
When a Government see this situation regarding housing they have two broad approaches they can take. First of all, they can try to give everybody more money altogether, and trust that this will solve the problem. Such a policy would lead logically in the end to an approach quite close to that of a guaranteed minimum income, and lead to a great increase in the kind of expenditure which at the moment we call National Assistance. This seems to us not to be the preferable way; it is altogether a blunt instrument. It seems to us altogether preferable to continue what has been done by many Governments, to choose a more accurate form of help; that is, to make the houses themselves cheaper. We therefore propose to introduce a packet of legislation which will push money round in different directions, in order to make more houses and to make them more quickly; 243 to make it safer, more secure and, above all, to make it cheaper to get them and to live in them.
I will speak in a few moments about the way in which it is proposed to get more houses and to get them more quickly. But the primary commodity for all building is land. The present situation about land values is horribly familiar. The owners of land in certain places can sit back and twiddle their thumbs, while wealth created by other people pours, without any action on their part, into their coffers. In the Middle Ages the robber barons used to descend from their castles on travellers who crossed their land and they said, "This is my land. You must pay up, and that is that." The land barons of 20th century Britain do not say this to travellers; but they do say to those who want to build houses on their land, "This is my land. You must pay up, and that is that."
We therefore propose to reintroduce the Land Commission Bill which fell at the close of the last Parliament. The objectives of the Land Commission are still as they were stated in the White Paper—namely, first, to secure that the right land is available at the right time for the implementation of national, regional and local plans; second, to secure that a substantial part of the development value created by the community returns to the community, and that the burden of the cost of land for essential purposes is reduced. The Land Commission will have a regional organisation as well as a national one. Its national headquarters will be in New-castle-upon-Tyne, and there will be national offices for Scotland and Wales. The Commission will have power to acquire land in two ways: first by agreement, as anybody has power to acquire land, and, secondly, by compulsion. The compulsory powers are to be given to the Commission in two stages. During the first stage they will only have power to buy land compulsorily for four specific purposes: first, to bring land forward for early development; secondly, to develop a piece of land as a whole where that might not be achieved by other means—for example, in the case where the piece of land in question crosses the frontiers of local authorities; thirdly, to acquire land on behalf of a public authority which already has powers of 244 compulsory purchase; and, fourthly, to acquire land for disposal on concessionary terms for private housing development.
In the second stage the Commission will be endowed with powers to buy any land compulsorily which it considers suitable for material development, and these terms will be defined in the Bill which will be laid before your Lordships. In both stages the Commission will be subject to planning decisions, like any other developer. Large-scale development is coming to rest very much in the continuation and enlargement of the concept of the new town and the new city. I think that this is the framework within which most can be done towards achieving the good planning which the noble Earl so rightly pressed upon the Government in his speech.
Decisions announced by the Government during 1965–66 foreshadow much enlarged programmes of New Town development. They also will result in the creation of much larger individual towns than those which have been designated in the past. There are seven schemes on which planning and consultation are also proceeding, and between them these schemes will accommodate about 600,000 people. The possibility of a number of other major schemes is in the pipe-line of study at the moment, and we envisage important changes in the application of the New Towns machinery in the case of four major expansion schemes which have already been announced—I refer to Ipswich, Northampton, Peterborough and Warrington. In all these cases the plan is to double the population of an existing sizeable town. In these cases the job of planning and development will be carried out jointly by the existing council, acting in full and equal partnership with a new development corporation.
We are now examining all the procedures involved in this rather complicated plan, in order to see whether we cannot much reduce the period which passes between the time when a broad policy decision is taken to create a new town or greatly to enlarge an old one, and the time when the actual building begins. We hope that large reductions can be made. The cost of building an average house of three bedrooms increased between the Spring of 1961 and the Summer of last 245 year from £1,700 to £2,500. During that period the subsidies to local authorities for housebuilding remained at the same rates. We therefore propose to reintroduce the Bill which lapsed at the General Election and which will make it possible for the Exchequer to pay the difference on loan costs incurred by local authorities for housing at any time and the costs the local authorities would have had to pay if the price of money was at that time 4 per cent. Not only is this a direct subsidy but also it will have a direct political and social effect, in that it will stabilise the planning of building programmes for authorities and it will enable them to plan further ahead with a much greater degree of certainty by removing the anxiety they feel at present about fluctuations in loan rates. We consider that this will be of crucial importance in raising the whole standard of planning throughout the country.
That the Building Control Bill will be reintroduced is also included in the Queen's Speech. This is a weapon of broad economic control, to ensure, or to go some way to ensure, that our physical resources are used for what new buildings society as a whole considers most desirable. One could say, to put it in a nutshell, that the purpose of this Bill is to prevent competition between new bingo halls and new housing in brute terms of bricks and mortar. We shall have plenty of opportunity to debate this in detail, but I would point to what the Bill does not cover. It does not cover private housing; it does not cover industrial development; it does not cover work in designated development districts; and it does not cover office building in London and Birmingham because they are already covered by the existing law. It has the effect of extending control which exists for office building in London and Birmingham to the entire country.
§ LORD KENNET
Yes. It is broadly a new measure of control on a national basis over building for entertainments, for distribution, shops, hotels and offices.
I should like to take this opportunity of giving the House some news on a point about which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, asked, and that is about the 246 present rate of building. The total number of houses and flats begun in both public and private sectors in March, 1964, was, in round figures, 32,400; in March, 1965, 34,400; and in March, 1966, 36,600. I shall be the first to admit that although that is an improvement it is an insufficient improvement, and all the efforts of the Government will be bent to raising the rate at which these "starts" are once again increasing. But what is particularly good is the recovery to 36,600 in starts in March, after the bad figures for the bad-weather month of February when there were only 24,700. That is a great improvement, and although much is yet to be done I know the House will be glad to see that the figures have turned upwards, and turned upwards very sharply. We will try to keep them that way.
We feel that a great deal of progress in the field of housing rests on the adoption of techniques of industrialised building, with its obvious advantages of speed and convenience. In 1964, 10.8 per cent. of public sector building was by these industrialised means; in 1965 the figure had increased to 16.5 per cent.; and pro rata in the first two months of this year we have now reached an annual proportion of 21.5 per cent. of public sector building built by industrialised techniques. This is a good increase but it is an haphazard one, and we hope that the measures which the Government announced at the end of last year will prove successful in reaching the Government target of 40 per cent. of public sector by 1970. We also hope that private sector building, with the advice and help the new National Building Agency, will soon begin to come along in the same direction. At present, unfortunately, it is lagging. All these measures are intended to make it easier for the great number of houses and flats we need to be built as quickly and as cheaply as is compatible with good planning, good design and good workmanship.
I turn now to the measures we hope to take which are intended to make it easier for people to acquire the houses or fiats they need, to live in them peacefully and pleasantly once they have acquired them, and to move easily to others when they want to, whether because they are changing their jobs, or because they marry, or have more children, or because their children have grown up and set up 247 on their own and they need less space. We are following up the Rent Act, and the House may have noticed the very satisfying figures quoted in the House of Commons on Monday about the first phase of the work of the new rent officers and the rent assessment committees. Many rents on appeal are coming down; many rents on appeal are going up. It is interesting to see the amount of injustice which there was, both ways, before this procedure was set up.
We intend to follow up these provisions, first of all with the new option mortgage scheme which is so much in the news at present. Let us take a typical case. A married man with three children aged 11 to 16, whose only source of income is his own earnings, gets a mortgage over 20 years at 6¾ per cent.—which is the normal sort of figure. What does he pay? If his income is £950 a year he pays £92 10s. annually throughout the 20 years. But tax is not payable on these charges. So if his income is £1,100 a year he pays only £82 during the first year, and his payments rise to about the same figure of £92 at the end. If he is a little wealthier and his income is £1,350, he pays £77 during his first year, rising to a maximum of £91 in the twentieth year. If his income is £2,000 a year he pays only £71 at the beginning of his mortgage.
The effect of the present arrangement is quite conveniently to make mortgages cheaper the richer you are. In the first year a man on £18 per week pays about 8s. a week more for each £1,000 of his mortgage than a man on £40 a week. It seemed to us ridiculous that this should be so, and therefore we are introducing this option mortgage scheme which will permit those taking out mortgages either to continue as they are now with tax relief, or to get their mortgage at 2½ per cent. less than the market rate, subject to a minimum of 4 per cent., with the Government reimbursing the building society for the difference. As the House will know, my right honourable friend is at the moment discussing these possibilities with the building societies. They have put forward a scheme of their own to achieve broadly the same ends, and discussions are proceeding on both the building society scheme and the Government scheme.
248 We also propose to tackle the rate problem, because it needs tackling. There is very much against rates; they are not an obvious way to tax people. Why should you pay tax on your bricks and mortar more than anything else that is yours? Moreover, local government expenditure is rising faster than any other, and this is largely the result of the increased cost of education. It is rising considerably faster than either personal or national Government expenditure. Rates do not rise automatically; they are not buoyant like income tax, purchase tax, or most of the other taxes we pay. The only way to get rates to rise is by the specific decision every year of the local government authority to make them rise, and they then send out a note to ratepayers saying, "Sorry, your rates have gone up". This is done yearly, and every time it is done it hurts. You cannot take it in your stride as you can take in your stride a rise in the income tax which you pay. The present situation, as found by the Allen Committee, is that rates account for 2.9 per cent. of the average household income after everything else has been paid on it; 6.2 per cent. of the income of households whose net income is £6 to £10 a week; and 8.2 per cent. of the income of households whose net income is under £6 a week.
Rates are like any fixed or quasi-fixed charge for which there is no tax relief—sharply regressive. Therefore we tried to devise a more equitable and sensible plan for local revenue as a whole. But, as we all know, the entire present structure of local government is based on bricks and mortar rates; they are broadly inextricable. They have grown up that way. For this reason, among others, we plan to set up the Royal Commission on Local Government, to examine the entire fabric and structure of local government in this country. I should like to answer the question of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, on this point. There is no delay in setting up the Royal Commission. Planning for it is going ahead and there will be an announcement in due course about the chairmanship, membership, terms of reference, and possibly, also, about the time scale envisaged for its work, though that I am not sure about.
In the meantime we have to do something on the rate problem. We propose, 249 therefore, to make Exchequer grants to local authorities in direct relief of rates paid by the citizen. These grants will roughly halve the increase to be expected by each ratepayer during the next three years, and they will cost the Exchequer £30 million in the first year, £60 million in the second year, and £90 million in the third year. We are not looking beyond three years, because it is more than possible that by that time the Royal Commission will have reported on the entire question of rates and the fabric of local government, taken together.
I turn now to the questions on leasehold enfranchisement, on which I expect this House will have one of its best debates when the Bill comes before it. One million households in England and Wales (this is not really a problem in Scotland) are leaseholders. Probably 400,000 of these are in Wales. The point of this measure is that the owner of a leasehold house, with which he or his predecessors as leaseholders have probably provided themselves, and have certainly improved and maintained, is in moral common sense entitled to keep that house. This carries a consequence that the freeholder, therefore, is not entitled to take it when he takes back the land at the end of the lease, and to turn out the leaseholder.
We therefore propose to introduce a Leasehold Enfranchisement Bill to give leaseholders, subject to certain qualifications about length of tenure, et cetera, the right, either to extend their leases by 50 years, or, what is in effect, the right on first reversion to purchase when the lease falls in at an agreed valuation of the site only, having recourse to the Lands Tribunal if that is necessary. The leaseholder who exercises this right and purchases will have to pay the freeholder for the development value on the site.
This is a difficult measure. It is going to be a real reform. I do not think it can be claimed that it is a new or unexpected measure. The Royal Commission in 1884 considered the idea very thoroughly and only narrowly rejected it. It is interesting to notice that Cardinal Manning was in favour of reform at that time. So it has been hovering as a possibility over this country for 80 years and longer. Of course, it will involve problems which this House will, perhaps, be better placed to solve than any other organ in the country.
250 One thinks, first, of the problem of the well-managed estate. What are we going to do about those estates where the freeholder has conducted his affairs admirably, and has kept the estate as a good, going concern? One could think of plenty. But it would be impossible to deny the right of enfranchisement to leaseholders, simply because they happened to live on a well-managed estate. We must therefore find some way of setting up schemes to continue the good management after the enfranchisement. The point is this, my Lords. Is ownership necessary in order to manage something well? I do not think so. It is not only ownership which confers the capacity to manage. If it were so, we should have to maintain that Government itself can be only feudal or autocratic when, as we know, it can be democratic. The Prime Minister and the Lord Privy Seal do not own the people of Britain: they merely govern them, with their consent, by democratic means. We think that it should not be impossible to find means whereby schemes of management can be devised and directed at what were formerly well-managed leasehold estates.
It may be objected that the whole concept of leasehold enfranchisement, however the Bill is drafted, alters contracts knowingly entered into by two parties, or the forbears of two parties—though, in fact, of course, we are almost always talking about the business predecessor, and not so often about the physical for-bear of either party. My Lords, so it does; and if it does so it will not be the first time that this has been done. So, for instance, did the manumission of slaves; so, for instance, did the introduction of death duties. Those who amassed personal fortunes in the 19th century were perfectly sure that they would be able to pass them on to their sons. It so happened that politics did not go that way. We now live happily with death duties.
§ LORD KENNET
I would bet that the large majority of people in this country live very happily indeed with death duties.
In conclusion, I wish to say how very much I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, about the importance of getting a nice country to live in. This is what 251 we are trying to do in all this. All the time one is coming to grips with new problems which turn up, which may have been neglected as many of them have been. But let us keep this on a non-Party basis. We are beginning to give special attention now to the question which is coming to be described by the catch-phrase or headline phrase of, "Historic Towns and their Centres". We shall be trying, so far as we can, to devise means of treating historic towns as a whole, for development purposes. We shall try to get away from the simple process of saying, "All right, develop as you like, but just do not pull that house down, because it is pretty", but will try to move towards the concept of preserving whole areas, and seeing that new buildings really fit with old buildings and really co-exist with them.
I think this is the kind of thing which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, was speaking about. I fully share the noble Earl's admiration for what has been done in Paris, washing the face of Paris—the whole operation which is usually connected with the name of M. Malraux. I fully share his determination that the closure of railway lines, and the withdrawal of the Defence Department from certain sites, should not be permitted to leave outstanding eyesores and patches of decay and weeds and horrors of all sorts. These are problems which are increasing from year to year, and the Government, as responsive as ever to new situations, are therefore giving increased attention to their solution from year to year. I have no doubt that, within the life of this Parliament, there will be concrete measures to lay before your Lord ships; and I have no doubt, too, that the final shape of the measures will benefit by debates in this House. It is the overall aim of the Ministries concerned with housing and development to keep pace with the growing and shifting population, to see that man-made structures on our soil, and the spaces between them, are efficient to live in and work in, are pleasant to look at, and are enough.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, as a very inexperienced Member of your Lordships' House, I must confess that it was with considerable trepidation that I nerved myself to burst into speech on so 252 early an occasion in your Lordships' deliberations. However, I have always tried to live up to the principle of, "Do not speak if you have nothing to say, but if you have something to say, say it ". One sentence in the gracious Speech from the Throne, accompanied very soon by an exchange of question and answer in another place, caused me to think that I had something to say, though I may be wrong. Indeed, my precipitancy, I am afraid, has resulted in a rather ill-prepared oration.
The sentence in the gracious Speech which set me going is:My Government will continue to develop the health and welfare services and will pay special attention to the development of the family doctor service.Your Lordships may have noted that in another place on Tuesday last the Prime Minister was asked whether he had received the Report of the Kindersley Committee on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration, and, if so, what he intended to do about it. His reply was that he had received it, that it would receive urgent study and careful consideration, and that he would make a statement in the very near future. My Lords, he doubtless will; but it will be a difficult statement, because it will have to be made in the light of the Government's incomes and prices policy, and it is, I think, common knowledge that the Kindersley Report will recommend something like a 15 per cent. increase in the salaries of medical practitioners, and I presume that is not going to fit in with the lower percentages envisaged by the administration of the incomes and prices policy. That is the Government's dilemma. But, personally, I hope that it will be solved in what might perhaps be described as a pragmatic manner—not necessarily too logically, if that is what "pragmatism" means, which I am not at all certain.
I want, therefore, with this hanging over us, to call attention to one or two defects in our National Health Service which can I think be remedied in the near future, and to one which perhaps cannot be remedied in the near future, if at all. But, as I am going to mention defects, may I begin by saying that I believe that our National Health Service is the best in the world; that it is perhaps the most imaginative and comprehensive Welfare Service ever introduced 253 into this country at one fell swoop; and that it has, unlike many of our welfare services, brought considerable benefit to the professional classes, who in other respects have not, I think, benefited proportionately from the amenities of an acquisitive society and a Welfare State.
I believe that our National Health Service has contributed very materially to the enormous improvement during the last ten years of the nation's health, especially that of the mothers and children, who unfortunately were not beneficiaries under the Lloyd George sick insurance Act. It may, in so doing, have contributed to the population problem of this country, but I understand that the Minister of Health has it in mind to expand the Service in certain directions to deal with that side of the matter. The other thing that I think one has to note about our National Health Service is, on balance, the good will and public spirit with which it was received by the medical profession in 1946, in view of the fact that it laid very heavy burdens upon them without, perhaps, certainly so far as the general practitioners were concerned, compensatory remunerative benefits.
My qualification to speak at all on this subject (I am not, of course, a qualified medical practitioner, and some Members of this House are) is that I was brought up in a medical household, in a medical family. My father was a general practitioner in West London, and I lived, so to speak, in a medical climate and saw life very much from the point of view of those who were engaged in medicine. But I have had a more recent experience than that, because for the last fifteen years I have served as a member of the London Executive Council, which, as your Lordships know, is one of those bodies which are responsible for the administration of the general practitioner side of the National Health Service.
Those two experiences afford rather an interesting contrast. There was my father's practice, entirely fee-paying, at a time when that kind of medical attention was enjoyed, I think it is fair to say, by only that small section of the population who could afford to pay for it. It was not enjoyed by very large sections of the population, who relied on charitably endowed hospitals, on out- 254 patients' departments and on the kind of "sixpenny doctors" so well portrayed in Bernard Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma. Your Lordships will remember the doctor who made an immense fortune out of that, as one might call it, "bottle and surgery" practice. My father was never overworked. He was nominally on duty 24 hours a day and he dealt with his own night calls, but he had plenty of leisure. If he wanted to go away for a short holiday or have a free day or weekend, he would arrange with a fellow practitioner of his own choosing to stand in for him; and he, in turn, would stand in for other doctors on similar occasions.
He was, on the whole, rather tied; and, of course, if he went to a theatre he had to leave the number of his seat in order that he could be called out of it, in the event of an infant coming suddenly and unexpectedly into the world. But he earned, I should say, fairly easily, and with a good deal of leisure, an income which was comparable to that of a schoolmaster or civil servant, and which enabled my mother to live like a schoolmaster's wife or a civil servant's wife, with full domestic service—a parlour-maid to answer the doorbell and take messages, a nurse for her children, cook, housemaid and so on. That was the sort of life that a general practitioner at that time enjoyed.
Compare that, my Lords, with the life of a general practitioner to-day under the National Health Service. His leisure is nil. Unless he makes other arrangements (which I am going to consider in a minute), he is on duty 24 hours a day—and that really is duty. His surgery is crowded. My father's surgery consisted of a consulting room. Most of his patients were visited in their own homes. I remember that one or two people used to sit in the family dining-room, where, if they were kept waiting, they were able to read either Punch or the Navy List, which my father regarded as adequate literature for any educated person. But it was a very different atmosphere from that in the surgery of a general practitioner anywhere in the country, I think, to-day. His wife is receptionist, cook, housekeeper, child-minder—everything. Of course, in that position she is not dissimilar from the wife of a schoolmaster, university teacher 255 or civil servant, none of whom can afford that style of domestic service. But the whole of life is quite different, and cannot, I think, be otherwise.
Those of your Lordships who are as old as I am will have suffered at times from what one might call "the disillusions of youth". There was a time, when I was a student at the School of Economics—a King Fabian—when I believed that if an industry or service was nationalised or municipalised those who worked in it, seeing that they were no longer working for a private employer but for the common good, would feel quite differently about their work. Yes, my Lords, I really believed that. Compare the kind of medical service which I saw my father render to his patients—all of whom were friends of the family; their friends were our friends—with the sort of service, or what you may call the lack of service, rendered to the rest of the population at that time. I used to believe—I believed it for quite a long time—that with a universalised National Health Service you could extend to the whole population the kind of service, the kind of family relationship, the kind of doctor-patient relationship, that was enjoyed by my father's patients. That I believed; but I no longer believe it.
I do not think it can be done. Why? Well, for quite a number of reasons. In the first place we have brought within the ambit of general medical practice a large number of patients who are not accustomed to the standard of the old fee-payers. They are apt to feel that they can order the doctor about. Doctors, professional men with professional standards, do not like being ordered about. Some instances I have actually seen and some I have heard described. A patient will take the view, "If I want you to come round to see my Dennis, and to tell me whether he can go to the cinema or not, then you have to come at once. You are paid to serve me, and as an insured person I have already paid for your services in my contributions." That is not the fact, as we know, because the National Health Service is not part of the National Insurance Service, but it is widely believed by many patients that it is. They adopt this attitude towards doctors. They say, "I've paid for it, and now it's time I got something out of it." The doctors 256 do not like that; and I do not blame them.
There is another kind of patient, not necessarily an exacting patient at all, who, if anything, is rather a humble patient whose standard of medical service derives from the days when you went to a surgery, got a bottle of medicine, and that was all. Such patients do not expect very good service, and in many cases do not get very good service. So we have to deal with a quality of certain patients, numbers of whom exist in the large towns all over the country, and it will be a long time before they are educated either to treat the doctor as he should be treated or to demand the standard of service which doctors should give.
But, of course, there is another difficulty. That is housing. This was the matter touched upon by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in his opening speech. We are in the middle of a housing shortage, and in crowded areas doctors find it extremely difficult to secure premises not only for residences, but, in many cases, for surgeries; and as a member of the. London Executive Council concerned with the appointment of National Health Service doctors to vacancies, I know that many vacancies continue to remain unfilled because doctors are unable to obtain suitable premises. At the other end of the social scale, in such places as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, property values have soared to such a height that it is almost impossible for any practitioner on an income that can be earned under the National Health Service to afford the kind of premises he needs to carry on his work. So that is a problem.
However, the great problem is the problem of heavy case loads. According to the National Health Act, a doctor may pile up a list of 3,500 patients. If he takes an assistant he can add 2,000. I am not suggesting that all those 3,500 patients plus 2,000 need his services at any one time, or indeed in the course of any one year, because it is pretty certain that on every doctor's list there is a hard-core of patients who for years on end never require the doctor's services at all. If the National Health Service had been started at the beginning of my life, I should have been an asset for many years to whichever doctor had taken me on 257 his list. But, of course, the size of this hard-core varies from area to area. In areas where there are a large number of families, in new estates where there are many children, all liable to have infectious diseases, the hard-core is relatively small. In areas such as Central London, where there are a large number of students, secretaries and young people living in lodgings and hostels, the hardcore would be much greater, because such people do not, and certainly should not, absorb much of the time of the doctors.
But, whatever the hard-core is, those case loads are much too big—so big that a good doctor cannot give his patients the kind of service which he wishes to give them, services up to the professional standards to which he is accustomed. At the same time, it is possible for a bad doctor to make quite a considerable income with quite a considerable degree of leisure. All he has to do is to settle in an area where the standard of medical attention and services is of what may be called the "surgery and bottle" type, pile up the biggest list possible—and, in fact, this is done—engage an assistant, go off to a nice salubrious country suburb to live, and obtain relief for night calls, office hours, weekends and all the rest, by paying a deputising service to provide medical attention for his patients.
That brings me to a very interesting and recent development in the National Health Service which I think was never contemplated by its framers. That is the contracting-out by National Health doctors in contract with the executive councils to commercial services which undertake to supply deputising doctors. It is not, of course, illegal. A principal in contract with the National Health Service is responsible for any mistakes that the deputising doctor may make. It is perfectly legal and, in some cases, it is perfectly reasonable for him to use as his deputy another doctor, who has to be a fully-qualified doctor but he is not in contract with the National Health Service. That system of contracting-out under the National Health Service grew up very gradually and rather mysteriously. It started with the organisation of the Emergency Call Service, which was a properly constituted business company, in London in 1955. But the London Executive Council did not know of its existence until there was a slight slip-up 258 in communications between a deputising doctor and a principal doctor which was brought to the notice of the Council.
The way in which the deputising service works is, briefly, this. The agency acquires a headquarters with a telephone switchboard, engages a panel of what may be called roving doctors, all of whom must be properly qualified, and they are set up with cars and radio apparatus which enables them to receive calls to go here and there in a particular area to any patient who wants emergency treatment. Meanwhile, the National Health doctor can contract with the deputising service to take his calls (his telephone is switched through) and to provide him with a deputy doctor to attend his patients at such times as he wishes to be free. Of course, one can understand the almost immediate popularity of that form of service. It spread very rapidly indeed in London. I believe it is spreading also in other large towns—in Manchester, in Birmingham, in Liverpool, in Sheffield.
In London it has become so popular—and, indeed, one may say so necessary—that more than 50 per cent. of the National Health doctors in the London area use deputising services, contracting-out in this way, for week-ends or night calls, holidays, or whatever it may be.
At a later stage (I forget the date; I think it was 1963) the Ministry of Health became cognisant of the development of these services and brought them under some control, but in fact a very shadowy control, of the London executive councils. The new order was that the London executive councils were to take cognisance of such agencies as existed in their areas to satisfy themselves that they were run in a reputable manner and that the roving doctors employed by them were reasonably well qualified. The general practitioners in the Service were required to notify the executive councils to what extent they wished to use the deputising services, because it was thought possible—and indeed it was possible—that they might be over-used, and that the contracting out played too large a part in the life of the general practitioner in the Service. So at the moment there is a certain measure of control. It is exercised in London, and I have no doubt that it is exercised in those other 259 areas with executive councils where this particular form of contracting out occurs.
It has its disadvantages, and one of them was indicated in the Report on the Family Doctor Service two years ago from the Committee over which Doctor Annis Gillie presided, and which is known as the Gillie Report. It contained a number of proposed measures for lightening the burdens of doctors, and one reference to the growth of the deputising services, which was that while recognising their usefulnessthe weakness of this system is the deputy's lack of knowledge of the patient.That may be so, but it is also true that the services of roving doctors are generally welcomed by patients whose attitude is, "If I want a doctor in an emergency, it does not matter whether it is my doctor so long as I get one at the right time." And, indeed, that is what happens.
Now, my Lords, here we are with our overburdened case loads; our growing system of contracting out of the Service; inadequate leisure for doctors, and much else which makes medical practice under the Health Service unattractive. What can we do about it? The obvious thing to do about it is to have more doctors, and I understand that Her Majesty's Government are taking steps to ensure the expansion of medical schools and the institution of new medical schools. But that will take seven years; it is not an immediate remedy. The more immediate remedy, of course, is to improve the conditions under which doctors now work, in order that fewer of them may be tempted to accept positions in the Commonwealth, or even in foreign countries, which may seem to be to their advantage. By the way, one ought to pay tribute to the Commonwealth doctors, and indeed Continental doctors, who are now helping to staff our medical service. Without them we should hardly have a medical service at all.
To obtain more doctors means, of course, more pay. I think we should do something about housing, and also that it should be a duty of a local housing authority to see that, where necessary, premises are made available both for surgeries and as residences for doctors. A great many local authorities are doing that now in connection with development 260 schemes and new towns, but not all, and this needs to go a great deal further.
I think it would be advantageous to bring the whole machinery of the commercial deputising services right into the Ministry of Health, as it were to nationalise them, to ensure that the deputy doctors, the roving doctors, are in fact themselves in contract with the National Health Service and responsible for what they may do. Indeed, a proposal to that effect was put forward two years ago by the first and largest of the London deputising services, the Emergency Call Service, in a Memorandum, a copy of which I have in my possession. Whether the Ministry of Health are cognisant of it or have considered it I do not know, but I should urgently suggest that the Memorandum be considered, because I think it would remedy some of the defects which arise from less responsible forms of contracting out.
There needs to be much more education of the patient in regard to the treatment of the doctor. It could be done. To some extent it is being done, but it could be done with much greater intensity through schools, women's institutes, institutes of adult education, clubs and all the rest of it. Probably the solution for much of what I have been describing is a growth of group practices. That would diminish the need for deputising agencies. Where there is a group practice there can be a rota which enables members of the group to secure the leisure, the holidays and the other things which one would wish them to have.
It is also possible that we shall need to produce some form of attraction which will induce medical practitioners to settle more readily in what they regard as unattractive areas. Large areas in this country are grossly under-doctored because doctors do not want to live there: still more, their wives do not wish to live there. There are certain areas of the country where the caseload is much larger than the average. I can give your Lordships some figures which, I fear, are two years old, but they are probably fairly accurate for the present time. The maximum number of patients which a doctor may have on his list is 3,500. The average list for the country as a whole is well below that figure; it is in the neighbourhood of 2,326. But this is 261 an average, and 26 per cent. of patients are on the lists of doctors with over 3,000 patients where they cannot, I believe, get really adequate attention.
In what doctors regard as unattractive areas the percentage of patients on these swollen lists is very much larger. In St. Helen's, which I think is the largest, or it was two years ago, 68 per cent. of the patients were on lists of more than 3,000 patients. Many years ago one of my daughters, when very young, returned from an undigested history lesson with the assertion that Napoleon, having been defeated at the "Battle of Waterlily", had been "exiled to St. Helen's". Certain medical practitioners would, I think, regard that as ungenerous treatment of a noble foe. I have mentioned the possible remedies, but the major remedy, I think, will be the increase in pay which is doubtless embodied in the Kindersley Report; though it may not be the whole remedy.
There is just one defect which I will, in conclusion, draw to the attention of your Lordships', and which I think cannot be remedied, at any rate in the near future. It is the existence of mixed practices. Of course, it is perfectly legal for a doctor in contract with the National Health Service to take private patients, fee-paying patients, in addition to his National Health patients, so long as he does not put their names on his list; and many doctors do that, especially in areas with fairly well-to-do populations. I have always thought that that was a dangerous thing, and that it might lead to discriminatory treatment.
No one would challenge the right of a doctor to continue in private practice if he does not wish to serve under the National Health Service. No one, I think, would challenge the right of a patient who chooses to spend his money on getting what he believes to be more leisurely, and perhaps more punctual, service from a doctor whom he is prepared to pay. But when there is a mixed practice, I think that the danger of discrimination may arise. Although in many cases of mixed practice it does not arise, because the doctor does not fall into that temptation, there are cases where the doctor will tend to turn his National Health patients over either to his assistant or his junior partner in order to have more time for his private patients. I think it is a waning evil, because on the whole the 262 older age groups tend to perpetuate private practice and the younger age groups, specially young families, go straight into the National Health Service. So it might not last.
But may I remind your Lordships that at an earlier stage in to-day's proceedings some of your Lordships may have be-seeched the Almighty not to lead you into temptation? If so, I think it confers an obligation on your Lordships not to support social policies and administrative arrangements which would lead other people into temptation—and I think mixed practices do, although the temptation is not always responded to.
I wonder whether it would be in order for me to conclude my remarks by extending my good wishes and encouragement to the Minister in another place, who will very soon have to face and deal with the implications of the Kindersley Report. More power to him, especially as he will be operating under the sombre, or—shall I say?—menacing shadow of his own Government's prices and incomes policy!
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, I count myself fortunate that I follow the noble Lady and therefore have the opportunity of extending to her the congratulations of your Lordships on her maiden speech. Some of us knew the noble Lady before she came to this House, and many more know her valuable work—and all of us welcome the acquisition which the House has had. I am sure that all noble Lords will hope that in future we shall have many opportunities of listening to her thoughtful speeches, well packed with information.
The paragraph of the gracious Speech to which I refer is that immediately before the paragraph to which the noble Lady referred. It reads:My Ministers will complete further stages of their major reviews of social security. While continuing to ensure to pensioners and other beneficiaries a fair share of the country's rising living standards, they will seek further means of dealing with the poverty that still exists. Legislation will be introduced to create a Ministry of Social Security and to replace National Assistance by a new system of non-contributory benefits.For me to be able to refer to this paragraph represents another milestone in my political life. The last one was my maiden 263 speech in your Lordships' House eighteen years ago in support of the Labour Government's National Assistance Bill of 1948. I chose that debate for my maiden speech because I started my working life in the office of the now defunct Board of Guardians, an experience that started during the First World War and led me at the end of the war to join the Labour Party. The war had shown me the necessity of all-in insurance and the abolition of the Poor Law.
The 1948 Bill was the last of a series abolishing the Poor Law of Elizabeth I, but we knew then that there was still much more to be done. It was for that reason that in 1955 the Labour Party included in its Election Manifesto a pledge of further reforms and of the establishment of a new Ministry of Social Security. And at last, some eleven years afterwards, the election of the present Government permits the redemption of that pledge. My only surprise is that this was included in the gracious Speech at such an early date, so soon after 1964, because clearly a comprehensive review of all pensions still needs to be made. I am sure we all congratulate the Government that, within a few weeks of coming into office in 1964 and in spite of economic difficulties, they were able to raise the rates of National Insurance, industrial benefits and National Assistance, so that, for instance, a married couple who had been receiving £5 9s. found themselves thereafter in receipt of £6 10s. a week. The continuance of the review resulted in the introduction of wage-related short-term benefits, which will commence later this year and which were before your Lordships' House some few months ago. By these, additions to flat rate benefits for sickness, unemployment, industrial injury or as widow's allowances, will be made payable to all earning between £9 and £30 a week.
Now the paragraph in the gracious Speech to which I have referred fore-shadows a Bill, which I, for one, welcome, to combine the work of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and the work of the National Assistance Board, a Ministry which will get rid of the sharp distinction between benefits related to contributions and non-contributory benefits. At last there will be a procedure for retired people which will be more flexible, and no longer will 264 there be differentiation. The elderly persons who are to receive both National Insurance benefit and the new benefit will have their payments made in one book, so it will no longer be true that those who are poor but proud will have to display differential evidence of their circumstances before their fellow citizens by having to produce two books.
Such a system will be more generally acceptable than the present one, but I realise that there remains much to be done in the review which the Government indicate they are undertaking. The future general structure of all pensions clearly needs to be examined, and, as I see it, not the least of the problems is the relationship between State pensions and occupational pensions. Since the end of last year there has been a growing tendency on the part of good employers to provide some kind of superannuation for their workers. The last figure I saw estimated that some 12 million people were currently members of such schemes. Clearly these schemes will need to be examined in relation to the declared desire of the Government to produce an income-related pension of something like half-pay on retirement for a person with average earnings. Some of these schemes are provided by insurance companies. Some are contributory and some non-contributory. Some give early benefits and some are slow to mature.
More important, perhaps, than any of these factors is that some have transfer values and some have not. In these days when flexibility of employment is a vital thing, to firms, to their workers and to the country, transfer from job to job will obviously become of increasing importance. Any scheme of pension which pins men and women to one given employer is of little value. I suggest, therefore, that the transfer value arrangements which exist already in certain fields of employment need to be extended. The Civil Service, the local government service and national boards all have arrangements whereby transfer values on actuarial bases are arranged for persons leaving or entering their services. What now applies in those fields should, I think, be applied elsewhere. Clearly it will not be easy for anybody. It will call for good sense on the part of employers and unions as well as the Government. Workers have welcomed the redundancy payments. They probably must be supplemented, or 265 even replaced, as necessary, by the transfer value superannuation benefits to which I have referred. All this will take time, but I think the review on which the Government are to embark is essential if we are to get this job right for the years ahead.
Nor must we forget the reference in the paragraph to poverty. A smaller group, yet perhaps a greater problem, is the family, sometimes completely forgotten to-day—the low-income family. In these cases, for no reason for which the worker can be blamed, the father is employed in a low-income job, and his total income, even with family allowances, still produces for the household total budget less than the amount that would be received under the present National Assistance Board scales. What is more, because he pays no income tax, being so lowly paid, he in turn qualifies for none of the benefits of relief which income tax can afford.
A reference to those matters brings me by natural course to the subject of retirement; and here I venture to remind your Lordships of a debate that I tried to initiate some few months ago on the work of the Pre-retirement Association. I know that a number of your Lordships have been further interested in this matter, and, indeed, like most of us, educated in the matter by the B.B.C. Television programmes, weekly over the first three months of this year, with the co-operation of this Association. What I want to suggest, therefore, is that in this situation, where our population is ever ageing, it may be that we need a new outlook. I would dare to say, although I know it will be unpopular in certain circles, that there should be reconsideration of the compulsory early retirement age in some walks of life. I know, as everyone who has dealt with large organisations must know, of the ever-present problem of the promotion of personnel within an organisation. The retention of men and women beyond the normal retiring age, as it is termed, inevitably poses the question of restriction of promotion opportunities, and the only hope for the well-qualified person for promotion inside the organisation is the departure of the seniors on retirement. I would not desire for the sake of the workers concerned, nor for the sake of the good and efficient administration of 266 industries and firms, to advocate here and now any policy which precluded an adequate career value, but I believe that we must face the facts. The new factor of the longevity of the population means that many who are capable of efficient further service of some kind or another find themselves pensioned off at an automatic age and feel that there is no future hope of work—indeed, some of them feel that there is no future hope for them at all.
Not all of them, of course, want to go on working after the normal retiring age, and I do not suggest that any change should be made in the opportunity of enjoying their retirement, to which they look forward. Some are quite happy merely to use the bit of garden they have to potter around, and others to give of good social service in the community, and they do retire from normal work. But there are many others, these days, who still feel young when made to go at sixty and who see a very dreary time ahead of them. They have not adjusted themselves either to the factor of retirement or to the new budgetary condition which has come into the home when they have retired. Because they are not prepared either for this cut in income or this new daily routine lack which comes to them, they become anxiety cases. They want work, and they want a little more to do. All this occurs at a time when we are crying out in this country for more manpower.
All I am posing as a question is whether it is really beyond our wits to try to solve some of these problems by marrying those two factors together. Those who desire a well-earned rest should be prepared for it, and those who are capable of work, and want it, ought, I suggest, to be able to have it. In this valuable review of pension retirement problems involved in the paragraph of the gracious Speech to which I have referred, it might well be that this could be a further idea for some examination. I beg leave to support the Motion for the humble Address.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, may I begin by joining in the congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, on her admirable maiden speech? The great experience which she brings to this House 267 on questions of social policy is matched by her distinction of mind, and I am sure that all of us who heard her this afternoon hope that she will be willing to speak many times in the future, because if her willingness is there, the House will benefit enormously from her speeches.
I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has had to go. I know he has been suffering from back trouble and has had a pain-killing injection which by this time may be wearing off. I mention this, because I want to take up one or two points in the noble Earl's speech. I was extremely glad to hear the noble Earl give from his side of the House such a warm endorsement to comprehensive schools. This is perfectly comprehensible, because comprehensive schools have been started by many Conservative boroughs in the country, notably Croydon and Leicestershire. It is welcome indeed if this is now becoming no longer a matter of political contention.
I say that because the present system, whereby children are divided at 11-plus into sheep and goats, not only is unfair but distorts primary education; and, more than that, is inefficient. It is unfair because in one area there will be five times as many children securing places in grammar schools as there are in another area. It is impossible to take account of fluctuations in the birthrate, so where one brother may get into a grammar school, another brother, a little later, does not, because in the meantime, the birthrate has gone up and there are not enough places. It distorts education in the primary schools because it forces streaming at the early age of six or seven thereby convincing some children at that age that they will be failures for the rest of their lives; and it produces in the primary schools that horrible process of "bashing" for the 11-plus, which begins at nine or ten, when children are trained to do intelligence tests.
It is inefficient because, when it comes to the crunch, a quarter of those who are selected for grammar schools do not get to "A" level standard, and of the two-thirds who fail at 11-plus, when they are transferred to the grammar school they do better than those who are actually in the grammar school. But the real trouble is that in our system only one in 268 fifty children is, in fact, transferred from the secondary modern to the grammar school. I am proud to say that in my own college I have a Fellow who failed the 11-plus and has since had a distinguished career as an historian and also, now, as one of the leading experts in the country on boarding education. He tells me, for example, of his friends in his secondary modern school, six of whom were just as able as he was, but whose parents thought at that time that they ought to get out and earn money, and they are now on the floor of the shop, working at Dagenham. In these days we cannot afford that high wastage of talent. That is why I think the comprehensive system is such an admirable one.
The comprehensive system is attacked, and I was slightly disturbed to note that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, went on to talk about a kind of "doctrinal purity" which had obsessed the Government in their policy on this matter. I do not quite understand what he means by "doctrinal purity". because if the present system is as I have described it, if it is inefficient, unfair and distorts education in the primary schools, then surely the sooner it can be abolished, the better.
I should have liked to ask the noble Earl whether he was in favour of "1066". I do not refer to the event, 900 years ago in history, whereby a rude transfer of Government occurred which led, twenty years later, to the setting up of a Land Commission, which published its report, not in a White Paper, of course, but in Domesday Book. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred to land barons and the necessity of keeping them in their place. That was what Domesday Book was meant to do. I refer not to that event in history, but to the circular which dealt with the extension of comprehensive education in new towns and rural areas, and laid down that in those areas no further secondary modern or grammar schools should be built. If that circular is accepted as a reasonable piece of administrative procedure, it seems to me it follows that one should not be too disturbed about the gradual change (for it must be gradual) that will take place in our schools as a whole in their structure, because it is not really sense to say that we are entirely in favour of comprehensive education but that wherever we have a very good 269 grammar school it must be kept as it is at present.
The reason, of course, that we cannot have both systems running simultaneously is that if, in an area, there is a good grammar school and a comprehensive school is also set up there, the comprehensive school simply becomes another name for a secondary modern school. That is why it is important to emphasise that in universities, which might be expected to be places which would put tremendous importance on the preservation of the grammar school system, there are many people who believe that in fact the comprehensive system is not merely a fairer system but is also more efficient.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? Arising out of what he said with regard to the impossibility of having both comprehensive and selective schools together, would he say that it would be impossible to have both types in London, for instance?
§ LORD ANNAN
Presumably the noble Lord means comprehensives and secondary moderns and grammar schools running together. I think it is inevitable that this will go on, simply because of the state of school buildings, but I very much hope that everywhere in the country we shall in future years move towards a comprehensive system.
There are two difficulties which dog our education in schools. One of these is segregation, and here I should like to hark back to a debate which took place in your Lordships' House in February last when the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, introduced the Motion on the future of the public schools and direct grant schools. In that debate a very notable contribution was made by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, who of course brought a great wealth of experience from his time as headmaster of an immensely distinguished direct grant school. Yet to hear him speak one would have thought that that great school and other direct grant schools pullulated with large numbers of children from the working class, the skilled workers or even the unskilled workers. In fact, if one looks at these figures for the direct grant schools one sees that they present a class pattern very like that in the public 270 schools. The national percentage of children of the professional classes is 4 per cent.: in public schools and direct grant schools, the figure is something between 32 and 27 per cent. The difference between the public and the direct grant schools is very little. For the intermediate classes, which in the community number 15 per cent., the figure in public and direct grant schools is something between 50 and 60 per cent. In the skilled working class, here the direct grant schools have a slight edge on the public schools: and the figure is about 7 per cent. for the public schools, compared to 14 per cent., at most, for the direct grant schools. But if we come to the semi-skilled or unskilled members of the community, which total 21 and 9 per cent, respectively in the national community, here one sees that their children have very little chance, not only of going to a public school but of going even to a direct grant school.
We must surely try to move towards abolishing this kind of segregation. We shall never completely abolish it. Comprehensives will not abolish it; comprehensives will not solve this problem, which will remain with us for many years, and one knows perfectly well that neighbourhood schools—that is to say, schools in particular neighbourhoods—will have a better reputation than schools in other neighbourhoods. There will be choice by neighbourhood, just as to-day there is choice by cheque book or choice by meritocratic entry through the 11-plus. This will happen for some time, because it will take long to replace school buildings, owing to the many years of neglect of school buildings, particularly primary schools, by Tory and Liberal Governments since the beginning of this century.
I believe that one of the things that comprehensives will do is to alleviate to some extent that division, which I think is a most unfortunate one and must inevitably occur when 70 per cent. of the children go to secondary modern schools and the other 30 per cent. to grammar schools or to independent or direct grant schools. The emphasis which the Government are at the moment putting on comprehensive education does make us think of children as belonging to a single nation and not two.
271 The other point to which I want to allude is Lord Jellicoe's admirable disquisition, at the end of his speech, about the importance of taking problems of delinquency extremely seriously.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CHAMPION)
My Lords, the noble Lord is now about to embark upon another part of his speech, and I wonder whether this might be a suitable moment for the House to adjourn during pleasure until fifteen minutes after the termination of the meeting which is to be held in the Royal Gallery and is to be addressed by U Thant.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.