§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I was referring to the problem of delinquency which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, raised, and it is an extremely important point. There are many causes of child delinquency, but one of them may well be the fact that under our present system of education, with the streaming of children in the secondary modern schools, so many of them feel from an early age that they are rejected by society. This is one of the things which I hope can also be changed in our educational system.
If I may refer to this business of dividing the clever children, who go of course to the grammar schools, from the not so clever, I approach this from the point of view of someone who was myself at a public school and governor of two public schools. I believe that the public schools have something to give to the State educational system. It is simply this: that, as everyone who goes to a public school knows, there is to be found there an extraordinary mixture of talent, not only very clever boys but also some really very stupid boys. And this is admirable for both, because the not so intellectually 272 able ones are given targets to aim for; they are made aware of the fact that the intellect is in some way important, and that there are academic standards which have some value in life. At the same time, the clever children are made to realise that not all the prizes necessarily go to those who are clever at their sums. They realise that there are qualities which people have, of adaptability, of character, of leadership, and some of the clever ones are persuaded that perhaps these are important in life. So the clever and the not so clever gain from each other.
I think it would be very false indeed to pretend that a public school is in any way a comprehensive school. Indeed, when some Members of your Lordships' House said this they were head magisterially rebuked in The Times by Mr. Robert Birley, who pointed out that the public school is a very different place indeed from a comprehensive school. Nevertheless, I think there is an analogy to be drawn: that although a public school has its own standard of entrance, the common entrance examination, this wide disparity of talent has a good effect on both kinds of child in the school. This is one of the things that the comprehensive school aims to achieve. It is very difficult to achieve in many areas but it does aim to do this, and I think this is one of the reasons why children in public schools feel, in a sense, less rejected, if they are not so clever, because it is perfectly well realised that in fact both types of child have a great deal to add to the community.
There is one last question that I want to ask here, and that is on the sixth-form education in the country. It is a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Snow, has often referred in public and in our debates. I refer to the deplorable fact that, owing to specialisation in the sixth form, boys and girls who opt for an arts subject are not to be instructed in mathematics after the age of 15½. This seems to me one of the really disastrous things in our school organisation at the moment. It is disastrous because, whatever you are going to do in later life, you probably need some mathematical techniques—and I use that term in the most humble sense, probably only the humblest kind of statistical techniques.
Indeed, I think it would be greatly advantageous if we had in our sixth 273 forms courses of mathematics for non-mathematicians, and these should be courses structured not for people who are mathematicians but for people like myself who are abysmally ignorant of this subject, to give the kind of person who has no mathematical ability some interest in seeing what different techniques can do. At one public school, of which, owing to being Provost of King's, I have the honour to be, ex officio, Senior Fellow, Eton, they have, I believe, recently installed a computer.
The possibilities for the use of a computer in instruction in mathematics for the non-mathematical are enormous. You can take cricket averages, racing form, and all sorts of things that make a real appeal to boys without mathematical ability, and they will see the point of these techniques. If you can use this kind of instruction to stop this terrible division in our sixth forms between those who are innumerate (to use the phrase of the Crowther Report) and those who are illiterate, in the sense that they are doing so much science and mathematics that they never have any time for arts subjects, it will be of inestimable value. I wonder whether we could have any information as to whether the Committee on the curriculum, set up under Sir John Maude, in the Department for Education and Science, has made any progress on this particular point.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord for one moment. He has mentioned Eton. I was at that school and I should just like to inform the noble Lord that I never felt anything but rejected during the whole time I was there. He says you do not feel rejected at a public school. You do. I was rejected for four years, and I have never got over it.
§ LORD ANNAN
I cannot, of course, question the noble Lord's factual analysis of his career at Eton. I can only say that his deduction that he has never been able to get over it is palpably wrong.
Let me leave this question of education and turn to my second point, that of road safety, which is mentioned in the gracious Speech, where it is stated that a measure will be laid before us designed to promote greater safety on the roads. I presume that this refers to a Bill which has been 274 much bruited about, and which will contain the suggestion that a breathalyser should be used, of which I am entirely in favour in regard to the roads, though not necessarily for use in this House. Nevertheless, by itself, I think that it is only one move towards greater safety on the roads.
I wonder whether I might draw attention to something which has been much discussed in the Press recently, namely, the promotion of greater safety in the manufacture of cars. This matter arose recently in acute form in the United States, where a Mr. Ralph Nader wrote a book which showed that insufficient attention was being paid by the manufacturers of cars—by General Motors, Ford, and other great firms—to manufacturing cars with obvious safety devices. The hook was published. General Motors were then unwise enough to put private detectives on the author's trail in order to detract from his character, if they could; and when that was impossible and they were exposed for so doing, the President of General Motors had to apologise to Congress.
This gives some indication of the way in which car manufacturers are unwilling to pay attention to things which undoubtedly can lead them into great expense, and which possibly might make their cars less saleable. I do not believe that any such nefarious activities would ever be indulged in by manufacturers of cars in this country. Nevertheless, is it not possible that in this Bill there might be provisions which would, for instance, increase the number of requirements essential by law in the manufacture of a car? The simplest example I can give is the introduction of safety belts or safety seats. The Road Research Laboratory has, for example, shown that there has been a 15 per cent. reduction in accidents with all cars which were fitted with safety belts; that only 20 per cent. of cars have these and that in only 8 per cent. of those cars which are fitted with safety belts do the people who drive them or sit in them regularly wear them. Nevertheless, if this figure of a 15 per cent. reduction in road accidents is effected, surely this is one of the things which ought to be made compulsory in all cars. The reduction in deaths through fitting safety belts is enormous: it is 70 per cent. There is a reduction in serious 275 injuries of 65 per cent. and in slight injuries of 33 per cent.
Of course, we need more than this. We need safety seats which are bolted to the floor. We need more research into the kind of ways in which these safety measures could be introduced. You may say: Yes, if they are compulsory to fit. But should they be compulsory to wear? No; that would be going much too far. You cannot compel ordinary passengers to wear safety belts if they are provided. But, if they are provided, it might well be that insurance companies, when asked to pay claims for damages resulting from injuries in a road accident, would take into account the fact that, although a car had been fitted with safety belts which were compulsorily fitted, nevertheless the occupants of the car had not in fact fastened those safety belts. If this kind of sancion were imposed I think it would lead to a great increase in readiness to take measures to improve road safety. There are all sorts of other measures which might be introduced in the manufacture of cars, such as the collapsible steering column, so that in a head-on collision the steering column would not immediately puncture the chest of the driver and result in death.
These are simple indications of the kind of approach that one might hope to see in legislation which is introduced to promote road safety. Here, I feel that the new Minister of Transport, with her dynamic personality and vitality, may well produce a greater sense of urgency in that Ministry, which has not always been noted for its sense of urgency. I think it has always been a Ministry which has been too prone to say, "We must wait for three to five years to see the results of this research." The research has certainly not all been done, although a good deal of it has been completed. One would like to see some speedy measures taken to deal with the situation, which we have all now come so much to accept, the regular increase of deaths on the roads—so much so, that we now hardly pay sufficient attention to it.
My last point is on the mention in the gracious Speech of the introduction of legislation relating to the reform of Criminal and of Civil Law. The Criminal Law is particularly the one to which I want to allude. Here again, I feel myself 276 much in agreement with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, when he said that this business of the prevention of crime was of the utmost importance, and that he did not see as a solution of this problem the introduction of violent penal measures. Indeed, the whole tenor of his speech was entirely, in my own way of thinking, that penal reform should be in the sense of trying to re-educate the prisoner rather than trying to inflict punitive measures upon him. Nevertheless, this is a problem which ultimately is one of helping the police. We are to-day in a difficulty because to some extent the public have lost confidence, or at any rate the confidence they once had, in the police forces. This has had the effect of lowering the morale of the police. How can we improve this situation? Paradoxically, it may seem, one suggestion for an improvement of the position is that the Police Federation should agree that any complaints launched by a member of the public who feels he has a complaint against a police officer should not be heard, as they are at present, by chief constables or by the Commissioner of Police, but should be judged by some lay body. If this were done it seems to me that there would be very good grounds indeed for the reverse side of the coin: that is to say, of legislation being enacted to help the police in the conduct of their proceedings against the criminal classes.
One does not have to stress the extra-ordinary ability of the modern criminal—how well organised he is, how he plans his operations with the precision of a Montgomery at the Battle of Alamein. The police in this country are to some extent handicapped by our procedures in criminal law. This is a subject on which I am incompetent to speak, and I do not wish to make various half-baked suggestions which any lawyer would know were unreasonable. However, might I ask whether consideration is being given by the Government to reforming criminal procedure, particularly in regard to committal procedure in magistrates' courts? At this moment the natural process is that a criminal who is accused of a crime appears in a magistrates' court, where a process very like that which takes place at the Assize is put into effect. If it is found that a prima facie case exists against the criminal he is committed to the Assizes.
277 To many people to-day this seems, if I may so put it, to be a waste of time, in that the time would be far better spent in trying, under the Continental system of an examining magistrate, to find out more about the facts of the case.
That is only an instance, but I wish to be frank about this. In making reforms of this kind one would have to be prepared to do away with certain liberties of the subject which for generations have been this country's great pride. Nevertheless, it seems to be not beyond the bounds of possibility that procedures might be devised which would be different in the case of those members of the public who belong to the criminal classes from those applying to members of the public who have never been convicted of an offence. If that is not possible, then one should distinguish between certain kinds of crime which are clearly of great danger to the fabric of our society, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, pointed out. and those kinds of crime which many of us are capable of committing, although technically they may be misdemeanours, such as parking in the wrong place. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor could talk to us about this particular point later.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, before I come to my speech, I wonder whether your Lordships will allow me to make a brief personal statement? I am aware that it is the custom in your Lordships' House that people who take part in a debate should remain until the end of that debate, but circumstances have arisen which make it impossible for me to do so. Therefore I beg your Lordships' indulgence that I may be excused if I leave before the end of the debate. In doing so, I should like to apologise to the succeeding speakers, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Newton, who is the last speaker but one, and to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. This is the first time I have had to ask your Lordships' indulgence in this way.
Your Lordships will recall that in the gracious Speech reference was made to the intention of the Government to…complete further stages of their major review of social security.278 In the same paragraph it added that legislation would be introducedto replace National Assistance by a new system of non-contributory benefits.Nowhere in the field of social work will this intention be more welcome than to those who are working for and on behalf of the elderly people or, for that matter, to the old people themselves. It may not be appreciated that to-day we have about 6 million old-age pensioners in this country, about one-fifth of whom have to apply for National Assistance in order to keep themselves either on or above the subsistence level. It has been stated that there are about another 1 million old-age pensioners who are entitled to National Assistance and who need it but who, for a particular reason, decline to apply. Investigation has shown that, in the main, their refusal to apply is due to a feeling that they are asking for charity. Many of the old folk are much too proud, mistakenly, I feel, to ask for what is, after all, their right. It has been stated that there are something like 1 million old-age pensioners in that situation. To these proud old people the replacement of National Assistance by a system of non-contributory benefits is, I suggest, vitaÎ.
I am prepared to say that over the years we have been indecently slow to match our social policy with the needs of the elderly, with the result that we have subjected elderly people to a good deal of misery and humiliation. Fortunately, they may be only a minority, but they are a minority in great need and with very special material wants in respect of cash, housing, hospital and home services. I fully appreciate and realise the efforts made by the last Government—and may I say that by "the last Government" I mean the last Labour Government—and I recognise that millions of people are now beginning to enjoy the benefits which the Government introduced at a time of financial stringency, which included a very substantial increase in the old age pension rate—the largest single increase, I believe, since 1946. Having said that, I am not unmindful of the problems, particularly the financial problems, facing this Government or, for that matter, those which would have faced any Government. But whatever our commitments may be, the condition of people, particularly those less fortunately placed in the 279 community, must always be our first consideration. If the present trends continue, by the end of the next fifteen years—that is by 1981—we shall have nearly 7½ million people over the age of 65, and we shall have nearly 8 million people of 65 and over in the next 35 years.
If we are to continue old-age pension rates at their present level, this will cost us something like £400 million more by 1980. But I think we have got to face the fact that they probably cannot be left at that level; that they must be increased. This means a far greater sum than an extra £400 million a year, and it means that many of us who are more favourably placed have to recognise that it is, perhaps, a privilege to pay larger National Insurance contributions. Not only will their needs be greater from a cash point of view, but they will be correspondingly greater in respect of health and welfare and housing.
I think the time is now when we should plan for the needs of old-age pensioners in fifteen years' time. Those concerned with the problem of the aged have already estimated that about 50,000 one-bedroomed dwellings need to be built every year by local authorities for the benefit of aged people, and this is only one requirement. In the future we shall have to accept a far greater responsibility for the health, wealth and happiness of our growing number of old people. This does not mean merely more collaboration between the official and the voluntary agencies, which, let us be quite frank about it, are already doing a first-class job. I believe that it means bringing in the community as a whole, and encouraging and making possible a lead by families and friends and neighbours. I see no reason why families should not, say, adopt an aged person, in the same way that the Children Act has only been made workable because a large number of people in the community have been prepared to foster homeless children. I hope that the Government—and I want to say this with all the force I can—will find it possible to end the unpopular and humiliating system of National Assistance at the earliest possible moment.
I have referred to the plight of the aged, but before I sit down I hope your Lordships will permit me to draw atten- 280 tion to the problem of one family group within the community. It may not be generally recognised by the community that, in spite of full employment, higher wages and a rising standard of living, the family where the husband and wife are under the age of 35 years and have young children is, with the exception of the old-age pensioners, the worst hit financially in our society. They are in a very precarious and serious financial position. For this particular family group there is constant strain, anxiety and worry, probably more so than in any other family group within our society.
Having said that, I must confess that I am not clear in my own mind how this particular family group could be helped financially. Taxation on traditional lines seems to have accomplished little in bringing about genuine redistribution of wealth. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, touched on affluency and poverty within our present society, but I wonder how many people realise that about one-tenth of our people live in poverty. That makes it incumbent upon the Government—any Government, for that matter—to take steps to realise the concept of our minimum guaranteed income in the shortest possible time. It is for this reason that I am glad the Government are going ahead with their major review of social policy.
A moment or two ago I said that I am not clear in my own mind how we can deal with the family group to which I have referred. But I should like to suggest, for the consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Pensions, the replacement of tax reliefs for children by higher family allowances, or a modification of them. I understand that tax reliefs for children cost about £500 million, as against £150 million for family allowances. Halving tax reliefs for children would, I believe, provide sufficient money to raise family allowances to about three times their present level; or, in other words, enable family allowances of between 25s. and 30s. per week to be paid for each child after the first. I am informed that this has been done for some years in Denmark and Sweden, and done very successfully.
Finally, I want to congratulate the Government on their determination to forge ahead with their plans to review social security, and to abolish National 281 Assistance as we know it. I hope, as I said earlier, that they will give this intention a real measure of priority.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, after that concise and most interesting speech, I will do my best to be brief. However, I should like, if I may, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for some very kind words which he spoke about me the other day. I did not deserve them—one usually does not. But, if I may take the language of the March Hare, even if it is a month late it was the best butter, and none the worse for being salted with a little Attic salt.
I welcome the gracious Speech, particularly for one reason. I think that, unlike a good many previous gracious Speeches from both Parties, it shows that the problems which we have to face to-day, inside as well as outside this country, hang much more closely together than in the past we supposed. It seems to me that to consider housing without industry, transport without housing, education without any of them, is becoming more and more glaringly impossible, and the Government which realise that the most fully will deserve the praise which I feel they will get.
Having said that, I want, if I may, to pick two small holes in the gracious Speech. The first is, as any hole should be, one of omission. We promised at the General Election that legislation would be introduced to safeguard measures approved by the House of Commons from frustration, delay or defeat in the House of Lords, and I feel sure that noble Lords opposite will continue to wish us, as they always do, to carry out our Election promises. I think that that particular one should be implemented rather soon, but it is not mentioned in the Queen's Speech. I appreciate that there are many other things to be done, and it is not for me to decide on a matter of this sort. But one may have one's views; and when I look back to the last occasion when there was a really serious clash between the two Houses, I feel that measures of this sort should be taken early rather than late in this Parliament.
That, of course, was the Iron and Steel Nationalisation Bill, which was introduced in 1949 and a vital Amendment to which was moved and carried in this House on 282 June 29 on a Motion from the Opposition Front Bench. People sometimes forget that this House did not reject the whole of the Iron and Steel Nationalisation Bill. It was this vital Amendment, affecting the date of the operation of the Bill, that led to the clash of the two Houses. Without going into a rather complicated history, the net result of this was that the vesting date, which was originally intended to be May 1, 1950, before a General Election which was then pending, was ultimately postponed till February 15, 1951, after the General Election had resulted in the return for a second time of a Labour Government, but with a very much smaller majority.
My Lords, what then happened was that the opposition of the industry—which, I think I can fairly say, had been voiced throughout—and the delay that this House had been able to impose were sufficient to prevent the Bill from getting thoroughly into operation until the following General Election (the technical part of it did, of course, but I am talking about the practical part of it now) and when the Conservatives came back to power the Bill was repealed. I cannot think that this House should ever be in a position to do that—and I call your Lordships' attention to the fact that it was done, not by the refusal of a Second Reading, but by an Amendment originating here.
My Lords, it seems to me that, if this is to be done, the words I have quoted from the Election address are about right in content. I do not want to blow up this place in any way. On the contrary, I think the debates we have had in the last few days are a very good instance of how useful this place can be as a deliberative Assembly. It has other uses, too. I am not, for instance, talking about Private Bills for the moment, but they are one case. On the other hand, I think we must accept the principle that, in a Parliamentary democracy in the middle of the 20th century, where there is an elected Chamber and a non-elected Chamber, once it appears clear, on any legislative or similar matter, that there is a difference of opinion between the two, the elected Chamber must prevail. I rather doubt whether many of your Lordships would really dispute that, and I hope I am right in saying that we are at any rate coming increasingly to realise that.
283 I will not argue it at any length now, but, starting from that, I think we should then look at our procedure and our functions in the light of accepting our own virtues as a deliberative Chamber, but also accepting the proposition that I have just made. Certain things seem to me to follow which would abbreviate considerably the time taken here and, incidentally—and this is really the most important point—abbreviate the time of the House of Commons. It is, after all, very precious nowadays, under any Government, for any Party to have time in the House of Commons, and we ought to be very careful to see that it is not wasted. Therefore, once a Bill came forward here, I would treat it as the Finance Bill is treated at the present time in relation to the substance of the Bill, and I would not allow this House to reject it with any effect. I would not allow a defeat of a Bill on a Second Reading. That is at present the procedure as regards Finance Bills under the first Section of the Parliament Act, 1911, both as regards the Bill itself and as regards Amendments.
However, as to Amendments, I would not go so far as one does in regard to Finance Bills, and I think there are good reasons for that. I would have Amendments here, and, having had them, I would send them back to another place and allow them to lie on the Table for a certain amount of time, thus giving another place the opportunity of picking up, discussing and, if it so wished, adopting some of those Amendments. There are obvious reasons for this in one perfectly clear case, that is, where the Amendments are those which have been promised at the last moment in another place and which are introduced here. It would be nonsensical to invent some form of procedure which prevented that use being made of this place.
There remain two other matters. One is the question of Administrative Orders. I was profoundly shocked, when I was sitting below, by a Division being taken in this House on one particular Order. It was an Order about local government in the West Midlands. It had involved inquiries and costs over a period of about five years. It had been produced as the result of those inquiries, and with the agreement of the Housing Minister, first of the Conservative Party and then 284 of the Labour Party; and yet the House divided against it. It was not the Front Bench, my Lords: it was a number of noble Lords who felt impelled to do this because of their interest in county council affairs.
§ LORD NEWTON
I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He will remember that in fact I supported him on that occasion. But does the noble Lord not agree that, although it did not happen, it would have been perfectly competent for another place to have divided against the Order, as your Lordships did in this House? I do not see that this is a valid criticism of this House as against the other place.
§ LORD MITCHISON
Of course. I am sorry I did not make myself clear. The whole point is that the other place had already approved the Order. In spite of that, and in spite of the length and complexity of these inquiries, an appreciable number of noble Lords divided against it on what were really local government grounds. They were interested in the fortunes of county councils, and so on. I entirely agree with the noble Lord—indeed, I said so—that the Front Bench had nothing to do with it. But, my Lords, the Duke of Plaza Toro is occasionally a little in evidence in this House; he is occasionally leading his regiment from behind. The only doubt I feel is whether he finds it less exciting—I am not sure he does not find it more exciting.
My Lords, I was reading a very interesting academic work about the deliberations of this place for some years past, and I discovered from that work the existence of a body of independent Unionist Peers corresponding roughly, I think, to our old friends the 1922 Committee in the Commons. But discipline here seems to be much more lax. Perhaps it is right that it should be; but one must accept the fact that if the two Front Benches are agreed on the reasonableness of something or other, it does not necessarily follow that there will not be a Division about it. While I recognise that it is occasionally the case that people have a Division only because they know they will lose it, and would be horrified if they won it, that is rather an unsound foundation, I think, for arranging the functions of this House. Therefore, taking the lines I indicated, there is one 285 other matter I should mention. It is a minor matter. I do not want to go into it in detail, because there happens to be something on the Order Paper which affects it. I think we ought to be careful in this House how we take up matters which are really the province of a Member of another place in relation to his constituency. We shall have to consider that particularly carefully, I think, if the Ombudsman proposals ever reach fruition as, for my part. I rather hope they will.
Having said that, I repeat again that I have met the greatest kindness in this House. I hope I should not be too influenced by that. I have also been very sincerely impressed by the value of the discussions we have in our deliberative capacity. What I think we must realise is that as a Legislative Chamber we are sadly out of date, and had better get reform fairly quickly. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke about the "studied moderation" with which the Opposition had acted in certain respects. I value that, but it is not a good basis for carrying on a reasonable debate about legislation. You do not want one side behaving all the time with "studied moderation".
We must accept the fact that there is at the moment, and is likely to be, a built-in Tory majority in this House and that the relations between this place and another place necessarily vary according to what is the elected Government. I repeat that there is no room for having the Sword of Damocles hanging here among the stained glass and armoury. It is not a good thing to hang over people if they are to do the job properly. In my view, there is a real function for this House to perform, and it could be in the best interests of the House itself, and of the country, and of the three political Parties, if the matter were tackled seriously and soon. It will have to be a case for legislation. It involves the relations between the two Houses, and could not be done otherwise.
My Lords, the second point was a smaller one. I have been reading some of these gracious Speeches. The language is very peculiar; and it is getting no better. But I was not the only person to notice the silliest sentence in the gracious Speech. It is wedged in between a reference to higher education and 286 another one about our cultural heritage. What it says is:The development of science will be continued.This is a Speech which is supposed to be about pending legislation. As a prophecy that statement is no doubt fairly safe; but as a statement of policy or of legislation it is so vague as to be utterly meaningless. I entreat the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who takes a great interest in proper drafting, as he explained to us the other day, to tell us just what that sentence was intended to mean, what it means and how on earth it got there in that form—because it is rather disgraceful.
This is not a mere question of language. I remember an extremely eloquent speech, which I felt certain was fully meant and felt, made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister at Scarborough in 1963: I think it was at the Labour Party Conference. It swung the delegates at the Conference; it caught their imagination. It made solid trade unionists suddenly look at things in a slightly different light—and to effect that is sometimes no easy task. It inspired people there—particularly, I think, the younger ones—and the great theme of the speech was the possibilities of science in a modern society and a modern world, and the advantages that could be brought by those discoveries to the community as a whole. I should have liked to see in the gracious Speech something of that sort, and in some less cryptic form than the sentence I have read out. As I understand my own Party, I think the intention is still fully there, and I do not for one moment agree with the gibes at the Ministry of Technocracy—
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, that is all I have to say on those two points. If I may I will skim through one other matter. It is really rather strange, because the gracious Speech has not been knitted together properly. Your Lordships will see that Scotland is included in the part about Department of Economic 287 Affairs because there is a reference to Great Britain there. When it comes to Scotland itself—which, I suppose, is the responsibility of the Scottish Office—they have gone all rural. This is rather odd for the Scottish Office under a Labour Government.
Your Lordships will find, again, that transport has fallen rather short of words. There is something about road safety—about which we had a good speech just now—but I should have thought that the main job in regard to transport was the integration (to use a rather hackneyed term) of road and rail transport. That remains unmentioned. However, the words "Other measures" can cover a lot and time is getting late. I have tried to convey to your Lordships' House as best I could the respect I felt for it as an institution, even if I thought that at the moment it was tempted to bite off a little more than it could chew.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, as the first speaker on this side of the House to follow the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, I join in the congratulations which have been offered her from all parts of the House. I should also like to say how glad I was to hear, in the flesh, so to speak, the voice which I have so often welcomed on the radio; and I hope we shall hear that voice again.
I was tempted to cross swords with the noble Lord who has just sat down but I refrain from doing so, not because I am afraid to—and I disagree with practically all he said and, indeed, I somewhat resented the implications of some remarks—but because, with respect, the reform of the Parliamentary system did not form part of the gracious Speech which we are discussing. So I will turn to the paragraph about Scotland which he mentioned. Prickly as the Scots are reputed to be, I personally did not notice any insult there. Indeed, I welcomed the reference to the reorganisation of arrangements for Scottish water supply. But as, of course—for reasons I need not go into—the problem is not so complex in Scotland as it is in England and Wales, I need not go into it.
As to the reference to "the conservation of the Scottish countryside', it will 288 be interesting to see what the Government actually have in mind. At the moment I would refer to two important general matters in respect of the countryside about which there is very strong feeling—litter and noise. Can the drive against litter be stepped up? In Scotland, as elsewhere, road users are possibly the worst offenders, but many beauty spots are spoiled by tipping and by dumping. May we have more propaganda and perhaps more prosecutions, especially over tipping and dumping? Curiously enough, only to-day I have been with a visitor from Australia who enthused about the Scottish countryside but did mention this offence of tipping and dumping at places of beauty. It is, of course, easy to say, "Why are there not more notices?" or, "Why are there not more bins at lay-bys?" It is possible to put bins in lay-bys, but people do not use them, or perhaps the wind blows the papers out of them. County councils have to pay to have the bins cleared, and perhaps they cannot afford to do so. But there are places where no bins are provided, and I think that more bins should be provided.
Above all, I feel that it is worth while encouraging a sense of appreciation of the importance of cleanliness in the countryside. Visitors from some countries such as Switzerland are greatly offended by the presence of litter, and it is essential, especially now that tourism is such an important invisible asset, that litter should not be allowed to be a blot on the countryside. I was greatly interested in the, speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and his reference to the determination of the Government to preserve the character of places of beauty, both urban and rural. Perhaps the noble Lord will convince his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am sure that what he has said links up with the paragraph in the gracious Speech to which I refer.
As for noise, are we not getting too complacent about it? Perhaps we are benumbed by the noise of the motor vehicle. Generally it is lower-powered vehicles, or those which are poorly maintained, that make the most noise. The rumble and roar of traffic streaming through the quiet countryside is bad enough, but when it is overlaid by the hideous crackling of exhausts it is too 289 much to bear, and I feel that it constitutes a further desecration of the countryside which ought to be controlled. I say, "Ought to be controlled." Again, that sounds easy; but perhaps further efforts at control might be made. It is a matter on which the Secretary of State might well keep an eye, or lend an ear. Coaches and buses seldom offend.
One welcomes the drive that is now being made in vehicle safety provisions relating to the condition of vehicles. This will help to ensure that vehicles are kept in proper trim. If I may digress (because this applies to Scotland as well as to various other places), I think your Lordships will agree that aircraft which are flying too low, noisy sports cars and motor cycles are an absolute scourge. Perhaps this applies more in London than in the countryside.
As there is a reference in the gracious Speech to road safety, it is fair to assume that the Government intend to reintroduce the Bill relating to road safety which has a Second Reading in another place. Is it too late to arrange that the new Bill will not include a clause about random spot checks being made on the roads with the device which we accept under the name of the breathalyser? The clear indication that the Ministry is approaching the whole problem of road safety scientifically is most welcome, but I am one who is not persuaded that the scientific examination of accident causation will show that the sacrifices demanded by spot checks with a breathalyser are justified—at least, not yet. I will not catalogue the objections, which have been fully aired both in this Chamber and in another place, but there is one point which, so far as T know, has not been mentioned before. It is that spot check proposals, in addition to increasing friction between motorists and police, may also embroil the police with publicans, and the relationship between them is, in any case, tricky.
My Lords, in referring to the question of the police duties my mind goes back to what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in his peroration regarding the containment of crime: the fact that one war which is not being won is the war against crime and that one of the weapons we are denied is an adequate police force. I urge the Government to bear in mind that already the police are 290 grossly over-burdened in respect of their duties relating to motorists, and the dubious advantages of this proposal might not be off-set. To my mind, it constitutes an interference with the liberty of the subject. I do not suggest for one moment that the pressure against drunken driving should be relaxed, but I do say that there is a workable middle course, namely, that breath tests should be made automatically when police have to attend an accident, no matter how trivial. The question of spot checks might be kept in abeyance, at least until the effectiveness of the instrument and the legal processes which will develop from the earlier prosecutions are established.
Further, my Lords—I have said this before in your Lordships' House—scientific analysis may well show that there are matters more causative of serious accidents than drunken driving. I had occasion only the day before yesterday to find that the victims of the last six fatal road accidents in the area in which I live were as follows: one lorry driver who must have gone to sleep; one child riding a borrowed bicycle who shot out into the road in front of a car; one "drunk" who walked into the side of a car and was killed; one eighty-year-old partially blind person running to a bus across the traffic; one "drunk" who was being given a lift by a lorry driver and chose to open the door of the cab and step out into the night while the vehicle was travelling at 40 m.p.h., and one deranged patient in hospital who, early one morning, came out and threw himself in front of a bus. There were six fatal accidents, two of which involved drink, but none involved a drunken driver. Of course, this is not a scientific way to approach the matter, but I thought your Lordships might be inter-interested in this little catalogue of accidents which happened near where I live only last month. As I said before, there are things more causative of accidents than drink and driving.
The testing of goods vehicles is a first-rate arrangement which, presumably, will be given effect to, and the announcement yesterday about the action to be taken aganist tired drivers is a step in the right direction. This relates to what I say: that there are other causes which may be more serious in relation to accidents than drink and driving. The question of the 291 eyesight of drivers and the need for tests has been mentioned in this Chamber at Question Time, and there is the possibility of accidents caused by the use of smooth tyres, particularly on the front wheels of light vehicles; the absence of safety belts; faulty rear lights and stop lights, and reflectors which are obscured. Above all there is the possibility of accidents which may be caused by the careless halting of vehicles, or by parking vehicles on bends and so on.
In regard to the taking of action against tired drivers, it is well to remember the advantage of carrying a load on Friday and the week-end overtime which follows, and the possible malfeasance which can stern from that. There might be more flexibility about the hours during which driving is permitted. This might help to overcome the tragic cause of so many fatal accidents which occur when truck drivers go to sleep. I say, hunt and ban the drunken driver and give magistrates and juries a yardstick without a peradventure. That is a point which the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, made during the debate on the last gracious Speech: the importance of having a yardstick to measure the amount of drink that has been taken and what it constitutes. Do not let us forget, in our reforming passion, that there may be other sins, malfeasances and misfeasances, more dreadful in terms of their ultimate effect and perhaps more easily contained.
As to co-ordination of research into road accidents, I would ask whether co-ordination is going ahead fast enough. It is welcome to see that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the motor manufacturers and designers have got together this very week to have a conference on the matter. Should there possibly be a larger co-ordinating authority? For instance, are the findings of the Institute of Automobile Accident Assessors brought into the purview of this research?
Before I sit down, I am tempted to refer to something which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said in the brilliantly delivered speech with which he seconded the Motion before the House. He referred to the hope, which we all have, that the world will be spared from annihilation by atomic explosion, a disaster which will only happen of deliberate intent. But 292 there is one explosion of which the chain reaction has already begun and it approaches with relentless menace. I refer to the population explosion, a disaster which will happen if it is not deliberately prevented. When the noble Lord, Lord Soper, asked what would it profit us if we fulfilled the ambitions of a Commonwealth or Welfare State and were blown to pieces by hydrogen bombs, my thoughts turned into a parallel line. Are we sufficiently conscious of this threatening problem of the population explosion? Perhaps your Lordships will wish some day soon to debate this matter again, as we did a year or two ago. Meanwhile, let us continue to bear in mind this menace, which threatens to overwhelm many of the earnest plans for the future which are contained in the gracious Speech. I beg to support the Motion for an humble Address.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I also should like to add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, on her very good maiden speech on the medical profession. Regarding doctors, I have always thought that we should adopt the system that used to exist in China, that when one became ill one stopped paying the doctor.
I intend to cross swords for a moment with the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison. I understood him to say that the House of Lords had been responsible for the Labour Government not carrying out some of their Election promises. To make such a statement is really very mischievous. If there are any promises the last Government did not carry out it is entirely their own fault. I do not want to fight the Election all over again—I made enough speeches in it—but I would remind noble Lords of one or two things. For instance, the Prime Minister said in 1964, before the Election, that he did not think that any increase in taxation would be necessary for his programme. Taxation has increased by over £900 million. We must also remember Mr. George Brown's unfortunate statement regarding low interest rates. During the period of the last Labour Government we have had the longest period of high interest rates in the whole history of this country. So do not let the noble Lord say that the House of Lords has prevented the Labour 293 Government from carrying out its Election promises.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I think that this contentious, fascinating exposition really comes from a misunderstanding. What I did was to attribute to noble Lords opposite a wish that the Government would always carry out their Election promises, in particular their promise to introduce some reforms in this place.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, the noble Lord also gave us to understand that this House was able to overrule another place. He knows perfectly well that this House can do no such thing. I would point out to the noble Lord that the majority in the last Government was only four, sometimes three, and that more of the electorate voted Conservative than Socialist, even though we had a Socialist Government. This House had every right, if it did not agree with something, to delay it slightly, until the electorate could have another chance.
I promise your Lordships that I shall speak briefly. I think that the gracious Speech is uninspiring. Its confident statements overlook the economic conditions of this country. However, I am not going to talk about economic conditions, because we talked about them on the first day. The noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Brighton, in his excellent speech in moving the Address, compared the Roman Empire with the former British Empire and said that the Roman Empire was founded on force. This is partially true, because force is always required to uphold the law. Roman law was of inestimable value to the world, and is of course the basis of our law. But what the noble Lord did not say was why the Roman Empire fell. It fell because of free bread and circuses.
The gracious Speech says:My Ministers will complete further stages of the major review of social security… they will seek further means of dealing with the poverty that still exists.On this point, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said that one-tenth of the population of this country were stricken by poverty. We all know, if only from having read Dickens, what poverty was like in this country in the nineteenth century and for some at the turn of this century. But what is poverty to-day?
294 How are we to define poverty? For instance, is poverty subsistence level? And is subsistence level the standard accepted by the National Assistance Board? If so, one person in every seven in this country, and not one in every ten, is suffering from poverty. Of these people, 3 million are in households headed by men in full-time jobs.
We now have the position in this country where National Assistance scales have reached such a high level since the 1948 Regulations (the actual increase is eleven times) that many workers find themselves better off with National Assistance than when working. This is a very dangerous position for the moral fibre of this country, because if subsistence level is the standard accepted by the National Assistance Board for assistance, then hundreds of thousands of workers, particularly in agriculture, are poverty-stricken, even though they are in full employment. But this is absurd, because the majority of them have cars and T.V. sets. Is poverty now to mean that you can have only one car, and that you cannot go to Spain for your holidays?
The gracious Speech says (and I am extremely pleased to read this) that a new Ministry of Social Security is to be created, and that National Assistance is to be replaced by a new system of non-contributory benefits. This is an excellent thing. The first task of this new Ministry of Social Security must be to define what is poverty, because if you allow thousands of able-bodied young men—and I know several of them—to enjoy a life of leisure on a standard of material prosperity comparable to that of the lower-paid workers, such as some of those in agriculture, then it is extremely upsetting for those lower-paid workers.
There is no doubt that National Assistance, as at present organised, is in utter chaos. Several extremely conscientious working people who have come to me have been quite upset by reports of men (and they know some of them) who have not worked for years, and who are receiving £12, £15 or even £20 a week from National Assistance. Only the other day an unemployed man and his wife were convicted of stealing. The man had been unemployed for three years, and was drawing from the National 295 Assistance £17 a week. When conscientious workers in this country—and thank Heaven! they are in the majority—read this sort of thing, it is infuriating and most disheartening for them.
I am not attacking the Welfare State. The trouble is, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said, that we have hundreds of thousands of old people, widows and widowers particularly, who are too proud to apply for National Assistance. Then we have the infirm and the unfortunate, and, also, particularly, children who come from bad homes. These are the people we want to help. I believe that this whole system of family allowances is wrong. If you have irresponsible parents, possibly a drunken father, there is no guarantee that the family allowance goes to the child. I hope that in the new Ministry of Social Security it will some-how be possible to arrange (I suppose there would have to be a good many more inspectors) that there is no impoverishment among children owing to their having irresponsible parents. I feel that family allowances, through the inspectors, should somehow be given in kind. I am all against increasing the Civil Service, but in this case I feel that there is probably good reason for doing so.
I told your Lordships that I would be brief, and I am afraid that I have not been. However, I feel strongly about this. I employ some agricultural workers, and other workers, who frequently point out these things to me, and they are most upset by them. We have travelled a long way since the days of the old Poor Law principle, that if you will not work, you cannot eat. On the whole, it was a good principle.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I do not mean that if you cannot work owing to misfortune you should not eat—of course you must eat. But if you cannot work owing to drunkenness or atrocious behaviour, then I do feel that—well, perhaps you ought to eat, but I do not think you ought to eat too much. I will not continue speaking, but I should just like to support my noble friend Lord Jellicoe on what he said about crime. I hope that we can really go all out to combat crime. The few 296 police officers to whom I have spoken seem to be unhappy about the criminal law. They appear to think, rightly or wrongly, that the law is on the side of the criminal and in order to convict a burglar one has almost to see him taking the stuff and certainly one has to find it on him. I am sure the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will set the wheels in motion so to revise the criminal law that it will put new heart into the police.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, we, at any rate, have been working this afternoon and I hope we shall all be able to eat before very long. I should like to join other noble Lords in offering my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, on her most interesting and deeply informative speech. Naturally it was most welcome to me that she chose as her subject the National Health Service. Having heard her speak, I think we can all be quite certain that we are fortunate in having the noble Baroness now numbered among us. I would congratulate too the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, on his appointment and also on his maiden speech this afternoon from the Front Bench, a speech which, if I may say so, was exceptionally full of information. I shall certainly read it with great care, not only to-morrow but I expect also on future occasions. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Jellicoe said—namely, that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is likely to be pretty busy in this Session, and I dare say that before very long we shall be doing battle. However, I wish the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, success—success, that is, of course, of a strictly personal kind.
At this moment I would only refer to one thing which he said. Whether or not most people find it easy to live and die happily with death duties, I, for my part, do not find it easy to take rises in income tax in my stride, which I think was one of the things the noble Lord said most people do.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, may I just put a gloss on that. I meant that if one's income went up the income tax also went up. Of course we all hate rises in the rate of income tax.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I was just going to say that unfortunately 297 income tax does not only go up when one's income has already gone up.
As the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has spoken in this debate, and as he is here at the moment, I should like to take the opportunity of telling your Lordships that, for my part, I enjoyed the verbal duels which he and I had in the last Parliament. In the course of his speech he expressed the view that the activities of another place should not be frustrated by what we do here. I hope the noble Lord did not feel frustrated by anything for which I was responsible in the last Parliament. No doubt he and I will continue to have verbal duels, but perhaps I may be permitted to add that I am sorry our future confrontations will have to take place at a greater range.
As to the content of Lord Mitchison's speech, he will not expect me to express complete agreement with his views about reform of your Lordships' House. He knows, of course, although he did not mention this, that even as the law stands at the moment the elected Chamber does get its way in the end, although obviously not as quickly as the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, would like it to do. At this time of night I am not going to follow the noble Lord on the subject of reform of this House in the terms in which he defined the word "reform", but he has tempted me to offer one or two brief observations about a related subject—namely, the modernisation of Parliament. This was not mentioned in the gracious Speech, but I noticed it was given pride of place by the Prime Minister when he spoke in another place last Thursday in the debate on the Address. It would be interesting, I think, to hear whether Her Majesty's Government, like my noble friend Lord Alport, have it in mind to modernise your Lordships' House.
From the Prime Minister's speech it was evident that he was thinking really about another place. So I would just put this suggestion to the noble Earl the Leader of the House: that it might be beneficial all round if he were to tell the Prime Minister something about what happens in your Lordships' House, because it seems to me that we are very modern—not to say, "with it"—in our attitude, for instance, to contemporary social questions, such as capital punishment, homosexuality, abortion and so on.
298 I am not making comparisons with another place; I am just talking about your Lordships' House. And it seems to me also that in this House we transact our business with considerable efficiency. We do not have repetitious speeches, we do not have dilatory Motions, we do not have dilatory Amendments to Bills—not on the whole. (I still recall, of course, our proceedings on the London Government Bill, but that was some time ago.)
Why is this? I suppose one reason is that we do not mind, or at least we do not mind too much, if our speeches are not reported in the Press, and usually they are not, but I think the main reason is the forbidding nature of our flexible procedure here. Any noble Lord who is a nuisance can be effectively stopped very quickly.
§ LORD NEWTON
By a noble Lord getting up and moving that the noble Lord be no longer heard. This has happened, but not in my time in the House.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF LONGFORD)
My Lords, while I agree that that can be done, and I have in fact seen it done, under very distressing circumstances, once in the last twenty years, I do not think it is an effective remedy. While I am Leader of the House I shall always hope to avoid having recourse to that, in any circumstances. I cannot give an absolute commitment, but I do not feel it is a remedy.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I quite accept what the noble Earl has said and I do not wish to provoke him. I thought I was being helpful. I should have thought that if we had a noble Lord who was a nuisance he could be effectively stopped if your Lordships' House as a whole so wished.
In the last three days we have had a pretty exhaustive debate on the contents of the gracious Speech as a whole, and we have discussed many aspects of what I may call home policy. In fact I think virtually every noble Lord who has spoken has, for most of the time, addressed us on a subject which has not been mentioned before, at any rate to any considerable extent. So I feel that in so far as I can be of any service to your Lordships at all, probably the best service I 299 can render is to be as brief as I can, and I will certainly try to be so, mainly for three reasons: first, the time; secondly, because we had from my noble friend Lord Jellicoe a most admirable and comprehensive speech, in which he covered most of the perhaps most important Home Affairs matters mentioned in the gracious Speech; and, thirdly, because most of the references in the gracious Speech to Home Affairs are by now rather stale. In fact, many sentences seem to have been virtually lifted out of the gracious Speech of 1964, the words having been put in a different order.
There are, of course, omissions from this gracious Speech. One is the absence of any reference to the proposals for an Ombudsman, about whom the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison said a few words. It would be very interesting to know from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack why there is no reference in this gracious Speech to the Ombudsman. In the gracious Speech of 1964 there was an oblique reference to the Ombudsman, and he received specific mention in the gracious Speech of November, 1965. I should be grateful if the noble and learned Lord could tell me why, if the Ombudsman was urgent last November, he is no longer urgent five months later. I must confess I was never particularly enthusiastic about the idea of an Ombudsman. I never really thought that he was necessary, or that if we had him, or her, he, or she, would achieve very much. Moreover, I also had at the back of my mind the suspicion (I hope it was not an unworthy one) that the reason why the Party opposite proposed the institution of Ombudsman was, partly at any rate, that they wanted to allay the fears of those people in this country whose memories are long enough to recall the bureaucratic conditions that obtained between 1945 and 1951.
There is another omission, a small one but significant, from the gracious Speech; and that is a reference to action for dealing with the radio "pirates". Since Mr. Wedgwood Benn has been Postmaster General he has made all sorts of stern promises about dealing with radio "pirates", but we have not had any action, and now we have not even any more promises, stern or otherwise. I feel slightly strongly about this matter, be- 300 cause when, in the summer of 1964, the "pirate" question first came before the public attention I was subjected, because I was the spokesman for the Post Office in your Lordships' House, to considerable bullying on this matter by noble Lords opposite and by some of my noble friends.
It fell to me to announce what the policy of the then Government was, and it was this: that they were waiting for the ratification of the Western European Convention on Pirate Broadcasting which was due to be completed shortly, and then legislation would be introduced. Privately, of course, I had, as I still have, considerable sympathy for the "pirates." There is always something romantic about the idea of piracy. Moreover, the prospect of the monolithic and monopolistic B.B.C. having its leg pulled and its listeners stolen by "three men in a boat" certainly had considerable attraction for me. Nevertheless, it was my duty to state what the Government policy was. What happened after that? A few months later, we had the General Election, the Labour Party were returned to power, and in January, 1965, the European Convention was ratified. Since then nothing has happened. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord could tell us what the Government propose to do about this matter, bearing in mind, as we all do, that the longer action is delayed the more unpopular any such action, if it ever comes, will be.
There is another, I hope not significant, omission from the gracious Speech. This is in connection with housing. There is a great deal in the Speech concerning matters relating to housing but there is no sentence comparable with that in the gracious Speech of 1964. This was that:My Government will pursue a vigorous housing policy directed to producing more houses of better quality.We know what happened. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe told us this afternoon that the Conservative target of 400,000 was badly missed last year. So I conclude that it was wrong to have "a vigorous housing policy": it was the wrong sort of policy, and it might be better now to have a policy which is perhaps dynamic or purposeful or even gritty—at any rate a housing policy that is not "vigorous". I listened with some attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet said, and having listened to his speech I personally have hopes that we are now going to 301 have a housing policy which will deliver the goods, even if it is described as "vigorous".
§ LORD KENNET
Perhaps I may tell the noble Lord that the failure to repeat the same phrase this year does not mean that in fact we plan a feeble housing policy, directed to getting fewer and worse houses. I hope to put the noble Lord's mind at rest.
§ LORD NEWTON
I am much obliged and I hope consoled.
Before I leave housing, we are promised in the gracious Speech a new system of Exchequer subsidies for local authority housing, and I think that was one of the matters mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, this afternoon and also by my noble friend Lord Jellicoe. I should like to express the hope that this new system, when we get it, will require authorities to charge economic rents when the tenants can obviously afford them. That is essential if we are ever to have enough rented accommodation in this country. And it seems to me that this requirement is even more important since it is evidently the view of the Government that the future contribution of what I might call the private sector may now be written off as virtually insignificant.
I firmly believe—and I argued the point at some length on the Second Reading of the Rent Bill—that the two principal causes of the chronic shortage of houses to rent are first, years of rent control, because rent control is a form of subsidy; and, secondly, years of indiscriminate subsidisation of council houses. I recognise that in the year 1966 it is probably much too late, in the private sector, to subsidise the tenant rather than the house, but this seems to me to make it all the more necessary to try to do this—subsidise the tenant rather than the house—in the public sector, that is to say, in the sector of local authority housing, if we are ever to have enough rented accommodation in this country.
One of the things that strikes one most in the gracious Speech is that the reference to the National Health Service is perhaps miniscule. I should very much like to know what has happened to the long-term Hospital Plan which was published in January, 1962, and which I had the privi- 302 lege of introducing to your Lordships' House on February 14, 1962, when it was warmly welcomed by every noble Lord who spoke, except one; and as she is not here now I will not allude further to that. But one of the first things which the present Minister of Health did on taking office was to announce that no annual revision of the Plan would be published in April, 1965, and that he and the Regional Boards were going to review the whole of the plan and announce the result at the end of last year, 1965. So far as I know, we have not yet had the result of that review; and it would be interesting to know when we are going to get it.
We are promised reform of the Criminal and Civil Law. The noble and learned Lord has already, I think, published three Bills which have obtained their First Reading. I should like to mention quickly one reform of the law which I think is most necessary—I refer to the reform of the procedure for the enforcement of maintenance orders. Anyone who sits from time to time in a magistrates' court will be familiar with the sort of case where you have a man divorced from his first wife and probably with two children, separated from the second wife, who perhaps also has two or three children, living with a third woman who may also have children. There are probably maintenance orders against the man in relation to both wives and all the former children, and he is hopelessly in arrears. What on earth are you to do? You can send him to prison. Nobody wants to do that. In fact, what the courts often do is to wipe out most of the arrears. This is not right. We know perfectly well that the wives in question are probably obtaining, through National Assistance or from some other source, the income which they ought to be getting from their former husband. I do not think that is right.
So I should like to offer two practical suggestions which may go some way towards dealing with this matter. The first is that the attachment of the man's earnings should not be made dependent upon his agreement—in other words, it should be possible for a court to attach a man's earnings without asking whether he agrees. The second suggestion is that there should be much more efficient machinery for ensuring that when a man whose earnings have been attached leaves 303 his employment and obtains other employment, automatically the new employer continues to operate the attachment of earnings so that the man does not escape by this means.
I should like to end with just a few words about education, largely in view of some of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said. First of all, I am as glad as my noble friend Lord Jellicoe that there are to be increased grants for the voluntary schools. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, said that he wondered what my noble friend Lord Jellicoe would have said about Circular 1066 if he had said anything about it, which he did not. I personally am sorry that the Government propose to force the pace of comprehensive reorganisation. I do not think anybody in this House can accuse me of being unsympathetic towards comprehensive reorganisation: indeed, I think that i am probably more sympathetic than many of my Party. But I do not think there is any need to force the pace, because local education authorities, of all political complexions and of none, are already pushing ahead quite quickly on their own account, without any prodding from the Secretary of State. But, quite apart from that, it seems to me that the Secretary of State is proposing to force the pace in a way that is absolutely wrong.
I always feared that something like this circular would be produced. What the circular says, in effect, is that in the future no major secondary building scheme will be included in the programme unless it demonstrably contributes to some form of secondary re-organisation. I was frightened that this would happen. That is why, within a few weeks of the General Election of 1964, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, who was then the Minister of State, to give an assurance that the major building programme would not be used as a stick with which to beat the local education authorities into going comprehensive. He did not give that assurance. In fact, the noble Earl the Leader of the House, who has now gone, was sitting beside him at the time and told him not to. What the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, did was to make a good many reassuring observations about no one desiring to interfere at all with the 304 independence of local education authorities. Eighteen months later they have done so.
I am one of the comparatively few Members of your Lordships' House who have ever been in charge of the school building programme, so perhaps I may quickly tell your Lordships why I think this circular is wrong. What happens every year is that the Government agree on the total sum of money that may be spent on school building programmes for one year, two years or sometimes two and a half years' ahead, and then the education authorities submit their proposals for the programme. They in fact submit more than they know can ever be included. That is quite natural. The Minister responsible has to decide which ones go in. The priorities before him are limited, and there cannot really be much argument about them. Obviously, the first one is to have new buildings in places where, if there were not new buildings, the children would not go to school at all. The next obvious one is replacing the most obsolete, old-fashioned and inconvenient buildings, sometimes with a bias in one year towards primary education, or possibly to the provision of new science blocks in secondary schools.
What is going to happen as a result of the introduction by the Secretary of State of a new factor? This is what is going to happen. Many urgent rebuilding schemes will not be submitted at all by the education authorities, because they cannot even pretend that they will contribute towards secondary reorganisation. That will be jolly bad luck on the teachers in those schools and on the children whom they teach, who may well have to go on putting up with the old buildings for far too long.
Alternatively, the education authorities will inflate this particular scheme, make it more expensive, so that they can say, "This will eventually contribute to a form of reorganisation". What will happen then? One of two things will happen: either the Minister or the Department will say, "We cannot accept this scheme, because it does not make sense", so the improvements will not be made; alternatively, it will be accepted and put into the programme, and, because it is more expensive than it need otherwise be, other 305 equally important new building or replacement schemes will be crowded out, if the total sum is not to be exceeded, and that is not fair either. That is why, although not on ideological grounds, I think that this circular is quite wrong.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I entirely appreciate the extremely good points which the noble Lord has been making. But how does one effect change of any kind when buildings and principles are involved? This is a difficult problem. If you are really trying to change the national system you are bound to run into difficulties of this kind, and, without in any way impugning what the noble Lord pointed out were the difficulties in this case, I think that one must have the principle in mind and try, with all humility possible, to drive towards those objectives which are necessary.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Lord; but when you get a conflict between principles and building, my answer is that it depends how essential it is that the principle should be implemented quickly and how badly the buildings are required. I do not think anybody who knows of this problem will dispute that there are many school buildings which ought to be replaced as quickly as possible. I do not doubt that buildings should come first.
I apologise for having been longer than I meant to be. I think I was interrupted three times. In conclusion, may I say that the gracious Speech contains many promises, and some are rather stale; but in so far as those promises are sensible, we shall do our best to encourage the Government to implement them, and in so far as they are foolish promises we shall not hesitate to expose them for what they are.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD GARDINER)
My Lords, during the course of the debate we have had the pleasure of hearing a maiden speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks. Many of us are greatly indebted to her in the past through hearing her on the radio. Therefore, it is an additional pleasure to us now to have her here with us in person. What she said, if I may say so, com- 306 mended itself in all parts of your Lordships' House, and I am sure that we shall look forward to hearing from her again.
Today is the one day in the year or in the Session when your Lordships consider the legislative programme which is contained in the gracious Speech and which is to be put before Parliament. Today we are dealing in particular with Home Affairs. Home Affairs, as your Lordships know, is extremely wide. It covers agriculture, fisheries and food; aviation; education; voluntary schools, primary, comprehensive, secondary; higher education, further education; health; Home Office, crime and punishment, and everything from Northern Ireland to London taxicabs; land and natural resources, the Land Commission, leasehold reform; pensions and national insurance; power, coal, gas, electricity, oil, atomic development; steel, public building and works; Scottish Office; technology; transport, roadways, railways—all perhaps exceptionally important at this time, or exceptionally crowded at this time, by reason of the additional length of this particular Session.
Being a Member of your Lordships' House has, of course, certain privileges, but plainly it also carries responsibility, including I suppose the responsibility to warn the country if it appears that the Government are about to do something foolish. There are now 1,020 Members of your Lordships' House, but the extraordinary thing is that on this very wide subject today, this major part of the gracious Speech, the combined efforts of the Conservative and Liberal Party Whips have been able to beat up only four members to say one single word or utter a criticism of any kind of this Speech which is going to take more than the length of a normal Session. The Whips, I have no doubt, have a difficult time, but they certainly do not seem to have been very successful on this particular occasion. I think I am right in saying that about the earliest known Whip is that which was referred to by Pepys on December 8, 1666. What Pepys said then was this:Up unto the office where we sat all the morning and at noon home to dinner and there find Mr. Pearce and his wife and Betty, a pretty girl, who in this course at table told me the great proviso passed the House of Parliament yesterday, which makes the King 307 and Court mad, the King having given order to my Lord Chamberlain to send to the play-houses and bawdy houses to bid all the Parliament men that were there to go to the Parliament presently. This is true, it seems, but it was carried against the Court by 30 or 40 voices.Of course conditions to-day are quite different. There are fewer playhouses now.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, spoke a couple of sentences about housing and about education and land and natural resources. They were, however, all replied to by my noble friend Lord Kennet. Lord Jellicoe then asked me two questions, one of which was whether the forth-coming Criminal Justice Bill will deal with children and young offenders and short sentences. The answer is, I think, that there certainly will not be any major changes in that field in the Bill. We are in fact discussing this matter on Tuesday next in the debate on the adult offender, which is to be introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Royle.
The second question the noble Earl asked me was whether the annual reports of the new Advisory Council are going to be published. There will not be annual reports, but no decision has yet been arrived at as to whether or not the reports will be published. Then he asked whether advantage would be taken of the experience of the members of the Royal Commission. Again the answer is that the membership of the new Advisory Council has not yet been decided. The whole of the evidence which has been given before the Royal Commission will be published and available to everybody, including of course the Advisory Council. The suggestion that if some of the members of the former Royal Commission were appointed to the new Advisory Council they would already have had a good deal of experience in this field is, I am sure, a fact which will in any case be in the mind of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.
I have already commented on what the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, said. We all have a high opinion of family doctors. We appreciate their difficulties and, as she said, the question of the implementation of the Kindersley Report will obviously be one of some difficulty to the Government for the very reason she gave.
308 My noble friend Lord Crook and my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell both expressed gratitude for what the Government had done in a field in which they have both had so very much experience—namely, in that of social welfare. The Government are grateful for that appreciation of what they have done and of what they seek to do. They will bear well in mind what my noble friend Lord Crook said as to retiring age, and what Lord Wells-Pestell said as to the problems of the future. I myself have no doubt that the substitution of non-contributory benefits for National Assistance, particularly the payment on one book, and the steps the Government propose to take to look for those who hitherto have been too proud to claim National Assistance although entitled to do so, will do a very great deal in this field.
Then the noble Lord, Lord Annan, raised several points. First of all, may I say how much I appreciated his exposition, from his knowledge and experience, of the case for comprehensive schools. We on the Government side of the House needed no education, but I am hopeful that if there remain any elsewhere in the House who had not previously been convinced of the case for comprehensive education they will now be. He then raised the question of specialisation in sixth forms. This, of course, is a matter of some difficulty. It is one which is very much in the mind of the Schools Council which is actively studying possible ways of planning the work of the sixth forms in a way which would enable pupils to be given a broader education. The noble Lord knows that the task is a difficult one because conflicting interests are involved, and because it is difficult to make progress unless wide agreement is achieved among schools and universities.
I am told that the Council will shortly publish a discussion of a possible new pattern of sixth-form studies. One of the purposes of this is to combat undue specialisation in the sixth form. It is hoped that this paper will be widely discussed in educational circles, and that as a result of it considerable steps will be made in the direction which the noble Lord desires. I suppose that one of the difficulties of competition for places and scholarships at universities, is that it tends to lead to university entrants wanting to 309 be as far advanced as possible in a particular subject.
Then the noble Lord asked whether impending legislation on road safety will also include regulations covering the taking of safety measures by manufacturers when designing cars. I think I have really to split this matter into two. So far as goods vehicles are concerned, the coming legislation will certainly make safety provisions for them, including testing stations, and will carry a great deal further than it has ever been carried before the pursuit of safety in vehicles of that kind.
So far as passenger vehicles are concerned, there are already, of course, Construction and Use Regulations, and all vehicles in use in the country have to conform to those Regulations, which are made under the Road Traffic Acts. They lay down basic safety requirements with which the vehicles have to comply, and the Government are satisfied that the manufacturers do produce cars which comply with the regulations without having to be tested. These Construction and Use Regulations are constantly being reviewed and brought up to date; for example, on brakes and lighting. I am not able at the moment, I am afraid, to tell your Lordships what the position is about safety belts, though I believe them to be under consideration. Then the noble Lord asked whether complaints against the police could not go to some independent body. That is a view which I am on record as having expressed myself, but it will, of course, be a matter for my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.
The noble Lord also asked whether the Home Secretary envisages revision of criminal law procedure, whereby the committal procedure might be abolished or modified. The answer is that this matter is under consideration. That may sound rather unreal, but it is not. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my right honourable friend the Attorney General, and I myself, are all concerned at the undoubted waste of time which does occur on committal proceedings in indictable offences. It would not, I think, be regarded as right to remove altogether from an accused the rights which he now has, if he continues to want them.
310 One difficulty, of course, is that a great many witnesses are called in whom the accused is not interested at all, and I do not myself understand why it is impossible to make an admission in a criminal case. As your Lordships may know, no admission is ever possible in a criminal case. There may be a case in which there has been a break-in at a jeweller's shop and jewellery left for repair by many people has been stolen. The accused may not be disputing that the break-in took place: perhaps his case is that he had nothing whatever to do with it; that he was at home at the time, with several friends whom he can call to prove it. But under our present law it is still necessary to call people from all over England to say, "Yes, that is my watch", and "Yes, that is my ring". But there is no cross-examination, and the accused could not care less.
We have to consider, particularly where an accused person is represented by a lawyer, whether he should not be able to make an admission if he so desires. So far as committal proceedings are otherwise concerned, Eire is in the middle of passing a Bill the effect of which is that everybody affected is asked whether or not he wants this committal procedure. He can say, "Do not bother about it"; or "Yes, I want the whole thing"; or "I want to cross-examine those two witnesses, but I am not interested in anything else". It may be that we shall arrive at some solution along these lines.
I had better say very little, I think, about what my noble friend, Lord Mitchison said on reforming this House. All I can say is that the facts to which he referred with regard to previous steel legislation are still in the minds of Her Majesty's Government; that the passage in the Manifesto was not put in by mistake. That is, I think, as far as it would be wise for me to go at the present time.
The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, inquired about litter in Scotland. I did not know that Scotsmen ever threw anything away at all.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Perhaps it is the Sassenachs coming up as tourists. But all Governments find the 311 questions of litter and noise equally difficult in both countries. It is partly a matter of enforcement, and with the present shortage of police officers it may be that their services are better used in other directions. But I will certainly convey to the Secretary of State for Scotland the observations which the noble Lord has made, and I am quite sure that, coming from the noble Lord, they will all receive the most careful consideration.
So far as random tests are concerned, these are at the moment under further consideration by my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport, in conjunction with the motoring organisations. One has certainly to take into account—as I know my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my other right honourable friend will do—the additional burdens which this proposal, if carried too far, would place upon the police.
The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, gave us what I think was part of his Election speech. We can well understand why he was called upon to make it so often, and how popular it must have been. I think his statement about Mr. Wilson is, perhaps, not quite accurate, because I believe he will find that the observation made by Mr. Wilson about increased taxation was expressly said to be made over the normal life of a Parliament. Then the noble Viscount discussed what poverty meant, or what my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell, in particular, meant by it; but as my noble friend had gone and I could not ask him, we do not know. I assume, however, that he meant having that quantity of food which the doctors and dieticians tell us is necessary to keep reasonable health; that there is poverty where that is not so, and that it is not so at the moment for a large number of old people and, I am afraid, a certain number of children, where the father is either not in work or not earning much, and where there are a large number of children in one family.
Then, finally, the noble Viscount expressed the view that the criminal law was too favourable to the accused. There is something to be said for this view and I think it is a question which requires consideration, although Parliament, rightly no doubt, has always been extremely jealous of those freedoms which have been gained 312 in this respect. Too many obviously guilty people are being acquitted. On the other hand, that is still better than that innocent people should be convicted. It is a question of holding the balance. We are now getting a type of case in the Central Criminal Court where eleven jurors take one view and one another. There has on occasions been some evidence of attempts at bribery. There is a possible case for suggesting that, instead of the law requiring a unanimous verdict of twelve, a verdict of eleven out of twelve should be sufficient.
Then the noble Lord, Lord Newton, in briskly closing the debate, completely stumped me on one point, and that is in regard to radio pirates. I am afraid I am not an authority on radio pirates. I do not know what the answer is, but I will make inquiries and let him know. I do not propose to follow him again on the matter of education, because, if I may say so, we have already had the highly informative and admirable speech from the noble Lord, Lord Annan. So far as the Ombudsman is concerned, the noble Lord, Lord Newton, appears to miss him. So do I. But it must not be assumed that because he is not in the gracious Speech he will not be taken this Session. He may very well be one of the "other measures" which will be laid before the House. I hope very much that that may prove to be the case. Then, on housing, in view of the speech already made by my noble friend Lord Kennet, I do not think I need add anything.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Newton, asked about maintenance order enforcement, and suggested, first of all, the compulsory attachment of wages, and, secondly, an early notification of change of employment. At the moment a man does not have to notify anybody if he changes his employers, and there are, I am afraid, cases where this is deliberately done in order to avoid the attachment of wages. These are difficult questions, and it is because they are difficult questions that, some months ago now, I appointed a Committee, the Chairman of which is Mr. Justice Payne, to go into the whole question of enforcing orders, of whether committal orders are necessary and of the attachment of wages; and a good deal of evidence, I am glad to note, has been given to that Committee by outside 313 bodies. For example, they are considering whether there should be a national enforcement service separate from the courts, how far committals should continue to exist and how far we can extend the attachment of wages.
It is significant, I think, that one of the few countries in which crime has decreased is Denmark, and perhaps one of the outstanding features of the Danish system is the far greater use of fines and the far smaller use of imprisonment. Then, as far as the fines are concerned, they are all paid out of the attachment of wages—and the fines are often very substantial. It may take a man two or three years to pay off his fine; but I am told that they have very few cases in which they actually have to send these people to prison. It is all done out of the attachment of wages; and I should have thought that if a man had stolen something, it would be felt by the ordinary person to be just that he should have to pay its value back.
This Committee, the Payne Committee, is considering the whole question of the compulsory attachment of wages. I have not read the evidence given before the Committee and know only what I myself have seen in the papers, but I would say that one of the difficulties in the way of the adoption of the attachment of wages as a common-sense and practical method was thought at one time to be the opposition of the trade unions to it; but from what I have read about their evidence given before the Payne Com- 314 mittee, the trade unions appear to be taking rather a different view, and that may very much change the practical effect of what can be done.
My Lords, the hour is late. I end as I began. The debate on this most important part of the gracious Speech, relating to all these different aspects of Government life, has been one opportunity for the members of the Opposition, whether of the Conservative Party or of the Liberal Party, to protest against anything in this contemplated legislation which they do not like or think is inimical to the welfare of the country. It just shows how astonishingly popular everything which the Government are proposing must be, when only four members of the combined Opposition can be found to produce any sort of criticism at all; and whilst, naturally, I have listened with great interest to everything they have said, the points which have been taken are, after all, fairly small points. My Lords, I will now put to the House the Question which is before you.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.