HL Deb 03 February 1966 vol 272 cc558-72

7.5 p.m.

LORD CROOK rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will reconsider the decision not to cause a special stamp issue to be made in respect of the Golden Jubilee Year of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. The noble Lord said: I regret, my Lords, that I raise this Question at such a late hour, on Thursday of all days, but I am sure your Lordships will acquit me of any responsibility for that. We expected to be able to deal with it some hours ago, and only the adjournment from Tuesday until to-day of the Bill which we have been considering in Committee has brought this Question forward at this late hour.

It is a Question which, in fairness to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, I feel I ought to develop. This is not a Question put by a stamp collector; it is put by one of a number of your Lordships who are Vice-Presidents of the Royal Society. Nor is it a Question which is critical either of the Postmaster General or of the Post Office administration. Indeed, I want to say straight away that I have the greatest possible personal sympathy for the Postmaster General in his difficult task, and I would add that in respect of this matter I have had courtesy and kindly correspondence from him. I am not asking that the Postmaster General should reverse his decision about the issues in 1966; I merely say, on behalf of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, for reasons that I shall try to state, that we believe that a special stamp would fit in with the jubilee propaganda campaign entitled "Stop Accidents", and, what is more, would demonstrate clearly the fact that the Government were behind the effort. We expect, of course, that the Post Office will use a special postmark during the year; but we think that, while that is valuable, the purchase and use of millions of stamps will provide an additional propaganda outlet.

Perhaps for a few minutes your Lordships will pardon me if I give the background to the reason for asking this Question. Back in 1963 the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents asked for a special stamp for the Fourth World Congress on the Prevention of Occupational Accidents and Diseases, which was held in this country in 1964. Issue of that stamp was rejected because the date of its issue would have clashed with the issues for the International Geographical and the Botanical Congresses, also being held in this country at about this time. "ROSPA", as we normally call the Royal Society, could not argue about the decision, although they may be forgiven for thinking that accidents happening to people in this country were perhaps more important than consideration of international botanical matters.

However, be that as it may, by early 1965 all the plans had been made for the Jubilee Year, with a large-scale propaganda campaign entitled "Stop Accidents"; and let me say to your Lordships how proud and fortunate the organization is that in addition to having Her Majesty the Queen graciously as the patron of the organization, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh accepted the Presidential Chair for the period of the Jubilee Year. He, we hope, will be, and has already shown that he will be, the spearhead of the campaign which at the end of this year and the beginning of next will be the "Stop Accidents Year".

The stamp, we felt, would show the theme and be an encouragement as well to all the voluntary workers who help the organization so much. I doubt whether it is realized by many in this country that there are over 50,000 voluntary workers always active for the Royal Society. They range over a wide field. There are those who are engaged on training and testing child cyclists, and accidents might be even more frequent were it not for the fact that they train no fewer than 200,000 children in a year. Others run what are called the "Tufty Clubs" for the under fives. In that way more than 500,000 children have been trained since 1961. There are more than 1,000 safety committees in this country, of inestimable value in a country where we had on our roads—if I may remind your Lordships of the latest statistics, those for 1964—in one year no fewer than 7,820 deaths, 95,460 seriously injured, and 282,000 slightly injured.

There are 300 home safety committees, and they are very necessary too. How we need their work your Lordships can see if you look at the Registrar General's last figures for one year: 9,299 deaths, to which must be added approximately 100,000 seriously injured, and it is estimated over 1½million slightly injured. There are 70 industrial safety groups. They are dealing with another shocking and growing problem. The Ministry of Labor figures recently published show that in the last statistics available for one year there were 655 deaths, and 267,993 injuries causing more than three days absence from occupation. Then we have 40 agricultural committees. The encouragement they need is again shown by Ministry of Labor figures for one year: there were 131 deaths, and agricultural production suffered from the loss of the work of more than 25,000 persons due to injuries lasting more than three days.

ROSPA believes that the stamps would complement the renewed efforts being made in these industries by the Confederation of British Industries and the T.U.C., together with H.M. Factory Inspectorate. What is more, the valuable services of the newly-established Philatelic Bureau of the Post Office would afford another element of publicity. I do not know how many of your Lordships have seen the excellent bulletin which is now published regularly by the Post Office. It always carries a good deal of supporting material about newly published stamps, and the Royal Society hoped that the bulletins in due course would carry supporting material in respect of the "Stop Accident" stamps. That normally is taken up by a very helpful Press on so good a subject.

If any of your Lordships saw the current issue, you will have seen that the Burns issue is given a very big write-up in it. What is more, a supplement was published by the Scottish Office which deals in detail with the life and times of the poet. With all due respect to the "immortal memory", and to haggis and "neeps", I think accidents to our people are as important. Not that I criticize the Burns issue at all. I suppose it was inevitable, if we have stamps of this kind, that we should publish one on the 207th anniversary of Burns's birth, if only to catch up with the Russians who did it on the 200th. Incidentally, I cannot forbear interrupting myself by confessing to your Lordships that over and over again I have wondered what The Cottar's Saturday Night sounds like when translated into Russian.




The Burns issue illustrates the difficulties of selection of subjects by the Postmaster General. In 1970, for instance, one can visualize Cockneys and Dickens lovers—both categories would include me, if I were susceptible to propaganda, but I am not—pressing for a Dickens stamp on his 100th anniversary. I have no doubt that last year, with the precedent which has now been made, consideration would have had to be given to publishing something about Lewis Carroll. If we had been one of those countries which jump at every opportunity of revenue making by publishing stamps, I am sure we should have seen the Mad Hatter's Tea Party on a stamp last summer. I do not want to deny that the Postmaster General makes his own bit of profit out of this kind of thing, anyway.

I am offering comments of this kind to the noble Lord who is to reply, to show that neither the Royal Society nor I underestimate the Postmaster General's problem. I understand that the suggestion of ROSPA was one of fifty that were considered in respect of this year. It must have been difficult, for instance, after giving three stamps to the Salvation Army last year, to avoid giving at least one to the 100th anniversary of Dr. Barnardo's Homes this year. That is the strength of precedent. And to the precedent problem I realize one must also add the total number of stamps to be issued in a given year and the work involved; because, apart from printing, there is distribution, and the clerks have to keep their stamps of many kinds in order. Last year 25 stamps were issued for nine selected events. This year we have already had two for Burns; we know we are getting a couple for Westminster Abbey; two days ago there were new regional issues in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey and one or two more; and then we know that there will probably be a couple or three special stamps in July for the Football Cup, the great thing which dominates the British scene. What is more, I know from the correspondence I have had with the Postmaster General that a complete new series is in prepara- tion for the whole of Great Britain. I refer to these factors only so that the noble Lord, Lord Snow, when he replies, may know that we understand the decision not to make an issue on December 1, 1966.

So that my Question may not appear to be an attempt to put undue pressure on the Postmaster General, may I say that the "Stop Accident Campaign" is to go on throughout 1967? Therefore, what I am really asking is that the Postmaster General's reconsideration shall be for the issue of the stamps in 1967. Nor do I press that the stamps must necessarily follow the draft which we put in, produced by a well-known designer. In my opinion, the question of what the stamps should look like is entirely a matter for the Postmaster General. What ROSPA desire to see is stamps and one of those excellent first-day covers which the Post Office produces and which will carry a message of "Stop Accidents". The crucial point—and the only reason that I have dared to detain your Lordships at this late hour on a Thursday—is that we have to face the facts which emerge from the latest figures of the Registrar General. Deaths from all causes in the last year for which statistics are available were 638,000. Deaths from accidents in that figure exceeded 21,000. That is a toll that rises every year.

If I could sum up the outlook of ROSPA it would best be done, I think, in the words of his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh when he made his Presidential speech on November 16 last. He said: The figures speak for themselves. Take 1964: 7,820 people killed on the roads—an average of 21 a day; 8,600 killed in home accidents—nearly half of the total of all accidental deaths in the country—; 980 deaths from driving, 655 deaths due to accidents in industries covered by the Factories Act, and 131 deaths from agricultural accidents. This takes no account of the seriously injured who have to carry their scars and disablement for the rest of their shattered lives …The situation is grim …The accident statistics are a standing mockery of any claim we may make to being a civilized nation. What is perhaps even worse is the widespread lack of concern or national sense of urgency about this dreadful situation. I believe all thinking people connected in any way with this problem will desire to stop this widespread lack of concern. I know that the issue of the suggested stamp will not of itself, and alone, do a lot. Alone, it will certainly not achieve the desired result. But neither will the other cumulative things—the posters, the pamphlets and the meetings to take place in 1967. But the stamp issue suggested would both be complementary and show Government concern and a desire to inspire that national sense of urgency. It is in that sense that I have ventured to occupy your Lordships' time and to ask Her Majesty's Government the Question standing in my name.

7.24 p.m.


My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Crook, first drew my attention to the Question he had on the Order Paper I told him that I should be pleased to say a few words in support of it—not, I must say, because I approve of, or because I like, the innumerable stamp issues that the Postmaster General keeps putting forward. I remember quite a long time ago, when my noble friend the late Lord Elibank used to put Questions from these Benches with monotonous regularity calling for a series of stamps depicting scenes from our countryside and from our history. Many years went by, and then there appeared an issue of stamps which I think have been among the most ugly stamps ever to have been produced by any Postmaster General, no matter what country one thinks of. That, I think, is partly due to the fact that, for some reason, we have always to have a picture of Her Majesty the Queen at the top right hand corner, which means that the poor woman sits there looking rather uncomfortably at various things going on around her. This does not make for a good composition when one is trying to design a stamp. However, that is beside the point.

When one thinks of the bodies and objects in regard to which stamps have been issued—the noble Lord mentioned several: the Salvation Army, the Post Office Tower, the Red Cross and various others which I cannot now remember—surely ROSPA should come fairly far up in the queue when these stamps are contemplated in the future. In the past I have had a good deal to do with this Society. I have taken the chair at some of their meetings, particularly those dealing with home safety and home accidents. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Crook, that they perform a great function, and they require all the support and publicity that they can get in trying to bring down this large number of accidents. One of the ways in which Her Majesty's Government can show their interest in this Society is, when this big campaign to stop accidents occurs—which will not be until 1967—to agree to put on the market a stamp in aid of ROSPA.

7.28 p.m.


My Lords, I rise briefly to add to the burden of the noble Lord's Question, which has been so ably followed by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree. I am inclined to agree with what he said about the design of some of these special stamps, though of course, as a Scotsman, my criticism of the more recent issue is that I find it most attractive, and I have sent copies of some of this issue to my children overseas.

But as one who has given much study to the subject of road accidents and taken up much of your Lordships' time on the subject, you will forgive me if I approach this Question from the angle of road accidents, to which the noble Lord, Lord Crook, has already referred and given your Lordships the grim figures. I would say that the public as a whole do not appreciate the worth of ROSPA and the work that it has done, and what its half a century of effort has meant. Sitting here, I have suddenly realized that I do not even subscribe myself. However, that will be shortly put right, more especially as it was under the roof of ROSPA that the Motoring Organizations and the Motor Manufacturers' Association met to confer before the last debate in your Lordships' House on the matter of road accident research.

I feel that I should like to turn to the speech made by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack at the end of the debate on the gracious Speech on November 17, when he said: I am convinced that this is the main cause of accidents: that none of us take that degree of care which we ought to do."—[OFFICIAL RETORT, vol. 270 (No. 6), cot. 668; 17/11/65.] That is the nub of the matter, and it is the cornerstone of my speech.

I am not referring, as was the Lord Chancellor, in that speech, so much to drivers, but more to the careless pedestrian, the inconsiderate dog owner, the Negligent mechanic or the idle roadman. In my view, the value of all the warning signs, all the speed limits, all the flashing lights, is subordinate to individual consciousness of the responsibility of the individual.

How can that individual consciousness best be stimulated? I sometimes feel that something like Kitchener's famous poster "Your King and Country need YOU" —say, "Accident Prevention means YOU!"—is what is needed. What better means to get this message into everybody's home and into everybody's head than by a postage stamp issue such as the noble Lord has recommended? In all the efforts made to convince the individual, whether in agriculture, industry, at the wheel of a car or on the kerb, of accident prevention, the individual has his responsibility, and that should always be in the forefront of his mind. For that reason, I support the burden of the noble Lord's Question, and hope that it will achieve the end which he seeks.

7.30 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to support the Question which the noble Lord, Lord Crook, has put to the Government, in my capacity as Chairman of the all-Party Parliamentary Committee on Home Safety. In both Houses of Parliament members of the Committee have pressed successive Governments on matters of home safety, and we have made some reasonable progress, though I will not go into that now because it is not the subject of this Question.

Last night I attended an exhibition on home and road safety for the Borough of Lambeth, which was held at the Streatham Baths. The Deputy Chief Fire Officer for the Greater London Area and the Assistant Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society joined me on a panel. This is typical of the support which is being given by the fire services, the police, and by many voluntary organizations to the work which ROSPA does throughout the country. For this reason I believe that a commemorative stamp is fully justified. I have always believed that the issue of stamps is more deserving to be made to organizations rather than to individual people.

Those who support ROSPA, as the noble Lord, Lord Crook, has rightly said, are Representative of the many people who give of their time voluntarily, without financial reward. This is typified by the work done by the Red Cross, the St. John Ambulance Brigade, and by many of the cadets in those organizations, some of whom I saw last night. I feel that any stamp which may be designed should have printed on it portraits of persons in these organizations to typify the support given to ROSPA and the work which is done for it.

The noble Lord has already quoted the disturbing figures on accidents in the home, on the farm, in the factory, and on the roads. Many people will take notice of a stamp, particularly a 4d. stamp on a letter, or a 3d. stamp on a Christmas card. Christmas is a long way off, but all these things have to be planned far ahead. Even if 1966 cannot be considered, I hope that 1967 will be urgently considered, particularly if there is a chance that the Christmas period can be covered, as, of course, more and more Christmas cards are now sent out. Furthermore, Christmas is a time of the year when accidents on the road and in the home are very frequent, and it may well be that the issue of a stamp coinciding with that period could serve a very useful purpose.

I urge the Government to give thought to this proposal. Many suggestions have been put forward for reducing the number of accidents, in the home and elsewhere. I have in my hand a pamphlet from America showing the stamps which are issued there, and I feel it is something which we could copy. I do not suggest that we should copy everything from America, but this is one field in which I am sure it would be worth while. I end by reiterating that I warmly support the Question which the noble Lord has put down.

7.35 p.m.


My Lords, I apologize to the House for intervening at this late hour, particularly because owing to a lack of communication my name did not appear on the list of speakers, and also because I shall be detaining your Lordships for a few moments later on another matter. But I feel it incumbent upon me to say a few words in support of the noble Lord, Lord Crook, on this topic. I should perhaps declare my interests. I am a Vice-Chairman of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, and, as your Lordships know, my interests are wide, in the sense that I am the spokesman for the T.U.C. on social insurance and social welfare, and I am General Secretary of the National Union of Agricultural Workers.

I think that it is pertinent to recall that in 1964 the accident record was extremely bad. The Chief Inspector reported that during 1964 accidents reached the highest total since the war. The number of industrial accidents was 268,648, which represented an increase of 31.5 per cent. The number of fatal industrial accidents increased from 610 to 655. In agriculture, the position was that in 1964 there were 131 fatal accidents, 13 more than in the previous year and there were 13,730 non-fatal accidents. This, I am glad to say, showed, compared to the previous year, a decrease of 1,290, which reflects the impact of the health, safety and welfare Acts. The T.U.C., including my union, are vitally concerned about this dreadful scourge—and I think that it is proper to describe these accidents, industrial, on the road and at home, as "a scourge". As your Lordships know, we in the trade union movement and on the General Council of the T.U.C. have pressed from time to time for preventive legislation. We have the Factory Acts, we have the health, safety and welfare Acts in agriculture, and we have other regulations and measures to create safe working conditions. But I want to make it perfectly clear that we very well understand that there are two sides to this question, and that the answer to this problem does not lie in only one direction.

Of course, we want regulations to provide safe working conditions, but there is also the personal element. This means that we have to make people accident-conscious and, as a trade union leader, I would emphasize, and be willing to emphasise anywhere, that there is a great need for work people in industry and in agriculture, as there is a great need for people in all walks of life, to be careful and to be conscious that they can and do take risks which they ought not to take. Therefore, propaganda in this field is very necessary, and we in the T.U.C. have been col- laborating with British employers. We have suggested the setting up of joint safety committees in factories, both with a view to creating good working conditions, and also with a view to propagating accident consciousness.

The publication (if that is the right word) of a stamp would, I am sure, help very considerably in this direction, and that is why I am on my feet now to support the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Crook. I think it would be ungenerous of me if I were to sit down without saying how much we all appreciate the work done by the Royal Society in all its aspects. But, in particular, I must thank them for, and compliment them on, the work they have done in agriculture. The establishment of the National Agricultural Safety Committee at the centre, and the development of local agricultural safety committees, which are supported and manned by representatives of the National Farmers' Union and of ourselves and the Transport and General Workers' Union—the unions concerned with agriculture—has done much to propagate accident consciousness in my industry. We are therefore extremely grateful.

I would ask the Government—and I appreciate that they have many requests for the issue of stamps—to look at this problem once more. I agree with my noble friend Lord Crook, that it is not essential to have the issue in 1966. But I hope that at some time in the near future help can be given to all who are trying to propagate accident-consciousness, by the publication of such a stamp.

7.43 p.m.


My Lords, you are very much preaching to the converted. We all know the work which ROSPA is doing. We all know, if we are even remotely sentient, that accidents on the scale we now experience them are a reproach to any civilized country. In fact, if this were a disease with similar rates of casualties we should be spending millions of pounds on research into it. If there were "accidentitis", so to speak, then we should all think this was one of the greatest scourges which had hit us. Therefore, I am pleased that I shall shortly, after wearing your Lordships out a little longer, be able to give a moderately encouraging answer.

Let me turn to stamps. It is several years since the subject of postage stamps was last raised in your Lordships' House. (In passing, may I say that it is one of the most wildly improbable events in my life—and I have had many wildly improbable events—that I should actually be discussing stamps in your Lordships' House.) Since then, small but interesting examples of the graphic art have rolled off the printing presses of this country. Some indeed have been extremely colorful, not to say unusual. I have in mind, of course, the commemorative stamps, for it is these that have attracted so much attention in recent years and have aroused what one might call the stamp consciousness of many people, not only the philatelists. The stamp has evolved far beyond its original and prosaic purpose of representing payment of postage and is now an art form, or so it may be called, in its own right—hence the present interest of my noble friend Lord Crook, and the famous organization of which he is Vice-President. I should like to acknowledge here, on behalf of the Government, the extremely considerate way in which he asked his Question.

Much of the credit for awakening this keen interest in stamps is due to my right honorable friend the Postmaster General, who has given us a genuine refreshment of British stamps. Before he took office the subjects for which one could have a specific stamp were strictly limited; they had to come within the definition of a Royal occasion, or an event of national or international importance or a postal anniversary or conference. This did not prevent the issue of interesting and artistic stamps, for I am sure your Lordships will recall the stamps issued in recognition of the International Botanical Congress, and the Shakespeare 400th Anniversary Festival, to name just two good examples of their kind. But the old policy restricted the scope for special issues. Many worthy subjects were rejected because they did not satisfy the criteria. In fact, to be honest, for a very long period our stamps were, by world standards, pretty dull.

In December, 1964, my right honorable friend therefore announced that, after reviewing Post Office policy in regard to special issues of postage stamps, he had decided to adopt a more liberal policy, and that in future the criteria for issuing these stamps would be: to celebrate events of national and international importance; to commemorate important anniversaries; to reflect the British contribution to world affairs including the arts and science; to extend public patronage to the arts by encouraging the development of minuscule art. But he made the proviso that in the general interest the number of special issues must be kept within reasonable bounds.

My Lords, that proviso points to one of the main difficulties which the Post Office has had to face as a result of adopting a more liberal policy on special stamps. Requests for such stamps poured in, and my right honorable friend had nearly a hundred different subjects from which to choose the stamp issues of 1965. I know that he personally considered each one of that formidable number of subjects for the "new look" stamps, and it took a great deal of time. Inevitably, a lot of good subjects had to be left out. Finally a program consisting of eight commemorative issues was settled, to which was added one to commemorate the life of Sir Winston Churchill. The subjects included some, such as the Joseph Lister Centenary, which would not have qualified for a special stamp under the old criteria. In all, there were twenty-four new stamps in 1965; they received a good deal of publicity and on the whole were welcomed by the public, though there were suggestions from some quarters that such an unaccustomed output came perilously near to debasing the currency. For years before, there had been equally vigorous suggestions that our stamps were intolerably stereotyped. You cannot be right. As your Lordships may know, there are several countries where nine issues comprising twenty-four new stamp designs would be regarded as a very modest venture.

For this year's program, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Crook, over fifty subjects were suggested to my right honorable friend, and again it was a difficult task to select the items with the widest appeal. After much thought he decided on a composition different from last year's program. There was to be less emphasis on events and anniversaries, and more on subjects of lasting interest such as Britain's scenery and its wild-life. He therefore announced, in October last year, that there would be some pictorial stamp issues in 1966. To leave room in the year's program for these pictorial issues the number of commemoratives has been reduced to four. These have already been announced, the topics being: Robert Burns, which Scottish Peers will have recently noticed; 900th Anniversary of the founding of Westminster Abbey, to be issued on February 28; World Cup Football Competition, to be issued on June 1; 900th Anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, to be issued on October 14. Your Lordships will no doubt have seen the Robert Burns stamps; they were issued on January 25 and were a great success. I hope that noble Lords from Scotland will agree that the Post Office has done justice to the great Scottish writer at last. At any rate his likeness will be familiar to millions of people, even if his poems are not. The stamps were designed, I may say, as another gesture, by a Scot, Mr. Gordon Huntly.

My Lords, there is a further reason for not being too lavish with special stamp issues this year. My right honorable friend, pursuing his "new look policy with characteristic enthusiasm, intends to issue a completely new range of definitive stamps—that is to say, the small postage stamps of the permanent series. Several artists are already working on this assignment, which is likely to occupy them for some time, for there are 21 stamp values in the permanent series. This will call for the highest quality of design, maybe at the cost of a considerable amount of trial and error, because the new designs will, it is hoped, remain current for a long time. The production of these stamps in the quantity required to meet present-day usage will also fill the printers' work schedule when the time comes to set up the machines for the new issue.

With this big program ahead, my Lords, it is hardly surprising that my right honorable friend the Postmaster General did not feel able to meet the request of ROSPA for an issue of special stamps in December this year to celebrate the beginning of its Golden Jubilee Year. He was nevertheless most reluctant to disappoint an organization whose work is of such importance these days, as I have already stressed. But, as my noble friend Lord Crook has mentioned, December, 1966, is only the beginning of the Society's Jubilee Year. My right honourable friend the Postmaster General will therefore be glad to include this event in the list of subjects from which the 1967 program of special stamps will be selected. He will also bear in mind my noble friend's point that if this subject is chosen—and I am sure your Lordships share my hope that it will be—the most suitable time to put the stamps on sale would be early in 1967, so as to give the Society the maximum benefit from the publicity which the stamps would provide.

That, my Lords, is all my right honorable friend can promise at the present time, since he might not find it practicable to make his final selection for 1967 before the autumn of this year. So I would ask my noble friend Lord Crook to be patient, and I hope that his patience will be rewarded.