§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Delacourt-Smith—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ LORD ERROLL OF HALE
My Lords, I understand that it is the general wish of your Lordships that today we should consider home affairs, that next week, on Tuesday, we should consider foreign affairs and, on Wednesday, economic affairs. If that is the wish of your Lordships, I shall confine myself this afternoon to those aspects of the gracious Speech which concern home affairs. Nevertheless, I am sure that the item at the bottom of page 2 of the Queen's Speech, referring to the need to strengthen the economy, must take precedence over any discussion on the improvement of affairs here in our own country, because unless we have a strong economy all our hopes and aspirations in the field of domestic social legislation must come to nought. However, this afternoon we are, as I say, considering home affairs.
Before diving into the detail of the Queen's Speech, I think it might be appropriate for me to say a word about the events in London of last Sunday, and to pay my tribute and the tribute of, I am sure, all Members of this House to the exemplary behaviour of the police in controlling the demonstration. The right to demonstrate is one of the most precious rights of the British people. I believe that we are singularly fortunate to have a Metropolitan Police Force which is able so to handle a situation full of potential danger, and to handle it with such great success. In remembering the right of people to demonstrate, I 35 think we should also remember that, in giving them their right or freedom, freedom was denied to a number of other people who would have enjoyed a quiet, peaceful London on a Sunday afternoon, and that one freedom so often conflicts with another. I hope that those who feel pleased with the result of the demonstration will exercise the same self-restraint as the police by not having so many demonstrations that those of us who like our London on a Sunday afternoon are not able to go there to enjoy it.
My Lords, I find on reading the newspapers that the Queen's Speech has not had a particularly good Press this morning, and it is perhaps hard to find what more might have been made of it. My noble friend Lord Carrington referred to it yesterday as something like "Woolton pie", but on going through it in detail it reminded me very much of those curious American rations which we who were in Burma during the latter part of the war used to have—the American rations known as "K" rations. They were very attractively boxed up, with a nice outside, but when you came to open up the box you found a number of small packages of things which were more or less uneatable and tasted of nothing very much, and we were all thankful to get back to good old bully beef—Conservative bully beef, of course! So, on looking at this package I felt that once again I was opening up my box of "K" rations and looking at a number of small parcels, none of which seemed to me to he particularly appetising.
In composing my thoughts (in so far as I am capable of composing thoughts) for the benefit of your Lordships this afternoon, I wondered whether it would be possible to have a theme running through my remarks, but I found that on page 3 the Queen's Speech was more or less a hotch-potch of miscellaneous notions, ideas and legislative proposals, and that probably the best way would be to start at the beginning and to work through to the end. I hope that there will be some noble Lords awake by the time I come to the end; but I will do my best not to detain your Lordships too long.
My Lords, we start on the home affairs side with a very important matter; namely, to convert the Post Office from a Department of State to a public corpora- 36 tion. I am one of the relatively few people in this country who have always admired the work of the Post Office whether it be a matter of delivering letters or of connecting us to the exchanges; and I was very glad indeed therefore that the noble Lord the Leader of the House had invited the noble Lord, Lord DelacourtSmith, to propose the Address in Reply yesterday afternoon because of his close connection with the Post Office Engineering Union which I believe has done a very fine job of work. But I am not really sure how, in fact, this transfer is going to improve efficiency; although I must say that my faith in the efficiency of the Post Office has been severely shaken in the last few weeks by the clumsy way in which the two-tier postal system has been introduced. I think it is a basically sound concept but that it has been handled very clumsily and rather ineptly. Indeed, some of the main advantages of the new system never appeared in that rather bad publicity to which we were all subjected. We were never told, for example, that we could now send four ounces for 5d. instead of two ounces for 4d. And we were never told that all letters could now be sealed, which will be a very great advantage to us all, instead of our having to stick in the flaps as we have had previously to do. But even within the system of Government, it is surprising to find how poorly these matters had been considered that nobody really worked out whether an envelope with an official paid stamp went first-class mail or second-class mail; to such an extent that it was necessary to issue a lot of rubber stamps with "1" on them so that everybody must now stamp "1" on the front of official paid envelopes in order to get the post to go first-class.
These administrative mistakes I think are deplorable in a Government who pride themselves on their industrial achievements and activities and should not be perpetuated in the new public corporation. I remember, three years ago, the Government announcing that a firm of American consultants had been appointed to reorganise the Post Office. I am wondering whether this new system and the conversion to a public corporation is the result of the work of these American consultants. I hope very much that the Governor of the Bank of England will read any remarks in my speech on this particular matter, because he is about to 37 fall into a similar error in appointing American consultants to tell him what to do, though there are plenty of perfectly good British firms who could do the job equally well, if not better.
My Lords, the next item in my box of "K" rations is legislation to integrate transport in London under local government. This, I suggest, would have the support of noble Lords on this side of the House if it proved to be a sensible and viable scheme. As regards the central system of vehicle registration and licensing, this is a step in the right direction and should relieve the local authorities of a burden of work for which they are not primarily suited. I should like to say that I fully appreciate the way the Government have seen fit to take the opportunity of new methods of filing and computing techniques so as to get a single central system of vehicle registration. Perhaps I might also ask the Government whether they would care to consider changing over to square licences instead of round ones; because now that one can have square licence holders, why should there not be square licences so that we can get away from these ridiculous perforations that we must tear off before putting the licence in the holder. This may not be a great issue of State, but it is one which affects every motorist atleast once a year and more often if they take out their licences for a period of four months at a time.
My Lords, turning to the next item in my "K" ration box, I find that legislation is to be introduced to help the development of tourism in Great Britain. Of course we all want to see the development of tourism; but it is the way in which it is going to be developed that matters. In studying the speech of the Prime Minister in another place yesterday, I understood that the legislation is designed to provide assistance for hotels and so, indirectly, to provide assistance to the tourist industry. Here I am somewhat suspicious, because there have been reports of an intention to establish a kind of hotels corporation or tourism corporation, with vague powers to do this and that and to hand out the taxpayers' money. Having, as a Minister, been connected with the tourist industry for several years, I should like to put to noble Lords opposite who represent Her 38 Majesty's Government that I doubt whether an hotels corporation or that type of organisation is what Britain's tourist industry really requires.
What the hotels would like—and ther[...] are plenty of good enterprising hotels in this country—is to be treated as regards taxation on the same basis as if they were industrial undertakings. They are not short of money—if only they were allowed to keep it. But the taxation system discriminates, in my view unfairly, against hotels. They are not allowed to depreciate their buildings as though they were factory buildings; they are not allowed to depreciate their plant and equipment—that is to say, the knives, forks, kitchen equipment and the like—in the same way as if they were industrial organisations; and, of course, nearly all the tools of their trade, whether sheets or furnishings, are subject to much higher levels of purchase tax than those items which industry normally uses. And. finally, every hotel employee is an added cost in the form of selective employment tax. If the Government really want to help the hotels, all they need to do is to revise the present discriminatory taxation against the hotel industry.
But I fear that, in fact, what the Government want to do is something more radical and to gain some control over hotels, to coerce the bad hotels into being good ones and to regiment the good hotels in a preconceived plan of action. During my recent visit to South Africa I was interested to find that the South African Government have done this very thing. They have improved their hotels, but they have also imposed certain rigid standards, including a Government-controlled classification system. We know that our present Government, always full of bright ideas, had a Swedish phase, when everything that Sweden did was right then there was a Hungarian phase—now happily over—and now they may be going into a South African phase.
It may be of interest to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to know that in hotels in South Africa which have been classified there is a little notice in each bedroom which says: "In the event of complaint, please refer to the Department of Justice." So, if it is not too late—and I was interested to see with what speed the noble and learned 39 Lord was introducing Bills for First Reading into this Chamber to-day—I would urge him to look at the draft legislation on this subject, to make certain that he is not going to get all the complaints from all the disappointed hotel visitors in this country for months and years to come. I would urge the Government: please be careful with the tourist industry. It is intensely free enterprise; it is intensely virile and active. If the Government can help it, while letting it remain free, their proposals will have support from noble Lords on this side of the Chamber.
My Lords, the next item is a Bill to be introduced "to effect the change to a decimal currency." As is customary in this House, I feel that I ought to declare an interest. I am the deputy chairman of the Decimal Currency Board and I am delighted to see the chairman of the Decimal Currency Board, the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, sitting opposite, wondering whether I am going to let the cat out of the bag or not. I can assure noble Lords that I will observe the proprieties of the House on this particular matter; namely, that noble Lords who are connected with or who are members of a Government board should not speak in that capacity in this Chamber. I would therefore only say that we, the chairman and I, hope very much that your Lordships will accord a favourable passage to that Bill through this House. The work is going forward well, in Lord Fiske's and my opinion. We think this Bill is essential legislation and we are delighted to see it in the gracious Speech. More than that I think I should not say.
I should like to pass on to the proposals for action on the Report of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations. All that the Queen's Speech says is that there will be proposals for action"—not necessarily legislation. I should have thought that the present Government would go a little further and would, by now, be able to make up their minds, after this long period, as to what ought to be done. The fact remains, of course, that the Donovan Report did not have a good Press. It was not particularly well received, by trade unions, by employers or by the public as a whole, so that may account for the caution in this particular paragraph of the gracious Speech. But action 40 is undoubtedly necessary and I can only say the Party represented by noble Lords on this side of the House has a definite and clear alternative programme for the reform of trade unionism in this country which we fully intend to implement as soon as we are returned to power.
We would set up a new register of trade unions and employers' associations. Registration would be a condition for any organisation to have the full legal status of a trade union, and this would be granted only to those whose rules proved to be just, which would promote fair, democratic control and which did not conflict with the public interest. That is what we would do, if given the opportunity. So whatever Her Majesty's Government propose to do under the terms of this section of the gracious Speech will be looked at very critically from this side of your Lordships' House, in view of the fact that we have our own proposals which we believe to be very much better than anything in the Royal Commission's own Report.
My Lords, I referred a moment ago to my recent visit to South Africa. Perhaps one thing we do not fully appreciate in this country is that while we are not a strike-ridden country and we are low in the "league table" of man-hours lost per year in strikes, the fact remains that talk about the possibility of a strike and the newspaper publicity given to it has a very damaging effect on our export activities abroad. I was in South Africa at the time when there was a great deal of talk about a forthcoming engineering strike, and over and over again the members of the Mission and myself were asked by business friends, "Is the engineering industry going to go on strike? Are we going to be late in our receipt of British engineering products?" Well, my Lords, the strike has not happened. If there had been no publicity, nobody in South Africa, or indeed in other countries, would have been worried at all. But the publicity, the buildup, the talk of threatened strike action, does British exports a great deal of harm abroad.
May I say, from my experience, and I am sure it is the experience of many other noble Lords, that the British working population is good and law-abiding and does a very fine job of work. Indeed, only two days ago at a board meeting I was told of a fine example of 41 everyone working over the whole weekend—not at extra overtime rates—to make sure that a vital shipment of machinery caught the last boat able to make the voyage to Canada before the ice made navigation impossible. Because they had been told it was important and it mattered, these people all took their coats off, so to speak, and got on with the job. That is a spirit which is typical of the British industrial population today: and when we talk of strikes and of the problems of "wild-catters" and the people who will not make the carbon brushes and other things like that, let us, in this House at any rate, not forget what a very fine and loyal working population we are blessed with in this country to-day.
§ LORD ERROLL OF HALE
My Lords, I hope that the Press is listening. It is very rare that the reporters listen to my speeches, but perhaps they will make an exception this afternoon. In any legislation or discussion about reform of industrial and labour relations I think we must keep a sense of proportion. We must deal with those who create industrial trouble, but we must never forget that for the great majority it is an honourable day's work honestly done.
My Lords, I turn now to the next two paragraphs of the gracious Speech which rather run together. We are informed that a Bill will be brought before usto reduce to eighteen the age for voting and to make other reforms in electoral law.and, secondly, that legislation will be laid before usto reduce the age of majority to eighteen.I venture to suggest that those two paragraphs might have been put the other way round; that what is surely of the greater importance is the reduction in the age of majority to eighteen. The Latey Committee reported on this subject, and your Lordships have already debated the Committee's Report—which indeed makes very fascinating reading—so I will not go into the subject myself just now. But I think it was unfortunate that we should have had the Latey Committee looking at the general question of a reduction in the age of majority while members of the Speaker's Conference were studying the question of a reduction in the voting age and that they should have arrived at 42 different conclusions. The overwhelming majority of the Speaker's Conference (I think it was 20 to 1) was in favour of a reduction of the voting age only to twenty, whereas Latey, by implication, has suggested that the new age should be eighteen.
This is a difficult subject, because one does not want to appear to be against the young; but I should like to put to your Lordships that possibly it might have been better to reduce the voting age in stages; to have let it come down to twenty, which is what the Speaker's Conference recommended, to begin with, and then, in a year or two's time, it might come down perhaps another year. There was no absolutely essential need for the age in both cases to come down to eighteen at the same time.
The reduction in the voting age is, of course, a matter of great importance but I am sorry to find that there is no reference in the gracious Speech to the urgent need for a revision of electoral boundaries. While this is essentially a matter for another place I think it is quite proper for me to mention it this afternoon. With this considerable addition—if the legislation goes through—to the voting population, it is more than ever important that boundaries should be revised so as to produce, within the Acts concerned, constituencies of reasonably uniform size. In passing, I should like to refer to the Bill to be introduced to reform the law relating to children and young persons. This legislation is probably overdue, and I hope that it will be beneficial to all concerned.
The Prime Minister explained in another place, in more detail than appears in the gracious Speech, something about the development of our social security schemes. It is clear after that some twenty years or more it is high time we reviewed the whole working of these schemes. We on these Benches look forward to seeing the proposals which are to be announced and we shall give them our scrutiny and our best wishes. We particularly welcome the fact that legislation will be brought before usto increase 1he pensions of retired members of the public services and their dependants.These people have always tended to lag behind in tile matter of pensions, and we gladly welcome this particular increase in State expenditure.
43 My Lords, there are other items of importance in the gracious Speech, in particular the provision of more grants in connection with the programme of additional local authority expenditure in areas of special need. We all know what those areas are: they are areas where there is a high level of immigrant population and where there are special factors that have to be taken into account.
I turn now to what I think is the most remarkable feature of the gracious Speech, the announcement that the Governmentwill begin consultations on the appointment of a Commission on the constitution.Why not just appoint the Commission? Fancy the Government's announcing in the gracious Speech that they are only to begin consultations on the appointment of a Royal Commission! I have listened to gracious Speeches each year for twenty years, but I do not think that I have ever heard a proposal so vague. This is a long way from the "100 dynamic days" of four years ago. Then everything was going to be done in "100 dynamic days." Now, a tired Government making a big paragraph in the gracious Speech of the fact that they are only going to "begin consultations" —if you please—" on the appointment of a Commission on the constitution." Cannot they go faster than that in these lays? Are we really reduced to this speed—bearing in mind of course that, in the Prime Minister's own words, Royal Commissions "take minutes and waste years"?
We shall have this Commission round our necks for two or three years, certainly until after the next Election. If the job has to be done—and there are many arguments in favour of having a review of the situation—why not get on with it more quickly? One particular evil of a long delay is that time goes on and other things do not wait. This was admitted by the Prime Minister in another place, when he said that he did not intend to hold up changes in local government arrangements and other matters connected with devolution in Wales and Scotland, and possibly Northern Ireland, while the Commission is sitting. So the Commission will have to revise its review, as it goes along, in the light of 44 the changes which the Government introduce while the Commission is at work. I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that this is not a very clever way of proceeding. If there is to be a Commission, have it report quickly and do not interfere while it is working. If the intention is that it should be a leisurely Commission, sitting over two or three years while the Government are making changes in the meantime, then it can only result in a sense of frustration among those members of the public who accept membership of the Commission.
We welcome, of course, the measures announcedto give greater encouragement to the repair and improvement of older houses and their environment.This becomes a matter of increasing importance as our stock of houses, particularly those built in the last century, requires modernisation and renovation. The important paragraph relating to reforms in the administration of justice will be dealt with by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, so I will not deal with that now.
My Lords, I would say, in drawing to a conclusion, that what to my mind is much more important than what is in the gracious Speech is what is left out. There is no reference in it to the needs of the human spirit. I was very impressed, if I may say so, by what the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, said yesterday afternoon about the growing gap between Government and governed. I am sure that the noble Lord is right; but why should this be a growing gap? Surely it is because there is too much government, too much fussy interference in our affairs. The Government is "in our hair", morning, noon and night. If you have a plot of land you want to sell, there is the Land Commission waiting to pounce on you. If you want to build a garage. you must get planning permission. If you want to build a little factory in Weybridge, you are not allowed to do it because the Government is there. No wonder the public, at all levels, feels divorced from a Government that appears to show no understanding of the welfare of the individual and only a rather woolly understanding of the welfare of the nation as a whole!
To take a small example, which I read of only yesterday evening, in future childminders will no longer be able to go on 45 just being child-minders: they will have to be registered by the Government,because they might, and do, accept money for minding other people's children. This is typical of the attitude of noble Lords sitting opposite. Because somebody is doing something, he or she must be registered, organised and messed around. Just because there are one or two bad child-minders, all the good, decent and honest ones have to be regimented. This is the growing gap between Government and the governed. The public do not like it; they are tired of it, bored with it, and they hate it. They do all they can to get around it and to avoid the continual invasion of Government into our private lives and our private freedom. Let us have less fussy government and more freedom. But of that there is no mention in the gracious Speech.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ LORD FOOT
My Lords, I should like to open by following the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, in the reference he made to last Sunday's demonstration. I would support him in the compliments which he paid to the police force for the patience and the skill with which they managed their difficult operation. I would also add my congratulations to the Government and to the Home Secretary, in particular, for having taken what was a considerable risk in allowing the demonstration. It was a risk which, in my view, was eminently justified, and I am glad that the Home Secretary did not give way to the pressures that were brought upon him to try to interfere with the demonstration taking place.
We are living in times, not only in this country but in other countries, where there is a tendency for the arena of argument to move from the debating chamber into the streets. We are living in a new age of public protest and demonstration. I think that this is due to a number of factors, but certainly one of them is that in all the great industrial countries in the world there is, rightly or wrongly, a growing sense of frustration, certainly among the young, and a sense of disillusionment with the ordinary processes of government which do not seem to young people to reflect their aspirations and hopes. The comment which I would make make is this. If there is this sense of disillusionment, I would much rather see it being demonstrated in the streets. 46 I would much rather see young people going out to support their aspirations and try to get redress for their grievances than that their disillusion should lead them to sit back in supine and listless indifference. Therefore, I repeat that I am glad that the Government were not tempted to take what might have been the easier course of suppressing this demonstration altogether.
As a comparative newcomer to your Lordships' House, I approach the task of speaking on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches in this important debate on home affairs with some trepidation and anxiety. If it were expected of me to follow the noble Lord in his cornprehensive review of the whole of the matters contained in the gracious Speech, I should find that entirely beyond my capacity. I may say at once that my ignorance of some of these matters borders on the encyclopaedic. However, I have been reassured to some extent by reading the debate which took place a year ago on the same occasion in your Lordships' House, before I was a Member of the House. It became evident to me that on these occasions one is entitled to be selective, and within that limitation one can talk about the items selected in broad outline. I think it is appropriate on an occasion like this, which someone has described as a grand inquest upon our national affairs, that we should deal with these matters from a broad view and not get caught up in a web of detailed particulars.
I propose to address myself to only two of the matters which arise in the gracious Speech. But, if I have any overall criticism to make, it would be twofold. It seems to me, as it seems to the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, that the gracious Speech is a collection of miscellaneous and unrelated items. It is as if some sort of suggestion box had been circulated and contributions invited. Some of your Lordships have taken part in the B.B.C. programme "Any Questions?". The way the gracious Speech has been put together sems to bear some relation to the way in which questions are selected on that programme. Before the programme comes on, members of the audience are invited to put in questions, and the mandarins in charge of the programme pick out questions, either because they think 47 they are of topical interest or because they have some popular appeal, and sometimes they put in a question for amusement value only.
If I were to try to select the item in the gracious Speech which appears to have been put in on that ground, I should have thought it was the proposal for action on the Report of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations. I hope that I shall not be exacerbating the rather delicate relationship which at present exists between the Government and the B.B.C. by suggesting that in the procedure that the Government have adopted they may be perilously close to a breach of the B.B.C.'s copyright. There is, of course, this important difference: that while the B.B.C. ask for Any Questions?", presumably the Government have been asking for "Any Answers?".
My other difficulty was that of trying to discern any coherent scheme, pattern or purpose in the proposals in the gracious Speech. I had a nightmare feeling, after yesterday's pomp and splendour, that I was looking at a catalogue of a rather elegant jumble sale, organised under impeccable auspices and offering the throw-outs of some high-class departmental attics. The first of the white elephants which appears in the gracious Speech is the proposal for the reform of this House. That is an item which has been put up for sale before. It was put up last year, as your Lordships will remember, but there were no takers. Indeed, over the last nearly sixty years this has been on the file. The words appearing in the gracious Speech on this matter might be reasonably described as uninformative. Your Lordships will remember that the Speech says that:Legislation will be introduced on the composition and powers of the House of Lords.I suppose, in view of the fact that the failure to introduce this measure in the last Session was the non-event of the season, it is not unreasonable that the repetition of the Government's intention should be contained in the non-statement of the gracious Speech.
My Lords, I rather regret that this statement of intention appears at all. In saying that, I am speaking only on my own behalf. I recognise that the Govern- 48 ment are committed to this course, and have been committed to it since the last Election, if not before. I am no less anxious than anyone else to see this House put upon a less anomalous and less anachronistic basis than it is to-day, but I ask myself whether this is the time to attempt the final resolution of this long discussed and debated matter.
Twelve months ago, in the debate on the then gracious Speech, a speech upon this very subject was delivered by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. I was not a Member of the House at that time but I have had the opportunity of reading that speech— and, of course, there is no one who speaks in this House, particularly upon that subject, with greater authority than the noble Marquess. I read that speech with great interest, which did not surprise me; but I also read it with a measure of agreement. which did surprise me. I hope the noble Marquess will not take it amiss—it is certainly not intended to be anything but complimentary—if I say that when I find myself, on rare occasions. in agreement with his views, I look again at the matter, because I am in some doubt about my own judgment.
But on this occasion his argument upon one aspect of this matter, if I may say so with the greatest possible respect, struck me as apposite and persuasive, and I should like to quote from what the noble Marquess said on that occasion. It was a speech in the debate on November 8, 1967, and he said:But one thing. the thing, I find deeply interesting and even fascinating in spite of what the Lord Chancellor said to us this afternoon, is the timing of these particular proposals. Constitutional changes such as these are usually the aftermath of some great political crisis. That was certainly true of the Parliament Act 1911. It followed on the decision of the Lords—a rash decision, as we should now think—to throw out the Budget. And the same thing might be said to be true of the Parliament Act 1947."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8/11/67; col. 429.]Then, if for the sake of brevity I may paraphrase what the noble Marquess said, he went on to point out that with the great Labour majority in the House of Commons at that time, and with the Tory majority in this House, the then Labour Government might have had reasonable apprehensions about whether their legislation was going to be savaged in this 49 House. The noble Marquess went on to say this:On this occasion, however, no such explanation seems to me to apply. There has been no clash between the two Houses. No doubt there have been one or two occasions when there have been apprehensions in certain quarters that there was going to be a clash; but this in fact never materialised. Indeed, the main criticism of your Lordships, even in such great organs of the Press as The Times, was that the House of Lords had on the whole been too supine.What, then, has made the Government decide to raise this issue at this moment? Again, if I may say so with respect. what the noble Marquess then said struck me, and strikes me now, as having a great deal of sense in it. There are times in political life, as in the world of medicine, when it is a proved principle of action to let ill alone, especially if the ailment is quiescent and particularly if it is giving no one any trouble. It seems to me that the argument against major surgery in this matter is the stronger to-day because, first of all, there is no sort of unanimity on the diagnosis of the ailment, or indeed upon the measures for its treatment. On the diagnosis side, some people say that the disease is basically hereditary; others think that the patient is anaemic and in need of stimulus and regeneration; and there is a third view, that the patient is merely altogether beyond resuscitation. On the remedial side, the proposals vary from a blood transfusion to euthanasia, or even, in some extreme cases, to the cutting of the patient's throat.
It seems to me that the views which the noble Marquess expressed then were sound. But it seems to me also that there are two reasons why that argument of 1967 has been reinforced by subsequent events. The first is that there has been no marked deterioration in these last twelve months in the condition of the patient, and his behaviour, with one solitary exception to which I will refer in a moment, has been exemplary. He has not been giving any trouble to anybody. The exception, of course, was when the patient became a little obstreperous over the Rhodesian sanctions. But that was due to a temporary inability to swallow a fait accompli, and the patient proved to be much more compliant a month later. I do not suppose that anybody will think that that episode is in danger of being repeated. 50 My Lords, over the Transport Bill the patient swallowed the medicine without any kind of murmur. Indeed, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, who gave us the very sound advice that it was very much better to swallow the medicine now than to be forcibly fed with it three months later.
But there is, my Lords, a more potent reason, I suggest, if we were able to do so and if the slate were clean, for a postponement of any alteration in the present composition and powers of this House. We are approaching a time when there are going to be drastic changes in the constitutional structure of the country and in the machinery of Government. It is, of course, far too early to speculate as to what form those changes are likely to take. My Party have already indicated as clearly as we can the general lines upon which we would hope that these changes will proceed. We have set out our proposals for devolution for Wales, and Scotland, and for the regional governments in the English provinces. We do not claim any particular or unique virtue for these proposals, and it would indeed be only a fool who would pretend to know how all these things are eventually going to work out. But can there be any doubt that changes in this field are going to come? Can there be any doubt that the tide of public demand and public opinion is running strongly in their favour? And of course the Government have, in the Speech, accepted the inexorability of the currents towards constitutional changes of this kind.
Moreover, can there be any doubt that when these changes come they will have a direct and important bearing upon the constitution of Parliament generally and upon the constitution and powers and composition of this House in particular? Because if we are to have separate governments of some kind in Scotland and in Wales and in the regions, is it conceivable that we shall be able to do that without giving to those regional governments some sort of representation, elective or otherwise, in this Chamber? But although I have said that I should, if other things had been equal, have been in favour of the postponement of the reform of this House even longer, one is obliged of course to recognise that the Party discussions have been going on—they were broken off tem- 51 porarily; I gather they have been resumed—and the Government of course are committed to this proposition, and things have gone beyond the point of no return. That has to be said.
I would conclude on this point by saying that I do not see that any great harm can be done—and possibly in these days if one can see no great harm in a piece of legislation that is about as good a thing as one can say of it—if the early reform of this House, what is being contemplated in the gracious Speech now, can be regarded and accepted by all Parties as no more than an interim measure, which will have later on to be supplemented and altered and amended when the constitutional situation has been resolved. If it were possible for us to treat this reform in that light, it would surely go a long way to ease the measure's passage through both of the Houses; it would go a long way to allay the grave misgivings which there are in both Parties, in all Parties perhaps, about some aspects of this reform, and it would have the additional advantage of possibly averting another revolt in the Labour Party, which is something of course devoutly to be desired.
My Lords, may I turn from that to the other matter to which I wish to refer, which is the Government's proposal for the Constitutional Commission. I am not very worried myself, like the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, about the wording in which this proposal is expressed. As Mr. Wilson said yesterday in the House of Commons when he was challenged in much the same way by Mr. Heath, "Well, you have to begin some time, otherwise you cannot come to a conclusion". My quarrel with this proposal goes rather deeper than that. I do not think the Government will be surprised if some of us regard this proposal for a Constitutional Commission with considerable suspicion. Here we are faced with these rising tides of nationalism and regionalism and it may be a very adroit political manoeuvre to pass the buck in this matter to a Commission, particularly to one whose labours are bound to occupy many years and will not be completed within the lifetime of this Parliament, so that the Government can say, "Well, you can see that we are alive to the importance of this matter. We are doing something about it," and at the same time the Gov- 52 ernment are relieved of the necessity of taking up any position of their own or making any declared attitude of their own. I suppose that over the next several years whenever the question of devolution is raised here or elsewhere we shall inevitably be told that while the Commission are sitting the matter is open and it would be wrong to arrive at anything but a provisional decision.
However, there is one criticism of this procedure by way of a Commission which in my mind is more fundamental than that. The terms of reference which the Prime Minister announced yesterday in the House of Commons seemed to suggest that if you appoint a body of sufficient technical qualification, and if this body looks at any problem—this problem or any other—long enough, then the proper and the appropriate answer will in some magic, mystical way almost automatically eventually emerge. It is a technique of Government which seems to be finding increasing favour not only in this country but particularly in the United States. It is what I would call Government by computer. There is a theory, it appears, that if you feed a sufficiency of facts and options into one end of a sufficiently high-powered machine, you can then go round the back of the machine and pull out a prepared pre-packaged policy untouched by human hand and untouched by any political thought. I am sufficiently old-fashioned to believe that this is not the best way of governing a country. I think there are many things which can properly be delegated to Commissions; but Commissions, however powerful and however highly qualified they may be, cannot properly make the overall political decisions. I myself prefer the Truman doctrine that the "buck" must be stopped somewhere; and in this case, in this country, the place where the "buck" ought to come to a stop is a desk in No. 10 Downing Street, or possibly more preferably the floor of the House of Commons. I prefer myself the aphorism of Monsieur Mendes-France when he said that, "To govern is to choose".
In this context my feeling is that the Government ought to have made up their mind at this stage as to what is the overall design for the constitutional reforms which are foreshadowed in this respect and what is the overall design for meeting the aspirations for nationalism and 53 for regionalism. They should decide what the design should be, and it is then, and only then, that a Commission should be constituted to work out the machinery and the details for the implementation of the Goverment's design. My Lords, I say, in conclusion, that I recognise the ingenuity of the Government's proposal for a Commission. It avoids all sorts of difficulties. But my fear is—and I am afraid it is not the first time in the history of this Parliament that I have felt this fear—that political cleverness will prove an inadequate substitute for statesmanship, and that agility is not the first virtue of a statesman.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, being privileged to take part in this debate on home affairs, I should be less than human if I did not primarily want to address your Lordships on law reform and the reform of our legal system: how far we have got in the last four years, what are our proposals for this Session, and what I see in looking to the future. But the House has been privileged to 11:ar two most interesting speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, and the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and therefore, before I come to law reform. 1. should say a word with regard to the observations which they made.
The noble Lord, Lord Erroll, mentioned seven legislative proposals of which I gathered he approves. The first was decimal currency, and the second the conversion of the Post Office from being a Government Department to being a commercial organisation. He was unable to resist a side swipe at the two-tier system of postage, and as this is a subject on which more nonsense has been talked, I think, than on anything I have heard for years I am very tempted to do my best to reply. But I know that my noble friend Lady Phillips is standing, or rather sitting, poised to strike and deal with this subject, so I am afraid that if I said anything at all I should only be spoiling the speech which she is to make on the subject. But the noble Lord approved the Bill.
Then, he was glad to hear that action was being taken on the Report of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations. All I can say about that at the moment is that the proposals have been under discussion with 54 the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress, and I hope that the Government proposals will be published in a White Paper at about the end of the year. Then the noble Lord approved the idea that we should have legislation on children, and also legislation on the need to help the areas of special need, and to deal with older houses.
There were only three provisions, I think, of which he was critical—now this I take to be the main feature of the Queen's Speech for this year. Of course if dullness means that something is so obviously sensible that it is not controversial then it can be said to be dull. But there are at a rough count some 21 proposals for legislation in the area of home affairs, and what was really rather striking I thought was that, with all his great experience, the noble Lord was able to find only three of which he could make any criticism at all. One was the proposal for a Constitutional Commission—and perhaps I had better deal with that when replying to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, as he spoke rather more at length on that subject.
The second matter of which he was critical was legislation for tourism. The Government has already produced its White Paper on Hotel Development incentives. One cannot. I am afraid, build a hotel out of S.E.T. of which one has been relieved. I think the Government's plans for grants and loans for hotels are sound and that we should establish a non-departmental body which would assist to sell tourism in Great Britain; and it may well be that it would help if we had some register of accommodation which would enable us to tell people abroad more clearly than we can now just what accommodation is available for them. Tourism is, of course, extremely important. It was responsible in terms of foreign currency last year for some £235 million; it is anticipated that this year the total will be something in the neighbourhood of £260 million. So it is an industry which deserves support.
The third thing which the noble Lord criticised was the order of sentences dealing with votes at eighteen and the age of majority at eighteen. I fully appreciate what he said; but as he knows, there is a convention among all the 55 Parties that there will be no change in electoral law before the matter has been discussed at a Speaker's Conference, and that is, of course, why I had to exclude it from the terms of reference of the Latey Committee. Both Houses have discussed the Report of the Latey Committee favourably, and except that I remember the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, expressing a doubt about the age of free marriage, there was other wise, I think, general assent to the proposal that the age of majority should be reduced to eighteen. The voting age is of course a matter of opinion, but if one is to reduce the age of majority to eighteen it would seem to me very extraordinary that the one right which should not be given to those who arc of full age should be the basic democratic right of voting, particularly when we remember that ordinarily there is a General Election only once every five years, and therefore if they come of full age at eighteen the average man or woman will cast their first vote at the age of twenty and a half. That, I think, is really all I can say in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Erroll. It is, I think, the fact that this seems to be a Session which is going to contain a great many Bills which are such obvious sense that nobody is likely to criticise them, and I hope we shall have a co-operative and useful Session.
The noble Lord, Lord Foot (and I would assure him that the cries of "Order" were in no way aimed at him, but were directed at other noble Lords who were walking between him and the Woolsack, which should not have occurred), referred in particular to the Constitutional Commission and House of Lords reform. As regards the Constitutional Commission, I should have thought this was a very sensible thing to do. I must make it plain, and of course the Commission will know, that this will not in any way deter the Government from carrying out any reforms meanwhile which they thing right. We anticipate before long receiving the Reports of the two Royal Commissions on Local Government, the Maud Report and the Wheatley Report, and they may very well be acted on.
Nor can one entirely ignore what is happening in Northern Ireland. Indeed, 56 my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is discussing these affairs with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland next week. But on the broader front of the Constitutional Commission, I should have thought it was good sense to have a Royal Commission, which, after all, hears evidence in public; where people can all say what they think, particularly those who feel that there is insufficient participation between them and Government; where the Scottish Nationalists can come and say exactly what their proposals are. And, of course, the Commission will be able to inquire into what I think is greatly needed, and that is a real assessment of the economic results to England or Scotland or Wales of alternative proposals which have been made.
So far as House of Lords reform is concerned, all your Lordships will have to-morrow the White Paper which contains the whole of the proposals and the whole of the reasons why the Government consider that this is a reform which ought not to be further delayed. In view of that fact, I ought not, I think, to take up any of your Lordships' time further in discussing it to-day.
Both the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, and the noble Lord, Lord Foot, also referred —very properly of course, because it is a matter of home affairs—to the events of last Sunday. I would suggest that there are three things that we should bear in mind about violence. The first is that violence rarely does any good and that its usual result is to cause more violence. The second is that, at least in this country, if one looks back at times of violence we know now that the grievances which gave rise to violence were almost invariably right. The economic position of a working man in relation to his employer was an impossible one, from a bargaining point of view. They were fully justified in wanting to be able to associate together. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were martyrs; the Luddites were right, on a short view; the Chartists had genuine grievances which ought to have been removed. The third thing, if one looks back, to realise about violence is that the propertied classes have always been very frightened by violence, and their usual tendency has been to over-react against violence, and this always makes things worse. On Sunday we had known from the Press and Television that large numbers of men 57 were going to take over public buildings; that they were going to take over the Underground; that there was going to be arson and looting.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary was urged to ban the meeting; that if he did not ban the meeting he ought to use troops, tanks or, if not those, at least the police ought to have fire hoses and tear gas. The situation appeared to be an extremely dangerous one. As the House knows, my right honourable friend, who would have been to blame if he had been wrong, decided to use our ordinary police. As we now know, that was the right decision to make, and the conduct of the police on Sunday is, I think, beyond all praise. Ours is the finest police force in the world, and in spite of everything that had happened a relatively thin blue line was able to contain everything without, unless a policeman found himself surrounded and isolated, even drawing a truncheon. This, I suggest, is a classic example of the right way to deal with violence. Have we not ourselves seen on television the extreme brutality of the security forces in Paris, which ended only by making everybody in France sympathise with the students? Have we not seen what has happened on the streets in Tokyo and in Chicago? I suggest that this was a clear example that the British police are the finest police force in the world.
The other observation which perhaps ought to be made is that just as everything in the newspapers and on television had pointed towards violence, so almost the only side of the demonstration we were allowed to see or have reported on was what happened in Grosvenor Square, where quite a small proportion out of what was itself a small proportion of the total demonstration was engaged. We saw but little of the between 30,000 and 50,000 who were demonstrating in Hyde Park.
I should not wish to be thought to be discourteous to anybody but Tariq Ali is not my favourite son. On this occasion, he happens to have acted with extreme propriety. He agreed with the police upon the route which was to be used. He told them that if the demonstrators were not attacked by the police the police would have no trouble, and he was absolutely right. I think that 30,000 or 50,000 were assembled in Hyde Park, which historically is the place where 58 everybody is entitled to go to express his opinion, however strong that opinion may be. The fact that there were 30,000 or 50,000 shows how many people in this country, men and women, old and young, do care passionately about the subject of Vietnam. Perhaps, as usual, the Daily Mirror really hit the nail on the head when it said in its headlines:The day the police were wonderful, and the marchers were pretty good, too".That is really what it comes to.
Having ventured to deliver this modicum of praise all round, there remains this question in giving credit, as I think I should, to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, the police and practically the whole of the marchers: ought I to add the Press and the television services? There is this danger: that so long as the Press and the television services so conduct themselves that people, and in particular young people, think that the only way to get an opinion heard in the Press or on television is either to be violent or to talk of violence, inevitably there will be a tendency to do just that.
This has always been a difficulty. I remember crowds in the streets when what was intended to be an indoor meeting at the Central Hall, Westminster, for which one had to buy a ticket, was sold out, so the organisers took Church House in Westminster, and that was sold out. Then they took the Caxton Hall, which again was sold out, and then, I believe, another building. The crowd was simply those who could not get into any of the meetings. It was at that time the largest meeting which had taken place in London since the war. The list of speakers was such as would ordinarily have led to their speeches being fully reported in the Press. But there was no violence or disturbance of any kind. That was the first meeting of C.N.D., and it was almost wholly banned by the Press from being reported because there was no violence.
I hope that our Press and television services, which are otherwise so admirable, will think seriously about this question of people who have strong views—we do not know what the 30,000 said in Hyde Park because they were not reported—and whether it is not undesirable that this feeling should be created that if you are violent or if you talk about violence then you can get into the Press or on to 59 the television services, but otherwise you cannot.
I come, briefly, to law reform. Last Session we dealt with civil evidence, a brand new law of theft, an Administration of Justice Bill, the Domestic and Appellate Proceedings (Restriction of Publicity) Act, an Act overhauling restrictive trade practices, the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act and the Justices of the Peace Act. Our gaming law was entirely revised. We abolished theatre censorship, and Private Members dealt with subjects in which the Government were interested; namely, design copyright and maintenance orders. In the field of consolidating our Statute Law we made a good start with the consolidation of the 15 last Finance Acts by dealing with capital allowances, the provision and collection of taxes, criminal appeals, court-martial appeals, criminal appeals in Northern Ireland, export guarantees, firearms, and a massive consolidation of an appallingly long list of Rent Acts into one Act.
This afternoon your Lordships have given a First Reading to an Administration of Justice Bill. In July, there was published the Report of the Winn Committee on the Trial of Personal Injury Actions—how we could try them more quickly, more simply and more cheaply. A good many of those recommendations will not require legislation they can be achieved by Rules of Court. Of the wisdom of a few of them I entertain some reserve; but their first suggestion, that more of these actions should be tried in the county courts is one which, if your Lordships think fit, will be implemented in this Bill, though not in the precise way they suggest.
Secondly, they recommended that interim payments should be possible in these cases. Your Lordships may think that is sensible. If there is no dispute about liability but a lot of argument on injuries and damages, why should the unfortunate injured person have to wait until the end of the case before he gets some payment on account? Indeed, it is in the early stages that financial hardship may be the greatest. Equally, if he or she is a passenger in a motor car, there is a collision between two vehicles and the two drivers cannot agree as to which of them is liable, or it may be that both are 60 liable, or if there is a question of the proportions of the amount to be awarded, why again should not the unfortunate injured passenger get an interim payment meanwhile?
Then, too, the legislation will contain another provision recommended by the Winn Committee; namely, that in factory accident cases, as all those who have taken part in them know, justice may not be done unless the injured person's engineer can go and see the machine which is alleged to have been unguarded in the factory, before it has been removed and before it has been altered. This will enable inspections of machinery and premises and some documents to be made on an originating summons even before the action proper is started. The remainder of the Bill consists of a large number of things, none of which is of great importance in itself, but all of which are required, some having been required for some time, for the better administration of justice.
Secondly, there is the Family Law Reform Bill which was introduced this afternoon, and which is in three parts. One part is intended to implement most of the recommendations of the Latey Committee, which covered not only the age of majority but a number of other age questions as well. The second part of it will implement for England and Wales the recommendations of the Russell Committee on rights of succession of illegitimate people in exactly the same way as the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act did in the last Session. I am afraid this is a case of Scotland getting a year ahead. I would have got a year ahead myself, because your Lordships may remember that when we were considering the property law I hoped that, if the Russell Committee reported (as it did) while that Bill was in this House, I could introduce those amendments in the other House. But the Table said that they were outside the Long Title, and although the Parliamentary draftsmen said they were inside, on an appeal to Mr. Speaker we lost the day, so in those circumstances we are behind Scotland.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, may I, most presumptuously, interrupt the noble and learned Lord in regard to the Latey Report? Would it be regarded as likely that the age of consent for marriage 61 at eighteen without parental approval would be included in any legislation?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it will be included in the Bill. The Bill now having been introduced, it will, I think, be available in the Printed Paper Office to-morrow, where the noble Earl will be able to study it. The third part of the Bill relates to proof of paternity by blood tests. Those who have been members of Governments will know the way Government machines work. With the Winn Committee Report having been published only in July, there has been sonic fairly quick footwork in incorporating it into a Bill introduced in October.
In regard to the Law Commission Report on proof of paternity, I received this on September 7, and I at once sent it off to the printers. The printers have a great deal to do just before the opening of a Session and I did not get it back until yesterday, and it was published at half past two this afternoon. I suppose it must have been about ten minutes past three that I introduced the Bill to implement the Report which had been published at half past two. I really think this must be a record. In fact it is not a thing I would ordinarily do, because I like to publish a Report and then wait a month or two in order to see what public opinion will be, what the Press will have to say and what the legal professions think about it.
The reason why I thought it right to move at once on this subject was, first, that the Law Commission have consulted every conceivable body which could possibly be interested in the proposal and they reported that no one dissented from the main proposal in the Report: and, secondly, because more and more in the courts judges are saying: "As there was a voluntary submission to blood tests of course I am not arguing about it, because everybody now agrees that the child is obviously the co-respondent's child and not the husband's. Had it not been for the blood tests, I should have had to father this child on the husband, although I thought myself that it was the co-respondent's. But so strong is the presumption of legitimacy that I should have had to father it on to the wrong man." It is because judges are complaining of the lack of a proper law on proof of 62 paternity that I felt it right that it should be included in this Bill.
The third legislative proposal is a Bill for the implementation of the Report of the Committee on positive covenants, of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, was chairman, together with an implementation of a Report from the Law Commission reducing the period for which title has to be proved for a transfer of land from 30 years to 15 years, which will simplify conveyancing.
Fourthly, there is a Bill on which I want to make an appeal to noble Lords who sit on the Front Bench opposite. A disgrace to our law for a long time has been our lack of law on the liability for damage and injury done by animals. This is because it is almost pre-motor car law. If a cow gets through a gap in the farmer's fence and eats the neighbour's cabbages, the farmer is liable to his neighbour to pay for the cabbages: but if the cow gets through a gap on to the M.1, and as a result a coach overturns and a lot of people are seriously injured, there is no one to whom they can look for compensation. Of course this is purely a question of insurance. In practice, farmers would not be liable, and there are cases, on the moors in Cumberland for example, where nobody would expect the farmers to do anything about the animals. Under the Bill it is really not a question of liability but a question of what the insurance premium will be.
This is a reform over which there has been a great deal of trouble. There was a Committee, of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, was Chairman, which made a recommendation. Nothing was done because the Government of the day could not get their Minister of Transport and Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to agree. Now the Law Commission has reviewed the whole field and has come up with a solution which, in the opinion of the Government, is fair and right. But we all know the difficulties of legislative time, and the Government have been able to approve this Bill for this Session only on the condition that it is a Second Reading Committee Bill. That, of course, depends on the consent of the Opposition, and therefore I hope they will give consideration to whether we should not deal with this by way of a Second Reading Committee.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord suggesting that we should do that in this House?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, no; but the Government, and indeed the Shadow Cabinet, are represented among those before me and I am addressing my observations to them. I agree that it is primarily a matter for consideration in another place.
I had intended to review the future generally and what is being done by the Criminal Law Revision Committee and the Law Commission; by the Payne Committee, whose Report I hope to get in two or three months, and by the Royal Commission on Assizes and Quarter Sessions, whose Report I hope to get this year. The Third Annual Report of the Law Commission shows the vast number of subjects on which the Commission is at present engaged. It is quite clear to me that more and more reports will now come through the pipe-line at a faster rate.
There is one subject only to which I will refer, in view of the time, and that is family law. The Law Commission has assisted with a draftsman, and a Private Member's Bill has been drafted on divorce. The Commission is anxious to deal with financial conditions, but says in its Third Annual Report:It is impossible to complete our proposals on financial provision and to translate these into legislative form until the precise nature of the changes, if any, which Parliament may make in the divorce law, becomes known.As your Lordships know, we have always dealt with the subject of divorce by a Private Member's Bill on which the Government are neutral. But, of course, when it comes to financial provisions they are necessarily a matter for the Government.
Some people are pinning too great hopes on what the Law Commission may be able to do in this field: therefore may I remind your Lordships that in this Report the Commission points out that all the ordinary family have is the matrimonial home and its contents, and about half of them have also a second-hand motor car. My noble friend Lady Summerskill dealt with the problem of the matrimonial home in the Matrimonial Homes Act of last year, and, referring to that Act, the Law Commission says: 64As a result of these developments something approaching community"—that is to say community of property among married people—already exists in many instances as regards the home, often the only substantial capital asset. Although we appreciate the urgency and importance of this part of our work, we think it right to emphasise that those who see in further developments in this field a panacea for all the financial ills flowing from broken marriages are, in our view, mistaken. Where there are ample funds there is no intractable problem even under the present law; where there are not, the problem is not solved by simply dividing between two families resources scarcely adequate for the maintenance of one.My Lords, may I say, finally, that in this field the Law Commission is also considering nullity, polygamous marriages, the recognition of foreign divorce decrees and decrees of judicial separation, financial provisions in magistrates' courts, and the whole status of illegitimate children, and also family courts. We have indeed a vast field left to cover, and I am only too well aware that the machinery of law reform is still insufficient. To any commercial country it is, I suppose, of some importance to have an adequate law covering, for example, the hallmarking of gold and silverware. Our legislation in this field is mainly 17th and 18th century; it is virtually incomprehensible. Every time this century it has come before a court the court has said, "Well, surely Parliament is not going to leave this like this because we cannot make head or tail of it." But what am I to do? The departmental lawyers for the Board of Trade tell me that they cannot touch it for two or three years, as they are so full up with other things. It is impossible to put any additional matter on to the Law Commission. The Law Reform Committee are themselves tackling the interpretation of wills, the law of evidence, and other subjects. What perhaps impresses me more, at the end of four extremely active years, in which we have done more, I think, to reform our law and legal system than was done at any time in this century, is the appalling amount which still remains to be done.
§ 4.33 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I will concern myself only with the last part of what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said. 65 Of course, until I heard rather more about the details of the Government's programme than was in the short paragraph in the gracious Speech I was a little in the dark; but at any rate your Lordships have now heard some details of the two Bills which have been given their first reading this afternoon. I confess that when I saw the passage in the gracious Speech I thought that may be the Beeching Report was imminently due, but your Lordships and I have heard from the Long Title of the Bill that this is not the same measure at all.
I have listened to the description of the Long Title and to what the noble and learned Lord has said, and I think the best thing to do is to wait until the Bill is printed and look at the detailed provisions in it because they stem, I think, from a number of different sources, from Reports of committees of different types, and to judge by most of the Bills on legal matters which have been introduced into this House in recent years, I think it is likely to be non-controversial. Perhaps on occasion the Government have been surprised by the controversiality of legal Bills introduced into this House, but I suspect that this may not be one of them.
The Bill on Family Law Reform has the scope that the noble and learned Lord has said, in so far as the recommendations of the Latey Committee are to be incorporated in it, and no doubt we shall have some more interesting debates on that Bill. I do not know whether the noble Earl, Lord Arran, is for or against the age of eighteen as the age of free marriage. No doubt if I remembered his speech on that subject on a previous occasion it would he clear, but I suspect that your Lordships will find out in due course. I also recall the incident when, on account of the Rules in another place, the Family Provisions Act 1966, I think it was, could not be amended to take into account the then very newly produced Russell Committee Report. Of course, since then these recommendations have been widely discussed—they are now in force in Scotland—and I do not suppose that there will be a great deal of controversy about that.
The third Part of the Bill deals with blood tests and the proof of paternity in civil proceedings. I must let your Lordships into the secret that I was told that 66 this Bill would be available some time after 2.30, otherwise I should not have had the chance yet of even skimming through it. In the back of the Report from the Law Commission there are some draft clauses which will probably form the framework of that Part of the Bill. It does seem to me to be a particularly interesting Report, although I have not had time to read it fully. I recall, and some of your Lordships may recollect, that the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, brought this matter before Parlizment, although it was not taken to a final conclusion. It appears, as is so often the case, if he will not mind my saying so, that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has been pioneering some law reform in the courts on this matter. Nevertheless, the Law Commission, in paragraphs 28 and 29 of their Report, set out some reasons why they think legislation is required. It is quite true that if one looks at the list in Appendix C of the very varied number of organisations which the Law Commission consulted, they seem to have done a very thorough job.
Your Lordships may also be more than a little interested to find in a legal document of this nature an Appendix which seems, in itself, to have got a scientific title, being "B to the power of 100" (though that may be a misprint) which sets out in great detail the nature of blood group evidence. In the draft clauses I observe that the recommendation of the Law Commission is that the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland should prescribe the blood tests that are to be carried out. When your Lordships come to look at the Bill you may consider that to be a relief, in view of this paragraph in the Appendix on this matter:We understand that phosphoglucomutase grouping is likely to be employed in paternity testing before very long. Here the lead is in this country. This is an inherited system of blood-tissue enzymes which is already being used in anthropological studies and forensic identification tests. Grouping is by starch gel electrophoresis (like the haptoglobin grouping) followed by a special enzyme staining technique.It is not a subject, my Lords, on which I wish to move Amendments in Committee.
The noble Lord may certainly take it that I will pass on to such colleagues as I will be in charge of these matters in 67 another place his request about a Second Reading Committee for the Animals Bill. This is the subject matter of a Report which has for some time been available to Parliament and the public, and, although I do not know what will happen in another place, I should think that this is a matter which could be fairly easily dealt with, at least in this House; and if the Bill follows the line of the Report available then I do not suppose that it will cause a great deal of difficulty.
So far as positive covenants are concerned, of course again the Report of the Committee of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, has been available for some time. This is a very difficult matter, but so long as no novelties are introduced which have not been considered by that Committee, and consequently, I think, by those who are interested, it may well be that, although technical and difficult, it will not take a tremendous amount of time.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord then turned to a short look at the programme of law reform that has been carried out and at what is still in hand; and of course it is right to mention the Consolidation Bills that have been passed by both Houses under the machinery that has been laid down now for some time. Clearly, this is a subject that is capable of being expanded. The number of Bills that can be put through is dependent, I think, simply on the amount of Parliamentary time and the number of draftsmen available. It is not a difficult process upstairs in Committee, but it requires a tremendous amount of drafting, and also a certain amount of vigilance on the part of members of the Joint Committee who as a rule have only the one opportunity to go through the legislation.
I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord is interested in suggestions for other subjects, but I think it is time the Electricity Acts were looked at, since these are in a state of no mean chaos. I also feel that it is time Parliament considered the question of compulsory purchase of common land. I do not know whether this could be a matter for consultation, or whether the Law Commission could do it under this new procedure, which is mostly consolidation but includes some amendments which could be separately debated in Parliament. Your 68 Lordships are probably aware that the fascinating subject of the Cow Green Reservoir, in Upper Teesdale, was discussed by your Lordships only because there was common land involved, and therefore the matter could not be dispatched by a Water Order. Exactly the same thing happened last Session when a Private Bill was introduced for a water scheme in South Wales, which would have been unnecessary if there had not been a small piece of common land involved.
There is a good system whereby common land can be dealt with by local inquiry and is then subject to Special Parliamentary Procedure, but because of two antiquated Acts passed in 1882 and 1899 that method cannot be used because there are specific words, which are now quite inappropriate, that prevent the matter being undertaken by Water Order. As I understand it, these are matters which may be controversial, but nevertheless a public inquiry, coupled with the power to come to Parliament under the Special Parliamentary Procedure, is a pretty good protection for those who think themselves upset by it, and it is certainly very much cheaper. I do not know whether before very long the noble and learned Lord will be able to find some time in which to look at that matter.
Although there is no doubt that, as one sees from the Third Annual Report of the Law Commission, a great deal is going on, it has taken a certain length of time for anything very much to come through. I do not complain about this; I know about the painstaking way in which the Law Commission are setting about their task, and indeed I have read some of their circulated Papers. I only wish that I had a little more time to take them in, with their very complicated references and to comment upon them; but one knows that there are people who are studious and public-spirited enough to do this, and they get back answers which no doubt assist them. This must be the right way to do it, but the speed with which they have brought forward their final reports shows the difficulty of the work.
The noble and learned Lord spoke about the matrimonial home. I do not wish to say that I do not necessarily agree with what the Law Commission say in their paragraph to which he referred, but 69 it must be remembered that, whether or not the Law Commission recommend this or that, when legislation is finally produced it is for Parliament to say whether or not it agrees. The Law Commission arc not the final arbiters in these matters. They may have very good advice; it may be well backed up by consultation. But in the end Parliament must make up its mind on the merits. It is at that stage that what the Law Commissioners say is of very great assistance; but it is not conclusive. If there is any doubt about that, I am fully aware, to my own cost, of what Parliament is capable of doing.
Your Lordships may recall the difficulty I had with two extremely noble and learned Lords on the Domestic and Appellate Proceedings (Restriction of Publicity) Bill in your Lordships' House last Session. An innocuous draft of the Bill was issued by the Law Commission with which everybody in another place agreed, but nobody had reckoned with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, who took a very dim view of the absence from the Bill of certain provisions. After a great deal of consultation the matter was eventually put right. That shows what Parliament can do, and it is what Parliament ought to do.
I do not think the noble and learned Lord and the Government can claim since they have been in office a completely unblemished record in the field of legislation. There is at present taking place before industrial tribunals and in the High Court an almost unbelievable series of controversies in cases which arise under the Selective Employment Payments Act, which was a very rapid piece of legislation. What was done was to frame a provision which allowed people to reclaim S.E.T. payments or to get a premium by reference to something called the Standard Industrial Classification. That was a document produced in the 1950s, brought up to date some time before the Act itself, and produced by the Central Office of Statistics. It was produced for statistical purposes only.
The whole of the repayment and premium system is framed by reference to the statistical cross-headings in the Industrial Classification. These are not very easy to understand or to put together, and it is extraordinary to see judges of 70 high standing, in the Queen's Bench Division and in the Court of Appeal, taking diametrically opposite views on exactly the same wording. This is only because in a matter of this importance the Government have taken the easy way out. It is a way out which has cost people a great deal of money, since they are having to appeal to the courts about something which ought to have been covered by clear legislation. I hope that nobody will ever again suggest that we should use statistical cross-headings as a method of determining who should be taxed. That is only one of the examples of that sort of case.
I should like to agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, when he seconded the Motion for an humble Address yesterday. I should like to end up on a slightly less critical note because I think that in this field a great deal of progress has been made. The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, said:We must face up, therefore, to the fact that there should be a continuous process of adapting a Parliamentary and Government machinery to a rapidly changing world."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 30/10/68, col. 15.]He compared this process to a successful business organisation.
What delights me most about the Third Annual Report of the Law Commission is the passage on page 23 relating to the new official edition of the Statutes. The description of the present official edition of the Statutes shows how lamentable is the situation. What is anticipated is a loose-leaf form of Statute. The sooner this is introduced the better, and no doubt the draft legislation will be done with this in mind. It speaks volumes for private enterprise that nowadays the only way in which the practitioner can keep up to date in the law is to look at the most efficient editions brought out year by year, not only publishing new legislation but with cross-references and bringing things up to date, often in loose-leaf form And now we are to have the official publication in the same form, which I feel is the right thing to do. I hope the same thing will apply to Scotland because, from the little experience I have had from trying to look tip Scottish Law, the same wealth of textbooks and cross-reference is not available and it may be difficult indeed for somebody who practises only South of the Border to discover what the Scots Law 71 is. I think that this will bring in something like instant consolidation, which will be a very good thing indeed.
One then has to face the problem of getting it done, and I wonder whether the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, who is to reply, will be able to discuss with her noble friends the position of the Parliamentary draftsmen. Practically everything the noble and learned Lord and I have been talking about is dependent on them. I have sometimes criticised the Parliamentary draftsmen; in the course of last week I made comments upon the Town and Country Planning Bill. As a matter of fact, I think I was right, but it certainly was not the draftsman's fault. He had been up until three o'clock the previous morning in another place while that House was looking at our Amendments. He then had to come back here the following afternoon, and was criticised by me. This is a service beyond the call of duty, and I know that the Parliamentary draftsmen are very short indeed on the ground.
I do not know whether it is a matter of recruitment or a matter of money. But the noble and learned Lord will not get any speed in the preparation of legislation, he will not be able to avoid things like selective employment payment muddles, if he does not have adequate draftsmen to do the job. And, of course, some of these draftsmen have been seconded to the Law Commission. I have the very greatest respect for them, and I know that they are hard pressed. But I think that some increase in their numbers, or, if possible, a reduction in their duties by slightly less legislation, may be the answer.
I refer to some possibility of reduction in legislation because, to finish up. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale said about being over-fussed with legislation, over-governed in my own specialist field of law. The volume of legislation and subordinate legislation is quite extraordinary. Some of it is not even printed and is not available to anybody, because it is in local Statutory Instruments. They are not in your Lordships' Library, and they are not available to anybody, unless they are bought from the local authority concerned. A great deal of the time of people is spent in 72 simply finding out what is the law and what is the relevant Act of Parliament which governs a matter. Certainly, I know a number of people whose money has been spent very largely on this.
This ought not to be the case. What the lay public ought to be able to expect from a lawyer is an answer to their problem; the detailed application of the law to their particular case. It should not be necessary for them to have to pay for interminable hours spent in libraries and with textbooks, to find out the basis on which to give an answer. It is in that respect that I look for law reform in the future, because it is in that respect that we shall be doing a service to the public and, to some extent, easing their burdens if they are otherwise over-governed.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, during the thirty years in which I have sat on the Benches here and in another place, I have wondered whether the time might arrive when I could say, having listened to the representative of the Government, that my speech was superfluous—I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord has gone out, because these remarks are absolutely directed to him—and when I heard that he was going to talk to-day on family law, I thought he would probably discuss the matter and give some assurance which would make my speech superfluous. However. I want to thank him— and I hope he will read these words—for, while he did not give me the assurance for which I waited, he was very sympathetic with regard to such matters as divorce and the matrimonial property law, in so far as he said that the Law Commission were considering these subjects and wondering how they might solve some of the problems related to divorce reform.
On the last occasion when we debated the Queen's Speech I addressed myself to the reference to the reform of family law, and I anticipated the introduction of a Divorce Bill. I find it very difficult to call it a Divorce Reform Bill, because I associate reform with improvement and, in my opinion, the Bill that was introduced last year, far from improving the divorce law, would in effect lessen the excellent contribution which might be 73 made to family life. I sought to focus the attention of the House on the plight of the wife innocent of any matrimonial offence, who had been married for many years but who could, nevertheless, be divorced against her will if the new measure, which was being freely talked about, reached the Statute Book. During the year the Bill was debated in another place, but fortunately for the wives and mothers of this country, there was no time for it to be debated in your Lordships' House. My reason for raising the matter to-day is that I am told on the best authority that another attempt is to be made to pass a Divorce Bill and that on this occasion the Bill will be introduced in your Lordships' House. Therefore I come to your Lordships, as I did last year, before the Bill is introduced, in order to put a case with which I hope many of you will have sympathy.
I believe that last year the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was given to understand that there was a consensus of opinion in the Church of England, the Methodist Church--and, by some extraordinary coincidence, there are representatives of both Churches here to-day—and the Law Reform Commission; and that, of course, weighed very heavily with the House of Commons. However, when the Bill was published the head of the Anglican Church, the most reverend Primate, far from welcoming the measure, wrote an article in the Sunday Times in which he said:Much more thought should be devoted to the fundamental question whether this Bill will maintain the stability of marriage as its sponsors claim. It would seem that it could create more injustice and unhappiness than it could remove.It took a little time for the women's organisations of the country to learn about the provisions of that Bill, because they were never consulted in the first place, but for the most part they rejected the Bill. The Mothers' Union, which is attached to the Church of England, went so far—and, in my experience of the Mothers' Union, this is absolutely unprecedented—as to organise a public meeting in Lambeth addressed by a High Court Judge, and wholeheartedly condemned the measure. I recalled all this when I heard a member of the Government state that we should not leave broadcasting to the broadcasters. Only a tiny minority of the population ever 74 read Hansard and, as we have heard today from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, there are many things which should be printed an our newspapers which are never discussed at all; not necessarily because they are not good hut, perhaps, because there is no room or because a sub-editor feels that the readers are not interested. Therefore, had it not been for the radio and television, the public would have been left in ignorance regarding the true nature of the Divorce Bill.
Another member of the Government charged the radio and television people with trivialising politics. I believe that what is trivial is a question for each individual to decide. No doubt there are many who regard the activities of arms salesmen as high politics and matters concerning the stability of the family as trivial. Fortunately, very many people do not share that view, and there are those in the B.B.C. and the who in the course of the year treated the Divorce Bill as a measure of major importance. There are many who know that there are grave doubts in the public mind as to whether it is morally justifiable to enable a husband or a wife to divorce a spouse who is completely innocent of any offence, and, furthermore, to establish one law for the rich and one for the poor.
The Divorce Bill was a compromise between the Law Commission and what was called the Archbishops' Group, and, like all compromises, it was vulnerable to close examination. In fairness to the Law Commission, however, we should recall that after a discussion with the Archbishops' Group they emphasised that the Commission were a purely legal body and that it was no part of their function to pass judgment on controversial social issues. The noble Viscount who has just spoken said that the Law Commission cannot determine what is passed in this House. Of course they cannot. The Law Commission are there to advise, and at times they give extremely good advice, but it is for this House and another place to decide whether they will act upon that advice. I would remind the noble Viscount that on this subject the Law Commission said in their publication, The Field of Choice:Until the rules relating to family property and financial relief are reformed in a way which will protect the wife against additional 75 hardship resulting from a divorce, it may be necessary to go even further by providing an additional safeguard whereby a divorce cannot be forced on the wife if it is impossible for the husband to make provisions which protect her from disproportionate hardships".My Lords, I believe that if a law cannot be enforced it brings the law as a whole into disrepute. Other countries have recognised that reform of the matrimonial property law should in equity precede changes in the divorce law, and it was clear from what the Lord Chancellor said this afternoon that he and the Law Commission are now thinking of divorce and matrimonial property law together. I am glad to hear this. It gives me great hope for the future, because last year, quite clearly, there was an effort to press through Parliament a Divorce Bill which had no relation to matrimonial property at all. In Denmark, the matrimonial property system has existed since 1925; and, whereas there may be a difference in detail, community of property has been established in most of the European countries and in many States in the United States of America. Therefore I would ask my noble friend, Lady Phillips, to tell us, when she comes to reply, whether it is intended to include in the Bill the controversial clause, Clause 2(1)(e). It would be grossly unfair to omit provisions concerned with the financial protection of the wife. I apologise when I ask her to do this, for I know she cannot commit herself; but I invite her to inquire of the right quarters before the new Bill is drafted—and that is why it is so important in this matter to get in first—whether, if that particular clause is still inserted in the Bill, they will consider the injustice of it.
In my opinion—and I want to put it very briefly—the wife who is divorced against her will, the completely innocent wife (or husband, for that matter) should be given a vested right to a share in the family assets by way of some system of community of property. I am not at this stage pressing for any particular system, but I favour the Federal German approach. Then there should be a vested right to receive a widow's pension proportionate to the length of time the marriage has existed. In cases where there was neither adequate capital nor pension, 76 the wife would have to claim for maintenance out of future income. The Lord Chancellor himself has obviously been thinking about this problem. He has obviously been thinking about matrimonial property. He said to the House, quite rightly, that in most cases in the country there might be a semi-detached house or a terraced house, and there might be a second-hand car. My Lords, certainly that is so, but these are very important things to a little family. The husband was able to acquire the house, semi-detached or terraced, and the secondhand car by reason of the fact that his wife was at home, able to give her services to the house, thus enabling him to go out and earn his wage or salary. Therefore, what I want to establish is that even in regard to these small homes—and it is mostly small homes that we are talking about—we should approach the problem by recognising that there is a partnership between husband and wife and that the husband could not have earned his wage or salary without the help of the wife.
Therefore, my Lords. I hope that this time the Government will not give their blesing—I will not say "this time", for perhaps the Government did not give their blessing to the last one nevertheless, the Bill was going through the other place quite rapidly—to a Divorce Bill which omits these provisions and, in consequence, fails to do justice to a wife who has served her family faithfully for many years.
§ 5.6 p.m.
My Lords, I think it will relieve those of your Lordships who are here to know that I have already told the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, that I am getting up only to say that I am about to sit down again in one moment. I had intended to make a short speech, which I then found would have been in the form of a footnote—that is not a deliberate pun—a postscript, to Lord Foot's speech (with every word of which, I may say, I agreed, as I usually do) on a point with which he dealt at considerable length. I was intending to deal with it from quite a different aspect, and I hope to do so in much the same terms, but I think this is not the appropriate occasion on which to do it. Having said that, I will sit down.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, before proceeding with what I have to say, I want your Lordships to appreciate that I have listened with very great attention to the theme adumbrated by my noble friend Lady Summerskill. I think there has been too must haste with regard to some of our so-called divorce reform, and that the caveat which she has entered on behalf of deserted wives will deserve in due course the very serious consideration of this House.
I hope, my Lords, that I will not be regarded as a blackleg because I am not going to say a single word about Party politics this afternoon. This is a debate about home affairs, and I should like to touch for a few minutes on a few aspects of the work of the Home Office, saying by way of introduction that I am comforted in the thought that we have in charge of that Department an imaginative and humane Minister. The first thing I want to talk about is the police force. Nine or ten months ago the Government issued a series of economy circulars, excusable in the circumstances, one of the provisions of which was that there should be a curtailment in recruitment to the police forces. I know that in my own county, where our strength is some hundreds below establishment, we were told that we could increase our strength this year by only 19 bodies. I certainly hope that the need for enforcing economies of that kind will soon disappear, and that police forces will be able to bring their strengths up to the limits which they really deserve. I have noted with very great pleasure the mergers of police forces in various parts of the country which are being encouraged by the Home Secretary. I think this is making for efficiency, and the more of those mergers we get the happier a good many people will be. I understand that a new system for regulating the pay of the police forces has been set up, and I think that will be welcomed in all parts of the House and in all parts of the country. All I have to say about the police force, particularly in view of what happened last Sunday afternoon, is that I think our policemen are wonderful.
Another of the activities of the Home Office is concerned with our prisons, and we know that under the present Home Secretary—and many of his predecessors, 78 of both Parties—there have been reformative efforts set on foot by penal reformers with more or less enthusiasm. I am sure we are all delighted to feel that that policy will be continued under the present Home Secretary, but I think some of us are a little disappointed that building is being curtailed, or is not proceeding at the rate which is absolutely essential if those reforms are to be made realistic. But when we have talked about reforms, when we have talked about rehabilitating prisoners, there is also the question of punishment; and, unlike some noble Lords in this House, I feel that the element of punishment has to be taken into consideration. But, my Lords, there is a more immediate question where our prisons are concerned, and that is the question of security. There are far too many escapes from our prisons. Whether they be due to the architectural nature of the building or whether they be due to inadequacies of staff, I sincerely hope that the Home Secretary will give this matter his urgent attention. It is no use sending really dangerous criminals to prison if it is to be made easy for them to escape.
My Lords, the only other preliminary item about which I should like to say a word or two is the provision in the gracious Speech for giving votes and for giving the rights of majority to boys and girls of eighteen. I welcome this most wholeheartedly. I think our young people are maturing much earlier to-day than used to be the case. I am not talking about sex. There is far too much talk about sex. There is nothing new about it. It used to exist even when I was a boy. But I am talking about the fact that many of these youngsters own motor cars, earn very good wages and pay their taxes and that many of them are entering into marriage (and quite responsibly entering into marriage) at quite an early age. If there is to be any elaboration on this particular point I think I had better leave it to somebody nearer the teenage bracket than I am myself. I am one of those unfortunate people who was never a teenager. I missed all the joy and irresponsibility of those years between 16 and 21. I joined the Army in 1914 when I was 16 years of age, only a boy. I came out a man, with a man's outlook, a roan's responsibility for earning his living. So, if there should be I noble Lords or, perhaps, noble Baronesses 79 in this House nearer to the teenage bracket than I, then I should be delighted to leave this subject to them. I leave all these subjects to the Home Office in the confident feeling that they will be well and truly considered during the coming year.
My Lords, what I really want to talk about to-day is the enormous damage done to our country by fire. There is damage to the extent of f100 million a year. In the 12 months to the end of September this year it amounted to £106 million; and for the calendar year which will end on December 31 it is expected to be no less than £110 million. It is difficult to visualise a sum of money as great as that. But if I were to deal out £1 notes at the rate of four per second and to keep that up for 24 hours and then as we used to say in our newspaper days, to lay the pound notes end to end, the notes that we would accumulate during the 24 hours would stretch nearly from Dover to Calais. That is the amount of damage that is being done by fire every 24 hours of the day throughout the year.
It is not only the amount of damage which is so disturbing; it is the rate at which it is increasing. In 1946 the amount of damage was only £12 million; in 1958 it had doubled to £24 million; by 1962 it had more than doubled again to £54 million. Last year, it was £90 million; and this year it is going to double the 1962 figures to £110 million. And that is only half the story; that is only the damage caused to the goods and plant and stock-in-trade consumed by the flames. There is indirect damage as well, indirect damage caused by unemployment, by the loss of workers' jobs in the factories which have been burned down. There is a loss to production and there is loss to our exports. There is even loss of taxation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—not only on the profits the firm might have made on the goods destroyed (which is partially, not wholly, compensated for by insurance) but on the loss of tax which can be considerable when, for example, we see half a million pounds worth of whisky or gin in a warehouse going up in flames. And that, sad though it be to say so, frequently happens.
My Lords, if we are to gauge the measure of the damage done to our 80 national economy by fire we have to double that original figure; and that brings the total to about £200 million a year. Again, the sum of £200 million a year is difficult to visualise: my income falls fairly short of that; but perhaps I can describe it in this way. If we looked at the production line in a motor works and saw 400,000 cars in a year coming off that production line, and if we loaded them on to a ship and took them out to the middle of the North Sea and dumped the 400,000 cars beneath the waves, that would be the extent of the loss to our national production each year through damage by fire. It is a serious loss to our national economy: it is a serious loss to our balance of payments. We have not only lost exports, but we have also sent up in smoke huge quantities of raw materials that we have had to import from abroad. So something ought to he done to try to grapple with this enormous loss.
There are three avenues through which I should try to approach this problem. First, I should like to see a greater consciousness of fire risk on the part of workers in the factories and women in the home. This, I think, is a matter for propaganda, and I should like to see more of it. I should like to see the manufacturers of cigarettes and matches attaching a notice to the packets saying, "Do not throw your cigarettes on the floor", or "Do not throw your matches on the floor". I should like to see greater care taken with electrical installations. I am not blaming the actual electrical appliances that are sold in the shops: they undergo fairly stringent tests. But many of the men who are fitting electrical appliances in the home to-day are not qualified craftsmen: in many cases, they are wholly incompetent for the dangerous kind of work they are trying to undertake.
I should like to see more instruction given to the housewives by the Gas Boards and by the installers of central heating apparatus. Frequently, appliances are placed in homes where the housewife or the husband is told very little about them. I heard of a case last week—there were two cases, in fact—where a housewife turned on a gas stove through which was coming some of our famous North Sea gas and a flame about two feet long came out; nearly scaring her to death. We 81 should not need to spend taxpayers' money in propaganda of this kind, but I think the Home Office could bring considerably more influence to bear—perhaps by regulations. if it is found necessary to have that degree of enforcement.
The second avenue through which I would approach this problem is this. I believe that more fire precautions should be taken in our factories, in our offices and in our shops. These are the places where the really big fires occur. These are the places which are very frequently empty at night or, at best, manned only by one or two old watchmen or, as we now call them, security officers. It is the fact that three out of every five of the big fires that take place in this country break out at night. I know that things are very much better than they used to be; I know that the chief fire officers are consulted by the architects and builders with regard to big new premises; I know that fire prevention officers are now attached to every fire brigade in the country, and that inspection is much stricter than before. Even so, the number of fires and the amount of damage done by these fires is increasing year by year.
I am quite sure that not enough factories, offices and shops have had sprinklers or automatic alarm systems installed. I think that the Government should bring pressure to bear by legislation, if that is possible. When all is said and done, it does not cost the owner of the premises very much to install a sprinkler system or an automatic alarm system. He gets his insurance premium reduced, sometimes to half and sometimes three-quarters, according to the part of the country in which he lives. He gets investment and tax allowances. Sprinklers pay for themselves in four or five years. An automatic alarm system will pay for itself in from five and half to seven years, and after that the owner of the premises continues to benefit from the reduction in the insurance premium and tax allowances.
My Lords, wish that more owners of big properties would realise what a fine investment the installation of proper fire prevention appliances is, even from their own point of view. I hope that the Government will bring more pressure on such owners to install sprinklers or automatic alarms. If legislation is necessary to 82 make this compulsory, it will have my warm support, it is the big fires that are the greatest menace. Two-thirds of all the £100 million worth of fire damage done in the country each year is caused by less than 1 per cent. of the fires. To take a year for which the figures have been completed and audited, in 1966 there were 60 fires where the damage—the direct damage, apart from the indirect damage—ran to £100,000 or over. In 30 of the fires the damage amounted to £250,000 or over, and in four of the fires the damage was £1 million or over. Of course, the most profitable and most effective time to fight a fire is in the first few minutes after the outbreak, and not when a building has become an inferno. Even Shakespeare knew this and said:A little fire is quickly trodden out.Which, being suffered, rivers cannot quench.My Lords, the sprinklers and alarm systems operate in the first few minutes after an outbreak of fire.
My third avenue of approach concerns the fire brigades. I have never been a fireman, but when the fire service was denationalised, I think in 1948, try colleagues on the Essex County Council did me the honour of asking me to be the first chairman of the Fire Brigade Committee. That was no easy task. It meant forming a fire brigade and interviewing chief officer and divisional officer candidates. It meant distributing the appliances fairly and equitably over all parts of the county. It meant smoothing out jealousies between one town which was to have a turntable ladder and another which was not. It meant negotiating with the Navy about an old warship which they wanted to sell to us for use as a fire-float. It was a task that I loved, and because of that I have kept in touch with fire brigade affairs. It was a pleasure to me a few years ago to be asked by the Chief Fire Officers' Association to present a paper before its Annual Conference. It shows that this subject is one of the "bees" that I have in my bonnet.
I was sad to see that as with the police, the Fire Service was one of the targets of the Government's temporary economies introduced in January by a series of circulars. I say "temporary economies" because I hope that they really are temporary. One circular said 83 that there should be "substantial economies" in buildings; that manpower increases should take place "only in the most exceptional circumstances" and that purchases of appliances, hose, foam and stores should be "deferred or restricted" where this did not impair efficiency.
I am glad to say that that economy circular has not yet done much harm. Local authorities have started to cut the building of new fire service premises. This was the easiest thing to do. Some of the buildings can certainly wait, but these delays cannot go on for ever. The embargo on manpower, which might have been very serious, was preceded a year or so earlier by a pay rise which stimulated recruiting, with the result that when the economy circular came out, many fire brigades were closer to full strength than they had been for years past. I hope that this embargo will be short, because firemen retire early. We may sometimes look at a man just over fifty who, we hear, is retiring from the Fire Service on a pension and say, "My goodness, isn't he lucky!" But let us think of this one aspect of a fireman's life. He is lying on his bed at night in the station with his heart ticking over in bottom gear. The bells go down. Suddenly he jumps up and rushes to the fire appliances. His heart has to beat in top gear. Sudden changes like that, as I am assured on good medical advice, store up trouble for a man in the later years of his life.
Many firemen are injured to such an extent that they have to retire prematurely. Others may be injured so that they are away from work for long periods. Some firemen respond to the attractive offers made by private industry, by those employers who are "fire prevention conscious" and who realise that to have an ex-fire officer or fireman on the staff may prove a very useful investment. When I said that there had been a rise in pay 18 months ago, I did not mean to suggest that firemen are overpaid for the heroic work they do on our behalf. My Lords, I hope that the deferment of purchases will not be continued for too long. You cannot fight modern fires with old appliances. We have to realise that every year more and more houses are being built, perhaps 400,000 this year, 84 and that more and more the fire risk in industry is increasing. There are more petrol refineries; there are more large production lines in factories where a draught may rush through 200 yards of building.
Finally, my Lords, I wish to say a word or two about the Holroyd Committee of the Home Office who are considering the whole question of reorganising the Fire Service. I hope that Committee, who were appointed two years ago, will speed up their work. Until their Report is issued, many Fire Brigades will continue in a state of uncertainty. May I give one example. The Holroyd Committee are considering whether fire brigades shall be reorganised on a regional basis. Some local authorities are wondering whether it is necessary to spend so much of their ratepayers' money when, by the time it is spent, they may not even be tire authorities. So I think the production of the Holroyd Committee's Report should be speeded up in order to remove any uncertainty that may exist in the minds of fire officers and fire brigade committees. This same uncertainty makes it difficult to plan building programmes for a long period head. Such programmes are not always mere exercises in the spending of money. Sometimes, by altering the manning system, you can cover a wider area with the same number of men and allow one new modern fire station to supplant three or four old ones. I hope that the ban on building will soon be lifted so that authorities may plan sensibly and with foresight.
In talking about regionalism, I am not in favour of regional fire brigades; nor am I in favour of the re-nationalisation of fire brigades. But I think there is a good deal to be said for merging the fire brigades of county boroughs with the brigades of the counties in which those boroughs are situated. The Holroyd Committee are also at present considering the question of day-manning, which is a very important aspect of fire brigade work—and also a very controversial matter. Day-manning enables a station to be run with about half the number of people that would normally be required, and that half, in return, gets some extra pay and privileges. Though the system has been adopted in some parts of the country, and the Prices and Incomes Board have pronounced in favour of it, 85 any clear-cut decisions on the matter are likely to be difficult until the Holroyd Committee have given their lead.
The Holroyd Committee are also considering standards of cover. This is a technical matter, which means, roughly, that the standards of fire risk are divided into four categories, A, B, C and D: ranging from A, buildings in the middle of cities, to D, cottages miles out in the country. Fire brigades are required to have the number of men and appliances that will enable them to send a certain number of appliances within a certain number of minutes to a certain category of fire. But until fire brigades know what the Holroyd Committee are going to do about all these standards of cover, they cannot plan ahead knowledgeably, in either the matter of men or of machines.
I personally think that there is room for some adjustment in these standards of fire cover. For example, there is one category of fire where a brigade is supposed to have two appliances on the scene at a first attendance, but one brigade that I know is fixing 400-gallon water tanks to every one of its appliances, which will enable them to cover with one appliance a fire which, according to the standards now established, should be covered by two. And it is a fact that four out of every five fires that occur in this country can be extinguished with less than 100 gallons of water. This same brigade has introduced high-pressure fog for house fires. No water is used, and no damage is done to furniture, curtains and ceilings; but the system involves a fitment to ordinary appliances costing about £300, and many authorities are holding back. Here again, a proper recommendation by the Holroyd Committee, giving guidance or instruction, would be a very good thing.
There is no doubt that big scientific developments in fire-fighting are coming along. They ought not to be held back merely for the sake of economy. Indeed, if some of them are introduced, they could reasonably be expected to bring about economies. I feel that more speed is necessary in translating the result of fire-fighting research to operational strategy. My Lords, I think I have said enough to show what is needed: first, more fire consciousness on the part of the public; secondly, more sprinklers 86 and alarms in big buildings, and perhaps legislation on this and also legislation to tighten up the normal fire prevention laws which we have on the Statute Book at the moment for business premises; and, thirdly, speedy action by the Holroyd Committee and then by the Home Office, so that the fire brigades can get on with their job with a greater feeling of certainty than they have to-day. This is not a Report to be pigeon-holed. I think that all these moves will give us more mastery over fire than we have at present. The menace is a big and growing one and the need for action, I submit to the Home Secretary, is urgent.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ LORD RATHCAVAN
My Lords, on July 24 last I asked a Question in your Lordships' House as to why it was that Members of this House were disqualified from voting at elections for Members of another place, and from the reply I was given I thought the position so very unsatisfactory that I venture to raise it now in this debate on the Address in rather more detail.
Disqualification of Peers from voting for Members of another place rests entirely on a judgment given in the Court of Common Pleas in 1872, nearly 100 years ago, in the cases of Lords Beauchamp and Salisbury against the decisions of the Revising Barristers in Madresfield and South Mimms. The judges based their decision largely on statements made by Lord Campbell, a very distinguished judge, in debates in this House in 1853 and 1857. Lord Campbell had said that it was not by any Resolution of the House of Commons that Peers were prevented from voting, but that it had been an ancient and immemorial law of England that Peers sat in their own right in their own House and had no privilege to vote for Members to sit in the other House. In other words, the disqualification rested on some old so-called law—not, be it noted, an Act of Parliament—going back nearly 1,000 years to feudal times, when conditions were completely different from what they are to-day.
Let us look for a moment to see what the position was in 1872. That was just about the time when the Ballot Act was passed, which substituted secret voting by ballot for the old open voting on the hustings. Of course, at that time the 87 franchise was tremendously restricted and practically nobody had the vote unless they had some property qualification. Since those days, the position has been completely transformed. Millions of voters have been put on the register. Women have been given votes. We have now in effect universal suffrage. And all this has been done by Act of Parliament. Yet Peers alone have been given no redress and still remain classed with aliens and lunatics as being unfit to vote. The Act of Parliament which would have put this right has never been passed, and I submit that it should have been passed long ago.
At the beginning of every Session of Parliament the other place passes a number of Sessional Orders, dealing largely with such matters as keeping the streets open to allow Members free access to the House and so on. But among these Sessional Orders is one—and I have no doubt it was passed in another place yesterday on the first day of the Session—which is in the following words:That no Peer of the Realm, except a Peer of Ireland, hath any right to give his vote in the Election of any Member to serve in Parliament.That Order is passed every Session by the House of Commons. I do not know for how long it has been passed, but I think it must have been for a very long time, because in 1857 Lord Campbell referred to the fact that there was a Resolution of the House of Commons. Some people may have thought that the disqualification of Peers rested on that House of Commons Resolution. But that is completely wrong. That Resolution in the House of Commons means nothing, and has no validity whatsoever: and I think some judge described it as not worth the paper it was written on. The House of Commons has no power to legislate on its own.
Another point, my Lords, is that it has probably been widely thought (I must say that I thought so myself until I looked into the matter more closely) that it was a general rule that it was not proper for Members of a Second Chamber to vote at elections for the other House of Parliament. But in fact this is not the case. In answer to the Question which I asked last July, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the Leader of the 88 House, said that in the United States, Canada and Australia (and I expect in all other countries which have bi-cameral legislatures) Members of the Senate are not disqualified from voting at elections for the other House.
I said a moment ago that the franchise had been completely changed since 1872. But something else has been completely changed in recent years, and that is your Lordships' House itself. In 1872 this House was an entirely hereditary Chamber, and thus the law, as expressed in the cases of Beechcham and Salisbury, referred to hereditary Peers only. But since then numerous non-hereditary Peers have taken their seats here. First came the Law Lords (I am not quite sure when that practice started), who were, of course, only Life Peers. Then came the Life Peers, of whom I think there are now rather over 200. I feel confident that if any Life Peer had challenged the 1872 decision he would have been successful in establishing his right to vote. But, extraordinary as it may seem, no Life Peer has ever done this; they have been content for (what is it?) ten years to sit in this House without making any effort to get a vote for the House of Commons. There have been other changes in the composition of this House in recent years, one of which has been the system which enables Peers to obtain leave of absence; and while they have leave of absence they take no part in the proceedings of this House. Surely, my Lords, they ought to have a vote.
It may be argued that there is no particular hurry about this since a General Election will probably not take place for two years. But in the meantime there will be by-elections and, in my view, Peers should be entitled to vote at those by-elections. I think that something ought to be done soon. An opportunity to legislate in this matter will occur in the course of this Session when, in accordance with the gracious Speech, a Bill will be introduced to reduce to eighteen the age for voting, and to make other reforms in the electoral role—and I emphasise that. I would therefore urge the Government to take this opportunity to bring in legislation soon to deal with this matter, by which, for the whole period of its existence, this House of Lords has been, in my view, unfairly and wrongly debarred from voting at elections like every other normal citizen of the country.
89 I hope that this change will come about before long.
THE LORD BISHOP OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down. I would ask him, for the accuracy of his account, to take note of the fact that the Lords Spiritual have been Members of this House from the very earliest times, and therefore it is not strictly correct to say that it was purely an hereditary House until the Law Lords entered the House.
§ LORD RATHCAVAN
My Lords, what the right reverend Prelate says is quite correct; but, while the Bishops were not hereditary Peers, their Membership of this House went right back to feudal times, and what applied to the hereditary Peers applied equally to them.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, perhaps I may venture to add a brief word to what has already been said, in my judgment quite rightly, about the behaviour of crowd and constabulary alike last Sunday. My reason for doing so is that I was there. I speak almost every Sunday in Hyde Park; and last Sunday I listened. It may be of interest to your Lordships to know, though it was not reported in the newspapers, that a great deal of what was said at the official meetings in Hyde Park would have found agreement on both sides of your Lordships' House. There was, in my judgment, a great deal of eminent common sense demonstrated, as well as a certain amount of revolutionary fervour, and it is a great pity that the newspapers commented more upon the loudness, or the lack of noise, in the demonstration rather than upon the amount of common sense expressed by the speakers.
I should like to say something even at this late stage in the discussion about welfare, and for two reasons. The first is for me a peremptory one. I believe that a judgment upon welfare is the catalyst of an institution such as the Government of this country, and where welfare is subserved then the best interests of that community are subserved. I have a more tactical and practical reason for saying this, because I entirely rebut the charge that in the gracious Speech we have a number of trivial and unconnected matters of more or less humdrum significance. I find myself continually excited by the 90 prospect of what welfare is beginning to show as its main features in the programme of Her Majesty's Government. It is true that specific references to welfare are to be found only in three paragraphs in the gracious Speech.
First, there is the new relationship between health and the welfare services, which is very largely a matter of institutional form, but carries with it, I think, the implication of substantial changes. Then there are two other matters. The change in the criminal law as it affects youngsters will make a vast difference to the provision of approved hostels for boys and girls under seventeen, and will require vast changes, I think, in the custodial provision not only for delinquents but for those in need of care and protection. And, again, the offer that is included in the gracious Speech of subventions for local authorities, whereby particular social needs in particular areas can be dealt with, will open up prospects with which I personally am much concerned. I took the chair this morning at a committee which is endeavouring to provide some kind of residential accommodation in Soho for young drug addicts—a kind of first receiving centre for them. What prohibits us from going forward is lack of funds. Therefore, I have a likely expectation that within the framework of the welfare provisions there may be the opportunity of dealing with this particular problem, or at least of beginning to deal with it.
However, beyond these immediate recognitions of welfare in the gracious Speech there is an overall trend which is represented in what is said about social security. I believe that the Welfare State is the most Christian thing that has happened in my lifetime, and social security is one aspect of the Welfare State. It is an attempt to provide an adequate financial opportunity whereby ordinary people may be assisted in life. These new provisions as they are outlined in the gracious Speech I think entitle the Prime Minister to say, as he did in another place yesterday, that this is a greater and even more radical Beveridge. I find it exciting and dramatic, but I am sure that unless the financial provisions in what is called social security are married to other provisions in welfare they will fall short of the requirements of a community which is rapidly assuming a 91 responsibility for welfare as its first charge. That seems to me to be the significant meaning behind the marriage of health and welfare services referred to in that most inconspicuous sentence in the gracious Speech.
What I should like to do is to indicate very briefly some of the characteristics of that new comprehensiveness which I believe is required if we are to deal with welfare as we are now beginning to deal with the more financial aspects of social security. May I begin by talking of the two antipathetic, almost, tendencies, trends, in the welfare programme? One is away from hostels and the other is towards hostels. That which is away from hostels is the recognition that social welfare depends a great deal more on matters which cannot be regulated and determined in isolation from the normal relationships of the family. Therefore, instead of taking those who are in need away from the family relationship, it is much better, if possible, to provide them with the kind of assisted housing, the kind of day-by-day help, that trained psychological and other workers can provide for them within the framework of the society in which they live, than to endeavour to segregate them in the hostel environment, which is not always harmless and indeed, in my judgment, quite frequently definitely harmful. This, of course, will require a vast army of trained and expert social workers, and we do not have them.
The other trend is towards the provision of new kinds of hostels and new kinds of custodial and domiciliary treatment. It falls naturally into a number of categories. Let me speak for a moment about alcoholism. We do not know very much about it yet, and perhaps we could solicit the opinion of the Government on whether they would agree with the Working Party of the Methodist Church, which, having looked at this problem very carefully, are persuaded that at the moment there is a primary need for a Select Committee, or even a Royal Commission, on alcoholism, particularly in view of the fragmentation of the efforts that are now being made to deal with the problem and the number of enthusiastic but highly inept people who are working hard at it and making great mistakes in it. I would put myself in that category. I recognise 92 in the whole field of alcoholism how little we know, how much we need to know, and yet at the same time, with 500,000 of them in our midst (that is the male population of alcoholics), how urgent is the problem.
The problem of drug addiction is equally difficult and requires much more expertise than has yet been lavished upon it. But two things are beyond question. One is that unless the health provisions can be married, can be associated, with the domiciliary and domestic opportunities, whereby those who are required to take this particular course in medical treatment and so forth can be inclined so to do, it is a sheer waste of time to give it. May I, without impertinence, reflect that perhaps there are few of your Lordships who have any direct contact with drug addicts, particularly of the hard kind? I have a good deal of contact with them—and there is no more desperate a member of the community, no more difficult a member of the community, no more erratic a member of the community, than a drug addict. If welfare is to deal with the problem comprehensively, then it must do much more in providing some kind of hostel care for those who at the moment can be expected to take even the first stages in rehabilitation only if they are within the framework and within the sustenance and care of such hostels as have yet, I believe, to be provided.
There is great need for the day-by-day care of the young chronic sick, and it is gratifying to think that Her Majesty's Government already have that acute problem in mind. There is, above all, the need in general welfare to make provision for those who probably have about enough money—in fact, there is not a little danger in the amount of affluence that now pervades a good deal of our modern youth. In many cases in my knowledge it is a question not of inability to make ends meet because of lack of funds, but of inability to make ends meet because of lack of common sense and moral or psychological wisdom.
Therefore, I would return finally to this question of the provision, that is above all needed, of people who will be adequate to these new tasks within the new categories. It is no good saying that a well-meaning person with a Christian faith or an ardent desire to do good will be sufficient to care for alcoholics, 93 to care for delinquent girls, or to care for people who are living in the kind of hostels which deal with drug addiction and so forth. What is needed is a vast army, as I say, of people who are prepared to undergo rigorous training and are provided with the opportunity of so doing. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to tell us that it is in this field that they are concentrating their efforts, because only when such staff is available can such institutions be provided and such work be fully undertaken.
Finally, I would say this. There is within the Christian Church to-day a mine or a reservoir of voluntary service. It may not be expert, and in some cases your Lordships will be convinced it is not. But there is a reservoir of unemployed, or half-employed, ministers and clergymen. That is not necessarily because of innate laziness, but because of a decline in the kind of services which hitherto the Ministry have been called upon to render. I say that with care, because it can be misinterpreted; but I am sure that it is true. I want to ask whether or not a better effort can be made to enlist from voluntary organisations—and not necessarily Christian ones—the kind of support for this new adventure in a comprehensive system whereby people can in fact be recruited and trained, as I believe they would be willing to be, to assist those who are in social difficulties, as well as those who are in the extraordinary condition of alcoholism or drug addiction.
I should be false to the Cross if I did not end on a rather more evangelical note, and I make no apology for doing so. I notice in the gracious Speech, except for the last phrase, no reference to the rehabilitating power of an acceptable and intelligent faith. I see a great deal of reference to-day to the jobs that can be done by trained psychiatrists. I should like to go on record as again paying my testimony to the equipoise and the balance of life as it can be found among those who, for various reasons and in various ways, believe that they are the servants of a higher Authority than merely the community in which they live, and have a higher sense of social service than that which is merely their natural altruism.
This is not, my Lords, a plea for membership of the Methodist Church. I would not for one moment suggest that 94 you all had to be Methodists before you could be saved; I ask none of you to take undue risks. But what I would say is that the actual conditions to-day ender which we are looking for the kind of work that can comprehensively meet the demands of the growing welfare service of the community, the requirements and needs that are paramount, are those which can still, I believe, best be served by those who have a sense of ultimate Authority, derived not even from the community in which they live but from the sense that the foundations of all good are in the end to be found in an ultimate belief in God. It is that which is my testimony, but it is that which also inspires and encourages me to believe that here is an exciting prospect within the programme of Her Majesty's Government, and I hope that it will eventuate and come to full fruition.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, I rise to speak briefly on a matter which I think has not been touched upon in our debate this afternoon, and indeed it is not specifically referred to in the gracious Speech, unless it is intended to be covered by the promise thatOther measures will be laid before you".I refer to the subject of education and I want to speak on one particular aspect of it only. I speak this afternoon as one who is a member of the education committee of a county council. It is now over three years since Circular 10/65 to abolish selection and eliminate separatism in our secondary school system was issued from the Department of Education and Science. The response to that circular has been varied, ranging as it does from very willing co-operation to outright refusal to respond, and in between there have been a lot of hotch-potch schemes and a great deal of heavy feet dragging. There are those authorities who quite clearly have been, and still are, playing for time, proceeding as slowly as they can and as quickly as they must; a pace which is as near standing still as it is possible for them to achieve. On the whole, I think it can be said to be a not very satisfactory position overall.
The gracious Speech details two proposals which will greatly affect the young people, both of which have been touched on by other speakers to-day. I refer to those relating to the age of majority and 95 the age for voting. I believe that the achievement of the unrestricted right of every child to full educational opportunity should also be seen to-day as a matter of the greatest possible urgency. The Plowden Report has alerted all of us to the needs of the children in our primary schools, and as we are resolved to make improvement there I think we must ensure that the double standards which to-day obtain in our secondary schools shall be ended. The present separatist system is designed to produce and is calculated to preserve two standards, and as long as we have two standards in our secondary school system there must be selection in some form or another for places, with all the undesirable consequences that follow and which few people to-day would seek to defend.
To suggest that the comprehensive and the grammar schools can exist side by side is a matter which was well covered in a leading article in The Guardian on Tuesday of last week, and if I may I should like to quote from that article:If a local education authority believes sincerely in comprehensive education it cannot logically maintain grammar schools as well. Yesterday's report from the National Foundation for Educational Research shows conclusively that the proximity of a grammar school is a main reason why comprehensive schools get less than their share of the brightest 11-year-olds. Twenty-five comprehensive schools reported that less than 5 per cent. of their intake were in the higher ability group. Twenty-five comprehensive schools which do not compete against grammar schools reported a 20 to 24 per cent. intake of high ability pupils. The Foundation Report Comprehensive Education in England and Wales proves beyond doubt that a local education authority which continues to maintain grammar schools is depriving its comprehensive schools and their staffs of a fair opportunity to make the comprehensive system work.The writer continues:The comprehensive system, as the Report remarks, is not working properly everywhere, but where it has so far failed one main reason has been the co-existence of grammar schools. In these areas public resources are being wasted, teachers are being treated unfairly and children are getting education that is less good than it might be.The time has come when selection and separatism should be eliminated as a matter of national policy. The Government were given a mandate to achieve this. With many others I welcome the recent statement at Blackpool of the 96 Minister of State for Education and Science to the effect that legislation was to be introduced in order to achieve this end. There is in the country a large body of opinion which regards this matter as being one of the greatest importance and of the greatest urgency. I hope that when the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, replies to the debate she may be in a position to give at least some indication as to what progress we may expect in this field of ending selection and eliminating separatism in our secondary school system.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I have listened to practically every speech in this debate and I take the opportunity which now presents itself to say something which I have not heard said and which I feel should be said, namely, to congratulate from the Back Benches the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, for the speech he made yesterday, which I found extremely thought-provoking, and so well-presented and delivered as to be quite remarkable. As to the content of it, there is only one point on which I find myself surprised, and that is that he was surprised in regard to the problem of the age of voting, to which reference is made in the gracious Speech. He said:I shall he surprised if we are divided upon the principle here".I should be surprised if we were not. The noble Lord went on to say:There has always been in every generation a lot of head-shaking and hand-wringing among the middle-aged and elderly about the conduct and standards of the young."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30/10/68; col. 10.]So I realise the risks I run of, perhaps, head-shaking, although not hand-wringing, in saying that I think that we shall be divided on this matter.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland —although I was much younger and in fact I was eighteen years of age before I could get into the Army, because they were more strict on checking ages by the end of the war—I appreciate that when young men, and now young women, can go into the Services at that age there is an element of justification in saying that they should be entitled to vote. But I am the father of four children, now all grown up and, I believe, grown into thoroughly good citizens. Looking back to the days when I was 97 in the Army, in the ranks, and having observed my own children under rather different conditions, I cannot bring myself to believe that they either want, need, or are entitled to expect a vote at a time when they are not actually making a contribution to the country, especially if they are students and—shall we say?—in receipt of a grant, and accepted by the community as not fully educated at that time.
I will not say more than that except to refer to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, about Life Peers being able to vote. Perhaps I have never grown up; perhaps I am not eighteen yet; but I do not think I am ever going to worry about whether I have a vote in an election for the Commons. So much for that, except to say that perhaps the matter of this voting at eighteen might be worth delaying and reconsidering at a time when our finances are sufficient to enable the school-leaving age to be advanced to sixteen.
There are two other small matters to which I would refer. On the subject of tourism, I feel very strongly that one of the problems to which the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, referred in his opening remarks about tourism is that of the climate of opinion in regard to services to tourism, particularly in hotels. I feel that something should be done to try to raise the respect in which domestic service is held. It seems to me in our neighbourhood that there is much greater respect for the house servant or cook in a State institution than for a house servant or cook in an hotel; and yet in the hotel the wretched hotelier, taxed so heavily as he is, has to pay S.E.T. upon his employees. The S.E.T. tax on tourism is monstrous. I would go further than that, particularly in the case of Scotland, where the tourist season, the hotel services season, is so especially seasonal, and even more so to-day since the passage of the British Standard Time Act, and say it is important that the Government should look into the question of the Catering Wages Act and see whether the provisions of that Act could not be made more flexible in an industry where people are quite prepared to work flat out for three months a year but are prevented from so doing by the Act, although they may be on half time or 98 no time, perhaps on unemployment benefit, for the rest of the year.
There is only one other matter to which I want to refer, and I am tempted to mention it by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soper. This is a problem which is very live in my mind at the moment, for local reasons. He mentioned the needs of the delinquent, the young people, the people who require attention. He mentioned the need for institutions, for an army of trained people to train people to look after them. I am certain he is right, but, Oh dear!, not only the financial but the practical logistic difficulties of producing such an army are enormous. Whereas at this very moment of time there is to our hand a preventive measure, and that preventive measure is the providing of proper premises and facilities for the spare-time activities of young people, especially the people in the gap—not the gap to which the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, referred, but that gap which was mentioned during a debate on a Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, the gap from the school-leaving age of 15 to 17.
These young people are the potential citizens of the future, but they are also the potential delinquents, though they need not be if only there were the facilities so that they do not have to hang about the street corners. I say this because I believe it to be proper, in a debate on the gracious Speech with the references to the social services, to urge upon the Government that every possible facility should be given to the youth organisations to have premises. This matter was mentioned in the debate (in which, unfortunately, I could not take part because I was not here) on an Unstarred Question by the noble Earl, Lord Albemarle. I repeat now what was said then by other noble Lords and what I should have said had I been there myself. Please, please, do not let go through your hand any premises which could be used for the provision of facilities for young people in the gap, and please give every assistance you can to efforts that may be made to seek out such premises locally. I believe that this particular work does not necessarily demand the high level of training or expertise to which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, referred at his end of the scale. At my end of the scale all we need is local premises.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, we are now coming to the end of a not very long debate as these debates go nowadays, but it has been a very wide-ranging debate. On the whole, I do not know that a very great task has yet been given to the noble Baroness: there have not been a great number of questions, though I mean to trouble her a little further by adding to her list. But I think the quality of the debate certainly leaves nothing to be desired.
One of the things that struck me most when I read the gracious Speech was that it looks as if we may have a rather more reflective Session than usual, though the reflection will not necessarily always be peaceful. There is the question of local government which is going to come before us, with both the Maud and, I hope also, the Wheatley Reports. I do not know whether the noble Baroness will be able to tell us how the Wheatley Report is getting on—whether we can expect it in the course of this Session. There is the matter of the Trade Unions and Employers' Associations Report which we shall he considering, and the action the Government propose to take.
There is the administration of the health and welfare services, to which the noble Lord, Lord Soper referred in his usual most delightful, lucid and humane manner. There is the White Paper on the new scheme for National Insurance to implement the pledge contained in the Labour Party Manifesto of four years ago. On that I should like to say only one thing. I hope that what is proposed will be of a character that can obtain universal support, because I believe that it is immensely important, when we make changes of this kind, that there should be the widest possible support. Of course we were very fortunate when the Beveridge Report was implemented in the 1946 Act: that was based on an all-Party agreement. Some minor amendments were made later, some of which improved it and some of which I think perhaps did the reverse. I should like to think that the scheme will be of a character to command general support. We shall have to see when we come to it.
Then there is the discussion about a Commission on the Constitution which 100 will no doubt be the subject of a debate after the promised consultations have taken place. I am going to say a word or two about the Constitution. There is also the White Paper on the composition and powers of this House, which I hope will also be the subject of debate before the Bill appears, particularly if it is to start in another place. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to tell us where the Bill is likely to start.
My Lords, we shall have debates on all these issues and I do not propose to discuss them. But I cannot refrain from one personal comment on the combination of the Commission on the Constitution and the Reform of the House of Lords, these two taken in conjunction. If, as seems to be the intention, the powers of the House of Lords in regard to legislation are to be curtailed, and if the Government want to secure, as the Prime Minister said he wanted to secure, a reasonable working majority in the new House, a new constitutional situation will arise.
It is sometimes said that it is wrong for a non-elected body to frustrate or delay the implementation of the will of the elected body. But does not this view contain a confusion of thought? To my mind, the confusion is that the elected body represents the will of the people. If the electorate has in fact voted overwhelmingly in favour of one Party there is something to be said for the view, at least for a year or two, until the Government in power have squandered their popularity; but if the numbers voting for the Party in power only just exceed the numbers voting for the official Opposition, or even the other Parties combined, the view is much less easy to defend. And if a swing of 5 per cent. can give unfettered and unchallengeable power to one Party for five years to do anything they like, or to the Government formed from that Party to do anything they like (and of course the Government formed from that Party will be supported by Members of that Party who will only vote against it if they know they cannot win) it seems to me impossible to defend the view at all if we really believe in democracy, once this change is made in the composition of the House of Lords. The House of Lords has not used its powers, but there has always been the possibility of the House of Lords acting in the Constitution as the check and balance.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE (LORD SHEPHERD)
My Lords, would the noble Lord really suggest that this would be true if there were a Conservative Government with its great majority in this House? Does he really believe that this is so?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I do indeed believe it. I believe that there is a complete fallacy. As one can see from the voting, even on the occasion when noble Lords were defeated on the Rhodesia issue, contrary to what everybody thought the majority was extremely small. This can happen. I remember only too well, when I first came into this House, being saddled immediately with a Bill. To my astonishment, when I stated what I thought was a good case laid before me by my advisers, noble Lords all around me got up and voted the other way. I do not think it was the way I stated it; it is just the fact that when you have a large majority of this kind it is much less easy to hold together in support of the Government than if it were a quite narrow one. I think that this is just so.
In any case, what I am saying is that you need checks and balances of some kind. Of course, it could be said that we do not really have a democracy; what we have is a Parliamentary democracy. This is sometimes said. The trouble is that in the absence of checks and balances, we shall have virtually a Parliamentary dictatorship. There will be no checks and balances left. In that case, if we really want to ensure that the will of the people prevails, shall we not have to consider new checks and balances, and not just new institutions for the nations and regions of the United Kingdom as is suggested in the gracious Speech? And should not this be an additional task of the Commission on the Constitution? This is what I am suggesting. Shall we not need to have some provisions to ensure that legislation which would make changes that could not be reversed, changes which radically alter the rights of the individual citizen as well as those of the nations and the regions (because this will also become important) cannot be made without reference to the will of the people? I suggest that this has to be considered in line with the Commission on the Constitution.
102 If issues of vast importance to the future of the country are to be passed through Parliament in one Session instead of being debated over a period of years, as they used to be in the past, and thoroughly matured, the doctrine of the composite mandate is of more than doubtful validity. A judicious "market mix" in a Manifesto could give a Government, based on a minority of the people, albeit with an adequate majority in Parliament, power to do things which individually would not command anything like the majority of popular opinion. I thought it right, in view of this combination to put forward those thoughts.
I turn from that subject to one of the most fundamental subjects on the home front, the preservation of law and order. It so happens that this is a matter that has been referred to by the first three speakers to-day, and I should like to refer to it again. It so happens also that there is nothing in the gracious Speech about that; yet we had this great demonstration on Sunday. In my view, it represented an undoubted success on the part of the Secretary of State for Home Affairs and the police ford. I should like to join unreservedly and gladly in congratulating them. But ought we to allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency by this undoubted success?
May I suggest just two features on which I feel concern and about which I should like to be reassured. It seems to me that the breakaway from the main march gave most trouble. The objective of the organisers of the breakaway was apparently limited to the Embassy of a friendly country (I do not make a point of what the particular objective was), and although the participants did not on this occasion give expression to their frustration by acts of violence against persons or property, this could happen. The point is that this breakaway took place outside the control of the organisers of the march. We must not take it as certain that in this dangerous game of "cops and robbers" innocent third parties, not to mention innocent policemen, will not suffer on future occasions.
The second point I should like to make is that the very success of the police seems to have been achieved, according to Press reports—I do not know whether this is true; perhaps the noble Baroness 103 will confirm it—by a degree of penetration into the lives and activities of ordinary citizens which would not always be so readily accepted as it has been in this case. We do not want to see our police force, by the activities of a relatively small minority, forced to develop, I am sure greatly against their will, into a widespread network of secret police.
I think these are the two aspects that give rise to concern in this case. I thought it right to mention them because I feel that it would be quite wrong that, because of the great success of the measures of control taken on this occasion (and we are all pleased that they were a success), we should assume that they will always be successful, or that those who are anxious to defeat law and order will not have profited by some of the lessons on this occasion. It seems to me that the question is whether we cannot strengthen the law in such a way as to make it more easily enforceable and render the kind of developments that we fear less necessary.
The next point must not be taken to follow on what I have just been saying. I should like the noble Baroness to say something about the Bill to give rights of appeal against administrative decisions refusing entry to immigrants. It seems to me that it is not much use giving a right of appeal against an arbitrary decision to a body which will make another arbitrary decision, and I hope this is not intended. One is bound to ask what the grounds of appeal will be. Will the Bill make clear the rights of a would-be immigrant and the limitations of those rights? Will the body or court to whom appeal is to be made be able to attach conditions of entry as to the subsequent behaviour and activities of the immigrant?
Passing to the Bill providing specific grants towards programmes for extra local authority expenditure in urban areas of special need, I should like to ask whether these relate exclusively to local authorities with special immigrant problems. I ask that in view of the way the Prime Minister phrased his speech in another place yesterday, in which he related this provision particularly to provisions like nursery schools and classes. I should like to know whether this provision refers only to the areas about which we were told when we were dealing with the Race Relations Bill.
104 My Lords, I shall not say anything about tourism because my noble friend has dealt with that, but I should like to say a word on the Scottish provisions because they have not yet been dealt with. I gather that we are to have the Town and Country Planning Bill very soon, and that Bill will presumably follow the lines of the Bill for England and Wales which became law last week. Then there is the provision for education, a Bill to bring the law relating to education in Scotland into line with current developments. May I ask straight away, current developments where? Current developments in England and Wales, or current developments in Scotland? I hope the noble Baroness will have more to say about this and give us some idea of what to expect. We have had a very interesting speech from the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy. Will the introduction of the Bill mean that junior secondary schools are to disappear in Scotland and, if so, what kind of time schedule is envisaged there? I, myself, had for some time responsibility for education in Scotland, and I was always advised that there was really no comparison between the problem of comprehensive schools in England and Wales and education in Scotland, in terms that many education areas are already organised on a comprehensive basis. This is really a function of geographical distribution of population. Are we to expect a Bill which will require all schools to be compulsorily converted into comprehensive schools?
My Lords, I should like to return to one of my hoary annuals, because this is the sort of thing one does in a debate on the Queen's Speech, namely, the question of retraining. Have the Government been able yet to prevail on the engineering unions to give their blessing to retraining facilities and to remove, or at any rate greatly heighten, the age limit which operates perhaps as one of the greatest obstacles to the restructuring of industry, especially in areas where old-established industries are declining? I do not intend to say more, because I have made speeches on this subject before in your Lordships' House and I do not intend to go further.
As to the Bill relating to children and young persons, no doubt this will follow the White Paper, Children in Trouble. I would just ask whether the Minister can tell us whether it will incorporate the 105 reservations in Chapter 8 of the Seebohm Committee's Report.
Finally, there is the Bill to encourage the repair and improvement of older houses and their environment. I suppose the reason why not much has been said about this in the debate is that the Government laid a White Paper for England and Wales and a White Paper for Scotland nearly six months ago, and there has been time to consider this matter. But it is a remarkable fact that according to the English White Paper there are apparently four and a half million houses which need some form of repair or improvement. The White Paper rather obliquely admits that the reason for this is that there has not really been any possibility, because of the lowness of rents in many cases, of maintaining those houses. I only wish to point out that the effect of the lowness of rents is that eventually it is the taxpayer who has to pay. Eventually, in order to improve these houses, grants have to be increased and the taxpayer has to make it good.
I hope that the noble Lady will be able to tell us that this is not going to affect adversely the rate of construction of new houses. We were told that by the time we reached the end of this Parliament a rate of building of 500,000 new houses a year would be reached, but I think it was last April that the Prime Minister informed us that that target—and I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed it—was no longer realisable. It looks at the moment, according to the figures for eight months this year, that the pattern is again changing a bit this year; fewer local authority houses are going to be completed and rather more private enterprise houses completed. All the same, it is going to be quite difficult for the Government to reach the 400,000 level again this year. I hope the noble Lady will be able to tell us that the impetus to house building which was started by my right honourable friend Sir Keith Joseph in 1962–63—in 1964 the local authority houses completed in England and Wales increased by 42,000 in one year—is not going to be lost, and that the increase of something like 13,000 houses a year that has been going on over the last three years, will be maintained.
106 My Lords, these are the points I wanted to raise to-day. I hope I have not bowled the noble Lady any fast balls she cannot deal with, but if I have, then I am sure she will be able to let me know the answers in due course.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, I should like to say at once to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, that I did re-read the winding-up speech of my noble friend, Lord Stonham, on the last similar occasion to this, and I noticed that he commenced his speech by telling the noble Lord that he would not be able to answer the majority of the questions that had been put to him. Since this was a senior Minister speaking I am afraid that a humble junior Minister will not be in a very much happier situation. But at least the noble Lord knows that I shall do my best, and I will certainly follow up these points afterwards.
I shall not attempt to elaborate upon anything which was said by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack when he made some reply to the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, and the noble Lord, Lord Foot, but I was a little disappointed that neither noble Lord appeared to find a coherent theme throughout the gracious Speech. I believe that on the one hand it was referred to as something like the contents of a "noble jumble sale", and on the other hand it was colourfully referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, as "K-rations". I have not actually experienced those so I am not able to comment. But I would suggest that there is indeed a coherent theme. Surely the theme throughout the gracious Speech is the modernisation of Britain, and there are many of us on this side of the House, certainly those of us within the Government, who are delighted to see some of the measures mentioned in the gracious Speech which are to be given time. They are measures to make life better for people, and in my humble judgment this is what politics and government are all about.
If I were to suggest a title for the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, I would call it "Child Minders of Britain Unite!" He issued a rather interesting suggestion that they should seek ways of getting round the Act. I have not before heard this put forward in your 107 Lordships' House, but I would only remind him that most of the laws relating to this particular field of operation are the result of hard experience on the part of those who have had to deal with people who have not carried out very adequately the care of the children. Therefore, perhaps he was a little unfortunate in the selection he made. Nevertheless, I thank him for his statesmanlike compliment to the working members of the community, and I hope that it will reach them.
As the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said, the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, appeared to appreciate most of the points in the gracious Speech, and particularly those relating to the Decimal Currency Board. Anybody who has seen the excellent publications which they are putting out, and the very real piece of education which they are trying to put over, will know that he was quite right to say that we can anticipate something very useful coming both from the Board and the Act, after a favourable passage through both Houses. On the question of tourism, I feel that your Lordships are very fortunate that I have not been asked to make a speech on the limitations of hotels, because I assure the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, that I could make a most eloquent speech which would last for at least 20 minutes. This is not related in any way to S.E.T. Service, as we know only too well, does not necessarily flow from high wages or other factors.
I am happy that the noble Lord made the point that in Britain we recognise the right to demonstrate. There is certainly no complacency in relation to the conditions which operate when demonstrations take place. It is a little naïve to suggest that demonstrations are taking place only to-day. If I were to go through the number of demonstrations in which I have taken part in my lifetime, and not very recently, they would add up to a very long list—and they were demonstrations of the size of that which we saw on Sunday. The right of free people to demonstrate and to express themselves is something which is valuable in any democracy and something which we will all guard. I am happy that noble Lords have applauded the Home Secretary on his very coura- 108 geous action and also the action of the police. We all endorse this, and both Houses have joined in the compliments which have been paid.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack mentioned reforms of the law. I am very glad that he is not present at the moment because I feel he is so modest that he does not really underline all the wonderful reforms which he has already initiated. I am sure we should all like to record our appreciation of the vast number of subjects upon which the Law Commission is at the moment engaged and of the fact that the noble and learned Lord has brought them forward. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, will not expect me to comment to-day upon the excellent suggestions he made. I know that he will make valuable and constructive contributions to any debates which take place. We in the Government take the point about clear legislation. I am sure that the noble Viscount will play his part in achieving clarity in any legislation that we pass. We take the point about the Parliamentary draftsmen, and also the noble Viscount's point as to the use of the Standard Industrial Classification in the S.E.T. system. I know that his suggestions about subjects for study by the Law Commission will be most carefully looked at by my noble and learned friend.
It appeared to me that there was some contradiction in the two opening speeches to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Foot seemed even to contradict his own speech. On the one hand, he criticised Her Majesty's Government for not moving forward quickly enough, and he then urged us to postpone and look again at House of Lords reform. That seemed to me to be a little irrational, but since he is not present I will say no more. I believe he described the gracious Speech as "a collection of unrelated items", but as he also described your Lordships' House as an "acquiescent ailment", I do not think I shall take too much notice of his descriptions.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
Well, whatever the word, it sounded most uncomplimentary. Since the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has laid upon me the responsibility of reply to the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, on the Post Office, I 109 shall immediately proceed to do that. My noble friend Lord Bowles has gone to some trouble to obtain the information for me. I think the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, rather liked the two-tier letter system, but he seemed to be concerned that the firm of McKinsey's might have played some part in this. I should like to say at once that the concept of the two-tier system was the product of the Department itself, and McKinsey's played no part in its development or implementation.
The British market research consultants who were employed by the Post Office carried out two surveys of public opinion, which showed that 75 per cent. of the public were in favour of the new scheme. The Select Committee on Nationalised Industries and the Post Office Users' Council have both welcomed the scheme. The Government decision to make the Post Office a public corporation was not in any way influenced by the American consultants, McKinsey's, who were asked to advise on organisation and management practice, which had nothing to do with the decision to become a corporation.
The noble Lord, Lord Erroll, also suggested that perhaps the two-tier system had been handled very clumsily vis-à-vis public relations, and he said we were not told that 4 ounces could go for 5d. and that all letters should be sealed. I am not sure of the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House, but I believe that I am not allowed to display anything. But I have here the advertisements concerned, which reveal the two facts about which the noble Lord was concerned. I hope that afterwards, possibly through the usual channels, he will be able to see these advertisements which show that what I have said is correct.
In regard to devolution and the terms of the Commission, I should like to put on record, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has already done in another place, that there are two points which have not awaited the setting-up of the Commission. They are important points in relation to administrative devolution. The first is that the Secretary of State for Scotland is already responsible for health and agricultural services in Scotland, and Her Majesty's Government now intend that the Secretary of State for Wales should assume responsi- 110 bility for health services in Wales and that the Welsh Board of Health in future should report to the Secretary of State. The other mint is that the Secretary of State should share with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food responsibility for working out agricultural policy and administration of agricultural affairs in Wales. As the spokesman in this House for Wales, I felt it important that that should be placed on the record.
I now come to my noble friend Lady Summerskill, and when I come to reply to her I am always sorry that I am standing here and not sitting beside her, so that I could perhaps speak in a slightly different way. What I can say to my noble friend is that the points she has made—and were I in the same place I should have done precisely the same—are important points which should be taken up if and when a Private Member's Bill on this subject is introduced into either House. Her points will have sympathetic consideration. I am sure she drew comfort from the assurance of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor apropos of the family law. She will appreciate that further than that I cannot go at this point of time, except to repeat that this must be a Private Member's Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, made a point which I believe he has made previously in connection with the disqualification of Peers from voting at elections. I thoroughly enjoyed his historical retrospect of the situation to date, as I know your Lordships did. I speak as one who, as a woman, was part of one deprived class who did not, of course, have the opportunity of voting until some fifty years ago. And having become able to vote, I then entered another deptived class, that of Peers, so I still cannot exercise a vote. That did not involve any change of sex, but there was a certain irony about it. Perhaps the noble Lord can take some comfort in the reply which I have been empowered to give him, which is that he will find something of interest on the subject in the White Paper on House of Lords Reform to be published to-morrow.
If he will forgive the pun, the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, set us all alight with an excellent speech. I think we all agree that one of the functions of the debate on the gracious Speech is to air 111 the points which one feels need Government attention, and he certainly gave some excellent facts. I think we all particularly enjoyed the way in which he dealt with the question of the pound notes in relation to size, and the cars which were put in the sea. There are several other points which I could make in reply, but I think I shall select the question of the Holroyd Committee to which the noble Lord made several references. This is the first comprehensive examination of all aspects of the Fire Service for thirty years, and it is considered essential that it should not be hurried, although it is appreciated that many decisions might depend on the Committee's recommendations. But I am empowered to tell the noble Lord that it is hoped that the Committee will report before the end of 1969. I am asked to tell the noble Lord that note will be taken of the other points he raised. As he will know, a great deal is already being done and the points which he has raised will be given every consideration.
On the question of the prison escapes, I think the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, suggested that perhaps we needed to look more closely at security. The figures I have here, which might be of interest to him, reveal that the situation is not quite as acute as he may have been led to believe. But this does not suggest in any way that there is any complacency on the part of my right honourable friend.
As always, the noble Lord, Lord Soper, drew attention to those members of society who are apt to be overlooked. I am sure we all agree that those who work in the field of social welfare, to which he referred, will draw more deeply on their spiritual morale, if I may put it in that way, than other people. I feel that the noble Lord was inspired, as were many of us, by the promised legislation which we shall have the opportunity of debating in the coming Session. He made the very valid point that social welfare depends on matters which cannot be determined in a vacuum, and, since my right honourable friend the Prime Minister emphasised that legislation would be based on the recommendations of the Seebohm Committee, I thought the noble Lord would draw comfort from the fact that Seebohm identified the shortcomings in the local authority personnel services 112 as, first, those not meeting the needs of those requiring help; and, secondly, the separation of the services. I feel sure the noble Lord will recognise that if we are to draw very freely on this Report for our legislation, some of these areas will be covered. I am asked to tell him that we are taking careful note of the other points which he has raised. I do not have a specific reply on the alcoholic situation vis-à-vis the hostels, but I shall see that this is obtained for him.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, made some reference to the social security legislation which is forecast in the gracious Speech. I think the noble Lord studied very closely the speech of my right honourable friend, and he will have noted the suggestion that in any new legislation the social services will be thought of as running complementary to the field of social security. On the question of the National Health Service, there will be public discussion of the Green Paper, which is not just a White Paper in another guise. It is a genuine attempt to get the views not only of the people actively concerned but of anybody who wishes to comment. I am happy to say that comments are already coming in, many of which are from sources which do not normally comment.
I only wish I could give to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, the replies which he sought. He understands that at the moment the areas of special need are to have priority. I hope he will agree with me that this is in line with the Plowden Report and also with some of the recommendations in the Seebohm Report. I hope he will draw comfort from the phrase he used, with which I was going to comfort him, thatOther measures will be laid before you.I always feel that that is a most glorious piece of British understatement. It is one which makes Ministers with special concern for Departments hope that their particular piece of legislation will be included.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, also drew attention to the question of the special areas. The local authorities which will be chosen will have two objective criteria—overcrowded housing, and a very high proportion of immigrants on the school roll. I have a feeling that this will not be the complete answer, but I shall see that the noble Lord is given an answer on some of the other points.
113 The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, made a very thoughtful contribution, as always. Of course, he appreciates that there are many points in the gracious Speech which will touch on the question of young people, not only the point about the age of voting which he emphasised. I am sure that his contribution in that connection will be repeated when we debate the legislation. I am certainly with him in thinking that there will be many schools of thought on this matter, and certainly there will not be quite such harmonious agreement as we were led to believe yesterday.
On the question of tourism, I should like thoroughly to endorse what the noble Lord has said about the climate of opinion. We have to create the atmosphere that those who serve are not in any way inferior, and this. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, is something which we hope will come through to tourist boards from any piece of legislation. I would only say in passing that on one occasion, when I suggested to an estate agent that I would refer him to a certain tourist board, it seemed to drive him to a point of desperation: he said the board had done nothing for him and he was not in the least interested in what they had to say. I can only hope that he is not typical of some of the people with whom we shall be concerned when we finally get these tourist boards in working order. Tourism is one of our major industries, and, as we all know, we have a great deal to sell. We have not only the most wonderful scenery but unique historic monuments and castles, and something which the world is keen to come to see and enjoy.
I can perhaps give the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, one answer, at any rate, in relation to education in Scotland. He put a very pertinent question, "Current developments where—in England, Wales or Scotland?" I can tell him that the changes which are proposed are designed to ensure that the Statute, the Bill, reflects present policies and practices rather than those current a quarter of a century ago. Among the provisions of the Bill, we propose to abolish the power of education authorities in Scotland to charge fees at schools managed by them. The charging of fees at schools within the public system of education was abolished in England and Wales in 1944. 114 The continuation of this practice in Scotland conflicts with the principle of equality of opportunity for all children, and cannot be reconciled with comprehensive secondary education. That answer will, I hope, meet at any rate one point which the noble Lord put to me.
On his question of re-training and the age limit in the engineering industry, I will pursue this subject, and I hope that I shall perhaps be able to get an answer through the industrial training boards. I am afraid that I have not the reply to his question on the Children Bill, although, naturally, this will broadly follow the lines of the White Paper.
My Lords, I hope that I have covered most, at any rate, of the points raised by noble Lords. The speeches made in this afternoon's debate have been so excellent, in quality and in information, that I feel I have perhaps done less than justice to them. I would merely reiterate the words of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister when he said that this may in fact appear to be a slightly duller list (I do not think he quite used those words; I liked those of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, better, "a more reflective Session"), but to many of us this will be an opportunity to bring into being legislation which will be for the good of all.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Carrington I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until Tuesday next.
§ Moved, That the debate be adjourned until Tuesday next.—(Lord Belstead.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to and debate adjourned accordingly.