HL Deb 02 July 1970 vol 311 cc13-33

The Queen's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move, 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."

My Lords, it often fell to me, in another place across the Irish Sea, to listen to those who moved the Address in reply to the most gracious Speech and to say suitably complimentary things about the speakers. In my experience, those who accepted the job of commending the Government's programme in general were seldom reluctant at a later date to attack it tooth and nail in particular. But that, I am sure, is not the way of your Lordships' House. I must confess that I had fully anticipated spending this particular moment listening to one of the noble Lords opposite. The unexpected revelation that voters are, after all, people, rather than statistical symbols, has given me the opportunity—and I deem it a great honour—to make the first speech of the new Parliament from these Benches.

There are two comments that I would make at the outset. Although the most gracious Speech, very properly, refers to Northern Ireland in terms which I wholeheartedly commend to your Lordships' House, I do not want on this occasion to dwell upon that topic. I would just say say that I acknowledge in the noble Lord the Lord Chancellor a fellow Ulsterman, at least in part; someone who, as he once reminded us, might well, but for the roving propensities of his ancestors, be sitting to-day not on the Woolsack but in the Worshipful Master's chair of his local Orange Lodge. He is indeed fortunate, my Lords, to have landed upon a sack of wool rather than on a bed of nails.

The second thing I would say—and this also can be appropriately coupled with the name of the noble Lord the Lord Chancellor—is that soon enough, no doubt, the healthy and abrasive process of partisan exchange will begin. It was, however, one of the most fortunate and constructive features of the last Parliament that the problems of Ulster were approached by those most directly concerned on a bipartisan basis, and I hope and pray that in this Parliament there will be no falling away from that high standard, which was so necessary where the lives of British subjects and the safety of British soldiers are at stake. I should like to wish the new Home Secretary well in his unenviable task (I have often in the past praised his predecessor), and I believe that I can best assist him at this time by not expressing any personal views on the present Ulster situation. There I leave, at any rate for to-day, the question of Northern Ireland, Instead, I should like your Lordships to look outward with me for a moment.

My Lords, increasingly, modern Elections seem to be fought on the premise that the only successful appeal to the voter is one based on simple self-interest. I personally cannot endorse such a premise. I believe that some of the apathy and disinterest we find around us is due to the absence over a long period of any true sense of national purpose. In saying this, I do not advocate arousing the public by old-fashioned jingoism, or the striking of postures which altogether ignore our diminished power. But power is one thing: influence is quite another. What are we to be? A selfish, self-centred Power; a leader of a Commonwealth whose sense of common purpose seems to be waning; a unit in a loose alliance of English-speaking people; a part of a united Europe?

The big question that we shall face in this Parliament will clearly be the question of Europe. I must confess that my own Europeanism is (shall I say?) qualified. Whatever the economic and strategic sense of the European concept, I have always found, in the course of many visits to the United States and Canada, a rather closer rapport with those great countries. In my mind, perhaps the greatest single argument for our involvement in the European system is that a Europe including Britain could never be an inward-looking Europe. This does not mean, as the French have at times been inclined to imply, that this country would be a sort of Trojan horse in the European system. Clearly, we should have to act collectively in the proper spirit of the Treaty of Rome. Nevertheless, I feel sure that our voice within Europe as it evolved would be a voice deployed on the side of wide and generous visions of the world. At all events, I believe that it is questions such as this—questions of major policy and purpose—to which we should apply our minds, rather than getting bogged down in the common tariff on canned marmalade or other aspects of Common Market theology.

One such question of major policy and purpose must be the internal economic and physical strategy of our own country. Every Government since the war has in one way or another been concerned with the problem of regional development. There can be, and there clearly are, differences of opinion as to the most effective means of tackling this problem. The view of the present Administration—and I would not dissent from it—is that in some ways assistance to underdeveloped areas of the country has not been sufficiently selective. I myself believe that there is a great deal to be said for the principle of selectivity, not just in the personal social services, but also in the field of development: for when resources are limited a greater concentration can provide more effective help in the areas of real need.

Most emphatically, however, I would reject any return, either in the personal social services or in matters of development, to old-fashioned "sink or swim" concepts. There was a cruel cartoon published in America at the time Barry Goldwater was campaigning for the Presidency. It showed Mr. Goldwater admonishing some poverty-stricken unfortunate under the reproachful words: Why don't you inherit a department store, too? My Lords, I reject that philosophy, whether it comes from Arizona or from Wolverhampton. I believe that the State has responsibility for its less fortunate individuals and less fortunate areas. This does not mean propping up every derelict industry in the country; but it does mean seeking out genuine prospects of growth and giving them the support they need to get off the ground. I believe that in the European negotiations it will be a matter of real importance to ensure that our ability to mount effective regional policies is not impaired. If Europe were to mean boom in the South-East and the Midlands, and bust in the rest of the United Kingdom, I doubt if it would truly be in the best interests of this country as a whole.

I should like now to say a word or two about the Government and the City. During the past six years, members of Her Majesty's Government have made it clear that they would, when returned to office, restructure the relationship between the public and private sectors of the economy. There are, I think, some people on the Government side who see the problem exclusively in terms of nationalisation of industry versus private ownership; indeed, they go further and believe that many of the problems would vanish altogether if only the Government would withdraw from the arena. I should be very surprised, however, if Her Majesty's Government took this view. The political debate in this country is not between one group of men who desire undiluted private ownership and another which hopes for total nationalisation of industry. It is rather between groups of men who have differing views on how best to manage a mixed economy. We should recognise that it is a part of the Government's job to foster enterprise and efficiency in the public sector, and to discourage bureaucratic muddle and poor investment decisions in large industrial corporations.

Quite rightly, businessmen look to the new Government to be more responsive to their needs and more sensitive to their problems. However, the Government will, I trust, be seeking out those businessmen who have new and creative ideas about the way in which business can co-operate with Government, rather than those who may be hostile to all forms of Government guidance, assistance or even intervention. The City is sometimes regarded as a refuge of laissez-faire capitalism, but we should remember the excellent relationship which exists between the financial community and the Bank of England—even though it operates under the guidance of the Treasury. Nor should we forget that merchant banks work closely with the Export Credits Guarantee Department of the Board of Trade, with the Treasury and with other Government Departments.

I do not think that City businessmen resent regulations as such. They do, however, resent regulations which are counterproductive, merely based on dogmatic dislike of the City, or which have been framed without consultation. They like to feel that their advice, which may be offered to help Britain's balance of payments or economic growth, will be carefully considered. Indeed, if the Government would study the excellent and good-humoured operation of exchange control, they might find some way of imbuing tax collection with the same spirit. Exchange control is certainly a limitation on the City's freedom of manœuvre, but it is operated by the Bank of England with such tact and intelligence that businessmen and officials seem to be on the same side of the table, working together to find the best solution to a given problem. Without this good will on both sides, the system would long ago have proved inoperable.

The credit restrictions of recent years are another case in which the City has demonstrated its ability to co-operate in implementing complex regulations which were certainly contrary to its immediate interests. Perhaps both these instances show that good relationship depends on good communications as much in the City as in other fields. Her Majesty's Government need not look far to find many happy examples of fruitful co-operation between governors and the governed. Pursuit of this ideal will be ultimately more fruitful than any vain endeavours to reduce the role which the Government must play if we are to grow and prosper in the' 1970s.

Now, my Lords, I should like to make a small suggestion. We have been told that the Government have inherited an economic situation of unexampled strength. Is this so? If not, then let us be told the real situation in so far as this is prudently possible. Otherwise the man in the street would be mystified and unbelieving if he were to be suddenly informed in a few months' time that we were once again in the midst of an economic crisis. Indeed, the whole problem goes beyond the realm of Party debate. Having just emerged from "two years' hard slog", the people would lose all faith in Parliamentary democracy if they had not been informed of the existing situation at the start of a new Administration.

In conclusion, I would say that the work of this Parliament could represent a crucial turning point in British history, and I commend the programme outlined in the most gracious Speech as one which is conservative in the best sense—that is, designed to conserve all that is best in this country by means which are often radical in themselves. In my view, my Lords, we have had our fill of doctrinaire caution. Let us now move on to a period of pragmatic boldness.

My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty.

Moved, 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 O'Neill of the Maine.)

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech. This is a proud moment for me, and one, I must say, that I never anticipaced. It only shows what can happen if one marries a politician. To be invited to follow my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine, with his wealth not only of Parliamentary but also Prime Ministerial experience, makes me feel a little like the cow which, having watched three milk tankers pass the field in which she was grazing, one marked "pasteurised", one marked "sterilised" and one marked "homogenised", was heard to say: "It makes you feel a bit inadequate".

My noble friend comes from Ulster, and I come from Wales, each of which has its distinctive problems and aspirations, not always fully understood or appreciated by the less emotional English. Not that Welsh people are immune from the weakness of getting things out of perspective. Your Lordships may have heard of the man who drowned in a Welsh municipal swimming bath. When the coroner asked the bath's attendant why he had not jumped in and rescued the man, he replied: "Because I cannot swim. When they gave me this job all they asked me was whether I was bilingual".

Wales, like Northern Ireland, needs more work for men and women, and therefore I too welcome the importance attached in the gracious Speech to an effective regional development policy. Let me hasten to add that Wales is more than a region. It is a nation. It is a land of mountains and valleys, and sun and shadow; and too often the long, dark shadow of unemployment has chased the joy away. As one who grew up in a vicarage in a Monmouthshire town when it was hit by tragic unemployment, I am sure, to quote the words of the gracious Speech, that: Rising production and a steadily growing national income", shared by all, are the essential material foundation for the good life which all Governments, according to their different philosophies, seek to bring within reach of the people of this land, without distinction of class, colour or faith.

I hope for success in the negotiations just starting for our entry into the European Community if the terms we can obtain seem likely to make for better tomorrows for the British people as a whole—but not otherwise.

I believe that all of your Lordships, without distinction of Party, will agree that the speed of our economic progress will not be all it should be until industrial relations are vastly improved and unofficial strikes less frequently and damaging. The last Government tried one way, but not very firmly. This Government will try another. On neither side, management nor union, must prejudice be allowed to govern policy. We all are servants of the British people, and the British people want freedom to live their lives and get on with their jobs, not constant disruptions which seem to them often absurdly disproportionate to the issue in dispute.

My own main interests in your Lordships' House, since I had the privilege of coming here six years ago, have lain in the fields of education and health. What the gracious Speech says about education seems to me to be wholly right. There will be grave wastage of child talent until all primary schools are raised much nearer to the level of the best, which is very high. In the socially difficult areas of our towns and cities, the run-down areas, I hope that it will be made possible for more to be done for the under-fives. I remember the pathetic story of the little boy found crying outside one of the old Board schools. When a kind passer-by said, "Why don't you go in there, sonny? That's marked 'Boys' Entrance'", he sobbed, "I'm not a boy; I'm a mixed infant".

I am chairman of the governors of a girls' grammar school in West London, the Godolphin and Latymer School, and this experience has taught me to value all that such a school can do by educating girls from under-privileged homes and better-off homes together, gathered into one school from a wide area. Many of the girls come from homes in which there are no books and very little culture; other from homes in which education has always been prized for what it does in forming character and broadening the mind. These different types of girl learn so much from one another; something of singular value would be lost to the able girls from homes in depressing areas if they all were made to go to a comprehensive school based exclusively on their own neighbourhood. So I welcome the promise in the gracious Speech to set local authorities free to take effective decisions on the future of their schools, and the action which Mrs. Thatcher has already taken to that end. I like, too, the promise of further devolution to Wales.

I am sorry to see that there seems to be no equally forward-looking reference to health policy though I can well imagine that Ministers will need a little longer before they commit themselves on measures to bring greater unity and less frustration into the National Health Service. I hope the Government will agree that we want much more local provision of warden-supervised housing, or homes or hostels, where people now in hospital care, many of them elderly, can receive the attention or help they need in an atmosphere more like their own home, and near to their own friends and relatives. Hospital beds are very expensive. I doubt whether we should require so many of them if only we could make the best possible use of those we have.

Having once been chairman of a borough council housing committee, I rejoice in the strong reference in the gracious Speech to a "vigorous housing policy" and I hope that the local authority associations will be brought into consultation at an early stage so as to work out an agreed new housing subsidy plan. The national housing situation is now far better, but that very fact tends to mask the utterly shocking conditions which still exist in parts of London and the older cities. Nothing less than a crusade will save a million children from having to grow up in foul conditions which contrast hideously with civilised living. The local authorities will have their continuing part to play, and all of them will be waiting on the Government to outline its ideas for what the gracious Speech calls a measure of local government reform "associated with a general devolution of power from the central Government".

I do not imagine that they, or indeed anyone else, will deeply regret the demise of the Land Commission. As to the Maud recommendations for unitary authorities, I can see a strong case for them in logic, but logic and democracy do not always fit together, and with a general two-tier system I believe that there could be more democratic satisfaction and more truly local representative government.

My Lords, broadly, the gracious Speech which we have heard to-day builds a programme on the Conservative philosophy in which I have been taught by experience to believe: the philosophy of freedom, competition, the minimum of State interference, and help for those who cannot help themselves. The need is not just for fresh legislation; it is more than that. The need is for fresh attitudes of mind. Let us recognise it: politicians at the moment do not stand high in the public estimation. Who was it who said that "all politicians are cast in the same mould but some are mouldier than others"? I would rather say that people are sick of the sort of politicians whose stock-in-trade seems to be hurling insulting remarks to and fro. The people expect something better, and a new Parliament is a time for a fresh start. It is up to the nation's representatives, in both Houses of Parliament, to prove that we can rise to the challenge. Given honourable and fearless leadership, this nation has it in it to strike out afresh and to throw off weaknesses which it has not yet stirred itself to overcome because they have entered too far into its habits of life and thought, My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion.

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to move that this; debate be adjourned until Tuesday next. In moving this Motion, I have profited from the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who I believe five years or maybe six years ago forgot to move the Motion and nearly lost his right to reply. I rise with a genuine sense of warmth and admiration to congratulate the mover and the seconder of the humble Address. One comes from Wales and I hope she will forgive me if I do not give her full title. My noble friend Lord Archibald on a maiden speech said that the Scots were braver. But we felt the spirit of Wales in her speech, as we felt the spirit of Ulster in the speech from the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine. While I think we all should recognise and admire the strength not only of regional feeling but of national feeling, there are moments when I feel rather passionately English—were it not for the fact that my family come from Southern Ireland.

The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, is perhaps less well known to us from direct experience in this House than is the noble Baroness, but I think I speak for the whole House when I say that I know of no appointment to your Lordships' House that gave us greater satisfaction than that of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill. In referring to his ancestry I have to be careful, because if we really looked at what his ancestors did it might give rise to further disturbances in Northern Ireland. But the name "O'Neill" is deeply embedded in Irish history and it is particularly satisfactory to us to recognise the noble Lord's own courageous efforts in the interests of peace and stability in his native Province. He knew full well the political risks he was taking, and although I believe every Member of your Lordships' House regretted his departure from the Premiership of Northern Ireland, we were very pleased to welcome him here. I repeat what I said when I wrote to him to congratulate him on his elevation: that we in your Lordships' House are all "O'Neillites" and that his qualities were recognised on both sides of the Border and both sides of the Irish Sea.

I notice there has been a good deal of publicity about the Prime Minister's love and interest in music, but he is not the only musician in the Conservative Party. Lord O'Neill is a devout music lover, so much so that I am told that during the last war he nearly endangered a military position a mere hundred yards from the enemy by arriving singing grand opera. And his love of music, which has taken him frequently to the Albert Hall, I am told is equalled by the loudness of his laugh, which on one occasion led to his expulsion. His speech reflected the wisdom and the toleration that we have expected from him; it was a speech of high calibre and its wisdom was appreciated by us all.

May I now turn to the noble Baroness's speech? It is always a salutary experience, when seeking to find out the quality of a politician, to ask the opinion of her political opponents. This I did; and I was impressed by the high regard in which she is held by those who have been engaged with her and her husband in local government. I am bound to say that we have all been deeply impressed by them both. I am not sure whether they were the first husband and wife Members of your Lorships' House. We seem to be adding to them. I am glad to see a new noble Baroness on the Front Bench opposite; and there are my noble friends Lord and Lady Llewelyn-Davies. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and the noble Baroness, will know that although on occasion I have made caustic remarks, this in no way detracts from my admiration for the noble Baroness.

Indeed her remarks about politicians are important, because the public do not frequently give credit to the genuine devotion of a politician to a cause. I may disagree with the noble Baroness on many matters, but I know, for instance, of her devotion to the Godolphin and Latymer School and how she has never ceased to work for it. This remark, I may say, is made without prejudice to my opinions on some of her other views on comprehensive education, which I shall not go into to-day. We know that she has had a lifelong interest in nursing and the Health Service and has brought immense energy to bear in making a contribution to the welfare of her fellow men. Again may I say that we greatly enjoyed her speech.

My Lords, it is customary, at least on the occasion of the Queen's Speech at the beginning of a Parliament—and in this I follow the precedent set by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—that we should, so far as possible, eschew controversy on this day. However, it would be misleading—although in fact noble Lords would not be misled—if there should be any suggestion that there are not matters and policies contained or implicit in, or omitted from, the Queen's Speech which will not be the subject of condemnation by my Party. While I personally regret that the Reform of your Lordships' House, on which the overwhelming majority of us were agreed, was frustrated, and therefore we have to carry on as best we can, the Government need have no doubt that the Opposition will carry on with great vigour. I always hesitate to use the word "constructive", because it almost invariably means that one is going to be unconstructive. But I can promise noble Lords opposite that we shall not take undue advantage of the freedom and the looseness of our procedure, which could totally stultify your Lordships' business, nor shall we fail to argue matters with vigour and the strength that we feel.

My Lords, I am deeply conscious of the courtesy and co-operation which I enjoyed as Leader of your Lordships' House. It is in fact a rare privilege to have led your Lordships' House, and I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my thanks to your Lordships. It is in the nature of democracy that we should change sides from time to time; and, mistaken though I think it is, none the less we freely accept it. At least neither the Conservatives nor the Labour Party can enjoy the stability of the Liberal Bench. At this point, if I may change the tone for a moment, perhaps I might express our deep sense of sympathy in the tragic loss which has been suffered by the Leader of the Liberal Party.


Hear, hear!


My Lords, I find that I am one of five ex-Leaders of your Lordships' House, although most of us had only a few years' occupation of the post—we were not all like the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who was Leader for 15 years. That was the stability which the Conservative Party had which they lacked in regard to their Defence Ministers: that the Leader of your Lordships' House remained the same. I freely admit that one of the satisfactions I have in the present political situation is in the appointments to the Government Front Bench opposite. I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that his appointment, in personal terms, is highly acceptable to us. We know his patience—indeed, we know the skill with which, for 14 nights, I think it was, he stood up to the onslaught of many of my noble friends in opposition on the London Government Bill. He will need the same stamina and patience again, I can assure him. He is certainly a man of wide and most liberal interests, although, as I said before, I do not always find him quite so convincing on Party political issues. But I have no hesitation in congratulating the noble Earl and commending him to your Lordships' House. And may I say that if there had to be a new Minister in charge of the Civil Service Department—a Department which I think will be of great importance, though not a major Party political issue—there is no one whom I would rather see occupy that post.

As for the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, we know him well. We respect him. We are even at times, let me say, a little careful of that quick mind and skilful tongue. He has given me a "bloody nose" in debate too often, but now we shall have an opportunity to find out what really is Conservative defence policy. Certainly, whatever may be said in another place we here can think of no worthier successor to Denis Healey, who I am sure the noble Lord will agree, whether he liked his policy or not, was a great Defence Secretary, and we do congratulate the noble Lord.

Finally, may I say how very pleased we are to see our old friend, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, another ex-Leader of the House. We all know the deep satisfaction he must now be feeling to be sitting in his father's robes on the Wool- sack. We hope that he will master the wig, with which he has had some difficulty lately. I shall say comparatively little because I know that my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner will be intervening on another day and no doubt will refer to Lord Hailsham. We know the quality of the noble and learned Lord's mind and, on occasion, the uncertainty of his emotions, but it really is a very great pleasure to see him back, with his characteristic beam, in your Lordships' House. He will bring great distinction to the Woolsack.


Hear, hear!


My Lords, we may be rather rougher on another occasion, but I would not wish to close my remarks to-day without saying to a number of other noble Lords, whom I have not been able to mention by name, that I congratulate them on their appointments. I would also express a word of regret that some of those noble Lords on the Government side who carried the burden of Opposition and who, naturally enough (because there is never room for everybody in a Government), are no longer on the Front Bench. We still hope that they will participate and will sometimes be as critical of their Government as they were of ours. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the debate be adjourned until Tuesday next.—(Lord Shackleton.)

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, first may I say how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for the sympathy which he expressed with Mr. Jeremy Thorpe. I will convey those sentiments to Mr. Thorpe when I see him to-morrow.

My Lords, it is my pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in congratulating most sincerely the mover and the seconder of the humble Address. Like Lord Shackleton, I will keep my remarks on the Address itself until we have an opportunity of a slightly more cut-and-thrust debate next week. I wish sincerely to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, who is a constant reminder in this House of the danger in Northern Ireland of letting matters drift, for it was a tragedy that his advice was not followed in time and that he forfeited his office in a courageous endeavour to hasten the reform which was so badly needed. If ever a man has been proved right, it is the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill. There can surely be nothing to be said for the division of politics on sectarian lines, and I want to make it clear from these Benches that we fully support the firm handling of terrorism, from whatever quarter it may come. When one listens, as we have had the opportunity of doing on several occasions, to the views of Lord O'Neill, one wonders why common sense and tolerance cannot prevail in Northern Ireland. I also appreciated the views which he expressed as to the necessity for an outward-looking Europe of which Britain would be a member. These are sentiments which are warmly reciprocated on this Bench.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, is also to be warmly congratulated on a charming, witty and humorous speech. It is always a great pleasure to hear her, but I think that today she was in the best form ever. She is already a distinguished Member of this House and I, for one, am quite puzzled why she was not given Ministerial office. In fact the ration of Government ladies seems to me to be far too meagre. We had a far better "do" from the previous Government. One in each House verges far too closely on the "statutory woman" or the "mandatory woman" which we have on every Committee, rather than the modern practice of getting equality of opportunity; and I regret it. It may be that the female content of the Government was one of those things overlooked by Selsdon man at the Selsdon Conference. Perhaps the Government can be forgiven for this lapse, since the look of astonishment and surprise which settled on their faces in the early hours of June 19 has not yet evaporated; indeed one can see them in the dark recesses of this House pinching themselves to make sure it is not a dream. I may say the astonishment is not confined to the Benches opposite, nor is the surprise.

Having said that, I hope noble Lords will allow me to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, on his appointment as Leader of the House. I echo everything the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said. I like to look back on the three-man Committee, where we got down to reforming this House, as one of the achievements of the last Parliament. It is a great pity that none of us could get our colleagues to support us in the views we put forward. I can assure the noble Earl that he will have full co-operation from these Benches, provided it is reciprocated.

I should like to express my own pleasure, too, at the appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, as Minister of Defence. This means that we shall be able to keep under constant surveillance from these Benches the presence and capability East of Suez, and I should like to know next week whether we are going to have any further presence and capability than Lord Carrington and one carrier. We should like more Ministers in this House, and the Government are to be congratulated on putting the Minister of Defence into this House, no matter what complaints there may be in another place or from whatever quarter.

I want finally to say how delighted I am to see my old colleague sitting on the Woolsack. I congratulate him. I do not know how he is going to contain himself under the restrictions of silence which are imposed by the position which he occupies, because silence is not one of his virtues—he has many virtues indeed, but that is not one of them. And I wish to pay a very sincere tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for the way in which he led the House in the two and a half years of the last Parliament. He led us with courtesy, with skill and with modesty, and from these Benches we can say that we had the fullest possible co-operation not only from him but from all his Ministerial colleagues. We are very grateful indeed for that; and if we can have the same co-operation and courtesy from the present Government, I am sure we shall have nothing to complain of.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I am happy at the traditionally non-controversial start of our proceedings to associate myself with almost everything the last two speakers have said. I would, most particularly, join with the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, in expressing our sympathy to the Leader of the Liberal Party on the truly tragic loss he has sustained. I would also associate myself with what the two noble Lords said about my two noble Celtic friends. I must confess, however, that if I am going to be really honest there were one or two words which fell from my noble predecessor's lips which did not quite pass the test: he was far too generous and far too flattering in what he said about me.

Now, my Lords, if this House of singular virtues has any one vice, it is that from time to time we are perhaps a little addicted to the noble art of back-scratching. Be that as it may, I cannot let this moment go by without associating myself with the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and paying my tribute to the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has led your Lordships' House during these past years. I think the noble Lord has proved a notable, indeed a model, Leader of your Lordships' House. I only hope that some years will pass before he is able to give further proof of those qualities.

I seem to have stepped, by one fluke or another, into a number of the noble Lord's shoes, as apart from the leadership of your Lordships' House, which is a great honour for me, I have also inherited the day-to-day supervision of the Civil Service Department. I already know to my cost how great must have been the demands on Lord Shackleton's time. Despite that, he always found time, in my experience, to see any Member of your Lordships' House and give the same amount of fair treatment to any request, great or small. I am bound to fall short of the high target which the noble Lord has set, but I will do my best. That said, I must confess that I am not a little daunted at following so gifted a trio of Leaders as the noble Lord, his engaging and lovable predecessor, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and my noblefriend, Lord Carrington. I have termed the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton a model Leader of your Lordships' House. By the same token I believe not one Member of your Lordships' House would demur when I term my noble friend Lord Carrington a model Leader of the Opposition in your Lordships' House.

May I turn now to the two notable speeches made by my noble friends who moved and seconded the humble Address? They were two notable speeches by two notable figures of our public life. In listening to them I could not but recall that it was not very many years ago that I found myself undergoing this particular trial by ordeal. It was the last time that I ever wore uniform, and I remember to this day the difficulty which I had, unlike my slim and elegant fellow sufferer, Lord Goschen, in inserting myself into a Guardsman's tunic. My Lords, I termed the speech of my noble friend, Lord O'Neill, a notable one, and so it was, distinguished, as one would expect, by those qualities of fearlessness, candour, humour and indeed of a notable independence of mind which are the insignia of the noble Lord. I confess that I have not searched the records as assiduously as perhaps I should have; nevertheless, I am inclined to believe that this is the first time your Lordships' House has had the experience of hearing the Loyal Address moved by a noble Lord who was not only a former Chancellor but also a former Prime Minuter.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has regaled us with some of my noble friend's biography, and there is little that I can do to gild the O'Neill lily, but perhaps I could remind your Lordships that in Burke we find that my noble friend descends from the oldest family in Europe. I suspect that here and there on the Continent there may be a family or two which might be inclined to dispute that claim. And, of course, the antiquarian may suggest that if the claim is true it is only true as a result of a quirk of history, the fact that almost the only people who could read and write, let alone record, in the Dark Ages in Western Europe happened to be some monks in Ireland. In any event, I do not feel that any noble Lord in any quarter of the House would wish to suggest that my noble friend, however ancient his lineage, was speaking to-day with the voice of a Bourbon.

My Lords, we have become accustomed these past few weeks, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, reminded us, to a number of surprises, and it may have been a surprise to some of your Lordships that my noble friend refrained from mentioning the perils which now surround his homeland. He refrained from doing so for easily understandable motives, and I propose to emulate his example—as indeed I feel many other noble Lords will wish to do in the coming four days of debate. But I cannot let this moment go by without expressing the earnest hope of all of us that as soon as possible peace and prosperity, and humanity in the dealings between man and man, will once again be restored to Northern Ireland.

My Lords, I described the speech of the noble Baroness, too, as a notable one; and so indeed it was. I derived a number of very special pleasures from listening to my noble friend. In the first place, I derived a special pleasure because her speech was a manifestation of a personality which has, I think, endeared itself to all parts of your Lordships' House. It was informed by just those qualities of kindliness, wisdom and common sense and humanity, pithily and indeed wittily expressed, which we have seen the noble Baroness deploy on a number of occasions; and I think the speech was in sum a distillation of a rich and creative life. I am told that years ago there was a man who used to do some work for Lady Brooke, in her garden. One of his cronies asked him what sort of a boss he had, and he was overheard to reply, "A bloody nice lady". I think that all your Lordships who know Lady Brooke know that she is, in non-horticultural terms, a very nice lady indeed.

The second special pleasure which I derived from listening to her stems from the fact that she is married to another of my noble friends, and that I shall always be indebted, be my Parliamentary life short or long, to my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor for all the guidance and the innumerable kindnesses which he extended to me when I had the honour to serve under him in two Ministries. The third pleasure which I derived, as I venture to say all your Lordships did, from listening to the noble Baroness results from that link of marriage. I am told that the noble Baroness, before she became "noble", was more than once pressed to stand for election to another place. I gather that her invariable reply was, "No; I don't keep a dog and bark myself".

Well, my Lords, I think that this House, and indeed our public life, have been enriched by the fact that Lady Brooke now does bark, albeit in a not very gruff voice. In any event, the sight of the noble Baroness and of my noble friend riding tandem through your Lordships' debates is a very pleasant one. Like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I would say that it is a source of pleasure to me that this husband-and-wife act is not the only double act in your Lordships' House, and that the tandem teams of Brooke and Brooke and of Llewelyn-Davies and Llewelyn-Davies have now been joined by the tandem team of Tweedsmuir and Tweedsmuir.

My Lords, at the conclusion of these brief remarks may I say a word about the procedure for the next few days? We had, at an earlier date, provisionally announced a rather different pattern from that to which we have now been asked to agree. Subject to the agreement and concurrence of your Lordships, we would now propose that the first three days of our debate next week (we shall have four days' debate altogether) should be devoted, broadly speaking, to Home Affairs, with particular emphasis on the first day to the general state of the economy. On the second day, according to that formula, the main topics will include special reference to such matters as industrial relations, regional affairs and housing. On the third day, the principal topics of debate will be Home Affairs and other aspects of social policy, including education. On the fourth day, which will be in the following week, our debate will be devoted principally to Defence and Foreign Affairs.

My Lords, I said at the outset of these remarks that my few words on this occasion would be couched in traditionally uncontroversial terms. I hope that I shall not be departing from that yardstick if I say just this by way of conclusion. I think your Lordships will agree that the gracious Speech embodies, by any standard, a substantial programme. It foreshadows much action by Government and a sizeable chunk of legislation for the two Houses of Parliament. I hope that our labours in the next few weeks are not going to be unduly arduous; but I have a shrewd suspicion that we shall find ourselves with a good deal of work to do when we come back after the Summer Recess. There will be much for all of us to do, and I am sure that in the future, as in the past, this House will play a significant and, if I may be pardoned by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, constructive part in improving the legislation submitted to it.

My Lords, may I say this as a final word? I have referred to the sizeable programme embodied in the gracious Speech. I would only remind noble Lords opposite that this programme is a reflection of less than two weeks of relaxed but purposeful Administration.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until Tuesday next.