§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Thursday last by Lord O'Neill of the Maine—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subject, 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 SHEPHERD
My Lords, although I share the view of a number of your Lordships that we may from time to time indulge in undue and prolonged tributes and compliments, which many outsiders find slightly hypocritical, it would be ungracious of me if I were not to extend my own good wishes to the Front Bench opposite, in particular to the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, who will now be speaking for a Department which I represented during the last Administration. My sympathies will certainly be with him if the Government adopt our policies on South Africa and Rhodesia, as we hope they will, because he may suffer from a cricked neck in answering questions from behind him. I suffered in the same way when I had to defend Government policy on Nigeria.
To the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, who is to follow me this afternoon, I would also extend a special word of welcome, particularly as he is the Minister responsible for the Arts. If he is as successful as Miss Jennie Lee then he will undoubtedly have succeeded. I think it is true to say that noble Lords opposite were surprised at the Election results. If that be the case, what then can be the surprise of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles? I think it would be unfair to refer to him as a "retread". I speak subject to correction, but I somehow remember that the noble Viscount was one of those who, in the moments of deep Tory despondency in 1962, was suddenly removed from office. Eight years later he has returned, and we look forward to 154 his contributions in your Lordships' House.
My Lords, may I say something to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone? I hope he will forgive me if I keep on referring to him as "the noble Viscount". I fear that we will need to get used to the new title that the noble and learned Lord now holds. A number of us will remember him when he was leading your Lordships' House. It is not quite the same House now. I am sure that he will miss my late noble friends Lord Alexander of Hillsborough and Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who took the noble and learned Lord to task on a n amber of occasions. Some of us will remember his bitter campaign from the Benches opposite in fighting Conservative legislation on commercial television. I am bound to say that I wonder what will be his secret views when the Government come forward with their proposals for commercial radio.
Some of us also remember his rather sudden departure from your Lordships' House to another place. Then, of course, his aim was the leadership of the Conservative Party and being Prime Minister. Then he was foiled by—I must be careful—a more astute politician, the 14th Earl, who stayed in your Lordships' House until he was absolutely sure that the prize was his. I had a feeling that the noble and learned Lord, when he was in the other place, was unhappy; that he wanted to return to your Lordships' House. I hope that in some ways his being Lord Chancellor in your Lordships' House is some slight compensation. I must say, having watched the noble and learned Lord for a number of days, that he appears to be rather uncomfortable on the Woolsack. I am not certain whether the cause is the Woolsack or whether it is his own memory about the way the Tory Party treated previous Lord Chancellors, and others, who sat on these Opposition Benches and were despatched, I think rather savagely.
My Lords, to-day we have a general debate, in some ways a continuation of the debate of yesterday, but I hope I may be forgiven for dealing with two points in the gracious Speech because they were matters for which I had some responsibility while I was in Government. First of all, I can assure the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, that when the Bill for the 155 independence of Fiji comes forward, he will have no need to worry; it will be treated with the greatest of expedition. But I am particularly concerned about the dependent territories, for which I had special responsibility. The gracious Speech refers to political advancement. I am not quite certain what the noble Lord has in mind here, whether it is political or economic. I must say that I would view the economic and social development of our Colonies to-day as being more vital than their political development.
The question that really concerns me is this. When we merged the Colonial Office with the Commonwealth Office we retained a separate Dependent Territory Division, with a Minister solely responsible for it. When we merged the Commonwealth Office with the Foreign Office, there was a battle within the officialdom. Some wished to retain a separate division. Others wished to break it up in the sense that responsibility for particular Colonies should become the responsibility of the political departments. I will be frank: I opposed this view, and I am glad I succeeded, because to me it seemed utterly unreasonable for the people of Gibraltar to feel that they were represented in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by officials, or even a Minister, responsible for Gibraltar and at the same time responsible for relations with Spain. The same applied to the Falklands and the Argentine, and Hong Kong and China. It is of paramount importance that our dependent territories should know that there are those in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who will stand up and ensure that their points of view are put across.
The reason for my concern is that I saw an announcement in the Press that an Under-Secretary in another place has now been given the responsibility of Hong Kong with South-East Asia, but there is no news as to who is responsible for the other dependent territories. I hope that the noble Marquess will be able to tell us on Tuesday what is the structure in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Those who have a special view and attention for the Colonies would wish to see the Dependent Territory Division remain; certainly the Colonies would wish to see it. I hope that the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, can give 156 us some reassuring news. If he cannot, then I hope that this House will join with me in making the life of the Government rather difficult in this particular respect.
In regard to immigration, I do not wish to go over the whole field, but the Conservatives have made it quite clear that they intend to introduce legislation by which Commonwealth citizens, so far as entry and residence are concerned, are going to be treated as aliens. When we decided on the figure of Commonwealth immigration that this country could accept, we were able to obtain a special allocation of some 600 to be drawn from the Colonies. We treated the Colonies differently from the Commonwealth as a whole. I should like an assurance that the citizens of our Colonies are not going to be treated as aliens. It would be utterly intolerable—and I hope the House will agree with me—that the people of Gibraltar should be treated as aliens. I hope that we may have an assurance in this matter. I certainly would wish to know whether we can be told on Tuesday what is going to be the position of the Asians in East Africa, who have been given a special position by a Conservative Government. How are they to be treated? Are they to become aliens?
My Lords, in some respects to-day's debate is a continuation of yesterday's. This must be so, in the light of what was said here and in another place, and also the fact that many questions which were asked yesterday still remain unanswered. Like my noble friend Lord Shackleton, I do not intend to fight the Election all over again. But so far as I am concerned—and I think this view is shared by all of us on this side—we have started to fight the next Election. We have no intention of letting noble Lords opposite, or the electorate, forget the cruel distortions indulged in by noble Lords opposite to regain power, which they seem to regard as a natural right. Victory may seem very pleasant now to noble Lords opposite, but in a matter of days, I suspect, it will turn sour.
We have heard much about the economic crisis. I want to tread over some of that ground again, particularly in the light of what the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, said last night; and said in an almost empty House. His words are 157 worth repeating in a House that is reasonably full. What was being said, not by Labour politicians but by international bankers, prior to the General Election? Let us take Dr. Emminger, of the Bundesbank. He said:Fundamentally, the British economy has found a new equilibrium and British industry especially has become sufficiently competitive abroad.The Chairman of the Bank of Italy said:The pound is certainly stronger than five years ago because the British economy is certainly stronger.The Chairman of the International Monetary Fund said:Britain's economic position has moved to a stronger and more stable basis. The I.M.F. inspection team, which visited London in early May, has reported a very clean bill of health.My Lords, we had the debates in the two Houses yesterday. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is perfectly clear. He says that there was no crisis. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, says the same; he says there was no crisis. But what is interesting is what the noble Earl, Lord Cramer said—and here I quote from col. 122 of yesterday's OFFICIAL REPORT:We are not—and I wholly agree with everything that has been said on the subject—on the way to a crisis. I do not think-that this is the case at all.I repeat: those are the words of the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, after the General Election.
What did the present Prime Minister say on June 5 in Portsmouth? He put it in a way with which we in Parliament are familiar: you ask it in a question, but in fact you make a statement. He said, "Are we heading for a national emergency?" My Lords, it is a clever way out to ask questions, but we all know the game. "Are we heading for a national emergency?" Then I think it was on the Tuesday before the General Election that we had the headline in The Times, "Heath warning on devaluation". We have; a report in the same paper of Mr. Heath speaking at Bradford last week. The report said:… it was now clear that Mr.Wilson had sadly mistimed the Election and had chosen the week in which his economic cover story had collapsed.This, of course, was said after the Board of Trade announcement of the disappointing results in regard to trade in May. Then in the same speech Mr. Heath went 158 on to say that at the start of the campaign he—that is, Mr. Heath—had warned the nation about the underlying weakness of the economy, and he said:I must admit I did not then know or foresee how quickly the evidence would come to light, evidence to prove beyond doubt the truth about what my colleagues and I were saying.This week they had trade figures to prove everything they had been saying. There were no hints or half-truths about them.And on the radio that very evening the Prime Minister said:The economic lights are flashing at amber.My Lords, I have no doubt at all that when the history is written of this Election it will be one of distortion—cruel distortion—to the electorate, debasing democratic—
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Let me finish, my Lords—debasing democratic intelligent processes.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, spoke yesterday about the burden of debt. We asked him for some figures and he was not able to produce he authenticity of them. May I say that my figures are taken out of Government papers known as the "Pink Book"? If we exclude the deficit of 1964, which was not a result produced by the last Government, the total net balance-of-payments deficit from the beginning of 1965 to the end of 1970 was £605 million.
The Conservative Opposition in recent years have constantly tried to give the impression that the peak figure of £4,000 million of short-term debt incurred by the Labour Government was the net result of deficits on balance-of-payment current and long-term capital transactions. The noble Earl knows that this was never so. The total deficit which the Labour Government had to face was composed of £744 million incurred by the previous Conservative Administration and £605 million net deficit incurred in the period of five and a half years of government under the Labour Administration. The difference between the total of these two figures, namely, £1,350 million, and the peak short-term Government borrowings of £4,000 million was made up of borrowings to compensate the withdrawal of funds from London by foreign Governments and public and private institutions concerned with the investment of funds in the United Kingdom. These 159 large withdrawals, much of which has returned to London during recent months, represented a reduction of the debtor position of the United Kingdom.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in this debate, as on other occasions, has harped on the subject of Government short-term borrowings. It is quite unreasonable to do so without drawing attention to the reduction of debt brought about by the withdrawals that I have just mentioned. It is equally unreasonable to quote the current figure of outstanding short-term Government borrowings, reduced from the peak of £4,000 million to one of approximately £1,600 million, as though this were a legacy of our Government to his Government without noting that our Government's total balance-of-payments deficit over five and a half years was, as I have said, £605 million, as against the inherited deficit from the 1964 Conservative Government of £744 million.
When one considers that the net surplus of balance of payments in the financial year ended April, 1970, was over £600 million it can fairly be said that the Labour Government, during their period of office, rescued the country from an extremely serious national balance-of-payments situation, and provided the new Government with a situation which is the envy of most foreign Governments. The figures I have quoted come out of Government statistics. During the five years, 1960 to 1964, exports increased from £3,800 million to £4,600 million. During five years under the Labour Administration exports rose from £4,600 million to over £7,000 million, and at the present time are running at a rate of nearly £8,000 million a year.
So much, my Lords, for the argument that by their policies the last Administration deprived industry of incentives. Whatever the present Government say, they cannot deprive the last Administration of the credit of presiding over such an enormous success in our overseas trading—unless of course they wish to argue that when exports fall it is the fault of the Government and when they rise the credit belongs elsewhere.
The noble Earl spoke about invisible earnings. Net invisible earnings fell from £141 million in 1960 to £138 million in 1964. During five years of Labour 160 Government invisible earnings rose from £141 million in 1964 to £572 million in 1969. So much, again, for Labour's attitude to invisible earnings. Is not the true position this? There are economic problems. There is inflation, which we share with the rest of the world; and I am bound to say that it is hard to see how one country will be able to cope successfully with it on its own, although clearly it must try. There is the slow rise in growth, but I think any growth must be export-led. But the balance of payments, which the previous Government regarded as a vital problem to be dealt with, is now one of the strongest in the world.
I should now like to turn to the speech made last night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I would say to the noble Earl how sorry we are that the Chancellor is now in hospital: and we hope that he will recover quickly. My Lords, I think it will be well worth looking at what the Financial Times says in its leading article to-day in relation to the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It says:It would be easier for outsiders to judge whether or not this confidence"—this refers to the confidence of the Chancellor in his Administration—is justified, however, if they knew what the methods were. The programme he outlined yesterday adds little to the generalisations of the Conservative Election Manifesto.The article goes on:The most striking feature of yesterday's speech, in fact, was the news that the Government has already been persuaded, presumably by the Treasury, to drop the economic tactics set out by Mr. Heath in the closing stage of the election campaign. It was then suggested that, there being a certain amount of slack in the economy, it would be possible to strike at inflation direct by cutting taxes. Such a policy is open to the criticism that it runs the risk of superimposing a demand inflation on a cost inflation, and Mr. Macleod now believes that, despite the recent sluggishness of the economy, it would be premature at this moment to take action to stimulate demand.What is clear from what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday is that, having looked at the books during the last 18 days, he is satisfied that no special action needs to be taken to put the economy right. So let us not hear anything more from noble Lords opposite between now and the next Election about an economic crisis.
The noble Earl smiles. He reminds me of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, 161 smiling last night when my noble friend Lord Beswick was speaking. Perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, would like to put a question on my behalf to Lord Carrington, to be answered on Tuesday. It again goes back to something Mr. Heath said during the General Election. He was asked what would be the cost to the balance of payments of Conservative policies East of Suez. The Prime Minister then gave the figure of £20 million as being the foreign exchange costs of the defence policies East of Suez of noble Lords opposite. When he was asked where he got that figure from, he said, "It is a figure that has been given to me by the Economist". That is a strange way to base your proposals to the country. Will the noble Earl ask the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to tell us on Tuesday what sort of force could toe provided by £20 million of foreign exchange? Could we have it in detail—whether it is infantry, naval or what? Let us have an understanding of what the Prime Minister had in mind when he spoke of this £20 million.
I now come to one item that I was surprised was not in the gracious Speech. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will know that at the end of the Session we were considering the Ports Bill. That, of course, has gone. It was a Bill which arose as a consequence of the Rochdale Report of 1962. While we may have disagreed on the way in which we should treat the problems of the ports, we at least were united in the view that something urgent had to be done in the ports and docks of this country. Apart from containerisation, there was the problem of labour. I will not read it out, but I would ask the noble Earl whether he would care to read the article in the Financial Times which supports the statement made by the Chairman of the National Ports Council yesterday that if we were to deal with labour relations within our ports the various ports authorities had to become the sole managers of labour.
Various other parts of the Report require early decision, but there is nothing in the Queen's Speech. I think it is fair for noble Lords to say, "We are not ready to put proposals before Parliament", but I should have thought that in regard to a matter of such interest 162 there would at least have been some indication that it was going to be considered and that proposals would be made. Are we therefore to understand, because of this omission, that we have to wait until 1972, 1973 or 1974 before this most vital part of our national economy is dealt with? Perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, when he replies, can give us some indication; if not, perhaps the noble Lord who will wind up.
Now I come to the nationalised industries. I listened very carefully to what the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, said yesterday. He made it quite clear that prices were not to be frozen, although during the Election I thought that prices were to be held down in the nationalised industries. We are told that all increases in prices are going to be carefully considered. But that has always been done; the previous Administration sent a number of price increases to the Prices and Incomes Board. I do not think that there is a great deal of difference, at least on the face of it, between he noble. Earl and noble Lords opposite and ourselves here. I should like to know from the noble Viscount whether the special financial targets that have been given to the nationalised industries to ensure that there is a fair rate of return on the capital invested are to be swept aside or persisted with. I hope they will be persisted with. Clearly, if they are, then the nationalised industries must charge the proper economic rate for the goods they produce.
I now turn to regional policy. I have no doubt at all that we can all join in the view that if there is to be real economic growth in this country we must have real regional development. We have taken the view that development should take place over a region as a whole, and this was enlarged and developed in the Industrial Development Act 1966. Can the noble Viscount say whether this Act is to be repealed and whether the Conservative Government intend to return to development districts? I think that if they do this it will have disastrous effects upon regional development and national development as a whole.
We heard something yesterday about investment grants. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, thought we were perhaps spending too much. It is worth a review, but I am clear in my own mind that investment grants are more likely to have 163 an influence on investment than the old investment allowances. Many firms regarded investment allowances as merely a windfall, whereas investment grants arose and were received by the firm very early in its investment planning. I understand that the regional employment premium scheme is also to go. Perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, will tell us what will then happen to firms like Cammell Laird and Upper Clyde Ship-builders, who have relied very much on this scheme to keep going, not only to fulfil export orders but also to provide employment to many thousands of people. If those premiums are to go, what have the Government in mind to replace them? What also have the Government in mind about governmental organisation? One of the very good things that came out of the visit to the North East of England of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, when he was a Minister, was to bring together in a Planning Board the various Government Departments. This was a very sensible step, and from it arose the Regional Economic Councils and Regional Economic Boards. Have they a role in Conservative Government planning, or are they to be swept aside? Which of the "Little Neddies" are to go? I think industry requires an answer.
What about the I.R.C.? This is to be stripped of powers. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, spoke about too much Government intervention and said that this must stop. When we asked him for examples of where, over the past five-and-a-half years, there had been too much Government intervention, he was unable to answer. I wonder whether the noble Lords who will be replying to-day can give us examples of where the Government have intervened wrongly in industrial matters. What about industrial development certificates? Under Labour these have been used perhaps more freely than under the Conservatives during their period of office. These certificates provided some 300,000 new jobs in the development areas. Is this a realm where there is too much Government intervention? I suspect that if this method is watered down or phased out we shall see creeping again into the already over-populated South-East of England and the Midlands industries which properly should be deployed in the regions where labour is available.
164 What is the Conservative Government's policy on advance factories? We, as a Labour Administration, had a good record in advance factories. Some 221 factories, representing nearly 5 million square feet, were built during one period of office, compared with some 49 during the whole of the 13 years' Administration of the Party of noble Lords opposite. We on this side of the House attach great importance to these new advance factories. Are they to be swept aside, or are they merely to be phased out and become a minor part of Government policy?
I turn to labour relations. My noble friend Lord Delacourt-Smith will speak more fully on this subject at the end of to-day's debate. Labour relations, industrial relations, are, in the end, human relations, and I do not believe that legislation will in itself solve the problems that beset the two sides of industry. Legislation may have a role to play, but only if it is acceptable to the two sides of industry. I question whether the climate is at present right for legislation to have that effect. The workers see in the gracious Speech reference to the liberation of industry. They are not certain what that means. What is quite clear in their minds is that the Conservative Government received a lot of support because, if they were elected, they would "clobber" the unions. In that sort of atmosphere it is difficult to see how a climate can be created in which legislation can be passed and accepted. I think that we shall need to see what the Government have in mind.
I am glad that the Minister of Labour, Mr. Carr, has already made contact with the unions and with the C.B.I. I hope that there are cool and careful discussions, because whatever may be in the Election Manifesto, what really matters is whether the two sides of industry can agree. You cannot impose a solution either on the trade unions or on industry as a whole. Therefore I would say to noble Lords opposite that if there is any promise that they ought to wish to forget or postpone in the interests of the country, this is it.
My Lords, may I conclude? We have a Conservative Government, elected after a campaign which in my view will reflect little credit on the Party opposite, and in particular on the men of integrity 165 who we know sit there. They will become disillusioned, as will the general public. Let us be under no illusions. They are confronted with mammoth problems, such as Northern Ireland, in regard to which they will need a united country to support them. We shall judge them on each and every action they take. If they are right, and we believe they are right, they will have our support. But if they fail there will be no mercy from us.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ THE PAYMASTER GENERAL (VISCOUNT ECCLES)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is quite right. You see before you an old horse who thought he had been put out to grass for good. But there you are: a note on the hunting horn and, stiff in joint, I have returned: and I need your Lordships' indulgence in what feels uncommonly like a maiden speech. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, gave to us a large shopping list of questions. I think they all deserve a reply, but I hope he will not expect me, fresh from my rural pursuits, to have all the answers. However, my noble friends will, no doubt, give him most of them in the course of the debate. In any case, we must take all those matters carefully into consideration.
To-day and to-morrow we are turning in our debate to social policy. It is a great advantage that in your Lordships we have are unrivalled fund of experience in what is an enormous field. I have no doubt that the debate will range far and wide, and all the advice which your Lordships care to give we shall consider most carefully. At the outset of our Administration we are naturally anxious to take the opinion of the House on the general direction of our social policy.
How can that direction be summed up? We said in our Election Manifesto that the aim is to improve the quality of life. Your Lordships may well think that this is a vague phrase, but perhaps I can clarify it by making three points: first, our object is to raise the quality of life for everybody, for children and parents, for grown-ups of all ages, wherever they live and whatever their occupation; secondly, by "life" we mean the whole of a man's life and not just the pleasures and distractions he looks for in his leisure time; and thirdly, 166 anyone who is concerned for the quality of life in the round realises that ways have to be found to ease the tensions which are on the increase within the lives of so many people. So, as the Prime Minister said, where there are differences the Government will try to bring reconciliation.
My Lords, no personal tensions are in greater need of reconciliation than those, more common in industry than most of us care to admit, which arise from a job which does not make sense to the man or woman who has taken it. Such tensions are made worse by the attempt to "live it up" in the hours of leisure. Surely it is time that social policy was directed towards creating conditions in which life is satisfying and all of a piece, both on the job and afterwards. One has to admit that we tune singularly failed to do this since the war, and the present Government's social policy is new because, besides taking greater care of those in most need, it aims at rebuilding the self-confidence of individuals—letting them, men or women, see that they count for something, and encouraging them to use their freedom responsibly.
That is a large claim for our social policy. I have wondered how best to illustrate it; and it may be that to look for a moment at the place which we think the Arts should occupy in our community would point up the analysis of what has gone wrong and the remedy which we think appropriate. Before I go any further I want to tell your Lordships how fortunate Her Majesty's present Ministers consider themselves to inherit the remarkable work done by Miss Jennie Lee and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. In their different styles both are the best kind of impresario. Together they have produced the Arts in Britain as they have never been produced before. Miss Lee has proved that enthusiasm—which is something we cannot feed into a computer—is still a very valuable quality for a Minister to possess. The right honourable lady and the noble Lord deserve the thanks of all Parties, and I know already how hard it is going to be to do as well as they have done. Fortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, continues to be Chairman of the Arts Council, and I very much look forward to working with him. If I had to pick out one among the many impulses which Miss Lee gave to the 167 Arts it would be the support for Regional Art Associations, which we shall develop with vigour, for reasons that will appear later in my speech.
Turning back to the place which the Government think the Arts should occupy in our society, I suppose your Lordships will remember that there was a time when religion was spoken of as the opium of the people. I have been surprised to find from a number of the messages that I have received that the same kind of argument is beginning to be used to secure greater support for the Arts. The argument runs as follows: work in industry is becoming so dull, mechanical, even demoralising, that somehow more entertainment must be provided to compensate in leisure time for the boredom of earning one's living. It is said that as the machines take charge at all stages of production and distribution, less and less will be left for human hands and brains to do; therefore the great majority of those in employment are bound to split their lives into two—one half bored, frustrated, with no room for enthusiasm, nothing to work for but the pay packet, and the other half desperately trying to make up for the emptiness of the working hours. The Arts are then called in aid as having a large part in this exercise in compensation. In short, we are told we ought to support them as a respectable kind of drug to keep us quiet in a world of automation, computers and all the other substitutes for human effort.
My Lords, this argument is just as false and mischievous as the old one was about religion being the opium of the people. Were we now to accept that the advance of science and technology inevitably means that a larger and larger proportion of those in employment must split their lives right down the middle, then the tensions between work and leisure would be bound to grow, the sense of personal responsibility would gradually weaken—to some extent it has done so already—and we should find ourselves unable to cope with any of the great problems of society, ranging from inflation to a better standard of taste and behaviour. If your Lordships agree with me so far, then the right reason for supporting the Arts is not to sharpen but to reconcile the contrast between the hours 168 of work and doing whatever one pleases in the rest of the time.
I appeal to your Lordships' own experience. We know for ourselves that the Arts do much to make the whole of life worth while. We should find it intolerable if that creative response had to be suspended while we were earning our living. And yet it is still a fact that in the places where most men and women work the quantity of things to be produced and sold, the amount of money one is paid or not paid, so dominate the values and the surroundings of all that goes on that any feeling for the quality of life dies at the factory gate. Of course, there are exceptions. We could all point to firms which have been notably successful in introducing artistic values into their-premises and into their products. But they are still few and far between. We must now build up a two-way influence. In some cases interest in the Arts will be higher in the employee's home than in the place where he works; in other cases the standard of taste in the factory or office will influence his home.
Industry could do a great deal more than it is doing to-day to make this two-way process a reality. I shall put a great effort into persuading employers, trade unions, local authorities and other public bodies to take a stronger lead in doing this. That is to say, I think there must be a campaign to market the Arts to a wider public; something that will go beyond giving more grants and attracting more subscriptions to the bodies already dedicated to some form of Art. We are not going to stop that; we shall go on doing it as it is being done now, but we shall consider that we have failed if we are not able to convert a great many more individuals to take an active interest. Is that aim just "pie in the sky", or are the general public ready to respond? The Arts Council, I rejoice to know, is quite sure of the answer, and my own experience leads to the same optimism.
Over the last 25 years there has been a revolution in the methods of teaching children in the maintained schools. Children are not just presented with facts, as many of them used to be. Now they are encouraged to express themselves and to develop their own creative powers, and the result is plain to see. When they go out into the world they 169 spend any amount of money on gramophone records, and they buy clothes—young men as well as girls, if that distinction is still allowed—and continually change clothes which express their delight in colour and fashion. If we can find the right means of communication—that is, if older people find out how to talk to younger people: and here the help of the television networks is crucial—we surely can turn some part of these nation-wide emotions towards the Fine Arts.
My Lords, there is not time to-day to say anything else about the place and the promotion of the Arts in this country. I hope that another occasion can be found on which to talk about the museums, the National Library Authority, the Arts Council, the export of manuscripts, the law relating to treasure trove, the crafts—which are very near my heart—and a larger role for private patronage. Your Lordships will see that there is plenty on my plate. It is a great comfort to know that in your Lordships' House I can get the best advice on the Arts to be had in any Assembly in the world. To sum up just in two words our policy for the Arts, it is to carry forward the good work now in progress and, in addition, to try to involve a much larger number of the public as supporters.
Returning to the Government's basic aim in social policy, of course to achieve it we need not one but a combination of policies. As I see it, the purpose of reforming the law on industrial relations is to bring up to date the framework within which we can quietly and steadily improve the worthwhileness of work, so that a job makes sense to the employee, whether young or old. To-day there is much too much unrest, too much "flying off the handle", to make that possible. Really, we have to recognise that life is very like a school; we cannot allow a few obstreperous boys to prevent all the others from getting on with their work. That is common sense, and the result of the Election shows that even in the heady weeks of a wage explosion not yet followed by the inevitable rise in prices this common-sense view commanded the support of the majority of the voters.
How, then, do we make work more satisfying? I suspect that this will turn 170 out to be the greatest single domestic problem of the 1970s. Your Lordships will realise that we have to make progress in this field at a rate which matches the changing expectations of the young people v/ho have come out of school and college since the war. This is where we have fallen down, as have pretty well all industrial countries. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, made some very interesting points on this subject n the debate yesterday. The noble Lord, Lord Robens has just published a book, of which I have read extracts, and I shall certainly want to read the whole book.
There are many ideas in this field and they are all worth exploring. But the basic principle must be to give every man and woman, as a single individual or in a working group, if that is how they are organised, that share in the decisions affecting themselves which they are able and willing to take, without of course destroying the chain of responsibility on which the effectiveness of any large organisation depends The aim should be—and I think we saw this very clearly in the Pilkington strike—to share responsibility with the men on the job, and not to leave it to remote representatives sitting somewhere far off in their head-quarters building.
The same principle informs the Government's attitude to taxation, to regional development and to local government. Responsibility begins in our own homes. Our consistent aim is to give individuals more choice, more opportunity to make decisions for themselves and more opportunity for paying serious attention to the needs of others. I do not know whether I carry the right reverend Prelates with me, but I believe that when ordinary people everywhere do not have sufficient practice in behaving responsibly and well it does very little good to preach at them from the pulpit or from Whitehall. The right reverend Prelates are very lucky. We poor nomads move from one side of the House to another, from Bench to Bench. They sit always in the same place, on the side of the angels of the day. The same desire to give everyone a chance to live life in the round lies behind our housing and environment policies. It was a miracle to me, when I was concerned with education, that so many children surmounted the handicap of a wretched home. Human nature is 171 very tough and resilient, but that is absolutely no excuse for failing to remove the scandal of bad housing.
As for the damage being done to the environment, this is a curiously late discovery. It is astonishing how many of us have succumbed to the passion for economic growth for and by itself. We have been mesmerised by the league tables of national achievement, in spite of the fact that the figures are always false—false because nothing can be included in them except what can be reckoned on a machine. When an increase in the volume of production and services is obtained at the expense of air and water polluted, noise increased, the countryside despoiled, men and women overcrowded and undervalued, none of that damage enters into the reckoning because the quality of life cannot be reduced to figures. We have got into the habit of abstracting from our picture of reality things which essentially matter, and now we must try to put them back.
I cannot feel that the social objectives which I have described should have much to do with Party politics. I say that because we have reached a stage in the revolution brought into our lives by science and technology when no Government can do what they want to do, what they ought to do, unless the present trend towards social irresponsibility is reversed. So far, no one has been very successful. Now it is our duty to try again. We cannot be content to live in a community where a young man frequently earns a bigger income and feels a smaller person, and then takes the loss of his personal identity out on society.
Your Lordships will know, as I do, of thoughtful people who fear that the power of the machines has already grown too great to be defeated. Certainly our society is under a threat which is new in history. Men who used to be frightened of the irrational powers of nature are now frightened of the irrational powers of their own creations. This is a very formidable challenge, but I refuse to believe that we cannot rise to it. With patience, courage and Christian charity we can make things better.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, I should first like to congratulate the younger Members sitting opposite who have now 172 attained the high office of the Front Bench. I expect it will be a good many years before they can attain the dexterity in debate and the experience in the political sphere of their older colleagues who sit on their right-hand side. At all events, we wish them well in their office and I hope not only that they will find it interesting, but that it will help them to develop their personalities somewhat on the lines that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. has mentioned.
Perhaps I may also presume to congratulate him on the nature of his speech. It was the kind of speech of which we have had too little, both in Parliament and out of it. There has been a tendency, particularly in industry, to regard such subjects as rather external to the responsibilities of those who are engaged in the management and direction of industry. I am quite certain that what the noble Viscount said will to a great extent have an echo from these Benches. Indeed, one can say without presumption that the Labour movement, many years before this subject became one of topicality, was plugging away at the importance of safeguarding and developing the personality of the individual in the modern soulless automation that we see developing around us in industry.
I want to refer in my remarks exclusively to industrial relations, and to the brief note in the gracious Speech which indicates that the Government intend to introduce into Parliament in this first Session Bills dealing with industrial relations. We had a two-day debate on this subject about a year ago. Unfortunately, I was absent from the country at the time and was unable to take part in that debate, but I have read the various speeches with diligence and, I hope, understanding. I think that the tone of the debate and the informed character of the speeches reflects very well on the capacity of Members of this House. The urgency at that time was the White Paper which had been published by the Labour Government, In Place of Strife, in which was made, I think, the most comprehensive survey of the major problems which were likely to emerge in the few years ahead.
I wish I had been present at that debate, because I should have used what slight influence I have to try to secure, a better understanding in the Labour 173 movement of the value of many of the proposals in the White Paper to the movement as a whole. One could not help feeling that the reception of that White Paper was broadly in character with the trade union movement as a whole. The unions have never wanted, at any time in their career, interference, as they would regard it, or intervention from a Governmental source, mainly because they firmly believe that Governments do not convey advantages to the trade union movement without there being some strings to them somewhere or other. It is that kind of suspicion which has on many occasions bemused clear thinking on the policy of the trade union movement. Reading that debate, undoubtedly a good deal of sterling work had been done by Members of this House in studying the affairs of modern industry and the developments of the trade union movement, and I must say that some of the speeches read, as no doubt they smelled, very much of midnight oil.
The paragraph in the gracious Speech dealing with this subject is necessarily rather vague. One could not expect very much else. There is not the space in the gracious Speech to expatiate on the various intentions of the Government in respect of their legislation. So, in order to get some kind of understanding of what the Government have in mind, we are driven to the speeches of the leaders of the Conservative Party and, in particular, to the Conservative Manifesto in the recent Election. I have taken a short extract from it:We will introduce a comprehensive Industrial Relations Bill in the first Session of the new Parliament. It will provide a proper framework of law within which improved relationships between management, men and unions can develop. We welcome the T.U.C.'s willingness to take action through its own machinery against those who disrupt industrial peace by unconstitutional or unofficial action. Yet it is no substitute for the new set of fair and reasonable rules we will introduce. We aim to strengthen the official unions and their official leadership by providing some deterrent against irresponsible action by unofficial minorities.I think most of your Lordships know that I had a sustained experience and association over many years with the Trades Union Congress and with my own union, the Electrical Trades Union, and I could endorse almost the whole of what I have read to your Lordships. But sentiments, however laudable, are ultimately 174 judged by the action which flows from them. And, taking those words at their face value, I think they are very encouraging and show breadth of view, but we shall be able to judge that matter when we see the legislation itself.
Meanwhile, I think we can offer some thoughts about the subject, which are in the nature of broad comments. The purpose or aim, it is said, is to strengthen the official movement. Most of us are aware that for three years prior to the publication of the document, A Fair Deal at Work, the Conservative Party had been hard at work; and, frankly, when one read in that document what was expected to result, one wondered whether in fact it could be said that there would be any real strengthening of the trade union movement. I am not going to read any part of that document. It is very lengthy, although I think in another sense: commendably concise; but there was a big field to cover. So I will content myself with reading a summary of it from a leading article in The Times dated July 3, 1970. That says:Fair Deal at Work proposes immunities only for registered unions, that the unions could be deregistered if they failed to comply with guidelines about their rules, that as a corollary of an employer's obligations to recognise a union he should have the right to say which union an employee should be in, and that a trade dispute should be defined to exclude sympathetic strikes (or lock-outs), inter-union disputes, strikes to enforce a closed shop, and strikes against employment of certain categories of labour ('dilution')"—dilution of labour, in other words.
Frankly, I cannot see very much in that which is likely to do other than cause considerable perturbation in the trade union movement. Rather than strengthening any confidence it might have had in the good intentions of the Conservative Party, it seems to operate, so far as I see it, in entirely the opposite direction. Rightly or wrongly, these words represent principles and activities which the trade union movement has been exercising for generations. There is a foreword to this pamphlet by the present leader of the Conservative Party, Mr. Heath, and an explanatory note by the present Minister of Labour, Mr. Carr, showing that they broadly endorse what it contains. It will not increase the workers' confidence in the regard which those gentlemen have for the trade union movement. I am rather sorry about 175 that, because for some years I have regarded Mr. Carr, in particular, as a man of objective speech who is earnestly trying to make some constructive contribution to the solution of the difficult labour problems with which that Ministry has had to deal.
I cannot say that I have detected on the part of any trade union any measure of gratitude for these proposals. I cannot ever remember a phrase from any one which gives me the impression that they regard them as laudable; and I think it is a natural thing that they should regard the direction of these phrases—I will not say every one of the proposals, but the general direction—as an attack upon the liberties that the trade unions have hitherto enjoyed. Even in regard to the White Paper, In Place of Strife, as I have already said, the trade unions were very reluctant to accept anything in the way of legal restraints. Certain proposals which involved some measure of restraint—in very difficult economic circumstances, by the way—came from the Party that the trade union movement, more than any other single body, had helped to create. So it could hardly be expected that they would take measures of an infinitely more restrictive character from a Party which in the past has not been prominent for the concern that it has shown legislatively for the trade union movement.
My Lords, it happens to be the truth that whenever Parliament has passed a measure arising from grievances, or communal disturbances, or public demand in the industrial world, or something of the kind, when that measure in the form of law gets into the law courts the lawyers and the judges, with great dexterity, succeed in finding interpretations for language which up to that time nobody has even dreamed of. In the Rooke v. Barnard case, for example—which I do not propose to pursue; all this can come later—who would have dreamed that the giving of notice of an impending dispute, even though the dispute would have been in breach of contract, would have formed "intimidation" in the sense that the ordinary man understands the word. The decision in that case cost the union concerned a considerable amount of money and it required an Act of Parliament to set that position right—to restore something 176 which had been regarded as one of the liberties of the movement for generations.
Trade union history shows beyond any question that the law courts, in dealing with the trade union movement, invariably restrict what Parliament has passed. Normally there has been public inquiry before legislation has been entered into. The only exception that I can think of is the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927, which was brought in by a Conservative Government without any inquiry at all from any public body verging on impartiality. That Act dealt not only with the alleged need for it—namely, the strike of 1926—but brought in matters that had nothing whatever to do with the strike: the political levy, for example, and shutting off civil servants from the trade union movement. Yet not one civil servant was called out in that strike and no approach was ever made to them in any shape or form. That Act prevented local authorities, many of them Labour-controlled authorities, from making it a condition of emloyment that a man should belong to a trade union. That had some weird consequences. I will not go into them. Because of the existence of that restriction, it took the Transport and General Workers' Union months, even years, to frame the discipline to deal with recalcitrant members employed by the London Transport Board. In view of that law, non-unionists were allowed to go on working without any kind of hindrance.
My Lords, I think that most of us who sit on these Benches and have had any contact with the trade union movement can understand very well the public feeling in regard to the strikes that have been taking place in the last few years. I cannot remember a time when there have seemed to be so many since 1911 and 1912 when I first came into the movement. I think it cannot be disputed, and I would not wish to dispute it, that there are groups of men employed in industry to-day who use the trade union movement as a vehicle to carry on disruption. It is difficult to prove these things; but even in the Pilkington strike the signs were very clear to me and I am sure they were also clear to my colleagues. Some 95 per cent. of these strikes are not sanctioned by the unions; they are indeed opposed strenuously by the unions. Yet 177 we have a rather curious situation arising. The unofficial strikes are almost invariably in breach of contract: the worker breaks his contract of employment. The employers have full power to sue those people; but I cannot recall a single case in recent years where that power has been utilised. That fact should make people pause when they talk about the efficacy of legal remedies. Why are those powers not used? They are not used for the major reason that the employer knows perfectly well that if he uses remedies of that kind and takes men to the police courts, the consequence will be that they will come back disgruntled and he will fail to get the output and co-operation which he had been accustomed to receive before the dispute.
Very few of these unofficial strikes last for more than a day or two. There have been very bad exceptions, and we are all aware of them, particularly in the docks and the motor industry; and no machinery that can be devised, either by trade unions or by Parliament, is capable of dealing with those disputes in an adequate way by investigation. The men are back at work before any such machiner could be set in motion. That has been shown clearly in the motor industry. So I think that we ought to keep this matter in perspective. The United Kingdom record in respect of strikes of all kinds is one of the best in the world. The United States has five times the number of lost working days per thousand workers. Canada has about the same. In Australia, very largely at the urging of the trade unions who in a new country found it difficult to organise and who looked to Parliament to do the things which the trade unions here do for themselves, they have had arbitration in operation for generations. Even there the strike record is inferior to ours. The lost working days are about doubled per thousand workers in comparison with us. So just let us keep things in sensible perspective.
That is why it puzzles me that anybody could reach the conclusion that the way to deal with unofficial strikes—or one of the ways; it is not the exclusive way—is to make the funds of the central trade union which has opposed the strike and has had nothing to do with it, attachable at law by way of actions for damages. I know that there are qualifications here; 178 but that is broadly the consequence. Agreements are apparently to be made legally binding. While I am aware that there has been some little shift in the mechanism of reaching those agreements, the original intention, as expressed in Fair Deal at Work and in earlier speeches in another place, was to make them binding, whether the unions wanted them to be or not. That is not the position today. There has been a change in that respect, and let us hope that the kind of experience that brings about those changes will be carried a little further with some of the other proposals.
My Lords, during the General Election I could not help admiring both the clarity and the resolution of the speeches of Mr. Heath. He let everybody know what he meant, and he spoke fearlessly. He made it quite clear that, if elected, the Conservative Party would embark on this means of dealing with strikes, lock-outs and other matters in regard to alleged trade union excesses. One is entitled to ask what mandate do a Government require in order to justify them in dealing with a problem in such a drastic way? I took the trouble to look up the votes cast for the respective Parties and the percentages of the total poll that they represent. The Conservatives obtained 46.6 per cent.; the Labour Party 43 per cent. and the Liberals 7.4 per cent. So that if we take the Liberals and the Labour Party together as being at one on this subject of Conservative policy, we are dealing with a minority Government.
My Lords, you may wonder why I say that. Does anybody remember—I suppose that some do—the statement which Mr. Thorpe, the Liberal Leader, made on television one night during the Election? He said that the great disaster would be the return of a Conservative Government, and so presumably he cannot be thought of as supporting restrictive actions like this from a Conservative Government. I say that I do not consider—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, may I interrupt this most interesting and courageous speech that the noble Lord is making? Would he apply his view, that the Conservative Government are a minority Government, to all measures that might be passed by them during the present Parliament?
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, that is a different question, and I will explain 179 why I say that. Here this Government are attacking the liberties, customs and practices of the trade union movement which have been unquestioned for at least 64 years. A Government cannot just sneak that into an Election Manifesto or programme. That is a very serious thing. Of course many times a Government are justified in getting through legislation which their programme has been putting forward for a considerable time, even though that Government may have only a small majority in Parliament. But something of this character will undoubtedly evoke one of the strongest reactions from the working-class of this country that anybody has seen.
I hope that I am regarded as a reasonably moderate man. Whenever I addressed a meeting which had in it a leavening of Communism I was accused of being in the pay of the capitalists—I wish that I had been, but I was not. But I tried to see both sides of the case, naturally. How can a man negotiate with employers unless he sees both sides of the case? I am not saying that his union members always do so, and that is one of the tragedies of affording democratic government in the industrial world. I say, let us see where we are going to get to. Is there to be no compromise at all, no kind of adjustment between the proposals of the Government on the one side, and on the other side the Trades Union Congress resistance? Are they going to have a real clash? There is every sign of it. I wonder why the Conservative Party should be so adamant about pushing this programme. The Donovan Commission sat for three years and made a most thorough investigation into the problem remitted to them, which was mainly in regard to the scene in industry; industrial relations, and so on. The Commission contained four Members of your Lordships' House. Its Chairman, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, is also a Member of this House. I cannot remember the Commission endorsing one of the proposals put forward by the Conservative Party in this programme. There may have been one, possibly that on making the unions into corporate bodies. They may have skated round that a bit, but certainly there was nothing in the way of endorsement.
180 The noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, tried to correct the feeling, so easily generated, that by legal means you can, as it were, solve these problems. I took down a quotation from him. He said on March 18, 1969:We considered carefully whether collective bargains should be made into binding contracts whatever the wishes of the parties, and we rejected the idea. The reasons are set out at length in the Report and they have never been refuted, not even tonight by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne—I hope that the noble and learned Viscount does not regard this as a breach because I did not notify him that I was going to read from Lord Donovan's speech—or the noble Lord, Lord Conesford.Lord Conesford has just escaped. He is such a diligent attender and knowledgeable on this subject—but, never mind, he can read it.The objections are partly technical and partly practical. The technical objections are that these bargains are struck at a number of levels, from industry level down to the shop floor. The last named are almost always oral, and they are always fragmented; and no judge could get the clear and unambiguous account of the agreement which he must have if he is to enforce it.A little later the noble and learned Lord said this—and I shall read no more than this:Accordingly, to go on representing to the nation that a solution to our problems in the industrial field lies in making collective agreements legally enforceable, while at the same time ignoring all the attendant difficulties and the lack of reason, is not merely misleading but has become tiresome."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18/3/69, col. 848–850.]Yet, my Lords, is it not true that that is precisely what is being said publicly? Certainly, a man like Mr. Carr, for example, does not use immoderate language. He knows very well that there is no overnight solution to this problem. He knows that there is no single solution; he has said so in the debates in Parliament. It is a long job. It may take years to get a substantial change of attitude in industry in regard to measures of this kind; and if there is any attempt to force them through, I am perfectly certain that we are in for a first-class industrial struggle.
Such measures have not worked in other countries where determined opposition has arisen. We should try more 181 conciliation in this matter and not coercion. We should try persuasion and not penalties. Do not forget that there are 9 million people in the T.U.C. and, with the other organisations outside, the figure is probably brought up to nearly 10 million. These people are British people who are just as much opposed to coercion as anybody in your Lordships' House. They value the liberties they have enjoyed; and if on occasions they have gone to excess, let us examine the thing to fee whether there is any common-sense remedy which all the parties would feel was fair and equitable. I would hope that something of that kind would emerge.
Mr. Carr has been urging co-operation; he has already approached the T.U.C. and had preliminary conversations. As I have said, he says that there is no sovereign remedy to this problem. It is a matter of years and not months—those latter words are not his, but he has said them in another connection. I hope that I am not boring your Lordships by posing as an authority. I said here on one occasion that I am an authority on nothing; the more I see of life, the more I realise that somebody knows a great deal more about something or other upon which I think that I am an expert.
Some years ago I said in this House that what we were trying to do in these hurried years was to revolutionise collective bargaining. When we think of the struggles to alter a line or a comma in a trade union rule, we begin to realise what that implies. To revolutionise collective bargaining is precisely what is being done. The Donovan Commission has now made a complete turn-round from the system of fifty years ago. Collective bargaining is now to take place in the workshops, in the factories and in the mines. In other words, instead of having two or three agreements covering an industry, we are to have perhaps hundreds. And I ask myself all the time: where is the staff and the money coming from to operate a system of that kind? So I urge those of the Conservative Parly who have influence in their ranks to reflect over this and not perhaps imagine that it is possible by force of law to compel millions of people to give up their birthrights.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, before the noble 182 Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he would not agree that all we are asking the unions to do is to accept what is common practice in every other civilised industrial country in the world? We are only asking the unions, if they make an agreement, to honour it.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, does the noble Viscount allege that the trade unions break their agreements?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
Yes, my Lords, they do break them in their unofficial strikes. It is always possible to control your own members.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, tell me of one case. I have heard these stories before. Certainly we do not argue that the men in the workshop keep their agreements in any regular way. They will break them, and we have to find out what is the provocation when that happens. We have to fine out what has happened in management for things to come to that pass. Do not try that. It will not go down.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, the duty of the unions is to make their members keep their agreements. That is what the unions are there for.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, is the noble Viscourt able to state one single case? If he cannot do so at the moment, perhaps he may be able to do so when he speaks later in the debate.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, if I may intervene in time to prevent physical violence, when I listened to the conclusion of our debate last night I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for whose persistence I have always had the greatest admiration, seemed perfectly ready to fight the General Election all over again. This afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in spite of his initial disavowal of wishing to do so, has done his best to fight the last three General Elections all ova again. I wish so much that both noble Lords had been given an opportunity of appearing on TV. in the recent Election campaign. If they had done so, I think that their Party would have had a very much better chance of success.
183 I am one of those very few people who thought, quite wrongly, almost up to the last moment that the late Government would not choose to dissolve the late Parliament six weeks ago, and I have always had the strongest suspicion, which I would not have dared to confess to your Lordships if it had not also been expressed last week in a number of letters to The Times from a number of learned men who know far more than do about human psychology, that a few of the sample voters, deliberately or sub-consciously, might perhaps have misled the pollsters because they wanted certain things which have happened since to happen quickly.
May I say to the noble Lords opposite, to the noble Lords, Lord Shepherd and Beswick, and to all their friends, that I think that the Labour Government did a great many good things, for which I have always done my best to give them credit. But I think that the best thing they ever did was to give the electors an opportunity of getting rid of them ten months sooner than they need have done. I have never been very fond of Party politics, either historically or in our own time, because I think that they have so often channelled Parliamentary criticism into a few narrow streams which have not always flowed in the right direction and all of which have been apt to get clogged and stale.
I was a member of the last Conservative Government for six years, from 1958 to 1964. I always listened attentively to what was said by noble Lords opposite, and I often felt that I agreed with them. I often felt that they were right when they told us that we were not really doing very well, with our 3.8 per cent. annual economic growth, with our 350,000 unemployed, with our terribly frustrating alternation of Stop and Go, with our rise in the cost of living, which went up something like 14 per cent. in six years, and with our intermittent balance-of-payments difficulties.
For the next six years, from 1964 to 1970, I equally enjoyed hearing the same noble Lords from the Government Bench telling us how wonderfully well they were doing, with their annual growth rate of 2.2 per cent., with 500,000 unemployed, with their exhilarating alternation of 184 Stop and Stop, with their increase in the cost of living of 25 per cent. in six years and with the wonderful miracle of the 1970 trade surplus, which is very nearly one-third of the outstanding short-term debts which the late Government had to borrow in order to carry on.
The present Leader of the Labour Party used to be very fond, last time he was in Opposition, of referring to the reports of the Organisation for European Co-operation and Development, which always used to tell us how much Britain was lagging behind in comparison with other members. I do not think I have heard him mention the last report of O.E.C.D. in May, which told us that not only are we at the bottom of the list but, if things go on as they are now, by 1980 Great Britain will be the poorest of all the 22 free nations who are members of this Organisation.
All this makes Party politics often seem a little dull to me. At every political meeting one is asked how we are going to get the money to make up for S.E.T. when we abolish it, and it is so tedious to have to reply every time that the difference between Conservative growth and Labour Party growth has amounted to £12,000 million and that the previously existing taxes on this would have produced far more revenue than S.E.T., which has itself contributed so heavily to the decline in our economic growth. The need for more economic growth is a thing which affects all of us in every Party, and I do not think that the decline that has taken place is due to the fact that the Labour Party followed a fundamentally different policy from the Conservatives: they followed basically the same policy. But I think that our economy has declined because the Labour Party have done far more of those things which the Conservative Government ought not to have done, but did, and the Labour Government have left undone far more of those things which the Conservative Government ought to have done, but did not.
When Samuel Butler quoted this passage from the Prayer Book, instead of adding, "There is no health in us", he said: "I have done the things that I ought not to have done; I have left undone the things I ought to have done, and I am very well, thank you." I hope that noble Lords opposite are feeling fine 185 and fit and in good health. But I think that the new Government, if they want to put things right, will not only have to revise a few things done by the Labour Government, but will have to revise quite a number of things which all political Parties have more or less taken for granted since 1945, some of which were listed clearly in a leading article in The Times on Monday, June 29, entitled "1945 and 1970".
For one thing, there is the need to revise the perpetuation of war-time taxation. For another, there is the need, I think, to revise the imbalance of our non-contributory social services between their expense and the actual benefit which is received by the people who need that benefit, most particularly in the case of housing. As for trade unions, what I think should be done is to try to get what the great majority of the trade unions want; that is, to find the best method of enabling them to get the most satisfactory and reliable bargains. I would add another t ling which needs to be revised, but which may take a good deal longer, and that is the need to demand a greater degree of efficiency in the nationalised industries, so that they may be able to borrow in the open market what they require for their capital expansion instead of having to get all of it below the line in the Budget. All these things need radical treatment, and a radical policy is often carried out much better by a Conservative Government than by any Government of the Left.
I do not think that we should hurry the Government. It would not be reasonable to expect them to frame any of their policies before the autumn, although of course in the autumn the present rip-roaring wage inflation which is going on will have become much more evident, and probably much more damaging than it is now. But I do not think that we should expect them to be ready with their proposals before the autumn. I would only ask them not to repeat too often that they are "closely watching" proposed price increases in the public sector, because this might give the impression that Her Majesty's Government are composed of men who are more of a contemplative than of an active disposition, which I am sure is not really the case.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is not now in the Chamber. I was going to ask 186 leave to conclude with one point that he mentioned. After his very long lament about the cruel distortion of his Party's policy he did make a constructive reference to the development areas. He claimed that his Party had done a lot for them, and with that I fully agree: I think that they have followed up our policy very well. I criticised the late Conservative Government in 1956 for slowing down on special areas, which I think was a mistake. After that they did, in my view, find the right answer. My noble friend Lord Eccles was the Minister who brought in the Local Employment Bill in 1960, and I think that" that, together with Mr. Maudling's 1963 Budget, started a great momentum in the development areas which has not yet come to an end. The Labour Government tried to carry that on and improve it.
But there was one point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that I must take up. I quite understand the reasons for investment grants, but I honestly believe that 100 per cent. depreciation and investment tax allowances do far more practical good, and produce far more of the results which we desire, than do investment grants. That, I think, is the test by which we should judge them. In regard to the regional employment premiums which he mentioned, I do not know enough about Cammell Lairds to deal with one particular industry like that, but I am not at all sure that regional employment premiums are producing over the development areas as a whole any very valuable results. I shall not say anything about the growth points in Scotland, because I understand that there may be a debate on Scottish industry next week. But if I may use a metaphor from aerial warfare, I think that what we need in the special areas is more intensive precision bombing and not so much scattered area bombing as we have now.
The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, was very right when he said that economic growth is not everything that matters in life. But economic growth does matter to a great many spiritual things, too. It is most urgent at the present moment, and one reason why it is urgent is that the gigantic economic power of the United States, which has eclipsed the rest of the Free World for 30 years, cannot by itself sustain the Free World for very much longer. The reason why it is so urgently necessary to increase our economic 187 growth, as we hope to do, and as we ought to have done long ago, in conjunction with the other nations of Europe, is that other kinds of freedom—the four freedoms of President Roosevelt—depend so much upon it: not only the freedom from want, which obviously does, but also the freedom from fear, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. It is not a piece of patriotic declamation; it is a piece of practical truth, in my view, that if there is to be freedom in this world then you must have a strong Britain.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, hitherto we have discussed one aspect of the matters which are for discussion to-day. I want to break away for a time and speak on the other aspect, housing. I know that it is considered rather more pedestrian and dull than discussing the economic situation, but it is down for discussion, and I propose to say something about it. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, began his remarkable and non-controversial speech by saying that the object of this Government—it should be the object of all Governments; and it was of the late Government—is to improve the quality of life. I can think of no better and important way of improving the quality of life than by providing good homes for our people. That is why I have chosen to say something about this subject.
I am bound to say, without wishing to be too controversial, that the language and the public comments on this subject in the gracious Speech, and by speeches from members of the Party opposite, give rise to apprehension. The paragraph in the gracious Speech relating to housing gives no evidence that the Government really understand the nature and size of the housing situation—in fact quite the contrary. The remarks they make about housing are simply that they will provide accommodation for old people and for the homeless; but it is a far, far bigger problem than that.
I am afraid that every Government have habitually underestimated the size and nature of our housing problem. The Conservative Party greatly underestimated it, and although my own Party did not underestimate it quite so much, nevertheless they still did so. The housing problem is an enormous one, and I venture 188 to say that at least a quarter of our people are living in unsatisfactory housing conditions. If the present Government can acclimatise themselves to recognising that, then one will have some hope that we shall find a solution. We must not be content until every family and every individual has a separate home, with all modern amenities, if they so desire it. This will take a tremendous amount of effort and a long time. But first we have to realise the size of the problem; and, as I have already said, I am afraid that the present Government have not yet realised it and, judging by the gracious Speech, regard the problem merely as one of providing homes for the aged and for those who are homeless.
The Minister of Housing made a "splash" the other day by visiting a house in Brixton, and he found that there were 32 people living in it. I do not know whether that came as a great shock or surprise to him: he can find that state of affairs in every great city in this country. He went to Brixton, but if he went to Liverpool, Glasgow or any other of these great cities, he would find conditions just as bad, and sometimes worse. He happened to hit on a house which was occupied by coloured people; I could refer him to a great many houses in London occupied to the same intensity by white people.
My own view is that to-day there is probably a need for 2 million new houses. Judging by the speeches made during the Election campaign (though I do not want to dwell too much on that) from members of the Party opposite, they seem to think that we already have a sufficiency of houses in many parts of the country. This is utterly untrue: I challenge them to find any area in the country where there is a sufficiency of houses. Speaking with some knowledge and experience in these matters, I would say that we need to-day 2 million extra houses of the right standard and quality.
In addition, we must remember that the population is growing by something like 200,000 persons a year, or (shall we say?) roughly 50,000 to 60,000 families, and these have to be provided for as well. Many houses are becoming disused, being demolished to make room for new roads or other public services, and many more are coming to the end of their useful lives. Therefore, in addition to the 2 million houses that I say we 189 need, we probably require another 100,000 houses a year to provide for the growth of population, and to compensate for the demolition, for various other causes, of existing houses.
Then at the present time there is no flexibility. We talk of moving the population from one area to another because there is 10 work in their existing area. New industries are growing up, but houses are not: being provided in the same proportion. When a family move from one area to another more often than not they have the greatest difficulty in finding any kind of accommodation at all. There ought to be a margin available for removals of this kind.
The slum problem, too, has been grossly underestimated. We are talking of clearing some 40,000 slum houses a year, but at this rate it would take a generation before we get rid of the existing slum; and, of course, new slums are being created, through neglect, and through the age of the houses, every year. I am not saying this in any patronising way; this is my firm, honest advice to the Government: they should look at this housing question seriously and try to get a survey of what the needs are. No Government have done that up to now; they have merely relied on reports from the local housing authorities. But the Government should get a survey of the housing needs of the country and then prepare a programme accordingly.
In addition to the slum houses there are a very large number of houses which are coming to the end of their useful lives, which are in multiple occupation and where the facilities and conveniences are quite inadequate. Most of what we regard to-day as essential amenities are lacking in those houses. Again there is tremendous scope for dealing with them. In the past, comparisons have been made by each Government with the number of houses built by previous Governments. I submit that, looking at the figures by themselves, the number of houses built during the term of office of one Government and of another is quite irrelevant. What has to be considered is the type of houses that were built, and the places where they were erected. I imagine that in the calculations for which the Conservative Government took credit there were a large number of luxury flats which were built, as I happen to know, in Bournemouth and which were idle for 190 some two years. I am not at all sure that they are fully occupied to-day. If you count those as part of the housing pool you are misleading the public, because that it not a provision which is of much value to the community.
The standard of housing is another matter. Here we have to bear in mind that houses are built to last seventy, eighty or a hundred years—three generations. In spite of the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, we are priding ourselves on an improving standard of living. People are better off to-day than they were ten or twenty years ago. Among the things they are entitled to demand is a higher standard of housing; and they will demand it. The houses we are building to-day will be quite inadequate in ten, twenty or thirty years' time.
I remember that in 1934 I became chairman of the housing committee of the London County Council. The Conservative majority lad built a large number of houses in different parts of London and outside, but the great majority of them were without bathrooms and without many of the facilities which people, even at that lime, required. One of my first tasks was to take those houses—there were something like 50,000 at that time—and improve them up to the then standards. I submit that the Government even to-day, unless they are bold enough to look ahead and build to standards which the public will demand in the years to come, will be making the same mistake as was made by the Conservative majority of the London County Council a generation or more ago.
Some years ago Mr. Parker Morris, the former Town Clerk of Westminster, was chairman of a committee which laid down certain minimum standards for housing, known as the Parker Morris standards. They were a great advance on what we have been doing up to now, but I have no doubt that in only ten years' time they will be regarded as inadequate. I wonder whether the present Government will be courageous enough to look beyond that period and build houses which the community in ten, twenty or thirty years' time will be demanding. Otherwise, they will be creating a great store of trouble, either for themselves or for some future Government.
I want to turn now to home ownership, to which the only reference in the gracious 191 Speech is to say that it "will be encouraged". That is all very well, but how it is going to be encouraged we do not know; and I do not expect the Government to tell us today. But we have been told, and told by a great many speakers during the Election and before, that people living in municipal houses will be encouraged to buy their own homes. That is utterly wrong and would be a fundamental mistake. It is proposed that the people concerned should have advances of up to 100 per cent. of the cost of the house. I do not know the kind of figure the Government have in mind which people would be expected to pay for municipal houses, but, to take the case of London, which I know, the probability is that the market value of a three-bedroomed house of this kind is about £5,000. If an occupier were to take an advance of 100 per cent., repayable over 20 years, he would have to pay about £550 a year, plus rates and the cost of upkeep of the house. That might be for his lifetime and possibly for that of his children—not a very attractive proposition. When the Greater London Council invited tenants to apply for the purchase of houses, only one half of 1 per cent. were interested enough to make application to obtain particulars. How many of those proceeded, when they came to realise what they were up against, I do not know; I should imagine, very few.
This is not a means of providing money for local authorities. If local authorities are going to make 100 per cent. advances they will be no better off at the end of the day than they were before. Certainly the tenant, who today is paying perhaps up to £5 a week in rent and will in future have to pay £550 a year, together with the cost of the upkeep of the house for which he will be responsible (whereas at present the local authority has that responsibility), will find no attraction in what is proposed. I therefore hope that the Government will have second thoughts about encouraging local authorities to dispose of houses which were built partly out of public funds, with subsidies, and were intended as homes for people who needed them.
In London there is still an enormous number of people on the housing lists who need homes. Indeed, the Government 192 themselves have stated that there are some thousands of homeless people and a good many people living in temporary accommodation. Surely it would be much better to use the houses I am referring to to provide these people with homes than to sell them to existing tenants. In case anyone is going to be tempted to buy such a house for resale, there is said to be a condition attached to the sale, which may or may not be enforceable, that there must not be a resale for five years. So, from the point of view both of the local authority and of the purchaser, this is not a good proposal and I hope very much that the Government will rather give encouragement to private enterprise to build houses of this type. I should not object (I do not know what my Party would say) if they gave some kind of financial assistance.
Furthermore, bodies are in existence to-day which have been encouraged by various Governments to do work of just this kind—the housing associations. We have not given them enough encouragement. I happen to be chairman of one, and it is a heartbreaking job to get any help from this Government, as it was from the last. If they were to be further encouraged, there is tremendous scope for further house building from this quarter. As your Lordships know, they work without profit and members of the associations are usually not paid, so the associations can afford to provide houses on the best possible terms.
I now turn to the intention in the gracious Speech to repeal the Land Commission. I suppose that the Party opposite have a constitutional objection to the collection of betterment levy. The Land Commission made a slow start—I will not say a bad start, but a slow start. They had to begin from scratch and to build up an organisation, and had to learn their job. There were difficulties. One mistake made was to try to collect betterment levy from the smallest transactions. Even if a person made only a few hundred pounds on the sale of a house, it was proposed that he should pay a betterment levy. Of course it was not worth while, and at a later stage the Government decided that certain exemptions should be made; and that reduced the work by a substantial amount.
However, I am sure that the principle is right, and I say that feelingly because 193 the Conservative Government in 1950 repealed the Town and Country Planning Act measures which provided for a levy on profits made by the sale of houses, and so on. They are now proposing to do it again. The advantage of the Land Commission is not merely that it collects a betterment. Last year it collected £20 million and it was thought that in two or three years' time that figure would rise to £80 million—a not inconsiderable contribution, and why the Government should want to repeal the Land Commission Act I cannot imagine. But the even greater value of the Land Commission is that it is able to acquire land extending over substantial areas beyond local government boundaries and dispose of that land for house building and for other purposes on a scale which local authorities could not do because it is outside their own area. I am sure that this service that the Land Commission is capable of rendering is a valuable one.
If the Government think that the Act requires improvement, nobody would object to any reasonable improvements that they might seek to introduce; but to abolish it altogether is quite wrong and would leave an owner of land who happens fortuitously to get a planning consent to profit out of all proportion to the service that he may have rendered. A piece of land which may be worth £500 or £600 an acre as ordinary farmland may become worth £5,000 an acre—ten times the former price—and the owner is entitled to take the whole of it without having rendered any service. Surely this money ought to go to the community as a whole.
My Lords, in the absence of more detailed information of the Government's proposals it is admittedly a little difficult to say much on this subject, but I have uttered a warning as to the kind of mistakes that the Government look like falling into. One is the sale of municipal houses, another is the repeal of the Land Commission Act, and the other is an under-estimate of our housing needs. I fear also that there is a danger of reducing standards. Even the Labour Government did not quite reach the standard laid down in the Parker Morris Report. That Report laid down a minimum of over 1,000 square feet as the area of a house. The Labour Government reduced it to something like 900 square feet, 194 although that was an improvement on what their predecessors had done.
It is perhaps a little premature to condemn the Government for speeches that they made during the Election, which naturally were somewhat exaggerated, but we shall watch closely the proposals that come forward. Speaking for myself, I promise them that where they put forward reasonable proposals for improving the standard of life of our people physically, they will have my approval While I know that the noble Viscount. Lord Eccles, will look after the spiritual side (and I can think of no one better on his side of the House to do that) we do need physical comforts as well, and, as I have said, a quarter of our houses are lacking in them. Nevertheless, I am bound to say that the indications so far given to us by the gracious Speech and by Ministers' statements are not promising. They seem to be more concerned with destruction than construction, and we shall watch closely their activities in the housing field.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ LORD COTTESLOE
My Lords, I shall not presume to try to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, into the broad fields of economic policy, nor the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, into the field of industrial relations, on which he speaks with so much authority. The gracious Speech refers to improving the social services and the environment in which we live, and those are words with which we must all be wholeheartedly in unison. I shall content myself with referring briefly to two particular facets of them.
The first is the Arts, of which my noble friend Lord Eccles has spoken so eloquently. While I find it disappointing to see in the gracious Speech no specific reference to encouraging the Arts, we may rejoice that the new office of Paymaster General, with special responsibility for the Arts—if that is its correct description—has been placed in hands as sympathetic and understanding as they are capable, and we wish my noble friend Lord Eccles every success in what is essentially a non-Party assignment. For non-Party—or rather all-Party—it is. I am second to none in my admiration for the energy and enthusiasm—an enthusiasm warmly infectious—of the Minister of State for the Arts in the last Government. For all that Miss Jennie Lee did 195 to increase the awareness of the public for the Arts, for her skill in extracting money from the Treasury in difficult times, for what she did to expand the regional associations for the Arts that were begun under a previous régime, we are all in her debt. It was a splendid achievement. But to suggest, as I have seen it suggested, that previous Governments had done nothing, or next to nothing, and that the last Government did everything, is of course a travesty of the truth. It was a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer who once said to me that he could give more pleasure to more people by a relatively small allocation to the Arts than by a vastly greater expenditure in any other field; and he acted accordingly.
I should like to give your Lordships a single example of a typical operation in the field of the Arts to which both Parties have fully contributed. I refer to the building of the National Theatre on the South Bank that is now in progress. It was the farsighted vision of a Socialist Leader of the London County Council, Sir Isaac Hayward, that led to the provision of a site on the South Bank; it was a Conservative Chancellor, Selwyn Lloyd, who set up a Commission to design and build the theatre. The physical work on the site was initiated by a Socialist Minister of State and a Conservative Leader of the Greater London Council, shovelling concrete in unison side by side. Incidentally, I do not doubt that that building will go forward to its completion in 1973, being helped and encouraged by the new Paymaster General.
The Arts are in fact an aspect of our environment, vital to the wellbeing of any civilised society, that all political Parties are pledged to help and encourage. But there are, naturally and inevitably, differences of emphasis and of method. I am without doubt, for example, that the new set-up with, if I understand it correctly, an independent Minister in charge, instead of a subordinate Minister of State tucked away in a corner of the vast Department of Education and Science, is the better in principle. The former arrangement did work, and it worked very well, by virtue of the exceptional qualities of Miss Lee. Under another Minister it might have been a different story. The new arrangement puts the new Minister in a stronger 196 position, and incidentally he is a Minister with qualities no less exceptional.
I hope my noble friend may perhaps approach some of the problems of the Arts from a somewhat different angle, with rather less emphasis on just handing out money—though I am sure he will go on doing that—and more on encouraging and enabling people to help themselves; more on fostering the springs of private patronage, with less emphasis on spreading the butter everywhere, however thinly; more on encouraging quality, even if sometimes at the expense of quantity. This modern age produces some curious manifestations in the Arts, as in other fields. However surprising they may be to some of us, if they are an expression of sincere emotion and thought, of creative vision deeply felt, they are deserving of encouragement. If, as so often they seem to be, they are mere exhibitionism or charlatanry, or plagiarism, they do not.
I hope that my noble friend will re-think some of the practical problems. I do not myself, for instance, see why the public, who in great and increasing numbers enjoy our museums and galleries, should not make some small contribution to their upkeep when they do so, as is done in nearly every other country in the world. I should hope that in some way it may be made possible for those who are so disposed to give generously to the Arts themselves, by some system of tax relief, perhaps analogous to that operated in the United States. A system under which the springs of their goodwill are seized by the Treasury and dispensed by the Government, so that the Government is virtually the only source of patronage, cannot be a healthy one. After all, the great flowering of the Arts in this country and in Northern Europe in the eighteenth century was made possible only by widespread private patronage, and enlightened private patronage on a princely scale. I hope that perhaps a long-stop, which is much overdue, may be created to ensure that we can keep in this country the major items in our unequalled national heritage of works of art. But whether or not my noble friend may choose to follow any or all of these ideas—and there are many others he may think fit to pursue—I am sure that we all wish him every success and every happiness in his new assignment.
197 I should like now to turn for a moment to another and very different facet of the environment in which we live, the Health Services. Here again we have to welcome in this House a new Minister, my noble friend Lord Aberdare, and wish him every success. And I think we must all at the same time wish to express our warm admiration for the conspicuous sincerity and ability that his predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, gave to the thorny problems of the Health Service, and particularly for the warm humanity that she brought to the needs of the young and the old and all those who suffer from permanent disability of any kind.
The health service have lived in difficult and unsettling times in recent years, with Green Papers and Reports of various kinds showered upon them, and the prospect of a very major reorganisation of the administration of the Service: a reorganisation that would altogether sweep away the executive councils, the regional hospital boards, the boards of governors, the hospital management committees, the local authorities' domiciliary services—would sweep away in fact the whole of the existing system and would replace it by entirely new councils and authorities designed to administer a comprehensive Health Service on an area and district basis. Everyone is in principle agreed that the idea of a comprehensive district service, the idea of the integration of the three branches of the Service is a good idea. But as the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, pointed out when we discussed the last Green Paper, it is always a good thing when you are making a major change of this kind to be certain before you start that the new organisation will work better than the one you are throwing into the dustbin. The further the working out of the Green Paper proposals is carried, the greater are seen to be the problems that are thrown up; and it now appears to most of us, I think, that they will create more problems than they will solve. The general practitioners, who ought to be the first to welcome proposals for an integrated Service, are unequivocally opposed to the proposals. The local authorities do not like them, and in the field of the hospitals, and particularly the teaching hospitals concentrated in London, there are many problems that appear to be quite insoluble 198 if the exemplary standards of service to the public and of medical education are to be maintained.
In these circumstances, I hope that the Government will rethink this whole matter ab initio, to see whether some other means cannot be devised of bringing about the closer co-ordination of the three branches of the Service that we all want. It would surely be better done by a strengthening of the lateral linkages at all levels that have nearly everywhere been brought into existence informally and spontaneously over the years than by the destruction of the whole system and its replacement by something altogether new. After all, the British genius is not a genius for logic, for formal perfection; it is a pragmatic genius, a genius for making things work. The Health Service has suffered severely from the prospect of sweeping changes, changes that have hung over the heads of everyone who works in it, a great host of devoted men and women. The damage to their morale by the uncertainties of the future is incalculable; they are depressed persons.
I believe that if the Government were now to announce that they will abandon the Green Paper proposals and rethink the whole problem, that they will examine the possibilities of more effectively co-ordinating the three branches of the existing organisation, there would be one great sigh of relief throughout the Service and that the morale of the Service would be overnight raised to a level higher than has been seen in the past five years; and the benefits to the patients and public alike would be incalculable. I hope that the Government in their wisdom may think lit to follow some such course. If they do, they will earn the undying gratitude of the great majority of those many thousands who in one way or another devote their lives to the Health Service.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, it is inevitable that on the debate on the humble Address in reply to the gracious Speech the range should be wide, covering a large area, and I, for one, appreciate what we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe. We know full well his great interest in the two subjects he has tackled this afternoon. He can speak with great authority on both of 199 them, on the Arts and on the Health Service. But he will forgive me, having tried to pay a small tribute, if I do not follow him on that particular line.
It will have been expected that I should start my speech this afternoon by saying how much I enjoyed the speech of my noble friend Lord Shepherd. This was just the sort of speech I was looking forward to at the beginning of a new Parliament. With a change of Government, it was "just the stuff", and I look forward during this Session to many such attacking speeches from this side of your Lordships' Chamber. I do not want to say any more about it. It so happened that I was satisfied with it.
Then I listened to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. With other of my noble friends I want to say how deeply I appreciated the tone of that speech, which was based on a better quality of life. We on this side of the House have always believed in that kind of thing; it has been part and parcel of our Socialist faith. Therefore it is refreshing indeed—although we have a right to expect this from that noble Viscount—to hear such things said from the Front Bench of a Tory Government. I am concerned, in the few remarks I have to make, to see that that better quality of life, and the better opportunity to acquire the better things of life, is given to a section of people who, according to my reading, are to be violently attacked by the new Government.
I want to talk about Commonwealth immigration. It may well be that to-day is not the right day for that; that perhaps to-morrow, when Home Office affairs are discussed, would be the right day. But it struck me that so many of your Lordships would want to talk about Northern Ireland that there would not be much chance to refer to anything else. To be frank, I have always regretted that the debate in both Houses on the humble Address should be divided into compartments. I should much prefer a general debate throughout the four days. I think we could do a lot more good by having such a general debate. In any case, I am quite sure that the question of Commonwealth immigration cannot be divorced from the subjects listed for debate to-day—industrial relations, regional relations, housing. All those 200 subjects bear a close relationship to immigration, because the immigrants to this country are most intimately concerned with all those things. So I do not apologise for raising to-day specifically this question of Commonwealth immigration.
The gracious Speech was not very forthcoming about it. The reference comprised just a few lines:Legislation will be introduced on Commonwealth immigration. More assistance will be provided for areas of special social need, especially those in which large numbers of immigrants have settled.That does not tell us very much. But the Home Secretary told us a lot last Friday in his speech in another place. He was most forthcoming; and what he said endorsed a suspicion that I have had for some time, that the Tory Party have shifted from Commonwealth immigration to coloured immigration. This has been made quite clear in your Lordships' House in recent months.
I think of some of the speeches I have heard in this House on the question of colour allied to immigration. There was a famous ending to a speech when in your Lordships' House an ex-Home Secretary said that in the main he believed we should retain an Anglo-Saxon population in this country. What on earth does that mean? Who are we? Where did we come from? From what nations of the world? From what part of the world? What blood is in our veins for us to claim that we desire to continue as an Anglo-Saxon population? The noble Lord who made that statement is married to a keen Celt, who in her speech in seconding the humble Address did not hesitate to show her pride in the fact that she was a Celt. Now, by the Home Secretary's speech in another place, it is made quite clear that the new legislation will put Commonwealth immigrants on the same footing as aliens.
In passing, let us remember that the figure for alien immigration is 23,000, whereas that for Commonwealth immigration is 4,000. Are we going to bring the Commonwealth immigration figure up to that of the aliens or are we going to reduce the aliens' figures to the Commonwealth immigration figure? Or is there to be a mean somewhere?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, may I intervene, 201 just to say that in his figure of 4,000 for Commonwealth immigrants the noble Lord is forgetting the dependants of the Commonwealth immigrants who come into this country.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, I hope that it is not to be suggested that the dependants should not come in.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, we are not advocating a policy of splitting families, are we? Of course I know of the dependants. But I am talking about the main immigration figure, apart from dependants.
Where are we going from there? Apparently, new immigrants from the Commonwealth will obtain work permits only to work at specific jobs for a specific time in a specific place. Immigrants and their families will not be able automatically to become United Kingdom citizens after residence here for five years, as is the case at present. Perhaps this is an exaggerated illustration, but after three years are we going to say to a probationer nurse from the West Indies who goes to St. Thomas's Hospital, "You have got your S.R.N., but that is not the job you came here for. You came here as a probationer nurse, not as an S.R.N. You had better stay at St. Thomas's as a probationer.'' Is this the kind of thing we are thinking of? It would be a different job, particularly if the person concerned wanted to go to another hospital. Or take the man who comes over as a bus conductor, with a permit to work as a bus conductor, to work at a specific job. Are we ultimately going to say to him: "You have shown some intelligence. You ought to be a driver, or even an inspector. But that is not the job you came to do. You came to be a conductor, and if you change your job we shall have to deport you."? This is what is suggested.
The Home Secretary says that extensions may be considered on merit after a probationary period, but there will be no permanent settlement and dependants will not have a right to come. My Lords, if anything could produce second-class citizens, this is it. It is making them into serfs, never mind second-class citizens; and, according to what is envisaged in 202 the new legislation, deportation faces the man who changes his job. The Home Secretary started his speech last Friday morning in another place by saying:… there must be no first-class and second-class citizens, and no discrimination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 3/7/70; col. 210.]Everything that he suggested following that is a complete contradiction of his opening sentence. What else is it that the anticipated new legislation seems to indicate? Apart from the moral side the new system is impractical. How will the transport be provided to send all these people back to their own countries? What sort of a bill would the taxpayer face for such transport if the immigrants were all sent back because they had changed their job, or changed then-vicinity? What sort of a price is envisaged for that administration?
I am very concerned about the practical aspects, but I am even more concerned about the moral aspects. For centuries these non-white countries have been ruled by Britain; and while we brought, belatedly, education and the other social services, we economically exploited them, let us face it, and United Kingdom citizens who emigrated to those parts lived very well, thank you, during the time they were there. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, and we tell the people of those territories that we do not want them any longer.
The early immigrants, from 1960 onwards, manned our transport and our hospitals; they worked in the export industries, and are still doing so. Now a Tory Government are to say to them: "No moves for you; limited jobs; limited places, and limited time". Their fathers fought for us and worked for us in their own territories, in their lands, and now they are to be aliens, equal with the Italians whose Government fought against us in the war, equal to the Spaniards who supported Nazism. Where is the British conscience? It is a strong statement to make, but I feel that this is a capitulation to Powellism. In their speeches during the Election campaign, and at other times, Tory leaders have carefully tried to repudiate Mr. Powell and the National Front, yet they now propose to introduce legislation to carry out their doctrines. My Lords, the day this Bill is introduced will be a sad day 203 for Commonwealth relations. The non-white countries will see that Commonwealth unity is a farce: arms to South Africa, talks with Rhodesia, the black-hating countries; but no welcome for the black citizens.
Last week one of the National Institutions for Race Relations published an analysis on the economic impact of Commonwealth immigration, and while the authors were careful in their conclusions, they expressed the view that Britain's very moderate rate of growth in productivity since the war has been largely due to a too inelastic labour force. They also concluded that if this is true the potential contribution by new Commonwealth immigrants to the growth of British living standards between 1961 and 1966 could have been substantial. But I think that it has been, and I believe that the new Government have rushed into their proposals for new legislation without due thought for all these factors.
In addition, with the movement of the whole population in Britain out of the towns into the suburbs and the country, it may well be that the immigrant is saving the towns from total housing destruction by living there and maintaining property. Greater thought must be given to the present proposals. There is a difference between Tory and Labour thought; we are not alike. It is a question of an attitude of mind, and I have tried to express it.
THE EARL OF DUDLEY
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord how he reconciles an inelastic labour force with 600,000 unemployed?
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, it certainly is true, is it not, that the people who have been coming from the Commonwealth have filled the places that it was necessary to fill. I have illustrated this in the case of transport, nursing, and so on. Obviously this is where they have come, and where we have been very glad to have them.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? Is the noble Lord not aware that the whole purpose of this piece of proposed legislation is to reduce social tension and the insecurity of new immigrants on entry 204 due to unemployment in the first months of their tenure?
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, that is a wonderful excuse, and it is probably the excuse which the Government will be using. But it just is not true. All the questions which have arisen on the social front, so far as the immigrants are concerned, would have been there with the white population, and would still be there if there were no Commonwealth immigration at all. I am delighted to have had those two questions shot at me; it just shows that I have got under somebody's skin.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, if Question Time is now over, I should like to return to the debate on the Address. This new Government are coming into power faced with a very grave housing problem. It is, in some respects, a deteriorating situation, but it does give to the Government a very great opportunity. If I may give a brief personal anecdote which I think is relevant, in November, 1951, when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and shared a room with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing, Mr. Macmillan came round at the beginning of an all-night Sitting with a whole lot of papers which he asked us to look at, and which were the blue print which had been prepared in order that the Conservative Government should redeem their pledge to build 300,000 houses. As dawn was breaking I took the papers back to Mr. Macmillan and said that I was very impressed by what was going to be done to build houses, but that I thought he was putting the cart before the horse. The first thing that was necessary was to deal with the Rent Restriction Acts.
My Lords, the importance of having a climate of economic rents cannot possibly be exaggerated. The effect of pegging rents to a low level in the private sector is harmful both in the private sector and in the public sector. A large proportion of the owners of working-class dwellings are themselves working-class men, who have not the resources to keep houses in a good state of repair if an economic rent is not paid for the houses they let. Richer men might be able to afford repairs but in most cases they will not be willing to do so unless they receive 205 an economic rent. Low rents in the private sectors bring about bad housing, and simultaneously undercut the rents charged by local authorities. In order to induce people to go into the better and more costly modern housing provided by local authorities, it is necessary to pay very large subsidies out of the taxes and rates.
What I wanted done by the Conservative Government in 1951 was very much what was done by Mr. Crossman in his Rent Act 1965; that is providing machinery for the assessing of fair rents. I had no hesitation about describing the Act, as it was introduced by the Labour Government, as enlightened, just and far-sighted, and I still maintain that the framework of the 1965 Act can go very far to solving the rent problem in this country. There were two criticisms of the Act which we made at the time: that the level of £400 annual value in London and £200 in the country was too high; and that, as the Act was put into operation, it did nothing to introduce fair rents in the case of cheaper controlled properties.
Unfortunately, that Government did not have the courage to face the criticisms of their own supporters in the House of Commons. As was very soon apparent, and as was shown by the statistics published by the Government, in most cases a fair rent was substantially above the rent which was being paid. As the majority of the Labour Party had thought of that Rent Act as being a means of keeping down rents, they were extremely dissatisfied when its effect in many cases—probably in the majority of cases—was to bring about an increase in rents.
It was in that atmosphere of criticism of the 1965 Act and of its machinery for determining fair rent, that two successive Acts were introduced, of which the second was the Act of 1969. The effect of Part I of the 1969 Act was to prevent fair rents as determined by the rent officers, if necessary after appeal to the rent committees, from being put into operation, except gradually. It was obviously an Act which was unfair. Ex hypothesi it prevented the landowners from obtaining a fair rent as determined by the rent officers and the rent committees. In fact, it meant that the tenants were to be subsidised out of the pockets of the landlords. The Act then went on in Part II 206 to impose restrictions upon the increases which local authorities intended to make in the case of council houses.
The first and most urgent need is for the present Government to abrogate the two provisions of the Act of 1969. The Act of 1965, which I have so often commended, contains machinery for exempting from its provisions the more valuable property, and for extending the operation of the rent officers and the rent committees to controlled properties which are at present below the level over which the Act operates. It is essential to use the 1965 Act in the way that I think was originally intended by the Labour Government. Instead of £400 annual value being the limit below which the "fair rents" clause operates in London, the figure should be something like £150; and in the country, instead of £200, something like £75. The figures that were taken by the Socialist Government were completely out of line with the findings of fact of the Milner Holland Committee. If these changes were made—the abrogation of the Act of 1969, and the effective operation of the Act of 1965 in the way that I think was originally intended—they would have the immediate effect of giving encouragement to both the private and the public suppliers of housing.
There is another extremely important reason why action needs to be taken immediately. The valuers have already begun work on assessing the rateable values which are to come into operation in 1973. The rateable value of a property is dependent upon there being a free market, and it is virtually impossible for any valuer to determine the rateable value of a property unless there is a free market. Therefore it is a matter of the utmost urgency that a free market should be re-established in all those categories of housing where there is not such an acute shortage as would enable landlords to exact exorbitant rents, which is the last thing that I want to see done.
I turn now to subsidies, which at present are indiscriminate and excessive. Poorer people in worse accommodation are paying taxes and rates in order to subsidise richer people in better accommodation. I subscribe to a view originally put forward by Mr. Powell, and subsequently referred to with approval by Mr. Crossman, in favour of not paying subsidies in respect of louses, but paying 207 them in respect of those tenants who are not able to pay an economic rent. I feel that, where an idea has been advocated by Mr. Powell and supported by Mr. Crossman, such a consensus of opinion from the two extremes, who have nothing in common, I imagine, except that they were both university Dons, should surely commend itself not only to the Government but also to the country.
My Lords, to bring about this change would mean an immense saving of public money. It would at the same time be just, and be seen to be just, because public money would no longer be paid out except to the needy. I think that the Government should certainly insist on a rent rebate scheme in order to ensure that the very great increase in rents which my proposals would bring about, and are intended to bring about, should not bear harshly upon those in need. It would be unwise at the present time for the Government to dictate to local authorities exactly what schemes of rent rebates they should introduce, but I would say that they would be wise not to give any pledge that at no time in the future will they ever do anything to coerce local authorities. I see the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, sitting on the Opposition Front Bench, and I trust I shall not provoke him unduly if I say that the level of rents in Scotland is so low, and has been criticised by successive Secretaries of State of both Parties, that it may very well be necessary in the fairly near future to bring about an increase in the rents in Scotland of almost 100 per cent.
Local authorities should be encouraged to base their economic rents not on the historic cost of providing the council houses in the past, but on the cost of replacement. In an inflationary age like this, the only possibility of maintaining public housing on a sound basis is to float on top of the existing inflationary tide. It is quite wrong to imagine that an economic rent is being charged in respect of a house that was built before the war when the cost of replacement is going to be three or four times as much.
I venture now to give three warnings to the Government, if I may be so bold. I was sorry to see Mr. Walker referring at considerable length to the desirability of providing public money to facilitate 208 mortgages for the purchase of houses. We all desire to see a property-owning democracy. It was first suggested by the late Mr. Noel Skelton, and other people with less original minds have followed—Lord Avon and the Conservative Party, and, last but not least, Mr. Mellish. Enabling people to buy houses does not in itself add in any way to the stock of houses existing. In fact, it has the effect of keeping up prices. I think an economist would say that if £100 million of public money is provided either by the Government or through local authorities to provide mortgages for the purchase of houses that extra £100 million will go in the value of houses, either increasing them or preventing them from falling.
I beg the new Minister not to worry about the bankruptcies that are now so prevalent among builders. Bankruptcies are a most essential and salutary way of eliminating the inefficient. There are plenty of them among the builders of this country. I had a good deal to do with the building industry when I was Minister of Works and I have never flattered myself that as Minister I was popular with the building industry. I never wished to be. A report was recently issued by the Building Research Station about the efficiency of the building industry and they say that a total of 75 per cent. of building site time is lost and that three-quarters of the lost time is avoidable. Ten per cent. is due to waiting for work or continuity; 16 per cent. to standing chatting; 5 per cent. to smoking; 12 per cent. to excessive labour above requirements; 27 per cent. to voluntary stoppages; and 30 per cent. to late starting, early finishing and exceeding official break times. My Lords, there is nothing very new in that except the actual figures and the detail in this new report from the Building Research Station—which, I need not remind your Lordships, is an official body financed by the Government. I hope that not only the Minister of Housing and Local Government but also the Minister of Public Building and Works will give careful attention to this report. It is on the basis of that report, which in no way surprised me, that I say it would be a mistake for the Government to concern themselves unduly about a large number of bankrupties which, on balance, I believe to be desirable.
209 The Government have promised to abolish selective employment tax, and in particular to do so for the building industry. It would be disastrous, in dealing with that industry, if S.E.T., which amounts to £125 per man per year, were abolished without special steps being taken to (insure that it neither results in unmerited profits nor in unmerited wages. No breakdown of the late Government's incomes and prices policy, with which I had great sympathy, was more regrettable than, the increase of 23½ per cent. in the wages of building operatives over 18 months without any guarantee of increased efficiency. I beg the Government to see to it that, at the same time that selective employment tax on the industry is abolished, there will be a cut in subsidy certainly not less than the total amount of the bonus given to the building industry. I hope that at the same time as that is done in the case of housing, the Ministry of Public Building and Works will impose a squeeze upon the building industry to make certain that excessive profits are not made. In my time we were spending £50 million a year in giving employment to the building industry, and since then the Department has taken over the Army, Air Force and Navy building programmes, so it must now be a great deal more. A customer of that size can impose a squeeze and ensure that excessive margins are not made.
My Lords, I would if I may summarise in a few words my proposals—proposals which I hope will be put into operation in the very near future. First, under the Rent Act of 1965, the more valuable properties to which the fair rents provision applies should be exempted and the fair rents provision should be extended to all rent-controlled property down to the lowest level. That can be done by Ministerial Order within the framework of the Act of 1965. Secondly, I hope that the Rent Act of 1969 will be brought to an end. Part I, which limits the discretion of local authorities, can be terminated by Ministerial Order. Part II continues in operation through 1971 unless it is repealed. But the announcement that these provisions are going to be ended would have an immediate effect in giving encouragement both to local authorities and to private landlords. Thirdly, I would wish them to state that when the building industry is released 210 from the burden of S.E.T. there will be simultaneously a cut in housing subsidies not less than the bonus thereby confirmed.
I recognise that these measures which I advocate are drastic and that at the outset they will be unpopular. A wise Government coming into power, as the late Lord Attlee said, carry through their unpopular measures at the beginning and if they are sound measures they gather the benefits of them before the end. The measures that I have recommended will in the first place check inflation; secondly, save public money; and, I believe, thirdly, they will go far to solving our housing problem in this country within the lifetime of the present generation.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ LORD ALPORT
My Lords, I have already apologised to the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, and I now do the same to my noble friend Lord Sandford in case I am unable to stay until the winding-up speech of this debate. I was not sure upon what day I should try to make my speech. I chose originally yesterday, and I think that probably that was wrong; but I am not even certain whether to-day is the right day owing to the fact that I cannot follow some of the matters which have already been raised by noble Lord who have spoken so far. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and, to-day, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that we on this side of the House could expect resolute opposition during the whole length of this Parliament. I realise that, supported by the serried ranks of Labour Peers who now sit behind them, they feel confident in causing during the course of this Parliament perhaps one or two upsets to the legislative programme of Her Majesty's Government. It may seem an uncharitable and even a disloyal thing if I say that I rather hope that that happens; because nothing could make more certain the reform of your Lordships' House than that the Conservative Party should find that it can no longer rely upon a built-in majority in order to carry through its measures.
I was disappointed, although there was no expectation on my part that it would be otherwise, when I saw no reference in the gracious Speech to the reform of 211 your Lordships' House. But because of one small indication I was encouraged that something might be done in this direction. We have on many occasions already considered the change of composition and the alteration in powers; and I have from time to time tried to bring before your Lordships some ideas with respect to alterations in the procedures of this House which seem to me to be to the advantage of the despatch of its business. I was therefore delighted to see that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, in a recent interview in The Guardian, said this:My own view is that there ought to be some joint committee procedure"—that is, between the two Houses—to vet some of these law reform proposals in advance, so as to isolate questions that are likely to be controversial from those that are not and then to have an accelerated procedure for those that are not.Whether we could negotiate this will depend on the political climate between the Parties in the Commons. I shall initiate it, if I can, and then we shall see.I can assure the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that there will be some of us, at any rate, doing our best to support any development of that sort, because it has been something along those lines which has been advocated on occasions in the past by, I think for one, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Devlin, and others. It may not only help to accelerate law reform but also to change, modify and modernise some of the procedures which we follow. That was merely a passing point which I thought I would weary your Lordships with making. But I really want to apply myself to a different subject.
My speech, such as it is, follows that of the noble Lord, Lord Citrine. The thing that worries me about the speeches that I have heard so far from noble Lords opposite has been the fact that they entered into no new ground with regard to the political problems which we all face at the present time. The election speech which we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, to-day was interesting, harking back as it did to the controversies of the last Election. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, a reassertion of the fact that the trade union movement is to all intents and 212 purposes above the power of Parliament. I am sorry that the noble Lord is not here, but the truth of the matter is that in the gentle and gracious way in which he always addresses your Lordships he said something very much along the lines of a statement recently made by one of the leading trade union leaders in the country, Mr. Bob Wright. He said, addressing his remarks to Mr. Heath:Whether you won the Election last week or not, this trade union movement will be above that. We will fight to protect the whole of our trade union rights.Whereas Mrs. Castle said in a speech some time ago that the power had gone to the shop floor rather than into the boardroom, those of us who have some small knowledge of industry, who have seen some of the problems of industrial relations and who have tried to give a sympathetic understanding to them, although we have not had the intimate knowledge of them which the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smiith, and the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, have had, fear that the power lies on the shop floor and in the trade union movement, and in particular in the unofficial leaderships in the trade unions, rather than here in Parliament.
Listening to the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, wise and generous though his remarks were to a great extent, one realised that there was a claim that whatever Parliament said about organised labour or labour relations in this country, it was not going to be accepted by the trade union movement—its leadership presumably, and its rank and file—unless they approved it.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Citrine, may I say that I think your Lordships will clearly understand that he was speaking of the possible reaction to Parliament's insisting upon certain sanctions that were anathema to the trade union movement and contrary to the free agreements that have been entered into down the generations and honourably accepted. The remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Citrine. referred to the possibility of Parliament attempting to enforce this type of thing and the difficulties that would be encountered.
§ LORD ALPORT
My Lords, I realise that, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, 213 Lord Popplewell, for intervening on behalf of his noble friend; it is quite right that he should do so. But it does not take away from the main point that I have been making and which worries me, which is that certain processes and procedures have been used by the trade union movement in relation to industrial negotiation over wages, conditions, or whatever it may be, over a long period of time; and that to some extent they no longer appear to be effective. The noble Lord has said that, regardless of this, these are the inherited methods of the movement and they must not be changed by Parliament. It is a claim—and indeed we have had it from the mouth of the noble Lord now—that whereas legitimate opposition to what Parliament may do is perfectly all right, the trade union movement is, in some degree, outside the law.
My Lords, our present system of industrial relations has substantial achievements to its credit, but it also has serious defects. It has failed to prevent injustices, and has led to disruption of work and the inefficient use of manpower. It has produced a growing number of lightning strikes and contributed little to increased efficiency. Radical changes are needed in our system of industrial relations to meet the needs of a period of rapid industrial change. The State has always been involved in the process of industrial relations. It has always had to provide a framework of law for dealing with the activities of individuals and groups struggling to advance and to protect their interests. The State has also had to act at times to contain the disruptive consequences of such a struggle on those not: immediately affected, especially if non-intervention would have resulted in widespread damage to the interests of the community at large.
I do not think that anybody in this House could have put the problem more succinctly or frankly, or more effectively, than it is put in those phrases which I read out from the introduction to In Place of Strife. They are familiar to noble Lords opposite. Yet the Labour Government during the last Parliament—a Government of a Party which represents by its Parliamentary Party one wing of the Labour movement—failed to carry through the reform which was based upon the propositions and the proposals contained 214 in the White Paper, In Place of Strife. It has been my view for a very long time that the real reform of industrial relations and of the trade union movement must properly be carried out by the Labour Party. They know the problems at first hand perhaps more acutely and more intimately than many of us. They are also in a special relationship with the trade union movement. During the period from 1965 until a few weeks ago they had an opportunity unparalleled in the history of the whole of their movement to carry through the reforms which they knew were needed, not only in the interests of this country, and of the ordinary folk of this country, but in the interests of the leadership of trade unionism itself.
The noble Lord, Lord Citrine, has said (and this comes out in the White Paper, In Place of Strife) that 95 per cent. of the strikes that take place in this country are unofficial, and the great majority of them are unconstitutional. This must mean that there is not the ability among the official leadership of the trade union movement to provide for its members, and for the country as a whole, the ordered authority which is essential in these matters. When the time comes for historians to assess the achievements of the late Government that assessment will not, perhaps, be made on the ephemeral success of the balance of payments but on their failure to do what they, above all, should and could have done; namely, to give a new deal in industrial relations to Great Britain.
My Lords, I hope that none of the noble Lords sitting opposite, or indeed any noble Lord in this House, will think that somebody like the present Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity, Mr. Robert Carr, would approach the subject of industrial relations, trade union reform, or whatever you like to call it, with the object of alienating the Government or the community generally from the trade union movement, or of destroying, rather than fortifying and strengthening, trade unionism as a whole. I was associated with Mr. Carr in the past and I know him well. I know his character and the sympathetic approach that he will bring to this problem.
It may well be that the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, is right, and that it is impossible to introduce the legal factor 215 into the matter of industrial relations in quite the way in which it has been proposed in A Fair Deal at Work. I accept that that may be the case. It may well be that ideas will change and that, as a result of direct consultation with the C.B.I. and the trade union movement, and the rest of it, there will be a new approach. All I am saying to noble Lords opposite is that it will, I am certain, be a constructive approach and a sympathetic one: because, after all, it is not for nothing that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister used as the slogan for his Administration the term "One nation".
The last thing we should do or should wish to see, either as a Party or as a country, is a resuscitation of the bitterness and struggles of that class war which nobody did more to alleviate, change and improve than the Conservative Administration under the late Earl Baldwin in the 'twenties and early 'thirties of this century. I am not in a position to go into details, and I have no wish to do so, but I say that at the beginning of a new Parliament, with a new Government who have the support of the majority of the people, it would be only right that we should look to the Labour Opposition for their understanding and support for constructive policies for the reform of trade unionism and the improvement of industrial relations in this country. We are entitled to do so because they, who should have done it, failed.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Alport, sits down, may I ask him a question? I listened carefully to what was said by my noble friend Lord Citrine. The noble Lord, Lord Alport, has stressed very much his interpretation of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Citrine. It seemed to me that my noble friend did not suggest that the trade union movement was above Parliament: he was giving Parliament a warning not to introduce legislation that would be unworkable because trade unionists are people—and people are what they are.
§ LORD ALPORT
My Lords, I fully accept that; indeed, if I misinterpreted the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, in any way, I had no wish to do so. But he 216 certainly gave me that impression, as I said. I accept, and I know that any of us who have anything to do with man management or industry realise, that in these matters of industrial relations we are dealing with flesh and blood. We are concerned to try to get a good deal. There are many things that happen in a factory or in industry which it is very difficult to explain to, or to be understood by, people outside. A strike often has some curious inherent reason for it, which is difficult to explain. I accept all that. What I am saying is that at this point, when we shall have to struggle in order to make our way in the economic future, perhaps in closer competition with Continental countries than ever before, one of the most important things we can do is to try to get, as a united country and not on a Party basis, a constructive solution to the problems, which are set out so well in the introduction to In Place of Strife.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ LORD DOUGLASS OF CLEVELAND
My Lords, it was my intention to start by saying that as this is my first experience of speaking in Opposition, I should find it difficult. I have not been in another place, with all its virtues—and its vices. I have not been accustomed to personalities. I have always been taught to direct my attention to the problem. In the trade union field I had 30 years as a full-time official and 13 years as a senior official. In all that time I had no strikes. I should think that I know more of what I am talking about than does the noble Lord, Lord Alport, with all due respect to him. If he had listened to my noble friend Lord Citrine, he would have found that he was getting the benefit of a wonderful and vast experience. My noble friend said that legislation in different countries had been proved a failure, and for this country to adopt what had proved a failure in other countries could only be disastrous at the end of the day. My noble friend's language was milder than that, but that is what he meant.
I can remember going to America years ago. We had been told that because they had industrial trade unions there they had solved most of the problems, whereas we had many hundreds of trade unions. We were told that we should be able to solve our problems if we had industrial 217 trade unions. I should like industrial trade unionism and would work towards that end. But what happened with industrial trade unionism in America? Some 12 years ago, at the end of every contract—and they could rely on the contract running without unofficial strikes—they always had a six weeks' strike. I asked American employers and industrial trade unionists questions and found that they needed a six weeks' strike to prove, first, that the union was vital, and secondly, that the employers were looking after the shareholders' money. They said it was one of those things which they regarded as inevitable. It had arisen from the desire to prove that they were doing their jobs. I asked, "Are you not afraid that one day you will not be able to end the strike at the end of six weeks, simply because you are spitting in each other's faces?". They replied, "No".
Two years later, the President of the United Slates had the iron and steel employers and trade union leaders into his office and kept them there until they came to a settlement, because a strike which had gone on for months could not go on any longer without destroying a powerful country like America. So much for industrial trade unionism and what can be done by legislation. The United States legislation laid down this "cooling off period", but in fact it was a "hotting up period", during which employers and the industrial trade unions were lambasting each other and making a settlement almost impossible.
My experience is almost as long as that of my noble friend, Lord Citrine. I can remember how, while I was President of the International Metal Workers' Federation, which covers all the metalworkers in the free countries—engineers, steelworkers aluminium makers: the lot—we tried to organise the workers of Italy. The Italian employers resisted it. They did not realise that if the workers were not allowed to be articulate, the trouble would boil up underneath. We sent vans with loudspeakers and trade union officers round the country. The Communists came in and upset the vans and belaboured our speakers. The employers sat in their offices and laughed at them, and the police stood on the other side of the street and laughed, too.
218 To meet the situation, they proposed works councils. I have a great deal of admiration for Mr. Carr; I think he is moderate. But when he talks about works councils as a cure for our problems he should look at what happened with the works councils in Italy. Of course, there are three union organisations in Italy—Communist, Social Democratic and Christian. They all sat on the works councils, though they had only a handful of members inside the works. What happened was that the union that made the biggest claim got the most members. It was as simple as that. When noble Lords talk about strikes, they ought to have a look at what is happening in Italy at the present time. The noble Lord, Lord Alport, should remember that these are the things my roble friend had in mind. The trade: unions in Italy threatened a general strike this week. They called if off because there is going to be a General Election. This is what works councils do, if you want them to negotiate.
I went to Sweden to see what was happening there, because Sweden is quoted as one of the countries where industrial relations are especially good. They are. They have a system where the trade unions and the employers, separately, examine the economy of the country once a year, meet together and come to an agreement about the amount of money there will be to divide and then meet the Government. They all come to the conclusion that in the year production has been such, and profits have been such, that so much money can be divided for investment, for the shareholders and for trade unions, so that everybody gets justice. Inside the trade union movement there are some who are entitled to more than others, because they have slipped behind in the level of wages, and on this basis the trade unions divide their share between the various industries. Everybody says, "Marvellous. Sweden appears to be an example we can follow." We know that a problem exists in Italy where the trade unions accept legal pressure, and the same is true in France. In Germany, they do not have this problem for the simple reason that when the union pressures for more money the employers give way. If any noble Lords have any doubt they should read the Financial Times. I do not think I could have a better 219 authority to quote to the Government on this point. This problem has now spread to Sweden and in Sweden, with this desire for a properly organised economy, where everybody obviously gets his share, they are having this revolution among the workpeople.
I am not contending that I know the answers to the problems. But if you do not ask the right questions, then you never get the right answers. If the Government think that they are simply going to appoint a judge to come to a conclusion on what should be done with the product of industry, then they have another think coming. With their experience the Government must know that this will not work.
How did I keep peace in the steel industry? I am afraid that that is an egotistical statement, and I should have said: how did my executive council keep peace in the steel industry? Each year two, three or four members of the executive council (and one from industry is sitting here), along with my assistant or myself, met a representative from every department in the steel industry and had a full day's discussion on what was happening in the industry, and what was going to happen in the industry. That line of communication was invaluable.
What is the proposition from the Government? We have in this country the National Development Council, on which I sat with noble Lords from the opposite side. I do not hesitate to say that we did not have the same opinions. But we had full and frank arguments, and when we had finished discussing the actual problems we, like the Swedish people, the trade unionists, employers and the Government, had some conception of what the problems were, what questions we were asking, and the possibility of getting answers was much closer. But then again the lines of communication were a problem. So we instituted little "Neddies". I wish it had not been called a little "Neddy", because that sounds so much like a donkey, and it never was a donkey. The little "Neddy" had to take the information that had been gathered, analysed, sifted and judgment made on it at the top, right back down into the industry at the bottom. There was a line of communication from the Government, the trade unions and the 220 employers right down to the bottom, so that everybody in the industry had an opportunity of knowing what had happended in the past, but, more important, what was going to happen in the future. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Alport, that this Government are going to destroy the little "Neddies". How can you expect trade unions to accept legislation telling them what to do when the lines of communication which tell them what they ought to do are being destroyed at the same time?
I could go on for a long time. I could tell your Lordships of a lot of weaknesses in the trade unions—because there are weaknesses. I met the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor when I was Chairman of the Economic Committee of the T.U.C. and he was the Minister of Science. We discussed how much money was going to be spent for various research projects which were going to yield dividents in the future. We did not want a great deal of legislation for that. We wanted a common agreement as to what would be good for the country, which meant what would be good for the workpeople and the trade unions, and what would be good for the employers and the Government. If the noble and learned Lord will cast his mind back, he will remember that we came to some pretty good agreements at that time on how money should be spent to the benefit of all.
I want to round off my speech by saying that there are some problems on which it is agreed we should not oppose. I hope it is not an irrelevancy if I say that Northern Ireland, with all the problems that we have there, is one at the present time. We have first one Home Secretary and then another saying that this trouble is something that has to cool off. And this is wise Government. I believe that the problem of industrial relations in the whole of the world, and in this country particularly, is just as important, and that the results can be just as disastrous as the Northern Ireland problem if the economy is not run as it should be run. I hope that we shall have fewer inflammatory speeches about the evils and weaknesses of each side, and that some attempt will be made to get an understanding of the problems of both sides. The Trades Union Congress has always said that it would meet any Government. When I was President of 221 the Economic Committee of the T.U.C. they said the same thing. The Trades Union Congress is going to meet this Government. There will be an opportunity to understand the problems, and I advocate that the Government should go to them, not with the writ and legislation in hand, but with an olive branch and a desire to understand the problems that the trade unions in Britain to-day have to face.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
My Lords, like other noble Lords—and they expressed it by their applause just now—I am bound to say that I was much instructed by the trade union experience and by the moderation and sincerity of pleading of the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland. I know he will forgive me, since I have no trade union experience, if I do not follow his particular line of constructive and helpful thinking.
I wish to draw attention. I think for the first time in this afternoon's debate, to two passages in the gracious Speech referring to regional development. There is a reference to an effective regional development policy and to remedying the damage to the environment. But, first, to those here and there who have sought to rake ever the embers of the General Election may I just say this: that from deep in the heart of taxes a frustrated multitude has protested, and, as at the Restoration in the 17th century, I believe that the public welcome the release from predestination, and welcome the reopening of an equality of opportunity for men to make themselves unequal by their own efforts. This, at any rate, is the therapeutic theme that we would bring to the nation's economic anæmia. For we believe that, with good sense, profit can be a breeder reactor of the economy of service, where man swaps service with man more through the interplay of price, gain and property than through the busy-body doing of "good", so that by multiplying savings and investment the bounds of wealth may be enlarged, this to enable better provision for the needy and also, through time, to enable private enterprise, whether by lease or by purchase, to assume burdens which the State was never fitted to undertake. Thus, we believe, we may generate a margin of power enabling us to spread both in this country 222 and abroad some measure of justice, mercy and content.
As the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, suggested when he moved the humble Address with such distinction and grace, any reference to Europe and any adherence to Europe is bound to have its effect—and he sounded a word of caution—upon our regional development policies. I notice that the gracious Speech, referring rightly to our interests in the Indian Ocean and in Europe, does not, however, adumbrate, except by inference and most discreetly, the changing geopolitical position of these Islands, so little comprehended: Britain astride the Continental Shelf, athwart the shallows and watergates of Europe, a ready mooring-point for those latter-day Leviathans that are too large to move close in to the European coastline, Eurasia's first occidental oceanic landfall.
Interesting attention has been drawn to this matter in varied quarters of late. Mr. Karl Heinz Sagar, a director of Nortdeutscher Lloyd, only a week or two ago suggested that Europe's major port of the 'eighties serving the next generation of mammoth container ships still waited to be chosen. Though he was well aware of Rotterdam, he looked forward to… some port on the edge of the European landmass, so far unnoticed… one of the ports sited to the South-West of the English Channel and the North Sea… (which) could be the site of a giant terminal… whence the traditional ports could be served by feeder.In looking first of all at our situation in the round, before we come to regional development policies that arise from it, the hard fact that must be stated over and over again is that we have the best deep water sites in Western Europe. Tidings have come from the North-West Passage, of late. They have not only come through Gereral Dynamics co-operation and that profound belief in the future of the jumbo submarine tanker whose course through the North-West Passage under the ice pack was charted years ago by the U.S. Navy. There is the tale of the 100,000 ton icebreaking tanker "S.S. Manhattan", which made the North-West Passage on the surface and through the ice only a matter of months ago. That voyage draws attention to the position of these Islands as the first Atlantic oceanic landfall on the Eurasian continent on the great circle 223 route between industrial Western Europe, developing Northern Canada and industrial North-East Asia.
The first LASH-ship carrying barges, to which I referred in the debate on the gracious Speech last year, has now sent her first barges up the Rhine to Mainze and Strasbourg, bearing partly processed material from Panama, at a freight-cost saving of 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. Within weeks now a second LASH-ship will be following the same kind of course. The implications of this for our future are already being recognised by British Waterways, who have begun to study and to see the waterway land bridge options that are opened up by the barge ship principle so that bulk cargoes landed on the deep water harbour and processed here can be floated away to the heart of Europe and, indeed, Russia as well.
Another facet of our changing geopolitical position is the sudden energy shortage on the eastern seaboard of the United States, which invites, if anything does, our shipment of North Sea gas over there. More than that, there are the oil discoveries in the North Sea, seemingly every bit as exciting as on the North Slope of Alaska itself, and offering the prospect that West Europe's energy shortage in 1990, something like double what it is now, can, from North Sea oil resources alone, be met with a decade in hand by 1980.
Referring now to assets, I would point out that history shows vividly—whether in the past or by contemporary experience—that under-used assets invite a takeover. If we fail to exploit our natural assets others will make it their business to do so. For the Eastern Question of the 19th century we could well have an Atlantic Question of to-morrow. What the Balkans were, and the Middle East now is, a grouping of weak States at the crossways of great Power interests, the deep water landfall of the Atlantic seaboard of Western Europe could well be to-morrow.
That is the context in which a credible regional policy in Britain is urgently required, and its first requirement is that it should make proper, wise and full provision for the development of our natural resources. In this grim vortex of time and place, with a thousand new 224 Britons every day, with 7,000 new houses every week and with 50,000 new motor vehicles every month, the first requirement of regional policy is that its priorities be made clear. Spending £300 million bribing industrialists to go to development areas to create dereliction while you spend only £500,000 trying to clear it up is, as the noble Lord, Lord Robens, said elsewhere, really spending 50 shillings to bribe people to create dereliction and offering them a penny to take it away.
A unity and simplicity of approach is needed to the layout afresh of much of our industrial workplace. I believe the approach that is required must embrace the whole spectrum of land use and estuarial development, lines of communication on a lineal West/East ocean-span pattern, water resources and the scars of dereliction. A significant change in this field was made last October by the former Administration. It seemed to work in the opposite direction, regional policy going to Mr. Crosland, and the management of I.D.C.s to Mr. Benn.
What we need, my Lords—this is my first substantial point, and I pray the Government to pay attention to it—is either one Economic Department to handle the whole regional commitment, possibly including local government, but certainly including growth points, I.D.C.s, dereliction, regional councils, Maritime Industrial Development Areas and the rest, or, failing that, a Cabinet Committee backed by a "Chiefs of Staff Committee" of the top civil servants matching the Regional Planning Boards further down the scale. Then the Planning Councils would naturally and properly act as public prodders to inquire and to promote, while at Cabinet, or "Chiefs of Staff" level the major decisions could be taken about a new town, a third airport, the Channel Tunnel, and so on, and the investment priorities in regional development; and the remaking of our national workplace on a national scale could be taken with poise, purpose and promptitude.
The Hunt Committee called for a review of this whole field of policy and also saw no reason why industry should now and henceforth necessarily be tied to the geography of the Industrial Revolution. I must say openly that I regret that there is a hint in the gracious Speech of 225 harping back to the very pattern of the Industrial Revolution and trying to prop up the old unemployment areas. What the Hunt Report implied—and it went through almost every paragraph of that inch-thick Report—was that we needed to get back to the conception of growth points—"precision bombing", as my noble friend Lord Dundee put it earlier.
Their selection is something which the new Administration cannot escape. It is quite wrong to suppose that the growth points suited to our conversion economy of to-morrow are necessarily in every case a town that exists at the present time. I believe that in looking for the new growth points, where our State investment should be concentrated, we should start our plan for a Better To-morrow by listing those places in the country where different kinds of industry need to be—on technical grounds alone.
There are industries that require to be close to a university; those that need access to a raw material supply: Yorkshire potash, Cheshire salt, Cornish clay, base metals, coal, fishery or farm produce. There an; those that need to be near abundant supplies of water coolant, that need swift tides or strong winds for the disposal of effluent and smells. There are those that want cheap electric power, those that need transport intersections. There are those that need to be near an oil refinery to develop petrochemicals; and there are those consequentially that need to be near deep water for the unloading of bulk raw materials.
Having first of all determined where are the points in Britain where it would be most advantageous for different kinds of industry to site, we then need to plot the freight desire lines across the country from those places where raw materials are either landed from oversea or produced in this country: a pattern of transport thence to their processing, to their consumption, or else to their onward transport for export. Thus it seems that in any review—and we are bound to undertake it; this Government cannot ignore the requirement and the opportunity recommended by the Hunt Committee—we should end up with a sketch of the physical geography of the conversion economy of this Island around the natural growth points of to-morrow.
Some research has already been done by the Ministry of Transport and by distinguished firms of consultants such as 226 Martec. Some research has really been very wrongly started. Fancy, my Lords, when Scotland is losing more people than are born—and that was the picture from 1964 to 1969—laying on an operation in the shape of the Tayside Study to see whether another 300,000 people could be accommodated there! Fancy authorising, as I understand was done recently, a land-use population study of North Staffordshire and Stoke without considering the industries that in the future pattern would likely want to settle there on the landbridge between the Mersey and the Wash!
The bulk carrier, the bulk tanker and the mammoth container ship—these have already done for sea trade what the aeroplane has done for travel. As I have said already, we have the best, the "mostest", the deepest deepwater sites of Western Europe, and all fairly close together. So a study of our estuaries is bound to form an early part in the study of growth points as part of our review of regional development policy. One thinks of course of the Clyde linked with the Forth; of the Mersey and the Lune estuaries linked with the Tees and the Humber; of the Bristol Channel linked by overland routes—and the M.4 is being built now—with the Thames; Falmouth and Southampton with Dover and the Channel Tunnel of to-morrow.
On the subject of the estuaries, the outgoing Administration did not pay quite the heed to the National Ports Council that some of us could have wished. But now that the National Ports Bill is dead, at any rate in the form in which it was presented to the last Parliament, surely this Administration could demonstrate, and demonstrate categorically, their support for the National Ports Council; they could perhaps make the N.P.C. an umpire in ports labour relations, which it is not at the present time. They might perhaps give the N.P.C. power to beckon port modernisation; they might give the N.P.C. an annual investment budget which it could share out. But, whatever they do, they should surely give teeth to the N.P.C. If there was one argument from the then Opposition Benches that ran through all the Opposition case against the Ports Bill, it was that the N.P.C could be a perfectly satisfactory body if it was given the teeth it needed.
227 With regard to the most notorious project of the N.P.C. that was really pushed on one side by the last Administration—I refer to Maritime Industrial Development Areas—I think it is only fair to say that, amid the schizophrenic twist between the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, on the one hand, and the Ministry of Transport, on the other, "yesterday's men" missed the point in several respects. MIDA (that is the shorthand term we are now accustomed to using) need not assemble secondary as well as primary industry together. Indeed, the concept of Ocean-span is one of a landbridge lineal arrangement from West to East coast, with secondary industry interspersed on the way, on a cross-country pattern.
To say that Rotterdam has a hinterland that we have not is surely, again, misreading the facts. It is quite true that Rotterdam serves 150 million people between the Baltic and the Alps. But those are the people whom we believe we can serve better through our deeper and better ports of tomorrow. If indeed that hinterland of 150 million people can support and be served by some 85,000 land acres of Maritime Industrial Development Areas on the West coast of Europe, then surely the 70 million people whom we expect to populate Britain by the turn of the century could support some 30,000 acres of MIDAS here.
Then we are told that the proposition requires mammoth State investment. But these Maritime Industrial Development Areas are here and they are happening, already, without it. The Seal Sands are being reclaimed on Tees-side. South Wales, from Swansea to Cardiff, is gradually developing as such an area in fact. And, of course, one of the significant features of the past 18 months' consideration of the siting of the third London Airport has been the emergence of two consortia, one supported and largely sparked off by the Port of London Authority, a public but not a nationalised body, and the other sparked off entirely by private enterprise, but both drawing on private sources which reckon that they can perfectly well raise a thousand million sterling for reclamation of Maplin Sands and Foulness if the "Go ahead" is given.
228 Then we are told that the proposition requires years of detailed study. All right, a large investment is proposed; but I am not aware that there were these years of detailed study and cost benefit analysis before the new town of Telford was trebled in size, or before the £700 million New Town of Milton Keynes was set going. On this subject of MIDAS, as being germane to, and at the very heart of, a regional development policy that we must unfold, I urge the Government to push ahead quickly with the study by Professor Preston. Cut this study from 2½ years to one, and call in Professor Klaassen and the Netherlands Economic Institute (who have covered much of the same ground before in general terms) to help and get on with the job.
The problem of dereliction is not unrelated to this. But the scale, even of officially catalogued dereliction, is something that staggers the imagination. Something like 93,000 acres were listed at the end of 1969 as officially derelict. That is an area of ground that would site a city of more than a million people. That figure was reached after some 2,000 or 3,000 acres had been cleared, but it still was 8,000 acres more than the figure of four years before. The current programme would do no more than bring that backlog under control over 15 years. It would take no account of new dereliction, let alone the volume of spoiled and degraded land that does not qualify for grant to the local authorities clearing it up.
In the West Riding, spoiled or degraded ground is some 17,000 acres more than the official derelict catalogue, and it is growing at 600 acres a year. In Nottinghamshire it is 11,000 acres more. England and Wales find colliery spoil growing at 700 acres a year. Other mineral development up and down the country has now spoiled something like 7,000 acres—very nearly twice the figure of 10 years earlier. Some local authorities by their own enterprise are doing extraordinarily well. Stoke-on-Trent is a case in point. It might well be that those whose business it is to develop new policy in this field could usefully take note of Stoke-on-Trent, which, suffering something like 7 per cent. of its land area derelict, had already reclaimed 800 acres before grants were made available.
229 This is not simply a question of aesthetics, or even of conservation for its own sake. May I say, in parenthesis, that I think the Conservation Year has generated so much talk that one might better cal it the "conversation year". But the critical point about dereliction is not "prettying up" the site for our eyes; it is that in vital areas of our country in the landbridge between the Mersey and the Wash and the Humber—which is important to us for the future—young people are leaving because of the spoliation of the land. There is interesting but significant evidence to determine that correlation.
My Lords, I am given to understand—believe it or not—that the people of Britain spend £35 million a year "prettying up" the environment of their pets—dog kennels, cat cushions, bird cages and the like. If that is the case, surely we as a nation can do something better than that for the environment of our human kind.
A new approach is fully possible, and here I would draw the attention of the Ministry of Technology to important studies which have been carried out by the British Hydro-Mechanics Research Association at Cranfield, and the first International Conference on the Hydraulic Transport of Solids which is to be held at Warwick University in September The Ministry of Technology would be well advised, also, to consider the interesting papers by Mr. John R.D. Walker, Chief Engineer of Rugby Portland Cement, which he delivered to the International Pipelines and Pumps Conventions in 1962 and 1966. He is one of the world experts in pipeline transportation of solids, and he speaks from experience of 57 miles of slurry pipeline in a country where no part of the land is more than 50 miles from the sea. He points out that it is possible to pump 8.5 million tons of waste through a 16-inch pipe at one-third of a penny per ton/mile, including capital and maintenance, which is about one-tenth of the cost of rail, and about one-twentieth the cost of road haulage. By my calculations this would suggest that there are areas of marshland and shallow water sites close to the deep water that we want for Maritime Industrial Development Areas, which by this means could be 230 reclaimed at something like £1,000 an acre.
I should like to refer to one other facet of the environment. I refer to water supplies. Mere protest at the uncoordinated provision, or proposal for provision, of storage reservoirs is not enough, especially when the demand is likely to double by the end of the century and when licensed abstraction, even now, could be more than ten times the natural dry weather flow. What stands out a mile is that the National Grid is urgent, and I call attention to the latest Annual Report of the Water Resources Board, which gives this urgent and critical warning with all the measured understatements one would expect from such a publication. The report says:The advantages of more fully integrated planning and development of water resources greatly outweigh the disadvantages.My Lords, it is evident from that report, and from those who are operating the river authorities that river basin authorities do need a mandate, not only to provide water but to supervise the whole provision, including conservation. That means a mandate to make sure that storage works, sewage outfalls and treatment plant are arranged to make the best combination—not least, may I add in parenthesis, when in local authority control of these things there are no votes to be had. There are too many river basin authorities; nine would be better than 29 or 28, and they should be represented on the Regional Planning Councils.
In such a debate as this, at the start not only of a new Parliament but of a new Administration, we have the chance to toss ideas into the market-place of competition. But regardless of pet ideas which I have taken up your Lordships' time with putting forward, I would say—and I believe many would agree with me—that this somewhat dispirited nation, of late driven bilious by a diet of conflicting progressive illusions on a scale to turn the stomach of a Tiberius, calls for a simplicity and unity of Government approach to problems of acknowledged priority. Then alone can the dynamism of our therapeutic philosophy take effect, to elicit the best work, recover the power, nurture the will of our people, ever loyal to the legitimate anointed monarchy, as the civil sacrament of justice, mercy and content.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMSON
My Lords, as I was thinking of this debate today on industrial relations it passed through my mind that if a stranger came among us without any idea of our history or development, and read the industrial news in our newspapers and heard it on the B.B.C. radio, he would think that we were an up and coming nation, a developing nation trying to fit into our social democracy a democratic system of industrial relations. Of course he could not be blamed for not knowing that we happen to have in this country the best system of joint relationships in the world. Our national and regional joint industrial councils cover some 60 industries, with many other forms of negotiating bodies in other industries and services; and for those industries which are not well organised, there are the wages boards, which have legal enforcement behind their decisions, all working every day—hundreds, probably thousands, of decisions being made throughout industry without trouble and without strife.
It is the case, my Lords, that from countries all over the world people come to study our methods and our systems. Students from the up and coming nations have been here, and many have applied our methods in their own countries. This system has not just come out of the blue; it has been built up over the years by far-seeing employers and outstanding trade unionists of character and integrity. Perhaps I may be forgiven for naming one or two of the pioneers of my own union—Will Thorne, J. R. Clynes, Margaret Bondfield, Jack Jones, Arthur Hayday. This impressive list is from one union, but of course there are many from other unions—men of the calibre of Ernest Bevin, Arthur Henderson, George Isaacs and Walter Citrine—Lord Citrine, who has spoken to-day.
These men, and their contemporaries, had to battle against great injustice and prejudice. They had to operate under conditions of low wages, bad conditions in industry and, worse, mass unemployment. Men were victimised for joining a union and too often found themselves discriminated against by unscrupulous employers. But, with all these disadvantages, the leaders to whom I have referred preached and practised responsible trade unionism. They preached 232 that trade unionists should have pride in work and should at all times act with dignity, even when injustice was being done. They put trade unionism on the map, not only in this country but internationally, and gained for trade unionism the role of one of the steadfast and essential elements in democractic society.
What has gone wrong, my Lords? It is sad, but it has to be said, that we are now fast reaching a stage, if indeed it has not already been reached, where in some sections responsible trade unionism is sometimes finding it difficult to survive. For some time now powerful minorities within the trade union movement have not hesitated to down tools without any sanction from their unions in order to further their selfish ends. I am making no criticism of the official strike sanctioned by the proper authority of the union when it believes that there is no other way of getting justice for its members. The right to strike constitutionally and within the rules of a union governing these matters must be safeguarded at all costs. But for some time now the curse of the industrial scene has been the unofficial strike; and it is this, the unofficial strike, the disregard for the sanctity of agreements, that is the greatest threat to trade unionism and to the right to strike itself.
It is a fact that some of these industrial actions have been aided and abetted by some employers who have too rapidly capitulated to the unofficial strike, or the threat of it, and by so doing have under-mined the authority of the responsible trade unions and trade union leaders. The noble Lord, Lord Alport, made a speech on these matters, and I did not hear him say one word of criticism about employers and management. Had he been here now I should have said that management and managers have great responsibilities in connection with the matters we are now discussing. Day after day the country must be sick to death of news bulletins reporting some other unofficial strike, jeopardising the employment of thousands of other workers not concerned with the dispute at all—and, of course, strikes which are disastrous to our trade and fortunes. For instance, in the case of the Lucas strike, it is reported to-day that unless the strike is settled 50,000 car workers are going to lose their employment.
233 Surely this cannot be right. How can responsible trade union leaders and responsible trade union executives operate in a situation where day after day it has been shown that the unofficial strike pays dividends? There are no negotiations, no going through the proper machinery, no regard to the rules of the unions, which are made by the members themselves. They short-circuit all the admirable democratic procedures which have been laboriously built up over the years and revert to the methods of Dick Turpin. I have been appalled to learn of unofficial strikers taking the law into their own hands, with out any sanction or authority, and being paid benefits from trade union funds—and, indeed, of other unions with members involved in the same dispute also having to pay, at the risk of losing their membership. I call this sort of action anarchy.
What is to be done about it? I have said before in your Lordships' House, and I trust that I may be forgiven for saying it again, that I regret any proposal to intervene by legislative action in industrial relationships. All those who value and wish to safeguard voluntary democratic procedures and processes will be concerned that the Government propose to intervene with legislation. There is another important reason; there are many, but I will submit one; others have been given by other noble Lords on this side earlier- to-day. It is a very dangerous thing to introduce legal sanctions only to find, when those sanctions have to be applied, that for reasons readily found they cannot be applied. It is that which will bring the law into disrepute, and therefore there ought to be a lot of good thinking before the laws are brought before Parliament and passed.
I should prefer that the trade union movement exercised its own disciplines, and I believe that the trade union movement could exercise them. I think the vast majority of members would accept their disciplines, but there are a few dissidents who would not. It is now 10 years since the Trades Union Congress appointed a committee of inquiry into industrial disputes and made a report to the 1960 Congress. The report and the recommendations of that inquiry were approved by Congress, and two of the recommendations were these: that where 234 strike action was taken or prolonged contrary to general policy and specific advice, unions should take some form of disciplinary action against members concerned; and, secondly, that unions should be more vigilant, and if, after a warning, a steward repeats actions that are contrary to rules and agreements, his credentials—which are his opportunities to do good, or, in a few cases, harm—should be withdrawn.
Those recommendations, and others, were approved overwhelmingly by the Trades Union Congress, and it is a sad thing that they have never been operated. This is where the responsibility lies and where, I am convinced, a solution may be found, if a solution is possible at all. After all, what is the size of the problem? Most of the strikes taking place are, as I have said, unofficial, and while the number of those resorting to this unconstitutional action is comparatively small the damage created is very often immense. A few men taking the law into their own hands can throw thousands of other workpeople out of employment, besides disrupting trade, industry, production and delivery of orders.
There is another aspect of this situation which should concern us all; certainly it should concern the Trades Union Congress. There is a growing belief among many sections of industry that the unofficial strike is paying dividends and that this is the way to get results. Most of our responsible trade unionists are becoming angry that they are being left behind in what is becoming fast a wages scramble, and are demanding the right to take similar direct action to safeguard their own interests. The situation is bad enough now, but if the unofficial strike is to become the modus operandi of the trade union movement we shall have a situation that will be far more serious than we have ever had or contemplated. I believe that what is going on is not only a danger to industry and our national fortunes, but a danger to the stability and integrity of the trade union movement. For this reason I make the plea to the Trades Union Congress to take such action as may be necessary to exercise discipline on the recalcitrants, as was envisaged by the decisions of Congress in 1960 which have not been put into operation. I believe that this 235 is where the responsibility lies and where it should be accepted.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I wish to concentrate on the short passage in the gracious Speech which deals with environment, to use the modern rather jargon word, for which it is rather difficult to find a substitute, and which indeed is used in the gracious Speech itself in the passage to which I have just referred. But before doing so I should like to spend a few minutes on making one or two remarks about education which I gather is really to be discussed to-morrow; but as I can hardly make two speeches I should like just to say something on that subject now.
We shall of course have the opportunity next week to take part in an important discussion to be initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, on the future of the universities; but the particular matter to which I want to refer is the recent circular in relation to comprehensive schools which was almost the first action that the new Administration took. This created a widespread impression that the Government are opposed to comprehensive schools. I hope that another circular will be issued as quickly as possible to make it clear that this is not so, because I hope profoundly that it is not. It would be a serious matter if it were. I can understand how this circular came to be issued, because the late Minister, Mr. Short, taking up what I must say I regarded as too extreme a policy against grammar schools, had possibly asked for something of the kind.
As an old grammar school boy myself, and one who has given a good deal of study to the part which the grammar school has played in building up the fortunes of this country, I greatly dislike the extreme position which was taken up against grammar schools. On the other hand, as one who from the very beginning has been a strong supporter of the comprehensive school, I see no real incompatibility between the grammar school and the comprehensive school. In many parts of the country grammar schools can continue to take the main responsibility for higher secondary education. In other parts of the country it 236 may well be that they should be displaced by comprehensive schools, as indeed they have been. In yet other parts the grammar school and the comprehensive school could obviously continue to work together, co-operating under the supervision of the local education authority. It seems to me that the position in each locality must be judged on its merits, and that much the best thing is to trust to the discretion of the local people, who know what they need, rather than to work under some general directive from Westminster—or would it be more accurate to say "from Whitehall"?
As a result of taking too strong a Party political line about these matters we are in danger of lurching from one extreme to another, whereas what we really need is stability in the educational system. Up and down the country comprehensive schools can provide, and indeed are providing, more and more for what one might call the middle-of-the-road child. They give better educational opportunities than such children have ever had before, and it would be a great pity that this state of affairs should be brought to an end.
I believe that in the post-war period the rise of the comprehensive school has been one of the outstanding features in the social history of this country. On the other hand, it would certainly be a disaster if clever children were to be frustrated by having taken away from them the opportunities which they now enjoy in the grammar school; and the inventiveness and the managerial ability which have characterised the rise of this country in modern Western civilisation would be greatly endangered. Therefore I hope that the new Minister will make it quite clear that this is to be a matter in which the local authorities should exercise their discretion, and that they will receive from the centre wise guidance instead of an attempt to direct them.
To return to the environment, I should like to start by congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, on an exceedingly interesting essay on this subject. He covered so much ground, and did it in such detail, that sometimes it was rather difficult to keep up with him. But obviously what he said will well repay study.
237 I should like to quote the short passage from the gracious Speech which deals with this matter. It reads:My Ministers will intensify the drive to remedy past damage to the environment and will seek 10 safeguard the beauty of the British countryside and seashore for the future.That is a very short passage, coming nearly at the end of the gracious Speech. I hope that its position there is not significant, that it does not mean that it was thrown in at the last moment by way of afterthought, because that would be most unfortunate. My fears on this were to some extent relieved by the admirable speech made by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, earlier this afternoon. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is well aware, I was a little critical of the last Government from time to time in regard to amenity questions; yet, on the whole, I feel that their record was one in which one could, and should, take pride. I am indeed proud of the long list of legislative measures which, going right back to the time of the Attlee Administration, have characterised the work of Labour Governments in this particular field. To start with, a strong and flexible planning structure is the essential basis of all environmental protection. The great Town and Country Planning Act of 1947, which was Lord Silkin's great contribution, is still regarded in the planning world as I he Magna Carta of this subject. It was improved in many ways by the recent Act which Lord Kennet piloted through your Lordships' House, the amending Act of 1968.
The importance of mastering the administration of these Acts, and of administering them in a sympathetic way, makes the position of the Minister of Housing and Local Government one of the most difficult in the whole range of Governmental activities; there is really no more difficult job. Mr. Greenwood had a good record, and I regret at this moment his passing from political life. On the other hand, I should not like to overlook the fact that Mr. Duncan Sandys, when he was Minister, made an outstanding contribution over the whole of this field. And I recall with particular pleasure the decision by the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, when he was in another place—and I think at the time Minister of Transport—to ground something like five miles of high-tension electric cable at a particularly sensitive part 238 of the Pennines. This decision was resisted by the Central Electricity Authority at the time, but I noticed that in their most recent report they were now patting themselves on the back for this splendid piece of environmental protection.
There was also, of course, the National Parks Act of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, which was carried recently a great deal further by the Countryside Act; and these are of outstanding amenity value. The Caravan Sites Act, even more recently, made an important addition. Then we had the Civic Amenities Act, and a number of Clean Air Acts, which were very important and which have already led to a considerable improvement in the atmosphere of many industrial towns. It was extraordinary to see the immediate improvement in Manchester just after the war when they introduced a smokeless zone.
Now all this legislation has been the work of Labour Administrations, and in some of the wide General Acts, such as the Commons Registration Act and the Road Traffic Act, there have been very important clauses fostering amenities in important ways, like inland waterways and footpaths, for example, in the Road Traffic Act. This is not by any means a complete catalogue, but I think it proves beyond doubt that Labour Governments have taken a very important initiative in legislation of this kind, and that they have set a standard which certainly the legislative production of the Conservative Governments between 1951 and 1964 just did not touch. One can only hope that they will be rather more active to try to emulate during the present Administration this splendid record which I have just described. I hope that they will set their sights high, and I have the feeling that if the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, is allowed to be influential, that may well be so.
The new Prime Minister has been getting a good deal of musical limelight, and I have no doubt that he is entitled to it; but I look on him more as an out-of-doors man, and I remember the absorbed interest with which I followed his sailing his small boat in the Southern Seas earlier in the year. It was very interesting to me to notice how in the polls—which have been condemned from time to time during this debate—his kudos rose higher during that period. No 239 doubt small boat sailing and music to some extent go together. The outdoors man is often also the artistic man, and I take off my hat to Mr. Heath on both these counts.
If I may be permitted to do so I should like, for a minute or two, to expatiate on this point of the relationship between what one might call the fine arts and the general amenities of the community. There is in fact a very close connection, and I think it has been rather a mistake of past Governments to separate the responsibility for these aspects of our life into two rather watertight compartments. Landscape and seascape are indeed the outstanding British contribution to the visual arts, and of course they depend enormously on preserving the natural landscape, and indeed the seascape, in its pristine beautiful condition. Our greatest painters, to mention perhaps the three greatest of all, Gainsborough, Constable and Turner, were all inspired to a large extent by natural beauty in landscapes and also in seascapes, and if you go abroad you will find that they are the English artists who are much more highly esteemed than any of our other artists. In the same way our natural scenery has inspired a great, if not the greatest, part of our best poetry. If Wordsworth were to return to his beloved Lake District now he would find it difficult to recognise the area, with the enormous motor roads which have been driven through, and are still being driven through, that small and precious piece of countryside.
This leads me to the suggestion that there ought to be very much closer co-operation between the Ministers who are responsible for these matters. How closely these matters are bound up together came out very interestingly in a letter to The Times newpsaper only yesterday. It was an appeal, signed by three very valued Members of your Lordships' House, asking for the protection of the village of Corfe, which is an artistic gem situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, and of course dominated by that magnificent historical monument, the castle itself. I suppose that as a question concerning planning control the matter is one for the Minister of Housing, but quite obviously it is of as great interest to the Minister responsible for the fine arts.
240 I should like to take the opportunity, although he is no longer in his place, of welcoming the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, to this job, and to congratulate him. I fought on his side on the British Museum site dispute, and he went on from that to become the Chairman of the Trustees where, as a Friend of the British Museum, I know that he has been doing a splendid job. I was attracted by the sympathetic references which he made to Miss Jennie Lee this afternoon, when he said that he hoped to be able to carry on her good work—one of the outstanding successes in the last Administration. Sometimes your Lordships' House is, in the end, benefited by the decision of a local constituency not to reappoint, as it were, its Member, and personally (and I am sure many of your Lordships would agree with me) I think it would be nice to see that repeated on the present occasion. I particularly welcomed, as I have indicated already during the course of this speech, what the noble Viscount said in his references to this environmental passage in the gracious Speech.
I have referred to the reference to the seashore, and rather underlined those words when I read out the passage, because over the last years the coastal scenery has rather been left to itself, yet our coast is probably the most varied in the world, from the magnificent cliffs of Cornwall, the wonderful fiord scenery on the Western Coast of the Highlands, to those wide and almost gloomy, under some conditions, expanses in East Anglia which nevertheless attracted the attention of some of our greatest artists. They are all, in their own way, of outstanding beauty, and provide an astonishing variety of scenery. Apart from one or two circulars to local planning authorities the Ministry have done very little to protect this coastline, and even those circulars were prompted by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England.
In a way I was disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, did not choose to deal with this subject earlier on this afternoon, but rather made an admirable speech on housing, because now, as chairman of the C.P.R.E., and also of the new and important Committee on Environmental Conservation, he could have taken a valuable part in this discussion. As it is, the protection of the seashore and the coastline has been left, 241 apart from what I have just said about the C.P.R.E., almost entirely to the National Trust. The National Trust mounted the magnificent "Enterprise Neptune", which has succeeded in collecting a sum of no less than £1,500,000 towards the purchasing of sensitive areas of the seashore and coastal land, and, as a result of this, has been able to make inviolable stretches of no less than 200 miles of some of the most lovely and impressive scenery on the coast of the whole country. That is a magnificent and successful operation which I am not sure the country as a whole appreciates at its true worth. The Chancellor, on behalf of the Government, subscribed £250,000 to that fund. We asked them to subscribe pound for pound. If they had subscribed pound for pound, which it is still open for them to do—there is no reason at all why they should not—it would have enabled us to buy at least another 50 miles of coastline; and I can assure your Lordships that there is still a good deal more than 50 miles of very beautiful coastline available for protection in that way.
I should like to conclude with a short reference to European Conservation Year, which I think was referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, if not by other speakers. This country has played a leading part in organising this—I almost called it a fine propaganda effort or, to use another expression which has become modern jargon, I might call it a communication effort, because that has so far been its main achievement. I hope, however, that it will not be its only achievement; indeed, it is already clear that important practical work is coming out of it. I refer to the Environmental Control Council, of which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, is the chairman, and I think that that could result in the building up of a sort of high command on the amenities front which could be of very great value.
I am sorry that there is no reference to Conservation Year in the gracious Speech and I think that then; might well have been such a reference. The Duke of Edinburgh has been one of the leaders—perhaps the outstanding leader—in this movement, and I should like to pay a most sincere tribute to the work which he has done, not only in outstanding public utterances but also in the detailed 242 application of his very real abilities to many of the problems which have arisen in connection with Conservation Year. I am sure that many of our foreign friends have envied us this leadership, and I think it would have been very appropriate if the gracious Speech had referred to this matter. Conservation Year is now more than half over, and during the first six months of the year, as most of us are politicians, up to a point at any rate, we have been concerned with the struggle for power, which is an absorbing occupation. But now that that has been settled, would it not be a good thing if the Government devoted part of their attention during the remaining six months of Conservation Year to taking a real lead and giving some practical support to this very important enterprise?
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I consider that by far the most important words in the gracious Speech are. "to strengthen the economy and curb the inflation", especially when we add the words, "improve industrial relations". But before I deal with industrial relations, of which I have some slight personal experience, may I say that the Government must also reduce the very big expenditure in which the last Government indulged. Very largely, that expenditure was completely unrelated to any productivity. I quite agree that one must have Government expenditure in order to alleviate genuine poverty, but a great deal of that Government expenditure of which I know has not alleviated any poverty and has been very wasteful. We all know that that Government expenditure, allied to ever-spiralling wages and other benefits, has led to our ever-vanishing pound. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, yawns, but he knows that that is a fact. In his speech he said that the Conservative Party wanted to "clobber" the unions—
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
Yes he did. That was very extravagant language. I was here and I heard him.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, the noble Viscount, may have been here but 243 clearly, on this as on other matters, he did not take in what was said. I did not say anything of the sort. I said that there were some in the electorate who supported the Conservative Party and thought that the Tory Government would "clobber" the unions. If the noble Viscount will read my words, he will see that what I am saying is completely accurate.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, perhaps I put into the noble Lord's mouth words that he did not say quite so emphatically as I thought he said them; but he certainly spoke in a subtle way.
Before I come to industrial relations, I should like to say that I very much welcome the incentives to save which are referred to in the gracious Speech. If we can get people to save we shall then take the heat out of the economy and help to cure inflation. I have frequently spoken on this subject, and I have even gone so far as to suggest that we ought to have compulsory savings for employees and employers. Employers ought to add another stamp on to the employees' cards so as to have compulsory saving, but it is far better to have voluntary saving, and that is best achieved by tax incentives. If a man saves so much out of his wages, then he should not have to pay tax on that money.
I can tell your Lordships a little story about this. There is a very esteemed Member of this House who has been head of a national Board. He was opening a new housing estate and he went to one or two of the houses. He said to one housewife, "I hope that everything is all right. You have a beautiful house with a deep freeze, a spin dryer and a refrigerator." The housewife said, "Yes, but we have one great problem. We can't spend it." He said, "I don't understand you", to which she replied, "We have £80 to £100 coming into this house every week. We pay about £2 rent, and we cannot spend all the money." So he said, "But you don't have to spend it. You can open a banking account and save it." But she said, "No, sir. We couldn't do that, because we are working-class people." That is a perfectly true story and I can tell your Lordships who told me.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I cannot hear what the noble Lord is saying, which I imagine is just as well because he usually makes interventions which are not much use. To come to industrial relations, I cannot understand the extraordinary horror of the unions about something which every civilised industrial nation in the world has in regard to the relations between the unions and employers.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
The principle that freely made agreements are legally binding; that if you make an agreement to accept a certain wage for six months, or whatever the period is, you must keep to that; and that it is legally binding. That is the case in most countries. For instance, if you work in a public utility in Belgium or Holland you may not strike. You can give notice that you want to leave your job, but you have to give certainly over a month's notice. It may be three months; I am not quite sure. But you cannot strike. I cannot understand the horror of the unions at this proposal.
One does not object to official strikes, because the unions are presumably responsible bodies. But they are also ultimately responsible for the unofficial strikes, and it is the unofficial strikes—I know: as an employer I have suffered from them—which are the curse of this country. The General who cannot control his troops is not much use. The unions ought to control their members so as not to have unofficial strikes, and if they cannot control their members then they should be fined. Most certainly if there are unofficial strikes the unions ought to be responsible in the civil courts.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount who will take these particular offenders to court? At 245 the present moment a contract between an employer and workers is legally binding. The question is: who will take them to court—the employer?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
No; you cannot take the workers to court. You cannot take 20,000 workers to court. You take the heads of the trade union to court.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
The employer, the firm which has suffered damage. It is done in Germany; it is done in France and it is done in other countries. Otherwise, it is impossible for an employer to do his costing. If you make a wage agreement and you do not know whether in two or three weeks' time the men are going to come out on strike, how do you do your costing? Noble Lords must surely understand that. I must not be too long, but I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, said. He said, I think, that it is iniquitous, intolerable, that a handful of men in a powerhouse, or in some plant where they are making a componet which is required in other industries, should be able to strike and throw perhaps 20,000, 30,000 or 40,000 men out of work. It is really intolerable in this age, and we cannot let this situation continue. I think the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, will agree with me there. I am extremely pro the unions: they are a very necessary part of our society. But something must be done to cure unofficial strikes.
Also, of course, we now have automation, and as a result the demand for unskilled labour is becoming far less than it used to be. I should have thought that in the interests of their own members, of the ordinary rank and file, the unions would try to cure unofficial strikes. They do try, I know, but I think they must try harder. They must educate their people. They have been rather lax about educating their people. As I said, I have a small factory, and it is in small concerns that the employers never have any trouble because they try to explain everything to the working people. The employers know them, and know their family history, more or less. I have no experience of big firms, but I have always 246 believed that education is the key to this matter. Companies have news-sheets and all that sort of thing, and they try to explain what is going on; but management should do more in this way. For instance, I am all for having works councils and works committees although here you might come up against the shop stewards. Personally I have never met any bad shop stewards, but we are told that there are shop stewards in industry who are planted there simply to disrupt industry; and I am sure that that is true. But anything which can improve the liaison between management and the shop floor is, I think, excellent.
Share ownership has been tried, but the trouble is that if you give shares to employees they are liable to sell them the next day, although it is possible to create shares which they cannot sell. I am all in favour of these schemes for share ownership; but what puzzles workpeople—and I speak to many of them—is that they read in the newspapers that a certain company has made a profit of £5 million or so and they say, "Good heavens!—think of those directors and the chairman sharing £5 million. Why cannot we have some of it?" If only it could be explained to them that out of that £5 million has to come corporation tax, that so much has to be put to reserve and that, after the shareholders have paid their income tax and surtax, probably three-quarters of it has gone back to the Government for the Welfare State. If that industry were nationalised, the odds are that it would probably show a loss, the State would not get anything out of it, and the taxpayer would have to make up the difference. If only we could have education of that sort—I do not mean the education of the London School of Economics; heaven forbid that we should have that!—if only we could have practical education for the working people I am quite sure it would do a great deal to improve industrial relations.
My Lords, I must not be too long, but I am inclined to get carried away on this subject because I feel quite deeply on it. At least there is something that we can be very thankful for and that is that unemployment to-day is not the financial hardship it used to be. In fact some unemployed people can get more than people in the lower paid jobs. But the social problem of unemployment is of 247 course appalling. It is terrible for a man who wants to work not to be able to get a job. How we are going to solve this problem in these days of ever-increasing automation I do not know. It is an appalling one and is, I think, really the challenge of our age.
I welcome the sentiments in the gracious Speech to the effect that help to the less prosperous areas will be continued. The last Government did a great deal here. That was good and we must carry on with it. But probably from the point of view of the nation, of the export trade, it should be remembered that if a company scatters its factories over the country—perhaps it is induced to have a factory in an area where otherwise it might not have one—it tends to make it not competitive overseas. But we must do it. I was wondering in this age of automation—we have industrial training boards, agricultural training boards and all that—whether it is possible to have boards to teach a great number of the unemployed who through no fault of their own cannot get jobs, hand carving, metalwork, carpentry and making goods by hand. Those goods could then be sold through Government agencies. Because I am quite sure that in this machine age, when hand-made goods are extremely hard to come by, if we could start up this work we should find a ready market for it. For instance we have a vast tourist trade to-day. I am told that our tourist trade for this year will probably bring in £500 million in invisible exports. We can sell these goods to the tourist trade. We have to do something from the social point of view. The financial point of view I do not think is important, because as automation increases the wealth of the country increases. When people cannot get jobs they must be given a fair share of the cake. The financial problem is not so great; but the social problem is appalling. The average person does not want to be idle.
On the social problem, may I mention something which has worried me for some time and which is not referred to in the gracious Speech. It is the subject of gambling, and particularly betting shops. I have spoken on this subject before. I was just as responsible as anybody else in my Party in that I voted for the Bill. 248 But when we brought it in we did not realise how far it would go and what the ramifications would be. May I quote a few words from a speech I made on this subject in May, 1966, when I drew attention to an American report after a survey of English betting shops? They found that the turnover increased in ratio to a rise in unemployment and they reported to the New York State Assembly in 1964. They said in their report:The great bulk of the increased turnover has come from those in the lowest strata, contributing to an unhealthy and largely unproductive wealth via betting from the lower income families.The Council of Churches on Gambling also said, quoting a N.S.P.C.C. Inspector, that,too many people spend their National Assistance on horses instead of on their families and that many men come out of the National Assistance office and have to pass a betting shop on the way home. The temptation is too much in many cases.In my home town of Ashford in Kent, which is not an area of high unemployment, there are taxi drivers who will tell you that frequently they take families to collect their dole and social security money and then take them to the betting shops. I bet myself; I do not want to appear hypocritical or a Mrs. Grundy. But it is really a canker in this country. Betting shops are presumably here to stay, and I should like to see them organised as they are on the Continent. In this country they are open for the whole afternoon and people can loiter in them and watch races on television. I understand that in France they are open for only two hours, from midday until 2 o'clock. I think it would be a good thing if some future gracious Speech were to announce that the Government intended to restrict the activities of betting shops to prevent people loitering in them and in that way avoid absenteeism in industry. There is one other point that I should like to make about gambling. I consider that young men under 25 ought not to be allowed credit in casinos. Incidentally, it might not be a bad idea to nationalise betting shops—we should then have at least one nationalised industry showing a profit.
My Lords, before concluding may I say a few words on housing. A few months ago I asked the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, how many council house 249 tenants had an income of over £2,000 a year. I have not looked up his reply, but from memory I believe that the number was a very large one, about 100,000. And I understand that the number of people living in council houses with an income of over £4,000 a year is about 10.000 to 12,000, so far as the authorities can ascertain. This is an absurd situation. It is quite unfair on working people many of whom have saved all their lives to buy a house, that they should pay rates to subsidise people with an income of £4,000 a year. That is completely wrong. The object of council housing is to help the poor and needy. I am very pleased to see in the gracious Speech that something is to be done about housing for the poor and needy. It is long overdue.
The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, spoke for a long time on the subject of environment which I should have liked to mention. I will not say anything about that, but I should like to say this in regard to the question of industrial relations. I think that the public expect the trade union leaders—and I have said before that the public on the whole have a great respect for them; they are a necessary part of society—to co-operate with the Government in trying to prevent unofficial strikes. I sincerely hope that the trade union leaders will co-operate with the Government over industrial relations, because I believe that it is quite the most important part of the gracious Speech.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, I am sure that you will not expect me to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, in his extremely interesting speech, but one cannot refrain from a passing reference. We were, I am sure, extremely interested, as trade unionists, when he likened the power of the general secretary of a trade union to that of a military General in control of people in the Services. If the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, as General Secretary of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, had tried to direct his members as if he were a general, I know what would have happened to him. But that is the outlook of a section of the Party opposite and one can understand why bitterness exists among members of 250 the trade union movement against any suggestion from the Conservative Party about dealing with trade union legislation. That is the background thought, as has been borne out in the past, and one can understand the suspicions of trade unionists and the reason for some of the strong speeches that have been made already against any proposed Tory legislation. Trade unionists have had this fear in the past and it acts as a warning to them for the future However, I do not want to follow that line of thought.
The debate has been most interesting. We have had some wonderful speeches. One was made by my noble friend Lord Citrine, who has a vast knowledge of both sides of industry. I think that the Government would do well to note and digest what he said. We have had speeches from two former union general secretaries. My noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland spoke with the wealth of knowledge which he gathered during his occupation of high offices in the international trade union sphere as well as during his active participation in trade union affairs as the general secretary of his own union. These are men with vast experience.
My noble friend Lord Williamson was forthright about the difficulties experienced by trade unionists themselves in dealing with members who act unofficially, and he referred to the responsible way in which the trade unions try to deal with such men. This was in contrast to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard. who likened general secretaries to Servicemen in industry. The only circumstances in which they could act as generals would be if we had the dictatorship of the Fascist or the Communist. The speech of the noble Viscount revealed a totally unrealistic approach.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, surely the noble Lord would agree that trade union members could have been educated over the last 50 years, instead of being told to "go canny" or to go slow. Attempts could have been made to educate them in basic economics.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, I hope that the noble Viscount will not interrupt me. I tried to deal with him very kindly, but if he follows that line 251 I shall have to be extremely brutal. So I sincerely hope that we shall not hear any more from him.
To-day in the industrial field we are approaching things from a totally different angle as compared with the position which existed prior to 1964. Before 1964 the industrial outlook was concentrated on profits, taxation, interest and investments The question was: was it worth while? To-day there is a complete change. Naturally, these matters which I have mentioned are still prevalent, but we do not talk about them so much. Now in industry we talk about production, efficiency and industrial output. That is the key note, and it indicates the wonderful change which has come about during the years of Labour Government since 1964. This change emphasises the most important feature of the nation's industrial life to-day. What can be done to seek out and achieve these objectives? The lesson must be brought home to all that, with the research that has gone on in industrial production methods, and with the scientific knowledge that has been acquired and applied, relationships of the past have been completely changed. It used to be the attitude of the trade union movement to demand better wages and conditions, or to defend what had been secured; to-day trade unionists and management must face this changed outlook. Both sides have to get together to hammer out a plan.
We have had the record of the Labour Government since 1964 with the various enactments that have been passed. We have the industrial training boards, the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation and other bodies. There are training schemes in industry, and payments are made to men who are made redundant. This completely new line of approach, this change in methods, has been secured without the festering sore of unemployment. Tremendous difficulties are created in breaking down the old Conservative line, as depicted by the speech of the noble Viscount: that it is the job of management to rule and to give directives, and for the employee to carry them out. That is the hard line of the most reactionary.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
On the other hand, there is the hard line of the trade unionist who will not adjust himself to the new environment and the more efficient methods. He still argues on the old trade union lines of defending conditions. The real problem is the bridging of the gap.
The power of the old individual businessmen has gone; the power now is in big business. The directors, with their managements and executives, are the bosses to-day. With this type of development there is often a wide gap between management and the executive class, on the one hand, and the workmen on the shop floor. This is particularly the case in, for example, the car industry, where men work on a conveyor belt system, doing the same soul-destroying job day in and day out. Without any intimate contact with management and understanding as to their policies, it is no wonder that grievances are built up; and when the workers find that these grievances are not attended to quickly, there is often a flare-up. This is why we have so much industrial trouble, for example in the new car industries, as compared with the old-style basic industries, where we had a sense of discipline in days gone by.
When noble Lords opposite speak loosely of these unofficial strikes they have to take note of the background. We know that when people feel they have a grievance they talk to the district secretary of their union or to their shop stewards, but often the shop steward or district secretary does not look upon these things in the same way as the individuals concerned and delays take place, possibly at the trade union end to commence with, and then delays take place with the management. Though a grievance is put through the correct machinery, the machine is often so slow in grinding it out that there are these spontaneous outbursts. The trade union officials strongly deplore the fact that their men have no patience, but that is what happens when there are long delays in negotiations.
My noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland has already pointed out what takes place in America, where there are legal sanctions and every trade union agreement has to be recognised officially. Charges have been made by noble Lords opposite during this debate that trade 253 unions break agreements. From this side we have repeatedly challenged them to give one national trade union that has broken agreements, but there is a silence on the opposite side of the Chamber. If that is the situation why in the world is there a need for legal sanctions and for agreements entered into by both sides to be legally enforceable? The silence opposite indicates the hollowness of this Conservative line of approach. It is no wonder t tat ardent trade unionists, like myself and many of my colleagues, are suspicious when we are told of the wonderful things the Government are going to do to make things easier and better for the trade unions.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, I warned the noble Viscount that I should be charitable to him and I do not want to be brutal, so shall we let it go? I suggest to the Tory Government, and particularly to those reactionary members of the Conservative Party in the country who have been pressing for action against the trade unions, that they ought to be extremely careful before they do aught. It has been proved in times of war and crisis that the nation depends on the trade unions. If it had not been for the periods of restraint exercised by the trade unions we all know the difficulties in which the nation would have been involved. No Government to-day, whether Labour or Conservative, can go ahead and completely ignore the trade unions. I think that the Conservative Government ought to take the lesson which we learned—which I hope we learned—when the Labour Government tried to impose sanctions on the unions and found that the reaction that took place undermined a lot of their good work. At the famous meeting that took place, the executives of all the big unions accepted the Government's prices and incomes policy. It was disturbing when we had Mr. Frank Cousins and Mr. Clive Jenkins undermining the authority of the other unions who followed this line. I think that the Conservative Party ought to take note of that experience and renounce completely their intentions of making anything legally enforceable against the trade unions. They should take note of what Mr. Vic Feather and 254 the T.U.C. are now doing in settling some of the disputes that have been going on.
The trade union movement know what is in the nation's interest and they put the nation's interest foremost, because the interest of the nation is the interest of their own members. Looking back through their record of service in times of difficulty and crisis, we see that this has been the keystone of trade union policy. I sincerely hope that the Government will drop any suggestion of tampering with the trade unions at the present moment.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ LORD DELACOURT-SMITH
My Lords, we are a dwindling band. It falls to me, on behalf of the Opposition, to try to draw together some of the threads of to-day's debate, and some of what was said yesterday has interlocked closely with what has been said in the debate to-day. Before I seek to do so, I must offer my congratulations to all those noble Lords opposite—many of them, alas!, not here—who have taken office in the new Administration. So far as I can judge, in every individual case the post to which the noble Lord has been appointed relates closely to his former interests and specialised field of activity, as indicated by speeches in the House. That must be a source of particular gratification to members of the Administration in your Lordships' House, because that principle does not seem to have been invariably applied in the construction of the Administration.
May I also say how glad we are at the note which the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, struck. We fully understand that reasons beyond his control, which he was kind enough to explain, have made it necessary for him to leave. We welcome, of course, his reference to the work of Miss Jennie Lee and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and he will have the warm support of noble Lords on this side of the House in continuing that work. We must all hope that the Government will act in the spirit of the speech which he made. I must confess, though, that I find it hard to reconcile that spirit with some of the actions which appear to be contemplated. I find it hard, for example, to reconcile that speech with the character of the campaign for commercial radio and the realities which we know to lie behind that project.
255 A number of my noble friends on this side of the House have made speeches to which I hope a reference and reply will be forthcoming. We fully understand that no comment on the speech of my noble friend Lord Royle will be forthcoming in the course of to-day's debate, but we certainly hope that the subjects that he raised will be covered by Government spokesmen in the course of to-morrow. I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply will address himself in part of his remarks to the speech of my noble friend Lord Silkin: that he will in his reply cover the question of the sale of municipal houses, not by reference to the undoubted and undenied advantages of home ownership but by reference to, and in the context of, the substantial housing need of this country, much of which can only be met by the provision of rented accommodation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, drew attention. I hope that in this connection the noble Lord will also make some reference to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, on this subject, because, while I will not say that we on this side of the House agree with what Lord Molson said, we should certainly like to hear the comments of the Government on a number of his points.
May I also, in a rather personal capacity, raise a question which has not been touched upon so far in the debate but upon which I should be interested to hear some comment? Is it the intention of the Government to proceed during the current Session with the Bill dealing with metrication? The former Government, on May 13, indicated their intention to introduce at an early opportunity legislation to remove the obstacles to metrication. This is a subject of considerable interest in commerce and industry, where there is a great deal of pressure in many fields for legislation of this type. It would be interesting to know what are the views of the Government upon the likelihood of legislation in the current Session.
I come now to the question, after the exchanges of the last two days, and particularly the contributions from the noble Earl. Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough: what is the state of our economy to be judged to be? I believe that the statements which have passed 256 across the Floor of the House have made it clear that there is not, and there was not, a crisis facing the economy; that the Government have, indeed, inherited a situation in which they have a good deal of room for manœuvre; a situation in which the balance-of-payments position is strong and basic industrial structure has been much improved. That is a point to which I hope time will allow me to return a little later.
It is true that our resources are not being used to the full, and particularly our resources of manpower, largely, in my view, because of efforts to make the balance-of-payments situation right. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberthall (I think it was), observed in his contribution yesterday, some slack in the economy can be precious, because it contributes to freedom of manœuvre. It is true also that the rate of price increases has been somewhat higher in the last year or two than that which has been common in the post-war period. But that rate has been held in the United Kingdom during that two-year period below the rate of increase in a number of comparable industrial countries.
It is true, too, that there is a problem of short and medium-term indebtedness. This, I think it is fair to say, was greatly exaggerated by the Conservative Party during the course of the Election campaign. They frequently referred to the figure of £3,000 million, without adding that it had by then been reduced to something like half that figure. And I would suggest to your Lordships that that is a figure which is by no means unmanageable, having regard to the condition of the reserves and the balance-of-payments position.
It does seem, from all this, and from what has now been said by noble Lords opposite, and particularly those to whom I have referred, that we were mistaken in believing that during the Election campaign the present Prime Minister had ever said that there was a crisis, an incipient crisis, although he certainly seemed to manage to convey to the people of the country the idea that even the possibility of a further devaluation should be in the forefront of their minds. But we are assured (and this point was elucidated last night with the assistance of the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Party) that he was merely referring to something 257 that somebody said to somebody else, and he was asking if it was true. Frankly, this situation—and we must look to the future—is very different in the eyes of any reasonable man from the inheritance of the previous Administration in 1964. For nobody denies that at that time there was a serious crisis which left the incoming Government very little, if any, room for manœuvre.
The present Government have inherited a basis for economic growth; they have inherited from the preceding Government a springboard for prosperity, sounder by far, seen from that point of view, than the present Administration's predecessors inherited six years ago. Of course, the most telling tribute of all came yesterday from the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I associate myself with my noble friend in regretting most sincerely the illness which has overtaken him—who in his speech indicated continuance until further notice of the policies of the Labour Government. What a tribute—coming from such a source! But I think it must be a little bewildering to some of those who read and believed the statement of the present Prime Minister on June 17, when he was talking ofa very real alternative which ought to be pursued immediately. That alternative is to break into the price wage spiral by acting directly to reduce prices.I am not going to ask the noble Lord who is to reply to reconcile the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday with the speech of the present Prime Minister on June 17, but I would ask him to say whether this is the new style Government.
Noble Lords in a number of speeches have praised the reference in the gracious Speech to the economic objectives—curbing inflation, promoting growth, strengthening the economy and so on. These intentions of noble Lords opposite are unexceptionable and excellent. The question is not whether this is an admirable paragraph in the gracious Speech, but the ability of noble Lords opposite to achieve what is set out in this paragraph: because in 1964 the situation which their predecessors inherited was not some sudden spasm, not some summer storm which had come up out of a clear sky. The situation in 1964, and the crisis of 1964, came at the end of a number of 258 years of rule by the Party opposite. I could not help reflecting, as I listened to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, speaking very effectively and movingly about the importance of improving productivity, of sustaining growth, of enhancing investment, that the 1964 situation came at the end of a period of 13 years which had been marked (I do not think any noble Lord opposite will dispute this) by what had been, by the international standards of those days, a low rate of growth of productivity, low levels of investment, low levels of export success, low levels of growth; and that was at a time, from 1951 to 1964, for a great part of which world conditions were much more favourable to this country than they were in the latter part of that period, and during the past six years.
The question which faces all of us is: what is there new in the policies of noble Lords opposite that leads us to believe they will not repeat, in the period after 1970, the experience which the country had from them in the period following 1951? I have heard during this debate many of the same easy slogans about incentive, about opportunity, about freeing people from restriction, which I heard before the Conservative Party returned to power in 1951.
Arising from the debate, let me ask them about one or two aspects of industrial and economic policy. What is to happen about regional policies? The policies of the Labour Government in this field were comprehensive and flexible; some elements emphasising the creation of employment, some emphasing the creation of new industries in the development areas—even though those industries might not be labour intensive—some related to strengthening what it is now fashionable in this context to call the "infrastructure". Those policies produced results; they had considerable momentum. When the noble Lord comes to reply, I hope he will say how many jobs are expected to be created in the development areas in the future—and particularly in the next 12 months—as a result of measures already set in train in consequence of the policies of the previous Government.
I hope that he will also say whether and in what respect the Government propose—if at all—to change those policies. Do they accept the need for 259 a policy that is flexible and comprehensive, or do they accept the idea that we should depart from having regional policies and return to the policy of growth points? I must confess that I did not think the phrase of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee about "precision bombing" was a very happy one in this connection, but we understand the distinction which he was drawing, and it would be useful to know the comments of the Government upon it. Do they intend to change industrial development certificate policy? If they intend to do so, will they give clear notification to Parliament and an opportunity for discussion?
May I turn now to the nationalised industries? There was a passage last night in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in which he rightly drew attention to the significance for the economy, from the point of view of production, employment—indeed, from every point of view—of the nationalised industries. It is no good concealing the fact that many members of the present Government have made no secret of their hostility, on grounds of doctrine, or at any rate on some grounds, to public ownership and to the present scale of public ownership in this country. The Manifesto of the Conservative Party, which I have read with care, and extracts from which I have noted in some speeches from noble Lords opposite—not always with acknowledgement—is, if I may say so without wishing to give offence, rather a suave document, and it is exceedingly guarded upon this important question of the nationalised industries. What is said in the Manifesto contrasts markedly with what has been said in an emphatic way in normally well-informed quarters in the financial and City Press about the intentions of the present Government in this regard.
Past experience suggests that nationalised industries have not always had fair treatment under Conservative government. It is not fair if publicly owned industries are subjected to commercial tests but denied a reasonable degree of commercial freedom. It is not fair if publicly owned industries are stripped of their profitable activities and expected to carry onerous public obligations in their less profitable sides. It is not fair if 260 the publicly-owned industries are deprived of capital—as some undoubtedly were in the 'fifties and early 'sixties—when capital could be made available to them which would yield a good return. We are not seeking—and I am certainly not proposing—a privileged position for the publicly-owned industries. I ask for an assurance that the publicly-owned industries, and the staffs who work in them, will have fair treatment, and that their development will not be hampered by doctrinaire prejudices, which some members of the Party opposite have expressed.
In this connection, I have noted some of the language which has been used—not by noble Lords in this House, but in another place—about the attitude of the Government upon pay and salaries in the public sector. I do not wish to pursue this point at any length, beyond saying that in many parts of the public sector recollections are still strong of the Selwyn Lloyd incomes policy in the early 'sixties which made public servants the whipping boys of policy and which caused great resentment at that time. I hope that the Government will be able to say at some appropriate time that public servants and staff generally in the public sector will not be treated worse and less favourably than workers generally are being treated in the country. I am not talking of or seeking a privileged position, but I am talking of a situation of equity and justice.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, made particular reference yesterday to the importance of productivity, and I would go all the way with him in recognising its importance. We cannot base economic success on rising productivity alone—there are other factors—but I do not think we can get economic success without a satisfactory productivity picture. Productivity is greatly influenced by two factors: industrial structure and industrial relations. As to industrial structure, a great deal was done under the last Government to effect improvements. The consequence of what was done was to improve the competitiveness of British industry. It involved a good deal of intervention by the Government, or, as I should prefer to say, of co-operation or partnership between industry and Government, some of this carried out direct 261 by the Government, some through the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation.
Where, I should like to ask, do the new Government stand on this question of co-operation between Government and industry? What is meant by the phrase "unnecessary interference"? We asked the noble Earl last night to give us some examples of unnecessary interference. We ask the noble Lord this evening and trust that he will tell us what examples there are. If he cannot give us specific examples, perhaps he will help us by taking some particular industries. What would the present Administration have done, for example, faced with the situation that the past Government were faced with in the shipbuilding industry? What would they have done in the case of the computer industry? Let us have some indication of how far there is to be a continuance of the sensible policies which we have had in the last six years and how far there is to be a departure from them; because I believe that industry wants to know the answer to this question just as much as we in this House want to know it.
I was surprised, I must frankly say, to hear the noble Earl last night link unnecessary intervention or unnecessary interference with the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation. This is a body which has rendered great service in enhancing the competitiveness and the effectiveness of British industry. This is not a college of idealogues; this is not a Fabian seminar, if I may take a phrase from the demonology of noble Lords opposite. This is a body of practical men of all sides of industry, men who are well known for their industrial experience, men who rightly command respect, of, I am quite sure, very varied political allegiance, but men who were willing to do a job very much in the national interest in their work for the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation I commend to noble Lords the admirable Report of their work to the year March 31, 1970, published at the end of May. Quite apart from its content, the vigour, clarity and freshness of its style make it a joy to read. It is clear from this Report that very much of the work of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation has not yet borne its full fruit.
Whatever noble Lords opposite may do, even if they were to take such an 262 extraordinary step as to bring the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation's work to an end, they would go on for a long time and, more important, the country would go on for a long time reaping a bonus from the work that the Corporation has done already. If I may say so, noble Lords opposite will go on right through the period of their Administration, and long alter, seeing the beneficial effects of what has already been done. I hope we can be assured that this good work is going to be enabled to continue.
I do not think the Government can really claim that we should rely overwhelmingly on market forces. Market forces of course play a part, and will play a part, because we have a mixed economy. But anybody who really believes that market forces alone are speedy enough and discriminating enough to effect the changes that are so urgently needed in the national interest in the industrial structure of Britain, is somebody who is flying in the face of the facts that are known to every informed and candid person. It may be that it is the kind of watchdogs which have existed—the Prices and Incomes Board and the other pieces of public machinery—which constitute what is regarded as the "unnecessary interference". But, whatever meaning is to be attached to this phrase, I hope that we shall soon have a clarification of it.
I come last of all to the question of industrial relations, which also is so important in connection with productivity. It was my original intention to devote quite a considerable part of my remarks to this subject. However, I find it difficult to do so, first of all because we have had the very striking speech of my noble friend Lord Citrine, who has covered so fully much that I would have wished to say, and who has covered it with his immense experience and authority and his towering moderation. What he said has of course been confirmed in their different ways by my noble friends Lord Williamson, Lord Douglass of Cleveland and, in the part of his speech devoted to this topic, by my noble friend Lord Popplewell.
It may well be that we shall return to this subject of industrial relations at a fairly early date with much more time to devote to it. I therefore confine myself 263 to urging the Government, as all my noble friends did, not to proceed with what appear to be their current proposals in the field of industrial relations. I believe that if they went to every noble Lord in this House who has experience of the trade union movement; I believe that if they went to any experienced trade union officials outside, no matter what their political tendency might be, they would get the same advice.
I wish I had time to reply more fully to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Alport. But let me say that it is not a question of any of us suggesting that the trade unions should be above Parliament or above the law; we are not suggesting that for one moment. What we are seeking to do, to put it very briefly, is to establish from our varied experiences two points which we hope the Government will take. One is the overwhelming practical difficulty in this field of industrial disputes and industrial relations of enforcing legal sanctions. That is the first point. The second point is that, if such a Bill as the Conservative Party appear at present to contemplate is on the Statute Book, not only in our view will it be impossible to enforce it, not only will it therefore not bring the benefits which the advocates of the Bill suggest; it will in fact have precisely the contrary effect.
The noble Lord, Lord Citrine, referred in a somewhat different context to the Trade Disputes Act 1927. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that Act were, anybody who lived through that period and the years that followed will know that the existence of that Act in itself was a continuing provocation to the trade union movement, even though many of the sections of that Act were substantially ineffective. I believe that if a Bill such as we understand to be contemplated, or gather from the Manifesto to be contemplated, is put on the Statute Book, it will be a perpetual source of irritation in industrial relations and will certainly, quite apart from that, produce no beneficial results.
I am asked to produce, and I think it is the proper duty of noble Lords in this House to seek to produce, constructive ideas in this regard. Again under the compulsions of extreme brevity, I 264 would offer some constructive suggestions. I believe the Government would be wise to confine any legislation in this field, if they feel they must legislate, to points which are substantially agreed, perhaps taking as their starting point the Industrial Relations Bill which had a First Reading at, I believe, about the end of April. Following that, they should recognise that the machinery of consultation is largely a matter for the parties in industry, assisted by the Commission on Industrial Relations. What the Government can contribute is to seek to secure by all the influence they can a change in the attitudes of employers and employees. I believe that it is within industry (as has been said) that change should be effected, and within industry it is the employers who perhaps will listen more easily to the present Government than they might to some other possible Governments. Within industry the responsibility for changing attitudes must principally rest upon the employers.
Here again it is not a time when I can develop this point to the full, but I do not believe that employers generally in this country—and this has been confirmed by all I have seen in the last few years—grasp the potentiality of improved industrial relations. They have not come to terms with the revolution of rising expectations among the working people of this country. They have tended to act in a way which perpetuated the belief that they did not recognise the workers as fellow citizens with a common interest in the prosperity of our people. Many employers will say that this is very unfair. I can only say that until we get some recognition by employers of how they seem, and how their attitudes seem, to people on the other side of industry we shall not make much progress.
I have been struck, as I have no doubt many noble Lords will have been struck, by the extracts which have appeared of the forthcoming book by the noble Lord, Lord Robens, and my impression is that he has set out more authoritatively and more comprehensively than has been done before what many of us have been trying to express about the essential interrelationship between human relations and industrial relations. Some of the speeches which have been made in this debate on this topic by noble Lords opposite have distressed me, because they did not seem 265 to take any account of that essential inter-relationship.
In conclusion I must confess that my mind goes back to the last occasion on which there was a change from a Labour Administration to a Conservative Administration. I think it is fair to say that in 1951 the United Kingdom had made probably the best recovery in Europe. I am sorry to have to say that the ground then won up to 1951—and I was not engaged in politics from 1951 to 1967—appeared to me to be lost in the 13 years which followed 1951 by false starts and missed opportunities; by a willingness to go on in the old ways, even if the old ways had got out of date. In many ways the last five years have been hard years, but they have also, in other ways, been years of achievement. I believe that these last five years have set standards in the care of the young and the old, the sick and the distressed, which the current Administration will do well to maintain. The last five years have certainly shown in the fields of the building of houses, the building of schools and the building of hospitals a practical achievement which has never been equalled in a comparable period of time in the whole history of this country. I suggest that Ave have also, during those five years, secured what I ventured earlier to call a basis for growth, a springboard for posterity, a freedom for manœuvre for the present Government; and we most earnestly hope, in the interest of all, that they will prove in every respect equal to the opportunities which have befallen them.
§ 9.5 p.m.
THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD SAND-FORD)
My Lords, we have had a wide ranging debate, surveying the human scene from gambling to House of Lords reform. All the points will be considered and all the suggestions will be evaluated, but your Lordships will be relieved to know that I shall not attempt to answer every single question that I have been asked. If your Lordships agree, I will not follow all the questions which were raised on economics very fully because that was the subject to which yesterday was devoted. I will not to-night deal with the question of the reorganisation of the Health Service because that can 266 follow to-morrow, or with the question of Commonwealth Immigration which was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Royle. I will also leave the questions on education which were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. Nevertheless, that leaves us plenty to get our teeth into and I propose to deal with the subjects under the general headings of industrial relations, regional policies and housing.
Before turning to those subjects, perhaps I may clear up one or two relatively minor but nevertheless important points. However, before doing that I should like to take this opportunity, as a junior Minister coming into the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, to pay a tribute to the work done there, at the desk which I now occupy, by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. Everywhere I have turned in the course of picking up these new duties I have heard his praises sung. He has long been esteemed for his prowess in office and, if I may say so, also admired for his shirts and ties. But what has impressed us most on these Benches has been his zeal in the conservative cause. No one could have done more than the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, to conserve the buildings, the environment and the institutions that make up our national heritage, and all will applaud him for his achievements; but he must not mind if the Conservatives do so most of all. In logic, I think he ought to be over here on these Benches, but perhaps tactically it is better to have him over there acting as a piece of leaven.
To deal with one or two of the detailed questions which will not come into the rest of my speech, the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, asked me about metrication. The Government are looking into the whole question of how far and how fast we should move and the question of whether there is need for legislation. The present intention is to publish either a Green Paper or White Paper—and as the noble Lord probably knows, the other place are having an Adjournment Debate on the subject to-night He asked a number of questions about the treatment likely to be meted out to nationalised industries. All I can say on that point is that he must not assume that we issue our policy through the financial Press. If he sees anything else in the Queen's speech which really arouses suspicion in his mind he ought to have mentioned it, but I 267 personally can find nothing there at all—
§ LORD SANDFORD
—to arouse suspicion. May I now turn to industrial relations and first of all say how very welcome were the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, and the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, whose experience in this field is enormous and probably unrivalled. It was a great loss to the House that the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, was not here when we were debating this subject on a Motion introduced to the House by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when the White Paper In Place of Strife was issued. I think that one of the many good things that have happened since Thursday, June 18, is that commentators on industrial relations have at last begun to read Fair Deal at Work, and have discovered, as all noble Lords who have taken part from the opposite Benches discovered long ago, that the Tories do not intend to "clobber" the unions—an ungracious phrase that we would not have heard from Wadham College. They do not intend to introduce penal sanctions or to have Whitehall Ministers interfering in industrial relations. What they do intend to do has been set out in outline in Fair Deal at Work since 1968.
Since then we have the benefit of the massive piece of work done by the Donovan Royal Commission. What is happening now is consultation by the Government with the T.U.C. and the C.B.I., a process preliminary to the preparation of legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, advised us, this will be a cool and careful operation, but not too lengthy. The intention is to introduce that legislation as soon as possible, and certainly during this Session. Beyond that I would rather say no more, unless it were to refer the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, particularly, if I may say so, to what I said when winding up our debate on March 19, 1969—words which I believe accurately represent the views of my right honourable friend who is now Minister at the Department of Employment and Productivity. I dealt at length then with the whole process of collective bargaining and what should and ought and might be capable of being turned into a legal 268 contract. This is, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, reminded us earlier to-day, indeed an art form.
Also, on this topic, may I say how helpful it was to hear to-day in such categorical terms that, deplorable as the rate of unofficial strikes has become, there is nobody who deplores them more than the Trades Union Congress themselves. The purpose of the forthcoming Bill is not to put an instant curb on unofficial strikes. It will not do that. It has the more positive long-term purpose (and here the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, put his finger right on the point) of providing an up-to-date, fair and democratic framework in which all those in industry, on both sides, who are responsible and far-sighted can find far greater scope for their skills and their experience and have a far fuller say in the quality of life at their work.
I turn now to regional economic policy. The first thing I should like to do is to agree with all those noble Lords, and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in particular, and also the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, who rightly said that what we need is an effective regional economic policy. But the position is this. In the last four years up to September, 1969 (the last period for which we have figures; and the figures come from the D.E.P. Gazette of May, 1970) job opportunities that have been lost in the Northern Region, the whole of which is a development area and parts of which form a special development area, amount to 48,000 jobs. In Scotland, all of which is a development area and parts of which are special development areas, there has been a loss of 41,000 jobs. In the same period in Wales, all of which is a development area and parts of which—the valleys in the South—are special development areas, there has been a loss of 34,000 jobs. In Yorkshire and Humberside, most of which is scheduled as an intermediate area, there was in the four-year period a loss of 75,000 jobs. In the North-West, which contains the Merseyside Development Area and some intermediate areas, there was a loss in that four-year period of 108,000 jobs. This information all comes from the Gazette.
Turning to unemployment, the figures for these regions read as follows: in the 269 Northern Region in June, 1965, there were 28,000 people unemployed. Now, in June, 1970, there are 57,000—an increase in unemployed of 29,000. In Scotland, in 1965 there were 56,000 unemployed; in June, 1970, there were 84,000 unemployed—an increase of 28,000 In Wales, in 1965 there were just over 21,000 unemployed; four years later, there were 33,000 unemployed—an increase of 11,000. In the Northwest there were 43,000 unemployed; and that figure went up four years later to 73,000, an increase of 30,000. In Yorkshire and Humberside the figure went up from 20,000 to 53,000, an increase of 33,000 unemployed. All this is despite a total in preferential assistance to these areas of £314 million per annum. I think those two factors taken together call for a review, and a review is now being put in hand.
§ LORD DELACOURT-SMITH
My Lords, I am reluctant to interrupt the noble Lord, but I wonder whether he is in a position to complete the picture by giving an estimate of what the loss of jobs and rate of unemployment might have been expected to be without the measures which have been taken.
§ LORD SANDFORD
That is a difficult thing to do. What I can say is that in a three-year period in Scotland, from 1959 to 1962, when the Conservative Administration were in power, 76,000 jobs had been lost through colliery closures. Due to our policies at that time there was in Scotland a net gain of 50,000 jobs. Because of these factors Her Majesty's Government feel that a review is called for, and that is being set in motion. Until that has been completed it is not really possible to answer the many other questions which the noble Lord put to me. The only one I can answer, and shall be glad to answer, is the one he asked me about the estimate for new jobs in prospect for the next year. I cannot exactly do that, but what I can say is that 142,000 jobs are expected to arise in all the development areas over the next four years in authorised new industrial building and industrial buildings taken over. I hope that that deals with the point reasonably adequately.
I should like now to turn to the question of housing, but before coming to the general point, to deal with particular 270 questions which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked me about the Land Commission. This, I think, will deal with those aspects of Her Majesty's Government's housing policy which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will like least, and I hope that thereafter I shall be able to please him better.
As the noble Lord knows from the Queen's Speech, a decision has been taken to abolish the Land Commission. We are very much aware of the need for early decisions to remove uncertainty where people are affected either by the Commission's proposals to acquire land or by the betterment levy. The Land Commission are already informing people affected of their intention to withdraw proposals for land acquisition which have not yet reached an advanced stage. Decisions on outstanding cases will be made as soon as possible, and my right honourable friend will be making a statement about these matters, and will be making it before the Recess.
I should like to turn now to the broader issues of housing policy. Perhaps before I start I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that not only does he have the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, to take care of spiritual matters in that sphere, but he also has the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. The main aim of Her Majesty's Government is to improve the lot of the homeless and the badly housed. That is our main strategy, and the tactics needed to achieve that are as follows. The first task is to get more of those who are able, and are willing to do so, to house themselves so that, having done that, they then look after themselves and look after and begin to improve their own homes, and start to save for their own security and old age. One method of pursuing that has already been adopted; namely, by the freedom given to local authorities (details of which are contained in Circular 54/70) to sell council houses.
Secondly, our strategy is achieved by getting more of those who are capable of doing so to devote a proper proportion of their income to housing, and that involves a move, which is being now investigated, from controlled to fair rents. In this field the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, were of particular interest and will be studied with the 271 greatest care. I should like to stress that these are all different ways of coming to the same strategy. Thirdly, our tactics are to encourage local authorities to concentrate the help that it is their special duty to give upon those families who, for one reason or another, are not able to provide or pay for proper housing for themselves. The method of approaching that begins with a radical review of council housing finance, and that is now under way.
We believe that under the stimulus of these moves, all taken together—and we certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—more new houses will be provided, and, furthermore, more old houses will be improved and will last longer. But I should be the last to want to arouse hopes that this can be done quickly, and that the downward trend we have inherited can easily or quickly be halted and reversed.
To-night as we start this Session and this Parliament I should like your Lordships to be specially aware of two things: first, of the gap between Socialist promise and Socialist achievement in housing; secondly, of the ebb-tide in housing that we now have to face. First of all the gap. Bradford, March, 1966: Mr. Harold Wilson said:Starting from last year's total of 380,000 houses and flats we shall go on year by year exceeding this total and reaching, bv 1970. no less than 500,000 new dwellings. This is not a lightly given promise; it is a pledge. We shall achieve the 500,000 target and we shall not allow any development, any circumstances, however adverse, to deflect us from our aim.Last year's achievement, 367,000 houses. Now, my Lords, to turn to the ebb—
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord is bringing a little heat into the debate. Is it not true that the Conservative Government, in their thirteen years, had an objective of 300,000 houses? Can the noble Lord tell the House in how many of those thirteen years they kept to that figure and what was the figure of houses built in the last year of the Conservative Administration?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, will the noble Lord let me put down a 272 Question for next week, which will give him an opportunity to get the information?
§ LORD SANDFORD
Certainly, my Lords. But, meanwhile, I should like to turn to the ebb, the falling tide of house building which we found on coming into office. I have the main housing figures—starts, completions, and so on—for the first five months of this year, and I invite your Lordships to compare them with the figures for the same period in the two previous years. Completions: 1968–167,000; 1969–143,000, a fall of 14 per cent.; 1970–136,000, a fall of 5 per cent. Houses under construction: 1968–475,000; 1969–452,000, a fall of 5 per cent.; 1970–417,000, a fall of 8 per cent. Starts (and this is what will affect us for at least twelve months from now on): 1968–167,000; 1969–139,000, a fall of 17 per cent.; 1970–121,000, a fall of 13 per cent.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, will the noble Lord be prepared to answer another Question if it is put down, if he cannot answer it now? Can he give the number of new hospitals and new schools that are in course of erection? They absorb the same type of labour.
§ LORD SANDFORD
Yes, my Lords. All of these can be dealt with in due time. At the moment I am dealing with housing. So that starting from an achievement last year of 366,793, all I can say, with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is that we regard proper housing of the homeless and the badly housed as what it has always been for us, a cardinal part of our social policy. We shall certainly do our best to check this downward trend, put it into reverse and move on to better things.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, may I ask whether it is not a fact that this downward trend coincides with the coming into power of large numbers of Conservative local authorities who are the housing authorities?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord is going to reply to my noble friend Lord Silkin. But I understood that we were having a debate on regional development and other matters. I think that the noble 273 Lord wrote me a letter. I went out of my way to give him notice of the points that I should raise, but I have not had one single answer this evening. If the noble Lord cares to write to me, and tells me in the House that he will write to me, then I shall be content. But if the noble Lord writes and asks for information, and one provides it, I think that one should at least have an acknowledgment.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has raised that point. I wrote to all noble Lords who were taking part in this debate and I have had answers from quite a number of them, but I regret that I did not have an answer from the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. If I had had notice of some of his questions, I should have been able to deal with them. But, as I said at the beginning, I think that most of the points he raised were economic ones and I would ask to be relieved of answering all of them, because I think that economic affairs have had a fairly good run, having had the whole of yesterday devoted to them. But I much regret that I did not receive the noble Lord's reply.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I think that, this is something which the Deputy Chief Whip ought to look into, because I conveyed that information to his Office to be passed to the noble Lord. But the point is that we have had a debate to-day. It was clearly known what it was. There were a series of questions put yesterday that were not answered. Questions were put again to-day. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, did not reply to them and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has not replied to them. If we are going to have debates on these subjects, one expects a reply. I appre- 274 ciate that the noble Lord is new, and that he cannot master all of these subjects; but if he will undertake to give me a reply then I will accept it.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I should have been delighted to master the subject if I had known exactly what it was the noble Lord wanted, but I really did not receive a reply to my letter.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Kennet, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until to-morrow.
§ Moved, That the debate be adjourned until to-morrow.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.