§ 3.15 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 subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty' has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, it falls to me to pick up this debate more or less where it was last night and to launch it on its third day. The last speaker last night was the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and he had kind words to say about me. Since he is occupying my very chair in the Department I recently left, I should like to return his kind words and wish him every possible success in his career as Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Housing. I know what an arduous spot that is. Towards the end of his remarks last night, the noble Lord had some things to say about housing figures. I know we discussed housing yesterday, and I do not wish to reopen the debate on that subject to-day, but since he was the last speaker yesterday perhaps the House will bear with me for a moment if I take up his points very briefly.
Of course, it is true that, under the Labour Government, fewer houses were built in 1969 than had been in 1968. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, gave the figures, and I believe he gave them correctly. Nevertheless, he would not dispute, I think—nobody could—that in five years the Labour Government completed 2 million houses, whereas in their last five years the Conservative Government completed 1.6 million houses. I think it is fair to compare the longer period rather than the shorter. There was a dip in 1969—of course there was. However, I think it is interesting to look at what has been happening in certain other countries. What countries shall we take? I suggest we might take as being roughly comparable to us in some ways 282 France, West Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, even the Soviet Union. If we look at all those countries we find that in every single one there has been in the last three years a dip in the out-turn of new houses. If we look at Sweden, we find that, although there has not yet been a dip, one is expected this year. We find, therefore, that what has happened in this country is exactly what has happened throughout not only the Western World but the advanced world as a whole.
I believe myself that this is due to a combination of three factors: to high interest rates—and there is nothing that any national Government can do alone about that; to the restrictions on Government expenditure, in which noble Lords opposite supported my Party when we were in office; and, thirdly, to the arrival on the scene at just the moment we are talking about of a large majority of Tory-controlled local councils in the country. In what order of importance to rate those three factors I would not presume to say. So much for housing.
I should like to devote the rest of my, I hope, short speech to the question of our environment and its pollution. I see that the noble Lords, Lord Molson and Lord O'Hagan, have Motions down about this subject, and I expect that the whole House will welcome the debates which will be the result of these Motions or some combination of them. But the environment and its protection is referred to in the gracious Speech. There is a general observation upon it—very general. I do not complain about its generalness; one has to be general at short notice.
I should like to start by reminding the House of some very bold and forward remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, in a debate on February 4 of this year. He said:I am advocating an expensive and equally challenging onslaught on pollution, not to ensure our progress but this time to ensure our very survival itself.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT; col. 734.]And, again, he said:What is required in this age of white-hot technological revolution is not so much further discussion but action now by the present competent authorities.Furthermore, he said:… let us act now, and on a European and international scale. If we are to survive we must control our environment.283 I do not suppose there is any noble Lord who would disagree with those words and I want now to ask the Government how their policy is shaping up. I know it is early as yet, but I hope that they will be able to tell us something about it.
The first action that I know of by the Government was that they abolished the overlord position of the Secretary of State for Regional Planning and Local Government, who had been charged by Mr. Wilson when Prime Minister with co-ordinating the duties of the ten Ministers with statutory functions to control the pollution of our environment. Mr. Eldon Griffiths was appointed to the Government with a remit to be, in some sense, "Mr. Environment". I am sure the House would like to know in what sense he is going to undertake this task. Is he, from the chair of another Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, to coordinate Cabinet Minister with separate statutory functions? It can hardly be that. Is the co-ordinating then to be done by Mr. Walker, as Minister of Housing and Local Government and as a Cabinet Minister? Is he to co-ordinate the functions of other Cabinet Ministers who have statutory functions and who are his co-equals in the Cabinet? We found that such an arrangement was not satisfactory and that it was better done by a senior Cabinet Minister who would be above the band of equals who actually held the statutory functions—and it must not be forgotten that they are ten in number.
What has happened to the central pollution control unit which was in Mr. Crosland's office—a unit of scientists who were to provide the expertise to enable him to co-ordinate? That job is no longer there, so to whom is that unit reporting? This also relates to the question of the person who is doing the co-ordinating. Shortly after the brave words which were uttered by the noble Earl, Lord Bess-borough, the late Government introduced a White Paper called The Protection of the Environment—The Fight Against Pollution. That was in May of this year. This White Paper set a target date for the clearance of derelict land throughout the country and a target date for the halving of traffic noise, and it was the same date in each case. It was 1980. 284 Does that date stand? The White Paper said that certain named new forms of industrial air pollution were to be brought under control and that new and lower levels for the legal emission of grit and dust from furnaces were to be introduced.
It said that all new cars made in this country would have to be built with pollution suppression devices. Do these things still stand? It said that a new standard would be introduced for road diesel engines which would be the tightest in Europe for exhaust smoke and that an annual instrument check would be introduced to see that this standard was observed. Will these things be done? It also said that an annual noise check would be introduced for heavy lorries and that new aircraft would have to be not more than half as noisy as existing aircraft of the same size, and, moreover, that existing aircraft which are already flying might have to be fitted with quieter engines. That is the question of retrofit, and the wording of the former Government's White Paper was that they were examining the possibility of requiring that existing aircraft be retrofitted with quieter engines. Are the present Government continuing to examine that? The White Paper proposed that Concorde, when it becomes operational, and other supersonic aircraft should not be allowed to make sonic booms over this country—that is to say, sonic booms which could be heard on the ground. The language of the White Paper was that draft proposals for this plan would be published for discussion. Will they now be published?
The White Paper said that the use of pesticides and antibiotics in agriculture would be brought from a voluntary control system, where it now rests, under direct statutory control. There is nothing about that in the Queen's Speech: is it going to be done? The White Paper said that the water industry was going to be reorganised—I expect that is going to be done—and it freed river authorities once again to undertake the positive purification of our rivers. I do not imagine that there would be any proposal to go back on that. It promised a national clean rivers programme to be devised next winter after receipt of the results of certain research inquiries now in progress. I hope that will be done. It released an extra £17 million immediately for spending on rural sewerage. I hope the House 285 can take it that that money will not be clawed back in some attempt to reduce central Government expenditure.
It undertook to introduce legislation to tighten the law in regard to accidental pollution, the results of carelessness or even of bad luck. There is nothing in the Queen's Speech about that: are we still to hope for it, and if so when? The White Paper said that two International Conventions on oil pollution would be ratified, and I am very glad to see that a Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on Monday of this week to ratify one of them and give effect to it in British law. Lastly, the White Paper promised that penalties right across this field would be broupt up to date and increased, because they are out of line with the realities of modem economic life.
May I now come back to the question of oil pollution of the sea? I have recently had the great honour and the good fortune to be elected as chairman of the Oil Pollution Committee, in which I hope to be able to uphold the hard work and standards which were set by my predecessor as chairman, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and by his predecessor the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and, going right back, by his predecessor, Mr. James Callaghan. I know, as anyone who has studied the problem knows, that the key to this problem of oil pollution by tinkers, and indeed by ships in general, is insurance. At the moment the compulsory level of insurance liability on tanker owners is limited. The recent draft convention raises it, but it does not raise it to the maximum. We still face the fact that there can be another "Torrey Canyon" wreck and the ship in question need not be insured in such a way that the shipowner could reimburse all sufferers to the full extent of their loss. The; International Maritime Consultative Organisation is still seized of this and I would ask the new Government to take a very forward line in the discussions, in the hope of bringing that arrangement up to compulsory full cover for the greatest risk and to the highest certainty of liability which can be introduced without manifest injustice.
There is some urgency about this, because the situation is already getting a little out of hand. In October of last year the Canadian Government, at a 286 meeting of IMCO in Brussels, asked for high levels of insurance liability. It did not get them. It went home and it introduced domestic legislation extending national control over the waters of the Arctic to an extent which has never been seen before in the history of the world. Such a thing goes right against our traditional concepts of freedom of the seas, but we must recognise that there is now a conflict between the age-old concept of unfettered freedom of the seas and the new danger of gross and massive pollution by oil and other foul chemicals. I say the situation is urgent because we have already seen one advanced civilised Government, and one responsive to world opinion, getting the bit between its teeth and introducing a national law which shocks our traditional susceptibilities.
This Canadian action has in its turn precipitated the publication of a new American policy. On May 23 President Nixon sent a statement to the Congress of the United States of America entitled Ocean Policy for the Future. This is still vague: and it can be pulled around and negotiated with by the friends of America. I hope the Government will do that and, together with the Americans, will devise for adoption by the whole world a system of international control of the oceans and of their exploitation and of their pollution—and indeed of their military use—which will be responsive to the needs of mankind as a whole and not simply to the needs of those countries which have large tanker fleets, or to the needs of those countries which eat a lot of fish or which rely for their economic life on catching a lot of whales, or which need to dispose of a lot of radioactive waste into the deep oceans We need a true world system here and we need it soon if chaos is to be avoided—take, for example, the Canadian action.
It is now a commonplace that we have only one environment and it is international, and we cannot control it adequately by purely national means: it is cropping up everywhere. Only last month the Foreign: Ministers of the Warsaw Pact countries met in Budapest and proposed that at the all-European conference which the European Communist countries have been asking for for a long time there should be a discussion not only on military matters and 287 security but also on the international environment and its pollution. I hope the Government will listen closely to these statements coming from behind the Iron Curtain, to see what the nuances are. Is it possible that the smaller East European countries are keener on talking about the environment than the Soviet Union is? I do not know. But, if so, this would be an interesting fact which could be used in our general search for a form of détente and bridge-building which would not give offence to or betray the identity of the people of Czechoslovakia.
It is interesting in this context to note that of all the international organisations concerned with environmental pollution control, and there are very many, the one which is perhaps furthest ahead, though on a narrow front, is the E.C.E., the Economic Commission for Europe. This has nothing to do with the E.E.C., this is a United Nations regional economic body covering the whole of Europe, East and West. It has already formulated standards to control the pollution of motor car exhausts. This has been done on an East-West basis, and there is no need to point out the political interest in any technical thing done on an East-West basis. The E.C.E. is next year to hold a conference in Prague about these matters, to which of course we and the Americans are invited as full members. I hope the Government will take that matter seriously and go along and be helpful.
I think that in the future most of the technical economic work on pollution control will have to be done in O.E.C.D., because that is an organisation with a very strong secretariat well qualified to do it. I hope that here, too, the Government will remember that the O.E.C.D. does not contain the advanced, economically developed countries living under the Communist system of government, and although it is a good organ for economic arrangements and agreements between advanced Western and neutral countries it is not a good one for such arrangements which would embrace the Eastern European countries. This is a question of foreign policy which has to be neatly balanced off between the 288 countervailing advantages of different organisations.
The one organisation and one meeting there can be no doubt about is the one proposed by the United Nations itself to 'be held in Stockholm in 1972. Everybody is going to be there. It is to discuss the entire conservation and exploitation of the natural environment of man by man. This will have to be discussed by 117 nations, or whatever the number is; I expect each nation will want to send a good many delegates. It will be an enormous meeting, but such meetings are by no means doomed to confusion if the advanced planning is done firmly and well by a group of countries—and such a groups exists—who are interested in it. Such meetings can be of very great use to the whole future of mankind. I know that the new Government will maintain and confirm the decision on priorities which was taken by the outgoing Government, that this 1972 meeting was the right one to go for to make a real splash, a British splash among other national splashes, and to get a real new understanding and, so far as possible, co-ordinated policy towards our limited physical surroundings, a policy which is going to have to govern the rest of the sojourn of the human race on this earth.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD WINDLESHAM)
My Lords, in addressing your Lordships' House for the first time from the Dispatch Box on this side of the Chamber, I find myself wishing that the same indulgence was extended towards maiden ministerial speakers as to other maiden speakers. After no more than two weeks in office, even the most demanding of your Lordships will not, I am sure, expect me to have mastered all the varied responsibilities of the Home Office. Even if, in time, I am able to achieve this state of knowledge, I expect there will be many occasions when I shall find myself echoing some words of Edmund Burke:Those who would carry on great public schemes must be proof against the worst delays, the most mortifying disappointments, the most shocking insults and, what is worst of all, the presumptuous judgment of the ignorant upon their design.When my right honourable friend, the Home Secretary, opened the Home Affairs Debate in another place on Friday, he 289 spoke about the principles he intended to follow in administering the Home Department. So many of the problems of the Home Office—crime, demonstrations, penal policy, prisons: all of enormous importance—are necessarily restrictive and of a negative character. But my light honourable friend made clear that it is his determination to try at all times to be positive, to give a lead in influencing social policy, and in seeking to eradicate the causes of problems rather than be faced with their consequences when they have already taken root.
This approach is certainly one that I shall always attempt to follow in this House. I am sure that it will be far from easy, since many decisions of Ministers on matters such as immigration control, aliens, penal policy and so on, are in effect the application of regulatory legislation passed by Parliament. Many, if not all, of these decisions, it seems to me, from my short experience, involve the reconciliation of conflicting interests—for example, the conflict between the individual immigrant, or would be immigrant, his family and his friends, with the wider implications for the society he has already entered or is now seeking to enter. So there have to be regulations (a better word, I believe, on the whole, than rules), but their application must always be fair and humane and carefully considered.
In all of this, I am particularly fortunate to have a model right in front of me, on the other side of the House. In five years at the Home Office the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, gained the admiration and respect of all of us, those on our Benches as well as on his own, and showed experience and patience, and great good judgment, in carrying out a very difficult job. If I can measure up to the standard that he set, I shall be very content.
In to-day's debate I thought it might be helpful if I were to speak at the outset about the main Home Office subjects contained in the Queen's Speech, while my noble friend Lord Aberdare will intervene later on to say something about the references to education, health and social security. I think he is also perhaps going to be brave enough to say something in answer to that enormous comprehensive list of questions on the environment which we have just 290 heard in that very interesting speech from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. Then the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will conclude the debate, replying to the main points raised by noble Lords, whether in to-day's discussion or on Tuesday or Wednesday.
My Lords, the most immediate problem facing the Home Secretary is the ominous situation in Northern Ireland. As noble Lords know, my right honourable friend Mr. Maudling took the earliest opportunity to visit Ulster shortly after his appointment, and last Friday he reported to the House of Commons his conclusions on his trip. I do not want, nor do I think it would be appropriate, to embark on a long discussion of Northern Ireland affairs; but I think it right that I should say a few words about one or two aspects of this problem.
It requires little insight to say that the most urgent need is the restoration and maintenance of public order in Northern Ireland, and I must emphasise, on behalf of the Government, that the Army will remain in Northern Ireland for as long and in sufficient numbers as is necessary to deal with the situation there. Public safety and the achievement of a state of genuine freedom under the law are the paramount considerations, and we shall continue to discharge our obligations to protect all citizens of Northern Ireland for as long as is necessary. I should also like to make it quite plain that the Government are pledged to the objective of supporting the Northern Ireland Government in their determination to secure peace and harmony in Ulster on the basis of justice and equality for all its citizens. The Northern Ireland Government have introduced and persevered with a programme of reform against the forces of bigotry and reaction, and we shall encourage them to press this programme through to completion. I should like to echo, as I think other noble Lords would, the tribute which was paid by the Home Secretary in another place to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, the successor of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, for his staunchness, steadfastness and sturdy determination to serve the people of his country.
That brings me to the third point that I should like to make at this stage. We 291 appreciate the extent to which economic difficulties contribute to some of the basic causes of unrest in Northern Ireland. Ulster itself suffers from natural economic disadvantages, and it has been the objective of the Development Programme, recently published in Belfast, to seek to offset some of these disadvantages. The objectives of the programme are the creation of more opportunities for employment in Northern Ireland and the improvement of living conditions. As one of the first acts of this new Government we were very glad to be able to endorse immediately and in full, the proposals of the Northern Ireland Government, which will involve the injection into the Northern Ireland economy of £75 million over five years, in addition to the programmes already agreed.
My final word on Ulster is this. The last two weekends have seen a renewal of violence in Northern Ireland worse than any experienced in these last months of turbulence and disorder. Tragedy hit Belfast: casualties were inflicted on civilians, on the police and on the Army. But, worst of all, no fewer than seven people lost their lives in the week-end of June 26–28, and six more last week-end. I cannot find words strong enough to express my detestation—detestation which I know is shared by every Member of this House—of this wanton and totally unjustified outburst of strife. In this situation we must keep our heads: we must give our encouragement and our full support to the Army, to the Northern Ireland Government and to the vast majority of people in Ulster, fearful and apprehensive as they are, who at the same time are anxious to live in a peaceful and orderly society. It is only by building on these elements, coupled with the measures that I have described, that the disastrous era of escalating violence can be brought to an end.
My Lords, I noticed with interest in a leading article in The Times of June 19, the day after the General Election, that first priority in the list of problems facing the new Government was given to immigration and race relations. No one can doubt that the question of how immigration from the Commonwealth is handled is of tremendous significance for the future of British society. What is more, here is something, unlike so many 292 other issues in politics, which is under our own direct control.
Both major Parties have now come to the conclusion that in practice there should be no further large-scale immigration from the Commonwealth. It is an historic change, and we should not make any mistake about recognising it as such. Over a single decade there has been a complete change from an open-door policy, based on the idea that Britain is the Mother State of a Commonwealth of Nations, to one that now in a year admits of the issue of no more than about 4,000 or so work vouchers to heads of families from the Commonwealth. Yet it is a trend that has resulted from profound changes in the nature of the Commonwealth as well as in British society. That it has been accomplished so relatively smoothly is, to my mind, a considerable tribute to the innate soundness of our much-criticised political process.
It is a change, moreover, in which the political Parties have been closely in accord with the public mood; and that, after all, is what democracy is about. I believe that over the last few years the slowly changing emphasis in immigration policy has been supported, although with varying degrees of enthusiasm, by public opinion, overwhelmingly so in the case of public opinion as a whole, while a majority, although not all, of informed public opinion would probably also accept the need for restriction.
At the same time, anyone who is concerned with relations between the races will want to insist that the immigrants and their families who have already made their homes here must be treated in exactly the same way as any other citizen of this country. We cannot accept that there should be a different standard of housing, a different standard of education and a different standard of job opportunities. The Prime Minister has on many occasions made it clear that the aim of our policies on immigration and on race relations is to achieve full equality for the immigrant in the life of Britain. In justice to all those, of whatever colour, who are already living here, we must try to set the public mind at rest on this issue of immigration so that there can be no further excuse for exciting passions, and so that there need be no further cause for apprehension on the part of the existing immigrant community. There 293 is to be no harassing of them, no forced repatriation, and they will continue to have the right to bring in their close and genuine dependants.
For the future, as the Home Secretary explained in another place on Friday, the Commonwealth citizen who wishes to come here to work will need to obtain a work permit for a particular job in a particular place. Permits will be granted only where local labour is not available, and for a maximum of 12 months in the first instance. Extensions of stay after that time will be considered on their merits, and will be granted only if the applicant remains in approved employment or obtains other approved employment. There will be no right to permanent settlement here and, as with aliens, applications for permanent settlement will be considered at the end of four years in approved employment. Nor will there be a right to acquire citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies, but applications will be considered, on evidence of good character, after five years' residence. Future Commonwealth entrants for employment will have no absolute right to bring dependants, and here also we propose to assimilate along the lines of the existing arrangement for aliens.
Apart from our general policy on future immigration from the Commonwealth there is a special problem over the entry of United Kingdom passport holders from East Africa. My right honourable friend has already made clear that this is a matter to which he is giving his personal attention. At this stage I do not think that I can go beyond that. It is a large and complex subject. It is one about which few of us can be happy, with conflicting obligations towards the passport holders, towards the community here, to those in East Africa who are following the procedure and awaiting entry, and to those who have ignored it and sought to enter without the proper documents. I know that this is a subject on which a number of noble Lords feel strongly, and I shall listen to whatever is said in the debate with close attention.
May I say that I am extremely sorry that it was not possible for me to be here yesterday afternoon when the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the noble Lord, Lord Royle, raised issues on immigration policy. I had to deputise at short notice 294 for the Home Secretary on an urgent engagement. I have seen what they said, their comments have been noted, and they are certainly points that will require careful consideration and reply when the legislation has reached a stage at which it is possible to debate what categories of potential immigrant will be covered from the Commonwealth, and in what way.
While on the subject of immigration control, I think the House will be interested to know that an appeal procedure has now been established under the provisions of the Immigration Appeals Act 1969, and the related Aliens (Appeals) Order 1970. These rights of appeal are being introduced by stages, and the first stage commenced on the first of this month. Accordingly, since July 1 there has been a statutory right of appeal available against some 70 per cent. of the decisions which are ultimately to be open to appeal. The decision; against which an appeal now lies include the refusal of an entry certificate to a Commonwealth citizen or a visa to an alien overseas, and any decision which has the effect of requiring a person already lawfully admitted to leave the country. The introduction of these statutory rights of appeal for passengers to whom entry has been refused on arrival at a seaport or airport has been left until a later stage. It is a phased programme, and the reason for it is simply a practical one to avoid interference with the operation of immigration control at the ports during the summer and the autumn, when the through-put of passengers, and the number to whom entry has to be refused, is at its peak.
Advice and assistance for people who have these rights of appeal will be available from the Immigrants' Advisory Service, a voluntary organisation which has been set up by a number of existing bodies with an interest in the welfare of immigrants. I am sure that noble Lords will want to welcome the appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, as Chairman of this new organisation. The Service is receiving a grant-in-aid from the Home Office under Section 15 of the Immigration Appeals Act, currently at the rate of £75,000 a year. But, while it is receiving this substantial financial help from public funds, I should stress that the Service is entirely independent of 295 Government and is there to try to assist immigrants who have a right of appeal to pursue their appeal in the most effective and proper manner.
My Lords, those are some of the ways in which even in the application of regulatory legislation it is possible to take a positive approach. This is even more so, of course, when moving on from immigration policy to race relations, and here the Government place the greatest emphasis on promoting to the full the interests of the existing immigrant community in Britain. They have been accepted as full members of our community; they are making an important contribution to our economy (just how important this is was highlighted last weekend in the Sunday Times in the references to the survey by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research); and their children are growing up and are receiving their education here. It is, therefore, essential that the work of promoting better community relations should continue, and I should like to make absolutely clear the priority which my right honourable friend attaches to this. I do not think this is the occasion, in a general debate of this sort, when it would be appropriate to expand on this matter in detail, because I am sure that it is one to which we should return again in due course.
In the meantime, I would commend to your Lordships the Reports published in the last two weeks of the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission. These indicate what progress has been made, both in seeking to remove and eliminate discrimination and in improving understanding between the different communities. Neither Report is complacent. Both of them make quite clear just how much remains to be done. The work of eradicating and undermining discrimination, fundamental though it is, we should remember is only part of the task. None of us can feel satisfied until we have ensured that these fellow citizens of ours are able to play a full part in the life of this country.
Perhaps I may mention one final point before passing on from this section of the Queen's Speech; that is, the undertaking to continue assistance to areas of special social need. The urban programme has done valuable work, and has 296 been generally welcomed by local authorities and voluntary organisations who have been providing community facilities. While it benefits all citizens living in areas of social need, it can also take special account of the needs which arise in areas in which large numbers of immigrants have settled. Now that two years of the programme have been completed this will clearly be a convenient stage for the Government to review how its resources can be most effectively deployed.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, before the noble Lord moves on from this point, if this is all involved with the question of what legislation the Government may have in mind on immigration, can the noble Lord give us an assurance that there will be full consultation with the Governments in the Commonwealth, particularly those who will be involved, so that there can be no bitterness or misunderstanding between us and the Commonwealth countries? Could he also assure us that, through the Governors in our various Colonies, the views of the Colonies will be considered at the same time? Could the noble Lord also say Whether it will be possible, before legislation is introduced, for a White Paper to be published so that we may understand fully what the Government have in mind?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I am sympathetic to the tone of the noble Lord's remarks. I do not think he would expect me to be able to give him an absolute undertaking on that point here and now, but the need for consultation is of course understood. As he will know from his own experience, there is a great deal of consultation at day-today working levels between the High Commissions in London of those countries mainly concerned and the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
I should like finally to turn to one matter referred to in the Queen's Speech about which we on these Benches cannot be so friendly with noble Lords opposite; that is, the words on the top of the last page:Effect will be given to the recommendations of the Boundary Commissions for the redistribution of Parliamentary seats.Nobody will be surprised to hear those words. In the long debates on this subject in the last Parliament, we on this 297 side of the House, with very strong support from the Cross-Benches, made clear that we were in favour of the immediate implementation of the recommendations contained in the Reports of the Boundary Commissioners, and we should be failing in our duty if we did not take immediate steps to implement those Reports now. Certainly the country expects us to, and we should be failing them if we did not act on them at once.
I think that here in this House we can take a modest satisfaction in reflecting that it was the Amendments carried in your Lordships' House to the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill last July which obliged the previous Home Secretary to drop his ill-starred Bill when it returned to the House of Commons last October. At that time your Lordships' House carried out its constitutional duty of forcing the Government to have second thoughts on a matter which we considered to be of fundamental constitutional importance.
As a result, the then Government had to resort to the quite extraordinary and unworthy device of actually laying the Orders in the House of Commons, and then asking their own supporters to vote them down. Those were the steps that were taken—the almost unique and very shabby steps—by the last Government to evade their duty of seeing that the Boundary Commissioners' recommendations were accepted. It now falls to us to fulfil that duty: and that we intend to do before the Recess. I hope—
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, may I ask him this question? I do not quarrel with what he has said about having a mandate to proceed with this, and, clearly, another Election is still some way away. But since it is our case that the action we took was based on the proposed local government reform and the Maud Commission Report, and as I see in the gracious Speech that consultations are to take place about a possible reform and it looks as if Maud is out of the window, can the; noble Lord say how those consultations are to take place, with whom and to what extent Parliament will be consulted?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, we are discussing the constituency boundaries. 298 There will always be a plausible reason for not taking action. Governments will always be able to find a plausible reason, and once they get into the habit of delaying the implementation and acceptance of the Boundary Commissioners' reports, Party political considerations are bound to intrude. It is too much to ask Members of Parliament, when their own political survival may be involved, to be judges in their own cause. The only way to avoid this—and this was settled in the 1940s—is to have an independent Commission, headed by the Speaker (in practice by a High Court Judge), who are trusted by all Parties and whose recommendations will be accepted. Therefore I think that questions of reorganisation of local government really have to be put on one side. That was the reason given; it might have been another reason. But once there is any opportunity to put these recommendations on one side, I think that the system will break down.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am not quarrelling with what the noble Lord has said, but I asked a specific question. In the gracious Speech reference is made to the fact that there will be consultations about local government reform. If the noble Lord cannot answer, then I shall be quite willing to wait until the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack replies. I asked the question only because in many ways it is pertinent to the point which the noble Lord himself raised.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
Yes, my Lords. Of course there will be consultation. There has been continual consultation, and this will go on, about changes in the organisation of local government. If one looks at what happened in Greater London, for example, one sees the ritual that was gone through. I cannot believe there is another country in the world that has gone through such a careful detailed process of consultation with those whose interests are involved.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
No, my Lords. This is a fair point. The noble Lord has referred to one part of the gracious 299 Speech, and I am referring to the next paragraph, which states:Proposals will be worked out in full consultation with all concerned, for local government reform in England, Scotland and Wales.I will not press the noble Lord, and if he is unwilling or unable to answer I am quite ready to leave it to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. All that I and the House would like to know is with whom consultation will take place.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
With local authority associations. I do not think it would be fruitful to pursue this matter this afternoon. We have a long list of speakers. I think I have made the point on the constituency boundaries, and that is one of principle, which I think is more than can be said for the matters raised by the noble Lord in his last few interventions.
My Lords, I am aware that in a wide-ranging speech of this sort I have been able to give only a brief summary of the Government's policy on the matters which concern the Home Office, and I have confined myself to those. But what I have tried to do for the noble Lords who take such a close interest in Home Office matters—and there are a good number of them in the Chamber at the moment—is to give an indication of the approach and the principles that my right honourable friend intends to follow. In supporting him in the approach which he will take, I shall always keep in mind the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said:…the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are going.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I know that all of your Lordships will wish to join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, on his promotion to office. I think it has been a cause of widespread regret in the past that, owing to his demanding job, we have not had as much of his presence in your Lordships' House as we might have desired, and we are now delighted that his job brings him here. I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him in matters specifically to do with the Home Office. The points that one can 300 raise in a debate on the gracious Speech in your Lordships' House are of course limited, and I have picked for mention from these Benches two subjects, those of broadcasting and education: broadcasting because it seems to me that, in spite of the vague commitment to commercial broadcasting that there is at the moment, there are still quite a number of options open to the Government; and education because, unfortunately, it has been the subject of a piece of that "instant legislation" which the Leader of the Conservative Party has so rightly condemned.
In dealing first with broadcasting, I think we must be extremely grateful that Mr. Chataway has been given responsibility for this matter, rather than one of the wilder men who appeared to be speaking for the Conservative Party before the Election. There are three arguments in favour of local commercial broadcasting stations, so far as I have been able to discover, two of which are alt least respectable. The third one, which is not respectable, is that it will provide an opportunity for a large number of people to make a lot of money. There is nothing wrong with money-making as such. Speakers from the Conservative Benches often talk as if members of the Parties on this side of the House disapprove of money-making in principle. But money-making in itself is worth while only as an adjunct to something else which is really worth while. It is not in itself a reason for doing something.
I admit that it would be unduly suspicious, and even wrong, to suggest that this might be a reason for this legislation, were it not for the history of the introduction of independent television—one of the most shameless lobbies for private profit over public standards to have been seen in this country. The late Lord Samuel, then the Leader of the Liberal Peers, said in the debate on the Second Reading of the Television Bill in 1954 that if we once established independent television we would go on and would have commercial radio. That was denied at the time, but we now see that it has happened.
The first respectable reason for producing commercial local television is that it provides competition and, therefore, 301 people will compete in excellence. I very much doubt it, my Lords. Anyone who has experienced local broadcasting in the United States of America will know that, on the whole, it produces nothing of the sort. It merely produces competition in the lowest common denominator. "Above all", a Canadian local radio manager is quoted as saying, "we aim to keep our listeners happy". But I believe, with the manager of Radio Leeds, that,The aim of a good local station is some times to make people unhappy—unhappy about poverty, distress, intolerance, indifference, injustice. But it may well prove bad for business if you are selling soap flakes".My Lords, the second respectable reason for local commercial radio is that it provides for local radio money which would otherwise come out of the public purse. But the money comes from the public anyway, and whether it comes in the form of a higher licence for television or keeping on with the wireless licence, or whether it comes from greater efficiency in collecting licence fees or from higher prices on goods due to higher advertising rates, seems fairly irrelevant. Advertising produces no real wealth, and I hope that no one is under the illusion that it does. In his book, Twenty-one Popular Economic Fallacies, Dr. Mishan says—and I quote:I doubt whether advertising men still continue to claim that by promoting the sales of a product the economies of large-scale production are realised and passed on to the public. Economists, at any rate, take up the reverse position.I would urge the Government to look at the possibility of adopting better ways of collecting the existing television licences and of retaining the wireless licence fees so that there is money available for these media. Although this matter has been looked at several times, it appears to me that the whole question of collecting the fees which are not now collected has not been tackled as strongly as it should be. May I give an example? Recently, in a speech, the Director-General of the B.C.C. quoted McKinsey's as recommending that the Post Office should be made to collect licence fees for car radios. Evasions were running at that time at 60 per cent. The B.B.C. turned this recommendation down on political grounds, saying, "Suppose the result is a joint A.A.-R.A.C. campaign to cut car radio fees—a good "sticker" slogan, 302 incidentally—and the resulting screams about yet more persecution of motorists results in total abolition of the fees." My Lords, how much can you misjudge what is politically possible or not? The motoring organisations have for some time been mounting a campaign about road taxes. It has had absolutely no effect so far. It may have a minor effect; there may be a gesture from the present Government to reduce taxes on motoring for a bit: but I am prepared to wager that it will not be for long. And, compared with that, the obvious rightness of saying that where there is a licence fee its collection should be enforced, and of seeing that it is enforced in every particular case, is one which no one in his right mind could possibly object to.
On the other side, against these so-called respectable arguments for commercial broadcasting, the arguments seem to me to be overwhelming. The first argument must be from experience. We have in the B.B.C. a public broadcasting system which is the envy of the world, and no commercial broadcasting system can begin to compare with it in the quality it produces. It is a great pity not to use this tremendous resource. The B.B.C. has already produced some extremely interesting and good results in local broadcasting. Secondly, the pressure of all commercial broadcasting must be to get the maximum number of listeners, and that is not the correct aim of local broadcasting. Maximum coverage of "Pop" music, for instance, is best done on one or at the most two national programmes, and there is no great advantage in duplicating this in local radio station after local radio station. The great help that local broadcasting can give to localities is to examine the subjects of the locality, and the subjects of minorities in that locality, in depth; and to tackle controversial issues which are only local and which cannot be dealt with at national level.
But I sometimes think that the most important argument against local commercial radio is the one to which least attention is paid, and that is the æsthetic one. It is certainly the great argument against independent television. We have now all come to take it for granted that in certain television programmes the play or the programme will be interrupted for what are humorously termed 303 "natural breaks" for advertisements to be screened. It is a great pity that we have come to take this for granted. We appear to pay a great deal of lip service now to something called "quality of life". I should have thought that one of the best signs of an interest in the quality of life would be that we should not put up with things like that. If the traditional visitor from Mars had any aesthetic sense at all, he would be astonished to see the way in which independent television is conducted; and I have no hesitation in saying that I think that this business of advertisements is a minor but none the less a definite barbarism.
Next, there is the objection of the Pilkington Committee that it would be impossible for a public corporation to exercise positive responsibility for the contents and character of a large number of local commercial broadcasting services. There is also the objection that either the service would attract advertising away from the newspapers, thus weakening the local Press very badly, or that it would be shared by the local newspapers, who would have a say in running the station. That would create a dangerous monopoly of communication unguaranteed by the traditions and special position of the B.B.C., which prevent their monopoly from being a bad thing. Here, my Lords, I should like to call attention to the speech of the noble and learned Lord now on the Woolsack during the Second Reading of the Television Bill, in Volume 188 of Hansard at column 394, when he said:In place of a great public service, it is erecting the statue of the tycoon all over the land. It is creating a chain of local monopolies. You do not break a monopoly by erecting a chain of local monopolies.If I may do so with great respect, my Lords, I would direct the attention of your Lordships to the whole of the excellent speech of the noble and learned Lord on that occasion.
To sum up, the Pilkington Committee stated that the overwhelming mass of disinterested opinion as it expressed itself in memoranda submitted to them was against the provision of a service of local sound broadcasting financed from advertising revenue, and they went on to recommend that that service should be run by 304 the B.B.C. and financed out of licence fees. I see no reason to think that time has in any way changed the factors which went to cause them to reach that decision. I think there is still time for this proposal to be implemented in such a way that the worst dangers are avoided. It is certain, for instance, that the body which collects money and sells time should be very different from the one which produces the programmes. I think much tougher rules should be applied to television than apply now as to when advertising is allowed to appear. I do not want to give the impression that in any way I think that what is suggested would be an adequate substitute for a properly run B.B.C. local broadcasting system, but I think that there is still room for the Government to think again about a number of details.
I want very briefly—very briefly because there has already been a great deal of public discussion on this matter—to turn to the subject of education, where we on these Benches very definitely oppose the withdrawal of the circular by the Minister of Education. At first sight it may seem odd to hear Liberals saying that the powers to organise education should not be passed on to local authorities, because we are in favour of devolution of power; but there are two reasons for thinking that in this particular case it is a very reactionary course to take. The first is that freedom from selection at 11-plus borders on being a human right. It affects the whole quality of education which a child will have during the whole of his time at school. It puts him into the category of "winners" or "losers" at an early age, when, with the best selection processes in the world, you cannot be sure that you are not making a large number of mistakes. On educational grounds alone it is quite clear that selective education is a mistake, and I am arguing this purely on educational and not on social grounds.
We believe that human rights should be the province of the most authoritative body that can be found. To leave human rights in the hands of a province has been fatal in Ulster. They should not really even be left in the hands of a national Government, as we saw with the Kenyan Asians Bill. They should be a matter for a supra-national body, but until we have 305 that I think it is right that central Government should take as much control as possible over human rights. Secondly, it is quite clear that local authorities are not as a whole acting in accordance with the wishes of those who are most concerned in the matter. The National Union of Teachers is strongly in favour of comprehensive education. The National Association of Schoolmasters is also in favour and so is the National Union of Students. So, also, according to a survey which I commissioned from National Opinion Poll, are parents in every single region in the country. Even when broken down into political Parties, only 1 per cent. more of Conservative parents are in favour of separate schools than are in favour of comprehensive schools.
It may be argued that local government electors can throw out their local government if they take unpopular decisions on school. But this is to ignore the realities. If local education authorities were chosen and elected entirely for educational purposes it would be valid and I should be much happier at leaving the decision in their hands. But the local education authorities are chosen by local authorities, and the local authorities are chosen by the electors on whether or not they like Mr. Heath or Mr. Wilson far more than on any single issue of policy, however important.
We believe that this is a very sad step on the part of the Conservative Party. It goes further than we should have expected from a Party which had the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, as its Education Minister, and further than one would expect from a Party with some of the Junior Education Ministers that they now have. I think it is a case where a plea for reconsideration should be backed up not just by an appeal to reason or an appeal to justice (because we know that Governments do not always listen to either of these), but also by an appeal to the interests of the Conservative Party: for in my judgment the actions that they are taking are electoral vote losers. Election losers, as well as being unreasonable and wrong.
The more I look at the people who have been promoted to office, both in this House and in another place, the more I am attracted, as I am sure are most of your Lordships, to the personalities 306 involved. They seem to be delightfully unrepresentative of the Conservative Party as a whole. But the more I look at some of their policies, and these two in particular, the more I fear that we are going to see a sacrifice of social benefits, of the quality of life, of equality, of educational excellence on the altar of some very ancient and tired sacred cows.
§ 4.24 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, I am sorry that I cannot pursue the important theme which the noble Lord who has just sat down handled so ably, although I am in sympathy with much of what he said. I hope that in my short contribution to the debate I shall be excused by the noble and learned Lord who winds up the debate and by your Lordships if I do not stay to the end, as the Bishops' Bench have a longstanding historical engagement with the Lord Mayor of London to-night. I hope also that I shall not seem to forget, if I return to the subject of Northern Ireland, the very wise measured words which the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, used when he dealt with this subject. I am sure your Lordships will accept that it is right that from this Bench we should express our own deep concern for the viotims of violence and for those who seek to pave the way towards a more stable and more peaceful situation. This morning, in the last session of the closing 50 years of the Church Assembly, a particular word went out through the Archbishop of Canterbury to Christians in Northern Ireland in support of their work for tolerance and reconciliation.
I think it might also be right for me to say something from these Benches because the issues are so often represented as being religious issues. When disturbances occur they an; all too readily described as clashes between Catholics and Protestants, as if this summed up the main difference between the two sides. This is very perplexing in this country: it seems very out of date, and there will be a tendency to cry, "A plague upon both their houses!" Even more perplexing, as I know from experience, is it to Christian opinion in Europe which has so often looked to these islands as being in the van of religious toleration—a situation to which some of those countries are 307 only now beginning to aspire. They find it difficult to understand what seems to be a recrudescence of religious intolerance or strife. I noted that the Prime Minister speaking in another place on Tuesday in answer to a Question on Northern Ireland, made particular reference to what are called "religious divisions".
I think that some short sober assessment of this problem is required. It would be idle to pretend that there are not religious issues involved in this, for Ireland is a very religious island, more religious than the island in which we live. The results of a recent survey—not an ordinary opinion poll—carried out by the Independent Television Authority have just been published. The survey asked about the state of religion in Northern Ireland, on the one hand, and England, on the other. The results showed, in one sense to the favour of the former, that a question as to whether the people interviewed desired to maintain or to be a Christian country (I think that this was one of the questions) obtained a 95 per cent. answer in Northern Ireland and not quite such a large majority in this country.
Another question relating to religious practice or belief again showed a far more favourable response there than here. It is difficult for us in recognition of the religious nature of the island, not to see how religion and politics can be so inextricably bound up together. It is true that some attitudes seem more reminiscent of the 16th century and 17th century than of the 20th. If we like to remember history with our heads, the fact is that many people there feel it in their bones. It is undeniable that there are genuine religious sentiments at work. There are attitudes about personal freedom of judgment, about the Bible, about the Church, which go deep and which, if they ever seem on any issue to be threatened, are bound to inflame the situation and impart a kind of religious fervour to it.
Nevertheless, I believe that it is equally undeniable that the root causes of the difficulties lie not in Church relations or religious relationships but in community relationships. Despite these religious labels that are thrust about, these things are bound up more with political hopes and fears about the future of Northern Ireland, and are in some way 308 coloured by the direction, whether to the East or to the South, to which any individual looks. Still more it would be right to say that when there do arise, or seem to arise, instances of discrimination, whether in electoral matters, housing or employment, or if there are pressures of economic circumstance or fear of unemployment, it is the religious suspicions that seem to well up from the past and inflame the situation which arises from other causes.
The real causes, my Lords, remain obstinately social and political and economic. Unless adequate help can be found, it is not going to be easy to make much progress towards peace. I welcome the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, about the increased aid promised in economic matters in Northern Ireland. All I want, therefore, is to plead that we try to dissociate (I do not say that we ourselves have it, but at least to dissociate in this country) religious labels from what are essentially political factions. Otherwise we shall be doing a great disservice to those who are trying to work for peace. We shall seriously handicap the Churches in Northern Ireland in their very real task of reconciliation.
With the background against which they live, it is quite clear that the main work will have to be done from inside Northern Ireland; and the main contribution from outside, apart from the thankless and magnificent services which the British Army is rendering in minimising bloodshed and disorder, will be to recognise and encourage those people and elements within Northern Ireland that are really seeking justice and trying to create the kind of atmosphere in which tension can be reduced and in which people can begin to talk to one another. The main Churches there—Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, the Church of Ireland—have quite definitely and clearly aligned themselves with the causes of reform and reconciliation. There are instances in recent years, clear instances, through statements made by religious leaders, and through their own personal and in some cases very courageous actions, of their having consistently proved themselves by throwing their weight into this effort. Of course the bulk of their own sincere adherents would be behind them, and we have 309 glorious instances of individual Christians standing out and trying to protest against violence.
I think we might add that since the Vatican Council there has been a marked growing together of the leadership of the Churches which is enabling them to work together, in a way that was not possible before, in the process of removing injustices and making for a united as well as an independent Northern Ireland. It is not an easy task for them, even though there are other bodies at work who are their allies. They need all the encouragement they can get from outside, and I think that one of the ways to assist would be to stop bandying about misleading religious titles.
As to what we, the Churches in this country, can do, clearly it is important that no divisions in Northern Ireland, whether religious, political or otherwise, should find any reflection over here. It certainly can be said that none of the religious tensions that may be found there is nowadays reflected in any sense in this country, or would be encouraged in this country. We have great contacts, constant contacts, through Church leaders and otherwise, through the British Council of Churches, to which the Irish Council of Churches is linked and incorporated, which are seeking to support them in the efforts they are making to help with this responsible search for peace. In our turn, I think that we, as Churches, would ask that political or social differences in Northern Ireland should find no reflection over here; but that the present Government here, like their predecessors, should pursue their policy of firmness and moderation in a way that can be seen to claim the support of the whole of Parliament.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I should like, first of all, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, on his appointment to the Home Office and also on his speech this afternoon. I think that perhaps it was, marred a little by his over-kindly references to myself. It is rather strange that one should be thanked for doing what comes naturally. The noble Lord was, apparently, finding difficulty in speaking from the Government Dispatch Box. I never found any difficulty of that kind; my difficulties started when 310 I did not have the chance to speak from that place.
My Lords, during this debate we have heard a great deal about the legacy which the Labour Government left to the Conservatives. Of course the comments were very selective and greatly coloured by imagination. I want to mention one department in which there is no room for controversy, because it is beyond dispute that this Government have inherited the largest, strongest, best organised and most efficient police force that we have ever had. The number of men now serving far exceeds even the paper establishment of the previous Conservative Administration; and the number of supporting civilian auxiliaries has almost doubled. It is indeed a formidable force, and I hope that we shall have an assurance that it will at least be maintained and that endeavours will be made to increase it still further, because it is achieving a success which is very much masked by the fact that everyone always insists on judging its success by the detection rate.
There is an enormous increase in the number of criminals who are being brought to book. The numbers in prison tell the story. Two years ago the total was down to 31,000. At the middle of last month, the number in our prisons, borstals and detention centres was 39,627, an enormous increase in two years. With the prison population exploding at this rate, there is little doubt that the figure will be 50,000 before the end of this year. That is a number with which the prisons and the Prison Service cannot possibly cope. We have often been told that the certainty of detection is the best deterrent against crime. That sounds sensible enough to be true. If a man knew that he was going to be caught, one would think he would not commit a crime. But it is not working out in that way, and I would put this question to the Government. How do they propose to deal with the large and increasing number of men which the courts are sending to prison? Even with the 40,000 we have in prison now the problem is acute, because all the additional men are being crowded into our local prisons, the prisons in our large towns.
Let me quote a few examples. Armley Gaol, Leeds, the oldest and grimmest prison of them all, has accommodation 311 for 540 men. Last month it was bursting at the seams with 1,186 men—646 too many—and all of them had to be pushed two and three in cells the size of which was regarded in early Victorian times as barely sufficient for one man. Winson Green, Birmingham, has room for 506 men. Last month it had 1,066. Liverpool has 1,752 men crammed into cells intended to accommodate 1,050. Manchester has 1,362 men to put into cells for 756. Even a little local prison like Winchester, which was built for 330, has 622 men. My Lords, this means that as these additional numbers come in they are battened down and added to. I do not know whether any of us can conceive of what it means to be, say, at 4 o'clock on a hot Sunday afternoon, one of three men in a stuffy little box, when the door is clanged to and you know that you are stuck there until 7 o'clock the next morning.
Tensions must arise. Whatever we are doing, we are certainly not teaching them the road to a better life. We are failing completely in what has been the purpose of prison for Governments since Gladstone's time. And it has an effect on the staffs, too—on everybody. When we reflect that workshops, baths, lavatory services, sewers and everything else have been built for smaller numbers—in other words, for half the number of men the prisons have now—we can readily understand why I declare that living conditions in our local prisons are a national scandal and disgrace. I am not suggesting that this applies to all prisons. Thank God, it does not. So far the training prisons are being kept to the numbers for which they were planned. I hope we shall have an assurance that this endeavour will continue, because if we permit the same conditions to arise through all our prisons, the effect will be an unmitigated disaster. Everything the prisons are trying to do and everything that is done in prisons now will be brought to an end.
The obvious answer is: build more prisons. The Labour Government produced a White Paper, People in Prison, which speaks of a new small prison being opened at Longmarten next year and expresses the hope that six new C-class prisons, to hold between 4,000 and 5,000 men, will be started in the next five years. 312 It costs £5,000 to provide a bed for a prisoner these days. So prisons for over 5,000 at £5,000 a bed means £25 million. This, as I say, is planned and indeed to some extent these prisons have already started. I hope that the plan will go on. But this is not nearly enough. We cannot build ourselves out of this trouble, because the economic situation and public opinion will not stand it. We should need to spend £100 million very quickly, and who is going to agree that £100 million should be spent in a short space of time in that way, when those millions are so badly needed for other very pressing things? It may be that people would agree, but I doubt it. Nevertheless, I hope that the plan which has already been made and is proceeding will be adhered to and that the rolling programme of building which has been introduced will go on.
I suggest that there is another way to deal, at least partly, with the problem and that is to consider the possibility of reducing the flow into prison by making available to the courts some form of non-custodial sentence for certain offences. What I have in mind is that short-sentence prisoners, who are usually detained in local prisons—and, of course, it is the local prisons which are overcrowded now and it is these prisons which will immediately benefit—should be required to serve a sentence of service to the community rather than waste their time in prison. I know that a proposal of this kind is absolute anathema to all those who insist on adhering to the ritual of arrest, conviction and imprisonment, but it really is worth looking at. I know that the previous Home Secretary mentioned this point in Committee and my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger and other noble Lords will have some proposals to put forward in due course. It is necessary that this problem should not be looked at from the ruthless attitude that somebody must be made to suffer, especially when under present conditions he will suffer so much extra, so much that is uncovenanted for, so much that the courts do not impose on him. Unless we try something of this kind, I think that the continuance of the present situation could wreck the prison service. Under this suggestion the offender would be seen to be doing useful work and paying his debt to society, and, Heaven 313 knows! there is a great number of these people who have never done any useful work in their lives.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, spoke t he other day about the blight areas and the enormous amount of work that has to be done, and he almost said, but not in these words, that we cannot do it. I am not criticising him, but he indicated that there is so much more to be done than we can do. Well this is one way in which useful work could be done, work in which the people concerned might eventually take some pride. Heaven knows! a man cannot take pride in doing six months in an overcrowded prison. I hope that we shall be given an indication whether the Home Secretary will consider this suggestion and also whether Mr. Maudling has yet had time to consider the report of the Working Party on the drunk offender. Parliament has already decided that prison is not the place for drunks, but although we decided that some three years ago, we still have over 1,000 drunks inside. That is not an enormous number out of 40,000 persons in prison, but if the number were 1,000 less it would be a help, and the Home Secretary has power under the 1967 Act to abolish imprisonment for drunks as soon as he is satisfied that other adequate facilities exist for dealing with them. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who is to reply, will tell us whether that time has now arrived.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said that it is the position of Northern Ireland that is urgent and important, and I agree that it is, but I also hold the view that the less we say about it here the better. Nevertheless, in view of the previous speeches I have made I should not like one or two observations to go unrecorded. First, I would warmly welcome the statement by Mr. Maudling that he fully supports all the actions that the Stormont Government are taking in Northern Ireland in regard to social and other matters. Once the legislation is complete—and I think it is almost complete—and is being implemented, then I think that, with the disarming of the police force and the disbanding of the B Specials, any real grievance arising from discrimination will vanish. That does not mean that complaints will vanish, but troubles will end.
314 The extraordinary thing is that a year ago we thought: "Marvellous! We shall get these things through, and everything will be all right". It almost makes me feel that it is a grievance to have a grievance. Nevertheless, there is one thing on which I feel the Home Secretary should take action, and that is with regard to these parades. The right reverend Prelate has referred to them as religious observances. I have only seen them on television, but I have seen them several times. I see these ridiculous little men, with their sashes and with absurd bowler hats jammed down on to shiny foreheads, capering about the streets. It seems to me that we must forget religion. It is absolutely pagan. I think that the surviving and continuing demand for these parades to be held, when we well know that they are certain to lead: to bloodshed, is merely insistence on the continuation of a pagan rite.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I made no reference to demonstrations, and still less did I link them with religion. I am sorry if I led the noble Lord to say what he has, but I certainly would not wish that to go out.
§ LORD STONHAM
I apologise to the right reverend Prelate; I must have misheard something that he said. But I was not, I think, criticising him. I have been there and seen these people; I know them and have a high regard for them. I do not think it is possible to get agreement about the parades. The only thing to be done is to ban them. I believe that the British Forces are quite capable of dealing with any unofficial action that might be taken. For people to be permitted to go on with these parades, with the idea of celebrating some religious or even some civil victory, in the belief that it does good, is to me quite abominable, and I hope that, even at this late hour, action will be taken so that we do not have another blood bath.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, the gracious Speech is, I believe, by fairly common consent, certainly in our newspapers, a workmanlike appraisal of policies for what is needed at home and abroad. I should like to say, first of all, what a pleasure it is to follow the noble 315 Lord, Lord Stonham, whose speech I think has moved us all, even if some of us may not agree with every word of it. My noble friend Lord Windlesham, whose appointment I warmly welcome, as I am sure do all noble Lords, has already paid tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. I remember when we were last on this side of the House how the noble Lord and I used to follow one another in the debates on the Hospital Service and other subjects; and I recall, too, the great courtesy that I and my colleagues had from him when he was at the Home Office in regard to such matters as home safety, on which we had a common feeling. I am sure that the whole House will pay tribute to the noble Lord's courage, because we know that he has had several spells of illness, brought on largely by the extreme conscientiousness that he has shown in office and on the Back Benches, and pay tribute, too, for the unfailing courtesy which everybody received from him. We hope that he will now maintain good health.
I want to say a few words on Northern Ireland. I have been to Northern Ireland only once, and that on holiday; and if things quieten down I hope to go there again next month in a similar capacity. But I have many personal friends in Northern Ireland and in Southern Ireland, both Catholics and Protestants. I think that those who have been to this tragically troubled spot will know even from a a first visit, what delightful people they are, and that the vast majority of them, to whatever order they belong, desire to live their normal, peaceful lives. I think that anything we can do to promote this will receive common support.
So far as demonstrations in general are concerned, I think that most of us in our teenages felt like demonstrating against somebody or something in authority. I know that I did. I think that showing initiative, showing that one has a view and a principle, is a good thing. But to this I would add two riders. The first is that one should know what one is demonstrating about. I suspect that some of the more violent demonstrations that we have seen have come about in an atmosphere in which not all who have taken part knew what they were demonstrating about or what they were demonstrating for. The second 316 rider is that they should realise that there are always two sides to every coin, and that their fathers, and their fathers before them, probably had similar views and demonstrated, or wished to demonstrate, in a similar way. The only difference to-day is that the modern media of communications spotlights demonstrations, thus giving them publicity of which at times they are not worthy.
I want to devote the rest of my speech to a subject in which I have always had a very real interest; namely, the Health Service and the social services. There is one measure in the gracious Speech that I think should be greatly welcomed, and that is the awarding of pensions to those over 80. These people, now in the twilight of their lives, have given many years of devoted service to their country and to their families, and they have not perhaps enjoyed all the modern benefits, whether they are benefits of communication or material benefits, of their younger counterparts. It may be said that in some ways they have had other benefits. This is not a time to argue the pros and cons of that. These people, who may be relatively small in number, deserve this reward, if one likes to put it that way, although I think it is a right which should be given to them.
So far as the Health Service is concerned, there has been nothing specific in the gracious Speech on this matter. It would probably be something of a problem to include it. I hope my noble friend will bear in mind some of the observations which are made on the subject, and I apologise for not having given him notice of one or two things which I should like to raise. I turn particularly to mental health, because there is a real need for modernisation of many of our mental hospitals. Here we come up against the old, old problem which all politicians face: the problem of how to get the money out of the Treasury. We have read in recent months of some of the incidents in hospitals such as Flax Bourton and the Ely Hospital at Cardiff. We have heard of incidents which have been viewed out of all proportion because those views do not take into consideration the devoted work put in by the staffs of these hospitals. This point has been mentioned in your Lordships' House and in another place on a number of occasions, but it cannot be mentioned too 317 frequently. Those who, like myself, occupy a humble position as a member of a hospital committee at a mental hospital for subnormals realise the problem here.
At this stage I should like to pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, for the very good work which she did as Minister of State at the Home Office. The noble Baroness devoted a great deal of time to health matters and won respect from all sides in what she did. There is a real need in the Health Service for something to be done on the occupational therapy side. One hospital with which I am particularly associated, St. Ebba's Hospital at Epsom, have a fine occupational therapy unit. Many of the patients who are able to work are given work to do which means that they are kept occupied. In these days we are making tremendous strides in the Health Service in improving the minds of those who are mentally sick, if not actually curing them. The more they can be used in employment of this kind, the more beneficial it is for them. Enormous strides have been made in even the most severely sub-normal cases in helping them to live—obviously, not normal lives, but much happier lives than they would have lived fifty years ago.
Finally, may I say one word about hospitals in general. I was fortunate to be a guest recently at a dinner given by the King's College Fund for Hospital Management, where one meets the nurses, sisters, matrons and hospital secretaries, the people who really do the work in making this great Health Service of ours tick over, and those who face the every day and every hour problems. When talking to them I said, "I am a layman here, what is the problem?" It was an over-simplified question, but I asked them what the problem was. One of the sisters replied that really it was a problem of public relations. She said that we hear far too much of what happens if a nurse is disciplined on a ward, or if a patient is given a slap across the face. We do not hear of what happens on a Sunday if there is a major accident, or at night if a student nurse and a charge nurse are trying to control a ward of 50 sub-normal patients, some of whom may have epilepsy.
These are not exaggerations; these things happen. Those who administer 318 to these people go unsung, and many of them would not thank us if it were otherwise. When we consider the Health Service, I hope that: the new Administration are going to tackle some of these problems, particularly in the field of mental health. It is a sobering thought that at some time in their life one in every nine people in this country needs some kind of treatment for nervous illness. It is in this context that we must look at this question of the social services, which are surely the background to our whole existence.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, has spoken in a most interesting way on mental health, and I would have gladly followed him on that subject, or spoken about the disabled (a subject on which the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, will hold our attention a little later), or tried to deal with some of the topics to which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, will address himself in a few moments. And may I say in regard to the noble Lord, I hope without impertinence, that nobody more justly earned such a high position in this House by good work in this House than the noble Lord himself?
I will confine myself to one topic, as one should if possible on these occasions, and that is Northern Ireland. That gives me a chance of paying tribute, for all sorts of reasons, to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I am sure that his father, who was such a dear friend of so many of us in this House, would have been proud if he had been here to-day. That is, so to speak, a more or less impossible hypothesis; but he is with us in spirit. That gives me the opportunity of saying how pleased we were to hear the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in such fine form. The noble Lord frightened me a little, in view of my topic, by saying that the less one said about Northern Ireland in this House the better. He did not follow his own rule very strictly; he proceeded to lay down the law very effectively, and therefore I feel exonerated in pursuing that line.
I was in Dublin on Tuesday, on business, and at Stormont and in the Falls Road area of Belfast yesterday. Today I am going to try as hard as possible 319 to look beyond the immediate present and see what kind of future one can envisage if one is reasonably optimistic. I was very pleased to learn that the right honourable gentleman Mr. Maudling was to be Home Secretary, with, of course, special responsibility for Northern Ireland: he combines an acute brain with a stable and friendly disposition. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, it was good to read his statement on his return from Northern Ireland, that the policy of the previous Government would be continued. At any rate, that is how I understood the statement to read.
That bipartisan policy, initiated and carried through by the previous Government, owes not a little to the unselfish and often eloquent support of the present noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. May I take this opportunity, for many personal reasons as well as public ones, to say how delighted I am to see the noble and learned Lord back with us again? Last time he lingered, if I remember rightly, for a mere matter of eight years. I hope that this time he will stop longer before seeking higher office elsewhere. I hope that he will stay for eighteen years, and though I may not be here then, I am sure that he will be ready to be drafted when the time comes.
I hope that not only to-day but on many subsequent occasions Her Majesty's present Ministers will make it plain that the British Election has not retarded this movement to bring about, for the first time in Northern Ireland, "fair play for all." But I must say clearly—because it would be affectation, indeed cowardly, to say otherwise—that no one who visits Northern Ireland, however briefly, to-day can fail to be aware of a general impression that the change in the Government at Westminster has indeed brought about in relation to Northern Ireland an important change of atmosphere. Some welcome the change. Some, among whom I would be numbered, do not. But at any rate there is no doubt in most people's minds that there has been a change. A junior Minister at Stormont, Captain Brooks, who very courteously received me at short notice on behalf of 320 the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, made no secret of his relief that a Labour Government had disappeared. I recall his words. I remember the gist of his words; I do not say I took them down verbatim, but I do not think I can be wrong about his meaning. "Ulster people don't like being ordered about," he told me. "We were being made to look like puppets "—those words I do remember—"by the Westminster Government." I remember these words, too: "We were being discredited with our own people." He assured me that, in his opinion, it would be much easier than it was before to carry through the reform programme, just because the Government of Mr. Chichester-Clark would have more credibility among their own people. I looked sceptical, but he looked happy.
This happy mood was not, of course, reflected or shared by the leaders of the Catholic community in the Falls Road area. They were bitterly resentful, to put it mildly, at the way the area search had been conducted over the weekend. I do not know what Members of this House would have thought if they had visited some of the ransacked houses—and, in the great majority of cases, of course, no arms were found. I suppose that some would have thought it inevitable that this kind of thing should occur in war-like conditions: some would have felt ashamed, and some would perhaps have felt both things. I am saying no more now, because 200 or so complaints are being investigated by the Army. And to anyone taking the most casual look, the need for an investigation was painfully obvious.
I called on one of the senior officers, not in fact General Freeland—I met him the last time I was there. This officer was a man of evident humanity and a wide knowledge of Irish history. Indeed, he had read a book on Irish history by my son and one which is concerned somewhat with Irish history by my wife. He showed no evidence, though it may have been a fact, of having read a book that I wrote about the Irish Treaty of 1921. At any rate, he was well versed in the literature of the subject.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? His son's book was very largely based on the diaries of an ancestor of mine.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
They were. Oh well, that was quite excellent. I gather that one of the General's own ancestors had met a rather unhappy end at that period—but perhaps I had better not pursue that aspect of it now.
Let me say this clearly and seriously, my Lords. The impartiality of an officer like this—and I am sure the same would be completely true of all his colleagues—as between the two main communities was manifest to all. But he was of course only too well aware that, after the events of last weekend, the impartiality of the British authorities, in the widest sense, is being vehemently called in question by all sorts of reputable people on the Catholic side who are close to the scene. There seems a general impression, not confined to Catholics (and I was not told this by the officer who was kind enough to see me), that new and tougher orders were issued following Mr. Maudling's visit. The troops have put up, ever since they have beer there, with so much with such good temper and such fortitude that these new developments are rather tragic.
Members of this House may not be aware, for example, that 2,000 Catholic families were evicted from their homes last August—that was before the troops went in. But even recently, in the last two months, something like 200 Catholic families have been evicted by the pressure of the other community. And yet, in spite of that, until a week or so ago the British Army was popular in the Catholic community. I am afraid that that is not so at the present moment. I hope that it will become true again.
Bearing in mind that atmosphere, we must ask ourselves what is likely in practice to be the impact of these extraordinary parades—these barbaric rituals.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
These pagan rituals, as they were so well described by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. I agree with him that even at this late hour it would be highly desirable that they should be banned. It may be too much to expect to happen, but I must back up my noble friend Lord Stonham 322 in his call for the banning of these parades.
But whether the parades are banned or not, I beg the noble and learned Lord—whose knowledge of Ireland is certainly not questioned by me, and whose concern for all the people in chat part of the world is recognised by everyone—and through him his colleagues, to see whether they can do anything, even before the parades, during the parades—even after the parades—to remove this impression that Government policy has changed and has now come down in favour of the dominant majority. I am not saying that people suppose that the Government here are giving tough orders. The impression is that they have said to the Stormont Government that it is now up to them to see how they handle these matters. And, of course, as we have seen, in the case of the parades it is public knowledge that the Government here were anxious that the parades should be stopped. It would appear, though it is not quite so obvious, that the Stormont Government would like to see them stopped, but the Orange Order have refused to call them off.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, if my noble friend would allow me to intervene, I would say that the dichotomy which exists in the minds of the Stormont Government was thoroughly illustrated when the Prime Minister, Major Chichester-Clark, said on the radio that he hoped something would happen so that the parades would be cancelled but that if the parades were held he would march.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I have a great respect for the part Mr. Chichester-Clark is trying to play. I can only feel very sorry for him that he was forced into that very unhappy utterance. But, as I say, these parades are not going forward with the good will, so we understand, of the British Government. They are not going forward, we gather, with the good will of the Stormont Government: they are going forward because the Orange Order are the masters in Northern Ireland at the present time. And I hope that the noble Lord and his colleagues will make sure that that situation does not persist very much longer.
Now for the future. It could be so full of promise; it could be precisely the opposite. We can lock on these last two 323 years in Northern Ireland, for all the turmoil and tragedy, as a period of greater possibilities than any in the history of the Province. We have seen all Parties in this country, and we have seen the present Government of Stormont, commit themselves to the principle of equal rights for all according to British standards, which we in this country take for granted and have for ages taken for granted, but which has never hitherto been followed in Northern Ireland. We have seen all Parties commit themselves to the principle that the lamentable discriminations against the minority must be ended and that Catholics must no longer be treated as they have been treated during the last fifty years, as second-class citizens. We associate these developments with one name more than any other, the name of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, who has already brought new lustre to this House. He stood where it was an honour to stand, and he went down with the ship. His name will always be held in honour in Irish and, I should imagine in English history.
We must realise, my Lords, that we are seeing the death throes of a society based on an anachronistic ascendancy—an ascendancy in this case not of one small caste—and I know something about that, having been brought up in one small caste in Southern Ireland; we are seeing the end of an ascendancy based on the supremacy of one community over another; and we are seeing, I hope and believe, the birth throes of a modern democratic society in Northern Ireland. I am afraid we must face the fact that psychological birth pains are inevitable, and we must strain ourselves to find all the understanding and sympathy we can for those who are suffering from them. I do not doubt that if Major Chichester-Clark and his colleagues survive they will carry out the promised reforms in the spirit of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill. I believe them to be men of their word, and they will do everything in their power to carry out those reforms in that spirit. But it is a race against time. Clearly, the reforms cannot be carried out overnight. One cannot in a few hours revolutionise the whole housing arrangements, for example, of a country: but I wish they could be pressed ahead further and faster.
324 However, this afternoon I wish to concentrate on a different issue. In Northern Ireland we have two communities: one dominating and governing, the other governed and therefore dominated. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham—and here I do not exactly disagree with him but my emphasis may be slightly different—implied that when the reforms were carried through there would be no genuine grievances left, at any rate on the part of one community against another. But, of course, even when the reforms are carried through we shall still have these two communities, assisted now towards understanding by whatever the law can do, and yet still one governing and one governed. There will still be the dominant majority expecting what they call loyalty from the governed, and they will be genuinely indignant if they do not receive that loyalty.
There will never be peace or moral health or, for that matter, economic prosperity in Ulster until we get rid of this ghastly business of two communities, one ruling the other. Of course, the difference in religion will remain, but religion in the true sense is not the real issue here, as the right reverend Prelate explained to us so convincingly this afternoon. As to the religious leaders of Northern Ireland, they made their position clear recently in a notable statement. The relationships between the religious leaders in Northern Ireland, and indeed of the ordinary clergy, were never so close as at the present time, and I am glad that the right reverend Prelate confirms my opinion.
May I add here, because I want to say it somewhere, that perhaps the most effective non-sectarian force in Northern Ireland, working extraordinarily well for peace, is the trade union movement. If we are looking for encouragement—and in these difficult times we are entitled to find optimistic signs as well as gloomy ones—when there was some move to expel the Catholics from the shipyards the other day, the fact that the trade unionists stepped in at once is most encouraging.
My conviction is that the Catholic minority will never feel themselves a true part of Northern Ireland and will never make their proper contribution until they are given some share, or prospect of a share, in power; that is, 325 in the Government. In other words, I see in a Coalition, no doubt under Major Chichester-Clark (whom I imagine all of us in this House respect), with the minority adequately represented, the one chance of achieving a united community, if not to-day then tomorrow or the next day.
The idea of a Coalition was first put forward last summer by the Northern Ireland Labour Party, and I supported it myself in a letter to The Times. In spite of much polarisation since, in spite of many very sad happenings in recent times, I am sure—and your Lordships may say what you like but I record my conviction here and now—that if the minority were offered an opportunity of serving in a Coalition Government they would make a worthy response. If they were allowed for the first tune the chance of participating in the government of the country, I feel sure that they would throw their whole weight into making a success of Northern Ireland. My views and their views on the unity of Ireland are known; that would not be an issue in the future.
What of the Protestant majority? Last summer I asked a highly civilised member of the Stormont Government, who, I should imagine, is particularly well known to, and liked by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, whether he did not agree that a Coalition was the only reasonable answer. "Of course it is the reasonable answer", he replied, "but you don't seem to realiss—this is Northern Ireland!" At that time it seemed that an official Unionist majority was a fact of Nature, and it is asking a lot to expect a dominant Party in monolithic strength to pull itself apart in order to form a Coalition unless; it is forced to by absolute necessity.
The position is quite different to-day. Mr. Paisley, about whom I will say very little because I can think of no charitable word to say and one should not indulge in uncharitable words—well, perhaps I could think of a charitable word: I think obviously he has a rather keen, though possibly distorted sense of humour. And that may not altogether be a charitable remark. At any rate, Mr. Paisley abolished a Unionist majority of many thousands in his constituency. I gather from the radio that the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, considers that if there were an 326 Election to-morrow, few reasonable Members of the present Chichester-Clark Government would be returned.
Whatever the precise course taken by events, it does not seem likely that the enlightened Unionists under Major Chichester-Clark are in fact going to be able to govern Northern Ireland for very much longer on their own. If they are to survive they will require the support of many moderate Catholics and others who are now opposed to them, including of course members of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, which cuts across the religious line. Therefore I am convinced that a Government of the Liberal centre is the only hope of saving all that is best in Unionism—and I do not deny that there is much that is good in Unionism—and of winning a genuine Catholic allegiance for a Province for which there could still be a great future, but which to-day is drawing ever closer to the precipice.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, I have learned a great deal from the speech of my noble friend Lord Longford. Unlike some of my noble friends, I would dearly love to fight the General Election over again in this speech, but I shall ration myself almost entirely to the subject of education. But first a few words of tribute to the movers of the humble Address. I really must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine. He could have made his speech from this side of the House, from these Benches: and who am I to complain about that? The noble Lord's performance was a kind of political striptease, until the last paragraph, when the noble Lord gathered up his Conservative clothes and put them on again.
I do not have to agree with a speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, in order to enjoy it, and I am very sorry that she is not here at the moment. I hope I shall not be misunderstood when I say that her speeches are not in the least like those of her husband. I say this because for many years I was married to a prominent and articulate politician, and I often longed to disagree with him, just to prove that I had a separate identity. I admire the noble Baroness's achievement in this respect. Before I start on education, I 327 hope it is not inappropriate for me, as a humble Back-Bencher, to congratulate personally the noble Earl the Leader of the House on his appointment and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on his.
Government spokesmen have adorned this debate with a series of catchphrases left over from the Conservative Party Manifesto—phrases like "creating a new climate", "creating a new framework of incentive", "creating a new style of government", "releasing the energy and spirit of enterprise", "down with bureaucracy and public expenditure!"—all very brave words, but no substitute for a policy. The first action of the Secretary of State for Education was to produce a circular without a policy. I think the Government must be more than a little surprised by the hostile reception given to the right honourable lady the Secretary of State, Mrs. Thatcher.
I noted that when touching on Conservative hopes for improving industrial relations the noble Earl the Leader of the House promised the fullest possible discussion and consultation. The Secretary of State for Education, however, could not wait to issue her Circular 10/70, and she did so without any consultation whatever with the National Union of Teachers. Can one be surprised at the reaction of the National Union of Teachers and the General Secretary, when he spoke out and said:Her action is contrary to the whole spirit in which English education has been administered for a very long time.Perhaps this is what the Conservatives mean by a new style of government, but is this the kind of action and policy which is going to release the energy and spirit of enterprise of the 300,000 members of the National Union of Teachers? These teachers belong to the whole spectrum of political opinion, the three political Parties in this country. They carried a motion deploring the Secretary of State's withdrawal of the Labour Government's Circular 10/65, which asked local authorities to submit plans—only to submit plans—for the reorganisation of their secondary education on comprehensive lines. And three-quarters of them had already submitted plans.
328 My Lords, the Secretary of State, by her precipitous action, has alienated the men and women who must carry out any reorganisation she has in mind. Open letters to her kept appearing in the Press from specialists in education, some very rudely suggesting that the Secretary of State should go away and learn something about education, educate herself and her Party. Meanwhile, the teachers maintain that they will do everything in their power to press for the retention and implementation of comprehensive schemes. I myself listened to Mrs. Thatcher speaking in the Commons yesterday. She was unrepentant, and I could only conclude from her words that the Conservative Government are not going to have a national education service and are not going to be responsible for the shape of secondary education in the coming years.
The Labour Government Circular 10/65 has put in motion a process of change from a selective to a non-selective system of secondary education, and, as I have said, three-quarters of local authorities have already submitted plans. Circular 10/70 takes us right back to the nineteenth century. It indeed creates a new climate, a climate of uncertainty, than which nothing is worse for education, where the resources are never quite enough, or even adequate, and where change is inevitably slow and evolutionary—evolutionary not revolutionary. Mrs. Thatcher's document is replete with what I call "double think" and "double speak". It says that the Government's aim is to ensure that all pupils shall have full opportunities for secondary education, but the following qualification (and I quote), "suitable for their needs and abilities", gives the game away, and ensures that such opportunities shall not be for all our children.
Authorities are now to be freer to mess around with the comprehensive plans for education, and of course one knows that local authorities change their political colour every few years. How can the country have a continuing progressive educational policy without a guiding hand from the Central Government? At present we do not know whether new grammar schools are going to be built, new direct grant schools, or new secondary modern schools. The green light has been given by the Secretary of State 329 for the building programme. Their plans can now be changed or modified and we shall have the mixture as before. Anything goes, in spite of the fact that support for comprehensive education has been growing over the years, regardless of the fortunes of the Labour Party.
The comprehensive system is, I believe, the only way to work towards grammar school education for all, because it means longer education for more and more of our children. I believe that messing around with comprehensive education now would have a lasting and damaging effect on our secondary education. Of course, all parents want the best type of grammar school education for their children, and when they are asked the question they say, "Yes, of course we would like them to go to a grammar school." But they do not know the choice, that there is only one child in four who can get a place in a grammar school, and an even smaller proportion who could ever get into a direct grant school.
Mrs. Thatcher also made great play about flexibility in education. So under the flag of freedom for local authorities she tells them in her circular that they will now be freer to determine the shape of secondary provision in their areas. It is no longer to be the teachers and educational experts, people like David Donnison, Tyrrell Burgess, Michael Armstrong, who really know something about the wise use of scarce resources: it is to be the local education authorities—three-quarters of whom have submitted plans. These authorities can now modify, change or, presumably, throw out the plans already submitted.
To-day, most people are agreed that comprehensives cannot flourish or coexist with grammar and direct-grant schools. A non-selective system cannot co-exist with a selective system. The élitist attitude on education is inimical to more and longer education for more of our children. And I do not believe that "more" means "worse". That is a Conservative cliché, and it is absolutely untrue. Even when changing from a selective to a non-selective type of education there are difficulties and problems, and we need time and experience to get over them. The only way remaining to get better and more education is through the comprehensive system.
330 Any framework for good industrial relations can be based only on a comprehensive system of education. When we look round at the industrial unrest in this country, surely it must occur to noble Lords that perhaps some of it is due to a fear by workers that they may not be getting their fair share of all the benefits from this wonderful technological and scientific age. If they are not going to share in the opportunities from education which is their due, and the gap between the educated and the uneducated becomes wider, we shall have more and more industrial unrest.
Before I sit down I must refer to one other speech, that of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. He made a deeply thoughtful and most valuable speech. Of course, the noble Viscount follows perhaps the best Minister for the Arts that we could have had in a generation, Miss Jennie Lee. Everyone in the Arts owes her a debt of gratitude, and she has been particularly admirable because she has sought little personal publicity for herself. I wholeheartedly agree with the aim of the noble Viscount to involve more and more people in the Arts. In fact, the Arts—literature, painting, design—should be woven into every aspect of our lives: in education, in business, in engineering, in working conditions. It was this philosophy for the promotion of the Arts in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that I so admired. It was this complete lack of a philosophy in education in Circular 10/70, and in the thinking of the Secretary of State, that is reflected in the education policies of the Conservative Government.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SECURITY (LORD ABERDARE)
My Lords, may I begin by thanking most warmly the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for his most kind reference to me. I appreciate it very much, coming from him who is so highly respected in this House and who has had such a long record of wonderful service to the social services. Secondly, may I pay a tribute to my predecessor, Lady Serota. It occurred to me to have described her as a "round peg in a round hole" or as a "square peg in a square hole", but I thought that neither of the adjectives "round" or "square" could in any 331 way be applicable to her. May I just say that we all, in every part of the House, very much respected the work she did as a Minister.
My Lords, I am hoping to devote most of my remarks to the social services and the subject of education, but may I say a few words in general terms in answer to what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said about pollution? I would congratulate him and wish him well as Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Oil Pollution of the Sea. I think they are lucky to have him as their new Chairman, succeeding my noble friend the Leader of the House and, before him, the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. I would say, first of all, that we fully accept the importance of this subject. In the gracious Speech there appears the statement:My Ministers will intensify the drive to remedy past damage to the environment.As the noble Lord said, there was a Minister, Mr. Crosland, in overall charge in the last Government. This is no longer so, and executive Departments will continue to exercise their own executive functions in regard to these problems under the direction of their separate Ministers. But the noble Lord may have noticed a reply given by the Prime Minister in another place on July 7, which I quote:Normal arrangements have been made to ensure the necessary inter-Departmental coordination both on regional matters and on pollution pending the review of Ministerial responsibilities in this field."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 7/7/70: col. 490.]I am afraid that is the only answer I can give: that this whole field is being reviewed.
The noble Lord also mentioned the scientific and administrative staff who had been brought together to advise Mr. Crosland. They have always been technically on the complement of the Cabinet Office, and they are now working within the Cabinet Office pending the outcome of this review. The noble Lord mentioned one or two more detailed matters which were in the late Government's White Paper. Some of these are routine, some require political decisions, and some depend on the assembly of further information. I can only say that this review and this collec- 332 tion of information is going ahead and these matters will be brought up for decision by the appropriate Ministers as soon as the necessary information is available.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for that full and helpful answer. This means, then, that the Statements of Intent in the White Paper of the former Government are not carried over, and that everything that White Paper said the Government would do must be decided again, whether or not it has been done. In other words, the White Paper does not bind the present Government; it is pushed to one side, and the present Government will be making their own mind up afresh.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, as I understand it, yes, the decisions are all being reviewed.
My noble friend Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, in her charming and effective speech seconding the humble Address in reply to the gracious Speech, referred to the absence from it of any mention of the future administration of the National Health Service. I should not like it to be thought that its future is not very much in our minds. In our Manifesto we have said that we will improve the administration of the Health Service so that its three main branches—hospitals, general practitioner and local health services—are better co-ordinated. As my noble friend pointed out, this will mean better value for money and better care for the patient. With these aims in view we are looking at the proposals for changes in England, Scotland and Wales that were made by the late Administration, and we are also considering the many comments that we have had on those proposals from all those who have been consulted.
I would say to my noble friend Lord Cottesloe that I was sorry not to be here yesterday afternoon when he made a well-informed and interesting speech on this subject. However, I should like to assure him that everything he said will be most carefully considered. May I say the same, equally, to my noble friend Lord Auckland who spoke this afternoon? I agreed with practically all he said, especially on the subject of the mentally handicapped, and I would echo the tribute he paid to the staff of our hospitals for the mentally handicapped. 333 Administrative changes in the National Health Service are obviously closely related to local government reform. On this the gracious Speech promised that proposals would be worked out. We shall consider the two matters side by side and, as in the local government field so in the Health Service side, there will be full consultation with all those concerned before final decisions are reached. This is an important and complicated matter, and I am sure your Lordships will not expect me to say more at this early stage, but I should like to assure those who work in the Health Service that we are very conscious of the fact that it is highly undesirable to prolong unduly the present uncertainly about its future administration.
I am quite sure that no study of the structure and organisation of the Health and Welfare Services can be in any way complete without an accompanying exploration of the present and potential role of voluntary organisations in both hospital and community services. One thing at least is clear: far from being squeezed out of the picture by any structural reorganisation of the statutory services, voluntary help in its many traditional and pioneering forms must be encouraged not merely to continue but considerably to expand. I know that in these times of change many voluntary organisations are themselves very conscious of the need to think out afresh their purpose and function if they are to become a still stronger force in the provision of this country's social services. We shall be looking for all possible ways to help and encourage them in this crucial development.
I should like to touch on two particular matters concerning the National Health Service; first, the pay of doctors and dentists. We were faced on assuming office with the unhappy dispute with the medical and dental professions. I do not need to go into the details now, since happily the central point of the dispute has been resolved as a result of a meeting which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services held with the representatives of the two professions on June 26. The professions have now resumed the signing of medical certificates and co-operation in the administration of the National Health Service. The Government, for their part, 334 have withdrawn the previous Government's reference to the National Board for Prices and Incomes of certain of the recommendations made in the Kindersley Review Body's Twelfth Report and have agreed to arrange, after further discussion, for an impartial Review Body to be set up which will not be subordinate to any other body. Their recommendations would not be rejected or modified unless there were obviously compelling reasons for doing so. The way is now open, therefore, for discussions with the professions about pay, and my right honourable friend is meeting their representatives to-morrow. In the circumstances, your Lordships will not, therefore, expect me to say anything further about this subject.
Secondly, I should like to refer to the nurses. My right honourable friend and I are aware that there are problems in the field of nursing that require attention, and I should say particularly that we welcome the fact that the last Government set up a Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Asa Briggs to review the role of the nurse and the midwife in the hospital and the community, and the education and training required for that role. We shall look to this Committee for realistic advice on the problems of training and manpower in the nursing profession.
On the social security side, your Lordships will be aware that my right honourable friend tine Secretary of State for Social Services has presented a Bill in another place, the National Insurance (Old Persons' and Widows' Pensions and Attendance Allowance) Bill. The Bill comes up for Second Reading in another place to-morrow, and no doubt will reach your Lordships' House before very long. I would thank my noble friend Lord Auckland for his welcome to this Bill.
I should like to say that the speed with which we have been able to produce it owes much to the fact, which I am happy to acknowledge, that two of its major provisions, for younger widows and for an attendance allowance, are the result of work done by the previous Administration. Bin the main aim of the Bill is to put right a hardship which has endured too long: it is to provide some retirement pension for people who had no opportunity of insurance before the present National Insurance scheme 335 took effect on July 5, 1948, and who, being over pensionable age at that date, were outside the scope of the current provisions. This means that it applies to men over the age of 87 and women over the age of 82. The basic weekly rate will be £3, and £4 17s. for married couples. It is hoped to pay these pensions from the beginning of November, when increases in supplementary benefit are to be made. I am sure your Lordships will agree that the sooner the better in the case of these old people, and that is the reason why we are bringing this Bill forward with great urgency. This Bill represents the implementation of three specific pledges in the social security field in our Election Manifesto and gives, as we promised to give, priority to those most in need, and special help to special groups.
On the more general aspects of National Insurance, we pledged ourselves in our Election Manifesto to ensure that everyone should have the opportunity of earning a pension related to their earnings. Our philosophy in undertaking this task is completely different from that of the previous Government. We do not believe in concentrating everything into a single, massive State scheme such as the National Superannuation Bill which died with the Election. Our approach is to encourage people to provide for their old age through expanded and improved occupational schemes. The main role of the State, as we see it, should be to provide a firm base on which people can build through occupational schemes.
There is general agreement, I believe, in the definition of the main problems which face us: the growing number of pensioners and other beneficiaries in the years to come, and the impracticability of raising the necessary money on a system of flat-rate contributions. We do not believe, however, in the Socialist solution of establishing a juggernaut of a State scheme, with its damaging effects on the future growth of occupational schemes and the crushing burden it would lay on future generations of contributors. The details of our new structure are still to be worked out, and I cannot elaborate on it to-day. However, I can assure your Lordships that the work is being pushed ahead and that we shall publish the results as soon as possible.
336 May I now come to the questions on education? Your Lordships will know that it is the Government's intention to transfer responsibility for primary and secondary education in Wales to the Secretary of State for Wales. I am sure your Lordships will welcome this step in devolution to the Principality. The Welsh Office was established first of all under a Conservative Government. It has shown itself fully capable of accepting greater and greater responsibilities, and I am sure that the transfer of responsibility for primary and secondary education will be welcomed on all sides. Wales has a particularly proud educational record. In fact, without Welsh teachers the English educational system would be in very great difficulty. I am sure it is right that Wales should now assume, for the first time, responsibility for educating its own sons and daughters in primary and secondary schools.
Most of the educational arguments in recent years, and certainly this afternoon, have been concentrated on secondary schools and higher education—and so have most of the resources. Too often, both in debate and in the choice of priorities, the primary schools have been neglected. We want to change this. As we said in our Manifesto:Within the education budget itself, we shall shift the emphasis in favour of primary schools—the foundation on which all later education and training are built.My Lords, these are not empty words. History records how much Conservative Governments have already done for primary schools since the war. My noble friend Lord Eccles, who was Minister of Education when the drive to reorganise all-age schools was launched—with all that that meant for the younger children—played a large part in the introduction of the three-year training course for teachers, which was of particular benefit to the primary schools. It was one of his successors, Sir Edward Boyle—no longer my right honourable friend, and not yet my noble friend—who set up the Plowden Committee on Primary Education. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education is now determined to act on that Report, for which Lady Plowden and her colleagues were responsible all too many years ago.
In saying this, I do not belittle what the Labour Government achieved. We 337 are in sight of the abolition of classes of over 40 in primary schools, and a start has been made on the replacement of the worst of the old buildings. But much remains to be done. Last Autumn the late Government asked all local authorities for a list of schools built before 1903 for which there is a continuing need and which should be replaced. The Department of Education has just completed an analysis of the returns. There are well over 3,000 primary schools in this category, with three-quarters of a million children in them—one in seven of all our primary schoolchildren. The cost of replacing them would be some £200 million, or about twice what we are spending on new secondary school buildings for the raising of the school leaving age. This is a measure of the task that faces us.
We shall start with the places of greatest need—the Victorian slum schools in the down-town areas of our large cities and industrial towns. Here, where poverty, poor housing and cultural deprivation stalk hand in hand, we want to see children given at school the opportunities and conditions which they lack at home. I have no doubt that the experts are right in saying that the first few years that a child spends at school can largely determine his future. We want to make it a better future.
Now, my Lords, may I come to secondary education, a subject on which I am sure we could argue for hours, as we have done in the past? In particular, it is a subject on which I am sure I could argue with the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell. If I may, I should like to say to her that I thought that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State fully justified herself in her speech yesterday in the House of Commons. The noble Baroness made great play of the fact that there had been no consultation, but I am sure my right honourable friend would agree that though there is a purpose in consultation before new policies are introduced, the withdrawal of a circular is hardly a subject on which there is very much point in consultation, especially when you have just had a mandate in an Election to that action.
The noble Baroness also spoke of all the members of the National Union of Teachers being critical of my right honourable 338 friend. Perhaps she has not had the opportunity of reading a letter in to-day's Guardian, where at least one teachers' association of the National Union of Teachers writes in a contrary sense. She might also be prepared to read—if she was not in the House yesterday—some of the very wise words spoken by her noble friend Lord Chorley. The noble Lord (I do not think he is here to-day) could not have put better what I think we would wish to put as an argument for the possibility of the co-existence of comprehensive schools—many of which were introduced by Conservative local councils—and the best of our grammar schools. The noble Baroness will find two columns of his speech yesterday extremely interesting.
Circular 10/65 has been withdrawn because we wish local education authorities to be free to plan the shape of secondary education in their own areas. We firmly believe that the delicate balance that existed under the 1944 Act between the powers of central and local government was right. We believe that there is positive advantage in diversity of provision and variety of pattern, and we certainly do not intend to press for change where existing local arrangements are working well and command general support.
The Opposition's ill-starred Education Bill, which after two attempts never emerged from its Committee stage in another place, was typically rigid and doctrinaire. It was a blueprint for neighbourhood schools—good schools in good areas, bad schools in bad areas—and one result of its loss will be that the Inner London Education Authority will be able to continue with its policy of "banding", which is at least a commendable attempt to achieve comprehensive schools of truly mixed ability. I found it extraordinary to hear the spokesman of the Liberal Party advocating this sort of rigid doctrine, and I only hope—and I hope I may say so with a certain amount of confidence, speaking from previous experience—that not all his colleagues agree with his extreme views.
The withdrawal of this circular does not mean turning back the clock. Local education authorities with approved plans of secondary reorganisation—and they are the majority—may proceed to operate them unchanged if they wish. 339 The Secretary of State will examine on their educational merits both new plans and modifications of existing ones, and she has already approved a fully comprehensive plan for Leeds. The new circular urges authorities to take stock of their position, to proceed with reorganisation plans where it is clear that they meet local needs and also make educational and economic sense, but not to rush into change for its own sake or to satisfy a rigid uniformity.
We are proud of our good schools under whatever title they may go, and we shall not allow them to be destroyed in the name of comprehensive reorganisation until we are convinced that such reorganisation in the particular local circumstances makes good educational sense and is economically practicable.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will make his position quite clear. Is he quite happy to continue indefinitely 11-plus procedures for quite a large section of the country?
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, that is something that is always hurled at us. Eleven-plus procedures are always hurled at us, meaning an 11-plus exam. But there are all sorts of different ways of selection which would have continued in any case under the previous Government. As the Secretary of State in the previous Administration said, money was not available suddenly to turn the whole system into a comprehensive system. Therefore he was going to have to continue with some form of selection in the country as a whole. All we are saying is that we wish to leave it to those local authorities and those local areas where the buildings are suitable, where they have the money, where everything is ripe and ready for this type of reorganisation. But we shall not force it on other areas where it is quite unnecessary.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, may I further ask the noble Lord whether that means areas such as Inner London, for example? Would the Secretary of State look favourably on proposals to merge grammar schools with other kinds of secondary schools, if that suited local circumstances?
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, every case will obviously be taken on its merits.
May I mention the Education (Handicapped Children) Bill, which is included in the programme for this legislative Session and which provides for the transfer to local education authorities of responsibility for the education of severely mentally handicapped children? The Bill is down for Second Reading in another place tomorrow, and will be coming quite soon to your Lordships' House. I am sure that those of your Lordships who took part in debating the corresponding Bill on the last occasion will find its terms familiar, except for the exclusion of certain extraneous matters with which we disagreed.
In conclusion, these are early days to announce firm details of our policies for the social services, but at least we shall be guided by two general principles: first, the concentration of our limited financial resources on those in greatest need; and, secondly, the organic development of our present system, retaining what experience has proved to be good and making changes only where we are convinced that they are for the better.Growth",wrote Cardinal Newman,is the only evidence of life"—and growth, my Lords, is a natural process that we intend to foster.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ LORD GARDINER
My Lords, how nice it is to be free again to say what one thinks, instead of having some carefully prepared script from which one cannot depart! I suppose I have been fortunate in being a member of a profession in which you never have an employer and you never have a senior partner; and, so long as you win the cases, the solicitors do not mind what you say out of court. I will not pretend that I had not felt somewhat irksome the restraints which naturally fall on a Minister. However, now again I am free; and the first thing I would say, at the first opportunity I have had of saying it, is how grateful I am to noble Lords in all parts of the House for their great courtesy and kindness to me during the whole of the period of nearly six years that I occupied the Woolsack. I had not been a politician before; I had been a Member of your 341 Lordships' House for only a few months: and the courtesy and consideration which I received from the whole House made my task ever so much lighter, and I am deeply grateful for it. May I acknowledge, too, my indebtedness to the Clerk of the Parliaments and his colleagues at the Table, without whose unfailing assistance I should, I am sure, have made many more errors than I did. They are, of course, always of the greatest assistance to all those who hold the Office of Lord Chancellor.
May I now respectfully congratulate the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack on his appointment? As I think he knows, I always hoped that, if our Government were going to be succeeded by a Conservative Government, the choice would fall on him. I have long admired his great gifts of intellect and integrity, and I am sure he will indeed prove a worthy successor to his great father. I do not know that I could properly wish him long life in the position, but I do wish him every success, which I am sure he will achieve.
My Lords, I am of course very glad to see from the gracious Speech that it is the Government's intention to implement the Report of the Royal Commission on Assizes and Quarter Sessions, and I am quite sure that that is right. As your Lordships know, it has been warmly welcomed in all parts of both Houses, by the judges, by the Bar Council, by the Law Society and, I think, by the general public. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will be able to tell us, when he comes to reply, that he anticipates that the Bill will be ready for introduction when we return after our vacation. It has nothing whatever to do with Party politics, and I can see no reason why it should be in any respect contentious.
The only comment which I would venture to make about it is to remind him of the importance which the Royal Commission attached to uniformity of treatment. I say that because, as we all know, the worst court in the country, from the point of view of delay, is the Central Criminal Court, the conditions at which the Royal Commission described as "intolerable". They come, in part, from a diversity of authority, the Lord Chancellor being responsible for providing the Judges, in effect; the City of 342 London for providing the courts; the Greater London Council for providing the staff. It is a delicate subject, I suppose, the relationship between the Conservative Party and its funds and the City of London, but I venture to express the hope that, notwithstanding many ancient customs of the City, uniformity will be observed and that under the Bill they will not be treated quite differently from any other local authority.
Then, if I may venture to say a word on a subject which is not mentioned in the gracious Speech, as the noble and learned Lord may know it has always seemed to me foolish to go on passing Acts of Parliament which give poor people rights which they cannot afford to enforce or defend. There is nothing wrong with our legal aid scheme except that it is the only social service—for it is a social service—whose basic figures have not been uprated for some six or seven years. In the life of the last Parliament I laid Orders which would have rectified that position, and if we had had an October Election they would no doubt have been law by now. I express the hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will be able to tell us that he proposes to take a similar course. I had also laid an Order, which was subject only to the Negative Resolution procedure, which would have done the same for our inadequate legal advice system. Still, such as it was, that Order, too, would have uprated the basic figures there to what they were six or seven years ago.
I had furthermore announced on behalf of the Government that, if returned to power, they proposed to introduce legislation for a much better form of legal advice service. No one who knows anything about this subject does not agree how very inadequate our existing provisions for legal advice are. We have had the criticisms and suggestions of the Association of Conservative Lawyers, in their publication called Rough Justice; we have had those of the Society of Labour Lawyers, in their publication called Justice for All; and we have had the views of the Law Society. The Advisory Committee on Legal Aid and Advice, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, is the distinguished chairman, has recommended, after considering all these, what is known in the 343 trade as "the £25 scheme". It is that which the previous Government had said they would, if returned, promote by means of a Bill, and I hope very much that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack may be able to tell us that his Government will do the same.
Of course, nobody would suppose that a new Government could have any Bills ready to start with, particularly, perhaps, if they did not expect to be elected, and nobody will blame the Government for not having Bills ready. But if a Minister has a Bill ready, then, in relation to his colleagues, it gives him a great and obvious advantage—and the noble and learned Lord has such a Bill. As he knows, our law on animals is partly obsolete, partly archaic and partly incomprehensible, and its many deficiencies were pointed out years ago by a committee of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, was the chairman. Nothing then was done, but, as your Lordships will remember, in the last Session we passed through all its stages, with very few Amendments, a Bill restating the law on animals. However, it did not make sufficient progress in the other place to arrive on the Statute Book before the Dissolution of Parliament. Therefore I hope very much that the noble and learned Lord will be able to tell us that he will introduce this Bill next week, because, come October, his advantage over his colleagues will have disappeared. It is only fair that I should say that, because if he does not do it next week I shall be very strongly tempted to do it the week after.
May I finally mention two or three other matters? I venture to do so because I found that these are things which a Lord Chancellor cannot really do unless he starts on them very soon in his period of office. The first thing is this. Everybody who thinks about it agrees that what we ought to do in regard to the transfer of land is to have compulsory registration; for the simple reason that, obviously, if every time land changes hands new solicitors have to go back over abstracts of title for many years and delivering requisitions, and so on, this must cost more and take a longer time than if the title was once registered at the Land Registry. Registration would considerably cheapen and simplify 344 all subsequent transfers. What then is holding up the extension to the whole country of our system of land registration? The answer is that you must have at least a three-year programme, and Governments are not very good at agreeing to anything which looks ahead for more than about a year.
We found from experience that a purpose-built Land Registry is much more economical than trying to put a Land Registry into the ordinary sort of office block. But by the time you allow for the compulsory purchase order and the building, you must have about three years. Then, secondly, you must have up-to-date Ordnance Survey maps, and naturally that Department want to know for which counties you next want the new survey maps.
Thirdly, there is another problem—this is not at all a matter of Party politics: all Governments are equally stupid about this. It is the question of civil servants. Of course, if you decide that some Government activity is unnecessary—it may be the Land Commission: if you are of that opinion, then you save money by not employing those civil servants any more. But every Government find it very popular to say either, "We are not going to increase the number of civil servants" or, "We shall reduce the number of civil servants." This is really idiotic, and it is about time the public understood just how idiotic it is. Because, except in the case to which I have referred, it is a nonsense. If civil servants (and the same thing applies to local government servants) are fully stretched in providing some service to the public—for example, motor car taxation documents have to be got out—then, if the population increases and if the civil servants are already fully stretched either there must be more civil servants or the service must decrease. If there are more motor car owners, there must either be more clerks to issue the licences or the owners of new cars will have to keep them in their garages for a month or more after sending in their cheques and application forms because there are not enough additional civil servants to cope with the additional work.
This argument leads to the height of absurdity in the case of the Land Registry, because these are civil servants who not only cost no money at all but 345 in fact make money for the Government. Of course, if you have additional compulsory registrations then you must have more civil servants. But every Lord Chancellor is bound to be most careful to err on the side of caution in fixing the fees which the Land Registry charge. The Lord Chancellor's account with the Treasury in relation to the Land Registry is now in credit to the extent of £4 million—all, to some extent, over-charges in land registration fees. Here are civil servants who not only do not cost the country any money but, as I say, actually make money for the country. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Shackleton, when in charge of the Civil Service Department, did his best for me. He would say, "I have been able to get you another 40 persons for this financial year, but I am afraid I cannot tell you anything about any further period." This is useless. You must have a three-year plan. Not only are the buildings to be provided, but staff have to be engaged and trained, and the required maps have to be obtained.
The next thing which I think cannot be done unless it is tackled early in the life of the Lord Chancellor is the view which I had tentatively formed when I took office, and that was that the Parliamentary's draftsmen ought to come under the Lord Chancellor. He is the natural person to protect them and to help them. I did secure three of them for work exclusively with the Law Commission. I hope that the noble and learned Lord who now occupies the Woolsack will be able to tell us his plans for the future with the Law Commission, because he has this advantage over me: that he inherits a Law Commission in full spate, whereas I had to create it and they themselves had to start from scratch. I am sure that to have a proportion of Parliamentary draftsmen with the Law Commission is really vital. To have a Committee which considers the matter and makes its Report and only then to have somebody consider how to turn this into a Bill is one thing. To have draftsmen working with the Committee is another. It is a habit of the draftsman, and one to which they are trained, to say, "Yes, but what is to happen if …?" This is something which nobody has ever thought about at all, and I am 346 sure it is of the utmost value to have them working together.
Parliamentary draftsmen as a whole are in very short supply. I cannot think of any large business the whole of whose affairs would periodically come to a halt for the lack of half-a-dozen specialists. It has for some time been the position of the Government to be held up from time to time, unable to get Bills drafted, because of the shortage of Parliamentary draftsmen. This is because nobody is responsible for them who will take a real interest in this subject. It was, and I believe technically still is, the responsibility of the First Lord of the Treasury—that is to say, the: Prime Minister; but obviously he has more important things to do than to find Parliamentary draftsmen. The Minister responsible for the Civil Service has a great deal to do. The Lord Chancellor would take a permanent: interest in them. It is not until you say to two civil servants: "Now, go away; and if you ever expect to be promoted, don't come back until you have found a reasonable number of first-class recruits for Parliamentary draftsmen" that we shall ever get them. It is useless to go on thinking that you can get men who have been in practice at the Bar for from five to ten years: they are earning too much. You must go to the universities: you must take the sort of recruiting steps with first-year law students in the universities that the Inland Revenue are now energetically taking for Inland Revenue staff.
It may be that you will have to go further. I think that the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack will find that nearly all our problems are mirrored in our old Dominions. Having been to a Commonwealth law conference in Australia, and having last year, at Easter, spent a week with the New Zealand Law Society and in September a week with the Canadian Bar Association, I found that all our problems are the same: the way in which criminal legal aid led to everybody fighting cases where there would have been pleas; what to do about the very long fraud cases; the shortage of shorthand writers and the shortage of Parliamentary draftsmen. I have admiration for the very energetic young Federal Minister of Justice in Canada. He has just introduced a Bill to constitute a Law Commission. The 347 Provinces, of control, have had several before. He has now got two or three universities to agree to include in their law schools a course for Parliamentary draftsmen. That is going to be his answer to the problem. I would ask the noble and learned Lord to think about that.
Finally, my Lords, another subject which, if it is tackled at all, should be tackled early (and it is one to which there was no reference either in the Conservative Party Manifesto or in the gracious Speech) is one that interests all Members of this House: the reform of your Lordships' House. After all, we did a great deal of work in this field. I did not expect, when I found myself chairman of the All-Party Conference, that we should get agreement. It seemed to me unlikely. But as I have always found does tend to happen when you put a number of Englishmen of different views round a table, they tend to agree rather than to disagree. And I see no harm in compromise; on the contrary, it seems to me that any reform of this House would be so much better done by agreement rather than after violent controversy.
I should like to pay my tribute to the great amount of work which was done by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington; the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe; Mr. Maudling; Mr. Macleod; the noble Lord, Lord Byers; Mr. Jeremy Thorpe; the noble Earl, Lord Longford; the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton; Mr. Peart; Mr. Crossman; Mr. Jenkins and, subsequently, Mr. Callaghan. At the end of it all, as your Lordships know, we came out with a unanimous Report which was accepted by a substantial majority in this House, and the resulting Bill was passed by a substantial majority on Second Reading. Then, owing to quite a handful of filibusters on both Back Benches, we got into difficulties.
Well my Lords, we are entitled, are we not, being interested in the subject, to ask what plans the Governmenit have. Do they propose to proceed with this agreed piece of reform? Or, if not, do they propose to leave it to some more hostile kind of reform at a later date? I shall quite understand if on some of these matters the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor says that he has not had time to consider these matters with his 348 colleagues. But I am sure we shall all be most interested if, to the extent that he can, he will tell us what the Government's plans are in this field. May I again wish him great success in the important task to which he has set his hand.
§ 6.31 p.m.
My Lords, I do not know how many of your Lordships, either in this House or outside of it, have bad dreams; but perhaps the worst dream I have ever had is that it should fall to my lot to speak immediately after the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, on the occasion of his "maiden speech" from the Dispatch Box, and immediately before the noble Baroness, Lady Summer-skill. From one who, anyhow, is feeling slightly constricted on the new Liberal Benches, this is asking a lot; and I hope that your Lordships will, therefore, treat this as a maiden speech to the extent that I had not expected to be in this position.
If I am allowed to, and if it is not impertinent, I should like to say that there is nowhere I would rather see the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner—except on the Woolsack—than at the Dispatch Box; and if I may add to that, there is nowhere that I would rather see the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone—except at the Dispatch Box—than on the Woolsack. I speak with some feeling, because from these Benches I get a very good view of Chancellors. I am very interested in what I might call the Tory manipulation of the wig, and I shall have an almost unique opportunity of hearing on the same day the uncensored remarks of two Lord Chancellors, from the asides of one on the Woolsack and from listening to the other who has told us his views without restriction.
I will now get away from personalities and come to the gracious Speech, on which I have very little to say. I do not know how many of your Lordships arrive at this House by Underground, but those who do may have seen—I do not know whether it is still there to-day—a very large and legible notice in red letters which has been saying for some time "Convenience closed for Reconstruction." I have been wondering whether that is going to be altered at an appropriate date to an equally visible, but blue, notice saying, "Reconstruction 349 closed for Convenience." I rather gather from the announced date of the Recess that that may be so; and I would hasten to say that, if so, I believe it will be welcomed in this House because I think that the spate of legislation we have had, exhilarating as it was, would be better possibly for a little digestion while the new Government find—I will not say their feet or their seat—perhaps adapt themselves to their geographical position.
My Lords, from my position on the Liberal Benches it is very difficult to say anything without appearing to be rather patronising, and I think the only thing is to be frankly didactic and give one's personal views without very much hoping that they will not necessarily be held to represent Party views. I want to touch only on three topics, none of which will take more than a few minutes to talk about. The first—and I had better say that I welcome this very heartily indeed—is the sentence in the Queen's Speech to which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare referred:Legislation will be brought forward to provide pensions for persons now over 80 "—and the other attendant things.
That sentence particularly interests me, because on the first occasion when I had the courage, after a maiden speech, to address your Lordships at all, it was to ask a question on that point. I cannot pretend that it made a great impact on the House for various reasons, not the least being that it was about 9.30 in the evening after a debate on the Burmah Oil war damage claim, after which everyone was naturally exhausted and the only people present in the Chamber were Members on the Opposite Front Bench. They treated my question with great courtesy, but made it quite clear that nothing could be done for these people for, I think, three reasons. One was that it would be impracticable because of expense. Another was that a new form of social legislation was in process, and would appear, which would make it unnecessary. I may say that this was in the early days, or the "hundred days", of Labour rule. The third reason was that the subject would receive full discussion in another place the next day. That particular prophecy was falsified rather quickly, because it did not receive discussion the next day. There was a Bill introduced by a Private Member 350 which never got on, because the debate on the previous day went on too long to permit it coming on. I should like to say that I am very glad indeed that legislation is being produced now, and I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, that if it is not hastened it will be too late.
The second matter which I want to say only one thing about—and here, if I may, I will take a leaf out of Lord Gardiner's book by mentioning something which is not in the Queen's Speech—is the working of the Abortion Act. I am not going to make a speech, but I should like to suggest to noble Lords opposite—who are, as I think we all are, impartial on this matter—that the time has come to have an impartial inquiry, or at least a debate in your Lordships' House, and to discuss how the Act is working.
I would not suggest that on my own account or on behalf of any Party in this House: but there is very much a feeling among people who know about this that the Act is not working satisfactorily: and that some of the prophecies of the noble and learned Lord now on the Woolsack, during the all-night sitting when the Bill was introduced, have apparently been all too well fulfilled. He said that he was afraid—he is not a timid man—that it might result in a racket, and a great many people believe that it has. If I may, I will confine myself to reading an extract from the British Medical Journal of May 30 this year, giving the findings of an inquiry into the first year's working of the Act conducted by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Almost the concluding sentence reads:The time has come for the legislators to decide whether they and the community they represent really want abortion on demand. If they do not, this should be made clear so that the medical profession can continue to judge cases dispassionately on medical grounds. If they and the public do want abortion on demand they should say so, modify the Act accordingly, and make provisions for its application which do not involve coercion of unwilling gynaecologists or make for encroachment on the beds and other facilities of hospital gynaecological departments to the detriment of the care of women with genuine gynaecological disorders. In this context it should be pointed out that to make abortion on demand legal will not make it equitable.I read that only to show that this is not only my own view. I believe that it is 351 a serious and urgent issue, and unless something is done the position will deteriorate.
That brings me to the last point which I feel I ought to mention. I will be brief, first because we have been warned that to mention Northern Ireland at all will make more difficulties for the authorities, and secondly because my noble friend Lord Longford (I think I can call him that, as we now sit on the same side of the House) has said a great many things which I wanted said, and with which I agree. He has put the entire case from the Catholic point of view. I should like only to add two things to his argument. We are not yet in a position to be happy about Ulster. I am sure that nobody would think we were.
The first is on the interpretation of words. Some of your Lordships may have seen an interesting programme on television when the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack and the late Minister of Defence, Mr. Denis Healey, the noble Earl, Lord Longford and Mr. Muggeridge were arguing about the general question of whether really serious moral issues were discussed at Elections or even in Parliament. Mr. Healey, whom I have always admired, perhaps more highly than some of his more publicised colleagues, made what I thought was an interesting Freudian slip when he began one sentence with the words, "There has never been a time when there has been a more genual—I mean, genuine—interest in moral affairs." The word "genual" was new to me and I thought it had arisen from Mr. Healey's sub-conscious. It sounded to me a word that should be required briefing for all politicians. I forget which poet said thatReligion is of the heart, not of the knee.I can think of no better word than "genual" to describe the kind of religion that is of the knee, not of the heart. I looked up "genual" in a dictionary and found that this is exactly what it means: "of or pertaining to the knee".
What I think many people are worried about, and what we all agree we want to know in Northern Ireland, is whether Unionist protestations of anti-Paisleyism, of fair treatment for all, of non-discrimination, are genuine or whether they are genual. Mr. Paisley, of course, does not believe in genuflections of any sort, but 352 there are a number of his colleagues who are suspected, perhaps wrongly, of going some way with him, who do make genuflections in this direction. I believe that this country, which is now fully responsible for what happens in Northern Ireland, should be very careful to distinguish between what is genual and what is genuine in this connection, particularly in regard to the search for arms, where it must be seen that justice is being done.
The words "law and order" are sneered at by many people, I think unfairly. I think it is true that law and order are not always the same things, but it is true that we need both, that we cannot get both without justice and that justice must be seen to be done. If time were not short I would give an example from the experience of the Liberal Party in its heyday of how, by wishful thinking, they allowed a large consignment of arms to get into Northern Ireland before the 1914 War with the whole of the British Navy at their back. That was not in any way from dereliction of duty. It was a brilliant and cleverly mounted operation which succeeded, but the impression in Ireland then was that the British Government were prejudiced. That is the impression now, according to the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I hope and I believe this impression to be entirely untrue; but I think that every step should be taken to prove that. My Lords, I have spoken too long, and I apologise for doing so.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, the most welcome speech I have heard this afternoon has come from my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, when he stood at the Dispatch Box, which I thought he treated as a confessional, and said, "At last I am free. Now I can say what I like and have not to be tied to the script". I welcome that, because in the past he and I discussed matters which I have very much at heart and I came to the conclusion that he fully approved of the script. I hope that what I say now will fall on ears which are more open than they were allowed to be when my noble and learned friend sat on the Woolsack.
In this debate one is expected to relate one's remarks to the content of the gracious Speech, and I wish to relate 353 what I am going to say to the fact that the Government have said that they are going to continue to take an interest in the economic position of widows. I express the hope that this means that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a very important person in another place, who holds the purse strings, and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will have great sympathy with the needs of the women of this country. The difficulties of many widows derive from the fact that, on becoming widows, they have no nest-eggs of their own. They have to depend on whatever money their husbands have given them and they are denied even the financial benefits which insurance confers on all other workers.
I am very pleased that the great expert on this matter on the other side of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, whose complete grasp of the details of the financing of insurance I have always admired, is present. Both of us, at different times, have been Ministers of National Insurance. I am hoping that, with the noble Lord's prompting, we shall see in the next Insurance Act that married women will be treated as other workers and insured against the hazards of life. Very often her particular hazard is marriage and divorce. May I repeat what I have said so often: that the married woman is the only uninsured worker in the country. And how she works!—she cooks, she washes, she cleans, she nurses. Yet she has no legal right to a share of the family income.
I was fortunate enough to pilot through the Married Women's Properly Act of 1964, which enables a wife to keep half the savings from the housekeeping allowance. But this all depends on whether the husband is sufficiently generous to permit any saving. As many women are ignorant of the amount their husbands earn and certainly ignorant when he is given any increase of wages, we must not overlook the possibility that she has great difficulty in making any worthwhile saving. And if a divorce comes there are no savings of which she can claim her share. Indeed, to-day marriage offers no real security even to the most virtuous wife. If she is deserted, she can stay in the matrimonial home in certain circumstances, but she has no legal right to a share in the ownership, although, as I have said, she has made an important 354 contribution over the years in helping the husband to acquire it: for the wife spends her youth and middle age in rearing the children and tending the home, and this frees the husband for his economic activities. I have quoted from Sir Jocelyn Simon, the President of the Probate and Divorce Court, before, and he summed up the position so well when he said:The cock can feather his nest precisely because he is not required to spend most of his time sitting on it.In January, 1971, a further great injustice will be perpetrated by the Divorce Act, which will enable a wife innocent of any matrimonial offence to be divorced against her will. Her financial position may be far worse than that of the widow. Therefore I say to the Government that if they feel it is so important to attend to the position of the widow, they should consider the position of the wife who next January is going to be divorced against her will. She can be far worse off than the widow, for the widow's pension may be claimed by the second wife whose services to the family may bear no comparison to the years which the innocent wife, divorced against her will—I must emphasise that—has contributed.
I have said before on many occasions that this Divorce Act is putting the cart before the horse. It should have been preceded by a Matrimonial Property Act, which at least would secure to the wife a joint share of the matrimonial home and savings which she has already provided through her services. In support of what I am claiming, I would ask your Lordships when you get home or go into the Library to read the law report on page 8 of The Times to-day, which I think proves my point conclusively. It proves that there is a considerable uncertainty in legal circles, if we are to judge from this report, regarding the possession of a matrimonial home. It is the report of a recent appeal to the House of Lords in the case of Gissing v. Gissing, in which a former husband won his appeal from a decision that his former wife was entitled on the break-up of their marriage to share equally in the matrimonial home. I feel quite convinced that when noble Lords read that case they will recognise that there is good reason for amending the matrimonial property law. This case, 355 which went to the court of first instance, then to the Court of Appeal and has now been to your Lordships' House, must have cost the country an immense sum of money; and having regard to the suffering of the participants, it seems to me that the Lord Chancellor should now reconsider the whole position and introduce a matrimonial property law, which law is long overdue.
The most serious step in life for any individual is marriage. The greatest hazard is to marry a man or woman who turns out to be unreliable in the fullest sense. As long as women continue to be the only sex capable of bearing children, they must be gravely handicapped if they are married to inadequate husbands on whom they are financially dependent. Throughout the centuries this position seems to have been accepted, and the law, on the whole, has been blind to the suffering of these women, for little has been done to relieve their plight. I think it was Voltaire who said:Prejudice is the reasoning of fools.It is surprising how many otherwise intelligent lawyers have allowed this form of reasoning to dictate their actions.
I feel that the Lord Chancellor (I have told him that I would say this; he will read it no doubt to-morrow, but I hope that he may hear of it before he winds up the debate to-night—not that I expect him to make any commitment then) has an opportunity to win a victory for humanity. I would ask him to address himself to those grave omissions in our law which bear hardly on women. The Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce voted against divorce by consent and against divorce of the innocent wife by compulsion. On the Third Reading of the Divorce Bill in another place less than one-quarter of the Members took part in the Division, including those voting for and against the measure. This cannot be regarded as representing the will of the people of Britain, and much less the will of the inarticulate women and children who may be the victims of this Act in January, 1971.
I should like to remind your Lordships what the Law Commission said about this. The Law Commission recognised the injustice of failing to protect the first wife, for they said, in the field of choice: 356Until the rules relating to family property and financial relief are reformed in a way that will protect the wife against additional hardship resulting from divorce it may be necessary to go even further by providing an additional safeguard whereby a divorce cannot be forced on the wife if it is impossible for the husband to make provision which protects her from disproportionate hardship.I should welcome the opportunity of introducing a Matrimonial Property Bill, with the blessing of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I should like him to consider whether he would suspend the operation of the Divorce Act pending the passage of such a Bill. I have discussed this matter with various eminent authorities, and I am told there must be precedents for taking this step.
Finally, I want to say simply that there are some in our new society who regard marriage as an out-moded institution, and they welcome the Divorce Act as a means of hastening its end. Well, the time may come when there is no biological urge to have young and to establish a nest, and when the herd instinct, evoking a desire for companionship, even into old age, no longer exists. But, my Lords, that time has not arrived yet. I believe that the super ego of men and women continues to attach great importance to a relationship which is the mark of a high standard of civilisation, based as it is on tolerance, unselfishness and a sense of responsibility.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, there are two matters that I want to mention, one of which arises out of the gracious Speech. I want to draw attention first to the Government's policy on prisons. I am told that the prison population at the present time is somewhere in the region of 40,000 persons, something like four times the number it was in 1939. I believe I am right in saying that this is increasing by about 1,000 per month. I wonder whether the Government have any policy for the future with regard to dealing with overcrowding in our prisons. As many of your Lordships will know, it is not uncommon to find two or three prisoners in one cell, and I believe it is not uncommon now for some prisons to have to use corridors in which to accommodate prisoners. I feel that in a progressive and enlightened community it is desirable that we should do 357 something to rehabilitate people who have been in prison; that we should not just leave them there to serve out their sentences and then come out without receiving all the benefits that a progressive society could give them. I should like to know from the Government—and I do not expect a reply tonight, but in the near future—what the policy is, and whether the Home Office has any long-term plan for dealing with overcrowding and, if so, what it is.
Some six or seven years ago, I think I am right in saying, the Ministry of Public Building and Works set up a penal establishment group. This group was working within the framework of the Research and Development Department. I should like to ask the Government whether the penal establishment group is still functioning, whether it has issued a report, and whether that report deals with any long-term needs so far as prisons are concerned.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is not here, because I should like to ask him whether the Government will consider setting up a special committee to deal with certain people, who are now in prison, to be treated within the community. I have in mind the experiment going on in California at the moment, where they have substantially increased the probation service. That has resulted in treating a small number of people who normally would go to prison by placing them under the supervision of one probation officer who can carry out long-term and deep-seated treatment.
When one bears in mind that it costs something like £1½ million to build a prison, it should not be difficult to create a career-structured service which would appeal to many people in the community. The Probation Service could be increased, and not only could they return to the community people who had been cured of certain tendencies to behave in an antisocial fashion, but they could, in the long run, serve the community by saving it a tremendous sum of money. The experiment in California has been highly successful, and I should like to ask the Government whether they would let me know at some convenient time whether there is a long-term policy with regard to prisons. Also, I should like to know whether there is a policy with regard to 358 treating within the community certain people now committed to prison without sending them to prison, and whether they would consider setting up a committee to inquire into the possibility of introducing into this country the Californian system which has worked so well.
The second matter 10 which I wish to refer—and I want to do this briefly because it has been covered quite adequately by certain of my noble friends—is the matter of education. The only reason why I raise this point is that, like so many of my noble friends on this side of the House, I feel strongly about the action of the Minister of Education and Science in withdrawing Circular 10/65. I want to express my disappointment, because I believe she has acted—and I want to say this as kindly as I can—with indecent haste in the matter. I had hoped that she would have taken the advice of her Leader, the Prime Minister, who seems to be against "instant government" and in favour of a careful analysis of every situation, and that she would have considered more carefully the situation and the repercussions before withdrawing the circular.
I find it very difficult to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, when he seeks to excuse the Minister saying, "Well, we had a mandate to do that". I question whether the Party opposite had a mandate to do that. I know that it was in their Election Manifesto; I thought that the Party of the noble Lords opposite were elected because they were a little more successful (in this they are past masters) in misrepresenting the economic situation. I do not think that they were returned on this matter of maintaining grammar schools. The subject of comprehensive schools is, as noble Lords on the other side will know, one on which we feel very strongly. I feel that in this particular matter the Minister of Education and Science has tended to show a measure of arrogance, bigotry and intolerance.
Since 1965 comprehensive schools have increased in this country from somewhere in the region of 260 to about 1,200. A good many Tory-controlled county councils will not change their plans, because many of them have seen the value of comprehensive schools. It is a disaster to try to perpetuate or restore selection at 11-plus. One has to have 359 some kind of selection; but selection at 11-plus, by examination, is not, I think, the answer.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Nobody is intending to reintroduce selection at 11-plus by examination. There are various other methods where there has to be selection. If the noble Lord cares to look, for example, at the Bournemouth area, where children are put into different schools, he will see that in all schools they are taught up to G.C.E. level, and there are admirable arrangements for transfer from one school to another.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord says, but there are at the present moment a variety of ways of selection. There is no doubt about it: a good many Tory-controlled education authorities are wedded to this idea of examinations. The point I want to make, particularly on behalf of those of us who have worked among young people, is that often it is the highly sensitive child who fails the 11-plus examination, not because he or she has not the ability to pass, but simply by virtue of the fact that there is something in their make-up that makes such children resistant, and examination, as such, frightens them.
If we look at the comprehensive scheme at the present moment, we see that it has thrown up a large number of young people who have failed the 11-plus but who from the comprehensive school have succeeded not only in getting to university but in getting degrees, many of them First Class Honours. I am disappointed that one of the first things that should happen is for this circular to be withdrawn, because I feel that it is a retrograde step. I wish that the Minister of Education and Science had thought a little more about it and had really consulted (and I know the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has dealt with this matter of consultation) the people who are working within our educational system, and who know, by experience, what is and what is not desirable. I want to express my disappointment that she did not do so.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has 360 completed his speech—he did not make a great peroration. May I congratulate him on his speech. This is the first speech I am making in the new House. May I congratulate the Conservatives on winning the Election—and three cheers for the losing side!Also (it is very nice to be able to say something nice about somebody behind his back), may I congratulate the former Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and thank him for his kindness, his courtesy and his helpfulness as Leader.
I have not been in to a great deal of this debate for the same reason that I gave up bridge: I am not very keen on post-mortems, and there have been a great many post-mortems. I should like to say what I believe to be the truth about the Election. Nobody seems to have got to the point. I was in the Isle of Man during the Election and, as a Cross-Bencher, I took an easy view of it. I heard what my bank manager had to say. I knew he studied the Gallup Polls and he did not think—which of course a bank manager should not do. I thought that 75 per cent. of people in the world to-day are under the age of 25 and the only people to listen to are the young people.
We happen to have in the Isle of Man some of the nicest young people in the world. They are there to support the T.T. race. They have their own bikes, which are all polished up, and their own girl friends, who are all polished up. After all, it is the most dangerous race in the world. They save up their money for their bikes and to holiday there, and they speak direct. So I asked them questions. At first they were a bit doubtful and said, "Well, Ted's got nobody to pour out for him when he goes home"—that was the first remark I heard. When Mr. Enoch Powell made his last speech they all said the same thing: "The Tories are going in with a big majority". So I rang up my bookmaker and backed them, at 10 to 1".
I should like to make a speech, which I hope will be very short, about the gracious Speech. One question is, what have the Conservatives left to conserve? I came to think that the greatest thing they can conserve is our freedom, because that must be conserved. Our freedom is in some ways a bit shaky, I am afraid. I was thinking what a good speech the noble Lord. Lord Citrine, made about 361 the unions. I thought it was an excellent speech. It was very fair and it was excellent. I noticed what he said about the men who strike. There seem to be some disturbing elements in this country who cause these unofficial strikes, which do not seem quite fair to our people. I would be the first to say that everybody in this country may be what they like. If a man is a Communist, let him be a Communist; if he is a Trotskyism let him be a Trotskyist; if he is an Anarchist, let him be one. But for goodness sake! let him say what he is. That is the point. This is where freedom is weak. It is the disguised Communist, the disguised Trotskyist, the disguised Anarchist whom I have in mind. They should declare exactly what they are; it is misleading if they do not.
I cannot help having a great deal of sympathy with some people during unofficial strikes. People are caught in hot weather on the aerodromes. For myself, I could not care less—at 70, if you have not done all the things you ought to do in your life, it is too late to start. But I have seen people sitting at aerodromes, waiting. It is so pathetic. They have spent their money; they have all their things together; they have their children all tidied up, and they sit waiting for an aeroplane that will never go. They have shut up their house, they have got somebody to look after the cat, and there they are. The children are getting fidgety; they are crying and in a miserable state. And all this because of an unofficial strike, which may or may not be the work of these Communists.
Late in the season we get the factory contingent over in the Isle of Man. I know what they say. They say the Communists are starting these strikes. But I do not want to label anybody particularly. However, in one of the worst strikes we have had for a long time, the seamen's strike, which damaged the sailor as badly as it damaged the country, I heard that Mr. Wilson, our last Prime Minister, said in the other place that it was caused by Communists. I do not want to rub the point in, but I do know that in this country we had the finest secret service in the world, and it was run by Russians.
One thinks about these things and one wonders whether something should not 362 be done about them. The only thing I can think of is that people should declare what they are. It is the normal thing. If they do not declare; what they are they should be fined. It is the same as taking out a dog licence, or any other ordinary sort of action. If one does not declare that one is a Communist or an Anarchist, when in any responsible position, one should be fined; and the fines should go up. I take it that this must come to these almost secret societies, which have terrific power. They can put a man out of work. In these private courts the secret ballot must come, and with the secret ballot a man should have to declare whether he is a Communist. After all, the number of people in this country who want us to be a satellite of Russia is very few—not many. People should know whom they are voting for and they should vote secretly. But that is for the future.
Our debate to-day covers education. I think many teachers would agree with me in saying that if a man has political views which are peculiar he should announce them before he starts teaching. Students should know. Heavens!I have enough bias; nobody minds bias; but one wants to know what a person's bias is before one listens to him. The same rule should therefore; apply to teachers. Strangely enough, I was talking this morning in my club to a very eminent teacher. He has been a top teacher all his life. I said to him what I have just said to your Lordships, thinking he would say, "No", but he replied, "I think all intelligent teachers would probably agree with you."
I was brought up at a time when people believed in Kipling. I did not know that all education came from Kipling and English history was all made from Kipling, and therefore I have never got English history right. If I were a teacher lecturing in a school I would immediately declare before I started, "I am a Cross-Bencher and a Royalist!" I would say, "If you find me biased in any way, you know what I am." When it got to Charles I, I would say he was a wonderful King because he had no Parliament for ten years and the country boomed in its way; and when I put my black tie on and talked about Cromwell I would of course say that he did away 363 with freedom by appointing himself dictator, and it was all wrong. When it came to the present day, I would do what I in fact did on the first day of the Test Match—I would wear my M.C.C. tie with a black band round it, and I would not say anything. Your Lordships will understand what I mean.
My Lords, I have spoken too long but I have said what I wanted to say. I was tempted to say quite a lot about Northern Ireland, but I will not. I will merely say that both fingers are crossed for this week-end. I should like to say something about a Member of "the shed down the passage"; but I will not—I do not want to be impolite to any honourable gentleman in that House. But I should like to give Mr. Paisley a text that he might use. I would give him this text for his next speech:The Lord thy God is a jealous God.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ LORD CRAWSHAW
My Lords, your Lordships are always, I know, charmed and refreshed by a speech from the noble Lord, Lord Strange. I am aware that what I am going to offer this evening may come as a rather mixed bag, and possibly prove rather indigestible. First of all, I want to make one or two comments on social questions, and then move on to possible ways and means of paying for social measures, picking out part of industry in particular. Perhaps your Lordships would expect me to start where I left off before the General Election. We were discussing the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill, which has since proved most welcome, but, nevertheless, is recognised as being incomplete. If it had not been for the Election I think that we, with your Lordships' help, would have put a good deal more into that Bill.
On this subject I was pleased to see in the gracious Speech the mention of the constant attendance allowance, which I believe is to be £4 a week, for the very seriously disabled. What I should like to know from my noble friend Lord Aberdare, whose appointment I greatly welcome, is whether the Government are going to do more in this field; because I remember that his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, rather took the previous Government to task for not introducing 364 as a Government Bill a measure on the lines of Alfred Morris's Bill. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, intends, but if there is no such intention I foresee that I and some others may well want to pursue this theme after the Summer Recess, and it may be that a Private Member's Bill is the best vehicle.
All sorts of problems remain to be solved, and during the last few weeks I have been looking into questions of training and employment, which would not come into the last Bill—such things as holiday homes, for example; and to-day I have had a meeting with Members of the other place on the question of vehicles for the disabled, a matter on which we touched on previously. When one realises the immense problems facing many of the seriously disabled people, the comparatively minor grievances of the more vocal sections of the community rather pale into insignificance, and I implore the Government to get their priorities right.
Also on the question of social policies I want to say a word or two about Commonwealth immigration. I come from the Midlands and I see a good deal of this. I do not want in any way to add fuel to any flames, but I was interested the other day to see that Arthur Ashe, the coloured American tennis player who was playing at Wimbledon last week, holds the view that Mr. Enoch Powell has in fact made people think. Perhaps it may be left at that for the moment, but there is no doubt—and I think your Lordships will all agree—that this whole question, if it is not a current problem is at any rate a great potential problem. We have only to look at the examples of the United States of America and South Africa to realise that. I know that we are reputed to be a nation of shopkeepers, but I think that possibly we are also a nation of ostriches. Anyone who has lived through the 1930s or, as I have recently done, has read Sir Winston Churchill's book, The Gathering Storm, must conclude that. We do not always face a problem, until it blows up in our faces, and I would support both the Conservative and Labour Parties on the policies of control of future immigrants.
I was also pleased to see in the gracious Speech the importance attached to the question of full employment, because I believe that full employment and a thriving economy are the main keys to 365 racial harmony. I can remember well in 1959 how the immigrants were positively encouraged to come here; and I can speak for the help they have given the country, in the hospitals and on the railways, and so on. If we could get back to that sort of situation, we should have less concern over race relations. I also believe that the youth services, certainly the Scouts and Guides with whom I am concerned, could be used extensively to help in this way. While on this subject I should like to ask my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Education and Science, whose appointment again I greatly welcome, what the Government have in mind as regards the Fairbairn-Milson Report. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, introduced a full debate in this House three or four months ago on that subject, and although the Report was pulled about a good deal by your Lordships it was at any rate a document to follow. Before it is thrown out of the window I should like to know what is liable to replace it.
I also want to say a word or two about a passion or obsession—call it what you will—of mine, and that is cricket, which in the last few months has been forced reluctantly into the political arena. I must declare a lifelong interest in this sport, and although at the moment my activities are confined to a fiendish delight in umpiring, and giving doubtful decisions on l.b.w. and catches at the wicket, I still follow it closely. I do not want to dwell on the unhappy story of the recent cancelled South African tour, but I do want to correct any impression that may be around that cricket is in any way a racialist pastime. In my view, it is a great mixer in our own society and has already done more for race relations than any board, demonstration or politician.
Unfortunately, due to the cancellation of the South African team's tour cricket is at the moment in the doldrums. I, perhaps alone among your Lordships, have attended the Saturdays of the two Test Matches played against the Rest of the World, and although everybody is certainly making the best of it there is a lack of competition and "needle"; and the grounds have been well under half-full, instead of overflowing. And I could not help thinking it a little odd that although six South Africans were on the 366 field there was not a murmur of disapproval. One of the happiest features was to see a West Indian from the crowd rush out to congratulate Eddie Barlow the South African opening batsman, on completing his century last Saturday. I only hope that the Government realise what a wonderful medium cricket is, or could be, and that they will greatly improve their liaison with the M.C.C. I hope that one day we shall be able to witness matches between the West Indies and South Africa in multi-racial teams.
I am fully aware that lack of resources often prevents things being done in the social services, so I would agree with the sentiment in the gracious Speech that:Rising production and a steadily growing national income must provide the resources for improving the social services and the environment in which we live.To this end I welcome the proposed move (I do not know whether it is to be by Act of Parliament or by code of practice, or what) towards the, improvement of industrial relations. I hope that the results of this policy will begin to show before we get too far with our Common Market negotiations, because I still have the impression that we are going on our hands and knees in an attempt to get in, whereas if we were really in a strong position Europe would be clamouring to get us. I think it is this factor' that makes people think that something "fishy" is happening.
As one who has advocated various forms of social expenditure I ought to take a look at ways and means of finding the necessary funds. Obviously, I cannot at this moment attempt a complete review of British industry, but I want to take a quick look at our largest and most fundamental industry, namely agriculture, which at present has a current output of £2,100 million per annum. I understand that there will be a debate on this subject in the autumn, and my remarks this evening will be restricted. Agriculture is soon to be involved in two sets of crucial discussions. At home there is the question, in the words of the gracious Speech, ofencouraging agricultural expansion by changes in the present system of financial support",which means gradually changing over to import levies in place of the current 367 deficiency payments. In Europe the complex agricultural issue is bound to give headaches to our Common Market negotiators, and I rather sympathise with them.
On the first point, that of Government policy, nicely though it fits into the pattern of Common Market negotiations, it is not dependent on successful entry. It seems to me that to achieve the expansion that we all want for a prosperous agriculture, without hopelessly burdening the Exchequer with more and more deficiency payments, we are bound to go over to a system where the producers will increasingly earn more of their returns from the market; and this, I think, will mean higher food prices but lower taxes. Our aim must surely be to try to reduce taxation by the same amount, and in the right place, as the price of food increases, so that we do not get an overall rise in the cost of living. I only hope that this is not too much to hope for.
A rise in the prices received by the farmers for their products is overdue. In the ten years between 1958 and 1967, prices received by the farmer rose by only 3 per cent., while prices for all manufactured goods rose by 20 per cent. and the index of prices paid by consumers by 29 per cent. This my Lords, is the root of all the present trouble, frustration and discontent in the farming industry. What is wanted is a viable, thriving, expanding industry (and those who, as I did, visited the Royal Agricultural Show this week must feel that farmers and their suppliers lack no initiative and enterprise)—an industry based on 1970 prices. I feel that such an industry, released from the present straitjacket of the present system, and freed from the stigma attached to the word "subsidy", would make a greater contribution to our economy and social services and would help considerably to reduce our cost of entry into the Common Market, if our application is pursued.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I am very tempted indeed to follow the speech to which we have just listened and which has in the most succinct way dealt with some of the most urgent issues now before us. I hope the noble Lord will 368 forgive me if I do not do that; it is only because I feel so deeply about the subject about which I wish to speak. Let me just make one comment upon that speech. Like the noble Lord, I am a cricket lover. I do not fulfil his function of umpiring matches. I am afraid the only thing I do to-day is to watch cricket on television—and television at least has this advantage to those who are cricket lovers; it enables us to watch the technique of the game almost as closely as the noble Lord can do as umpire. I want only to say to him that, while we differ about our approach, I take his view that cricket may make a great contribution towards inter-racialism. It is most extraordinary the way in which in our own county teams it is those who have come from Commonwealth countries, who are non-white, who are now proving among our greatest cricketers, and with the noble Lord I hope, because sport and athletics are now my escapism, that cricket will make a great contribution towards racial co-operation in the world.
The debate on the Address is generally an occasion when on the two sides or the three sides of the House we debate political principles and political policies. Reflecting that controversy, I will confess that when the Dissolution was announced I looked forward to this debate so as to be able to express feelings which I have about poverty in this country and in the world, about Northern Ireland, about South Africa and about Southern Rhodesia. I had hoped to be on the other side of the House, but I think probably if I had been there I might have expressed some criticism of the Government. With some doubt, and with some realisation that this will be disappointing to some of my friends, I have decided to-night not to enter into the ordinary controversy about principles and policies.
I have been a Back-Bencher in one House or the other ever since the year 1929, and in that experience I have found that there are rare occasions when on some immediate issue one may make a contribution which will change events. I am hoping, on the subject about which I am going to speak to-night, that the considerations which I put forward will have some effect in changing administration. I propose to approach the subject, of which I have given the Minister 369 notice, of the large number of people who are British citizens and who hold British passports but who are not now allowed access to this country. They are mostly Asians living in East Africa—but this is not now only a problem of those in East Africa or of this country. It has become a problem of the Commonwealth, and indeed, though largely unobserved here, it is now becoming an international issue. In raising this issue, I am not speaking in a partisan way. I know that in what I am saying I shall have the support of Members of all three Parties in the House and of Members of the Cross-Benches as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in his opening speech, made reference to this subject in connection with immigration. I want to emphasise that this particular issue is not fundamentally one of immigration at all. It is an issue of the values which we hold as associated with British citizenship. It is an issue of the honour of our country in fulfilling assurances which we have given to people when they have become British citizens, and of their rights in that respect.
I am encouraged by two facts. The first is this, and I want to acknowledge it freely. As the noble Lord opposite knows, I have been in contact with the Home Office since he has had responsibility there and I have been encouraged by the response. Secondly, I am encouraged by the fact that Mr. Maudling, the Home Secretary, has said that the Government are giving serious consideration to the whole matter. I am also encouraged by the fact that a Conservative Government was in office when the assurance was given to the Asians in East Africa that they would have the rights of British citizenship.
Noble Lords will remember the debate which I initiated in 1968, when I moved the rejection of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill of that year. What impressed me in that debate was the attitude of Conservative Members in this House who were then holding office in the Colonial Administration which gave those assurances to the Asians in East Africa. Among them was the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who had been the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, who raised the issue of the obligations of this country to those concerned because of the assurances which were given. The noble and learned 370 Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, from the Front Opposition Bench indicated in that debate his uneasiness as to what would happen if these British citizens came to this country, were refused entry to this country, went back to Uganda and Kenya and were refused entry there. The noble and learned Viscount was very far-sighted when he raised that matter, because that is exactly the problem which has arisen.
It was a quite astonishing experience that on the Motion which I moved for the rejection of that Bill, among those who voted against the measure were the noble Lord, Lord Boyd of Merton, with whom, as Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs, so often I came into conflict in another place. But I think he voted for the rejection of that Bill because he was Colonial Secretary at the time that these assurances were given and he felt, as a matter of national honour, that he should vote in that way. Because of my knowledge that there is this deep sense not only in my own Party but in all Parties, and among those who are high in influence in the Conservative Party, I am hoping that there may be a reconsideration of this problem to-day.
When we turn to the issue itself, I think first we must recognise that if there are Asians in East Africa we encouraged them to go there. We encouraged them to build the railway from Mombasa to Kampala, right across Kenya into Uganda. They remained, and they became traders or businessmen. Then, when independence came to Kenya and Uganda, they had two choices. I was at the independence ceremonies both of Kenya and of Uganda. I was there with Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who is now Prime Minister of India. Jawaharlal Nehru, who was then Prime Minister, urged the Indians in these territories to become citizens of the territories; and with Mrs. Gandhi in Nairobi, and afterwards in Uganda, I strongly urged Asians to take that course. But they were uneasy. There was an African sentiment against Asians. The Asians had become the traders that I have described; the African population was envious of them. Because of their uncertainty, when they had the choice either to become citizens of Kenya or Uganda or British citizens, a large number of them decided to become British citizens. The assurance was then given to them by Conservative Ministers that they would have 371 the rights of British citizenship. Therefore, upon the Conservative Party and the Conservative Government a great responsibility rests.
I pass to the present position. Because they are not citizens of Kenya or of Uganda or, in a smaller way, of Tanzania, they are not allowed to work, they are not allowed to obtain a livelihood. I deplore that fact. But in regard to employment, to-day most Governments adopt that principle. We here cannot condemn it in Kenya and Uganda, because we have adopted that same principle ourselves over immigration control. The Asians are not allowed to work in those territories because they are British citizens; yet, as British citizens, we do not admit them to this country. Because of their engagement in trade, most of them have lived on a comparatively high standard, but it is now 17 months since they were denied the opportunity to work or to gain a livelihood and their position has deteriorated. In a debate in this House on May 13 I gave the result of a very detailed analysis which was made by Mrs. Mary Dines, the secretary of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Commonwealth Immigrants. As a result of her visit she was able to show that there were 562 families in Uganda either in immediate distress, or distress which would appear before the end of the year. That figure of 562 has now become a figure of 782 families as a result of further information, and the High Commission in Uganda say that the actual figure will be three times as many as Mrs. Dines was able to investigate. These people, unemployed because they are British citizens, are in increasingly deep distress; the charitable funds for their help are becoming exhausted. I recognise that in Kenya the position is easier because, on the whole, the standard of life among Asians there was higher than in Uganda.
What are the opportunities that we offer to these British citizens? My Lords, 1,500 of them may come to this country on work vouchers (not all those 1,500 vouchers have actually been granted), but there is a delay sometimes of months, sometimes amounting to a year. They are refused work in their own territories because they are British citizens, and refused permission to come to this country 372 even though they are British citizens. I have instances of 17 months where, having made their application to come to this country, that application has not yet been fulfilled. In those circumstances, in desperation, many of them attempt to come here.
I am interested in a breakdown of those who attempt to come to this country. Broadly speaking, there are two categories. One category is that of young men who, because they are unmarried, have no hope of obtaining vouchers. They are unwilling to live on destitute relatives. The second category is of married men whose families are here. Their families are allowed to come and are not excluded, but not they. They are not allowed to join them.
I want to refer to one minority, and that is ex-Servicemen. I think this House knows that I have never been a Serviceman, but I am the first to recognise that a nation which asks men to sacrifice limb and life has a particular responsibility towards them. In 1966 the exemption was withdrawn which would have given ex-Servicemen priority in coming to this country—it was an exemption which referred to those who had completed five years' service. I want to acknowledge that the High Commissions in Kenya and Uganda, despite the fact that that exemption has been withdrawn, are still taking it into consideration in the case of ex-Servicemen. But in fact the number of ex-Servicemen in East Africa who have done five years' service is small. Unlike India, there was no large British force there, but many have served in Burma, in the Italian campaign, marginally not reaching the five years' limit.
I give two examples, and I am prepared to send the details to the Minister. The initials of the first I give are P.S., who enlisted as a volunteer. He was four years and 237 days in the Army, and was invalided out. He served in the Italian campaign, in Ethiopia and Somaliland, received the 1939/45 Star, the Africa Star and the War Medal. He is a British citizen, and he is not allowed to come to this country. The second case, initials K.S.J., joined the Army in May, 1941, and was discharged in February, 1945. That is, he served for three years and nine months. He was three years in Burma and has the Burma Star. On 373 discharge he was immediately employed in the civilian personnel attached to the Army. He is a British citizen; he is not allowed to come to this country.
I turn to what has happened to these people. They arrive here and some are imprisoned, some are detained; others are sent back either to the European country from which they have last come or to Uganda and Kenya. Uganda and Kenya refuse to accept them. They are sent back here and turned away a second time. They are shuttlecocked for weeks all over the world. I have knowledge of a case where one of them landed in Sydney in Australia, others in Mauritius, others in South Africa, others in the Congo, others in Burundi, others in Rwanda, and others in Egypt. Most of them find themselves in European countries. Yugoslavia had over 100; Austria 38; Belgium 34; Denmark 28; France 9; West Germany 5; and Spain 5. It is because of this that I am saying that this issue is now becoming international.
I hope he Minister will ask his Department to show him some of the newspapers which are being published in these countries. There are front page pieces headed "British citizens refused entry into Britain." There are pictures of them and stories of them. In Yugoslavia they sat down in front of the British Consulate and caused a sensation. The Minister will know, if he asks for this information, that in European country after European country Great Britain is falling in reputation because of its treatment of our own British citizens. When we returned people to Yugoslavia and Denmark, they were generous in permitting them to stay there for three months.
I am trying to be quite objective and fair, so I want to add this. I want to acknowledge the improvement which has taken place in the last two or three weeks. It took place immediately after the Election, though I am not suggesting that it was a result of the Election; I think the change was probably planned beforehand. But immediately after the Election 150 of those who were in British prisons and British detention centres were released. I am glad indeed to acknowledge, in the presence of the Minister, the help which the Home Office has given 374 while he has been responsible there, the fact that it has been possible immediately to get in touch with him, and the release in the last week of many from Pentonville and Winchester prisons. It is because of this change, because of what Mr. Maudling, the Home Secretary, has said, and because of what the noble Lord himself has said, that I am hopeful that the contribution which I am trying to make may have some effect on the situation.
I want to conclude, as I always fry to conclude in this House, by constructive proposals. My first proposal is that in immigration control priority should be given to British citizens and to those who hold a British passport, which in the name of Her Majesty pledges that all protection will be given to them. At the moment, as I have said, the number from East Africa is limited to 1,500, but there are 8,500 Commonwealth vouchers available each year and, as the noble Lord said to-day, only 4,000 of those are taken up. So I ask him to see that the balance be made up from British citizens who have been treated in the way I have described.
Secondly, the Government have announced that immigrants will be limited to those who have obtained work in this country which cannot be filled by local residents. I therefore propose that machinery should be set up to coordinate the qualifications of these British citizens for jobs which are vacant in this country. By far the best arrangement which has been made during this period of difficulty about Commonwealth immigrants has been that between the Barbados Government and the London Transport Board—an arrangement by which, before they leave Barbados, their qualifications are considered and they arc trained under British conditions. They then come here and do the splendid job on our London Underground which so many of us appreciate. I suggest that in the case of those British citizens, the High Commission Offices in Kenya and Uganda—and, less so, in Tanzania—should be asked to record the abilities of those who apply for exit permits, and that an agency should be set up under the auspices of the Home Office which can arrange for them to obtain jobs which will come within the terms of the new policy of the Government.
375 My third proposal is that the High Commission staffs in Kenya and Uganda should be increased to deal with this problem. It really is unacceptable that there should be the long delays, sometimes of a year, for people in this desperate position. If we have any humanity, then let us at least seek to lessen their discomfort. My fourth proposal is that priority should be given to British citizens who are destitute, and that in considering their application to come here the period which has elapsed since they were refused permission to work should be taken into account. Fifthly, I want to suggest that the High Commissions should be permitted to give grants in aid, perhaps by way of loans, to those who are not allowed to earn a living because they are British citizens. My sixth proposal is that those loans should be extended to those who are prepared to go to India; my seventh proposal, as I indicated earlier, is that special attention should be given to the needs of ex-Servicemen.
I close with two more fundamental proposals. My first is that the Home Office should now send representatives to Kenya and Uganda to investigate the situation and to report. I choose my words carefully, so I say that in one of those High Commissions things are not quite so satisfactory as we should desire. I suggest that the Home Office should send to both Kenya and Uganda capable officers who can investigate the position, prove or disprove what I have been saying this evening, and report to the Home Office, so that when the Home Secretary makes his decision he may have the facts before him.
Lastly, and most important, I would say this. If we are to settle this problem there must be a conference between representatives of Britain, representatives of the East African countries—Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania—and representatives of India and Pakistan. I speak with some knowledge when I say that I think that both India and the East African countries would welcome a conference to bring about a settlement of this issue. India is proving conciliatory and is prepared to accept British Asians from East Africa if, finally, we will accept responsibility for the passports which they hold. This problem is not insoluble. I hope 376 there is a mood in the Government now to look at it in a new way. I am encouraged both by the speech of the Home Secretary and by the speech which the noble Lord has made here to-day. I beg the Government to give their attention to this very important issue.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, I shall not follow my noble friend Lord Brockway beyond saying this: that no one can doubt his deep commitment to the subject which he pursues with zeal and tenacity. I noted very carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said on the subject of education, and it is because I share with a number of noble Lords a deep and long interest in the subject of education that I dare at this hour of the evening to rise to put views which I think ought to be put in this debate and which I feel have not up to the moment perhaps been expressed. If they have, then I hope your Lordships will excuse me and put it down to my enthusiasm for the subject.
We have listened to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on the subject of education on a great many occasions. We know his tremendous interest: and I have been pleased to observe that he has been present throughout the debate on every occasion, I think, when the subject of education has been mentioned. May I say, first of all, that I was extremely interested in what he had to say on the subject of primary education. I hope the Government will be as successful as they indicate they intend to be in this particular field. Certainly I shall watch very closely to see whether they fulfil their promise. But may I say this: that if the Government do fulfil their promise in this field of primary education we are all going to be astonished at the success that the children will show as they move on, and I doubt very much whether we shall find that we have a secondary school system suited to their needs unless we make haste in providing a comprehensive secondary system.
I would also say at the outset that I welcome very much the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, with its forthright condemnation of Circular 10/ 70. I have been involved in the service of education as a layman for a great many years now, and certainly since 1965 377 I have spent a very great deal of time with my local education authority, the Surrey County Council, as a member of its South Eastern Divisional Executive Committee, trying to draw up a scheme of secondary reorganisation in line with Circular 10/65. Perhaps we ought to remind ourselves exactly what it was that Circular 10/65 sought to achieve. First, it sought to end selection, and at least we have been so successful in persuading people that selection at the age of 11 ought to be abolished that the Party opposite now accept the fact that it ought to be ended. They no longer, officially at any rate, rise to defend it. They have recognised that it is faulty, and that it is something which ought to be rejected.
Secondly, Circular 10/65 called for the eleminiation of separatism in secondary education—and how right it was that this should be called for!For does not the very existence of these two types of secondary school introduce a divisive influence when we ought to be aiming at persuading young people that they are members of one community?
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord when he is in full flow, but perhaps I may say that it is all very fine to talk like this, but it does not happen. In Aberdare they have been longing for a very long time to have comprehensive education, but there is not the money to do it.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, the noble Lord says that it does not happen: but it is happening. It is no use saying that it does not. I live in Surrey, where in point of fact only something like 15 per cent, of the child population are selected for admission to grammar schools. If anybody supposes that this is not a divisive influence, then I think he does not begin to understand what it is all about So long as we have grammar schools, parents will be inclined to think that there are two types of school, one first-class and the other second best. And may I add this? To talk of grammar schools co-existing with comprehensive schools in the same areas is a contradiction in terms, and educationally does not make sense.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
It does not happen. It is not a bit of use saying 378 that it happens merely because a school is called a comprehensive school. Unless the school is catering for the full ability range, unless it is catering for the complete social range, it is not truly a comprehensive school. Certainly it is not a comprehensive school if a certain type of child is selected for a separatist type of education. It is no use anybody kidding himself, or trying to kid the people generally, that a comprehensive system and a grammar system can co-exist. I should have thought that sufficient statistics were already available to persuade the present Secretary of State for Education and Science, even in her present brief stay at the Department, that this is so.
My Lords, what was the third thing that Circular 10/65 called for? It called upon local education authorities to plan a comprehensive secondary system. It recognised that there would be many local difficulties, in Aberdare or anywhere else; it did not close its eyes to the fact that it would take time; it did not close its eyes to the fact that these difficulties would have to be taken into account; and it urged consultation with teachers and consultation with parents. The important thing, in my view, that Circular 10/65 gave to education was a sense of direction; and it gave education a well-based sense of purpose—something that was very much called for. By 1967 it was clear that a small number of local authorities were going to be very non-co-operative. It was equally clear that they were going to be non-co-operative more on political grounds than on educational grounds.
May I say that in 1968—in the debate on the gracious Speech—and in 1969 I urged the importance of legislation. In 1969, I welcomed the promise of legislation. It seemed to me that unless you set targets you will not achieve nationwide educational progress. We have never implemented an Act of Parliament within the period of twelve months or two years; we have set targets and have been working forward steadily towards their achievement. It was hoped that we could, by persuasion, avoid legislation, that as a result of Circular 10/65 we could continue to work in the way we had been working, progressively moving forward. I must say that when I read the words in the gracious Speech on the subject of education, and more particularly when 379 I read the words of Circular 10/70. I remembered a saying that will be familiar to everybody in this House:Fine words butter no parsnips.My Lords, all the fine words in the gracious Speech and all the fine words, all the gloss, put on by members from the opposite Party, in so far as the withdrawal of Circular 10/65 and the introduction of Circular 10/70 are concerned, cannot disguise the fact that Circular 10/70 represents a pandering to the more reactionary local education authorities in this country—the very authorities that need to be influenced, need to be cajoled, to make progress.
We are told that they are to have greater freedom. Freedom to do what? To be more reactionary than their neighbours? I live in an area where we have some very reactionary education authorities. I am this evening very conscious of the fact that they will take every possible advantage they can of this new circular, this new indication of policy, from the Department of Education and Science. I am much more concerned with the kind of freedom that we make available to children than that to local education authorities; the freedom to enjoy full and continuing educational opportunities. I believe it to be wrong that children should be penalised by the facts of geography; that because father happens to work and to live in a given area, they are denied opportunities—
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, that is exactly what the Party of noble Lords opposite are trying to do. In the last Education Bill they were trying to bring in provisions whereby everybody would be so "comprehensivised" that it would mean neighbourhood schools.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord made that point. It is something that I am coming to. Again I think it indicates that they have not thought out where they are going.
Let me say this on the question of neighbourhood schools—I intended to touch on the subject, because it has been raised in this debate. We have a large number of neighbourhood schools at present—they are called secondary modern schools—and I have not heard 380 one word of criticism from the Party opposite so far as they are concerned I suggest that if you want to get rid of neighbourhood schools you should recognise that the maintenance of small secondary modern schools is not the way to do it. In point of fact, if you can combine the schools of an area in a large unit, you can do a very great deal to avoid the weaknesses of the neighbourhood school. You can, by defining catchment areas, largely overcome many of these problems. Even where you cannot deal with it by defining catchment areas you can tackle it from the angle of recognising the handicap of home environment and giving extra and more favourable pupil-teacher ratios than in other areas. I see no problem that cannot be tackled successfully, given the will.
But if there is a determination to maintain a divisive system by those who believe in an élitist system, then these are not the people who are going to take the service of education forward and give the children of this country the kind of education and opportunity that they ought to have. That is the difficulty, it seems to me, with Circular 10/70: that it provides a bitter dish to be swallowed by the children who are going to be subject to the so-called freedom of the most reactionary elements in the administration of education. I hope very much that not only will the Government appreciate that they are acting in defiance of what supporters of the Labour movement think and of what people who support the Liberal Party say in this matter, but that they will recognise—it is true that not many days have passed; but it is already time that they recognised it—that many of their own supporters are gravely dissatisfied with the existing system.
My Lords, I have referred to the fact that I have been involved in discussions for the last five years. Since 1968 I have, as chairman of a divisional development committee, been involved in discussions in one small section of a division. We have had no fewer than 60 meetings and consultations with parents, with staff, with Governments. The overwhelming majority of parents want to go comprehensive. We have one small single-sex grammar school. The authority would have liked to merge it with another 381 secondary bilateral school not too far away. We were making progress. Tomorrow, when I go to the education committee of my county council there will be a tremendous clamour to put the clock back.
We were making progress. My county had made a declaration of intent—a most peculiar thing, a very vague thing. There was really no time limit within it for the achievement of reorganisation of secondary education within the county. All that we were committed to was to start going comprehensive in two areas in 1971—and this is six years after the publication of Circular 10/65!But gradually the county has been persuaded that it should go comprehensive. Slowly, steadily, ploddingly, we have been making progress. Circular 10/70 has encouraged all the reactionaries to shout at the top of their voices. I have referred to this small area within the division. We have a situation where a minority of parents, whose children attend the grammar school which is to be merged with a bilateral secondary school that offers regular opportunities in terms of equipment, are clamouring that the proposals that have been discussed at very great length—60 meetings in something like two years—should be put back, and I think that this is what has to be accepted. But the present Secretary of State for Education and Science has indeed injured the services of education. She has landed a blow that does not in any way help the children, particularly the children who are most in need; and I sincerely hope that there will be some further thought before more damage is done.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that I cannot accept that that is so. I think he is a little extremist in his view.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, has he read what was said yesterday in another place by my right honourable friend? Because there is no intention of going to any extremes, as he has put it. He obviously has some very long and pertinent experience of some particular area, which has been interesting, but over the country as a whole I do not agree with him at all.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, may I say that on one occasion, I well 382 recall, when I had the temerity to get up to put a point to the noble Lord, he told me that I had had my chance. I have no objection at all that he should interrupt me—none whatsoever. May I say this: I do not think that the Secretary of State for Education and Science understands what she has done and what is in danger of happening. It is not what she intends; it is the advantage that will be taken of the opportunity that has been extended.
§ 8.31 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, I propose to make a few remarks about Northern Ireland—and after that last exchange I have the illusion of being in that country. However, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, will not think that I am making a merely conventional disclaimer in saying that I will not follow him: because in fact I earn my living in education, and higher education particularly, and I was very interested in everything he said. I look forward on future occasions to doing some battle with him.
I want to make a few short remarks on a lighter topic than the North—commercial radio. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on the second day of the debate, asked the Government, and asked us all, rhetorically, what proposal could be more frivolous at the moment than the idea of commercial radio. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has given us his attitude about it. I imagine that it will be on a later occasion that we shall discuss commercial radio in detail. However, for the moment all I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—I hope he will read this—is that my experience of commercial radio in America is that it is not all that bad.
In Boston, where I lived and worked for some time, there were seven radio stations, all competing vigorously with each other, and not simply purveying "pop" music (which personally I happen to like, but that is neither here nor there) all the time. There was an extremely 383 interesting and democratic programme, which I think was called "Contact", in which ordinary people living in the area and involved in local issues would ring in to discuss the programme and exchange views with each other. That programme was so popular that the advertising rates on it were extremely high.
Universities in the area had their own radio station at certain hours of the day, and would put out classical music, discussions, talks on current affairs, programmes on the arts and so forth. I simply do not believe that commercial radio in this country is necessarily going to doom us to a sort of pan-"pop" culture in the Provinces indefinitely. As for the obviously difficult and worrying argument about local newspapers, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, may have seen in the New Statesman of two weeks ago a letter pointing out that it seemed to the writer that all the local papers, as well as the national dailies in this country, were arch-Tories. Perhaps he might take comfort from the thought that local radio services would promote a less biased political angle.
My Lords, turning to the sadder topic of Northern Ireland, I do not want at this late hour to give my views. A rather autumnal air has come over the Chamber, relieved only—
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, before the noble Lord gets on to Northern Ireland, I wonder whether he, or anybody on the Government Front Bench, can give us any hope that if commercial local radio is developed in this country, the universities of Exeter, Leeds and Liverpool—to say nothing of the others—will be allowed to have their programmes on it, as is the case in the United States?
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, obviously that is not a question that can be addressed to me, I share the noble Lord's hope—
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, while we are, in a way, on the subject of electronics, perhaps we might request that an extra microphone be put near the noble and learned Lord who sits 384 on the Woolsack so that we may all hear his asides, which are most fascinating and enjoyable.
My Lords, on two occasions in the past I have made a short speech about Northern Ireland. I am not going to read you my set speech giving my views on that subject; I am going to try to stick to a few possible proposals. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, talked about (it was a good phrase) "reconciliation of conflicting interests". I want to add a footnote to it and talk about, "reconciliation of conflicting feelings", because it seems to me that before we can work out any programme of reform, before anything can be done in Northern Ireland, the tension must be got out of the atmosphere. It is no good someone coming up with an elaborate, or a simple, or even a brilliant, scheme at the moment, because the situation is simply too tense.
There was a time when to have an Ombudsman was thought to be the panacea for any form of local difficulty or ill. I am fairly suspicious of Ombudsmen, but I think that a few of them might possibly work in Northern Ireland; not, perhaps, because they could at the moment set any inhibitory action going, but because they would be a good target for legitimate grousing. Obviously, they would have to be non-sectarian or, rather, they might have to reflect some of the religious and political differences in that country. But I would ask the Government to consider whether a committee of four people might not be in charge of the Province for setting up Ombudsmen there, so that people in a state of extreme social tension could come and discuss their ills.
A great deal of these ills seem to me to be not entirely political, or even ethnic or religious, but cultural. We refer politely to Northern Ireland as a "Province" and one of the sadnesses of any country which is cut off from the political main stream of its geographical locale, and of the Island generally, is that it becomes provincial. I was brought up in Ulster, though on the wrong side—in Donegal. Derry was my local town though I should probably, in this Chamber, refer to it as Londonderry; and there is no doubt that a terrible provincial pall of unemployment and despair, and lack of interest, hung over it when I was a teenager. That 385 is some time ago, and though we all rightly deplore what has happened there recently, I cannot help feeling that if I were a young man in Londonderry now, I would enjoy it, in some curious way more than I did when I was 15—but that is a dangerous situation to be in.
I, of course, cannot share in the delight (and I am sure that your Lordships are with me) in the Orange Order as I have seen it operating in Londonderry. I will not speak of it outside that city because I have no experience of it there. I think that if I suggested to your Lordships that I myself wanted to start an anti-Wilber-force society which once a year would go into Brixton, or Wolverhampton, and wave banners and point out the excellencies of the slave trade, you would think me not only mad but bad as well. But this seems to me to be not all that distant from the gloating atmosphere of what is a rather extraordinary, and rather disturbing, cultural event which celebrates a victory which took place many years before over your immediately approximate neighbours.
I was interested in what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester said in his speech. I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and my noble friend Lord Moyne and I who had a conversation here some time ago, I think it was in December of 1968, in which we were bandying the idea that the region of Holy City, the See City, of Armagh, might be taken out of Ireland, rather in the manner of an embassy or of the United Nations, and become a forum for a sort of pan-Irish debate which would edge Ireland towards a type of federalism. Whatever we think of Miss Devlin—and I think my own admiration for her is shared, to judge by a speech some time ago, by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—she has an essentially non-sectarian mind. She has given a choice to that country very clearly that the solution of Ireland's ills, in her view, lies in a Pan-Irish Socialism. Not being a Socialist, I would not go along with that, but I do believe in a type of federalism. I would not accept—I insist on this point only—that those of us who have federalist leanings are anti-Border or anti the Protestant majority in the North.
I welcome the noble Lord's speech and his mention of the £75 million of aid. In my part of the country, in the Republic 386 of Ireland, politics are extremely obscure and it has taken me a certain number of years to master them. All I will tell your Lordships is that were I to stand for Parliament, holding the Tory views I hold, in my own County of Kildare I would have to stand as a Labour candidate. So I delight in congratulating the Government and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary particularly, in their extremely tactful handling of Dr. Hillery, who obviously annoyed and upset the Government, but they have shown a remarkably quick understanding of the complexities and difficulties of the present moderate and admirable régime in Dublin. It is nice to be able to end in congratulations.
May I add a penultimate note of warning? I know the difficulties of Ulster, but I know some of the Republicans and the attitude towards them. I would say that the Northern Ireland problem is going to be a lot more expensive than in my view the Government at present appear to realise—though perhaps they do realise this. I urge them, in making their Northern policy, to educate all of us, and the electorate particularly, to take them and Ireland itself into their confidence, to say what they are trying to do, how much it is going to cost and at what sort of speed they think they can manage to carry out their responsibilities—in short, to make the atmosphere less tense by making us realise that the essential needs of all the people in Ireland are what is really at issue in that country.
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him (because I entirely agree with him about the anti-Wilberforce League) whether in his opinion it would make it more offensive—I think he would be less likely to join t, as I would—if in addition to the anti- Wilberforce banners, we had a waving of Union Jacks and portraits of the Queen?
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Shackleton promised early in this debate a determined Opposition, such as has not been encountered before in your Lordships' House. That is a pleasure which I have to deny myself to-night, for I intend to follow the 387 previous speaker. I think that Northern Ireland is one subject on which we must at this juncture endeavour to be nonpartisan.
It is my duty as a journalist to go to Belfast from time to time and endeavour to interpret the situation. I am dependent on the advice of a number of wise men engaged in politics and upon my fellow journalists who are resident in Northern Ireland or who make regular extended visits there. May I say in passing that they have a most dangerous and disagreeable assignment. They would not like, I think, to be regarded as heroes. Reporters, and especially photographers, are in a calling which has its risks and they regard the reporting of riots as a duty not only to their newspaper but also to the general public. Perhaps it would not be out of place to put on record our recognition of the important role they are playing in providing the public with objective accounts of what is going on in Northern Ireland, accounts gathered in difficult and dangerous circumstances. Indeed, I know of a number of journalists who have received personal threats and intimidations, but they have gone on with the job. I can say this because it is not part of my job to cover the riots, only to look at the politics behind them. The only danger I have encountered in Northern Ireland has been its hospitality, which is as prodigal as that of the South. I should like to add that I am not trying to speak as an expert, which I am not, but with the humility of a fallible reporter.
I was in Belfast during the two days of the Home Secretary's visit, and I think that we should all appreciate how difficult his job was and remains and will remain. What were the immediate causes of the latest tragic riots? Why did the passions boil up again? These were the questions to which I sought answers. And I was told that one important cause was the General Election, the Westminster Election, with all the opportunities it gave of expressing traditionally vehement views. The results had their effect, too. They left no doubt in anybody's mind that many Protestants have moved towards extremism and are bitterly critical of the moderate Unionist Government at Stormont.
388 Inevitably the question was asked whether the Stormont Government, under the pressure of the extremists, including the extremists among its own supporters, would dare to complete its reforms and actually implement them. For example, would it really go ahead and achieve the local government reforms, without which the "one man, one vote" principle would be something of a mockery? Would a Conservative Government at Westminster be as insistent on reform as a Labour Government had been? Would the new Home Secretary be as determined as his predecessor had been?
Then Miss Devlin lost her application for leave to appeal to the House of Lords. It was too easy then for simple and suspicious Catholics to believe that she had been prevented from going further because an English court would have let her off. Miss Devlin was arrested, whether wisely or unwisely I should not like to say, before she could carry out her intention of making a farewell speech to her friends in Bogside. Perhaps the authorities reasoned that after Miss Devlin made her speech, however philosophically resigned she might have been, and then gone off to prison, the people of Bogside would not have gone quietly to their homes that night but might have made some kind of disturbance.
It was in the atmosphere of Miss Devlin's arrest that the tragic riots of June 26 and 27 occurred. Five people were killed and of the 196 injured, 64 of them had gunshot wounds. Afterwards, on the eve of Mr. Maudling's visit, there was criticism of the role of the Army and of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Although the Army had threatened to shoot gunmen, it had, out of prudence and humanity I suspect, not carried out its threat. The R.U.C., now a civilian force, had a lesser role than it usually played. Was there not, people were asking, a dangerous gap between an Army hesitant to use its power and a police force which for excellent reasons had been deprived of some of its traditional arms and functions? My Lords, I am reporting the criticism, not endorsing it. But I imagine that the Home Secretary was presented with exactly these views during his visit. An hour or two after he left Belfast, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland told the Stormont Parliament that the Army would fire at 389 gunmen, and that new orders had been issued to subordinate commanders. The noble Ear, Lord Longford, asked whether there had been a change of policy. I suspect that there was not a change of policy, but that there was a practice change in the implementation of the policy.
My noble friend also drew attention to the damage done to people's homes; and, of course, an inquiry is going on into that. But what happened at that week-end? I should like to call attention to the words of the Belfast Telegraph, a newspaper which throughout these troubles has played a remarkably fair and constructive part. It said:A joint Army-police squad made a successful arms raid on a house in Balkan Street. Residents objected and within ten minutes enough buses and vehicles had been commandeered to seal off a wide area. The guns were out, End then the grenades. The Army had no alternative but to move swiftly and decisively. The soldiers had a specific job to do, to make a quick and thorough search for arms. They had not the time to go through the normal formalities, and after being shot at for hours on the streets, they had probably no inclination.The new Home Secretary has wisely said in Northern Ireland, and also here, that the first necessity is to support the Northern Ireland Government in their programme of reform. He attaches the highest possible importance not only to the programme, but also to the continuing authority of the Stormont Government to carry it through. And, most important, he has accepted fully the development progamme. The desperate needs of this community, I am glad to say, will not be subject to the ideology of Selsdon. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has repeated Similar statements in this House to-day; and it will be necessary, I am sure, for the Home Secretary to go on saying these things time after time, as well as to continue to emphasise that the British Government will not allow the rule of the gun to triumph.
For the moment, however, there is this lull, and everybody is awaiting with dread the Orange processions on July 13. I am naturally sympathetic to the suggestion made by my noble friend, that they should be banned. But, of course, it is not a simple case. The first problem is that the ban might be defied, and in that event the task of the Army and the police might be even greater than if the processions 390 took place. Which is the less dangerous course is perhaps a judgment that can be made only by the Security Committee in Northern Ireland. The other danger of a ban is that it would undermine the authority of the Northern Ireland Government, which it is so essential to maintain, liven some of its moderate followers would in their present mood regard it as an act of appeasement to the Republicans.
I think it would be wrong to give up hope that the worst can yet be avoided in Northern Ireland. But what more can be done than is now being done? I put this question to a number of people, and they found it difficult to answer. But one or two of them did suggest that reasonable middle opinion could yet find more effective ways of expressing itself. There exist, I was told, businessmen and professional men, Catholic and Protestant, of strong personality, who are uncommitted to the political movements. The problem is to recruit them, and to give them a public task to do in which they could set an example to the communities.
One of the problems of Northern Ireland is that the charisma is on the side of the extremists. And one of the dangers of the current situation is that moderation appears to be a losing force. Moderate Protestants have seen no reward, in terms of communal peace, for the reforms they have set in train: the Catholics seem to them to be unchanged. The Catholics themselves feel no sense of gratitude, since they have yet to feel the effects of the reforms; and they also believe that these reforms were forced on an unregenerate Unionist Government by the British Government. And, of course, the riots reinforce extremist attitudes on both sides
I met people who said that the silent majority who want peace and a fair settlement is ebbing away. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, shares this view. He said in a broadcast a few days ago:Only a silent minority exists in most areas of Northern Ireland.My Lords, whether it is a majority or a minority, it must be rallied. I share the hopes that some day, as my noble friend has suggested, there will be a 391 Coalition Government in Northern Ireland—though I must say that I am less optimistic than he is. I think that sometimes he is the victim of his own virtues, and imagines that the good will he brings into politics is a common phenomenon. It is not; and certainly it is not in Northern Ireland at this moment. If anybody wants proof of that, let him read the Hansard of the Stormont Parliament in the marathon debate they had just before their Adjournment.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords perhaps I might interrupt the noble Lord. He described me, really, as a man of excessive good will, and therefore of slight fatuity. May I put to him that he has yet to unfold his own solution? I hope that before closing his remarks he will give us some idea. I have put forward one suggestion, but he has not yet put forward any.
§ LORD ARDWICK
I am wholly in sympathy with the suggestion that the noble Earl has made. I just doubt whether at this moment, or at any moment foreseeable in the near future, there is any possibility of such a Coalition existing. I believe, with the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, that the situation is so desperate that all the conditions for a civil war are there, and perhaps only the presence of the British Army, backed by a firm Government, can prevent it from breaking out.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, this third day of our debate on the Motion for an Address in reply to the Queen's Speech, so ably moved and seconded by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke, has ranged very widely indeed over the whole field of home and social affairs. Before turning at this late hour to some of the issues raised in the gracious Speech, and referring also to some of the notable omissions, I should like first to offer my personal congratulations to both Ministers who have spoken in this debate to-day, and also to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, who will be speaking shortly.
Although I naturally deplore the events that led to their appointment, I certainly know something of the heavy responsibilities 392 that they will now carry for services which affect the wellbeing of every citizen, and particularly some of the most vulnerable groups in our society. It is not for me to comment on the comfort of the Woolsack—my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner is far more qualified than I am to do that—but I know from my own experience that neither the Home Office nor the Department of Health and Social Security are soft seats. Indeed, they are by their very nature, I suppose, crisis prone. But both are, to my mind, great Departments of State which, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, quite rightly pointed out at the outset of our debate, considerably affect the social climate of the country generally, and the administration of the social services in particular. I hope the whole House will join with me in deprecating the unfortunate allegations that were made in the Election campaign about the integrity of the Civil Service within the Departments. May I also take this opportunity of thanking those noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, who made kind and over-generous remarks about the way I carried out my recent responsibilities in government in relation to the Health Service. It was a great privilege and an immense experience to be closely associated with the Service and to work with those who were devoted to promoting its development.
Perhaps it will set the minds of the House at rest if I say straightaway that I do not intend to speak about Northern Ireland this evening. So many noble Lords have made such informed, humane and compassionate speeches, and such notable speeches—particularly the noble Earl, Lord Longford, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick—that I feel quite unable to add to what has already been said on this vital subject. Nor do I intend to add to the comments that have already been made about certain aspects of Home Office affairs, particularly in relation to the Police Service and our overcrowded prison system. I would rather try to confine myself to the aspects of the Queen's Speech which concerned general social policy and the development of our social services.
For me the gracious Speech was really remarkable for the paucity of the new 393 proposals that it put forward in this field. There was, admittedly, a general reference at the outset to the social services as a whole, but I am afraid, having read it carefully, I found that it took us very little further in our knowledge of the Government's firm intentions in this important field. I listened with great care yesterday to the most thoughtful and enjoyable speech from the Paymaster General, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, who expressed some admirable sentiments on the generality of social policy, but we were not very much wiser when he finished on how the Government intended to achieve those objectives. With the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, however, I was delighted to hear his generous tributes to his distinguished predecessor and to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, the Chairman of the Arts Council, in which we all join. It is good to know that he intends to continue and extend the policies of the previous Administration. I am sure that his words yesterday will reassure all those who are concerned, both in the development of the Arts and in the enjoyment of the Arts, both professional and amateur.
Turning now to some of the specific proposals, I would point out that, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, reminded us, some are the continuation of measures already in existence, or already in the process of legislation in the last Parliament. I was very surprised indeed to find that the Government apparently do not intend to reintroduce the Misuse of Drugs Bill, which did not complete all its stages in the last Parliament. This is surely one of the most urgent problems affecting young people to-day, and may well prove to be the most crucial social problem in the 'seventies. The House will remember the excellent debate we had on this subject just over a year ago on the initiative of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, now the Leader of the House On that occasion there was, I believe, general agreement on the need to revise the existing laws on this subject, which have developed piecemeal and are not sufficiently flexible to meet the present situation and the constantly changing drug scene. Although we all know that control is only one part of the problem, it is, nevertheless, all noble Lords will agree, a very important part of the concerted medical and social measures we 394 need to undertake to prevent drug misuse and to treat and rehabilitate those who become dependent on addictive drugs. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will be saying a word on this aspect of Government policy. I cannot believe that this was a real omission as it is a very much needed measure.
I would also warmly welcome the new Government's decision to continue the programme of assistance through the 75 per cent. grants to local authorities under the Local Government Grant Social Needs Bill. This has already been of considerable benefit in tackling the great problems in certain urban areas. It has provided much-needed day nurseries, nursery schools and play groups for the under fives in socially deprived areas, including—and I know the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has always taken a close interest in this subject—an extensive scheme of financial assistance for voluntary play groups and the appointment of play leaders.
I hope the assurance we have received through the gracious Speech about the continuation of these programmes also means that the Government intend to continue the community development projects that were associated with them. We need to learn much more about the ways and means of how to deal positively with the multiple problems that are experienced in areas of serious social need by promoting self-help projects, breaking down the isolation and deprivation, and by improving the enviroment and quality of life in them generally.
We have heard mention during the debate to-day of particular measures that the Government have already introduced relating to pensions for younger widows, the constant attendance allowance for the severely disabled, which we all welcome, and the intention to continue with the transfer of the education of mentally handicapped children from the Health to the Education Department. These Bills, we are glad to see, have already been presented, and again are an example of the continuation of existing policies which I referred to earlier. There is no need for me to comment further at this stage on these particular proposals, except to join with my noble friend Lord Shackle-ton in deprecating the fact that the Government have jettisoned the great earnings-related pensions scheme. We on 395 this side of the House regarded it as an essential reform in our existing social insurance provisions if we were to abolish poverty in old age. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has put forward his Party's proposals in this field, and I have no doubt we shall argue about this matter further when the appropriate time comes.
I do not intend to discuss in full and in detail the measures outlined in relation to education, except to endorse the views so forcefully and so admirably expressed by my noble friends Lady Gaitskell and Lord Garnsworthy on the perpetuation of selection in secondary education and the absence of national policy in this sphere. Several of those who have taken part in this debate have commented on the instant action—I would say the instant unfortunate action—which the Secretary of State for Education and Science has chosen to take in this matter. To my mind, the much-slated Circular 10/70 will have as much impact on the development in our primary schools in the future as it will in our secondary schools.
I have never quite understood why those who are prepared to continue selection at age 11, however carefully devised and applied, fail to see the effect that this has on the whole ethos of the primary school itself, and the extent to which it is bound to distort the curriculum. Much as I welcome the reference in the gracious Speech to improving primary education—which presumably means better buildings, smaller classes, more teachers and more modern equipment—I am still not quite clear from what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said to-night whether this is to be achieved by new money or whether additional money is to be made available to local education authorities for this purpose. Or is it to come from secondary or higher education budgets; and, if so, from which?
May I now turn to what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, reminded us had been remarked on at the very outset of our debate on the gracious Speech; namely, the most remarkable omission of all. I was very surprised indeed not to hear some few words about the Government's future policy in relation to the National Health Service, which is surely one of the greatest social services of all. I fully appreciate that the new Government 396 will take a little lime to consider the fundamental question of the future organisation and administration of the Service, alongside their policy for the reorganisation of local government, now that the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Local Government have been abandoned. I was glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, that they are giving this matter early attention. It is of extreme importance that staff should be not kept indefinitely in a state of anxiety.
In yesterday's debate the noble Lord. Lord Cottesloe, who made some very kind remarks about my work in the field of health—remarks which I value, although I am afraid that I differ from him on the way in which we should effect change in the Health Service—suggested to the House that all we need to do now is to develop better co-ordination between the three existing parts of the National Health Service. I thought that in the recent debate we had in this House on the second Green Paper presented by the previous Administration there was almost unanimous agreement on the need to integrate the present tripartite structure if we are to meet the health needs of all sections of the community more effectively. It is now, I believe, generally admitted on all sides that the 1946 Act reflected the then existing historical pattern of a three-part system, each with its own administrative structure and method of financing, each with its own separate source of finance; and that this fragmentation of responsibility militates against the modern concept of medical care as we know it to-day, centred on the family doctor working in the community with the community health team. I do not myself believe that closer co-ordination (which I believe was the word used earlier to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare) alone can now overcome these basic difficulties which have tended to separate family doctors from the hospital service and to burden our highly developed, highly specialised hospital services with responsibility for caring for those who could and should be cared for in the community.
My Lords, it is not my intention to-night to rehearse every detail of the argument for change, or to recapitulate the carefully thought out plans for a fully 397 integrated Health Service, outside a reformed local government structure but co-terminous with and closely linked to it through cross-membership in order to achieve greater local participation in the day-to-day running of the Service. One recognises and accepts the difficulties involved in major changes of this kind, and one is conscious of all the uncertainties which it could inevitably create in staff; but in the series of active consultations that was in full flood following the publication of the second Green Paper until they were halted during the General Election period, I believe we were making considerable progress in refining and in clarifying some of the areas of that second Green Paper; and I am confident that most of the fears expressed by the noble Lords in our earlier debates on this subject could have been effectively overcome I am glad that the Government are giving this matter their early attention, especially as the plans of the Labour Government were closely interlocked with the proposals in relation to the reorganisation of the personal social services, which was the subject of legislation before Parliament was prorogued. That process of change has already begun and it is surely of crucial importance to see that changes in the Health Service go side by side with it.
While the Government are thinking about their plans for the future of the Service, the country, and indeed the Service, itself, is surely entitled to know more about their immediate policies on urgent matters such as the hospital building programme, which was doubled by the last Administration; on the development of health centres, where there has been massive progress in the last six years. For example, do they intend to continue the rolling building programme so that the Service can rid itself of its Victorian inheritance? Do they intend to encourage local authorities by never refusing loan sanction for the building of health centres in which our doctors can work with the ancillary health and welfare staff who are needed as members of the team? We should also like to know whether the Conservative promise in their Election Manifesto to reduce public expenditure will not be at the expense of the Health Service.
There is one other aspect of the Health Service which I had hoped to hear mentioned 398 in the gracious Speech. It was an aspect that was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, in his interesting speech, namely, the policy of the Government towards services for the mentally handicapped. All of us would agree that in the past these services have been deprived of their fair share of resources and have now fallen below what most of us would regard as acceptable in a society as highly developed as ours. During this last year we had started a process of bringing help to our understaffed and overcrowded long-stay hospitals and had also undertaken a fundamental re-examination both of existing institutions and of the need to develop new patterns of care for the future. Details were contained in a policy statement which was almost ready for publication. I believe this is not an issue which is going to divide us on political lines and I hope the new Government will go forward and will try to break down the public apathy in this field. This, surely, is where we can encourage the public through voluntary work and voluntary participation in our long-stay hospitals, to assist the staff with some of their problems. I believe my right honourable friend the previous Secretary of State for Social Services did more than any other Minister to increase public concern in these services, and I hope this Government will feel able to give a similar lead in this matter.
The subject of doctors' pay has been so threshed around in this three-day debate, both here and in another place, that I was not inclined to mention it. I was glad to hear the statement from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, that the new Government had managed to find a face-saving formula. It is my belief that not all doctors are as self-seeking or indeed even as militant as their leaders sometimes try to make out. I deeply regret the fact that this important matter became the subject of political differences during the General Election campaign. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned developments needed in relation to our nursing services. I would remind him that nurses, too, are interested in their pay, and when the Government come to make this very difficult decision about the pay award in the light of the Kindersley recommendations I am sure that they will bear in mind that there are 399 other professions in the National Health Service—nurses, professions supplementary to medicine, ancillary staff of all kinds, and administrators as well as doctors—and they will have to find a balance in what we know to be a very difficult situation.
May I conclude by saying this. I am afraid that in spite of the assurances of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, towards the end of his speech to-day, that the Government have a clear and well thought out social policy, I myself find difficulty in seeing it. I have already indicated that most of the practical measures that are in the Queen's Speech are measures that were already in train before this Government took office. It is not enough simply to care, however great that concern may be. A coherent social policy needs a capacity to identify needs, to determine objectives, to allocate resources and to develop services to meet those needs. In our increasingly complex society such activities, to my mind, require very sophisticated tools of measurement, and no Government did more than the previous one to create the machinery and add to our knowledge in this field. We look forward to the results of the family expenditure survey and to the survey on handicapped people, the first of its kind ever undertaken. This Government, I am glad to say, will have a factual inheritance and a machinery for on-going assessment of need which I hope they will conserve and develop, in order that we can have well-based and well-founded social policies and social services in the future.
So far—and I appreciate that this is early days yet—the only doctrine that one has been able to discover in Conservative social policy, from all the words that have been spoken, is a series of differing interpretations on the theory of selectivity as opposed to our long-established policy of providing universal social services, with positive discrimination within them to assist those in greatest need. These are the policies which to my mind have always lain at the very heart of Socialist thinking.
Concluding, if I may, with an illustration from the Health Service, to me its cardinal feature, both to-day and ever since its inception, has been that the 400 patient can choose the doctor he wants rather than the one he can afford to pay for, and that generally at a moment of crisis and of great need; and, just as important, the doctor is completely free to decide what medical treatment is needed in the best interests of the patient on medical grounds alone.
Selectivity, I am afraid, carries overtones of deterrence. We on these Benches, I can assure noble Lords opposite, will wait and watch for the emergence of the new Government's policy on the health and social services. It has certainly not done so in the gracious Speech, and we will scrutinise carefully and, if necessary, vigorously oppose any proposal that abrogates or undermines the right of the individual citizen in regard to the medical care he needs, or any reduction in the social services which have been built up so slowly and so painfully throughout the years.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I see that my name is next on the list, and the moment which I have been somewhat dreading for three days has ultimately arrived. I thought that I heard my noble friend Lord Eccles, in a speech which commended itself to many quarters in the House, describe his speech as almost a maiden. Well, when my surprise had subsided at hearing an old and valued colleague describe as a matter of degree something which I had always considered to be a question of principle, I asked myself how exactly my own contribution would 9tand, and I thought it depended upon the solution of a question of law which, happily, does not fall to the duty of a Lord Chancellor to decide: whether a maidenhood attaches to the Peerage or to the person. What I feel certain of, however, is that the degree of indulgence which is commonly attached to maidens is probably justly desired by myself. If I may cite the precedent of the prodigal son, having wasted his substance in a far country—at the end of the corridor—he ultimately returned to his father's house, and was welcomed with music and dancing. I would not ask your Lordships to go quite so far as that. I ask only for a reasonable measure of indulgence.
Clearly, I must begin by acknowledging with gratitude the kindly welcome 401 that I have so far received. I mention in particular (but only because they are still fresh in my mind) the generous words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, my immediate predecessor. Perhaps he will allow me to say that I do not know of any recent Lord Chancellor who has made a greater impact, or has a more wide or general respect among lawyers of every kind—and lawyers, of course, are of many kinds. I hope to take up the work of law reform at the moment at which he left it off, and I think he can rest assured that, so far as departmental duties which attach to me are concerned, I shall endeavour to carry on the tradition which has attached to this Office for many years—that of being, at any rate in some of its aspects, outside the range of Party political controversy.
The noble and learned Lord asked me a number of specific questions, some of which I may be able to answer. The Orders which he laid on May 28 have, technically, been withdrawn; but the policy is accepted, and the Orders will be re-laid in a slightly amended form, amended only for technical reasons and in order to save administrative expense and time. The erosion of the Legal Aid Scheme which they were designed to remedy will be remedied in broadly the same way.
I wish I could say exactly the same about the £25 scheme, but of course since that will cost £1½ million of public money it will have to take its place with the general review of public expenditure which is taking place. I think I can say, without either disloyalty to my colleagues or impertinence to the noble and learned Lord, that, of all the schemes which I have seen to fill an admitted need, it is the one which most attracts me personally.
The noble and learned Lord also asked me about Beeching. Yes: I think we shall have a Bill by October. Like the noble and learned Lord, I see no reason why we should not. No doubt I shall be proved wrong, but I shall do my best to prove myself right in the event. He then raised the more delicate topic of the Animals Bill. This is a very difficult subject, because all lawyers think one thing about animals (and I am, in my own funny way, a lawyer), but all farmers think the opposite; and the crux 402 of the Animals Bill is whether we can get it through the House of Commons in time. I do not think it will have much difficulty in this House, but at the moment I am in discussion with my colleagues, and I cannot take the matter further at the present time. May I say, in parenthesis, because it comes logically at this point, that the noble Baroness whose attractive speech we have just listened to with such admiration, asked me about the Misuse of Drugs Bill. I think she will see that it has been reintroduced into the House of Commons either to-day or yesterday, and although no doubt it will be amended in Committee, at any rate it is on its worthy way towards the Statute Book.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, asked a number of other interesting questions about land registration, Ordnance Survey maps and Parliamentary draftsmen, and I was extremely grateful to him, because I did not know about all this learning. However, he can rest assured that at any rate I am a solid supporter of land registration in all its forms. Indeed, I supported it in the best way possible: in the happy days when I was a landowner in Hailsham I registered all my titles, and I think that everybody should do the same. I shall endeavour to give this matter my full attention. What he said about Parliamentary draftsmen seemed to me to be absolutely admirable, but I do not really know what will come of it all. I may not be any more successful than apparently he was.
I hope the noble and learned Lord will feel that I have dealt with at any rate the majority of the questions he raised, and any others I shall certainly endeavour to deal with when my omission is pointed out to me. But leaving him aside, I fancy that as a result of three days debate I have enough material here for about 3½ hours of speaking, and therefore the problem in front of me is one of selection rather than of performance. What I have decided to do, I hope with the approval of the House, is that over the very large number of subjects which do not affect my own departmental responsibilities I shall try to see that the Departments concerned identify the questions which have been asked, and try to make them form the subject of letters to individual noble Lords who have raised the questions. I do not want 403 to pre-empt decisions which will be announced in another place by the Ministers concerned, nor do I want to preempt questions about which I have no personal detailed knowledge. But I shall try to do what I can to see that questions are answered in the best way possible. That leaves me with the gracious Speech itself and the Address.
I do not want to take up an enormous amount of your Lordships' time, and, quite obviously, if I dealt even with the controversial items, the economy, Northern Ireland, education, regional policy, and matters of this sort, I should take up too much of it. Therefore I want to go back, if I may, to some extent to fundamentals and to ask what we hope this Parliament will achieve and, perhaps more modestly, what part we in this House can hope to play in that achievement. My noble friend Lord O'Neill, in a speech of great weight when he opened the debate, began by saying that he hoped that this Parliament would be a turning point in our history. I venture to share that hope and I do so for a particular reason.
Noble Lords, particularly those members of the Party who happened to be unsuccessful in the recent Election, have greatly criticised the way in which the Election was fought and the issues which were then discussed. I can claim this, at least, as an advantage in reply to this debate: I think I am the only Peer in this House who actually fought the Election as a candidate, and won it by an increased majority. Each noble Lord who has embarked upon controversy has said that he did not want to fight the Election again, and has then proceeded to do so. I shall not wholly do so myself, but I should like to tell your Lordships exactly why I think it went the way it did, what I said at the time and what I shall try to do in this Parliament in support of what I said.
Why should this Parliament be a turning point? I read only this week in the French periodical, Paris Match, an appreciation of the situation of this country in the words of the well-known French commentator, Raymond Cartier. Although I did not go the whole way with what he was saying, I thought his diagnosis had something of value for all of us. He pointed out the dangers which 404 attached to a country which has walked the way of greatness and then suddenly finds the sources of its greatness taken away. He reminded us of Spain after the glories of the South American discoveries had withered. He reminded us of France after the defeat of Napoleon. He spoke of the disintegration morally of the Weimar Republic; and there were other historical analogies which he drew. He said that this is the situation in which Britain now finds herself, and I felt that that was true.
When I was a boy—and may I say in passing how much I was touched by the noble and learned Lord's reference to my father—this country depended for its immense prosperity and prestige upon a number of material factors which are now no longer with us and which will never come back again. There was the gold currency. My father went to his chambers in the morning not with a case full of paper in his pocket, but with a sovereign case full of gold. There was the industrial primacy. There was the two-Power Navy which rendered this country virtually invulnerable—a matter which we may be discussing on Tuesday. There was, of course, the Empire—a quarter of the earth's surface and a quarter of the world's population ruled directly from Whitehall. I do not think we should be ashamed of these things. On the contrary, without them we should not have defeated the Kaiser's Germany and we should not have defeated Hitler's Germany. Those were two benefits which at great cost and great sorrow to ourselves we gave to the world and which the world has never, I think, at this stage fully acknowledged. But those factors will never come back again. They have left us and we must look to something else.
Here we are in this country, more of us than there have ever been before, enjoying a standard of life—whatever we may say in the course of Party politics—which 99 human beings out of 100 who have ever lived on this planet would have given their eyes to share, and dependent as never before upon the goodwill of the world in peace and in war; dangerously concentrated in a few urban centres, perfect targets for modern military technology of which, unfortunately, the nuclear range is only one of the types of weapon available. And here we are 405 wishing not only to continue but to improve our material standard of life, in a world utterly different from that upon which our former prosperity was founded. Surely in this Parliament we must ask the question on what lines we propose to do so.
It may be that we are mistaken, those of us who form the majority Party in the House of Commons and perhaps in this House, but we have a prescription, and during this Parliament we want that prescription discussed—no more. We want it discussed: and I would venture to put that prescription on three propositions, If in fact we can no longer depend upon the quantity of our wealth, upon the size of our military power or upon mere numbers, where must we look? Surely it must be to quality—quality in the whole range of our activities; the pursuit of excellence. Does it include material things? Of course it does. It includes skill and draftsmanship; it includes management; it includes thrift; it includes industry, and it includes the solid, hard work that the great majority of us manage to attract to our serious endeavours. It also includes the immaterial things.
It includes the standards which we have built over the centuries; it includes representative government; it includes the English language, now the second language of half the world and the first language of many other nations; it includes the English law, the only system of jurisprudence, after the Roman, which has affected the history of mankind; and it includes our inventiveness. I was greatly heartened when, at the end of the article to which I have referred, the French commentator said these words—and I quote from memory, and in English:Britain is the most inventive country in the Western World, and if she does not develop, if she does not produce more, if her industry' is stagnant, it is only an internal weakness, it is only the weakness of her own will which keeps her back. She does not produce more because she does not choose to produce more.My Lords, if that be true it is at once humiliating and encouraging: humiliating because we have only ourselves to blame, but encouraging because we can put it right, without a doubt and without a question. If we therefore put quality first in all our endeavours, that is the 406 first of the prescriptions to which I would attract your Lordships' attention.
The second prescription is something of a dilemma. We live in a democracy. We live in a democracy where, surely, the greatest number counts; where, surely, equality, not quality, is the order of the day—majority rule. How can we reconcile the demands and the ideals of democracy, to which we are all devoted, with the prescription of quality to which I have referred? Again, we want it discussed. But the answer I would venture to give to your Lordships is this: that we can do so by the protection of minorities; by freedom—freedom for individuals and freedom for minorities. We must free them from the trammels of the desire or the unconscious power of the great masses of organised human beings to obliterate individuality and freedom. Can we not manage, in this Parliament, to set cur course towards that?
Who are the minorities? Well, there is the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, to which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred, certainly. There are, the immigrants, to which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and the noble Lord, Lord Royle, referred. But there are also other minorities. There are the skilled, there are the enterprising; there are the professional classes, some of whom find their lives being impossibly drab as the result of the pressure of events and the great powers in the modem State. Surely we are all members of minorities in one way or another; and if we espouse the cause of minorities, we are really espousing, each in his own case, his or her own cause.
The third thing I would say is this—again a question. If we are to encourage diversity in a society largely concerned with collectivist enterprises and philosophy, how can we manage at the same time to emphasise the unity of the nation? Because that, after all, was also mentioned, if not in the Gracious Speech at least in the recent utterances of the Prime Minister. The answer must surely be in law. In recent years "law" has sometimes become almost a dirty word, and "order" a still dirtier one. But surely freedom under the law is the protection of the rights of the minority in every case. If they cannot rely upon law they will be defeated by force. If they 407 cannot appeal to the courts, and to general rules promulgated in advance of some kind of durability and justice, they will ultimately be obliterated by violence or by arbitrary rule, each of which ultimately reaches the same thing.
That brings me, of course, to some of the more controversial matters in this debate, one of which is Northern Ireland—controversial because it is controversial, but not at this stage—and I hope it will remain not at any stage—controversial in the Party spirit; because I think that both Mr. Callaghan and I went to considerable trouble with our own Parties to avoid a partisan conflict in this field. I certainly felt, and I think that he also felt (although there was no connivance or collusion between us in this sense) that the very worst contribution we could make to our fellow countrymen in Northern Ireland would be to reproduce the 1912 situation. There were some people who urged us to do so. There were some people who urged us to take steps which would have had the effect of doing so even if we had not so intended. But each in his own way sought to move the country behind two central principles of policy, without both of which we could not have succeeded.
The first was that we should recognise that we would stand by what was after all the Attlee declaration of 1949, that no change should be made in the Constitution of Northern Ireland without the consent of Northern Ireland. The second was that we would not tolerate second-class citizenship within the United Kingdom. Our problem now is to persuade both parties of the truth of both those principles. It is very easy for people to accept one and not the other. It is easy for people to think that one and not the other will be embodied in the policies of different Parties in this country with different traditions and different ways of expressing things.
I do not for a moment say that had I been in Mr. Callaghan's shoes in the last four years I would have played the hand in exactly the same way. This would have been asking too much. It would be asking too much from Mr. Callaghan that he should expect that my right honourable friend in the lower place would play the hand exactly as he played it. But what I feel certain of is that our objectives are 408 identical. It may be that it suited the ethos and the outlook, and perhaps the composition, of the Labour Party to appear as if they were pressing the Unionist Government. It certainly will suit us better if we can persuade people that we are really behind the Unionist Government in what the Unionist leaders, and the best of them, are really proposing to do. But the end is the same: to create a just society within the framework of the United Kingdom.
Recent events, obviously, call for very considerable moderation of language on my part. I shall try to show it. And may I say, in passing, what a privilege it was to listen to the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, in his remarks on the subject? His father was a brother officer of mine in the Middle East during the war, and no one mourned his loss more than those who knew him. Now that I have heard his son I know what a valuable addition he is to your Lordships' counsels, expressing as he does an unusual Protestant point of view from a citizen of—I do not know whether he is both a citizen of the United Kingdom and of the Republic, or of which he is. But I listened with great pleasure to what he said.
I am not going to pursue the question of a Coalition; I do not think that we must play the Parliamentary game two or three hands in advance. The only thing I would say at the moment is that we have to support the Unionist Government in the reforms which they propose, and our troops in Northern Ireland in the difficult and unenviable task which they have had allotted to them. Last year they got into trouble with the Protestants; this year they may be in trouble with the Roman Catholics. I believe them to be the protectors of both, impartial towards both; and with one end only in view, which is to pursue the course of justice and order in this troubled society. I may perhaps be forgiven for a personal confession. Honoured as I am to occupy this ancient Office that I now do, I had harboured the hope at one time that it might have fallen to my lot to make a small contribution to the peace and happiness of the land of my fathers; but I can assure your Lordships that, as it has not fallen out that way, I shall do my best to help in any way which it is open to me to do.
409 My Lords, I turn to the more controversial subject, in a Party sense, the question of the economy. It has been much debated in your Lordships' House whether there is a crisis or whether there is no crisis; and that of course depends, as my old friend and opponent, Dr. Joad, would have said, on what you mean by crisis. Well, my Lords, I can only say this in the short remarks that I want to make at the close of your Lordships' debate.
What I found when I was addressing the electorate, some three weeks or a month ago, was that they were much impressed by the question which I used to ask them: Why did the former Prime Minister go to the country in June when he could have gone in October? Why did he drop 13 major Government Bills, some of which we have now heard (for instance, from the noble Baroness who has just addressed the House) were of great importance, like the Pensions Bill? Why, after six years of Labour Government, did he choose the height of the hay harvest, with 800,000 voters on holiday deprived of their votes—as a matter of fact by a vote in the other place of the Labour Party? Surely because he could not afford to wait; because he believed that in October the situation would not be so favourable. And why—if the situation is so rosy after six years of a Socialist paradise—should it not be so favourable in October? Surely because of the explosion of prices and the unrestrained rise in wages.
Surely we have—all of us, whatever our political convictions may be—to face one or two rather unpleasant facts about this country, and this I take (again from memory) from the article to which I referred earlier in my speech:From now onward and not counting Japan, the gross national product of Great Britain has been passed by Western Germany and France, and if things remain as they are, they will soon be passed by Italy. In 1960 Great Britain was the third economic Power in the world, after the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In 1980 she will be the seventh. If one considers production per head the balance sheet is even more dramatic. Britain comes fourteenth, a long way behind Sweden or Switzerland. One can foresee the moment when the British worker will produce three times less wealth than the Continental worker. For ten years now the rate of increase of the British economy has scarcely reached 2.5 per cent. against 5 per cent. of the Economic Community. Not 410 only is it not getting better. It is getting worse. From October, 1969, to March, 1970, the rate of growth has been 1 per cent. with still further reductions, in mining, metal-working and the car industry. The wage of the English worker has already fallen below that of the German worker and the French. It will soon fall below that of the Italian.These are surely considerations which give us no grounds for complacency, and whether one chooses to talk in terms of crisis or of determined effort to make a new start in various directions, surely one must arrive at the same conclusion—that things cannot be allowed to go on as they are.
That brings me to the controversial subject of industrial relations. Here, although I listened With immense respect to the trade union contributions earlier in the debate, I would venture to make this reflection as a lawyer. The idea that trade union legislation is desired simply for the purpose of stopping unofficial strikes or of "clobbering" the unions or of pursuing some private vendetta is one which does not bear examination for a moment. At the beginning of the 19th century there were in British social life two classes of bodies, neither of which was admitted by the Common Law: there was the limited liability company and there was the trade union. The limited liability company was illegal because the Common Law did not permit a limited partnership. Everybody had to pay to the utmost farthing of his possessions if he indulged in trade for profit. The union was illegal because it was a conspiracy in the restraint of trade.
Owing to the particular political philosophy of the time, successive Parliaments smiled on the limited company and frowned on the trade union. The limited company was given a Companies Act, a corporate personality; it was registered, provided with a court and given a code of rules. Everybody knew where he stood. The duties of directors, shareholders, public, creditors, were all defined. It was not part of the criminal law, except in the unlikely event—although it sometimes happens—of the directors making away with the funds. It was part of the civil law, like the law of tort, the law of contract and the law of divorce. There was no question of penalties. It was a framework of rules in which companies could thrive—and they throve.
411 But the reverse happened in the case of the trade unions. I have studied every piece of trade union legislation since 1871 down to the rather shabby little Act of 1965, which reversed Rookes v. Barnard. Every one has this common characteristic: it provides little in the way of general guidance as to the rights of individuals, whether the public or the member or the union or its officers. There is no prescription as to the rules, no court and no code. Those Acts provide not for a rule of law, but for the law of the jungle. Anybody who knows the terms of the great textbook on trade unionism, written by a close relative of the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, will know that what I am saying is no more than truth. Each successive Act of Parliament consists of no more than an ad hoc reversal of a decision of the courts.
What we have set out in the field of trade union law is a set of proposals designed to remedy that; to make the law and Parliament smile on trade unions as it smiled on the limited company, which we believe will have the same results. It will not be part of the criminal code but part of the civil code. We do not believe that people will disobey its provisions. There is nothing in them which has not been tried elsewhere. They may not have been, as the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, said, universally successful, but they have been tried elsewhere, not merely, in the United States, but very largely in the Socialist paradise of Sweden, where the rate of strikes is about one-sixth or one-seventh of what it is now in this country. Why should we not have a go at introducing into the field of trade union law the kind of coherence that we have already introduced into company law?
Obviously, our proposals are on the table. They will be brought forward. They will, if we can persuade Parliament, be carried. But they are not put forward with the idea of steam-rollering them through without discussion with the parties concerned, or with Parliament. If Parliament is to make a new start, surely this is one of the matters that must be tackled. The last Government tried to tackle it. They would have tackled it had they not been overborne by the almost insensate conservatism (a word which I very much like) on the 412 part of the trade union group in the House of Commons. Why should we not try a new line of country, which at any rate, in my submission to the House, has an enormous chance of success?
There are two other matters about which I should like to say something. The first is regional policy, which has been the subject of debate, and the other is about educational policy. The great lesson to be learned from regional policy, which I thought was established by the speech of my noble friend Lord Sandford last night, is that you cannot run a regional policy of any worth against the background of a bad national economic policy. He established figures, completely uncontradicted, which showed the complete lack and loss of job availability, the steady rise of unemployment, despite the determined and no doubt sincere efforts of the Labour Government to provide jobs in the development areas.
When I went to the North-East in 1963, I went with a somewhat different philosophy. We both had the same objective, which was to make the North-East blossom anew. I was not suggesting, and never would suggest, that those in the Party opposed to my own are not inspired by objectives equally desirable as those which inspired me. But there were two things which I sought to achieve which I do not think they have sought to achieve. I concentrated my resources where I believed they would succeed, and I believed that the fertility and prosperity of the region would be better served by Government pursuing its age-long objectives of improving communications—ports, airports, railways and roads—and improving amenities, schools, and houses, than they would be by the straightforward provision of money for jobs. I think the statistics which have been developed prove that thesis to have been, broadly speaking, right.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord referred just now to the fact that the figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, were uncontradicted. I should not want him to think that they are incapable of being interpreted in a more meaningful way. And, if I may say so with the deepest respect—we are fascinated by the noble and learned Lord's speech—he should 413 not think that some of his propositions will also go uncontradicted.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I shall look with great interest and anticipation to the debates that we shall have on this and other subjects. But at the moment I am simply bringing my own remarks on the gracious Speech to their conclusion.
Before I sit down, I want to say a word or two about the subject of education. I really do think that some of the charges which have been made about education policy not only have been ill-founded but have also been based upon a misunderstanding of the difference between the Parties in this respect. I myself have never mounted a wholehearted campaign against purpose-designed comprehensive schools. On the other hand, I have contended, and shall continue to contend, that schools designed for a different purpose, sometimes separated by two, three, four or five miles from one another, cannot suddenly be brigaded together under the pretence that they are single schools. This is nonsense; it is educational nonsense, administrative nonsense, and it is done for sheer political dogma I do not pretend that I find the comprehensive system attractive. I personally think that the purpose-designed comprehensive school is much too large a unit to which to introduce a child of 11. That may be wrong, but it is a view which I do not believe to be either contemptible or reactionary.
If I had remained the Secretary of State for Education and Science in 1964—as I believe would have been the case had the Election of that year gone differently—I sincerely believe that this problem would no longer have been a real one. I had made up my mind that the first thing to do was to improve the primary system, which, incidentally, in its characteristics is comprehensive in the true sense of the word. I would have raised the age of transfer to 12 or 13, thus getting rid of the 11-plus in its entirety as the Plowden Committee recommended. Secondly I would have encouraged parents to state in terms, once the school-leaving age had been raised (which by that time had been promised for a year earlier than will now happen), whether they wanted their child to have a four-year or five-year course. It is no 414 good the noble Baronsss, Lady Gaitskell, whose speech I listened to with great attention and interest, saying that she wants grammar school education for all, when the great majority of people in this country are going to have a four-year course for some years to come: because a four-year course from the age of 12 is not grammar school education as I understand it. The first thing to do is to ascertain what the parents want.
I believe that if, instead of using words like "grammar school" or "secondary modern school", which carry emotional overtones, parents had been asked whether they wanted a four-year course or a five-year course, it would have been found that a great number of them would have sorted themselves out, without compulsion from a local authority or central Government. I am bound to say this, too: one of the defects of grammar school education has been not that it is grammar school education with a five-year course, but that it has catered for the first 20 or 30 per cent., rather than the first 40 per cent., of the community. If I had to ask myself whether a child in the band of ordinary ability had a better chance at a good purpose-designed secondary modern school, or comprehensive school compared with a grammar school, I think I would opt for one of the former, because it gives him a chance of the enormous educational advantages of social responsibility at the top of his school community at the time when he reaches a maturity capable of enjoying it. Under the other system he is inevitably dominated by the class of person who is a year older and probably more talented.
These are matters, surely, which local authorities can be trusted, to discuss—it is not self-evident that the needs of communities are identical; it is not self evident that hastily put together plans, based on a dogmatic assertion of the superiority of comprehensive education, are wise plans. All we have done is to withdraw the Circular. We have abandoned the policy of the preceding Government. We have not laid down anything more dogmatic than simply that we want to look at the subject again in the light of our general predilection in favour of freedom.
I am afraid that I have spoken to your Lordships too long, so I will end on this 415 short note. We want to restore the self-confidence of this country more than anything else, and we know how to do it. The details will obviously emerge during our detailed debates in the coming Session. Surely we have some grounds for our assertion, if we are short of investment, as noble Lords have said, that profitability is perhaps the best incentive to investment. Surely we are right to say that consumer choice is some help towards efficiency in industry. Surely we are right to say, if we are asked where we are going to find the money for reduced taxation, that if people only recovered confidence in the value of their own money by controlling the price inflation we could save instead of taxing the people. We could put an end to surplus budgeting and there is a thousand million pounds to be had for the asking, without any diminution of Government expenditure whatever, by any Chancellor of the Exchequer who can inspire the British people with confidence in their own pound sterling.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Chalfont, who appears not to be in his place, I beg to move that the debate be adjourned.
§ Moved, that the debate be adjourned until Tuesday next.—(Lord Beswick.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.