EARL ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, on behalf of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.
§ Moved, That, pursuant to Standing Order No. 46A, the Lords following be appointed to join with a Committee of the Commons as the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills:—
- V. Colville of Culross
- V. Brent ford
- L. Rathcreedan
- L. Cawley
- L. Meston
- L. Guest L.
- Ilford L.
- L. Wells-Pestell
- L. Lloyd of Hampstead
- L. Diplock
- L. Janner.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Ordered, That a Message be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith and to desire them to appoint an equal number of their Members to be joined with the said Lords.
§ ADDRESS IN REPLY TO HER
MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Baroness Macleod of Borve—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."
My Lords, I have always found that these debates on the Queen's Speech present us with a certain difficulty. One can try to cover the waterfront and be thin and superficial or one can be fatter and more selective and concentrate in an arbitrary way on a limited number of issues. On balance, like my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence yesterday, I have decided to opt for the second alternative. There may be plenty enough to separate the lordly sheep from the lordly goats across the Party boundaries. There is no point in masking our differences because it is true that we look at a number of important issues of national life at the present time from a number of different angles. Equally so, when we have common objectives it seems to me to be 132 silly not to recognise the fact; and one important objective which I believe we all share is our common desire to help to raise the quality of life in these islands —to make it easier for all of us to live fuller, more varied, more engaged and more pleasant lives.
This of course means a great deal more than finding the elusive key to steady and sustained economic growth. It is quite clear—and here I happen to be with the noble Lord, Lord Balogh—that those societies which seem to be assured of economic success—for example the American society—are not necessarily able to achieve that distinction in terms of social stability or human happiness which they have been able to secure in the economic sphere. A symptom of this failure is the increasing inability of modern industrial society to give their citizens even the most elementary sense of physical protection. Life in the United States of America, my Lords, may for most be rich, but at the heart of the average American city it is poor, miserable, and all too often brutal and violent. We should be unwise if we were to suppose that our more relaxed society is in any way immune from this infection of crime and violence. Only last weekend we saw a particularly inane manifestation of the cult of violence in the bombing of the Post Office Tower.
The Government have this problem in the forefront of their minds, and it is right that this should be so. My noble friend Lord Windlesham will wind up this debate. As your Lordships well know, he is the present Minister of State at the Home Office as your Lordships perhaps do not know equally well, eight years or so ago I happened to hold the same office. In that year, 1963, there were less than one million indictable offences known to the police in this country; last year that figure had risen to over one and a half million. Our prison population is now 40,000 or so; when I was concerned with these matters it was three-quarters of that figure— 30,000. These are doleful figures, my Lords, and that is why I must emphasise that the Government propose to bend every effort to honour their pledge to maintain the law to protect the freedom and safety of the citizens of this country. My noble friend will be expanding on this matter when he winds up the debate. 133 I would only add now that the likelihood of detection is the best deterrent to crime and that the Government stand solidly behind the Police Service in the performance of their vital tasks. Crime, especially violent crime, is a very complicated phenomenon indeed and there can he no easy answer to it. I should again like to stress that the Government are determined to devote their energies, not only to improving methods of dealing with crime but equally to discovering and treating its causes. Of course a great deal is uncertain in this highly uncertain area of human affairs; but I think many of us suspect that the pattern of crime and violence in our society is closely worked into other strands of that society, such as the quality of its environment, housing and the nature of family life. By the same token, of course, I think many of us have been disillusioned by what we have seen in the past two or three decades. We thought that with improving material standards we should be able to sterilise the seeds of crime and violence in our society. Things happen to have worked out the other way, and this has left us all with a great deal of food for thought.
It is against that background that I wish to concentrate, in this, I hope, short speech, on the approach of Her Majesty's Government to matters affecting the physical environment in which we live. This is not because I underestimate the relevance of the quality of our social services, for example, to the quality of life in these islands. Education, of course, is absolutely vital here, and its cardinal role is recognised by the Government. We are putting about three times the effort which the last Government put into the primary school programme, and plans are now far advanced for raising the school leaving age to 16; my noble friend Lady Macleod rightly emphasised the importance of this in her notable speech at the outset of our debate, and I am very glad that in a week or so we shall be debating educational matters.
By the same token, I do not for one moment underestimate the importance of our Health Service and hospital programme to the quality of life in this country. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is already devoting an additional £110 million to improving care for those sec- 134 tors of our community who are least able to care for themselves in these respects, and great gains are undoubtedly to be won through an improved, tauter and more efficient National Health Service. Again, this is an area which I am glad that we shall be debating later this month.
Meanwhile, as the Queen's Speech has made clear, the legislative framework for Scotland in this respect will be constructed during this Session, and I think it possible that my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie will introduce this legislation into your Lordships' House. And the re-organisation of the health services in England and Wales is also being prepared. No, my Lords, the only reason why I do not dwell on (these areas is a desire to compress my speech into an acceptably small package. That is why I wish to concentrate these relatively brief remarks on the improvement of our physical environment.
My Lords, you can have marvellous ideas about dealing with the blots and wants on our physical environment, many of which are, of course, the legacy from our first industrial revolution. You can have the biggest and the best plans, but unless you have the structure to process these plans and to carry them through into action, you are not likely to get very far. We have, therefore, been devoting a great deal of attention to getting the structure here right. In the first place, we have tackled it at the centre. We have brought together in the Department of the Environment, in that not particularly alluring new Government office just off Horseferry Road, the three Departments of Government chiefly concerned with this area, Housing and Local Government, Public Building and Works and Transport.
There was a tendency to criticise this structure at the time that it was introduced as being top-heavy and as giving the Secretary of State concerned more than enough to do. I personally believe that the team of Ministers in this power ful new Department have in fact confounded the critics. It is quite clear to me that not only is this large new Department of the Environment working pretty well—there are, of course, teething troubles, as in any new department—but there is also the inestimable advantage in being able to bring together under one 135 roof all those areas of Government chiefly concerned with physical development in all its manifestations, be it ports or railway systems or roads; be it housing or construction, be it the planning of new towns or the development of not-so-new towns, or the care of the countryside; be it questions of land use or planning, or the vary varied and extraordinarily complicated problems of local government.
Moreover, this organisation at the centre has recently been complemented by a comprehensive reorganisation of the regional offices. Under the new arrangements the old offices of the Regional Economic Planning Board Chairman, the divisional road engineers of the old Ministry of Transport and the regional offices of the former Ministry of Housing and Local Government are being brought together in the regions. This means that in each region a single office will now be capable of taking a wide-ranging look at policies in the environmental field. This reorganisation has the advantage of making it possible for the headquarters organisation of the Department of the Environment really to concentrate on what I think we all believe they should be concentrating on; namely, matters of national policy, and on the integration of planning at a national level.
But reorganisation at the centre and in the regions is not enough. It is quite clear that the time has now come to embark on major local government reform. The prospects for local government reform have been endlessly canvassed up and down the country since the end of the war and a good deal before that. In our debate last Session my right honourable friend's proposals for England and Wales received a pretty wide measure of support in your Lordships' House, and not only from Members on this side of the House. I for one was particularly heartened by the broad endorsement which they received from the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, himself, the father of the Maud Report, and from its mother, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. Apart from this fairly broad consensus, it was, I think, the unanimous view—and here I think we are all agreed that reorganisation, warts and all, should now be carried out with the least possible delay. I remem- 136 ber very well what the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said in urging this particular point. I am sure, therefore, that your Lordships will be glad that we shall be introducing the necessary legislation for England and Wales in this Session.
Our fundamental objective is a clear one. It is to establish more efficient instruments of local administration and thereby to do what we can to strengthen local democracy. We plan to do this by creating a pattern of stronger and bigger authorities, and, what is equally important, by devolving on them considerable discretion in the management of their own affairs and the organisation of their own services. If we really want to see vigorous local democracy, we must give responsible local authorities the power to take their own decisions and then allow them to do so.
The Local Government Bill is in fact being published to-day. My right honourable friend and his colleagues have been carrying on intensive discussions with those concerned since the White Paper, and the Bill embodies the fruits of those discussions. That is why there have been modifications in some of the geographical areas proposed in the White Paper; and that is why there has been a shift of some functions—for example, most local planning, certain highway responsibilities, and so on—from the county to the district level. I mentioned two days ago that this was a Bill of formidable size, about as large—I think I used the term—as an early version of the Old Testament. I was not, I must confess and fear, exaggerating. It is about 350 pages long; it contains about 250 clauses, and it weighs, I am told, about a pound and a quarter. It will therefore, I suspect, give your Lordships quite a lot on which to masticate later in this Session.
My Lords, so much for what we intend to do about reshaping the structure—the bottles, if I may so term them. What about the wine of policy we should like to pour into these bottles? May I briefly traverse some of the policies designed to help to slaughter the dragon of pollution—policies which were foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech? First, there is the pollution of our national life which I believe is brought about and encouraged by drab and shoddy housing. I have always believed that if one was 137 going to put one's finger on any one material factor which contributes to lowering the tone of life in our society, that factor is indeed squalid housing. Let us make no bones about this. When the present Government came to power we inherited a poor situation in the housing field, as did other Governments which came to power before us. The output of new building was declining in both the public and the private sector, and this trend had been evident for three years or so. But the problem was complex; it was not just a shortage of new houses. The difficulties were local and regional. Where conditions are bad they are very bad indeed, as anyone who knows the worst of London housing, or the worst of Liverpool housing, or the worst of Glasgow housing knows only too well. In many parts of this country stand far too many dwellings totally unfit for any idea of human habitation. Apart from this, we have hundreds and thousands of houses which are structurally sound but which lack the most elementary amenities.
We are determined to make a real advance on this housing front. We are deeply committed to doing what we can to secure a better physical environment for all our citizens. Not only should there be decent homes for all, but there has to he a range of quality, and a real choice of quality, available to suit every pocket. An important consideration in our mind is the fact that the problem of sheer quantity has begun to disappear, if it has not already disappeared. There are no gross numerical shortages in the house field to overcome any longer. Indeed, the old crude, simplistic view has persisted for far too long that housing policy means as many new council houses as possible. Of course, there was much evidence of a strong demand for home ownership which was not being realised in June, 1970, and indeed long before that.
I should like to sum up our policies in the housing field as fourfold. First, we intend to relieve overcrowding and obsolescence. Second, we intend to clear the slums and the unfit dwellings. Third, we intend to improve the housing stock, and fourth, we intend to widen the scope of home ownership. I think it fair to claim that on all these fronts some progress—I do not wish to exaggerate here —has already been made. I think, paren- 138 thetically, that it would be useful to debate these matters at greater length one day. The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, for example, could bring a great amount of experience and expertise to this matter. I should like to enumerate the progress in rather staccato form. So far as slum clearance is concerned, nearly 37,000 slums were pulled down in the first half of 1971. That. although it is not nearly good enough, is an improvement on past performances. Indeed, we see no reason why local councils should not be able to clear away all the existing slums—those which are at present designated as slums—within this decade. I think that this would be a very reasonable national target for all of us to set ourselves.
Second, there has been a real push on the improvement front—the best way of mounting a short, sharp attack on poor housing and drab surroundings. A record number of nearly 157,000 improvement grants were approved in 1970, well over 40 per cent, above the 1969 level, and there has been a significant increase in the percentage of discretionary grants, which are perhaps the most help here. Again, there has been an encouraging increase in housing starts in the private sector. As my right honourable friend the Minister for Housing, Mr. Amery, put it recently in a short address at a seaside resort on the South Coast:There is no reason why in the 13 years we have ahead of us in power we should not make Britain a nation of home owners.Well, I believe that to be true. Fifty-two per cent. of our fellow countrymen at the present time own their own houses. I think it is in the interests of many things that we should help to create the conditions in which that figure is pushed a great deal higher.
What stands out a mile—and I think that many noble Lords opposite will agree with this—is the need for a real reform of housing finance. The cornerstone of the policy was embodied in the White Paper, Fair Deal for Housing, which will now, as shown in the Queen's Speech, be translated into legislation this year for England and Wales. The basic question that we have to ask ourselves is whether the system of housing finance which has enabled successive Governments ever since the Macmillan housing era to build, or help to build (we say "build" but of course it is erroneous), 300,000 or even 139 more houses a year is best suited to our contemporary conditions. We must remember that in 1951, and for perhaps a decade and a half after that, we were faced in this country with a gross and overall housing shortage. But although the housing shoe pinches, and pinches terribly hard in some areas to-day, we must recognise that the back of this overall housing shortage has now been broken, at any rate in large areas of the country. Council houses, for example, stand empty in Hull to-day. The rate of re-lettings in towns like Bradford is very rapid indeed.
The system of housing finance which we have inherited and which has been developed since the war served its purpose reasonably well, but we must ask ourselves whether it is appropriate to modern conditions. We must ask—and indeed I question—whether it has mobilised enough resources to enable us, and to enable local authorities, to deal with the real sore spots; the areas of homelessness and slums. We must ask ourselves whether it really helps us, and helps local authorities, to assist those most in need. Only 60 per cent. of local authorities, for example, operate rent-rebate schemes, and the scope and extent of such rent-rebate schemes may be very limited. I know of one scheme, for instance, where only five or six council tenants out of 600 or so receive any assistance. Of course, rent-rebate schemes do not bite on the private sector of housing where we all know need and deprivation are most acutely felt.
Finally, we must ask whether the present system is fair as between private sector tenants and public sector tenants; whether it is fair as between landlord and tenant; whether it is fair in its incidence as between one local authority and another. I have no doubt whatever that our present arrangements do not stand up to this test of fairness. We believe, and we believe profoundly, that a new system is needed: a fairer system, and one more attuned to the more sophisticated and more selective housing needs of the coming decades. That is the philosophy behind our approach to the Bill now before Parliament. I do not doubt for one moment that some of the proposals embodied in that draft legislation will he contentious, although, broadly speaking, many of them have re- 140 ceived a pretty fair reception from the public as a whole. But I hope that, when we come to debate this Bill, your Lordships will carefully examine the great advantages which we believe should flow from this new approach.
It should mean that we shall be matching resources to needs in the public sector. It should greatly help those housing authorities which have the most urgent and acute problems; those which are really grappling with their slums and with homelessness. It will introduce the idea of the fair rent throughout the public sector, and extend it within the private sector. Rent rebates and allowances will in future be payable to ail who need them. All needy tenants of unfurnished dwellings will stand to gain, as also will the landlord who wants to keep his property in good repair and to improve it. And the nation will, of course, be getting far better value for money with a subsidy bill that, instead of soaring upwards, will stay much as it is now at current prices.
One particular benefit of the reform will be the new subsidy to aid slum clearance. This will be a subsidy available to cover 75 per cent. of any deficit on the clearance operation itself, including the cost of the land, no matter what the eventual use of land concerned. This, I think—although I agree that these are matters of judgment—should very much accelerate the clearance of the slums which disfigure all too many of our great urban concentrations. The Government are therefore confident that this legislation, if passed, will accelerate the realisation of one of their major objectives; that is, to get rid of those slum dwellings which stain and pollute much too much of our urban environment.
My Lords, may I now turn briefly, and in conclusion, to what is more conventionally characterised as the pollution of our environment; for example, the pollution of the air we breathe? I am glad to say that we have just passed the 5 million mark for premises covered by smoke control orders. Nearly 60 per cent. of all premises in the black areas are now covered, and local authorities are now being encouraged by my right honourable friend to go full steam ahead in extending their areas of smoke control. There is the pollution of the rivers we swim in, which are a source of a great deal of the water we drink. Here again 141 there are encouraging signs of progress. Over the next five years, for example, sewerage authorities are expected to spend something like £700 million—no small sum, my Lords—on new sewers and disposal works. And, parenthetically, I believe it is true to say that two salmon trout were sighted in the river Thames not far from here this summer.
There is also the pollution of our land by dereliction. We have—let us admit it —a very long pull ahead of us as a country here. In England alone, some 63,000 acres are classified as derelict within the meaning of the Act. But the acreage dealt with in England in 1970 was almost 50 per cent. up on that dealt with the year before. It remains our aim—and we shall do everything we can to help local authorities to achieve this aim—as it was the aim of the last Government, to encourage and stimulate local authorities to deal 3with their strategic heritage of derelict land in the worst areas within ten years. There is a tremendous task ahead, a great national task, confronting us over this whole field. But it is, I think, an area in which we have begun to make some impact since the war; an area in which we are certainly not doing worse—in fact, we are doing better—than almost any other major industrialised country. I am quite certain that we must keep up our momentum here, because I believe that the attack on pollution in all its forms is a really vital aspect of regional policy.
Ever since the days when my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor stomped the North-East in his cloth cap, I think we have all been conscious of the fact that a successful regional policy depends upon raising the whole quality of the environment in the region. That does riot, in my view, go only for the negative factors, like trying to remove the heritage of the first Industrial Revolution. It also goes for things to which my noble friend the Paymaster General, for example, is deeply committed, as is our noble friend Lord Goodman; that is, helping to raise the quality of life in the regions through the encouragement and stimulation of the arts and crafts, which is the positive side of the coin. This is also an area which calls for the international approach. Pollution in many of its nastiest aspects recognises no frontiers, and here again is a field wide open for 142 constructive endeavour with our partners in Europe.
There are parts of our inheritance—dereliction, dirty rivers and sooty air—which we need to get rid of as fast as we can. Conversely, we need to treasure what is valuable and beautiful in the legacy of the past, and I think there are two modest measures embodied in the Queen's Speech which will, in their different ways and over a period of time, give significant help towards this end. First, my Lords, we aim to give local authorities new power to control the demolition of buildings and thus preserve the quality of the conservation areas which they have chosen to designate under the Civic Amenities Act. This should really help. I forget the figure, but I think there have now been getting on for 2,000 conservation areas designated in this country.
Next, the gracious Speech foreshadows legislation to increase protection for our ancient monuments which embellish so many parts of our countryside. I happen to live in Wessex which is, above all an area of enormous archæological wealth. The Downs above me are studded with long barrows and with traces and marks of our neolithic ancestors. But a pilot survey conducted years ago showed that, out of 600 ancient monuments of this sort, more than half had been damaged, some of them irredeemably damaged, in the past ten years. For those who care about our inheritance there is a very real problem here, and I am therefore glad that this relatively minor—though not unimportant—piece of legislation has its place in the gracious Speech.
The scheme which is embodied in the draft Bill will apply to thousands of scheduled field monuments. In return for an undertaking to respect such a monument, the occupier—the farmer, or whoever it may be—will be entitled to a payment from the Government in acknowledgment of the consequential interference which he will suffer with his agricultural or forestry operations. This scheme, which will be known as the Acknowledgment Payment Scheme, is strongly supported—and I am very glad that this is the case—by the archæological world, and has also been warmly welcomed by the agricultural, forestry and landowning organisations. I am par- 143 ticularly glad that this, with a certain amount of other legislation, is being introduced in your Lordships' House.
May I say this in final conclusion? We are in for a long Session. It will, I suppose, to a certain extent be overshadowed by the European legislation which the Government will be submitting to Parliament in implementation of the vote of principle so decisevely carried in both Houses a week past to-day. But, be that as it may, there is going to be a great deal, I suspect, to occupy us on the home front. There will be two or three major Bills: the two housing Bills for England and Wales. and for Scotland; and of course this vast Bill—but I think necessarily vast Bill—for the reorganisation of local government in England and Wales. My belief is that this programme can make a real impact in securing a very real improvement in our physical environment, and it is because of my belief in this that I have no hesitation at all in commending to your Lordships those parts of the legislation foreshadowed in the gracious Speech.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD GARDINER
My Lords, home affairs are the subject of to-day's debate on the Address. And although, of course. there is no reason why any noble Lord who was not able to be present yesterday should not address us to-day on foreign affairs, I do not doubt that it is a convenient course that we should try, so far as possible, to confine ourselves to separate subject matters on these different days. Like the noble Earl, I must I think be selective because the subject is such a vast one, but I am fortunate in that my noble friend Lady Serota, who knows so much more than I do about many of its aspects, is to wind un for the Opposition. The noble Earl the Leader of the House will not mind, I hope, if I do not follow him on his particular subject. There are, of course, a number of things in the gracious Speech of which we on this side of the House approve. We are not likely, I think, to oppose anything which in our view would improve the environment.
My Lords, may I put the noble and learned Lord's mind at rest straight away? Nothing delights me more than the fact that he is not going to follow me on the particular subjects which I chose.
§ LORD GARDINER
I am much obliged to the noble Earl.
My Lords, we find in the Address a reference to legislation… to extend customers' protection in the sale of goods".If, as I understand, that refers to exemption clauses, this is of course a subject in which many of your Lordships, in all parts of the House, have been equally concerned for some years. I observed that the Minister of Trade and Industry, in announcing legislation in this field yesterday, did not say what I understand is the fact, that this legislation is to be entirely based on two Reports from the Law Commission. But, from whatever source it comes, we shall, I am sure, welcome it. "The … replacement and improvement of primary school buildings" and the raising of the school-leaving age are two other things of which, of course, we approve. Increased protection for ancient monuments is also something that we all, I think, welcome; and if, as I understand, a Transport Bill is going to do something to limit the size and weight of the largest forms of road transport, that is something which many of us would very much like to see. Law and order I had perhaps better leave until later.
Then, the gracious Speech says that,a Bill will he introduced to improve the facilities for giving legal advice and assistance to persons of moderate means.If this means what is commonly called the £25 scheme, I can only say that implementation of that scheme was a matter which we had undertaken had we been returned to power. We were disappointed that it was not done last year; we are very glad that it is to be done in this Session. I should like, if I may, to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, and her Committee on again having their recommendations accepted. Indeed, so many of the recommendations in their last Report have by now been accepted that I hope the Committee will soon be starting again to look at the future and to see where we go from here.
There are, however, in our view, sins of commission and omission in the gracious Speech, but before coaling to any of them may I just say this? I find among the public some misapprehension as to what we are doing in debating the humble Address to the gracious Speech from the 145 Throne. They know that we receive the Speech from the Sovereign and that then, for some reason which is not clear to people, it is read to us all over again, in Her Majesty's own words, by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, though meanwhile we have got copies of it in our pockets from the Printed Paper Office, as is very evident when it becomes necessary to turn over the page. I know a number of ordinary members of the public who really believe that the Speech is written by the Sovereign. Therefore, before I start to criticise it, though I do not need to remind your Lordships it may be necessary for people outside that I should mention that, in fact, of course, the gracious Speech is all written by the Government.
If I am to say what I think is the most signal feature of the gracious Speech this year, without wishing to trespass on matters which it may be more proper to discuss on Tuesday, I would say that it is the fact that it nowhere contains the words "unemployed" or "unemployment". We have now about a million unemployed—I suppose, with their families, three or four million of our fellow citizens. I should have thought that room could have been found for some expression of sympathy for the lives which this large segment of our people arc being forced to lead. If I speak strongly about this, it is because, as your Lordships know, I never intended to be a politician and am not at all a good politician. In fact, I did not join any political Party until I was in the thirties; and the main reason why I then joined the Labour Party was that we had had years and years of Conservative Governments, and we had found in practice that a Conservative Government always meant at least a million unemployed. I thought then and I think now—
My Lords, I apologise to the noble and learned Lord, but I think he is being a little less than fair. I am looking at the gracious Speech texturally. When we turn to the home front, the very first sentence in the gracious Speech reads as follows:At home my Government's first care —"first care", my Lords—will be to increase employment by strengthening the economy and promoting the sound growth of output.
§ LORD GARDINER
My Lords, if the noble Earl had given me time I was going to point out that that was so, and that it was exactly what they said in the gracious Speech in July, 1970. It was almost in the same words, and we know what has happened since. I am not thinking of the technical question of employment but of the tragedies to the human beings involved. I thought in the 'twenties and 'thirties, and I think now, that while there are many tragedies which may come to men and women in life, one of the worst, partly because it has been so common, certainly in the past, is to be a man with a wife and children whom you naturally want to support and to be quite unable to find any work to do—"Not wanted on voyage". My Lords, I say no more about that because we shall probably hear more about it on Tuesday; but that is the first thought that struck me: that it should have been possible to express some sympathy with the position of the human beings concerned.
My Lords, as to the largest Bills, I cannot say anything useful to-day about the Common Market Bill, which in any case we have, of course, not seen yet. The noble Earl referred to the Local Government Bill, which we have got; and, again, we shall have plenty of opportunity to consider its detail later. There is only one point in it to which I should like to refer, because it affects a great many people and is, I think, one of some urgency. The whole of Part X of this Bill refers to justices of the peace. Now your Lordships will remember that the Beeching Royal Commission on Assizes and Quarter Sessions could not have reported in the last Session if, in addition to courts of assize and quarter sessions, the whole of our civil High Court and to some extent county courts, it had also had to consider the future of the magistrates' courts. But that unanimous Report was so warmly welcomed in all quarters that Parliament has been able to enact the Courts Bill and put it into force. This, as was always obvious, has left the whole future of the magistrates' courts in the melting pot. The Government might have decided what was to be done about the magistrates' courts. They might have appointed a Royal Commission on them; they might have appointed a Committee. Instead, the Home Office—and, as I commented at the time, why the Home Office 147 and not the Lord Chancellor's Office is obscure to me—sent out a circular to those concerned saying, "Do you want to come into the Beeching system and be part of the administration in a way in which all the other courts in the country will in future be administered? And, if you want to be centrally administered, is it to be by the Lord Chancellor or the Home Office? Or, alternatively, do you want to stay as you are—the only courts which have any direct connection at all with local government?" It seemed to me, as I have said, that the fact that that was sent out by the Home Office perhaps rather begged the question.
In their memorandum they sought, as they said, to put the principal arguments on both sides; but by some strange oversight they never mentioned the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act which your Lordships passed in the last Session. Those are courts which are the nearest equivalent to magistrates' courts: they are a kind of combined magistrates' and county courts—and they had always been administered by the local authorities; but they were taken away from any local authority connection and their administration was given to the Central Government. That fact was not mentioned. We have never been told why this Government thought that what was right for Scotland was not right for England.
I should like to ask these questions. Part X breaks up all the existing justices of the peace and magistrates' courts committees and so on. This will be an enormous upheaval for the magistrates' courts. It appears again to be a Home Office move to "jump the gun". This Bill is not to come into force until April, 1974. Does that mean that the Government do not intend to decide the future of the magistrates' courts until April, 1974? In their circular they called for replied by the end of September. I do not know what is stopping them now from reaching a conclusion. We know that the Magistrates' Association have consulted all their branches and are strongly in favour of being divorced from the local authorities and coming into the Beeching administration; we know that the Justices Clerks' Society feel even more strongly about it. I should like to ask whether all the memoranda which have been received by the Home Office in answer to their circu- 148 lar are going to be published; and if so, when. Further, when do the Government intend to come to a conclusion? Unless they are proposing to postpone this until 1974, what is the use of taking up the whole of Part X with a complete redistribution of all the commissioners of the peace and of all the magistrates' courts committees?
My Lords, I turn to law and order. I was a little disappointed—and I do not mean this in the least as a criticism—that we have not so far been told in either House what are the Government proposals for law and order. We have had reports in the Press which have not been denied; and, as I understand, it is proposed to increase the penalties for the use of firearms. I do not suppose that any of us would have any strong objection to that; but whether it will do any good I do not know. T was interested to read an Answer given in reply to a Written Question by my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger as to the number of policemen murdered in the last 20 years; and I was interested to see that if you take each of them separately, the numbers in the four 5-year periods were: 4, 3, 4, 5. Allowing for the increase in population, that seems remarkably static. It was stated a day or two ago in the other place (and, as I understood it, accepted by the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary) that, out of 7,000 successful prosecutions relating to firearms, the average sentence imposed by the courts was 4 per cent. of the permitted sentence. Whether, in those circumstances, you do any good by increasing the maximum appears to be something like a piece of window dressing. As a lawyer I have always been against fixed punishments; but I have suggested before, and I think that there is something to be said for it, that if, in addition to the sentence that he gets for his offence, you had a fixed punishment of, say, five years' imprisonment, when the person concerned was carrying a firearm, this might have some effect.
I agreed with a certain amount of the very able speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, about this difficult subject of law and order. I particularly agreed with her that lawyers, and particularly judges, tend to overestimate the effect on a crime rate of almost anything which the courts can do; and I, like her, believe that while 149 there is no doubt that there are many causes for an increase in the crime rate, what is more important than anything else in any generation is the way in which the children are brought up. There is a need at present for more good sense in the home.
I agree with what the Home Secretary said the other day in the other place as to the great importance of detection and of the police. One of the few certain facts in this field, if you take the records of any police station, if you look at the conviction rate—that is, the proportion which convictions bear to all the crimes known to the police—is that if the conviction rate goes up, then the crime rate goes down; and if the conviction rate goes down, the crime rate goes up. That is not astonishing; because I suppose it means that when you get some young man who is wobbling as to whether to do a job of housebreaking or not, then on the whole what decides him more than anything else is that if he thinks that when he does the job he will get away with it, he does it; and if he thinks that he will be caught and punished, he does not do it. The chief difference in this field since the war lies in the conviction rate. Before the war, the conviction rate for indictable offences was always over 50 per cent.; so that if you committed a serious crime in England the probability was that you would be caught and punished.
In a debate in which I took part in the summer of 1964, before the election of the Government of which I was a member, I pointed out the enormous fall in the conviction rate since the war; and that if you committed a robbery with violence in London there was a 3–1 chance that you would not he caught and punished at all; if you carried out a housebreaking there was a 6-1 chance that you would not be caught and punished; and if you stole from a stationary car there was a 12–1 chance that you would not be caught and punished at all. The great trouble, as it seemed to me then and as it does now, is that we have never increased the police force to deal with the increase in crime. On the day that we took office there were fewer police in the Metropolitan Police than there had been when the war broke out. We were in the great difficulty that people did not want to join the police because they were overworked; 150 and I knew of C.I.D. officers who did a 70-hour week.
But, while the crime rate has not fallen, the increase has fallen. That, think, is due to the measures that we took to increase the police force. We had to break this vicious circle, and we did so in two ways: first, by taking the police off all their extraneous duties, such as clerical work, carrying the mace for the mayor, acting as Shops Act inspectors and Market Act inspectors, collecting maintenance money, and in some cases acting as mortuary attendants; and, secondly, by increasing the number of traffic wardens and giving the policy modern equipment. While any increase in crime, and particularly violent crime, is a serious thing, it is a fact that the rate of increase while we were in office tended to fall.
What other measures we are to have in this field we do not really know. We understand that there may be sentences alternative to imprisonment. I think we should welcome that. In any case, in front of my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger, I should not like to say too much about that since she knows so much more about it than I. There are rumours that provision is to be made by a Bill to increase compensation to be payable by criminals and for making them bankrupt. That, again, I should have thought, with respect—though I do not suppose that we shall oppose it—is largely window-dressing; because the numbers of criminals who have money which you can get at is extremely limited. It may apply to train robbers, if you can find out where they put the money, or to bank robbers; but the proportion is small. I remember coming across a man in the sixties who had spent nearly all his life, certainly over 30 years, in prison. He had had 30 or 40 convictions. He was a rather curious character because whenever he was charged he always pleaded guilty and whenever he was asked if he wanted legal aid he always answered "No". Nobody ever said anything for him in the whole of his life. I totalled the value of the goods that he had stolen throughout his life. It was about £200. It would very soon be exhausted in the cost of keeping him.
I agree, and I think that the Home Secretary would probably agree, with 151 what the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, said about making prisoners work and earn their keep. Many of us have always thought this; but it is one of those things which is very much easier to say than to bring about. Considerable improvements—I draw no distinction between Governments—have been made in recent years. We have overcome the difficulties of not being able to get orders for the goods from employers and the objections from the trade unions. The main difficulties relate to the buildings. If there is no room in a prison in which to create additional workshops, they cannot be created. If you have the additional workshops you may not have the prison officers to man them. I am sure that the Government are doing their best in this regard. It has been stated in the Press that changes are to be made in suspended sentences. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Windlesharn, could tell us about that when he replies. As he knows, a great many of us—and this is not in any way a Party political statement—have not been at all happy about the mandatory provisions in relation to suspended sentences.
My Lords, so far as compensation is concerned, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and I have always been a little puzzled about the scheme of compensation for criminal injuries. It was started as an experiment and we have both suggested for some years now that it should be put on a statutory basis. It seemed to me odd at the time that the Home Office should say, "We have a million pounds that we do not want so we will spend it in this way". It has always been a strange sort of scheme, which has had no legislative sanction at all. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, what proposals he has in that field.
Your Lordships would think it strange, I expect, if I did not say something in relation to law reform in general, and if I may I will start with four old friends, really to inquire as to their health. The first is the Crowther Report on the Constitution. I should like to know when we are likely to have that Report. The second old friend is the Committee on Adoption Law Reform and I should like to know when we are likely to get that Committee's Report. The third old friend is the Report of the Finer Com- 152 mittee on one-parent families; and the fourth, which I think must have broken some Parliamentary record, is the extraordinary case of the Broderick Committee Report on Coroners. I have always very much doubted whether we need any coroners—I do not think they have any coroners in Scotland. But whether or not they are necessary should not take long to decide. The Broderick Committee was not appointed by this Government or by the last Government. It was appointed something like eight years ago, and I think that it must have broken all records for the time it has taken. Rumour has it that the Committee has now reported, and if it has I should like to know when we are to see what must be a wonderful work after all that time. When is it to be published?
The second group is concerned with my old friend the Department of Trade and Industry. Have we any news of bankruptcy law reform? Fourteen years ago the Blagden Committee set out 50 recommendations on reform which every Government have accepted ever since. Ever since then the Board of Trade—now the Department of Trade and Industry—have gone on saying, "Yes, certainly, we very much approve of this. We have accepted all the recommendations and legislation will be introduced as soon as time permits." May I ask what is the last word in relation to that matter?
In respect of the same Ministry, what about company law reform? I should think—I may be quite wrong—that a Conservative Government would be rather more concerned to see that our company law is kept up-to-date and in good working order than a Labour Government. Why is it that in the last half century the only Company Acts that we have had are the Labour Government's Company Acts of 1949 and 1966? We are always hearing that the Ministry is going to produce another, and I know that many Members of your Lordships' House consider that the 1966 measure did not go nearly far enough and should have included a lot of things which it did not. So may I ask for news about that?
To a commercial community hallmarking, is important. We have had the recommendations of the Select Committee of 1856. the Select Committee of 1879 and the Departmental Committee of 1959, so 153 it is now 113 years since the first of those Committees sat. Our hallmarking law—which is mostly of the 14th and 15th centuries, is quite incapable of being understood. When is it going to be modernised? And last, my Lords, what about insurance law reform?
May I now deal with one or two matters with which the Home Office is concerned? I am sorry to see that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has left the Chamber because I was going again to join him. During the debate on the Queen's Speech a couple of years ago, he spoke somewhat scathingly about why the last Government had not implemented the Report on Juries from the Committee of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, was the chairman. As a Government I do not think that we have a bad record on the implementing of Reports, but I agree that we did not get round to that one. The noble Lord complained then that it was four years old and should be considered at once. As it is now six years old, perhaps I may make the same inquiry. The noble Lord wanted to know why the Littlewood Report on Cruelty to Animals had not been implemented. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, can tell us something about that.
May I now come to one matter about which I am much more concerned than the two I have mentioned; that is, the Bill first drafted in 1931, and then approved, to enable this country, if it thinks fit, to make reciprocal agreements for the enforcement of maintenance and affiliation orders. We have, of course, an Act which enables us to make agreements about maintenance orders, though not affiliation orders, with Commonwealth countries. But for about forty years now everybody has known that it is very unsatisfactory that we should be quite unable to make reciprocal agreements with other countries. The reason why I say that I feel more strongly about this than the others is that a great many women for a great many years have been deprived of any support at all from husbands who have gone to foreign countries. When I say "foreign countries", I must make plain that, in terms of human misery, I of course include Eire. We cannot make an agreement with them.
154 I know, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, knows, that we have been strongly pressed for some years by the Government of Eire to make a reciprocal agreement with them. At the moment, if Irish husbands desert their wives and go back to Ireland, we can do nothing because there is no such agreement. Every year we tend to be told that we are going to have a Bill. I know that no Government ever pledge themselves to introduce a Bill in a particular Session, but we judge by the form of words and I certainly understood, by what was said in the House in the last Session, that we should get a Bill this Session. I hope very much that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who, I think, then intimated that it was pretty well ready, will be able to give us some good news about that.
Finally, my Lords, may I come to those matters for which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is responsible. Although the noble and learned Lord is fulfilling other public duties elsewhere, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, may be able, when he replies to the debate, to tell me what is the position about these matters. The first is blood tests. In October, 1968, I received a report from the Law Commission saying, "Injustice is being done. Judges are having to find that the husband or the co-respondent is the father of a child, but they think that the probability is that it is really the other way round, and if a blood test could be ordered, with the advance of technology in this field, it would be of the greatest assistance." Thinking that this was a matter of urgency, I took the unusual course of introducing the Bill a week before the Law Commission's Paper was published. It of course takes a little time to get the Report printed and published, but it was published before we came to Second Reading. The Bill was widely acceptable to both Houses, but it always takes a little time to get the Royal Assent. It received the Royal Assent, however, before the end of the summer; namely, on July 25, 1969, but it does not work yet, and the reason why it does not work is that the Act provides that rules of court as to who are to take the tests, analyse them and so forth should be made by the Home Office. As I understand it, we have never been able to get the 155 rules from the Home Office. I can well understand that medical bodies have to be consulted, fees have to be arranged and so on, but after 24 years nothing is happening. I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us that something is being done about that.
Then, to run through the rest quickly, over a year ago there was a Report of the Lord Chancellor's Law Reform Committee on opinion evidence and expert evidence. We have not yet even heard whether the Government have accepted those recommendations. There has been a Report of importance to those buying or renting houses; namely, the Report of the Law Commission on the civil liability of vendors and lessors for defective premises. We have not yet been told whether the Government have accepted those recommendations. The year before last the Law Commission produced a Report on administrative law; and they have recently followed it up with a second one as to procedure in certain cases of administrative law. May 1 ask what the Government are proposing to do about that?
Then there was a Law Commission Report on polygamous marriages. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was, I think, fighting a little shy of that, because I understood from him that he expected a good deal of opposition from the women's organisations. Others perhaps more in contact with the women's organisations than the noble and learned Lord, thought otherwise, and my noble friend Lady Summerskill introduced the Bill. It received a Second Reading without any really substantial objections being taken to it. One knows the difficulties of Private Members' Bills starting in this House when they reach the other place. I should like to ask whether, in those circumstances, and having regard to the very little time it will take up, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will not introduce the Bill himself in this Session. I observe that in the gracious Speech there is no reference to family courts, though the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has indicated in broad terms that he personally would be in favour of a system of family courts. This, I suppose, cannot happen until the Government have made up their mind what the future of 156 the magistrates' courts is to be; but if the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, could tell us anything about that, I should be grateful.
Lastly, I should like to mention a more cheerful matter. As your Lordships know, Parliament usually passes every year about 75 new Acts; that is the average number which they have passed in the last seven years. Therefore in seven years we should expect to see the number of Acts on the Statute Book increased by 500. When I took office I think the number was 3,600—I am referring to Public General Acts—so one might expect that there would now be 4,100. The Law Commission got round to the Statute Book rather late, as I know, simply because they could not get people who were qualified to do this kind of work. It is a measure of the progress that they have made—as some of your Lordships may have seen from an Answer to a Question I put down the other day—that, so far from there being 500 more Acts on the Statute Book than there were in 1964, there are more than 150 fewer. So we are not only not losing ground, but are actually making ground. I express the hope—and I have no reason to doubt that it will be so—that this Government will do what they can to speed that task.
My Lords, I am sorry that the list of things of which we approve is rather short, and that to which we take exception is rather long. I can only say that of the matters that we think are wrong your Lordships will be relieved to hear that I have mentioned very few, and I am sure there will be many behind me who have a great deal to add.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ LORD FOOT
My Lords, this debate is taking a rather curious course, because the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in opening, began by saying that he did not intend to cover the whole field and would be selective. But when I come to look down the list of things which might be described in the gracious Speech as being matters of home affairs, it is difficult to find any item to which the noble Earl did not refer. Possibly what he meant when he said he was going to be selective was that he was not going to give us any useful information on any of them. But that was improved upon by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, be- 157 cause not only did he start off by saying that he did not intend to cover all the ground but, having covered most of it, he then went on to deal with a great many matters that are not on the agenda at all. I can give the House a firm assurance that I am indeed going to be selective, because I intend to speak only on matters that I know something about, which limits the field—or possibly I should qualify that by saying that I am going to talk about things that I think I know something about.
One matter which I think the noble Earl omitted from his list is the last point that appears in the gracious Speech; namely, the reference to what the Government propose to do to provide legal advice and assistance for persons with moderate incomes. I should like to say first that I entirely support what has been said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, about that. If it is the Government's intention to implement the £25 legal advice scheme, then that is something which will be welcomed not only by lawyers but by the public generally, and by all those who are interested in the good administration of justice in this country. It is a long overdue reform, and the fact that it will he a good thing for lawyers does not make it any less a good thing for the public.
There is one aspect of legal aid on which I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, a question. I refer not to legal aid in civil actions, to which this passage in the gracious Speech obviously refers, but to the administration of legal aid in criminal cases in magistrates' courts. The present situation, which may not be known to all your Lordships, is that if anybody seeks to get legal aid to be defended or to be represented in a criminal matter in the magistrates' courts he makes his application to the magistrates. The magistrates then have an absolute discretion as to whether or not they grant legal aid. If they refuse, there is no appeal against their decision; and, further, they are under no obligation—indeed, they are under an obligation to the contrary—to disclose the reason why legal aid has been refused. I should perhaps qualify that by saying that in the Criminal Justice Act 1967 there are two statutory indications of how the magistrates should exercise their discretion.
158 The first question they have to ask themselves is whether they are satisfied that the particular applicant has not the means with which to pay for his legal representation. The second test is in these wide words: they have to consider whether to grant legal aid would be in the interests of justice. Because those words are so vague and uncertain, there has been a wide variation of practice in the grant of legal aid in magistrates' courts throughout the country: and not only throughout the country in different areas of the country, but sometimes between one division and an adjoining division. In my own part of the world it is notorious that in one magistrates' court it is very difficult to get legal aid yet in others it is almost always automatic. This results in two serious blemishes, as I believe them to be, in the administration of justice in magistrates' courts. First, it leads to these wide variations between one court and another. It used to be said of one judge who sat somewhere in the Midlands that he was so severe in his sentencing that burglars operating in that particular city were careful to commit their burglaries in an area outside his jurisdiction. In the matter of granting legal aid in magistrates' courts to-day, it makes a very great deal of difference whether a man happens to have been born on one side of the boundary or the other.
The second blemish of the system is that, as various recent investigations have shown, there are still a significant number of people who are appearing before the courts unrepresented and denied legal aid, and who are as a result going to prison—some of them for the first time. I should have thought that in this year of 1971, where any person stands at risk of going to prison, and particularly of going to prison for the first time, it should be an absolute rule that he or she should have the advantage of legal aid and legal representation. I would therefore ask the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, if he will tell us later whether the Government have this problem under review and intend to introduce any legislation to ameliorate the situation.
My Lords, may I now turn briefly to my second subject, which is violent crime? I suppose that nobody would quarrel with the fact which is mentioned in the gracious Speech, that there has 159 been this steady growth of violent crime. I do not suppose that anybody would fail to share the grave concern of the Government and the public over these developments. The type of violent crime over which I am particularly concerned as being possibly the most savage illustration of the problem is, first of all, the armed robber gangs which move through our streets and commit their crimes almost daily, especially in this great capital city. These people are enemies of society: they are at war with society, and more often than not the victims of their savagery are innocent and helpless people. The other type of violent crime, or of threatened violence, which I find almost more detestable, is the operation of the protection racketeers, because their victims are very often unidentified and unknown—they are people who are living their lives and going about their avocations under the perpetual shadow of fear and violence from thugs of this kind.
I agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said: that one of the criteria of a healthy and decent society is whether it is possible for ordinary people to walk in the streets and pursue their occupations in security and confidence. Therefore, my Lords, nothing that I say is in any way intended to diminish the size and gravity of this problem with which we are confronted. Everybody will agree that we have to find the means of building up our defences against these people who threaten the whole structure of society. But, when that has been said, the controversy begins. When you begin to ask what are the measures that will be effective in order to deal with the size and gravity of this problem, you come to the parting of the ways.
Everybody knows that during this next Session the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and his right honourable friend in the other place are going to be under great pressure on this issue of law and order. The pressure will come not from this side of the House but from the other side of the House, and it will come particularly from the Tory grass root Members in the country. We saw the other day at the Tory Conference something of the kinds of pressure that will be brought to bear and of the reaction of the ordinary Tory, when confronted with a problem of 160 this kind. What is so dismal and depressing, to my mind, is that there is this loud clamour for some kind of action but that the loudness of the clamour is matched only by the paucity of constructive proposals.
What are we told? We have not yet been told by the noble Earl exactly what measures the Government have in mind for dealing with violent crime; but we know what demands arc coming from the Tory Party. The first reaction, inevitably, is to stiffen the penalties. But when one talks about stiffening the penalties, surely the first question that has to be asked is: in what way are the present penalties inadequate, and in what way are the courts not armed with sufficient power to deal with crime of this kind?—especially in view of the fact that in almost every case of robbery by armed gangs or racketeers the prosecution can always, if it wishes, bring a charge of conspiracy, and then under Common Law the limits upon sentencing are non-existent.
The second cry we always hear, and which we have been hearing at the Tory Conference, is that we should seek to make the conditions of people in prison even more intolerable than they are now. Yet when we come to talk about prisons in the debates which we have annually in this House everybody is agreed that if you confine under conditions of strict security some of the most dangerous men in the country you create a private hell, not only for them but for the poor people who have the misfortune of having to look after them. And these people, the prison officers and so on, are at constant risk because of the conditions which we ourselves have created. Yet we do all that, knowing that degrading these people in that way has no effect in deterring those who are still abroad in the streets.
May I conclude, my Lords, by saying that I think this is one of the subjects on which, above all things, it is important to keep our balance and our "coolth". What is needed, if we are to fight violent crime successfully, is not toughness but intelligence; it is not inhumanity but ingenuity. As I said just now, I do not believe that you are going to deter those people who are still abroad in the land, people of this intention and of this kind, by degrading those people upon whom you have already put your hands. Therefore I shall wait with some anxiety to 161 hear—and possibly the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, will be able to tell us later —in what way the Government propose to amend the criminal law of this country in order to try to cope with this problem.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Foot, will forgive me if I do not follow him in his arguments, much though I disagreed with many of them. I should like to turn to some remarks made by my noble Leader, Lord Jellicoe, in his interesting speech. I, too, commend the statement in the gracious Speech that:… the Government will pursue with vigour their policies for improving the environment.This is no mere form of words. I wish to congratulate the Government on the courageous and firm action they have just taken in respect of disasters like the "Torrey Canyon". They have promulgated an Order in Council which will enable them to take immediate and firm action if such a disaster should occur again; and there can be no more serious threat to the environment than one like the "Torrey Canyon". I only ask the Government to assure themselves that they have discussed the matter with the insurance world, Lloyd's and other bodies, because if they do not do it before such a disaster occurs there will be a monumental argument afterwards.
This is a very interesting item to find in the Queen's Speech, because I cannot imagine such a statement concerning the environment ever occurring in a gracious Speech of 25 years ago. It is a change in the whole of our approach to vandalism, the loss of our amenities and the general concept of the environment affecting all aspects of our lives. This has come gradually upon us. This awakening of conscience is something which is quite new. It is a new approach for Governments, for local authority departments and for commercial enterprises. It is not quite so new for individuals because it is from the individual that this demand for a greater protection of our environment has come during the past 25 years. It has been the man below who has always been prodding. Nearly every great reform was once some man's private opinion. It is not the man on top who asks for reform; the man who has four aces never asks for a re-deal. It is illustrative of what has happened that the amenities societies, the 162 local groups, the people who have been caretakers and watchdogs of our society, have had their views maintained and encouraged in the gracious Speech.
May I give your Lordships one small example? You will see at the corner of the North-East end of Bryanston Square the new Swiss Embassy which is nearly completed. This is an elegant building. Many years ago the Swiss decided to pull down their Embassy and re-build it. They put forward a building which was decent enough, but it was a complete clash with the other three pavilion buildings at the corners of Bryanston Square. Appeals were made to the local authority, the G.L.C., and to the Government, but no action was thought possible. Then the local people started to nag and grumble. Successive Swiss Ambassadors were sympathetic, and finally the Swiss Government reversed its opinion, tore up the original plans and built a new Embassy which matches the other three houses at the corners of the Square. That was done as the result of local people nagging. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Swiss Government for their humane and decent behaviour in this matter.
When the Government are looking at the question of the environment and the way in which we can protect it, I wonder if they would stand back a little and view the matter in the round. We have made great improvements in our planning, but there is still a risk of plans going too far before anybody is aware of what is happening. Then it is too late to do anything about it. Piccadilly Circus is the classic example: if it had not been for the late Jack Cotton's magnanimity in publishing his plans out of the goodness of his heart—he had no reason to do it y law2he development would have one through. It was only after he published the plans that people became aware of what was happening, and so. fortuitously, we shall not see Piccadilly Circus redesigned in our lifetime.
There is something wrong with the whole planning system. There are bits and pieces which are good, but it does not add up to a satisfactory whole. I look back myself with quiet satisfaction on a plan to put up a grotesquely disproportionate hotel in the western area of London. Some friends and I decided that we would do our best to stop the hotel being built. We could not find who was 163 actually responsible, and we could not get our hands on the plans. Finally, I ran the man responsible to earth and I decided to go down and take him to task. I made an appointment to see him, but I arrived a little before my time. I was shown into his room and on his table were the plans. Attached to them was a small note, "On no account are these plans to be shown to Lord Mancroft". The hotel was not erected.
On the other hand, and slightly against my own argument, I do not think we should allow the "amenity boys" to get away with absurdities. You can make too much unnecessary fuss. If somebody ants to move a tree, or shift a bench in the park, you do not want an Act of Parliament to approve it. There must be a certain amount of give and take; but we have seen a little absurdity recently in protests about possible damage to the environment which have gone too far the other way and detract from what we are all trying to do, and what the noble Lord was outlining to us in his speech. I do not want an answer to-day, but I should be grateful if my noble friend who is to reply for the Government could give me an assurance that the system will be looked at to see whether there are loopholes where action can he taken without people being given the proper chance to study what is afoot.
We all have our hobby horses on matters of environment—I have a whole stable full of them. I do not intend to ride them all round your Lordships' House in what would be an increasingly hostile environment. But may I take out one and give it a few minutes' airing? My noble landlord the Duke of Westminster has recently published an extremely interesting document entitled Strategy for Mayfair and Belgravia. It weighs about two tons, costs £7 and is full of interesting information. Fortunately we, the tenantry, have been given a popular edition to study. You could not possibly call it a niggling or half-hearted document in view of the fact that it discusses, among other things, the possibility of pulling down St. George's Hospital and opening Buckingham Palace to the public. There is also an interesting picture in it entitled:Traffic should be discouraged from penetrating streets where it disrupts the character and environment.164 Well and good. Walking through Belgrave Square this morning, I noticed two container lorries from Holland, both about the size of your Lordships' Chamber, and there were two more from Belgium equally vast. And that in Belgrave Square, probably the most distinguished piece of town and country planning in London, if not in Europe—old Cubitt would have turned in his grave! The police also tell me that three days ago they found an American lorry with this notice written on the back:This lorry stops for cross roads, level crossings, blondes and brunettes. For redheads it will reverse 100 yards.The situation is already bad enough in this country—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, also touched on this —with our own domestic lorries. Many of our small country towns are being shaken to pieces. My own little market town, Malmesbury—one of the prettiest towns in England—is in dire peril. The amount and weight of lorries that goes through that town is intolerable. The situation may be better when the M.4 is opened up; but many other towns are not by-passed at all. Although the M.4 was due to be finished in about three weeks' time, I think it will be finished at about the same time as the Piccadilly Circus development.
About 400 years ago a very high wind brought down the spire of Malmesbury Abbey, and as that was a taller spire than Salisbury Cathedral it must have caused quite a mess in Malmesbury High Street. But now lorries are trying to bring down the rest of the Abbey. This is happening in towns all over the country; lorries are getting bigger and bigger. Trade must move; transport must carry the goods. But, going back to Belgrave Square, although I am a strong supporter of our entry into the Common Market—I was delighted with the result of the vote the other evening—what worries me is that we are going to have more and more of these foreign lorries of enormous size coming in which are difficult to control because they are not subject to our rules and regulations. They are subject of course to the rules of the road, and I am not criticising the standard of driving because, as we know, long distance lorry drivers are among the most courteous and skilful drivers on the roads. But these lorries, so far as I can find 165 out, are not subject to many of the normal rules and regulations of British lorries. Again I do not press the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to give me an answer today, but I should like him, if he would be kind enough, to assure me that he will look at this matter to see whether, in the welter of legislation we have to face on the entry into the Common Market, down at the bottom of about page 721, something could be put in to assure us that lorries are subject to the same control in coming into this country as are our own domestic lorries. If we do not do this, my Lords, if we do not have control of some kind, there will in point of fact be no ancient buildings left for us to protect.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I turn to an entirely different subject. I wish to draw the attention of the House to a law reform which has not been touched upon by the noble and learned Lords who have already spoken. It is concerned with the Working Paper which was published last week by the Law Commission. I am sorry that my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner did not mention the Law Commission because it is his "baby" and he should be very proud of it, although at times it does not, in my opinion, cry loud enough. However, the Commission last week published this Paper which in my opinion is of tremendous importance, and I hope I may persuade the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who quite understandably probably knows a little about family law, to take a personal interest in this matter.
It will be recalled that it was in 1970 that the divorce reform Act reached the Statute Book, and it came into operation this year. All of your Lordships have no doubt been reading your newspapers and you will have noticed that, quite understandably, the divorce rate has increased. As was to be expected, the greatest sufferers are to be found among the older women who have been divorced against their will although innocent of any matrimonial offence. By a curious coincidence, the last letter I have received, which has just been handed to me, came from a woman who told me about her life. I have just read it through, and undoubtedly all of us have the great- 166 est sympathy with such a woman, who has toiled for her family for many years, who cannot possibly take up any kind of job because she has no qualifications and is too old, but who has suddenly received a letter saying she is going to be totally discarded.
I must apologise to the House if I seem guilty of tedious repetition, but your Lordships may remember that throughout the debate to which I have referred, which seemed to cover two or three years, I emphasised that, while I do not object in principle to divorce, nevertheless I believe it is grossly unjust for the woman who has cooked, cleaned and cared for her family for many years to be discarded, without specific provisions being incorporated in the Act regarding her rights to the family assets. During that period my noble friend informed me (and I was pleased to hear it) that the Law Commission were engaged on a Paper concerned with family property which would meet most of my objections. At long last, the Law Commission have published a Working Paper, No. 42, on Family Law and Family Property. It was published last week. I ask the Government to regard this Paper as a document of supreme social importance. Obviously, the Law Commission would like the comments not only of the Government but of the Opposition and women's organisations, and even of individuals who care to suggest amendments. When that has been dealt with during the next few months, I ask the Government to introduce the appropriate legislation.
Of course, in this context it must be realised that the word "property" should be interpreted as meaning land, goods, money and insurance, and in the home as meaning furniture, the car, savings and pensions, because all these items are typical family assets. In addressing himself to this Paper last week Mr. Justice Scarman, Chairman of the Law Commission, said:Women—good women—often have no opportunity to acquire property during their married lives. If a woman is deserted she has a difficult and often unpleasant fight to secure any property at all. Inequality could be changed in two ways: altering social habits so that married women in fact have the same opportunity to acquire property "—he might have used the word "assets"—as their husbands; or the law could be redesigned.167 He went on to say that these are not true alternatives; a little of each would do us good. But he then added:I think that we will respond in our usual madly irritating piecemeal way.My Lords, I cannot help but concur with everything the chairman said.
It was in 1953 that I introduced the Married Women's Legal Disabilities Bill in another place, but, despite the magnificent support of Sir Jocelyn Simon (as he was in those days; now I am pleased to say he is with us here), we failed to pierce the armour of prejudice which confronts those who seek to remove discrimination in any form. I believe it is harder to remove sex discrimination than it is to remove race discrimination. Nevertheless, by a piecemeal approach, I managed, with the help of this House, to pilot Bills such as the Married Women's Property Bill and the Matrimonial Homes Bill to the Statute Book. I would say to noble Lords who are sitting here, many of whom sat and helped with those Bills (if not by speaking, then at least by their support in the Division Lobbies) that although those Bills reached the Statute Book it was piecemeal work.
Although the Married Women's Property Act 1964 established the principle that a wife has a legal right to half the savings from the housekeeping money, this of course is of little value if a woman is married to a mean husband. It means little, but that was all I could get Parliament to accept at that time because that was all that was recommended by the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce which sat to discuss these matters. Again, the Matrimonial Homes Act guarantees the wife and her children a roof on the desertion of the husband. Before that Act the husband could say, "Get out" and could make life so unpleasant that the wife had to get out; and he would leave the next morning and bring his mistress in later that day. That was the law of the land until two or three years ago. That Act of course can prove only a temporary shelter, for she has no legal right to the ownership of the house. Some of the changes considered in the Law Commission's Paper would provide permanent protection for her by giving her co-ownership of the matrimonial home, the right on the husband's death to inherit a share of his 168 estate, even though he makes a will disinheriting his wife, and equal sharing of the assets acquired during the marriage when it ends.
It may be thought that the provisions in the 1970 Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act are a wise and adequate protection. But this is far from the case. It applies only to situations of marriage breakdown and, furthermore, it is not a property Statute. It does not alter the legal rules which determine the ownership of property; it does not declare that a wife's contribution of looking after the home confers upon her a right to a share in the assets of the family. In a small home the assets of the family mean the washing machine that the wife has helped to buy: the new furniture in the kitchen—all these little things which she went without for weeks and months, and which she finally managed to buy, perhaps on hire-purchase, and bring into the home. I am not talking about large houses—stately homes with many acres of land; I am talking about the assets which the lawyers call "property", a term which is a little deceptive because most of us, when we think of property, certainly do not think in terms of washing machines.
The Working Paper which was published last week says:What women are saying, and saying with considerable male support, is that they are no longer content with a system whereby their rights in family assets depend on the whim of their husbands or on the discretion of the judge. They demand definite property rights, not possible discretionary benefits".My Lords, any protestations of affection in marriage become meaningless if there is gross unfairness in the sharing of the material assets of marriage. For generations the bride has been "conned" (if I may use the term used by the youth of our country to-day), at the altar into believing that the vicar's words concerning the endowing or sharing of worldly goods have some sacred significance. Some women learn differently, sometimes only a month or two after marriage. Of course these are empty words with no legal validity whatsoever, and I am sorry that the Bishops' Bench is empty for, having regard to the support which the Church gave to the Divorce Reform Act —particularly the hierarchy of the Church —it is disappointing that it has not thought fit to undertake the revision of 169 that part of the marriage service concerned with the disposal of the worldly goods of the bridegroom so that it might be given some legal validity.
While the financial position of the wife and mother should be safeguarded on divorce or death, nevertheless most of her married life will be concerned with the day-to-day chores, which frees her husband to pursue his work outside the home and to improve his skills. This is really the crux of the situation. A highly intelligent woman who has already had a good education nevertheless has maternal instincts which, quite understandably, urge her to marry the man who asks her and to have children. But there is her brain, which should be allowed to remain active, and if she is wise she cultivates various interests. Her brain is very much alive to the situation. The Law Commission summed up the whole matter in this way. They said:Marriage is a form of partnership to which both spouses contribute, each in a different way, and the contribution of each is equally important to the family welfare and to society".I believe that it is neither just nor conducive to marital harmony for a woman to be compelled to devote herself to the chores in a house all day, for very long hours, while she alone is deprived of a legal right to a share of the family income. Men say that women are difficult to understand. Of course all women understand each other; all women know perfectly well why, after a time, the intelligent woman who is confined to the chores of the housework becomes a little mute when pressed by her husband to tell him what is the matter. She feels that he should understand; she feels as she stands over the sink, hour after hour —and in these days, when domestic help is difficult to get, the kitchen sink is a familiar object to every wife, and to many husbands—he should realise that she alone in the house is deprived of a legal right to any share of the family income. That this woman is deprived in this way, and that society is ignoring the situation, is short-sighted on the part of society.
Any measure which seeks to deal equitably with the family assets must contain a provision (I say this particularly to the Law Commission, and I am sure the members of the Law Commission will agree with me, because I think this 170 is the first speech that has been made on this very important Paper) to ensure not only that the woman is safeguarded on death or divorce but also that she is safeguarded in her home while she is doing these jobs—jobs which must be done but which nevertheless, for some reason or other, have not attracted the attention of her husband or of the lawyers. Most lawyers are men; Parliament is made up of men—these institutions are male and, quite understandably, these matters have escaped their notice for very many years. I would say to the Law Commission that any measure which seeks to deal equitably with the family assets must contain a provision which establishes marriage as an equal partnership in which financial recognition should not depend on whether the service Ito the family is rendered in the home or outside. My Lords, I ask you to-day—about ten days after this Paper was published—not only to read it yourselves, not only to recognise the justice of the case, but also, as the months go by, to see to it that you do your best to identify yourselves with the emancipation of the housewife.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I have listened with great interest and considerable sympathy to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, but I wish to turn to an entirely different subject. I wish to discuss the situation to-day of certain old age pensioners. Having listened to the debate so far, I am not altogether sure that I should be bringing up this matter to-day—perhaps it should be brought up in the debate next Tuesday under the heading of economics—but, having heard the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, about the speeches of the noble Earl the Leader of the House and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, I feel encouraged perhaps to deviate somewhat from the line of country which has hitherto been pursued. To tell the truth, it never occurred to me that the subject of old age pensioners was not suitable for discussion in a debate on home affairs, because it seems to me that it relates so very much to our affairs at home, and in particular to the home of the old age pensioner himself. Therefore I hope I shall have the indulgence of your Lordships if I bring up the matter this after- 171 noon, quite apart from the fact that I shall not be able to attend your Lordships' House next Tuesday.
In the Queen's Speech it says that Her Majesty's Ministerswill pursue their proposals for reforming the tax system.That, of course, is a policy with which I am in wholehearted agreement. I have in my hand a little pamphlet, put out by the Board of Inland Revenue, entitled Income Tax and the Elderly, and published in 1970, so it is just a year out-of-date, but it does very well for the purposes of my argument. In this little pamphlet, which I rather doubt whether many old age pensioners have ever seen, Question No. 2 on the first page is as follows:Is the National Insurance retirement pension taxable?The answer is:Yes, it counts as earned income.This, of course, is the first point of disagreement from the point of view of the old age pensioner. He simply does not see why, when he has paid his taxes regularly throughout his working life according to the law and has had substantial sums deducted from his income over a period of perhaps fifty years—or not so long as that, because there was not any scheme of this nature fifty years ago, but at least over a very long time, and those sums have been put aside to contribute towards his old age pension—that pension should be assessed in his gross income if he should wish to continue working after his retirement. This is in fact what happens, and it is the first point with which the old age pensioner does not agree. It is linked very closely with a question later in this pamphlet which is put like this:I am married with an income of just above £740 a year …That brings in the marginal relief allowance, and the figure is now in fact £786 a year. The question goes on:Why should I pay such a heavy rate of tax as 50 per cent. on my income above £786?Because that is the effect; the earnings above that rate are taxed at 50 per cent., and the old age pensioner simply cannot understand why he should pay this seemingly higher rate, although of course over the aggregate the rate does not work out at that figure.
172 These are matters which are extremely difficult to explain to somebody in this situation, and the explanation which the Board of Inland Revenue has seen fit to start off with here is:This is not the right way to look at it. The test must be whether it pays you to claim the marginal relief or not.The old age pensioner simply does not know what you are talking about, and he does not know how this marginal relief is worked out or why they choose that figure of £786. All he knows is that he is paying a considerable slice of tax when he continues to work after getting his old age pension, and he thought he was not going to pay any. When he is told that this is not the right way to look at it, it produces an explosion of wrath. I know, because I have tried it, and this is the reaction; and if your Lordships found yourselves in the same situation I think that that would very likely be your own point of view.
I think it is only fair to elucidate this point and give a case which I have come across very recently. It is the case of an old age pensioner who was among the lower paid workers in some rural employment all his life, and he was earning only £15 a week on his retirement. Now, because the old age pension for a married couple is £9.50 and the limitation of earnings without deduction of pension is also, from October 1, £9.50, that man can, by doing part-time work, achieve a gross income of £19, whereas before he was earning only £15. This has led to some anomalies; but the anomaly is not that he is earning more than he was but that he was getting paid so little during his working life. This is rather a reflection upon our society and standard of living, which we all hope will improve.
I can see nothing morally wrong about a man, because of our present legislation, earning more in his retirement, or any reason why he should not have more in his pocket after retirement than before. Good luck to him! I think that after fifty years of work a man is entitled to a comfortable life in his retirement and some pleasures hitherto denied to him. But the effect on his tax is quite extraordinary. He was paying 90p. or 95p. per week on his previous earnings. Many old age pensioners wish to go on working; they wish to continue an interest in 173 the life they have been working in before; they wish to maintain themselves mentally alert and physically fit; they wish to have some occupation and maintain the self respect which comes from some form of employment. That is very natural.
He is allowed to earn £9.50 a week without deduction of pension; but whereas he was paying just 90p. or 95p. before, suddenly he finds himself paying nearly 2½ times as much in tax—£2.10 or £2.20. He simply cannot understand it, and he will not pay it, or makes a very good attempt not to pay it. He says, "Why should I pay this? If I am going to work and I am taxed more than before, I will not work. I will sit on my backside, draw a pension and apply for Supplementary Benefit. This will cost the State much more and they will not get the benefit of my output." It is a logical argument and one which must be taken account of. If I refer back to this £9.50 again, it is for the purpose of making a suggestion. I have discovered that one thing the old age pensioner cannot understand is why he should pay tax on any of it, and he does not believe he will have to until it happens. He knows that if he earns more he will lose some pension, but he really believes that this will be free of tax, and it is not. Then he takes up this attitude, and I think it is understandable. He has had a long working life, wants a part-time occupation and does not see why he should pay tax. He Chas made his contribution and earned what he thinks are his rights, and he wants his comfort in his retirement.
I feel that it would simplify matters enormously if the limit for non-deduction of pension could also be the limit for non-deduction of tax. What that would mean is that instead of paying, as it turns out, about £100 a year under the present system, he would not pay that. It would result in an enormous simplification of administration. It would also, in my view, be eminently fair and just. The Treasury can easily make the calculation, and I hope the Government will make the calculation, of how much money they would lose if this figure were the tax exemption figure as well as the figure for exemption from deduction of pension. And they can put against that what they will save by not having to pay the Sup- 174 plementary Benefit which would otherwise be applied for. I believe the sum is not so large that this country could not easily afford it. I commend this point to the Government, because I really believe that OUT attitude towards the old age pensioner must change if they are to enjoy that very quality of life to which my noble friend the Leader of the House referred with such emphasis in his opening remarks today. If the Government are going to reform taxation they must start at the bottom and make the old age pensioner a special case, simplifying the whole procedure so that he can understand it and agree with it. I think we shall all be the gainers from that.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, this is a very wide-ranging debate in which almost every subject seems in order, but I propose to confine my few remarks to the Government s concern at the growth of violent crime. I am aware that in so doing I shall probably cover at least some of the ground covered by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, but since I agree with most of what he said it will probably curtail what I have to say. The Government are quite right to be concerned about this subject, because violence is of great concern to an overwhelming majority of the public and, understandably, they expect something to be done about it. To my mind, however, the important thing is that we should keep a sense of proportion and not allow ourselves to be stampeded into actions which will make matters worse than they are now; because, having a sense of proportion, we are not a violent people; we are not a violent nation.
Our police forces are the best in the world. It was heartening to hear from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that the Government stand solidly behind the Police Service. I can only hope that they do not stand too far behind, because there has not been much public evidence of support for the police in their pay or in other matters. I should very much like to see the Government take action to strengthen our police forces in every way possible. They are the best in the world, they are in control, and they discharge their duties in a manner which gains for them the respect and support of the people.
175 The gracious Speech speaks ofprovisions to strengthen the administration of criminal justice.That is good, but I hope that it does not necessarily mean more savage sentences. I am afraid that many people do not want the trouble of trying the more difficult solutions, and they cry out for more severe and more savage sentences. When they get their way they are temporarily satisfied. They can go home to tea, and feel that they have done a good job. But they have not; they have made it worse. All the evidence shows that the increase in sentences, or the imposition of what I might call "legal violence". serves only to increase illegal violence because it raises the level of public tolerance, of what the public are willing to accept, and there is an increase all round.
When you think of other countries compare, for example, New York with London. I mention New York because they have stepped up "legal violence" there. The police arc armed, and their method is to shoot first and get the evidence afterwards. What is the result? In the words of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoc, this afternoon, "the heart of the average American city is all too often brutal and violent." Of course it is, because they have taken the one step to ensure increased brutality and violence. To-day in New York there are many parts of that great city where honest, respectable citizens dare not walk abroad at night. Murder, rape, and robbery with violence are momentary occurrences. There are six times the number of murders in New York than there are in the whole of the United Kingdom, crowded as we are with our 55 million people. These are the facts; they cannot be overlooked. We dare not allow such a situation to arise here.
The other week I watched on television the report of the Conservative Party Conference at Brighton, and the debates on crime. From different speakers there were insistent and much cheered demands for such things as the return of the death penalty, for flogging, and the birch. This is all old ground. So far as corporal punishment is concerned, it has been considered by top level impartial Committees, and it has been utterly rejected. We do 176 not want these old controversies again. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, when he replies this evening, will underline the Government's rejection of these methods and reaffirm that such measures have no place in the Government's policies.
Of course the demand of these good people is understandable. The kind, gentle woman is affronted and horrified by the details of a horrible, brutal murder, or of cruelty inflicted on a child. Understandably, she cries out for the man to be hanged or flogged, as the case may be. The thing is that they want a short cut; they want to be able to wipe out at a stroke these frightful things which horrify everyone. But there is no short cut, my Lords. We should all want it if one were available; but there is not. We have not one here, or in Northern Ireland. That is why I am sure the Government are disastrously wrong with their policy of internment without trial in Northern Ireland. It is another extension of "legal violence", and it has led to an awful escalation of conscienceless illegal violence, of which the principal victims are our 14,000 brave British boys who find themselves stuck in the middle. It is no good, and we should realise and acknowledge these things, and be big enough to adjust our policies accordingly.
Like all other noble Lords, I feel nothing but loathing and horror at the daily actions of the I.R.A. I feel exactly the same about the sickening cruelties of our own violent criminals. They must be caught and punished according to the law, and that is why we want a stronger police force. If the sentences are inadequate, by all means let us adjust them, but in many cases now the courts do not impose the maximum sentences available to them. So the problem is not inadequate maximum sentences. I remember that when we considered the Criminal Justice Act 1967 there were some who objected to the stiffer sentences in that Act for crimes committed when carrying a firearm. We enacted that if a man goes out with intent to commit a crime carrying a gun he should be liable to a total sentence of 14 years' imprisonment. I thought that was right in 1967, and I still think that it is right to-day.
Fourteen years is a very stiff sentence; it is virtually the equivalent of a life 177 sentence. I do not think that the adding of three, four or five years to it is going to make any practical difference to a criminal, but it means an added burden to those who have to keep him inside. In fact, I feel—and I say this seriously —that we have to keep on doing what we are doing, but do it more energetically. Give the police whatever additional help they need to catch them, and then punish these men. Meanwhile, let us press on with our policy of prison reform which is undoubtedly producing results. I do not think that we can reform these hardened criminals, especially the gunmen, but the gunmen are only a minute fraction of our prison population. With all the rest we have a chance, especially when the new prisons are built to relieve the disgusting and dangerous overcrowding which afflicts us now.
Last evening on B.B.C. Television there was a 20-minute film which showed the work being done to make the River Avon navigable from Birmingham to Stratford. It is a very big scheme. The work, under a young architect, is being done almost entirely by volunteers and prisoners. The prisoners, from Gloucester Prison, are also volunteers and they work for nothing. They come out each day, under a prison officer, and do very hard, very dirty and sometimes what is clearly quite dangerous work, as well as wet work, fitting up locks and weirs. They built a weir in a quarter of the time that it would take a contractor. It is only by employing such labour that this very worthwhile job can be done at all, and hundreds of thousands of people will enjoy their work. This is the way to treat prisoners. Bring them out and give them a job to do that is satisfying in the sense that they are taking part of their own free will, and really getting on with it. That film showed it being done before your eyes. This is not a fairy tale.
There are signs that the prison tide may have turned; that all the work that has been done has not been done in vain. A few months ago, the prison population was some 41,000, but the figure yesterday morning was 39,500. It is not a lot, but it is a reduction of 1,500 on 41,000. What is important is that there is a reduction, despite the enormous number of new committals to prison which the courts are making every day. 178 The tide from the courts is slowing and the numbers in prison are reducing.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, will the noble Lord excuse my interruption? I intervene only because I feel very moved by what he has been saying and I, like many other noble Lords, agree with almost every one of the points that he has made. But does the noble Lord agree that, so often, one of the difficulties about prison is the inactivity inside? If the noble Lord could devote his tremendous knowledge and experience in this field to helping to devise activities for people who have to have custodial treatment, as well as for people who have non-custodial treatment, he could not perform a greater service to the cause of which he has been speaking so movingly.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I agree with the noble Viscount and I am grateful for what he has said. Of course Gloucester Prison is an ordinary prison, and there are ordinary prisoners there. Nevertheless, in any ordinary prison there are a great many who are suitable for work outside; and there is certainly great scope for non-custodial treatment, which I hope can be an alternative to a prison sentence. The Government are aware of this and it would mean a separate organisation, which I hope the gracious Speech indicates the Government are going to provide. But I do not want to pursue that aspect now, as I have already spoken long enough.
I do not think there is any need for gloom or panic, despicable and horrible as some crimes are and arousing in us the feeling that something must be done. What we must not do is to give way and destroy all the first-class work that is being done by devoted people who are achieving results. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, a great deal will depend on whether or not the Government are really prepared to back the Probation Service. Their plans demand a substantial expansion of that Service. We are recruiting the new men but not h sufficient numbers, and we cannot do that unless we can offer them something. If only the Government will do that in a real sense, and will also back the many voluntary organisations which are doing such wonderful work, despite the lack of funds, then we may
179 reduce our prison population to a level which will not be a disgrace to a civilised society.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, though I sit on this side of the House I count myself a conservative, if the word is spelt with a small "c", my principle being to leave alone any institution or system, or lack of system, such as the British Constitution, which appears to be working well, in order to conserve energy for the reform of institutions which are not working well. And, God knows!— and I know, too—there are plenty of them. When I read the gracious Speech from the Throne I found myself comparing it with the mythical curate's egg and saying, "Parts of it arc excellent." Among the excellent parts I would put the commitment of the Government to support the direct grant schools. I think that those schools are doing good work, and they have done good work in the past. So far from being socially divisive, they offer opportunities for academic advance and cultural life to people who otherwise would not enjoy those privileges. It is one of the amenities of this House that I can make remarks like that without opening myself to the fear of being bullied, as many Members who deviate from the Party line in another place are in fact bullied. I am not in the least afraid of being bullied by my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe.
Coming to another section of the gracious Speech, I think we on this side can applaud what is proposed from the other side; that is, the intention to promote legislation… to increase protection for ancient monuments and to extend the powers of local authorities to protect buildings in conservation areas.I am very glad that the words "conservation" and "protection" are used, instead of the word "preservation". After all, one preserves dead things; one conserves live things. I shall not say any more in praise of that part of the Speech, because it has been so well dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. But it is possible that some of my noble friends on this side share my fear that certain powerful financial interests, such as hotel developers and office developers, may be 180 given undue consideration by members of the present Government. Of course, it is not only financial interests that we have to fear as regards our environment, because, after all, the worst pollution to the skyline of Hyde Park is constituted not by the Royal Lancaster or the Hilton but by the banausic excrescence which Sir Basil Spence has erected on the site of Knightsbridge Barracks—and that under the auspices, I think, of a Government Department which is not, for some reason (I do not know why not) constrained by any public planning authority.
That brings me to a part of the gracious Speech which I think is not only not excellent but thoroughly rotten. It says:Legislation will be introduced to provide for an alternative service of local radio broadcasting.My Lords, we in this country have a system of local, regional and national broadcasting in the hands of the B.B.C. The B.B.C. has its faults. It is sometimes biased to the Left, sometimes to the Right. Thank God! the biases cancel one another out. It is sometimes lacking in taste. It sometimes promotes trivial programmes, such as "Petticoat Line". One can find fault with it; but it is, I think, the best radio service in the world, and I choose to think—I hope—that it still bears traces of that integrity and devotion to a public service which was bestowed on it by its first rather over-austere Director-General, the late Lord Reith. Why interfere with it? Whence comes the demand for such interference? We all know that a certain age group has an insatiable desire for "pop" music. That desire was satisfied to some extent by the old "pirate" radio stations, financed by advertisements. Unfortunately, of course, they were not constrained, as the B.B.C. is constrained and as the new broadcasting authority will be constrained, by the limitation of needle time imposed by agreement with the Musicians Union. But, on the whole, the B.B.C. is doing its level best to produce the kind of "pop" music which so many of the young people enjoy, and which they can enjoy on Radio 1.
I have never seen any good reason why Radio 1 should not be allowed to make a little money out of advertisements. It could at any rate concentrate its advertising spots on those products which are good for us instead of those products 181 which are not good for us, as indeed is done by commercial television companies. For instance, as a medical officer recently said, as reported in The Times of October 8:It isn't much good telling parents that they ought to be giving their children more protein and fewer sweets when the T.V. commercials come on and urge them to eat more sweets and bread and cereals",which the medical profession agrees is conducive to rotting our schoolchildren's teeth. So here, my Lords, we have an unnecessary, unwanted, expensive innovation. I have scarcely had time to read the Bill in detail, but it involves a loan of public money to the tune of £2 million and the addition of 150 more officials to the bureaucracy of the Independent Television Authority. It is probably going to involve much more expense than that one way or another. Why do we have it? It is unwanted. I suppose it is the result of a commercial racket which is powerful, and I suppose that when we have local sound commercial radio, if the Government remain in power, we shall very soon have commercial national radio in competition with the B.B.C.
What have successive Conservative Governments given us? In the early 'fifties they gave us commercial television. That was the result of a very strongly organised pressure group adequately financed. It was carried through against the united opposition of the whole teaching world, teachers and universities, and certain noble Lords in this House. including Lord Halifax, Lord Waverley, Lord Brand and the noble and learned Lord who now normally sits upon the Woolsack. There was some excuse in those days, I think, for that particular innovation. Television was a relatively new medium of communication: one had scarcely had time to assess its effects or its values. Moreover the B.B.C. Televison Service was then in a state of flux, and I am afraid its reorganisation was carried out most ineptly by the then Director-General. Since then, what have we been given by successive Conservative Governments? We have been given a proliferation of casinos, we have been given betting offices and we have been given bingo clubs, and the very successful, adequately working Carlisle experiment of State management was destroyed last Session. Now we are going to be 182 given unwanted, expensive, local sound radio. A Party that does that sort of thing is in fact wasting money and wasting time. It is polluting our cultural environment. It is committing itself to a policy of squalid commercialism, and it ought to be ashamed of itself.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ LORD VIVIAN
My Lords, I do not intend to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, in the interesting themes of her speech, but first of all would ask your Lordships to bear with me if, as a Back-Bencher, I add my congratulations to those which were so rightly given yesterday to my noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve for the expertise and the statesmanlike manner in which she moved the Motion for an humble Address to Her Majesty. I offer my personal congratulations today because I intend to refer to my noble friend's speech in particular. We are fortunate indeed, my Lords, to be able to include the noble Baroness on these Benches, for she has shown so much courage and has never spared herself when faced with public service in the interests of the community. Having paid tribute to my noble friend Lady Macleod, I feel it would not be right if I did not just briefly refer to my noble friend Lord Selsdon, who seconded the Motion for an humble Address. Back-Benchers on this side of your Lordships' Chamber would like to pay tribute to him, I feel sure, for the excellent speech he made, and to congratulate him on the great sense of leadership he showed as one of the younger hereditary Peers in your Lordships' House.
My Lords, I should like to return for three or four minutes to the speech made by my noble friend Lady Macleod, and in particular to that part in which she stressed, as a magistrate of great experience, the urgent need that more could and should be done by research to prevent crime by preventing people from becoming criminals. My noble friend Lady Macleod said:We need more facilities in our hospitals for possible young criminals, for preventing young thugs from becoming old thugs, places where brain rhythms and other tests could be made. I can get a psychiatrist's report, which of course is always helpful, but when I feel that a child needs treatment then it is almost impossible to obtain".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2/11/71, col. 9]183 Noble Lords will also agree, I feel sure, with my noble friend when she went on to remark—and here I use her own words:At least some of our present difficulty with juvenile delinquents stems from the attitude of the parents. Some seem to have so little concern … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2/11/71;col. 9.]How right is my noble friend! I can recall during the Second Reading of the Children and Young Persons Bill on June 19, 1969, that I said in a speech in your Lordships' House:The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, rightly pointed out that we have a very sizeable number of children in need of care and guidance at the present time. To the noble Earl's wise words, I would add that they are in need of love, also. I have mentioned love because, as every noble Baroness and noble Lord will realise, that is the most important factor, together with family discipline. It is these two important factors, together with those which the noble Earl mentioned, which can prevent some of these unfortunate children from coming under the care of juvenile courts or probation officers, for whom I have the greatest respect. The word love' is not mentioned in the Bill, nor did I expect it to be, but I claim, like Mr. Godfrey Winn—a very human and celebrated author of our times, who is well-known to your Lordships—that there would be very little juvenile delinquency but for the fact that there is a great deal of parental delinquency at the present time. It is my firm belief that if only we could stem or control parental delinquency, there would be fewer children to be cared for in the future under this important Bill.This is a subject which is very close to the hearts of my noble friend the Leader of the House and of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who with great expertise introduced the Bill into this House. It is also dear to the heart of the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, who, while in Office, did much valuable research on this important subject; and it is of primary interest to noble Lords on all sides of the House. When my noble friend Lord Windlesham winds up to-day's debate perhaps he may be able to say what plans the Government have to stem the rising tide of juvenile delinquency which, I repeat, can in the main he attributed to parental delinquency. Can my noble friend say what plans the Government have for increasing the number of approved schools for delinquent children? This, together with bad housing conditions, is shown to be the chief cause of juvenile offences.
184 I was greatly heartened by the firm assurances of the noble Earl the Leader of the House when in his speech he told noble Lords that squalid houses are to be razed to the ground and slum hovels done away with in London, in the north of England, and in the Liverpool and Glasgow areas. I have mentioned this because from the 11th Home Office Research Study, Thirteen-year-old Approved School Boys in 1962, which is currently available in the Printed Paper Office, we learn that (and I quote from page 43):The third finding of importance is the extremely unfavourable background from which the boys came; a third of them were not brought up by both parents and about half lived in overcrowded conditions. Only 58 per cent. of the fathers were regularly employed and a quarter were out of work at the time of the boys' committal.I know that the Government will do all in their power to remedy the state of unemployment, in view of the finding thatOnly 58 per cent. of the fathers were regularly employed and a quarter were out of work at the time of the boys' committal.It is only fair to say that my Party inherited a rising debit figure of unemployment from the previous Government, and I am convinced that we on the Government side of this House, through the introduction of the Industrial Relations Act, have shown that we are going to do (and in fact are doing) all that we can to help industry and to help the industrial worker to get a grip of things where industry is concerned. I know that to a great degree the Parties are opposed in their thinking on this Act; but my personal feeling is the same as that of my Party; namely, that the great British working man has a new deal under the Act and that if he will take off his coat, roll up his sleeves and get on with the job, the resulting upward surge in industry through the Act and through our entry into the E.E.C. will quickly stem the rising unemployment figures, and the British working man, so much revered in the past for his skill and tenacity, will once again come into his own.
My Lords, I apologise for having somewhat diverged from my main reason for speaking to-day. To get back to my original subject, the care of juvenile offenders. knowing that the subject is so close to the heart of my noble friend 185 the Leader of the House, I am convinced that we shall do all that is possible to help those who are maladjusted, and thereby to improve their lot and their future chances in the community. I should like to end on an encouraging note with regard to the youth of this great country. My noble friend Lord Selsdon in his excellent speech when seconding the Motion for an humble Reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech, said:Now, for the first time in my life, at any rate, a new, fresh wind of optimism, enthusiasm and, above all, of realism is beginning to blow across the country. We are set on a course which is the right one …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2/11/71, col. 12.]This, at least, is the tone of leadership in the youth of Britain to-day. Too often our newspapers bore us with the tawdry affairs of minorities in the permissive society. In the past, as a journalist I learned that bad news is good news in that it sells papers. Too little is written about the youth of to-day to whom pride of country and the spirit of adventure and public service is of primary importance. I would ask your Lordships this question: Can we pay sufficient respect and honour to the youth of to-day who are serving in the Forces in Northern Ireland? I will say no more than that; for a worthy and wonderfully-worded tribute was paid to them by my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence in his speech yesterday.
Before resuming my seat I should like to say a word or two on parental responsibility. In this connection I wonder how many noble Lords were able to watch "Big Jack's Other World", the programme on I.T.V., last Tuesday evening. To those who were unable to do so, I would say that it was a strangely moving programme in which that ace of footballers, Jackie Charlton, visited his home town for a weekend. In a photographed sequence of the Charlton family having their Sunday lunch Jackie remarked, while turning to his seven year old daughter, "Oh yes, I shall want to know all about her when she grows up. I shall take an interest in who her boy friends are and how they are getting along."My Lords, that remark symbolises parental responsibility. I hope that millions of not-so-responsible parents were able to view and to hear the parental feelings of this deservedly loved star of soccer.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, I do not wish to speak too long and I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, except to say that when he was speaking about the care of the young I feel sure we all appreciated his interest and understanding and, if I may say so, his deep and real sense of compassion. I found myself in considerable agreement with a great deal of what he said about that question, but I shall resist some of his more provocative remarks on other subjects. The gracious Speech refers, among other matters, to education, reorganisation of local government in England outside Greater London and rented housing. I do not propose to say very much about education as it is to be the subject of a debate next week, but I will remark that while welcoming all the new building that we are promised to replace and improve primary schools, I cannot forget and I will not forget or pardon that behind the new walls when they are built there will be children, aged between seven and eleven, deprived by the present Secretary of State for Education and Science of one-third of a pint of free milk each school day. One day perhaps this Government will appreciate that well-nourished bodies are an essential ingredient in the acquisition of education.
So far as local government reorganisation is concerned we have been led to expect that local authorities would enjoy greater freedom under this Government. I find it a singularly odd way to extend that freedom, by depriving those authorities of the power that they have long possessed to manage the financing of their own housing affairs. I gather that the promised Bill follows pretty closely the White Paper entitled A Fair Deal for Housing, so that local housing authorities are to be told what they have to do and also, in some detail, just how it must be done. If ever there was an area where clear lines of policy should be laid down at national level, surely it is in the field of secondary education, and this is just where the present Secretary of State for Education and Science is all for local options—except when it suits her purpose to interfere with what local authorities want to do.
So far as housing is concerned it seems that the view of the Government is quite 187 different. Let us cherish no illusions, my Lords; this Government are determined to force higher rents on a large section of the community and to extend the operation of the means test. As a result, there is little doubt that rents for a large number of the tenants of council homes will be increased very sharply. It has been computed that on average they will be doubled. Some may say, "Quite right, too; they are all subsidised anyway." That myth has been debunked completely in a recent report of the Rating and Valuation Association entitled Housing Finance Myth, Reality and Reform. They state frankly:Nowadays most council tenants, probably most of those living in houses built before 1960, are paying more than the cost of their houses. They are not subsidised at all.Under this promised legislation rents for tenants of private houses are expected to rise, in many instances at least 2ŧ times. The gracious Speech informs us that the Government's aim will be to curb inflation. No one should be surprised if these rent increases, if and when they take place, spark off demands for higher wages. No one should be surprised if those who feel that they are threatened feel provoked to anticipate these rent increases. Surely it is unreasonable to expect people to accept a reduction in their standard of living without making a serious attempt to avoid it.
My Lords, these higher rents will persuade a number of people that it would be well to acquire their own homes. While the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, was speaking I had a feeling that this was very much in mind. That would bring even more people into the market to buy and give a further fillip to house prices. It would mean, in turn, that the inflationary spiral would go rocketing higher and higher. The continually rising inflationary spiral is affected in a very serious way by the ever rising, rocketing cost of housing. The position is already serious, as is instanced by what was stated recently in the Building Society's Gazette:1971 has shown the greatest increase in prices ever recorded. In some south-eastern areas the demand is so great that negotiations almost amount to panic buying, with prices not only 20 per cent. above last year's figures but above the asking price of the sometimes bewildered vendor.188 In the district where I live, my Lords, prices for smaller properties particularly have rocketed in a quite astronomical way. They make no sense to me. Newly married couples seem to plunge into purchases which, so far as I can appreciate, represent a very poor buy—old, semidetached cottages, or terraced houses with two rooms up and two down and with a bathroom tacked on downstairs at the back, with no garage or room for a garage, or houses built fifty years ago. One case recently came to my notice where a young couple entered into a contract to buy a house such as I have been talking about at a cost of close on £7,000. I do not know what valuation the building society put on it. Undoubtedly it covered the amount borrowed. But that figure, I am quite certain, would have been well below the price that was paid, because the purchasers put down a fairly substantial deposit. I have a feeling that when consideration was being given to the application for a mortgage it was the creditworthiness of the applicant that counted a very great deal. They paid the building society an amount to cover a survey. I think I am right in saying—and I believe it is usually the position—that in such cases a copy of the survey is not given to the would-be purchaser and borrower. I know that after contracts had been exchanged and the purchase had been completed, the first thing that this young couple discovered when they got in was that they had to have the whole place completely rewired.
I think that building societies could do a little more than they seem to be doing, so far as I understand it, to help check this spectacular and indeed astronomical rise in prices. Could they not at least issue to the prospective purchaser who has paid for a survey a report which covers the soundness of the structure, possibly with particular reference to the wiring system, the drains and the condition of the roof. Or perhaps the time has come when we ought to consider calling on the vendor to produce a report on the state of the property by an accredited surveyor, with special reference to the items that I have mentioned. It may be that the time has come when we ought to be asking for a code of practice for surveyors in cases such as this, for, after all, the gracious Speech promises a 189 code of practice so far as industrial relations are concerned. I feel that, at least, advice ought to be given to prospective purchasers, if building societies cannot help. Building societies, or somebody, ought to make a point of advising them that they should obtain an independent survey of the property that they are considering purchasing. It may be said that we can do too much to protect people against their own folly; that people ought to learn how to look after themselves. So far as most people are concerned, including young people, they have never entered into this kind of business before, and they need guidance and help. I am aware of the fact that, so far as new houses are concerned, those who purchase them today have the benefit of the interest of the National Housebuilders' Registration Council. Why should we not give some sort of safeguard to purchasers of older properties? I ask the Government to look into this matter and in the meantime to give us some indication, if they can, of what proposals they have for containing the meteoric escalation of house prices.
My Lords, before I sit down I should like to raise the problem of the homeless. Recently, near where I live on Epsom Downs, a friend of mine discovered that a young married couple were sleeping in a van at night. The wife was pregnant. I was asked to help persuade the county council and the rural district council to accept responsibility for housing them. My mind went immediately to the literally hundreds of newly-built empty houses in what are know as the expanding towns. I refer particularly to those in East Anglia, in places like Haverhill and Sudbury. Here we have this mass of empty houses and this young couple with nowhere to go that they can call their own. Somehow or other something ought to be done by somebody to bring together the empty houses and the persons needing a home. I appreciate that the consequence of moving people to areas like those I have mentioned, where there may be no jobs available, is not a light matter; but I feel that a heavy responsibility rests on the Government to get work opportunities provided in those areas. It seems to me to border on the criminal to accept at one and the same time empty houses and families without homes.
190 I do not feel that the gracious Speech offers any remedy to the problem of continually exaggerated increases for house prices. It threatens hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens with increased rents—a provocation to a demand for higher wages, with resulting inflationary consequences. I think that many on both sides of this House would welcome some assurance that the Government would be a little more responsive on the matters to which I have referred than they have shown themselves to be regarding free school milk for children aged seven to eleven.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ LORD ARWYN
My Lords, yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in his capacity as Secretary of State for Defence, gave a very serious warning of the imminent dangers that we can expect from the policy of cold-blooded murder which is the declared method of the I.R.A. to achieve their aims, to create chaos, and by so doing become sufficiently powerful to exercise the authority over the destinies of all Ireland which would otherwise be beyond their reach. Our soldiers are being killed by automatic weapons and precision rifles. This risk is one of the hazards of war. The civilians, as well as the soldiers, are in the firing line. But the real terrorist weapon is the gelignite bomb.
The manufacture of gelignite is a precise chemical process involving an expensive plant which is under the surveillance of Government Departments. In Britain, we have two companies manufacturing gelignite: one is the I.C.I., and the other is the French-owned Explosives and Chemical Products Company. In Ireland, I understand that there is one company. The I.R.A. have to get their gelignite from one of these three sources of manufacture. From the date of manufacture to that of danger to the handler is a maximum of six months. This is due to the chemical changes. I will not go into that matter because it is rather complicated. I should prefer to use gelignite which is not more than four months old. if we allow a minimum period of six weeks from the date of manufacture to what I call the risk period, when a parcel of gelignite is in the hands of the I.R.A., we then have a theoretical maximum of 4. months' life, which I prefer to assess as 2. months.
191 I am guilty perhaps of lecturing your Lordships' House unnecessarily, but the object is to point out the need for immediate consultation between our Government, that of the Irish Republic and the three sources of supply; and also the need for an entirely new system of control over explosives magazines in mines and quarries, not only on the issuing of gelignite for blasting, but on detonators as well. A mine or quarry manager leaves these matters too much in the hands of an appointed official, who may be under a variety of pressures. This laxity of adequate control has resulted in supplies of gelignite being obtainable by bribery or threats from the magazines of the manufacturers, or those of the legitimate users: there is no other way of getting it.
It is only by the co-operation of the manufacturers or the licensed users that any control can be exercised. The cost of this control may be repugnant, but we have to exercise the authority and to demand a more effective control. I shall spare your Lordships the details of my views on how such controls could be made more effective than they are. It can be a complicated matter, but it is one which can be solved by the wholehearted co-operation of manufacturers, the users and the Army. Having been involved in the use and manufacture of explosives for the greater part of my life I am fully aware of the problem, but I am certainly not pessimistic about the possibility of finding an adequate solution. Unless we can solve this problem we shall always be in danger from this method of attack, or a variation of it.
I cannot let the opportunity pass, in a wide-ranging debate, of congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, on her speech yesterday. Those of us who have served on committees of the North Atlantic Assembly—I happen to be on the Military Committee—sometimes feel that we are wasting our time because it is extremely difficult for us to communicate the value of these conferences to colleagues who are denied the experience. I should like to endorse the views of the noble Baroness on "Trudeau's Canada". I also have friends in Canada and have observed the change in attitudes in the last few years.
192 In conclusion, my Lords, may I ask this question: are we letting our obsession with the pros and cons of the Common Market atrophy our long-term perspectives? What was achieved under our guidance when we were the centre of the British Empire is a source of pride to us, and will be so until we cease to be the centre of the Commonwealth—which could follow our joining the Common Market. We have gained the respect of many millions, and our pattern of democracy has been established in most of our old Colonial Empire. If we withdraw too much into a more confined sphere we shall no longer be known as "Great" Britain and the "G.B." on our cars will no longer be a valid identification. May I fall back on a very old adage:Never throw away that which you think is dirty water before you can replace it with that which you have proved to be dean".
§ 6.24 p.m.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
My Lords, in following the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, I should like to say how right he was to bring up the point of explosives. That is not to be my main subject, but there is one thing that I have never felt to be in the interests of national security, and that is that explosives magazines arc marked as such on many Ordnance Survey maps.
Following on from the very interesting speech of my noble friend Lord Hastings, I also hope that I have chosen the right day to say a few words on four subjects. First, tax reform. I am sure that the country as a whole will welcome any simplification of our tax system, which is now so complicated that the ordinary house-owner, married with one child, having a life assurance policy and a small amount of money invested to supplement his earned income, has to seek the assistance of some professional person to fill in his tax return for the year, because each of the matters I have just mentioned affects his net income and the amount of tax to be paid at the end of the year.
Up to 1944 a person's income tax could be considered as the difference between his gross income and what he took home at the end of the week. To-day the total tax position has completely changed, and in considering an employee's tax and income Her Majesty's Government—and this is true whichever Party are in power 193 —should consider an employee's tax as the difference between what it costs the employer to employ him and what that worker takes home in his pocket at the end of the week.
May I give your Lordships one small example'? An employee employed almost exclusively on the maintenance of property in 1965 cost his employer £12 a week, out of which he took home £10. In 1970, the same man, with the same conditions—married with one child—cost his employer £18, out of which he took home £12. In other words, this comparatively low-paid worker was paying 33 per cent. tax. Without boring your Lordships with figures, I may explain that this is accounted for by deducting from the cost of employment the amounts attributable to income tax, graduated pension, National Health Insurance—that is the employer's and employee's contribution—and selective employment tax. Incidentally, the cost of the National Health Insurance stamp is the same, irrespective of a person's earnings, and for all practical purposes must be regarded as a tax. National Health is not free: it costs us all a great deal of money, despite being a very wonderful Service. Referring to the excellent speech of my noble friend, Lord Selsdon, in seconding the humble Address I would also emphasise what he said about the value-added tax; and although I have shown by my one example how unfair the tax system can become, I hope that the Government will take infinite care to explain at the working man's level, to us all how V.A.T. will affect the lower income groups.
On my second point, unemployment, with our present system of tax an employer would rather offer, particularly to the lower paid worker, every inducement to work overtime rather than take on increased staff, because he has no increase in his contribution for National Health Insurance, and so on, if his employees work overtime, whereas if he employs additional staff not only does he have to pay more in stamps but he runs the risk of having to pay redundancy money if his business becomes slack and he has to pay off the additional staff. This is particularly true of the building industry, in which so many unskilled workers are to-day employed on contract, a system which relieves the employer of liability to buy stamps and any responsibility, but 194 is often unfair to the men and to the country.
One thing that has always boosted the economy is a strong pound. If the pound is weak so is the economy, and the reason why people could do so much with a month's wages in 1938–39 was that, although there had been only a small increase in wages between the wars, the value of the pound had increased so much. It is no comfort to anybody if his wage is increased by, say, 20 per cent., if the pound is devalued also by 20 per cent. I have supreme confidence in the present Government's Administration, and that our intention to join the European Economic Community will strengthen the pound.
A final point on unemployment, my Lords, and one which both unions and management forget, is that if an industry is not making a profit and investing a good proportion of the profit into improving its production through time and motion study, then that industry is being left behind by world development. Management and unions must not expect public money to be invested in every industry that has been left behind. The Government have no capital and can get their public funds only from the profits of industry and the taxes paid by those of us who are working. May we never go back to the days when a man carried two hundredweight on his back or wielded a hammer all day long! Unions should concentrate on conditions of work rather than increases in salary.
My third point is just to touch on the Common Market, following on from what I have just said. I hope that in our negotiations to enter the European Economic Community there can be a close co-operation in industry, a true Common Market in development and research. Originally the E.E.C. was set up to improve agriculture, and I am proud to state that it is internationally the most co-operative industry in Europe. Let me give your Lordships one example. I well remember some years ago attending, at Dunblane, in Scotland, a conference on storage at which there were speeches, films, facts and mistakes, figures and problems, threshed out by agricultural professors and farmers from Denmark, Holland, Belgium, England, Wales 195 and Scotland. It was an education to everybody attending. How wonderful it would be if, for example, the owners of all the steel rolling mills of the E.E.C. could get together to improve the rolling of steel strip!
The Government have always supported international labour relations. How important it is also to support and encourage management co-operation in every industry through the E.E.C.! No one country can any longer afford the cost of research to develop the vitally important aircraft industry. Europe can afford to do this, but Britain on her own cannot. Europe can compete with the U.S.A., Russia or Japan, and it would be to our mutual benefit if the engines of an aircraft were built in Britain, the controls in Germany, the electronics in Holland, the fuselage in France and if other parts came, say, from Italy. This is my idea of a common market. Perhaps I may here quote a few words from the charming speech by my noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve in moving the Address in reply to Her Majesty's Speech, when she so rightly said:We shall be one of the leaders of Europe making those decisions.On housing, I want to say a few words on the finance of rented housing which has always been, in my opinion quite unnecessarily, a controversial subject at every level of government, from national to the smallest local authority. I was very interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy said, and I shall be interested to read his remarks in to-morrow's Hansard. I was not able to agree with him on all points, but I should like to comment on one part of his speech, which concerned young people trying to buy their own property. I sincerely ask any of your Lordships who know any young person doing that to tell him to seek the help of the local sanitary inspector or master of works. They will give advice about grants, loans, standards of housing, and many other matters. This is certainly the case in Scotland. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, lives in London and it may be that conditions here are very different.
196 We should not forget that the original 1919 Housing Act was designed to provide homes for those people who could not afford even a fair rent. To-day this is no longer the case: persons who are earning over £2,000 a year, and who could easily afford to buy their own homes, are living in these subsidised houses. Therefore reform is badly needed. But just as the national Government has no capital, nor has the local authority. When council houses are built the local authority has to borrow the money to do it. It has to borrow the money to buy the land, to build the houses, to put in the drainage, to provide all the services, and so on, with the result that a three to four apartment house costs in Scotland about £4,000. Most people investing money would expect a return of at least 6 per cent., which means that the minimum rent on a £4,000 house, without even considering paying off the loan, is about f4-60 per week; and, above everything else, a local authority must remain solvent. Therefore people who can afford to do so should pay an economic rent. But, equally, those who cannot afford to pay should receive generous rent and rate rebates.
One of the reasons for the political controversy is this—and let me give your Lordships a very simple example. Suppose that a local authority had in its area 20 houses, 10 private and 10 council houses, and that out of the 10 local authority houses one tenant could not afford to pay rent. That one tenant's rent should be considered as a subsidy from the local authority welfare fund coming out of the general rates, and not as a deficit on the housing account being met out of the rent of the other 9 council tenants. Equally, it is quite wrong for the rent of the 10 council houses to be kept at a figure which the poorest can afford, because in that case the deficit is landed on the rates of all the houses, both public and private, and it means that a private occupier, comparatively poor, is subsidising a council tenant who may possibly be earning much more money. Suppose that a local authority took over all the 20 houses—nationalised them, if you like. Rent and rates would then be rolled into one, and the local authority would have to charge an economic rent/rate to meet its expenses 197 because it would no longer be able to rely upon private property to subsidise its own tenants.
Now let us consider the occupants of two more of these 20 houses, each having a husband, his wife and three children; but in the one house the children are young and in the other they are grown up and earning. In the house with small children there may be only £12 coming in each week, but in the other, with the grown-up family, there may be £50 or £60 coming in each week. The two families should not be paying the same rent and rates. It is in so many cases like this that grown-up people living with their parents are contributing very little of their earnings to the household, a situation which has given them the impression that the world owes them a living, whereas previous generations took all their pay back to mother, which gave them a sense of responsibility. I have a great confidence that the present Government may restore this sense of responsibility in young people. But if they fail, all is lost.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, this part of the debate on the gracious Speech is, I believe, intended to focus so far as possible on home affairs, which of course includes the subjects of lawlessness and crime. I know little about crime or indeed about Home Office affairs. Nevertheless, I propose to touch on the subject by putting it into what may appear to your Lordships to be a somewhat unusual context. The number of our working population who are now employed, as distinct from self-employed or employers, is in excess of 90 per cent. I am indebted to the Bolton Report on small companies, published I think yesterday, for the additional information that fewer than five million people out of the working population are employed in small companies. This leaves us with the fact that the major proportion of our working population is now employed by large institutions of various kinds. This is one of the sometimes overlooked but striking phenomena of the latter half of this century.
Many observers and researchers have noted that, with a considerable number of honourable exceptions, admittedly, large employment hierarchies frequently give rise to intense feelings of frustration, 198 hostility and, in particular, lack of confidence in nearly all forms of authority. They produce a kind of "catch as catch can" relationship between employers, managers, representatives of employees and employees themselves. They breed false polarisation of attitudes into "for" or "against" attitudes, or into "we" and "they" attitudes. There must be millions of people who as members of trade unions or of management teams behave in employment in a manner which they would not personally countenance as individual citizens. Indeed, the contrast between the growing behaviour of people at work and their erstwhile behaviour as citizens of our community is striking and the two are becoming more separate than they used to be. We are faced almost daily in some parts of industry with the contrasting phenomena of group irresponsibility, on the one hand, and individual responsibility, on the other.
The sources of increased lack of respect for the law are variously attributed by the experts to many causes. I seek to suggest an additional and important source of increased crime. I name it as the increasing frustration, hostility and cynicism towards those entrusted with authority on the part of millions employed in large employment hierarchies. I suggest that it would be unreasonable to assume that the growing hostility which we observe to-day at work is not having its effect on people in their other roles of citizen. My first point, therefore, is to suggest that one of the important reasons —I do not want to overstate my case, bat one of them—why crime rates continue to grow (although I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, give us the figures of the reduction in the prison population this year) is the advancing level of cynicism about the values which underlie our society on the part of millions of people at work. It is breeding a contempt for essential authority, an unwillingness towards co-operation and negotiation, and a growing belief in the rectitude of the use of power, or even violence, as a means of achieving the ends sought.
This House must have heard very often the words of Lord Acton:Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.199 Until recently, power certainly corrupted many managements. Terrible things were done, particularly in the early stages of our industrial development, by managements using the power that they possessed. But power to disrupt is now beginning to corrupt employees and some of those who represent them, and that I believe to be one source of lawlessness in civil life.
During a recent visit I made to the United States, many of those whom I met were profoundly concerned about the growing lawlessness of United States society. I would sum up the general message they conveyed to me in their various contributions as follows: "We in the United States have been astonishingly successful in achieving our materialistic targets, but apparently we are becoming one of the most unhappy and lawless societies in the Western world. We ought to be thinking out again what this business of living is all about."
Her Majesty's Government have to an extreme extent decided to worship the same idols which have led to this unhappy situation in the United States. They have needlessly allowed unemployment to grow to the highest level since 1940, with consequent denial of work to some and the freezing of millions of others in occupations which have become uncongenial to them and which fail fully to satisfy their talents. That is one of the hidden consequences of unemployment. The consequent rising tide of anxiety and hostility is, I submit, a contribution to the crime rate. The Government, while placing grossly overdue emphasis on the virtues of competition in the market—I do not deny that competition has virtues, but the extent to which the Government are now trumpeting this aspect of their policy shakes me —appear at the same time to be somewhat illogically aggrieved when powerful trade unions, taking the Government's competitive philosophy at its face value, use their full market power to win the largest wage awards they have ever achieved. That Government stimulation of the use of power as a result of the philosophies they are pursuing is a potential stimulus to lawlessness in our 200 society. People learn how to be lawless in industry.
This year the nation is faced with the co-existence of maximum wage inflation and maximum unemployment. In spite of this, the Government apparently adhere still to the now time-expired assumption that the level of wages will behave in the same way as a commodity on the market. I have not yet heard a Government spokesman or a leading economist stand up and say that the market theory of wages is no longer operating.. Accordingly, the Government abolish the Prices and Incomes Board—because to them it looks like a form of regulation—they repudiate the need for any form of national wage policy, and the country is Left with a socially disruptive "free-for-all" fight over differential earnings. This is the negation of an equitable differential wage policy and is rapidly increasing earnings where there is power, and depriving the weaker occupations of their proper economic rewards. The results are increasing envy, hostility and struggle for power in employment—and that, too, is a contribution to general lawlessness.
The Labour Government set up the I.R.C. as an agency to protect companies whose continued existence was felt, in the long term, to be of economic and social value to the nation; to protect them from the short-term market pressures which might destroy them. This Government have needlessly abolished that institution and adopted their so-called "lame duck" policy, which is tantamount to a policy which says that any company which gets into financial trouble is ipso facto of no importance, however damaging its demise may be socially or in the long-term economic interest of the country. One result is the disaster of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders: and who can doubt that the resultant increase in unemployment in Scotland will not make its own contribution to lawlessness and division of society in that part of our country?
My Lords, in the last 18 months I have twice outlined proposals in this House which might enable our country to begin moving towards a more equitable pattern of wage and salary distribution, which would allow full employment without the risk of general inflation and 201 balance of payments problems, and which might free the managements of our companies from the terrible daily battle over wages and release their energies so that they could turn their attention to the many growing sociological and psychological problems of industry which really are beginning to require their most urgent attention. But they are inhibited from doing these things by the economic power battle for wages.
I do not propose to detain your Lordships with a repetition of my ideas, for they are on record elsewhere. But I most sincerely believe that conditions in the employment zone of our society and increasing lawlessness among our citizens are closely linked phenomena. I hope that my contribution to this debate may in some small way help not only to stimulate an examination of this linkage but also to draw attention to what I believe are some of the evil consequences of the current economic policies which are being pursued by the Government.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, my noble friend has made a most powerful and impressive and original speech. I only wish I were competent to follow it, but I am not. My world does not include either economics or successful business, but I do recognise clearly the ill-ease to which he refers, and one finds something not dissimilar in a badly run prison—an overcrowded prison—in comparison with a well run and properly staffed prison. That brings me back to the subject of which I have some knowledge; namely, the narrow subject of crime. I had wondered whether to intervene and say something about the reference in the gracious Speech to crime and criminal justice. I knew very well that my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner and my noble friend Lord Stonham would deal with this subject very fully, and I knew that the noble Lord, Lord Foot, would, too. However, my first feeling was that as a good Life Peer I ought to observe the "Carrington barrier" and remain silent, but on reflection I thought that there was a way of intervening which even the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, would probably have allowed, which is to offer my support to the Government against their own supporters, with whom I differ probably no more strongly than the Government them- 202 selves. It is terribly important that the Government should not yield to their sillier supporters and try to cure a difficult situation by means which can only make it worse—by an attempt to decrease the number of crimes by increasing the severity of sentence. This has been referred to several times before to-day and I think one must look at it a little more closely.
Some crimes can be reduced in this way and others cannot. Those that can are usually trivial. If, for example, you were to castrate everybody who had a T.V. set without a licence you would get a 100 per cent. take-up of licences in double quick time. It would be an entirely effective method and there are no emotional overtones. It is really a question of taking enough trouble to remember, and a very severe punishment is a potent reminder. But where deeper things are involved this simply is not true. I do not know whether your Lordships have ever read accounts of what the planters did to recaptured runaway slaves. I will not oppress your Lordships with the facts, but they are terrible—and they were totally ineffective. Runaway slaves had a reasonable chance of crossing the State line or, in the Caribbean, of reaching another island into safety, so when their conditions became intolerable some would take the chance, irrespective of the unspeakable treatment which in some cases awaited them if recaptured.
To come nearer home, let us take the most plausible case for reintroducing capital punishment, the killing of a prison officer. The logic is clear. A man who is in for life has nothing to lose; a man who is serving a long sentence has very little to lose. Yet in fact no "lifer" has ever killed a prison officer. The only prison officer to be killed in this country in the last 25 years was killed by a borstal boy. There was a prison matron some few years before that who was also killed by a borstal boy. But the logic to which this argument is meant to apply simply does not exist. This kind of crime is not the result of careful planning which a deterrent, whether severe or not, can deter; it is the result of an explosion of rage, on which a deterrent has no effect whatever. I do not believe that a man who is prepared to risk five years' imprisonment will be deterred if one makes it seven years. To increase 203 a maximum penalty from 12 to 14 years, as we did in this House a few months ago in relation to drug offences, is in itself meaningless, but also dangerous, as it seems to give official blessing to the theory of increasing severity. From the deterrent point of view, if it were left to me I would have one year, five years, 10 years and life as the only categories, and in each case consideration for parole after a third of the sentence had been served, as is the case now, and after four years for the "lifers". In no case would I allow a judge to demand a minimum period in prison; he would select the category, and the decision as to release would be in the hands of the Home Secretary on the advice of the Parole Board. It is nonsensical to decide at the time of sentence when a man will be fit to come out. It may very well be never.
The one case where an increase in severity of sentence may be justified is, as has already been said, the case of illegally possessing or carrying arms. I should be happy to raise all crimes involving the possession or carrying of arms into the ten-year category. It is true that this would work in reverse in some cases, and might encourage a man who was carrying a gun to use it on the "In for a penny, in for a pound" principle. But it would also act as a genuine deterrent, in that each professional would face a moment of decision before he set out on a job, as to whether to carry a gun and put himself straight away into the higher category of sentence or to leave it behind and risk less. Deterrents to be effective must be a factor in the making of the decision, and here I think they would be.
The other point some speakers at Brighton made was that prisons are too soft and too comfortable. This is palpably untrue of most local prisons, where most of the overcrowding is to be found. There are 26,000 adult males under sentence in prison over half of whom are sleeping two or three to a cell, in cells built for a single occupant. No punishment can be worse than to be banged up for sixteen hours a day or more with two people you cordially dislike; it is a nightmare like Sartre's Huis Clos. The need is to make prisons better, not worse, and this can only be done by 204 sending fewer people there. So I can wholeheartedly welcome the reference in the gracious Speech to the provision of alternatives to prison, so well discussed in the excellent report of my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger.
The Government will, I am sure, resist demands to make prisons more like Belsen and less like Butlin's. When you sentence a man for life or to a long sentence and the paramount need to protect society gives him little or no prospect of parole, humanity demands that you should give him decent conditions in which to eke out his existence. But if you sentence a man to a determinate sentence, which is normal in this country, then you must try to prepare him to come out not as a confirmed and embittered thug, but as a potentially cooperative citizen. This can only be done by accepting and enhancing his self-respect. Harsh prison conditions have the opposite effect. Even the surrender of clothes, belongings and name in return for a number is a very difficult start. Nobody wants weakness in prisons, but firm and clear rules which are obeyed and seen to be obeyed, against a background of decent food, constructive work —and not mail bags—good conditions for recreation, evening classes and personal attention from staff which can lead to good and easy relations. From such conditions some men may return to society as conforming citizens. If the conditions are worsened, none will. So I offer my support, and I think the support of many of my colleagues, to the noble Lord who is to reply, in his expressed intention to follow the general line of sensible and humane treatment of offenders which we followed before him. And, above all, we will always support him in any effort to strengthen the police.
If I may now turn for a brief moment from the serious to the absurd, I must report to you with what delighted fascination Dame Elizabeth Ackroyd and I read that the Government are going to extend customers' protection in the sale of goods. They will probably want to set up some machinery to do this, and we shall be happy to put at their disposal the files of the Consumer Council, which will tell them all they need to know.
I have left criticism of the gracious Speech to my noble friends, but I should particularly like to associate myself with 205 Lady Stocks in her condemnation of commercial radio, Lord Garnsworthy in his plea for the homeless, and Lord Arwyn in his plans for controlling dynamite. They seem to be three very important points. We shall study my noble friend Lord Brown's remarks very carefully, though I am not sure where they may take us. I think they would make the situation more, not less, difficult. My sole concern has been to strengthen the Government's power of resistance to the bad advice on penal affairs which flows into them from so many of their supporters.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, we have listened to some very interesting speeches, but I am sure that at this late hour the Ministers on the Front Bench and also the Opposition will be glad to hear that my intervention will be very brief, and is really to say "Thank you". One very rarely in politics has an opportunity to say "Thank you". I am referring to the paragraph in the gracious Speech which indicates further extension of legal aid. It says:Further measures of law reform will be brought forward and a Bill will be introduced to improve the facilities for giving legal advice and assistance to persons of moderate means.I understand that that really means that the so-called £25 scheme proposed by the Law Society and strongly supported by the Lord Chancellor's Legal Aid Committee for the last three years is to be implemented. This will, I know, give the noble and learned Lord on the opposite Benches as much pleasure as it does me and my committee.
I thank him for the kind words he said about the Legal Aid Committee. We have been pressing for this improvement for the last three years, and I know it is no fault of the noble and learned Lord that we have not had it sooner. In the first place it will mean increased expenditure for the taxpayer in order adequately to help the less well-off members of our society. But we hope and believe that in time, as this scheme is developed, it will possibly result in the diminution of actual litigation in the courts, in that if people get good advice early enough, they may be able to settle out of court or not proceed with their case. It will also help in what we have called the "desert" areas, the areas where legal firms have not found it 206 possible to run an office. The £25 scheme, we hope, will encourage them to do so. I think there is no doubt with the increased complication of our legislation—every year new laws are enacted—that the ordinary man and woman in the street really needs early legal advice when in a difficulty.
I have only one further observation to make in addition to expressing my thanks; namely, that I still feel that the taxpayers' money is very unevenly expended between civil legal aid and criminal legal aid. While I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Foot, that there is a great deal of variation between different magistrates' committees in the granting of legal aid, I also believe that sometimes it is granted very freely and without enough discrimination. Then, of course, the sums are added together, and we on the civil legal aid side feel that we are held up to ransom, as it were, by the criminal side, which gets far more money than we do. I think this is due to there being this dual procedure, with criminal legal aid being under the Home Office and civil legal aid being the concern of the Lord Chancellor. The question of civil legal aid is most carefully gone into, and as a long-standing magistrate. I feel that on the criminal side that is not always the case. I think that this matter needs looking into, and that if one could get some homogeneity in the dispensation of this money on the one side and the other, it would not only help the legal aid client but also the taxpayer.
§ 7.9 p.m.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I rise to make two very short points, both of them in support of Her Majesty's Government's endeavours and my noble friend Lord Donaldson's ideas. Like so many of your Lordships, I have watched throughout the years and been saddened by the fact that all our endeavours to reduce delinquency of one kind or another seem fated to failure. We have had quite extraordinarily little success, in spite of the attentions of many extremely clever men and expenditure of a great deal of money. From where I stand as a youth leader, now with over six years' experience of running a club of my own, I have slowly come to the conclusion that the trouble lies extremely early. It lies in a lesion, not a physical lesion but a 207 mental or moral lesion, inflicted on a child at an age which is certainly far below that of criminal responsibility, and is indeed below the age at which I normally see children in my club, which is mainly between the ages of 8 and 14. I believe that the age at which a child is damaged is considerably below that, and that if Her Majesty's Government wish to make an all-out attack on delinquency they should be concentrating their attention and their finances on the earliest age of all, right down in the nursery schools—as low, in fact, as you can start. I believe that if attention is concentrated there, it will yield the best dividends of all.
Once a child has been damaged in its early years, once the lesion has been established, it is extremely hard to eradicate. The sooner you act the easier it is to get rid of. But, as the years go by, if the lesion is not eradicated it becomes more and more difficult to remove it, until, in the adult, it can become totally impossible. You then have a person who is damaged for life, as so many of our criminals are, and we find that, in spite of anything that can be done, they return to prison again and again. One knows that, whatever is done, and whatever sentences are passed, they will simply return. You can keep them in for the protection of the population if you wish, but at a certain point reformation becomes extremely difficult.
The first request I would make is to ask Her Majesty's Government to concentrate their attention and their money on this particular area, because it is one which has so far been quite neglected, compared to other areas. Even the money expended on youth clubs—which I must say was originally the result of a form of blackmail on the Government in an effort to make them pay out "Danegeld" in an attempt to make the young behave, although it may have grown better purposes later—does not go to an early enough period. At the moment, the major finance goes to the 14-year-olds and upwards, whereas if real advantage is to be gained from the money I am sure that it has to be concentrated much lower down. I may say that I have no personal interest in making this point: the young for whom I am responsible start largely at the age of 8, 208 so I am putting my finger on a period much lower than that. I do not know at what age you must start—whether it is four, three or two—but I am sure that it is on these very young children that the money and the research ought to be concentrated.
There is a second problem. Even if Her Majesty's Government did this, and if it was extraordinarily successful and was done instantly, it would still not get over the fact that we have a number of adult criminals who must, somehow or other, be handled. The trouble is that prison is not the right place to learn how to behave at liberty. A man who is going to be a top-level athlete, is not going to do very well if he is bedridden. Nevertheless, if he happens to be seriously sick he must suffer a bedridden period while he gets over his serious sickness and before he can start to become a top-level athlete. There is a most important point during which he passes from one to the other; it is the period of therapy in hospital, when he gets out of bed for a short time and is put through exercises of one kind and another to strengthen his physical framework. Exactly the same is needed for the moral framework: a period of therapy when a man is passing from the incarceration within prison walls to liberty. It must be so.
I have recently seen with my own eyes that period of therapy carried out to great success. I rushed round this House yesterday evening asking a few of my noble friends to see a television show on B.B.C.2; and I know that some of them saw it, because this matter has already been referred to this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. It is most important that a man should not stay within prison walls until the day when the gates open and let him out into full liberty. He must go through a period during which he learns to work. The most valuable thing that I have seen done in recent years is being done by a great friend of mine, a brilliant young architect called David Hutchings. He is restoring to navigation the upper end of the River Avon, which leads up to Stratford, and he has been doing it with an extraordinary mixture of madkeen volunteers and prison labour.
I am happy to say, having seen them at work, that it is impossible to tell, 209 seeing the characters waist-deep in mud and water, who are the I.W.A. volunteers and who are the prison labour—and, indeed, which is David Hutchings—because they are all in the mud together. The first thing that struck me was the mad keenness and speed at which they were working. On paper, these men were being paid nothing, no money; nevertheless, it was quite obvious that they were receiving something that they valued very much. You cannot make an unhappy man work fast. These men were working as fast as any men I have seen working in all my life—indeed, faster. David Hutchings is a perfectly extraordinary man. He had to dig the river deeper for navigation, and among other things he had to deepen the foundations of an ancient stone bridge. The county council, after many objections, let him do so, but asked him to submit monthly reports on his work. I do not know what they would call a monthly report; he finished the job in four days in excellent style. Also, he is the only engineer that I have known in recent years who has reported to the committee financing him that he was two years ahead of time, and under estimated cost. I may add that the estimated cost to which he was working was that computed by a committee headed by Mr. Neville Chamberlain fifty years ago. That is what is going on in the River Avon. It is being done by a brilliant young man rekindling the enthusiasm of men whose enthusiasm had been killed.
I want to ask Her Majesty's Government why we cannot have a body, an organisation, not necessarily for the purpose of rebuilding all our ancient navigation rivers and canals—it is true I would applaud if they did that—but for other more important work. Many places need attending to. Why cannot we have a body constituted to do this? The financing of it would be a great saving to Her Majesty's Government. It would rank as prison therapy, and it would also do an extremely valuable job in putting back into order so many parts of our country which one knows very well are not in order—not merely our ancient river navigations, but our blighted areas, our ancient hutted camps left strewn with wreckage over our beautiful cliffs, and all the rest of it. Why cannot all this be put right by such an organisation? 210 This needs a bit of imagination and it needs a man of imagination to run it. If only somebody like David Hutchings could be put in charge of it! This is what is needed to make these creatures, who are coming out of prison weak as a man comes out of hospital, morally strong again. I throw that idea out for Her Majesty's Government.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, I shall try not to detain the House for too long as we move towards the conclusion of this second day of our resumed debate on the humble Address, which has ranged with its customary breadth over the many economic, social and legal issues which can be regarded as falling within the generic heading of Home Affairs.
May I preface my remarks by offering my warm congratulations to the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for the clarity and freshness of their speeches, which did not in any way betray the strain of what must inevitably be a testing ordeal as well as a very great honour to those noble Lords invited to undertake it. While I respect their sincerity, neither they nor certain other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate will expect me to view either the Government's record or the priorities which underlie their legislative programme for the coming heavy Session, as outlined in the gracious Speech, with quite the same satisfaction as they do. For example, the superfluous and repugnant proposal to introduce commercial radio would never have been included, either in principle or in practice, in a Queen's Speech from this side of the House. I felt that the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, both fairly and forcibly summed up our view when she described it as an unnecessary, an expensive and an unwanted piece of legislation.
Commentators, both inside and outside Parliament, have been generally agreed that the gracious Speech contained little in the way of surprises, though of course there were plenty of trailers in a certain seaside town. But there certainly was one glaring omission; namely, the complete lack of any reference in the gracious Speech to the reorganisation of the National Health Service in England and Wales. Noble Lords North of the Border have been more fortunate, and I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady 211 Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, on having secured a place in this Session's legislation for the reorganisation of the Health Service in her part of the United Kingdom. Perhaps her feminine charm and persistence won through where others failed.
In his foreword to the Consultative Document on the Reorganisation of the National Health Service, which was published in May of this year, the Secretary of State wrote:The debate about means of achieving this has been going on now for a decade. Two Green Papers on the structure of the National Health Service have been published. We are perhaps in danger of a surfeit of plans and prospectuses. There must be early decisions, so that enthusiasm for reform does not wither away.On page 5 of the same document there is an unequivocal statement that the aim is to bring the reorganisation of local government and of the National Health Service into operation on April 1, 1974. It continues:Work is now starting on the preparation of legislation to unify the administration of the National Health Service.Can the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who is to reply at the end of this debate confirm that this is still so; and can he at least tell the House to-night when we may expect the White Paper which the document also promised containing the Government's decisions and statement of the principles on which the legislation for an integrated Health Service is to be based?
Noble Lords may recall that this is the second year that this matter has received no mention whatsoever in the Queen's Speech. Last year it was just possible to excuse it on the ground that any new Government needed time to review the situation and decide the very complex and interlocking issues, when one is considering a fundamental reorganisation of such an important Service in association with major local government reform. But this is no longer the situation some 16 months later. We on this side of the House have been very patient on this issue, in that we have not pressed it until now; but I must ask the Government to say just where this matter stands. In introducing this debate, the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, said that thought was being given 212 to it, but I very much hope that we shall be given a much clearer statement than that at the end of the debate.
I am deliberately refraining to-night from embarking on the detailed examination of the proposals in the Consultative Document, because I believe that we are to have a full debate on it later this month—rather late, perhaps, in that, as I read the Consultative Document, the end of July was said to be the last date by which representations and views should be received to enable final decisions to be made and work on the drafting of the legislation to proceed. But I felt bound to express my deep concern about the inevitable anxieties that the present state of continuing uncertainty is causing among hospital authorities and their staffs; and, most particularly, perhaps, among those concerned with local authority personal health services which are to he transferred from local government to an integrated Health Service in 1974, since their social work functions have already been incorporated in the new Local Authority Social Services Act as from April 1 this year. I suggest to noble Lords opposite that the case for change is at least as urgent as, and indeed is complementary to, the reorganisation of local government for which the Bill has already been presented to Parliament. I hope that the Minister will be able to set our minds at rest, and tell us where the Government stand on the future of this major social service whose quality and effective and smooth working are literally vital to all of us at some stage or other in our lives.
To turn now to one of the major areas of this debate, several noble Lords, including the noble Earl the Leader of the House, have concentrated our attention on the current concern with violent crime and the need to reduce the level of violence in our society. My noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner spoke at the outset on the possible contents of the Criminal Justice Bill, foreshadowed in the gracious Speech, which will apparently, if rumour is right, increase penalties for the use of firearms and for violent crime. The views that have been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and by my noble friends Lord Stonham and Lord Donaldson, on the effectiveness of long sentences in deterring hardened criminals or the aggressive young adult 213 will undoubtedly be ventilated in full when we see and debate the detailed provisions of the Bill. At this stage, I would only wish to add to the views already expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, that this might be one of the measures which could be considered first in this House in view of the very wide range of legal, medical and social expertise which undoubtedly exists among its Members, and against the background of the two major debates that we had last year: one on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Stonham, on the serious state of overcrowding in our prisons; and the other on the Motion of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, on the problems created by a relatively small, but rapidly growing, proportion of the prison population made up of a number of dangerous and violent offenders who have received very long sentences, and by the increasing number sentenced to life imprisonment since the abolition of the death penalty.
One likely effect of this new Bill is that the penal system would have to provide appropriate facilities on an increasing scale for this relatively small hut highly significant group of offenders who will he sentenced to determinate periods of 10 or 14 years or life. In this context, may I remind the Minister of the recommendation of the subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Penal System under the chairmanship of Sir Leon Radzinowicz, for it is now just three years since they recommended that the position should be reviewed after three years to see whether the possibility of using a special part of one of our maximum security prisons exclusively for such prisoners should be considered, as opposed to our current general policy of dispersal.
I should also like to take this opportunity to express the hope, together with other noble Lords, that the Bill will include the proposal stemming from the recommendation of the Committee chaired by my noble friend Baroness Wootton, to develop an effective new range of alternatives to custodial penalties for less serious offences, and discover new ways of supervising and treating offenders in the community. But this proposal, my Lords, will undoubtedly require a considerable strengthening of 214 the resources of an already overburdened Probation and After-Care Service if they are to administer the new schemes for the greater use of non-custodial penalties. Could the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham—and I must confess that he is beginning to have my sympathy when I think of the number of questions we are all asking him to-night—when he comes to reply to the debate tell the House what progress has been made with the Government's policy, announced a year ago by the Under-Secretary of State, to increase the strength of the Probation Service to 4,700 by 1975 and expand the training output from 350 to 500 a year? Could he also tell us whether these targets are now to be revised upwards in the light of the legislation envisaged?
The noble Lord will recall that many noble Lords expressed their doubts at the time whether the targets then planned would be adequate for the then known need. The new Bill will undoubtedly increase the responsibilities and the work of the Probation Service. Moreover, as the service expands to undertake these new tasks I believe it will need to work increasingly in the closest cooperation and collaboration with the new local authority social services departments if scarce resources are to be used effectively and if there is to be true community involvement and participation in the new projects. Noble Lords will remember that some three years ago the Seebohm Committee pointed out the dangers of unplanned overlapping as new developments in after-care and parole, and now community service, brought the Probation and After-Care Services increasingly into working with the community in addition to their traditional role of supervising individual offenders and acting as a separate social case-work service to the courts.
Yet another factor which will affect the future of the service is the consultations that my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner referred to earlier this afternoon; namely, the consultations that are being undertaken by the Home Office on the future organisation of the magistrates' courts following the Beeching reorganisation and the Courts Act 1971. The document that was circulated in June by 215 the Home Office for discussion contains the following statement:The transfer of responsibility for magistrates' courts administration to the central Government would have important repercussions on the position of the probation and after-care service. … The choice would then appear to lie between converting the service into a national service for which the Home Office would be directly responsible, or incorporating it in the new local authority social work departments".Surely, my Lords, the future of this important service is far too central to the progressive development of our services for the treatment of offenders for it to be considered as a mere by-blow of another problem. It is now ten years since the Morrison Report was published, which considered the operation of the service in all its aspects in some depth, and, as I have already indicated, much has in fact happened since then to change its nature and responsibilities. I believe the time has now come for an immediate and independent inquiry into the problems facing the Probation and After-Care Service, and the shape of its future development in relation to other social services in the community, to the courts and the administration of justice, and to the penal system. I would urge the Government to consider this as a matter of very great urgency in the light of the present state of the morale of the service, caused partly by their pay and conditions of service in comparison with other social work services and partly by the very real uncertainty that they undoubtedly feel about the future of the service.
I warmly welcomed the reference in the speech of the mover of the Motion, the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, which was supported to-night by the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, to the need to concentrate more resources on the prevention of crime through research and the development of more and better treatment facilities for children and young people. I only wish that the gracious Speech had given more weight to this aspect of our current problems. I hope the noble Baroness will forgive me if I found the quotation she appeared to endorse from a recent speech by her right honourable friend the Home Secretary on the causes of delinquency to-day somewhat over-simplistic in its analysis of the situation. No doubt she would have 216 developed her own views in greater depth if time had allowed, and will do so on a future occasion.
Juvenile delinquency, like violent crime, is too complex a phenomenon to be explained by a single formula; but statistics and studies carried out not only in this country but in various parts of the world generally lead to the conclusion that children and young people are more prone to anti-social behaviour when their connections with their family have been disrupted by disharmony or divorce or separation, or when these connections become tenuous or remote.
The noble Lord, Lord Vivian, drew the attention of the House to the study, which has just been published by the Home Office Research Unit, setting out the results of the work initiated by Professor Tizard and Dr. Hammond with a group of boys in junior and intermediate approved schools. Like the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, I commend it to Members of the House. He has given its basic findings already: the only one I would add, which I find very sombre reading at this moment of time, is that a quarter of the boys' fathers were unemployed at the time their sons were committed to an approved school. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, that the prime responsibility for children does, and should, rest with their parents, but in our highly developed and very complex society there are now a variety of circumstances where it is generally accepted that aspects of this responsibility are shared by services in the community, particularly those relating to education and medical care. There is, unfortunately, as yet no such clarity in relation to their social care except in crisis situations, either when children are abandoned, neglected or ill-treated by their parents or when they commit an offence.
The problem is to know how to strengthen, to support and to sustain the family to prevent breakdown and forestall and reduce delinquency and all the damage, misery and waste that it entails. It was originally for these reasons that the previous Government set up the Committee on the Local Authority and Allied Personal Social Services to consider the changes needed to provide more effective services for the family, and subsequently 217 embodied the Committee's recommendations in the Local Authority Social Services Act last year. The previous Government also introduced, as the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, again reminded us, the Children and Young Persons Act, incorporating certain changes in the law relating to children and young people in trouble and at risk. What is now needed, I believe, is for the Government to channel additional resources to local authorities and to voluntary organisations to enable them to develop the range of services and facilities in the community, both day and residential, within this legislative framework, to assist parents, wherever possible on a voluntary basis, to deal with the problems that they are facing, remembering that these are frequently inarticulate groups whose problems are not so publicly attractive as those canvassed by more acceptable pressure groups.
I am afraid that the Government's increasingly selective policies, to which the noble Earl the Leader of the House earlier referred, are steadily eroding the universal concepts which underlie the social legislation of the immediate postwar period and the Seebohm Report some twenty years later. I would agree with the noble Earl— and I say this in a combination of both sorrow and anger —that we have come to the end of consensus both in the economic and the social field.
Noble Lords on this side of the House do not see the social services merely as minority services rescuing and assisting the "deserving" casualties of our rapidly changing society and acting as agents of social control for those who are deviant. We believe that these services should be universal and acceptable to all sections of the community and concerned with the prevention of social distress and the development of mutual and reciprocal aid, acting as agents of social change as well as of social care, in a participating and oaring society with special concern for those individuals and groups facing particular problems. These are the concepts that I believe lay at the heart of the Labour Government's social policy and of the Urban Aid Programme.
I greatly regret the apparent lack of any intention by the Government of 218 increasing expenditure on this programme, especially in areas of high social need with a concentration of multiple problems. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, has just reminded us that it is in the early years that a child's character is formed. I believe that the play group and day care schemes for the under-fives set up under the Urban Aid Programme have done more in terms of prevention than perhaps any other single social programme to assist in the healthy development of young children in urban areas. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham will be strengthened by this plea from this side of the House for an increase in the Urban Aid Programme.
In conclusion, my Lords, since we last debated this Motion some 16 months ago and most particularly since the publication of the White Paper New Policies for Public Spending, we have seen the inexorable development of the Government's upwardly redistributive fiscal and social policies and their effects on the family budget, tempered only partially successfully by their attempts to insulate the poorest families through the Family Income Supplement and the "season ticket" schemes from the worst impact of the multiple means-testing that their selective policies inevitably involve with all the costly administrative procedures they entail. The reduction of 6d. in the standard rate of income tax and the S.E.T. handback this summer have scarcely resulted in a new release of activity and a buoyant economy when nearly 1 million of our people are still unemployed. Nor, am I afraid, has it resulted in a reduction in price levels to the housewife—and I speak as a housewife who shops regularly. The increased charge for prescriptions and for dental treatment, the increased charges for school meals and the abolition of milk for the under-sevens, to which the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, again referred to-night, at a time when food prices have been rising at an unprecedented rate, have undoubtedly reduced the general standard of living of the lower and middle income groups. I was interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, on the problems that face old age pensioners. Many of us feel that even the increase of £1 in the retirement pension this September was meaningless, 219 in real terms, by the time it actually reached the old people.
The debate has also included reference to the policy of the Government in relation to rented housing and their determination to reduce housing subsidies by some £200 million. This will require a massive increase in means testing as the result of the legislation provided to implement the so-called Fair Deal for Housing "which will, as I read the Bill, still exclude the furnished sector. The extension of security of tenure to furnished tenants as recommended by the Minority Report of the Francis Committee would have made it possible to bring this most vulnerable group of families, including many of the poorest families of the community, into eligibility for the proposed rent allowance scheme. I should have liked to say more in reply to the noble Earl the Leader of the House on the Government's new policies in relation to the Labour Government housing record, but I know that Lord Windlesham is waiting to speak. I will therefore conclude by saying that we all know that we are facing a very heavy and controversial legislative Session. I can assure noble Lords opposite that we on this side will scrutinise all the measures brought before us critically and responsibly. We will not hesitate, however, to oppose with all the vigour that we can muster on this side—and after the big battalions of last week, one sometimes loses heart—those measures which we believe will divide rather than unite the nation and undermine the wellbeing and welfare of all the people in this country whom we in Parliament exist to serve.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD WINDLESHAM)
My Lords, I can assure noble Lords that it is no ordeal that lies before me. I regard it as a pleasure to take part in a debate of this sort and to listen to noble Lords who speak with such tremendous experience and authority on the subjects that we have been discussing. As the noble Baroness remarked, the debate has ranged very wide. This is inevitable because we have an opportunity to raise any matter which is in the Queen's Speech or any matter which any noble Lord thinks should be in the Government programme for the coming Session. The noble Lord, 220 Lord Mancroft, and a number of other noble Lords followed my noble friend the Leader of the House in discussing the environment. Baroness Stocks spoke about the cultural environment. The noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, and the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, spoke on aspects of housing policy and on the homeless. The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, talked about the rights of women and the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, made a long and thoughtful speech on the subject of retirement pensions. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, spoke of law refolin, to which I should like to return in a moment; and the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, following what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, about legal aid, said how much she appreciated the decision taken by the Government to implement the £25 Legal Aid Scheme as proposed by the Law Society. My noble friend Lord Vivian, the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids and the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, from the Benches opposite, reminded us of the concern that we should have for very young people in the case of the age group that Lord St. Davids had in mind. The noble Baroness also referred to the reorganisation of the National Health Service.
But, my Lords, if there was a main theme, it was crime and lawlessness and the policies towards crime generally, about which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, spoke in opening for the Opposition. He was followed by the noble Lords, Lord Foot, Lord Stonham. Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge and Lord Brown. It is to this topic that I should like to return for the main part of my reply. But before doing so, perhaps I may answer a few of the points which have been raised. Inevitably my answers will be very selective, but noble Lords opposite know only too well that it is not possible in a debate of this kind to deal with all the questions which have been put to me and to my noble friends on this Bench. But I can undertake to go through Hansard and make sure that the Departments concerned pick up any requests for information or any specific proposals put to the Government. so that either I myself or an appropriate Minister can write in reply.
As regards Northern Ireland, my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence 221 made a fairly full statement yesterday. The noble Baroness, Lady White, also made a long speech to which Lord Carrington and I listened with close attention when she wound up from the Front Bench opposite. My noble friend Lord Lothian said that I would deal with the political aspects to-day, and indeed I prepared myself to do so at some length. But as the debate developed this has not been a major theme. Only three speakers in fact referred to Northern Ireland, the noble Lords, Lord Arwyn, Lord Vivian and Lord Stonham, and, they only touched on it. Since there will, I think inevitably, be an opportunity for a further debate on Northern Ireland before we get too far into the Session, it may be better if I move on to the other subjects discussed during this afternoon's debate.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, I entirely appreciate the position of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and I fully understand the reason why he does not wish to go into the matter at great length to-night. Naturally he would wish to reply to points raised by noble Lords who are present. On the assumption that we have a fairly early debate in your Lordships' House, I should not wish to press the matter now, more particularly as I hope that when the time comes we shall have a very substantial contribution from the Government Benches on new and more effective policies which they hope to undertake.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House is sitting beside me and I am sure he has listened to what the noble Baroness said about an opportunity for a debate. The noble Baroness will appreciate that these things are not in my hands but in those of the House authorities and the usual channels on both sides.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, gave us a check list of law reform proposals on which he asked for further information. There were 17 of them. I wrote them down as he rattled them off, and I was enabled to do so fairly quickly because some of them were quite familiar to me. I should like to ask the Departments concerned to let the noble and learned Lord know what the state of play is. As he knows, these items run across a number of Departments. I can say to him that two 222 "old friends" will be off the list before very much longer: the Report of the Broderick Committee on coroners and the question of the reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders. I was asked whether the Committee looking into coroners would achieve some sort of record, but I am told, alas!, that although it is some six years since the Committee was set up by the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, who was then Home Secretary, this is very far from a record. My Lords, we hope to introduce a Bill this Session on the reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders. I think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, will appreciate that it is difficult to be more specific than that.
The noble and learned Lord also asked about the reorganisation of magistrates' courts and why it was necessary to include a provision about magistrates' courts in a local government Bill when local government reorganisation is not due to take place until 1974, by which time magistrates' courts could be reorganised. My Lords, the answer to this question is that, because of the timetable for preparation of the very large and complex local government legislation, it was necessary to make provision for magistrates' courts on the basis that the present local links would be maintained, since it would be some time before it was possible to take a final decision on whether magistrates' courts should come under central control or not. If it should be decided that the essentials of the present system should be retained, the Local Government Bill makes suitable provision without the necessity for further legislation. If the decision goes in favour of central control, the provision in the Local Government Bill safeguards the position in the event of the changeover not being effected before April 1, 1974. But I can assure the noble and learned Lord, as we assured those to whom we sent the second Circular—two Circulars were sent out—the Circular in August made quite clear that there was no intention to prejudice the final decision, which will be taken after consideration of replies received by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor as well as by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. My Lords, the Government are keenly aware of the difficulties to which 223 my noble friend Lord Mancroft referred in his speech—
§ LORD GARDINER
My Lords, if the noble Lord is leaving that point, may I ask whether he can reply to my question whether the memoranda sent into the Home Office will be published?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, it is not intended to publish these replies, but it is a master for each organisation whether or not it wishes to publicise its view, and I am informed that some of them have already done so.
May I say how welcome was the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in this debate? I believe it is two years since he took part in a debate in your Lordships' House, although at one time he held the Office that I now hold, so that he was a very familiar figure at this Box. The Government, my Lords, are keenly aware of the difficulties caused by heavy lorries travelling in the streets of small towns which were not designed for them. Measures are being taken urgently to improve parking facilities for heavy vehicles and to bypass historic towns. I think I can be even more specific and give the noble Lord some satisfaction on one point. My right honourable friend the Minister for Transport Industries has refused to allow an increase in the maximum weight and size of lorries and has announced new and stricter standards on the noise and smoke they are allowed to inflict upon us. Research is now being carried out which, we hope, will show how, in due course, new lorries may be made as quiet as private cars are now. A Bill will be introduced shortly in your Lordships' House to enable us to enforce our size and weight limits more effectively against the increasing numbers of heavy vehicles entering this country from abroad.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, asked about the National Health Service reorganisation in England and Wales. The National Health Service reorganisation in Scotland is referred to in the Queen's Speech, as she said. Although the Government's proposals for unifying the administration of the health services in England and Wales are not included in the programme for 1971–72, I confirm that it is still our firm intention that the 224 reorganised Health Service should come into effect in April, 1974; that is, at the same time as local government reorganisation. The Secretary of State for Social Services is completing an intensive round of discussions with the main National Health Service and local authority interests, and the Government's decisions, which will take account of these discussions, will be announced in a White Paper to be issued during this Session of Parliament. As part of the consultative process there will be an opportunity for a full debate in your Lordships' House later this month, and my noble friend the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Security will then set out the Government's proposals more fully and will be in a position to reply to the comments of the noble Baroness.
My Lords, the Queen's Speech acknowledges and shares public concern at the growth of violent crime. It is a fact that indictable crime has been increasing for many years now. As long ago as 1952 I recall that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who has joined us for the debate, addressed himself to the question: Why have delinquency and material improvement and the abolition of extreme poverty increased apparently together? The Nuffield Enquiry into the causes of crime, and indeed the noble Lord's own book, Causes of Crime, followed, and were supplemented later by several other studies. But now, nearly twenty years later, I do not think that many people who have investigated this question would want to be at all certain in explaining why it is that crime has increased so much in recent years.
The noble Lord, Lord Brown, suggested that it might, in part, be caused by the growing frustration of people employed in large industrial units. Other people have pointed to the break-up of the family, community grouping, increased urbanisation and greater affluence. If they are right, then, as my noble friend Lord Jellicoe said in his opening, it may be that in the long run it is through education, the social services, housing and the environment as a whole that we must hope to influence the crime rate. And action in these spheres may do more than action which is aimed directly at it. Other people, on the other hand, attach importance to certain factors 225 which may have helped to inflate the statistics, such as greater police efficiency, improved methods of recording offences and the need to report crimes before making insurance claims. A great deal of recorded crime is comparatively trivial. and we simply do not know how many offences of this sort took place in the past which were not notified to the police.
But, as many noble Lords have said, it is the increase in violent crime that is particularly worrying. A high proportion of crimes involving violence against the person are known about and are cleared up. The record of the police in this respect is outstanding. Quite extraordinary cases, like the kidnapping and murder of Mrs. Mackay, have been unravelled patiently and skilfully, and those responsible brought to justice. It is also a remarkable achievement that, so far as we have been able to look back in Home Office records, no one wanted in connection with the murder of a police officer has ever managed to get away with it. This is a fact that cannot be too strongly emphasised.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord this question. Has any study ever been carried out into the correlation between high unemployment and the crime rate? If it has not been done, could the noble Lord consider whether something could be done in this respect?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I should like notice of that question. My instinctive response would be to say that one would expect a correlation as regards petty crime. But my concern in what I have to say now, and I think the concern of people who have studied the question, is with the more serious offender who commits the organised, planned crime, and now, very often, resorts to violence. I should not necessarily expect to find a connection there. But if I may look into this—a great deal of research work is done in these matters—and let the noble Lord know, I certainly will.
It is the trend towards certain crimes of violence with which most people are concerned. Perhaps the most serious aspect of the problem is the number of planned robberies and burglaries directed at particular targets in which firearms and other weapons are used. My right 226 honourable friend the Home Secretary has made clear his great concern at this trend, and has said that he intends to ask Parliament for heavier maximum penalties for offences which involve carrying or using firearms. I should like to study what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, said on this point.
In view of the reference in the Queen's Speech to the prospect of legislation to strengthen the administration of criminal justice, it might be helpful if I were to say something for the remainder of my time about the Government's approach towards crime and penal policy generally. First of all, we would distinguish between prevention, detection and punishment—in that order. If, for whatever reason, prospective offenders are dissuaded from committing an offence, the subsequent stages will not then arise. Nor can there be any doubt that the possibility of getting caught is a more effective deterrent than the length of the sentence an offender may receive in the courts if he is detected. No calculating criminal will commit an offence if he believes that there is a strong probability that he will be caught; conversely, others may be induced to take part if they believe that there is little risk of detection.
In between these two extremes lies a whole range in which risks of detection are balanced against the anticipated rewards of the crime. One way to achieve greater protection of the public is to work on altering this balance, and two of our policies are aimed at doing this. The first concerns the strength and effectiveness of the police; and the second involves personal reparation by the offender, including an experimental scheme of criminal bankruptcy. This will mean that certain offenders whose depredations have been on a large scale can be made bankrupt with a view to depriving them of the fruits of their crime for the benefit of the victims. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, referred in his opening to the question of reparation. I think he put the question in a rather critical way as to whether or not this was window-dressing. My Lords, this is far from the case. What the Criminal Justice Bill will do is to implement the main recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Penal System, a sub-committee of which. under the present Lord Chief Justice, 227 Lord Widgery, reported in 1970 Reparation by the Offender.
The police themselves (this was the subject of much of Lord Stonham's speech) are being strengthened and better rewarded. There was a substantial pay award earlier this year which may have helped towards the very welcome slowing down in the rate at which trained police officers leave the force prematurely. Coupled with this, there has been an encouraging improvement in the rate of recruitment. The result is that in the first nine months of this year police strength in England and Wales has increased by 2,177 officers. This compares with a figure of less than 2,000 for the whole of 1970. So in the first nine months of this year, we have already surpassed the total for twelve months last year. The number of police cadets, which is also a useful and important indicator, has increased by 500 compared with a year ago. Duties which do not need to be performed by the police are being turned over to civilians wherever it is possible to do so, and much thought has been given to making the police more efficient. The advent of the personal radio and the Panda car have already transformed the traditional methods of the man on the beat, although in certain situations foot patrols remain the best form of policing. A new era in police communication and intelligence will be inaugurated when the police national computer becomes operational. All these changes in police methods, transport and equipment are designed to make sure that the police are well able to combat the greater mobility and sophistication of the modern criminal.
While I am on the subject of prevention, perhaps I may refer to the National Crime Prevention Campaign which was launched on October 6 by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary. This will encourage the public to participate, and participate directly, in the containment of crime, particularly as regards the protection of property and the reporting of suspicious activities to the police. Local forces are mounting their own crime prevention campaigns against the background of the national effort.
My Lords, I have deliberately discussed these two aspects, the prevention of crime and, where it does take place, its detection, before coming on to the ques- 228 tion of punishment. If our main concern is the protection of the public, it seems to me that there is a logical sequence of prevention, detection and punishment. Moreover, where a crime has been committed and an offender has been sentenced by the courts to a term of imprisonment or borstal training, the custodial regime should also have among its aims the prevention of further crimes in the future. Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, remarked in his speech, not all prisoners or borstal trainees are susceptible to the attempts that are made to rehabilitate them. But it is worth remembering that, quite apart from the redemption of the individual, society itself will benefit if an offender, who may have believed himself to be rejected by society, comes to see during his time in prison that he can lead a normal and law-abiding life on his release. So for this reason, if for no other, we cannot allow ourselves to be influenced by those voices which demand a return to a rough and tough prison régime.
Owing to overcrowding and obsolescent buildings the majority of prisoners are already contained in highly unpleasant conditions. Our aim is to improve these conditions; to provide better opportunities for work and training; for exercise and family visits; for psychiatric care and for counselling. These are the things that hold out hope of leading the lawbreaker back into society; and if they succeed in preventing a man from offending further who can argue that the public interest has not been served? Bad conditions and harsh methods of treatment can lead only to deepening feelings of resentment and bitterness and a determination to strike back again at a hostile society as soon as possible after release. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, who has made a great contribution in this field, made the same point in his speech earlier in the debate to-day.
A major programme of prison building is already in progress. In 1969–70 there was only one scheme started, with 80 places. In 1970–71, work started on schemes to provide an additional 1,500 places, and in the current financial year we hope to reach a figure of 3,000 places. Many of these will be provided by way of extensions to existing establishments. 229 but in addition to the completely new prisons which have been opened at Long Lartin and Ranby earlier this year, planning clearances have now been obtained for 14 new prisons and borstals. Further schemes are still under negotiation with local authorities. This full-scale prison building programme is the largest that this country has ever known. For many years, imprisonment, particularly for young offenders or first offenders, has been regarded as appropriate only after all other alternatives have been considered and discarded. But we are anxious to widen the range of alternatives which are available to the courts.
Last year a sub-committee of the Advisory Council on the Penal System, under the chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, reported on Non-Custodial and Semi-Custodial Penalties. We hope to find an opportunity during the coming Session to implement a number of recommendations made in the sub-committee's report, notably by authorising the courts, on an experimental basis, to require offenders to carry out work of service to the community in their spare time. I think that this answers the question put to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Serota. It seems entirely appropriate that one of the punishments for crime should be to give service to the community against whom the wrong has been committed; and although the work 230 being done on this is still in its early stages I should be inclined to say to the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, that the type of work we have been talking about would not be excluded from the range of this scheme. We believe that the courts should also be enabled to defer sentence, to order forfeiture of property which is used or intended for use in the commission of crime and to disqualify from driving those who use vehicles for this purpose.
My Lords, this is a large subject—I have spoken on it rather longer than I intended—and it is one to which we shall have an opportunity to return later in this Session. But I hope that I have now said enough to give an outline of the Government's general approach to the problem of crime and of how we believe that crime will be most effectively countered.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend, Lord Delacourt-Smith, I beg to move that this debate be now adourned until Tuesday.
§ Moved, That the debate be adjourned until Tuesday next.—(Lord Strabolgi.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned until Tuesday next.
§ House adjourned at sixteen minutes past eight o'clock.