HL Deb 10 April 1973 vol 341 cc524-615

2.51 p.m.

LORD BOWDEN rose to call attention to the regulations and directives that have been and are being drafted in the European Commission which will, if agreed to by the Council of Ministers, profoundly affect all the professions and most of the university courses in the United Kingdom; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I count myself very fortunate that I should have this opportunity of initiating a debate in your Lordships' House this afternoon on a matter that I believe to be of considerable importance. We are in effect going to discuss the future developments of the learned professions of this country and the way in which they will be affected by our membership of the Common Market and by the activities of the Commissioners and Ministers in the Common Market. The matter is very complicated, and it is peculiarly appropriate that it should be debated in your Lordships' House, because in this House are to be found Members who speak with great authority about the affairs of most of the learned professions of the country. We have in our list of speakers, as your Lordships will see, people who speak with authority on the law, on medicine, on engineering and on architecture, each of which is represented here by a person who has been either the president of the appropriate association or a distinguished holder of public office. So it will fall to me, since I cannot possibly encompass the problems of all the professions, merely to outline the problems as I see them, and give an opportunity, I hope, for men infinitely better versed in the details than I to speak of the peculiar problems of their own professions.

My Lords, when the Treaty of Rome was being negotiated it became apparent that there were many restrictions which hindered the free movement of professional men from one part of Europe to another. For example, in Italy a man could not practise medicine or engineering unless he were a native-born Italian and had been educated in an Italian university. Similar regulations and restrictions inhibited the movement of people from one country to another. So, very properly, the Treaty of Rome incorporated clauses to facilitate the very reasonable aspiration that professional men should be able to move freely from place to place. If I may quote from the Treaty, it says: That in order to facilitate access to and engagement in the professions, the Council shall issue directives for the mutual recognition of diploma certificates and other evidence of qualifications.

This, I am sure, seems to everyone to be an eminently reasonable and sensible proposal, and it is therefore a source of astonishment to most people that such a monstrous and wholly incomprehensible series of legislative and administrative proposals should have been erected upon it.

The concept of the free mobility of professional men has always been one that we have known and welcomed. Professional men have moved freely throughout the whole world for hundreds of years. As we remember, the problems which are posed by this mobility fall in different categories. There is, on the one hand, the anxiety of the countries from which they come that they may be losing some of their most valuable citizens. We spoke of this when we debated the "brain drain" in this House a couple of years ago. On the other hand, there is the anxiety of the countries to which they are going that the people who arrive should be adequately qualified and able to exercise with appropriate skill the profession which they propose to join. There is the point of view of the people themselves who wish to migrate in search of fame and fortune. And there is—and this is a most important point when one comes to think of it—the point of view of the members of the profession in the country to which people are going to move.

My Lords, one has to pose to oneself the question: how is it possible to persuade members of a profession to accept as colleagues people who come from a foreign land; men of whom they may claim they have little knowledge, in whose competence they may have to trust, and who may be depriving them of the opportunities of earning the kind of living to which they have become accustomed? All of these are problems with which any migratory policy has to contend. But it has always been the case that men have moved about. For example, the Royal College of Physicians was established four or five hundred years ago, and for many years the president had the power to examine anybody who practised medicine within a six-mile radius of the City of London; and if he found him to be doing so without adequate understanding of his profession, he was empowered to clap him into gaol. I am sorry to say that this excellent rule was abolished about one hundred years ago—and it may be that as a result of our deliberations this afternoon your Lordships will wish to re-enact it.

This sort of thing has been with us for very many years. How has it come about, therefore, that the proposal that the Community should facilitate migration should have caused such an enormous upheaval? The reason seems to be this: that the Commission decided to impose regulations which would not merely allow for the migration of people already qualified, but to regularise and standardise the educational system which a man must have experienced if he was to be free to migrate. A series of proposals was put forward defining in great detail the circumstances in which a man could qualify as, say, a lawyer, doctor, veterinary surgeon, or anything else, and the specification was drawn up in terms of a detailed count of the number of hours that were to be spent on each part of a syllabus, which was described in detail.

About a year ago, the Commissioners took another step which made the matter even worse: they decided that, having specified in detail how a man was to be qualified as an accountant in France, if he was to be free to migrate from, say, France to Germany, they would take the next step and make it essential that all men who wished to practise any profession of any kind in their own country could do so only if they had taken a course the details of which had been decided in Brussels. This was the situation when I ventured to speak to your Lordships' House on the Second Reading of the Common Market Bill. I said at the time that this was rank insanity. It is inconceivable that, let us say, accountants, vets or doctors in England should be unable to practise medicine, or whatever the subject might be, in England until they had satisfied in detail a syllabus which has been prescribed for them by bureaucrats in Brussels. There must be limits to the follies in which the Commissioners can engage themselves. I felt then, as I still feel, that this grossly exceeds any reasonable expectation that one could think of. However, that was the situation as recently as last year.

My Lords, when the time came for us to join the Common Market there was an interim period which lasted for about a year, during which our people were encouraged to listen to the debates on the nature of the qualifications and, in some cases, to participate in them. But we were not, in effect, either in or out, and the situation was difficult and rather delicate. During this time, I am afraid I have to say that the Government behaved in what seems to me to have been a very foolish way, because negotiations, of supreme importance to many of the professions, were going on in Brussels, as a result of which vast quantities of paper were produced. These documents were kept as secret Cabinet papers, and many of the professions only heard of them because of contacts that they may have had at the lime with friends in Copenhagen or in Dublin, the Governments of both these countries equally having petitioned for entry and being equally worried about the future development of the professions concerned. For the whole of last year we were hoping that sooner or later this anomalous and extremely foolish action of the British Government would cease when we joined the Market on January 1.

During the last year in which we were not in the Market the Commissioners redoubled their efforts to try to force through what they called a series of orientation communes in which the education of professional men would be defined. They nearly forced one through which would have defined the education for medical men at a meeting which took place in Rome towards the end of December, about a fortnight before we joined the Market. Fortunately, as a result of a series of administrative accidents, many of which seemed to be due to the strike of civil servants in Brussels in the previous months, the attempt failed. When we entered the Market no regulations had been agreed and we did not know what was going to happen next.

Of the 20 professions considered, some had as many as a dozen separate drafts of a proposed educational system. Interminable wrangles took place and no agreement was reached. One might have thought that that was an end to the matter, and with three new countries joining the Market the situation would be radically changed; nevertheless the same attempt to push through these curious regulations has continued. At this moment the pharmacists are particularly at risk. I told your Lordships on the last occasion I spoke that the accountants had been expecting, when we joined the Market, that they would be able to practise in foreign countries and Europeans would be able to come here. Instead of their being able to do this, they discovered, to their dismay, that unless something dramatic happened, English accountants would not be able to practise accountancy in England or anywhere else after 1977—a disconcerting result which no one had foreseen. The same fate seems to be impending for the pharmacists.

I hope that your Lordships will bear with me if I speak briefly about the extraordinary discussions which have taken place. The pharmacists' association have the right, privilege and duty of licensing people to practise pharmacy, and they maintain a register. They do so after having assessed the quality of the education and training that the professional man has. The same sort of thing happens elsewhere. The proposal which has been made is that a course for pharmacy shall be of a specified length, which happens to be five years altogether—four years at university and one year of post-graduate practical training. The five years seems to have been taken by splitting the difference between various periods current in Europe, which vary from three years to nine; and, very arbitrarily, the five year period was chosen.

It was proposed that our people should adopt these regulations and a series of discussions took place between the pharmacists and the sponsoring Ministry, the Department of Health, as a result of which the reasoned case of the British Government to the recommendations from Brussels was prepared. I discovered by chance that this document existed. I rang up the pharmacists and asked them what they thought of it. They said they had not seen it. I made urgent representations that the document should be sent to the pharmacists for them to comment on it. I was given a total of 12 hours in which to make comments on a detailed series of proposals defining the educational system upon which the whole future of the pharmacists in this country was to depend. This is not an adequate way in which to do business; it is totally indefensible as an administrative process.

The case went to Brussels and in the end we have not decided very much; negotiations are still stuck. Our case seems to rest on the proposition that we can accept a five-year course for pharmacists, although the course now lasts four years in England, because our A-level course is held to be equivalent to the first-year course in a German, French or Dutch university. That this is not necessarily to be accepted by the Dutch, French or Germans is evidenced by the fact that the French have recently passed a series of Acts in which they attempt to define an equivalence between a French degree and an English degree. They have suggested that a three-year English degree from Oxford or Cambridge, or anywhere else, for which a person gets a first or an upper second shall be equated with an ordinary French degree; but a lower standard of degree, a two-two, a third or ordinary degree, shall be equated with a two-year diploma course and not regarded as a degree at all. On the one hand we have the Department of Education confidently expecting that three years here equals four on the Continent; and we have the Continental view that three years in England equals two on the Continent. Evidently there is room for a certain amount of argument before agreement is ultimately reached. There is a total failure of communication between Government and professions and the Department of Education and Science has a very over-simplified view of the probable reaction by French universities to our proposals about the equivalence of degrees.

All this is history. I now come to what I believe to be the fundamental difference between our system and the Continental system, because it is crucially important that we should understand it clearly. On the Continent most professional qualifications are given by universities, and the man's licence to practise professionally is nearly always conferred as a direct result of a series of examinations, usually set by universities and sometimes by the State. If, for example, a man wants to become a lawyer on the Continent he has to take a doctorate of jurisprudence, which may take about 5½ years. Thereafter he takes a year's supervised instruction in various courts and sits an examination, after which he becomes qualified to practise as either a solicitor or a barrister, there being no fundamental difference between the two parts of the profession in most Continental countries. One of the incidental consequences of the Common Market which some noble and learned Lord may be able to help us understand is whether our own professions will be forced to amalgamate and whether the Bar Council and the Law Society will become one and indissoluble after the interim period. If so, this will be a rather unexpected and unpredicted result of the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Rome. This is not a matter upon which I speak with any confidence or authority. I hope someone will enlighten us.


My Lords, I can tell the noble Lord that the answer is "No".


My Lords, in that case may I make a plea that the Government tackle lawyers and the law first, and leave the engineers alone until they have got the law straight? I have every confidence that then a reasonable decision will be taken.

In England the professions have a totally different structure, and this structure has been copied in America, with slight amendments. Perhaps I can therefore call it the Anglo-Saxon system, since it is universally used on both sides of the Atlantic—in the United States, Canada and England. In this system the educational process of the professional man involves two or three stages: an education which is usually, but not always, in a university; a period of training which is sometimes in barrister's chambers, sometimes in a teaching hospital, sometimes on a building site and sometimes in a factory. After this a man has to give evidence that he has discharged a position of responsibility for a period of a year or two. Thereafter he is admitted to be a member of one of the chartered bodies, the institutes of civil, mechanical and chemical engineering and other similar bodies which govern the professions in this country.

If I may use this country as a typical example, in England a man's professional standing is assessed by a body of his peers, other members of his profession to which he aspires. On the Continent a man's professional standing is guaranteed by university degree. Furthermore, the total period of education is usually longer in England than it is on the Continent because of the successive parts of the programme. A Dutchman will often tell you that he has to take a six-year course in engineering while our people take a three-year course. But by the time a man has become a chartered member of one of the societies of engineers he may have studied for six or seven years, during part of which he was undergoing formal education, and during part of which he was undergoing instruction in the mysteries of his trade in some form of post-graduate apprenticeship. This being so, the relationship between Government, universities and the professions is completely different on the two sides of the Channel.

My main criticism of the Government's activities during the interim period and at the present moment is that they seem to have been blind to this extremely important difference of principle between our professions and their organisation and those on the Continent. I have spoken to Ministers about this because of the problems which it poses for negotiations about the rationalisation of qualifications. On the Continent it is perfectly normal and natural for all matters connected with professional qualifications to be conducted by Government officials because the Governments control the professions; they control the universities and in many instances they set the examinations. In England this is not so, but Ministers and their servants—that is, the permanent officials—have presumed to speak in the negotiations in Brussels as if they had the power to commit the professions, just as their Continental opposite numbers have always had. It seems to me that this is fundamentally wrong because, to the extent that it is permitted to continue, the autonomy of the learned societies and of the professions is eroded and their authority is destroyed.

The last occasion on which I spoke of this matter was in Manchester, and I said then that in my view the autonomy of the universities and the autonomy of the professions was at risk because of the negotiations then proceeding in Brussels—the negotiations to which I have referred. I was rebuked by Government spokesmen, who said that the Commissions in Brussels had neither the power nor the intention to erode the autonomy of the universities or of the professional societies. I think, now that I have seen the matter further, that the Government were quite right to rebuke me in this way. The danger to the autonomy of the universities and the professions is not in Brussels; it is in Whitehall, and the danger comes not from the Commissioners but from our Ministers. I believe it passionately to be true. I believe it is quite wrong that negotiations about the future of medicine or of the law, or of any other subject, should be conducted on behalf of the professions in Brussels by spokesmen from this country who neither understand in detail what the professional matters are about nor are empowered to speak on behalf of the professions of which they are not members. This I believe is a very important point indeed, and it seems to have eluded the spokesmen who have at various times apologised on behalf of Government policy.

We knew when we joined the Common Market that the purpose of the exercise was in large part to make certain that decisions which had been taken in England hitherto will be taken in Brussels in the future, and whether the process of discussion is described as "negotiation" or "horse trading" is a matter of semantics. But I find myself very depressed when I am told, as I have been by Ministers, that these negotiations must be conducted in the same kind of way as are negotiations about tariffs because the Government are responsible in both cases. I do not believe that one can draw any analogy at all between negotiations about the price of butter or pig meat and negotiations about the future of the law, the Church, medicine, or any other profession in this country. It is quite wrong that Government officials should presume to speak, as they have done, as if they were empowered to commit the professions when they have not the authority of the professions themselves. If in fact it is the Government's intention to do this, then they are "at a stroke" (if I may quote a phrase) destroying the most important of all the attributes of the professions and reducing our professions to the state that has long had to be endured on the Continent. If they propose to do this, it would be simpler and tidier if they were to abrogate all the charters of all the professions and all the universities before they proceed. That, my Lords, is the main point of my attack on the Government.

They have been negotiating now in Europe for about 12 years and the question we have to solve is: What is to be done next? The Secretary of State for Education and Science, Mrs. Thatcher, has said more than once that the situation is quite all right, because, on the one hand, nothing has been decided yet, and on the second hand we cannot possibly accept this purely quantitative approach—the specification of numbers, of hours, and so on, which I have referred to—which makes no allowance at all for the quality of the teaching or facilities of the university or the standard at which the students enter the university; this is unacceptable and we should be able to veto any proposal which was made to that effect. But this is not a substitute for a policy, which we must have, which makes it possible for men freely to move from one place to another. I believe that the subject will have to be started again, and I should like to plead with the Government that they should propose—and I think they would almost certainly get acceptance of this—that the whole of these ridiculous regulations should be scrapped forthwith and negotiations should be begun again. I have discussed the matter with several German delegates and it is my view that they would support such a proposition.

I should like therefore briefly to describe a system which I think would work, because it is in effect an extension of the system which we now have in this country and which exists in America. The difficulties which confronted the United States when they began to contemplate mobility of professional men a hundred years ago were entirely comparable to those which confront Europeans to-day.

The difference between the State of Utah and the State of Connecticut in those days was profound. As time has gone on the States have become more homogeneous and the similarities between their educational systems have grown. Nevertheless, the same system has been used throughout the history of the United States; it is still being used and it is still working very well. It is, as I say, based very much on the same ideas as our own. Various universities are empowered to give courses after they have been accredited. This accreditation process is done in England by the University Grants Committee or by the Council for National Academic Awards; in America it is done by groups of universities who visit each other and make sure that the standards and facilities are adequate.

Secondly, a man acquires his professional status in a series of exercises of which the educational process is only the first, and his licence to practise his profession is given him by a society of his peers. I think that such a proposition would appeal to the Europeans if Her Majesty's Government could be prevailed upon to urge it upon them. I do not believe that any system based on the technique which has hitherto been recommended would succeed either in the old, original Six and certainly not now that the Common Market has been extended. So this could undoubtedly be recommended and I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will do it. I hope, furthermore, that we shall accept the fact that migration is desirable and to be encouraged, and face up to the other implications of migration which are connected with the differences between the professions themselves, which are very profound.

I have mentioned one to your Lordships before: the difference between the optician and a French optician. The qualifications, let us say, of an English syllabus that we have now is at least 25 years ahead of anything on the Continent. Similarly, our own pharmacists say that the syllabus which is now recommended for them to adopt would have been appropriate before the war but they have long since scrapped it. In some cases our professions are better than theirs, better educated, in spite of the fact that the course takes a shorter time: other professions have a longer period of indoctrination in this country. The professions profoundly differ from one side of the Channel to the other. So a process of rationalising merely by standardising the educational experience before one enters into the professions is unlikely to succeed in the task which we all want to undertake.

The second point, which is very important indeed, is that we must reconsider what I can only describe as the awesome responsibilities which are assumed by professional men in this country. Nearly every time a consulting engineer or architect, for example, signs a drawing or a document of any kind he puts his whole personal fortune at hazard. He cannot screen himself by the Companies Act; he cannot limit his liability; his whole fortune is at hazard if he makes a mistake. To some extent people can screen themselves by conforming precisely to regulations—for example, to building regulations—and if they can prove that they had precisely followed the regulations laid down they would not be totally bankrupt were they to make a mistake. That provision by which, as I have said, a professional man is totally at risk in making any of his decisions, does not obtain in all the countries of the Common Market. One of the questions that should be posed by the Government, and it will have to be done by the Law Officers, is to what extent there should be a change in the status of professional men and in the obligations which they incur during the course of their lives.

The problem of taking out indemnity insurances these days is becoming extraordinarily difficult. The medical profession, and I believe certain other professions, are able to take out policies through their own professional associations, but structural engineers and architects have the greatest possible difficulty in finding brokers who will accept the very considerable responsibility of insuring them against professional mistakes. The difficulties have grown dramatically in the course of the last decade and are now becoming so serious that a man's professional life in future will, so far as I can see, depend not on his academic qualifications, not on anything that is decided in Brussels, but almost entirely on his ability to persuade a firm of insurance brokers to give him the necessary indemnity insurance policy which may be for half a million or a million pounds. I believe that these matters must be considered by the Law Officers as part of the exercise of deciding what is to be the future of the professions of this country.

There was an extremely important decision—the nature of which I believe is to be explained later this afternoon by one of the noble and learned Lords—which was taken by the noble Lord, Lord Devlin, in the Court of Appeal in July, as a result of which the professional liability of a servant of the Corporation of Bognor Regis was firmly assigned to the Corporation rather than to the individual. I do not understand the case in detail at all, but it may well be that this is one of the first of many decisions which will transform the professional obligations of ordinary practising civil engineers who have these extraordinary responsibilities which are almost unknown to the great body of the public.

My Lords, the next point is that the difficulties which confront professional men are such that they have every temptation to be cautious and conventional in all that they do, because so long as they have conformed to known practice they are less likely to be held blameworthy if anything goes wrong. There ought to be a better mechanism than we have in this country to-day to ensure what I can best call "feedback" between major works of civil engineering and the drawing office from which they come. At the moment the detailed design calculations are done by consulting engineers, often in small offices. They cannot possibly afford to make measurements and to decide whether their design was conventional, over-conservative or too dangerous—they have neither the resources to do it nor the time. The contractor is not interested because he is paid by work done; and the customer wants only one model and is therefore not interested in finding out how good a design he has. So there is no proper mechanism at all for ensuring that the great achievements of some designers in their new work ever results in appropriate disciplines and techniques to be used by other people. I urge the Government to consider whether it would be possible to make use of the learned societies as a mechanism for analysing the results of great public works—such as roads, power stations, bridges and things of that kind—so that the skill of the designers can be recognised and any achievements for which they have been responsible will be known instead of, as at the moment, only suspected.

There are many problems which will confront us in Europe. As I have said, I believe that our system of organising the professions is incomparably better than the system in Europe. I believe that the American system, which differs slightly from our own, is even better than our system in many ways. We should urge the Community to adopt our system—or the American system, call it what you will, if they dislike the concept of an English system—which would be much more to their advantage than anything they have so far proposed. When I raised the matter with one of the Ministers concerned he said that that was not possible because the Community wants to do things as a community and not in the rather casual way followed in the United States. It was obvious to him that in the fairly near future a man from, let us say, Sicily, will have more in common with a man from Edinburgh than a man, say, from Connecticut will have with one from Nebraska. I do not believe that this will happen in my lifetime and it will be folly to design a system for accreditation on the assumption that it will.

Finally, I should like to put our problem into proper perspective, by saying that in almost all the countries in Europe there are violent discussions on the best mechanism for organising the professional life of a Community and of relating the universities to it. There are long arguments about the optimum length of university courses. We should perhaps increase ours by a year, as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, suggested earlier and as I myself believe we should do in certain cases. There is an enormous amount to be done—much more than has so far been contemplated in the Commission, which has concentrated solely and totally on attempting to impose what I believe to be the Belgian system of detailed central control on the universities and on the professions in this country. Now we have a remarkable opportunity to influence European policy.

If your Lordships will allow me to put the matter into proper perspective, may I describe the problem as it has existed in Europe before? When first the universities of mediaeval Europe were founded they adopted a system of accepting each other's graduates and allowing them to teach. The universities of Oxford and Paris had such an agreement for many years. New universities were founded by a Papal Bull or charter from the Emperor which entitled their graduates to the privilege of teaching in any other university in Europe. It was the so-called jus ubique docendi. It was an extremely important privilege conferred upon the graduates of the favoured universities, those blessed with Papal Bulls or charters from the Emperor. In the year 1295, the then Pope, Nicholas IV, decided to get into the business himself and he gave a Papal Bull to the Universities of both Oxford and Paris endowing their graduates with the right that they had always had, by mutual consent, ever since they were founded. The next time that an Oxford doctor went to Paris to teach, the university's view was very simple: they had accepted such men before, but when the Pope told them to do it they were not so keen, and they insisted on examining him. That was an insult which the University of Oxford could not tolerate, so the next time a Parisian doctor came to Oxford he, too, was examined; and in no time at all the universities of Europe were imposing tests on each other's doctors which were indistinguishable from the examinations which the Papal Bull expressly forbade them to use. The reason is the one which I began with: how are you to compel members of a closed society to accept as colleagues people of whose origins they are suspicious and in whose education they have no confidence? That was in 1295.

When I was myself in Cambridge, my own tutor, who was a Doctor of Science of the University of Glasgow, was always referred to in the University Calendar as "Mr. Wood", there being no provision in Cambridge in my time to admit the doctors of any university except Oxford and Trinity College, Dublin, in spite of the fact that the University of Glasgow had been given a Papal Bull some 500 years before which entitled its doctors to recognition everywhere else. I was at Oxford a month ago and raised the question of whether this particular problem had yet been solved, and I was told with great joy by a distinguished audience that for the past five years it has been possible for a doctor of any university to be so described in the University Calendar of Oxford. But despite the sense of euphoria and mutual congratulation, one of my audience said, "Oh, yes; but I myself am a Doctor of Science of the University of Hong Kong. I wear a beautiful gown and would be perfectly willing to wear it in public in the street, but I could scarcely take it into the Sheldonian, could I?" There was a murmur of assent from a distinguished academic audience which made me realise that after 700 years the row which the Pope initiated in 1295 was still not completely settled.

There is a proverb, my Lords, that a week is a long time in politics; twelve years is obviously not a long time for the 'Commission, and 700 years seems to be not enough for the University of Oxford. So I think perhaps the Commission has been unduly hasty. But the problems must be solved because they are very important. I do not believe that the Government are seized of them; I believe that the Government must change their policy profoundly. I believe, moreover, there is a great deal we could do to help the Europeans to change their system in a manner that they would welcome very much. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.31 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise to some of your Lordships who will have a list on which my name does not appear. There was a leak in the channels of communication but I am grateful that it was plugged before I was washed away. I must also (no doubt on behalf of your Lordships' House) express our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, for raising this extremely important topic and expounding the case in such a very clear manner. We have—and I speak as an ardent, not to say passionate, European—two conflicting principles in this area of the professions and of the university courses within the European Community. The first is that we want to see as much interchangeability as possible within what is now an accepted Community which actually exists. The second is that we do not want to see this development cause the unification of the cultures of the Community. We realise with that distinguished European, T. S. Eliot, that in fact culture depends upon diversity of culture and this is something that we must want to see flourish.

The present proposals put forward by the Community seem to me to go absolutely in the wrong direction. They are in detail almost absurd. Alec Petersen, my distinguished predecessor as chairman of the Liberal Party Educational Panel and himself a director of the International Baccalaureat, and an expert on European education, has described them as Cloud Cuckooland measures of achievement. Who is to say whether the person who was meant to attend those hours actually attended; if he did attend them was he asleep or awake, and if he was awake did he take in what was actually said? The whole idea of hours attended is based in most cases on the fact that European courses tend to be that much less intensive than ours, although there are exceptions to this. I believe that this all stems from a mistake as to what the nature of entry into a profession should be, a mistake made very much by the other European countries but to a slightly less extent made even by ourselves. I think the idea should be to make educational processes and educational courses much more flexible and to make the entry point into a profession the important issue.

The tendency in Europe seems to be to do the opposite. In fact it is almost getting extremely limited in a negative way as well as in a positive way. Some of your Lordships may have seen a most peculiar advertisement in The Times last week from the Commission of the European Communities recruiting principal administrative assistants for very important jobs. They have to have G.C.E. in five subjects including two at "A" level; they have to have a perfect command of English and a satisfactory knowledge of one of the European tongues. The net starting salary is between £5,000 and £5,600 which is not bad by any standard, and yet university graduates cannot be considered for these posts. I think that is the most extraordinary advertisement that I have ever read. It is not a misprint because it is repeated in an advertisement next door to it. I think it shows a narrowing of vision in the whole European set-up which is very much to be deplored.

I think that even in this country we are moving a little too much towards rigidity in higher and further education. The examples of the proposals which are before the Government now to make two "A" levels entry qualifications for a Dip.Ad., or the proposals of the James Committee produced, one is led to believe, after a certain amount of argument and pressure from the teachers' unions to make two "A" levels a condition of entry for Dip.H.E., are both reactionary moves. Indeed in America, and more particularly in Canada, they are moving in a different direction and Ontario, as so often in the van of educational progress, has in this most interesting report which has been produced by the Commission on Post Secondary Education in Ontario, called The Learning Society proposed that that kind of stratification should be put into reverse, and if the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, when he conies to the end of the debate moves for Papers I suggest that this is one of the papers he should move for. It is one which should be available to everybody interested in this subject. Their recommendation No. 53 is that: Legislation should be enacted to prevent discrimination in employment because of attendance or non-attendance at educational institutes. That means that it would be illegal to advertise jobs as being open only to graduates. It would put the onus for selection on the people who were offering the jobs in the case of a profession or professional body or in the case of an ordinary employer on the employer. He could not say, "Just because you have been at such-and-such an institution and got a piece of paper we will consider you and will not consider other people who have not".

The report goes on in Recommendation 54: Admission to professional practice in Ontario should be solely on the basis of an assessment of knowledge and performance undertaken at the point of entry to the profession. I would go further and say that it should be an assessment made by the profession on entry to the profession. The report goes on to recommend diversification in the professions—but that is another debate, an extremely interesting one, but not entirely germane to to-day's point.

The result of such a move would be to relieve the universities and schools from the tentacles that go down from the top demanding that education in schools and universities be of a particular kind because of the demand of the labour market. It would break down an important barrier to upward mobility. In spite of the Open University—that very admirable institution—and in spite of many reforms which are being made in higher and further education, there is in fact a situation where it is very difficult for someone who has jumped off the educational escalator at some point to get back on again, and this would make this situation much more flexible. The obituary which we have all sadly read in the course of the last few days of Professor Titmuss should be a case in point to bring this home to us. Such steps would be to encourage experiment and to encourage permanent education in its real sense—a permanent education throughout life which it must be said the unfortunate Russell Report has not gone very far to help.

We can take several actions in order to reverse the tendency which the other European countries seem to be adopting, and in favour of what the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, rightly calls the Anglo-Saxon approach. First, I believe that qualification must be at point of entry examination by the professions, by the man's peers and nothing else. This would not in any way have the effect of a lowering of standards; it might indeed lead to a rising of them. It would also free the universities from the kind of interference which is to be foreseen at the moment from the Commission, because there would be far less need for the Commission to lay down positive standards of equivalence of degrees, if equivalence of degrees did not in fact in so many countries govern entry into the professions. If you get away from that then there is less need to put pressure on the universities.

The second thing is that we must make sure that academics and members of the professions are as much involved in any of the negotiations on this matter as civil servants, if not more so. This is tremendously important. I think, thirdly, we have missed out the point that a very great many people on the Continent are in fact anxious to learn from the Anglo-Saxon method in terms of flexibility and in terms of how we regard our professions. One has considerable doubt as to whether the civil servants concerned, or the negotiators concerned, have really taken this point, as to whether they have not too easily given in to what they imagine to be well based Continental cases without putting positively the virtues of our own. I believe there are a great many people in Europe who would respond—not just some of the Germans, as the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, mentioned, but many in different countries and in different professions who would welcome an intiative on our part in this way.

Fourthly, it is important that we have much more educational exchange with the Continent as early as possible and as quickly as possible, going right down to secondary schools systems, and with commercial courses and apprentices, because unless we learn more about each other's educational systems we shall not be able to come to a satisfactory solution to the problems that are being, set. I think that if we approach the problem in this way we shall avoid the horrors which Lord Bowden has sketched for us and which are undoubted possibilities. I think there is in fact considerable ground for optimism. If we take a really firm stand and enter into these negotiations again in a slightly different frame of mood we have a considerable chance of success. I would say that I personally would place a certain amount of faith in the Commissioner who I believe is responsible for this, although only newly so, my fellow Liberal, Professor Ralph Dahrendorf, himself an academic. There is considerable hope that we should be able to reverse the drift on the Continent in such a way that we shall not only improve our educational system, not only preserve our professions and our universities, but also do a real service to our partners in Europe.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, for giving us this opportunity to debate a subject which is of immense importance. I am very fully aware of the anxieties that have been expressed by various professions on the effect of our entry into Europe so far as it concerns them. These anxieties were expressed in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, when he spoke in a debate as long ago as 1962, and I am very glad to see him here to-day and that he is going to speak in this debate.

I must say that I thought the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, gave a most unbalanced account of what has gone on in the past; I thought that as the great head of a very great educational institution he ought to have shown a greater degree of objectivity in approaching this subject. He made some really extraordinary remarks. I noted down only one or two. He spoke of the Commission's "deciding to impose regulations". He spoke of the "rank insanity" of Commissioners. These are very intemperate remarks, and I do not think they are in the least justified. I was glad that at the end of his speech he turned to making some constructive proposals, and I believe that those proposals are not very far removed from the sort of proposals that are being made by our own representatives in Brussels, as I shall seek to show.

What I think I would best do, speaking early in this debate, is to try to put the whole matter into its proper perspective, which I do not think, with due respect, the noble Lord achieved. The background to this debate is Article 3 of the Treaty of Rome, which requires the abolition of obstacles to freedom of movement between Member States of persons, services and capital. Already, before we joined the Community, Regulation 1612 of 1968, providing for the freedom of movement of workers within the Community, had been agreed by the Council of Ministers. This regulation allows for the free movement of workers within the Community (subject to certain limitations on grounds of public policy, public security or public health) and, of course, it was fully accepted by us when we joined the Community. Article 45, however, of that regulation requires the Commission to submit proposals for the abolition of restrictions on the eligibility of workers, who are nationals of other Member States, where the absence of mutual recognition of diplomas, certificates or other evidence of formal qualifications may prevent freedom of movement.

So far as self-employed persons are concerned, Article 54 of the Treaty requires the abolition of restrictions on their freedom of establishment. Article 57 requires the mutual recognition of diplomas and similar qualifications and the co-ordination of the provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in member States, concerning the taking up and pursuit of activities as self-employed persons". Article 63 provides for the abolition of restrictions on their freedom to provide services within the Community. In the light of some of the fears that have been expressed, Article 57 of the Treaty is of considerable importance. It provides that unanimity"— that is, unanimity within the Council of Ministers— … shall be required on matters which are the subject of legislation in at least one member State"; and in regard to the health professions that unanimity shall be required on measures concerned with the conditions governing the exercise of the medical and allied and pharmaceutical professions in the various member States. So much for the purely legal background. But I should like to emphasise that we take a very positive view of the opportunities presented by the Community to achieve the free movement of workers, both employed and self-employed, within the nine countries, and that this will ultimately be of benefit to us all. I think the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, would agree with that.


My Lords, if I might interrupt the noble Lord, I began by saying that I very much welcomed this; I always had welcomed this. But what I have so much objected to is the monstrous series of administrative proposals which have emanated from Brussels in an attempt to put it into effect.


Well, my Lords, am very glad that at any rate we are at one on the long-term aim. Many people in this country still have an insular tendency to think that standards set by British professions are always and in every case in advance of those beyond the Channel.

This is quite illogical and, although we can indeed be proud of much of our professional achievement, it would be foolish to pretend that the professions in the other eight countries of the Community are not in certain respects ahead of us. There are, therefore, very positive advantages to be gained by all nine countries in achieving a free flow of professionally qualified people between them—always provided, of course, that there is no general lowering of standards in any one of them. It is our objective, therefore, in close consultation with the professions concerned and after very full discussions with our partners in the Community, to work towards free movement of skilled people between the countries of the Community, and I believe we have no reason whatever to fear any lowering of standards as a result.

Much of the anxiety that has been expressed arises from unfamiliarity with the process of legislation in the Community. I should like, therefore, to attempt to explain how the Community works in practice, and in so doing to emphasise the opportunities that exist at every stage of the process for interested parties to make their voices heard. It is the duty of the Commission to make proposals to the Council of Ministers, and before doing so the Commission undertakes very extensive consultations. It usually sets up a working group of experts, often including officials from Member States. Such a working group studies legislation currently applying in all the Member States and consults with outside interests; for example, with the Permanent Liaison Committees, which represent the interests of the professions or others concerned. These Permanent Liaison Committees are of the very greatest importance in ensuring that the views of a particular profession are fully known to the Commission at this very early consultative stage and I hope that all professions will ensure that they play a full part in their appropriate Liaison Committee. The Commission then drafts a text and sends it to Member Governments for comment. Here, again, is an opportunity for the Government to consult with the appropriate national professional organisations before sending their comments to the Commission. On receipt of these comments, the Commission may convene further meetings of the working group to advise them on modifications to the draft before it is finally sent to the Council of Ministers for approval.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? The problem which we have had to face, and which made me so very indignant, was when we were given 24 hours to comment on a vitally important proposal which emanated from Brussels about pharmacists. The concept of consultation is one which I strongly support but we have not been able to have it, and this is the primary cause of my great anxiety.


My Lords, I wish that the noble Lord would let me finish my speech. He has made a very long speech himself and perhaps he could bear with me until I have finished. I think he will see the enormous number of different opportunities that there are for consultation. right alone the line. I have only just finished with one of them.

As soon as such a proposal is received by the Council, it is published in the official journal and referred to the European Parliament and to the Economic and Social Committee (where appropriate) for their advice. The Council itself first considers the proposals at official level through the Committee of Permanent Representatives, which itself works through sub-committees and working groups made up of representatives of Governments and of the Commission. One such working group is the Economic Questions Group (Establishment and Services), which is the appropriate group for the consideration of the matters we are discussing this afternoon. Discussions take place within the Committee of Permanent Representatives until such time as there is general agreement, when the proposals are finally submitted to Ministers themselves for decision.

There is, therefore, throughout this process, full provision for consultation with the interests concerned. At the initial drafting stage, within the Commission, there is every opportunity for influencing the proposals in draft. At later stages, through the Permanent Representatives, there are further opportunities to reach full agreement. And, in the last resort, there is the Council of Ministers itself, which in all major matters proceeds by agreement. Whatever the exact legal requirement may be, the Council of Ministers has hitherto continued to discuss matters until there is full agreement between them and this, in practice, is certain to happen in the future.

The present position, so far as the professions are concerned, is that 12 draft directives have been submitted to the Council in respect of freedom of establishment for self-employed activities in the following professions: dentists, doctors, opticians, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, veterinary surgeons, lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers and hairdressers. At the present moment, the only draft directives under active discussion in the Economic Questions Working Group are those relating to pharmacists. The reason for this is that, in connection with anti-inflation measures, the Council decided to give priority to directives on the free movement of pharmaceutical products and these would require properly qualified persons to control their manufacture and release for distribution.

One of the prerequisites for the freedom of movement within professions, is that each country should recognise certain professional qualifications in other Member States. This is a very difficult problem, which the Commission has—as has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in particular—sought to resolve on the basis of setting minimum periods of training, and in some instances (for example, the pharmacists) specifying the minimum number of hours to be spent on each item of a prescribed list of subjects. As the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said, this, in general, has not been acceptable to us, because it has regard to the quantity of training but not to the quality. On the other hand, we recognise the difficulty of defining minimum standards. But it is worth noting that the veterinary profession have gone a very long way towards reaching agreement on draft directives based on minimum periods of training. They do perhaps have certain advantages, in being a relatively small profession and one that is used to working across national frontiers, but they are certainly to be warmly congratulated on the forward-looking approach that they have shown and on the constructive spirit in which they have worked with their European colleagues.

The medical profession have also shown commendable initiative, both by their activity in their Permanent Liaison Committee and by the way they have cooperated with officials of my Department to ensure that their coherent views were available to negotiating officials. The B.M.A.'s Committee for the European Economic Committee, in particular, has been most helpful in bringing together all interested bodies and in agreeing a line on quality of training, which has supported our attitude on mutual recognition of qualifications in the professions. In the field of pharmacy, which the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, seems to be championing, the Pharmaceutical Society and other representatives of the profession and industry have shown the same co-operative and forward-looking attitude, which has greatly facilitated the work of our officials engaged in the negotiations. In general, our view is that the problem of mutual recognition should be studied in relation to each individual profession, and to the circumstances in each country of the Community.

For some, if not all the professions, the problem might best be met by the formation of councils, comprising representatives of Government and/or non-Government authorities, profession by profession, to advise on the acceptability of qualifications domestically recognised in Member Countries. For example, in the case of the pharmaceutical profession, we have proposed a council, made up of representatives from the bodies in each Member State responsible for issuing certificates of competence to practise pharmacy or, as the case may be, for registering their names in a national register of pharmacists. The task of such a council would be to advise whether courses, recognised by competent authorities in Member States, met the requirements as to the scope and level of attainment laid down in the directive. This advice would not be binding on the competent State authorities, but they would be expected to take them into account.

My Lords, the proposals made by this country are being considered by the Commission and other Member States. While it seems likely that there will be support for the principle, the arrangements in practice which might be acceptable to all have still to be worked out. I do not really think that those proposals are far removed from the sort of proposals which were in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Bowden. I hope, therefore, that he will acquit the Government of any of the atrocities which he ascribed to us in letting down the professions in one way and another.

Now that we are full Members of the Community, we are able to ensure that our interests are fully safeguarded. There is no question of this country being obliged to adopt directives on the professions which are not acceptable to us. We aim to achieve a profession by profession approach, with provision for assessment of quality, as well as quantity, of training through the medium of Advisory Councils. But we are not entering these discussions in a purely defensive spirit. We fully recognise that our new partners, like ourselves, are highly advanced countries in the front rank of social organisation and scientific and technological achievements. They attach just as much importance as we do to the maintenance of the standards they have achieved and some feel that in some respects they lead the field. They have proceeded cautiously in this difficult area hitherto and they are not likely to lose their heads now. There are many difficult matters to be discussed between us, but the objective is worth while and we shall work conscientiously towards the fulfilment of the aims of the Treaty of Rome.

4.4 p.m.


My Lords, like the previous speakers, I would express my appreciation to Lord Bowden for having called attention in your Lordships' House to this very important matter which we are now debating. It is a very important matter. Indeed, in the first part of Lord Bowden's address I found myself becoming imbued with an acute sense of alarm. But that abated completely, because in the second part of his speech he allowed up to realise that nothing very much was happening. There were draft directives but no agreements. Even before the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, had explained the machinery to us, I certainly had started to believe that this was a problem that was going to take a great deal of time to be solved. Nothing is going to happen overnight.

So may I also, following the noble Lord, Lord Bowden. just make certain general observations? The problem before us is that of agreeing about the harmonisation of what I am going to call marks of recognition. This is certainly not a new problem. It is new in the context of the E.E.C., but it is anything but new in the context of the evolution of our academic standards, academic qualifications, professional awards, and so on. This is a problem which is in a constant state of evolution. The answers which are provided to one generation are not satisfactory to the next.

The noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, who I am happy to see is to speak in this debate, will know much more than I do about the state of medical education in this country in the 'twenties, at the time of the famous report of Dr. Abraham Flexner on the subject. He pointed out there that standards varied enormously between different schools and different parts of the country. While Dr. Flexner had come over here, as the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, will know, fully aware of the variation in standards in the United States—where they were even more remarkably different from one end of that vast Continent to the other—he was able to point to various oddities in our own medical system of education and qualification. That is what we are really debating now. I recall many types of medical qualification when I was a medical student which hardly exist to-day. Furthermore, following on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, I had better also say that our system is by no means perfect. I am possessed of medical qualifications which, on paper, read extremely impressively. But I would be the last person I would let loose, either on the Continent or here, on any patient. I am quite certain that Lord Cohen, in the exercise of his functions on the General Medical Council, would see to it that I was prevented from inflicting myself as a medical person on any other human being.

The problem is, as Lord Bowden said, professional recognition. Whom are you prepared to accept as qualified? If we remember that we are not perfect in this country, and that our European partners also are not perfect, we shall all be better off, although perhaps not in the immediate future because none of this is going to happen very quickly. Here let me speak about our own problems when the Scientific Manpower Committee was established in this country to try to give estimates of demand for professionally qualified people in the pure sciences and in the engineering sciences. I was chairman of that Committee for some 10 years. One of the first things we had to do was to define what we meant by a qualified professional scientist or engineer. When I ceased paying any attention to the Committee, those wonderful three letters were invented, Q.S.E.—they stand for Qualified Scientists, Technologists and Engineers. There are 350,000 of us Q.S.E.s in this country, so I am told, but what I do remember are the arguments that took place about who was to be let in. One had to start out trying to equate an ordinary B.A. degree with an Honours degree; a B.Sc.(Hons) degree with a qualification of some professional institution. As a result of our difficulties, I certainly had to visit at least two professional institutions which were left out of our definition of Q.S.E.s in order to make amends. Whether everybody is in now in the definition of Q.S.E., I do not know. We have got these problems in this country, and it is not surprising that greater problems exist across the whole board when one takes into account the other members of the E.E.C. What we must recognise here is that we are trying to differentiate—and we must be quite clear about this in the context of this debate—marks of academic distinction on the one hand and. on the other, professional licences of a vocational kind. The noble Lord, Lord Bowden, recognised that point.

The issue is a critical one—not because our standards are at stake; our standards are not threatened at all by anything that is now proposed. The issue is critical because we have got to sort this problem out in the context of the E.E.C. This marvellous opportunity before us, this trading area of some 250 million, is not going to be implemented or achieved if there are any non-tariff barriers to the movement of labour or anything else, and professional labour is most important here. Obviously, where responsibility rests on a single individual—and the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, drew our attention to these matters—it is essential that we know who to trust on the other side of the Channel, in the same way as they should know who to trust on this side of the Channel. The noble Lord, Lord Bowden, referred to engineers. We must know that a man who constructs a bridge is competent enough to construct a bridge which is not going to break down and if someone (not me, but one of the eminent members of the medical profession who I see around me here) takes on the care of a patient he must be as competent in France, Germany or Holland as are members of the profession in that country, and vice versa.

Therefore, we have simply got to have some quick—if it is possible, which I doubt—measures of comparability and we can, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, put it, take part now in the various discussions and consultations which take place (endlessly, if I dare say so) within the context of the E.E.C. The noble Lord did not refer to Ecosoc, but in fact I was under the impression that Ecosoc, too, was dealing with these matters at the present moment for example, a pharmacist's qualifications. Obviously the professional institutions can get in on these expert bodies, and I cannot conceive of any representatives of this country not calling on the best advice in these expert groups. In fact, there are moments now when I am beginning to be a hit worried that there might be too much consultation. There are so many directives. I have seen other directives, heaps of them, all marked "Draft Directive". There are so many draft directives and so few directives; and if this goes on it seems to me that we shall never get to the point of decision.

As I said, my Lords, I do not sec any dangers to our own standards. I think it will be a very wise thing if what has been suggested by previous speakers comes to pass: that there is preliminary discussion between professional institutions about how to change organisations on the Continent, or if needs be our own, so that we can become compatible with each other. Some of my friends in France are not happy with the way things are dominated by Paris, and we too, probably, would be unhappy in a similar situation. What would be useful would be to have prior discussion on these matters between professional bodies. There are differences in our standards, in our institutions, and there are a lot of difficulties in sorting out the matter which is the subject of this debate. But it seems to me that we must not be deflected from the greater good—trying to make a reality of what is now a national decision—by focusing too hard on matters which, by comparison, are relatively minor. No miracles are going to be achieved overnight. It seems to me, for example, that at the present moment one of the biggest blocks which I should like to see withdrawn is the nationality rule, which still applies in certain E.E.C. countries. We have a lot to learn from each other. What I should like to know is going to happen is that there will be sufficient discussion prior to official action and decision—but not so much discussion that there would never be any official decision.

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, may I, at the outset, join the other noble Lords who have expressed their gratitude to my noble friend Lord Bowden for initiating this debate at what I should have thought was a most opportune time? We have been reminded that there are twelve directives, all of them in draft. The Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, and, 17 years later, we find that there is (I shall be corrected if I am wrong) no single directive relating to any single profession which has reached the stage of being finally approved by the Council of Ministers. It is for that reason that I should have thought that my noble friend could not have chosen a happier time than the present to instigate this debate upon which we are at present engaged.

Having said that, may I say that I find myself very much in agreement, both with what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, and with what the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, said, I do not myself feel the apprehensions which were expressed by my noble friend Lord Bowden. Obviously, when there are, as there now are, nine great countries, far advanced in culture, in education, in science and in their own approach to the problems of professional skills, it will not be an easy thing to harmonise in one system those different approaches. It will take time, as it obviously has. But one is at the outset tempted to make the observation that history has shown that there really is no risk at all of our being rushed into decisions.

My Lords, I should like to deal next with the rather critical approach of my noble friend to the Government. It was fully answered, I thought, by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, but may I just add this. So far as I know, under the Treaty of Rome there is nothing whatsoever to stop any professional body from making a direct approach on its own responsibility to the Commission. If it is not content with the position of being a member of a working party, or of some consultative body of that sort, it has always been the situation that it can approach the Commission direct. I have spent a considerable time reading the annual reports of the work of the Commission and, unless I am mistaken, I should have thought it was obvious from those reports that constantly, over and over again, the months over, the Commission deal with individual approaches by private organisations wishing to ascertain how, for example, a particular regulation affects them, or is likely to affect them, if it is adopted, or what interpretation they are to put upon a directive or a recommendation.

The work of the Commission, so far as my experience goes, seems to consist to a not inconsiderable degree in taking account of the representations made by private bodies—large companies or other organisations—putting questions of that sort to the Commission. Therefore I do not think it could be said that any private professional body is in any way inhibited in a full expression of its views if it is asked to make a direct approach to the Commission. It is perfectly true, of course, as my noble friend said, that in this country we differ to a large extent from other countries, in that the guidance of our professions is largely in the hands of charter bodies whose functions are either wholly unregulated by Statute or regulated by Statute only to a very limited extent. In that sense there is a contrast with the system in many Continental countries, where Government regulation plays a much larger role; and in the formulation of directives no doubt efforts are made, and should be made, to give full recognition to the independent status in this country of the kind of charter bodies which regulate the various great professions here.

I sometimes think that a difficulty arises because of the unavoidably general terms in which the Treaty of Rome is drafted. In a sense, it is rather like the Constitution of the United States. It, as did the Constitution of the United States, embodied a gigantic concept. It was the result of agreement by representatives then of member nations totalling some 250 million people—and now there are three more nations. It would have been quite impossible, I should have thought, for precision to be obtained in the formulation of the Articles of the Rome Treaty. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, reminded us which were the relevant provisions and what in general they provided. Article 57 is in general terms. It provides for the mutual recognition of diplomas. I frankly confess that I do not know quite what that expression means. If I am a qualified German Rechtsanwalt and my qualification is recognised as such, I am not quite sure what the result of that would be if I wished to enter an English court. What do you mean by "recognised" in that sense? If you are a French avocat the same problem arises. If you are a French avoué and recognised as such it does not follow that your work is anything like the work which is undertaken by an English solicitor. Equally, if you are a French avocat, your work in the courts is utterly different from that which is undertaken by a British barrister. What the effect is of recognising a diploma or the professional qualification of a French avocat, I am not certain.

Then one looks at Article 60(3) of the Treaty, and one sees there that it was provided that there should be a general programme drawn up in order to implement the requirements of the Articles in that group. That programme has been drawn up. It was included in the official journal as far back as 1962. I have studied it. It deals solely with the removal of discrimination on the ground of nationality, nothing else; with one sole exception. Heading 5 of that general programme deals with the mutual recognition of diplomas. But I think I can assure the House that, so far as I was able to discern, it does not throw any guidance on the problem one puts to oneself when one asks what is meant by mutual recognition of diplomas. I should have thought that the consolation, in a sense, is that supposing the Commission should ever manage to persuade the Council to some course which was wholly unreasonable and beyond the intention of the Rome Treaty, there is always the power of the European Court to put the Council and the Committee right, and to say, "This is beyond your powers". They can, under Article l73 of the Treaty, make a declaration to that effect. The European Court can make a declaration to that effect with regard to a directive at the instance of a private body. It could make such a declaration at the instance of one of the chartered bodies.

Many noble Lords will speak and have spoken in this debate who are recognised as having the greatest authority in one of the great professions; and perhaps one of the useful characteristics of this debate may be that information will be given from the point of view of individual professions which will go out, one hopes, beyond the confines of this House and perhaps be considered by the Commission and those who work with it whether in the working bodies or elsewhere. It might possibly be of use, as I think I am the first Member of the House on the list who is a member of the legal profession, to say how the legal profession is affected. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said that one of the draft directives of the twelve he mentioned was one which affected the legal profession.

The status of that draft directive is as follows. It has been to the European Assembly; they have commented on it. It has been to the Economic and Social Committee; they have commented on it. An individual delegation, the German delegation, has made its separate comments on it. It is now under consideration by a working body on which the British legal institutions, the Bar Council and the Law Society, are recognised, which working body has been set up by the Council of Ministers itself. When that body reports to the Council of Ministers, no doubt the Council of Ministers, with our own representative on it, will come to a conclusion.

My Lords, how have the Commission so far approached the legal profession in this country? May I say at once with regard to the question of my noble friend Lord Bowden about our possibly becoming a fused profession, that I was glad to hear the very emphatic negative from the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. To be honest, it never occurred to me that that could be the result of any directive emanating from the Commission in this context. May I very respectfully say to the noble and learned Lord that there could be no doubt that fusion could not result. I am one of those who would oppose fusion and therefore it is a pleasure to me to be able to think that that is the situation, if I am right.

What does that draft directive propose with regard to the two branches of the legal profession in England? Its proposals are, I should have thought, extremely limited in character. They fall under two headings. One, the proposal is that a national of one of the member countries other than this country should be entitled in this country to give legal advice. Under our existing law, he is already entitled to do so. If he is a German, there is nothing to stop him from opening his office in the City and putting out his nameplate and writing on it, "Rechtsanwalt", or "Jurisconsidte" and offering advice to citizens of this country. So that will make no difference to the existing situation in this country. In order that you may not think that I have overlooked it, I should say that the members of the solicitors' profession have certain prerogatives by Statute, by the Solicitors Act 1957, which entitle them to what is in effect a monopoly in the drafting of certain documents, documents usable in legal proceedings relating to the transfer of property and so on. That prerogative is, as I read it, in no sense entrenched upon or touched on in any way by the draft directive to which I have referred.

What is the other element?—and there is only one other in that draft directive. It proposes that a lawyer of one of the other Member-States, not established in this country—it does not deal with the right of establishment at all, it simply relates to the case of a lawyer from another country who comes over here for a temporary purpose—should have the right to appear before an English court and interview prisoners and address the court. It is very qualified even in terms of the directive. It requires, if he does so, that, first, he must comply with the rules of this country. Secondly, he must act in conjunction with an English lawyer. He cannot go into court by himself and address the court. He must be introduced to the judge, to the court (so the directive provides) and he must act in conjunction with a lawyer who is settled in this country. With regard to that, the profession—and, if I may say so respectfully, I myself—have some considerable reserves.

To return to the subject of mutual recognition of diplomas, I think that to recognise a diploma, as such, without qualification is dangerous. I say so because you may be qualified to act as a French avocat but your work as a French avocat will be entirely different in very major respects from the work of an English barrister appearing before an English court. May I try to sketch out what is the major difference. I hope that if I am mistaken my French colleagues in the profession will forgive me, but I think I should be roughly right in saying that the judge who presides over a French court is provided with a dossier, and the dossier already has the evidence available against, say, a person who is accused. It will already have a discussion on the points of law. If you go into a French court, as I have done on many occasions, you will hear the French avocat making what, in effect, would be regarded in this country as the closing speech. By sharp contrast to that system, in this country we, by our procedure, attach the greatest possible importance to the elicitation of the evidence. Members of the Bar, or members of the solicitors' profession in those courts in which they are entitled to practise, have to elicit it without leading questions, without prompting, so that the witness says exactly what is his own recollection and his own account in the evidence which he is capable of giving. I am sure that I am saying what everyone knows only too well when I say that that evidence is then thoroughly tested by cross-examination by the opposing counsel. Then there is re-examination, and then there are addresses on that evidence, and then the learned judge's summing-up, if there is a jury, or his decision, if he is sitting by himself, or if it is a magistrates' court.

My Lords, we regard it as absolutely fundamental—I am sure all your Lordships know this without being reminded of it—that the tribunal of fact, whether a jury, judge or magistrates' bench, must have the actual evidence which the witnesses are capable of giving elicited without prompting and without assistance in the presence of the tribunal; so that they are in a position to assess the quality of the witness and to answer to themselves the questions: "Can we, or can we not, trust this person? Are we sure that what he is saying really took place? Could he be mistaken? Is he a person who might stretch the truth?" That, my Lords, is absolutely crucial and fundamental to our system. If I am not mistaken, it is not regarded as crucial to, for example, the French system. The French method is as I hope I have correctly described it. Therefore, if I were asked whether it would be right, without more, to say, "You are a qualified French avocat; therefore it would be perfectly proper for you to appear in the Central Criminal Court and defend somebody charged with mugging", I would say that that would be a rather dangerous thing to allow.

I do not think that that is true, however, in all cases. In this country foreign law—what is, for example, the law in France or the law in Germany—is subject to some qualification (I think introduced by the European Communities Act) to what we call a question of fact. In other words, it has to be proved that the evidence of a witness, and sometimes affidavit evidence, is what the law of the foreign country is. And the opposing counsel is entitled to cross-examine the party which adduces that evidence to try to show that that party has mistaken the foreign law in the evidence propounded to the court. Often, of course—indeed generally—the best witness of what is foreign law is a lawyer from that country. I could conceive great advantage in a situation where the issue before a court was, "What does a particular branch of foreign law provide?" if the foreign lawyer who now appears as a witness in the witness box, and is examined in chief and then cross-examined, were himself allowed to address the court as an advocate so that the ordinary dialogue between the bench and the advocate could take place, so that there could be a mutual testing of the arguments which the foreign lawyer provided. I should have thought that an advantageous procedure and I would favour it. But I do not think it would be wise to go beyond that.

I believe the view has been put forward by the English legal profession, which is anxious to be helpful and co-operative in this matter, that the recommendation contained in that directive would be acceptable to them if the existing provision in the recommendation that the foreign lawyer should act in conjunction with a British lawyer were changed to provide that he should work, in effect, under the supervision of the British lawyer; that the British lawyer should be in charge while the case is going on. I think that a very reasonable provision.

My Lords, that is the contribution which I, speaking as a member of the legal profession, would like to offer to your Lordships, and I hope that your Lordships may think that there is some wisdom in the advice which, very respectfully, I tender to the House. I would end by saying that, obviously, difficulties will arise; it would be inconceivable if they did not. And, obviously, there will be long arguments and wrangling. The only way to avoid that is by not taking the issues seriously. If they are taken seriously they are bound to result in prolonged discussion on this uniquely important topic. That is why these directives are still in draft. But I hope that we shall show ourselves in every way co-operative to what, to my mind at any rate, is one of the greatest steps forward in modern history—the creation of the European Economic Community.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my expression of gratitude to those voiced by other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, for having initiated this extremely important debate. It is important, not only because of the subject matter but also because, as we have already heard, we shall have so much wisdom written down in Hansard for the benefit of those who are to deal with these problems in the future. For this I am extremely grateful. Perhaps at this point I should say that if I have to leave before the end of the debate, it will not be for any reason of discourtesy to your Lordships' House but because I have to catch a train to Brussels.

My Lords, the subject which we have before us is, of course, one which is going to occupy the minds of members of very many bodies and very many people; not only the E.E.C. Commission, with whom the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, was so engaged, but also Government Departments, universities, and I sincerely hope the professions, and, not least of course, the European Parliament. Indeed, a new Committee has just been formed as from the end of March and it was set up to study the problem of culture, youth and education. I have the honour to serve on that Committee, and if I had the temerity to offer any advice to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, it would be to see that we have more United Kingdom representatives on that Committee. Possibly that would help to put over a point of view more effectively than leaving it to myself and two others of my colleagues from this country.

To get on to the more material issues and the bones of the subject, when we acceded to the Treaty of Rome we acceded also to Article 57(1) and we approved the concept of freedom of establishment of persons engaged in the professions. This, naturally, will involve certain consequences which we are bound to accept. Nevertheless, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, rightly pointed out, no directives have yet been issued. There are many directives in draft and they affect many professions but not one single draft has been accepted by the professions in the other Member States. As I understand, it was precisely because after the meeting of the six Ministers of Education in November, 1971, that the Vogelaar Working Group was set up to find a more acceptable method of coming to a conclusion, because the original approach of the Commission was entirely unacceptable to any of the Member States. So I think we must look at this in a more reasonable light.

The quantitative criteria may not be acceptable alone, but surely it cannot be entirely written off. Unless I misunderstood him, the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, himself referred to a length of time to obtain a degree—three years here, four years there and six years in another country. That in itself is a quantitative criterion of the number of years taken to have a degree. It certainly should not be the only one. Obviously, there must be some way in which to measure standards, such as examinations. This again is possibly an odd concept at a time when so many people are throwing the idea of examinations out of the window; nevertheless, we shall have to come to some kind of solution by which capacity can be measured. I was delighted to hear the noble Lord praise the British professional standards, but I should have liked to ask him to which he was referring. Was he referring to Scotland, to Northern Ireland or to England? And to which professional bodies was he referring? I understand that there are six different professional bodies (the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, will correct me if I am wrong) concerned with accountancy, and I do not accept that every single accountant and every single one of those professional bodies is equally competent.

Further, my Lords, I must say that I very much regretted the comments that were made about some of the professional people abroad. I say this advisedly, because I have to spend a good deal of my time abroad and I may have to depend on a Continental doctor. I have always been extremely well treated and looked after, and so have my family, and I deplore the kind of attacks that are made on professional people from other countries by those who have not had experience of their kindness, the way they look after one and their high professional standards. Obviously you can get a bad one, just as you can get a bad one in this country. I am reminded of my dear departed father-in-law, who in 1917 was in a taxi in Paris and the taxi driver hanged the taxi door on his hand. All French taxi drivers were for ever banned, and he never set foot in France again. I do not think that is a satisfactory way of judging professional standards.


My Lords, I never intended to suggest that our people are uniformly better or worse than those in the Continental professions. They are simply quite different. Medicine is more or less medicine everywhere, but accountancy is not. I should like to make the point that I have every confidence in most of the professions, although one of our Vice-Chancellors did speak of Sicilian doctors unfit to practise medicine even on the Mafia. That may or may not be true. If I gave the impression the noble Baroness suggests, then I apologise to the House. I did not mean to suggest that our people are necessarily better than the others. As I say, they are different.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that explanation, and anything that I may have said which contradicts what he originally said I will withdraw.

I should like to conclude with certain points which I think we ought to bear in mind when we are discussing the mutual recognition of the professional qualifications. We must think of the young, who are not only not willing to look merely at an Economic Community but who must be given an opportunity to study in co-operation with other Europeans of other Member States and to have a sense of belonging to a community which is prepared to help them to develop both knowledge and technology, and not follow a restrictive, narrow and insular concept of education. I should like to see considerable use of the extensive studies made by the Council of Europe in the mutual recognition of degrees with regard to further education in European universities. Much can be learned, not only from the actual achievements of the work of the Council but in the way they set about it and the way they eventually, at any rate in certain sectors, were able to come to a conclusion. I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that every opportunity of educational exchange and opportunity to learn should be given, including of course the learning of languages. We must ensure that the whole basic concept of this mutual recognition is to achieve a level of confidence which can be recognised throughout the Community and in which the public can put their trust. Those who are studying to belong to certain professions must have full opportunity to have the best courses available to them throughout the Community. Taking the long-term economic view, I believe that research and education must play a prominent part, and the increasing knowledge and better application of that knowledge must serve all the members of the European Community.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I join with other speakers in expressing gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, for having introduced this topic for debate. I was interested that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, should remind your Lordships' House that I spoke here on this topic some ten and a half years ago. At that time there was a widespread belief that the Common Market was a matter for lawyers, industrialists, farmers and politicians, but was not concerned with the professions. I tried then to stress that there were implications for the professions which we had to face, and I gave ample details of some of the more serious inequalities and shortcomings of medical training, standards and qualifications in some of the Six. I am glad to say that there has certainly been considerable improvement in this respect during the past decade. Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, that at that stage I stressed that whatever the professions might consider their attitude to our going in or staying out of the Common Market, it was not their business. I said this: … it is not for doctors or for dentists or for any … other"— professional— group to seek in their own interests to deflect the Government from a course which they believe to be right in the national interest and which will make a contribution we all hope to the prosperity and peace of the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1/8/62; col. 342–3.] I ended: … yet it is right that those of us who have … responsibility"— for professional standards— should make known on behalf of our colleagues some of the anxieties … which beset us.

I propose to follow the pattern of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, and not deal so much with the general matters which have been raised, but with the special problems for medicine. I speak now, as I spoke ten and a half years ago, as President of the General Medical Council, which is the body charged by the Medical Acts with establishing the Medical Register and maintaining standards of medical education and professional conduct. Our primary concern with draft directives is that when they become directives we shall have made our voice heard. We are particularly interested, of course, if I may use the terminology of the E.E.C., in the harmonisation of standards which would justify mutual recognition of degrees and diplomas and other qualifications in freedom of establishment and freedom to supply professional services, and with disciplinary jurisdiction. Fortunately, before we joined the Community the Six had failed to agree on draft directives even after twelve years' discussion, so we now have the opportunity not only of commenting on, but of seeking to modify and, if necessary, amend certain directives.

I think in this connection it is pertinent to recall what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, and what was repeated on that occasion by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, who was then Lord Chancellor: that there is a requirement under the conditions of Article 57 of a unanimous vote. The noble and learned Viscount said on that occasion: This certainly applies to the registration of medical practitioners in this country. I might add that we were all most encouraged to hear what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in another place on February 1 last. He said: There is no intention of allowing British professional standards to be lowered, and professional bodies concerned will be fully consulted to this end. If this means that migrants of other Member States will come to this country with such standards that we can have confidence in the practice of their professions in our country, then I think that none of the draft directives need give us cause for immediate concern. I fully accept, as I am sure all educationists will, the criticisms made by the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, of merely quantifying the requirements in medicine. For a basic qualification in medicine it is said that a student requires 5,500 hours over a period of six years of university training. I want to come back to that in a moment.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, observed, there are significant differences between the medical curricula in this country and the medical curricula of the Six. We are dissimilar in methods and in emphasis on certain aspects of medicine, and in this country we have discarded hours of training in particular subjects as an acceptable criterion. We have been concerned with the content and quality of training, with the facilities for training, with standards, with assessment before registration, and with promoting experiment and flexibility in curricula in different medical schools in place of the rigid uniformity of the Six. It is a rigid uniformity based largely on the Gallic model where the curriculum is established by decree, ratified by the Ministry of Education and is identical in all faculties and schools of medicine with the possible exception of Holland.

The General Medical Council suggested in a memorandum to the Department of Health in February 1972 that in place of rigid directives regarding minimum standards there should be a European Medical Council, such as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, referred to, established with functions akin to our own which would advise the Commission on the acceptability of qualifications and experience justifying mutual recognition. For this purpose the European Council would have the power to inspect and approve medical schools, and it would be given the standing to ensure that its advice was respected. As the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, that suggestion has been submitted regarding all professions to the Commission. Perhaps the Government will tell us at the appropriate time the response they receive.

Meanwhile, there are two matters of detail (and I prefer to deal with the detail in the same way as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, dealt with some details regarding the law) which relate to draft directives which merit special comment. The first concerns the requirement of a basic medical qualification of six years' full-time study in a university establishment. In the United Kingdom the pre-medical sciences are studied either at school or in a technical college. Then an examination is taken and the university will accept that examination if it believes it to be of the right standard. Following that premedical year there is a five-year medical course which is taken in the university, or in hospitals associated with the university. Then there follows a year of internship in hospitals which are not university hospitals but which will be approved by the university and certain posts recognised for registration, but the university is not primarily responsible. At the end of the period of a year of instruction the students receive a certificate of satisfactory service and then the qualifying doctor who received his degree or diploma a year earlier will be fully registered in the Medical Register.

If we look at this and strictly interpret the present draft directives, we in this country have only five years of university training; the other two are not in the university. Therefore, I trust that the United Kingdom will seek to explain this to the Commission, and will stress that our seven-year course meets the requirements and spirit of the draft directive, and that it could be suitably modified to fit the United Kingdom arrangements. The second difficulty is even greater. It arises from the draft directives concerning specialist registration which demand full-time study, the duration varying with the speciality: five years for medicine, surgery and some other major specialities, four years for pædiatricians, three years for anæsthetists, and so on. In this country we have no specialist register, and I wonder whether the Government have formulated any proposals on how mutual recognition of medical specialists will be affected in the absence of a specialist register, or on the steps which are being taken to provide one.

There is another concern which will appeal professionally to the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. It concerns the requirement for so many years full-time study. This could exclude a number of women whose domestic duties prevent them from undertaking full-time study. It seems to me that the directives should be drafted in such a way that, provided they cover an equal term of study, they should do it part-time. We have found in other respects—for example, in the intern year—in this country that we can manage this successfully on a part-time basis. I trust that the Government will commend this to the Commission.

I should like to turn briefly to the proposals for freedom of establishment and freedom to supply services. Article 48 of the Rome Treaty provides for the free movement of workers within the Community; Article 4 of the first draft directive for medicine provides where registration with or without membership of a professional or public body is necessary before a doctor can practise, such membership or registration shall be made available to subjects of all Member States on the same terms. I should like to emphasise the phrase, "on the same terms". But a doctor settling in a host country might not be familiar with the language it is unlikely that he will be familiar with the conditions of medical practice and the administration of the health services in the host country. To meet this problem the European Parliament sensibly proposed that if a migrant doctor wished to practise in the host country he should undergo a period of adaptation in training lasting six months. That was rejected by the Commission as being contrary to the Treaty. In its place the Commission suggests in Article 17 of the first draft directive concerning medicine that each Member State shall set up as information centre from which the migrant doctor can obtain information about the host State's health and social legislation, ethical and disciplinary procedures, and any other relevant matters. Such information centres cannot be as effective as a period of adaptation which was proposed originally by the European Parliament. I hope that if this period of adaptation is contrary to the Treaty of Rome the United Kingdom will submit to the Council a proposal to revise the Treaty so as to allow it.

In relation to migrant doctors there is another point of great importance to the United Kingdom which needs to be raised here. Article 5 of the first part of the directive requires that nationals of Member States shall have the right to register in another Member State on the same conditions and with the same rights and obligations as its own nationals. A doctor who qualifies in the United Kingdom is not required to present to the General Medical Council a certificate of mental fitness or a certificate of ethical or moral probity, because he has already spent six years under university supervision and therefore it is said that he must be in good standing, otherwise the university would have dealt with him. But such certificates are required in the Community. If a migrant doctor from the European Community wishes to come and practice in this country then, if he is to come on the same conditions as are requested from our own doctors, he need not present a certificate, either of ethical probity or of mental fitness. So it is just possible that in this country it could result in the admission of doctors of dubious character and sanity. If the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare verifies this, ought we not to take urgent steps either to amend our own domestic legislation so that a certificate is required here on entry to the register, or at any rate modify the requirement of the European Community?

There is another matter relating to the supply of services which the G.M.C. finds disturbing, and in a way it has its analogy in what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, said about a lawyer coming to this country and appearing in one of our courts. Article 13 of the first medical draft directive provides that a doctor who is registered in one of the Member States can render service in any other Member State. By "rendering service" it simply means that he can come over for a consultation, to see a patient, to perform an operation, and so on; not that he is establishing himself here but simply rendering a service, and if it is an emergency he will not require to be registered in this country although he will be expected to notify the competent authority in this country of his visit, either beforehand or, in a great emergency, afterwards.

In the United Kingdom there is no bar on any one of your Lordships, or indeed anyone else, practising medicine. The only bar is that under Statute you cannot prescribe certain drugs, you cannot treat venereal disease; you cannot sign statutory certificates and so on. But what is the position of the migrant doctor who comes to render a service in this country, who is unable to prescribe the drug which he thinks a patient needs? What we have suggested is that where prior notice cannot be given and therefore we are unable to scrutinise the credentials, qualifications and professional standing of the migrant doctor, it should be made a requirement that there is a doctor registered in this country who co-operates with him—whether under him or by his side is not a matter of concern to us, but one who will help him and, preferably, the patient's doctor, because the patient's doctor will know more about the patient and his past than the migrant doctor can possibly do.

I turn, finally and briefly, to directions regarding disciplinary jurisdiction. When the draft directives concerning medicine were published in April, 1969, Article 6(2) of the first draft directive provided that the authorities in Member States will decide for themselves what effect shall be given in their State to disciplinary sanctions incurred in another Member State. That seems to us very sensible, but it has now been changed. I should like to say also that there is a considerable disparity on questions of medical ethics throughout the Community and, as I said, the original draft seemed to us to be a very sensible provision, and corresponds, I might add, to our own disciplinary statutory rules which in fact apply over a very large part of the Commonwealth and in some foreign countries.

Therefore we have noted with some concern that in the new draft directives the European Parliament has suggested an amendment which will make disciplinary decisions taken against a doctor in one Member State binding on all Member States. I hope that the Government will in fact support the original draft, for the G.M.C. would not wish to be obliged to register doctors in other Member States whose offences would be considered serious professional misconduct in the United Kingdom, nor would it wish to be bound to remove from our Medical Register the British doctor on whom a disciplinary sanction had been imposed in another Member State for actions which would not be considered to be serious professional misconduct in the U.K.

I must not weary your Lordships by reciting other detailed proposals in the draft directives which could, I think, with advantage to all Member States be modified, and I trust your Lordships will not feel, from what I said over a decade ago and what I have said to-day, that I approach these draft directives in a spirit of narrow or parochial Chauvinism. I have tried to consider them solely on their merits. Since 1962 the General Medical Council have studied very carefully the matters concerning medicine in the Rome Treaty, in conjunction with medical colleagues not only in the United Kingdom but also in the E.E.C., and we have made our views known to the Government.

I should like to make it clear, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has said, that we certainly have had ample opportunity of consulting the Government over the draft directives. It is true that we seek modification in the present draft directives, but we believe that problems of harmonisation are, with mutual good will, not insurmountable. However, as I suggested earlier, we think the best solution lies in the setting up of European Councils for all professions as an integral part of E.E.C. administration. In these Councils, the professional voice should be heard and, I trust, heeded, when seen to be in the interests of the Community. For these Councils, working parties, liaison committees, the Economic and Social Committee of the Community, are not effective substitutes, nor is the unofficial permanent committee of doctors of the Six. In the proposed Councils there could be discussed the implications of the rapidly changing corpus of knowledge in, I think, all professional disciplines, and certainly in medicine, the content of courses, methods of training and assessment and so on, which would justify a mutual recognition of qualifications.

This is a practice which the General Medical Council has had to undertake for over a century. We do not find it so difficult that it cannot be done. Some qualifications are much higher than others, but if you set a minimum standard you can easily determine which qualifications reach that minimum standard and which do not. Therefore we would once again suggest that the councils should be established, and time be given to establishing them. Once they are established, I have no doubt that the advice which they would give to the Commission would be sound and that the necessary changes that would have to be made with the evolution of our knowledge will be made without undue delay. It is true that to implement this proposal will demand an amendment to the Treaty. Contrary to the widely held belief that the Treaty is engraved on tablets of stone, amendments can be effected through Article 236 of the Treaty.

May I conclude by stressing that the changes which I, on behalf of the General Medical Council, have proposed, are based upon the dictum of Henry George: There is danger in reckless change; but greater danger in blind conservatism," the latter, I should add, was with a small "c".

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, having heard in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, his fulsome introduction to the list of speakers, I confess I join in this debate with some shyness. The noble Lord told us of the distinguished list of speakers from the law, medicine and architecture, nearly all of whom have been presidents of their respective associations. I have none of those distinctions to bring to this debate. Indeed the only distinction I bring is that I once had the honour of speaking with the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, somewhat appropriately in the Lords' Tavern which does not form part of your Lordships' House or any of its precincts. Having said that, I should declare my interest. As some of your Lordships know, I am a member of the Bar and I am also on the Public Relations Committee of the Bar Council. Although I speak only for myself, within the traditions and practices of this House, I believe that the views I intend to express are shared by colleagues on both sides of the profession.

I have chosen as my theme the proposed directive, the one to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, drew attention. Indeed, in drawing to your Lordships' attention this proposed directive, may I read out its handsome title. It reads as follows: Directive on Detailed Provisions for Attainment of Freedom to Provide Services in Respect of Certain Activities of Lawyers. In choosing that as my theme, I regret that I shall be presenting views contrary to those expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill. But, my Lords, lawyers always divide. I choose this theme for two reasons: first, I believe that this directive contains provisions which would profoundly affect the legal profession in this country; and secondly, the production of the directive displays procedures which cause considerable concern to lawyers on both sides of the profession. This point has already been expressed, though not entirely to the pleasure of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, by the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, when he referred to the decisions made in Brussels by the Secretariat there. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has already given a certain introduction to this directive, and it suffices for me to say that, in general, the purpose is to liberalise the provision of legal services to enable lawyers of member countries to perform professional work in countries other than their own, and, specifically, the purpose is to enable lawyers to cross national frontiers, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has again said, first, to provide legal advice and, secondly, to argue a case before the courts in another country and also to have access to certain documents, visit prisoners and so forth.

Both sides of the profession welcome the freedom of giving advice, which freedom as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has already said, is already enjoyed in this country. But equally, I believe, both sides of the profession oppose the unrestricted rights of audience. In presenting this opposition, I wish to assure your Lordships that it is not presented out of any unfriendliness to European lawyers. Indeed, there has been during the last few years a great deal of contact between the Bar Council, the Law Society and appropriate bodies in other countries in Europe, and the Bar Council and the Law Society now form part of, or participate in, a Commission called the "Commission Consultative" which forms no part of the European Commission but which is an international association of European lawyers that has meetings on several occasions in the year. I believe that the last meeting which was convened was held in Edinburgh. Also in reference to this, there are many lawyers, born in Europe, who carry careers of great distinction on both sides of the profession. Moreover, the opposition to the free rights of audience is in no way an attempt to maintain a monopoly for English lawyers. The opposition stems from a concern that the unrestricted rights of audience proposed would run to the detriment of all litigants, whether nationals of the United Kingdom or nationals of other countries.

Our criminal civil proceedings do not always run smoothly, but I believe that on the whole they work well and that they are better—and this is not meant in any hostile criticism of other countries—than most other countries both in Europe and overseas in North America. For any system of civil or criminal procedure to work, I suggest there are three requirements imposed upon the advocate. First, that he should be fluent in the language of the court; secondly, that he should be wholly conversant with the rules of evidence, practices and procedures of that court; and thirdly, that he should conduct himself with propriety and competence. All of those requirements in my belief would be imperilled by the proposed directive.

Let us examine briefly these requirements as they would take effect if the directive was made law in its present form. Let us take language first of all: of course most European advocates who would come to our courts would probably be fluent in English, although I am bound to tell your Lordships that there is a growing concern in recent times of advocates, fully qualified at the English Bar, called to the Bar, with the proper qualifications—and not, I should add, from Europe—who find it difficult to be understood by the judge and, more important, by the jury.

Secondly, let us examine the need to be conversant with the procedures and rules of evidence. Our practices and procedures would present great difficulties to foreign lawyers practising in our courts upon the lines set out in the proposed directive. English common law is quite different from the coded law of European countries. The trial system, too, is quite different, ours being of the adversary nature while the European system is of an inquisitorial nature. The presentation of cases is also different in this country. Again, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, referred, in England we almost exclusively rely upon oral testimony, tested in examination-in-chief, tested again in cross-examination and tested once more in re-examination, while the dominant procedure in European courts—I speak in general terms as there are many diverse procedures in various countries—is documentary. Indeed, I am told that in a number of courts large dossiers are prepared for the judge by the participants on both sides of the case before the judge begins to try the case. Therefore I conclude there are these grave difficulties which will face the litigant—and that is the point to emphasise, if the barely restricted right of audience is given. It will result also—and here I refer to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare—in the lowering of standards, which was the proviso which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, put on the free movement of professional labour within the context of the Treaty of Rome.

I turn now to conduct and discipline. If an advocate in England misbehaves himself, either through impropriety or through incompetence, there is a strict disciplinary procedure operated both by the Bar Council and the Law Society; and that procedure, incidentally, concerns not only, as I have indicated to your Lordships, impropriety and misbehaviour but also gross incompetence in the conduct of the case which is now a disciplinary offence under the rules of the Senate. It is my belief that it would be impossible to enforce this type of code and conduct and discipline by either the host country or by the home country of the advocate.

Now some of your Lordships may be saying, "Advocates do not have to come from Europe; clients can choose English advocates". But, alas! my Lords, experience shows that a client often insists, sometimes against advice, on the lawyer of his own choice to conduct his case. Some may also say, "The judge can resolve these difficulties", but no judge finds it easy to be both judge and advocate. It is indeed often the dread of an English barrister when the litigant on the other side is not represented and the judge takes over the role, sometimes very effectively, of the advocate.

My Lords, I turn now to the second point. As I said to your Lordships at the beginning of my speech, it is my belief that this directive also displays procedures which cause considerable concern to lawyers on both sides of the profession. As I have mentioned earlier in my speech, the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, made this point well and I can therefore put the matter briefly. The concern, in simple terms, is this. Directives, such as this, are drawn up, proposed, amended and enacted without any direct participation by those whose work and lives they concern. It is not unreasonable, in my submission, for lawyers all over Europe to ask for the right of participation. Taking, for example, this directive, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, says that there are opportunities for a direct approach to the Commission. But, alas! with this particular directive, and I dare say with others, it has already gone from the Commission en route to the Working Party of the Council and there, my Lords, the only persons who can represent the views of the lawyers are the Government representatives.

Of course we have a fine Civil Service; of course the officers of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor's Office are skilled and experienced, but in my submission however skilled may be the servants of the Crown they do not have the practical experience which could also form an invaluable part in drawing up directives concerning the profession. Therefore, in conclusion I ask the Government to pay close attention to this directive and, heartened though I have been to hear the words of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, I also ask the Government to bring their influence into Europe to instil the Commission and the Council with our own legislative procedures which enable, particularly in your Lordships' House, direct participation by men and women of the professions. As the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, said, "Tackle laws and lawyers first". By all means, let it be done.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, because I missed her speech. It was the only one that I missed, which I suppose makes it worse really, but it was not deliberate and I thought I should be back in time. I think she must have spoken, however well, very briefly. I am happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hacking. I hope he will not think it presumptuous of me to say that he should be happy for me to follow him. He apologised for his relatively humble situation in relation to the carte de jour and the distinguished people who were opening and continuing this debate, and it must be a comfort for him to know that he is being followed by someone who has never seen the inside of a university except on debates and who was once a solicitor and has since been struck off the Rolls and therefore has no standing of any kind to take any part whatever. This encourages me because I feel that I cannot disappoint expectations which do not exist.

When I saw the distinguished name of the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, attached to this Motion I took it very seriously indeed and I endeavoured to pursue whatever research I could as to what really was the position in this relation and what were the nefarious plans of the Commission of the E.E.C. in relation to the destruction of professional integrity, professional standards and professional education. I started off, I think, with a letter in the Common Market Journal with an article by a professor of the Ruhr University and quite censoriously looking for the subtle plan of destruction which was being veiled or the insidious intentions which were being obscured. I found some evidence of antipathy to the separation of the profession in England and he made a few suggestions that this separation might involve special problems in appearance before the International Court of Luxembourg. But in point of fact the Law Society—and the noble Lady will confirm if I am right—have come to a completely amicable agreement with the Bar Council in relation to that particular problem and in general the advocacy will be carried on by members of the Bar at the Court of Luxembourg and no one is likely to be charged any more in relation to it except the client who perhaps wishes that to be done.

There followed a series of articles which seemed to grow rather in intensity, and then I observed—and this was sinister indeed—that the French Parliament had abolished the avoué and the avoué had become amalgamated with the avocat rather perhaps as if they were setting an example of professional unity. They have still got six other professions and they reserve the avoué and the cour d'appel as a rather specialised form of advocacy rather as if they were having in mind the necessity of union in England. I say "England" advisedly because I do not want to enter into the question of whether an out-of-work batonnier of the Paris Bar could come to Edinburgh and ask for a job as Dean of the Faculty. There was a very well informed article in the Financial Times written by one of the legal staff of Jordans who are acknowledged experts on international company law and such matters. He spoke, I thought, perhaps a little too enthusiastically of the opportunities for lawyers abroad which would arise as a result of this. I found it extremely difficult to find any plot.

Then, of course, we had two articles in The Guardian, and it was in the second I first found the proposition that the Common Market might have power to make ordinances, to issue directives, which would in fact involve the status, the standing, the education or the experience of professional men practising in this country alone. It seems astounding; it seems surprising. I do not believe for a moment they have any such intention. Certainly the directive does not suggest it at all. The directive is the most gentle thing in the world, as I read it. The amendments made by the Parliament of Europe raise a very obvious problem about disciplinary actions committed by British advocates in Common Market courts, and they suggest that the final decision should be left to disciplinary bodies in this country. But so far as I have been able to find, the Law Society, who, have had in operation for five years a European solicitors' committee, intensely active, constantly consulted, have never entertained any very strong objection to any of the suggestions that have been made. So I am quite sure they would agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, said, that really the professional bodies should have direct representation. So far as I can see, that is not the province of the Commission; it is the province of Her Majesty's Government, who really should negotiate this right on behalf of the professional bodies and insist upon their having a full right of representation.

I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, is absent, because I was startled when he referred to the misconduct of the Paris university in 1295. As to its precise relevance I was not quite sure. But it is fair to say that 1295 was the year when Boniface VIII became Pope, when war with England was imminent, when there was a rising in Belgium, when the Inquisition was in full force in Languedoc, and when we were about to see that eight year battle between the Throne and the Church which perhaps destroyed French institutions more than at any other time, and when, of course, the university was, like the whole of the French episcopacy and indeed the whole of the French prelates, torn between its duty to the Pope and its duty to the Crown, and the King was nearer to them than the Pope. This did not seem to me a felicitous example.

I was going to say that if there really was any question of the assimilation of procedures, or the attempted assimilation of procedures—and I understood the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, to say that he still had apprehensions about that—though I speak as a Francophile, the truth about the French law, with which British lawyers generally have always had a singularly happy relationship individually, is that France has never had a rule of law since 1270. It is just over a hundred years since the British Bar, and indeed, to a great extent the British House of Commons, paid to a French Advocate the greatest tribute ever paid to an advocate. In 1864 the great Berryer, who had held no office, who had held no job, who had been imprisoned charged with treason, whose practice I think was more extensive than any other in that he had defended Marshall Ney, was entertained by the Bar in Britain. The Times devoted four or five columns of leading article to his visit and to his being entertained by Lord Brougham and Lord Chief Justice Cockburn and the Lord Mayor of London and so on. They made some unusually percipient observations about the conflict of the duty of the advocate. They did say, which was true, that in France at that time, under the Second Empire, the Bar was the only custodian of individual liberty. That was its glory. That was its strength.

And four years later, still in the days of the Second Empire Gambetta made a speech which I think was the model of blood and tears and sweat in which he virtually invoked the Emperor before the tribunal and in a piece of unparallelled oratory he attacked the whole Government and impunged it without reserve. The French Bar always has been independent and it has always had its glories, but the French judiciary is another matter. We are told that the juge d'instruction is independent. There is not a scrap of evidence that he ever has been and there is ample evidence that he takes instruction from time to time from the Government. At this very moment, when we are talking about the resurgence of law in France, there is in the prison of Fresnes the two brothers Dega, one of whom has been in preventive detention without trial since December, 1971. Last year, reluctantly, they had to prosecute the police of Lyons for taking over and running the whole of the brothels of Lyons for their own personal benefit. We have our scandals too to-day, I am sorry to say, and we are not so much in a position to call attention to things as once we were. But the efforts that are made to conceal these matters, the efforts that are made to postpone them! In this country we use medical shock treatment for mental illness. At the Quai des Orfèvres it is applied to the testicles—and still is—and was being done a few months ago on evidence heard by the French courts in the last few weeks.

The question, therefore, of assimilating procedure would be a very grave one indeed. I do not believe myself that there is any such intention. I do not believe that there is any such desire. It is still a matter of genuine anxiety that the power to provoke that conflict does seem to exist. With all the care, with all the guardianship, with all the protection, we might find ourselves sacrificing what are sometimes called privileges but sometimes are referred to more thoughtfully as part of the heritage of freedom of this country. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, has returned, and may I say to him that I expressed sonic doubt as to whether 1295, not because of its antiquity but because of its conflicts, was an appropriate year in which to raise criticisms of the Paris university. I did not refer to the University of Montpellier which I think had just about come out of the Kingdom of Aragon. De Villeneuve, the great medical lecturer at Montpellier, was coming up in a year or two to present his works to the King and to be arrested for blasphemy by the university. There were conflicts at that time which are slightly irrelevant and perhaps were not conducive to academic freedoms.

At a similar period in the years that have recently passed, Europe was afflicted by three causes célèbres. I prefer to say nothing about the case of Rex v. Dr. Adams, who I believe is still living, except that had I been a member of the jury I should on the evidence have come to the same conclusion. After a great deal of publicity, after many things being said that should not have been said, the case was conducted with decency and came to a conclusion in a very few months, and that so far as we are concerned is the end of the matter. It would not have been so in France. I should like to say to Lord Stow Hill, for his consideration, that one must make the point the other way: that had the trial taken place in France the nurses' notebooks would have been on the dossier; and Edmond Locard has pointed out that a juge d'instruction arriving at Rillington Place at the right moment might have prevented a few murders and what I believe to be a grave miscarriage of justice.

Each system has its advantages. Each system has something to admire. The case of the widow of Loudun which ran through this period is surely a case in point. It is the case of a widow whose first husband had died of consumption 22 years previously and who suffered the loss of her second husband. She was accused of having poisoned him and was arrested in 1949 on the evidence of the great provincial expert, Professor Beroud of Marseilles. She was charged with 11 murders. I think there were 13 deaths on the dossier, but two were statute barred. The great expert from Marseilles found arsenic in every body. There was arsenic in the body of the chap who had died of consumption and who had been watched, wasting away with consumption 22 years before. There was arsenic in the body of a lady who had been found hanging; arsenic in the body of her mother, of her husband, of her husband's sister and of a whole lot of relatives. There was arsenic in the body of a lady who had lived comfortably until 92 years of age, even during the war when there had been a food shortage.

What started then was the trial of the century. The trial was held at Poitiers, but not until 1951 or 1952. It lasted many days. The expert, after one day in the witness box, left the court saying that he had had an accident and he would not come back there. He had not come there to be cross-examined. Counsel ungallantly said that if he did come back he would not pass any, what ever they were. He was finally sent for. It was established that the 11 bodies had been sent back rather in the state of frozen hamburgers; that the boxes had been mixed up; that an old skeleton had arrived with a fresh eye; that one body had got the hair packed in the wrong box; that there was mud in all the boxes; that he really did not understand Marsh's test on the evidence of the experts for the defence; and he finally identified two bottles of antimony as arsenic as proof of his skill.

At that stage what happened was that the court ordered a supplement of information, and the lady was sent back to prison to await a second trial. The supplement of information took two years. By now, three more experts had made their examinations and provided their conclusions, which differed very substantially from those of the first expert but still found an awful lot of arsenic in Loudun. That is true; there is an awful lot. If you drink the wine of Loudun for twenty years you will find arsenic in your hair to a poisonous extent. The graveyard seemed to be full of it. There was a delightful verger who was spraying the apples he was growing in the graveyard with an arsenical mixture. The experts had got their water from a meteorological station which used zinc tins which had arsenic in them.

So there was another long trial and the experts were completely confounded. The court realised that they could not be believed, even though the Procurator General had withdrawn five of the cases of murder and reduced the number to six. The court said they could not convict, and ordered a supplement of information. The widow of Loudun had another few years in prison. Three experts were then nominated, all of whom refused to act. They finally produced three experts who said they were going to produce evidence, that they were not going to say how they got it or what the experiments were. Nor were they going to be cross-examined. They were not going to say anything about it. Even the judge thought this was a bit hot. The counsel for the defence thought it was hotter. One of the questions in dispute was how far hair could absorb arsenic in the coffin, because the graveyard was full of arsenic. They said they thought an English expert had said something like this. I said it sounded something like Sir William Wilcox in his second evidence in the Seddon case in 1910. This from 1910 had never got across the Channel, by 1960, fifty years later. So I posted them the trial of Seddon, and I still have in my possession the expert's report on the third trial which started in October, 1961. May I say that the lady was finally acquitted on all charges. I think that procedure is unsatisfactory; I really do.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has written brilliantly about the Italian case of Wilma Montessi in which a lady was washed up on the wrong beach two days after she had disappeared. The explanation of the police was that she had suddenly decided, in April, in a North Eastern sirocco, to take a long journey to Ostia beach and paddle on it to cure her chilblains, and had been accidentally drowned. The trial was finally held in Venice to avoid disturbances in Rome. It lasted several days and it resulted—as everyone had expected—in the acquittal of all nine defendants and the conviction for perjury of a witness for the prosecution. It is fair to say that there was not much evidence against the defendants, because it had all been suppressed. In the course of that trial, it was found that the Mussolini laws were still in existence in Italy. I venture to think that that is unsatisfactory.

One really cannot contemplate the possibility of a gentle lining up of procedures. They are completely different. If one took the classic case of the crime passionel, that of Othello, and tried it in this country, Othello would not have had a chance. He would have been treated with courtesy but once that very moving soliloquy— Put out the light, and then put out the light: If I quench thee, thou flaming minister, I can again thy former light restore, Should I repent me: but once put out thy light, Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature, I know not where is that Promethean heat That can thy light relume."— was read he would be doomed. In England that is clear evidence of malice prepense. As recited by Sir Archibald Bodkin it would be virtually fatal; there would be no defence. Whether he would trouble to go to the Court of Criminal Appeal perfunctorily or not, Othello would have had the consolations of the licensee of the "Help the Poor Straggler" who would have left his pub with a little black bag quite quietly, and Othello would have passed away with the full consolations of the Church, even without publicity, because "nothing extenuate and naught said in malice" would hardly have sold him a space in the News of the World.

In France, of course, Maitre Maurice Garcon would have had the jury in tears. Othello would have been subjected to the humiliation of an interview by the President, who would say that he was reported to have been addicted to masturbation at the age of 8 and running dirty errands in the Casbah when he was 14, associating with Levantine merchants of dubious quality before he had settled in Venice, and so on. But, in the end, Maurice Garcon would have sat down with a complete acquittal in his pocket. What would have happened after that I do not know, so it is hardly worth while speculating—perhaps a party in the Boulevard St. Germain. Perhaps there would have been a statement from the Minister of War and Justice in Morocco that he had not been in Paris in the last few days, perhaps a pallier à salade creeping along one pavement and a mysterious telephone message to Othello, and Othello might have been seen driven away to the Forest of Fontainebleau to that bourne in France from which no North African returns. As Sir Frank Lockwood would have said in either case, the end result would be precisely the same: The soul of Othello, like a star, Beacons from abode where the eternal are.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord has now finished his history with illustrations of European law since the 13th century, I ought perhaps to remind your Lordships that we are engaged in a debate on the regulations and directives of the European Commission and their effect upon professions and universities in the United Kingdom. When I heard the introductory speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, to whom we are all very grateful for raising this important matter this afternoon, I felt that any remarks that I had prepared to make might be looked upon as being unduly complacent. But I was greatly heartened by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, to which I listened with great interest and attention, and even more so by the very temperate and interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, which was followed by a speech with the same sort of strain going through it by the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman. Since then, we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, among others, and of course he is the great expert from the medical point of view so far as our entry into the European Community is concerned. I am very glad to say—and I have no doubt that noble Lords will share my pleasure—that that leaves me with very little to say.

I speak only for medicine and since 1961 members of my own profession have been mixed up in consultations through the standing committees of Members of the Six, in which they have been observers and are now full members. It was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, referred to the good work which the British Medical Association has been doing for us all in this respect. I do not really want to say any more about that. I might just say that I hope our medical colleagues will not run into the danger, into which they run from time to time, of neglecting the Para-medical professions. I am sure it is not done out of selfishness; it is only that they get so wrapped up in their own medical concerns that they tend to forget that there are people such as nurses, radiographers and a host of others who are—I will not say on the fringe, because that is rather a dirty word—on the borderline of medicine. I hope that they will not be left out of the considerations which are going on.

I thought that, out of the few things that are left to me to speak about, I would say something about foreign doctors coming over here. This is, perhaps, looked upon with horror by a few members of my profession, but I do not think by very many. We are quite used to foreign doctors here. Even though they may be members of the British Commonwealth, they come from a different culture and in some cases, their command of English is by no means fluent and ready. That is no justification for bringing a lot more foreigners in, but I think we have perhaps tended to forget that this country is almost, though not quite, unique in its National Health Service. That ensures, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, said, that the real entry into the profession, or the real entry into the specialities of the profession, is at the time of appointment to a National Health Service post. So, whatever may be the qualifications of some obscure European university, it is not necessary to appoint a person to a National Health Service post unless he is thought to be the best applicant for the job. There are still quite a large number of people who practise only private medicine, independent of an appointment, and foreigners can now come over and practise, so I do not think there will be a great deal of difference. As the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, reminded us, nothing is likely to happen very suddenly. A greater danger is that the discussions and conversations will go on ad nauseam, and that a great many able people will waste a good deal of their time.

I shall conclude by reading very short extracts from the ends of letters received from two friends of mine, one a surgeon and the other a consulting physician. The first said in winding up: My impression is that they welcome our joining them, because they trust us and in 10 years' discussion they have really reached no conclusion. The other one said: My impression is that we are very welcome, and many hope that we shall be able to help them to produce a more orderly situation in the matter of accreditation than is the case at present. We should continue our discussions not in an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, but with the feeling that we are welcome Members of this Community and that we have a great deal to say and a great deal to learn.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will permit some very brief observations from an interested party on the Cross-Benches who has been a convinced European for 15 years or more, and a practising architect, urbanist and university teacher for a great deal longer. On both of those counts, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, for raising the debate on the place of the liberal professions in the enlarged Community. I think that this debate is opportune for two special reasons. The first is that I came here to learn something as well as to make a small contribution on behalf of my profession, and I have learned a great deal. The second is that, after trying to make an inquiry into anything that had been written about the professions in the Common Market, I went right through Miss Cosgrove's guide to the literature published by Chatham House and P.E.P. in 1970, and I found not one single reference to them. Apart from the reference in this House in 1962 by the noble Lord, Lord Cohen, there has been practically nothing written about the place of the professions and it is time that some provision was made for discussion of it. So I very much welcome the initiation of this debate by the noble Lord, Lord Bowden.

Twelve years ago, when studying European professional and academic institutions with a research group at P.E.P., we realised that European institutions were very different from our own—not worse or better, sometimes the one and sometimes the other, but very different. For instance, there were very few chartered institutions in Europe. In spite of that, the great attraction of the European Economic Community at that time was the challenge it presented, the opportunity it gave to break down barriers and, in the words of the Treaty, … to provide for the free movement and establishment of professional people within the Communities". At the beginning of the 1960's, the professions as such in this country were being looked at more and more critically. They were looked at as practices which were useful and could even be illustrious, but which could also become restrictive in their social and economic effects. I remember a well-known journalist describing the professions as "vested interests masquerading as a public service." I felt that rather hardly at the time, because I am a professional man; even more so as I had been elected President of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1960, and with the aid of a Leverhulme grant the institute had just commissioned an objective analysis of the workings of the whole profession. It was published in 1962 as, The Architect in his Office.

Now this quite evident lack of complacency on the part of one of the professions was greeted with alarm by most of its members and with amused scepticism by some sections of the Press. One headline I remember read: The R.I.B.A. washes its dirty linen in public". I need hardly tell your Lordships that this was before not only the washing but the wearing of dirty linen had become positively fashionable. But I mention this historical incident to emphasise the point that institutions in this country, both in higher education and in the professions, had not only achieved and had held for many years, sometimes centuries, a high degree of autonomy in the conduct of their own affairs, but were conscious of their two particular and sometimes conflicting responsibilities to society. The first responsibility, of course, is to maintain standards of quality in the services that they offer to the public and to the advancement of knowledge—and this latter thing is not a responsibility that recognises any frontiers; it is universal. At the same time, they have to avoid the stagnation and obsolescence that comes from privilege, from selective entry and from codes of professional practice that so easily become restrictive and irrelevant. This conflict of responsibilities now comes to a head, it seems to me, in the context of the wider grouping of the professions in nine countries; so I think we really have got to take a deep breath and look at the subject again. I am not therefore going to be critical of what the Government have or have not done upon this matter. I merely want, for a very few moments, to expose some of the problems which I think, in the group of professions in which I am interested, will need very considerable attention in company with our colleagues on the other side of the Channel.

We had in the R.I.B.A. at that time some experience in working with international bodies. The International Union of Architects, for example, was inaugurated in Portland Place, in London, soon after the war, under the presidency of the famous French architect/engineer, Auguste Perret. Its first chairman was Sir Patrick Abercrombie, my predecessor at University College; and in the early 1960s the President was Sir Robert Matthew. He was also active in promoting the Commonwealth Association of Architects, which slowly but surely advanced the principles of student interchange and common standards of entry into the profession, common educational objectives and common codes of professional responsibility. So we knew pretty well by experience that it was useless and illusory to discuss quantity without quality, and that quality could not be assessed, as so many speakers have said to-day, by hours and years spent on a curriculum, however carefully that curriculum has been devised. It has to be a live thing, maintained by visiting boards or some other method of review, and it has to have continuous revision.

Ten years later, of course, the surface of the waters has changed. I think the undercurrents are much as they were, they are not affected; but certainly the wind has changed the surface pattern. The position now is that we are entering a professional situation which the Commission in Brussels is attempting to create. We are going into it not so much blind but somewhat blindfolded. We are blindfolded because we literally do not see the members of the Commission—I am talking now only of our limited experience as architects—and yet we are subject, or may be subject, to the directives which are being argued out and negotiated by them. Therefore, one of the most useful points in this debate, I think, has been the comment that there is no reason why we should not be able to have these dialogues with the Commission in Brussels, and that is something which I am extremely glad to hear.

At the moment we can make representations to the Department of the Environment, which is the Government Department which looks after the construction professions; and we can also make representations to the Liaison Committee of Architects of the Common Market. The last, however, is in any case purely advisory. Until 1971 there was only an observer, not a practising architect; but since then I am glad to say we have had two delegates from the R.I.B.A. and two from the Arcihitects' Registration Council. Our delegates, whom I have been to see, speak very warmly indeed of the support and the advocacy they have had from the Department of the Environment. But, good though this is, I do not think it is enough. It is not good enough that all the draft directives which concern these professions should be negotiated in Brussels by civil servants, and I hope the time will very soon arrive when the profession is allowed to make its own arguments and conduct its own negotiations.

Of course, architecture is only one of the professions concerned. It is not the largest and it is not the oldest: nor does it have the most immediate impact on the health and safety of the society which it serves. But the work of architects, of structural engineers, of landscape architects and of builders expresses and symbolises in very durable form—sometimes too durable a form—many of our social values and aspirations, and certainly it is very central to the creation and conservation of what we now call the environment. The embryo of a new central Department of Government was conceived by the late Labour Administration and produced, fully fledged, by the present Conservative one. It is supported—and it is also criticised—by all shades of public opinion. I do not believe the gibe that was made quite recently, that conservation is a middle-class objective.

This development, I think, is highly significant, the more so in this overpopulated world; and it is significant not only for us. Europe, also, has been groping towards a more rational attitude and a more practical control of those elements in our life which create amenity and better living standards, and that indefinable thing, a sense of belonging, of being able to do something about the situation in which you find yourself. The International Congress in Stockholm last year, I think, was evidence of this. But I think it is true to say that this country has the most comprehensive and considered administrative arrangements of any country in the world, let alone Europe, for dealing with those hundreds of small private problems—problems of change, of new construction, alteration and so on—that have now become large and somewhat alarming public problems. And just at the time when work has begun in earnest in central Government under the direction of the Secretary of State for the Environment, the adoption by Brussels of any purely bureaucratic methods of regulation for the contributory professions, including architecture, would clearly be a retrograde step. I do not believe it is going to happen, but I think we have got to make some effort to see, with our partners, that it does not.

Certainly the architects want to go on improving their standards as well as improving their freedom to practise. They do not want to go back to what I might call the more by-law methods of control. I do not want to weary your Lordships, but perhaps a homely example of what I mean by a by-law method of control will not be irrelevant. You can require that a party wall between two houses should be built of certain bricks or of any bricks of certain dimensions laid in specific ways and with specified types of mortar; but, alternatively, you can take a wider view and you can require that the party wall shall conform to agreed standards of strength, insulation and noise or fire resistance. As construction becomes more sophisticated and the requirements of people, owners and local authorities change more rapidly, the second type of regulation is obviously much to be preferred. It does not diminish the builder's responsibility; but it is more adaptable, more economical and more effective. I think the same principle applies exactly to the regulation of professional training and practice. We have got to see that we do not relapse into the by-law form of control, that we constantly look at the main objectives and lift up the standards to suit them. Administrative compromises which derive from the unresolved differences among the Six over 10 years or more, eventually made rigid in general form and detail by directives from the Commission, would not be a satisfactory basis on which either freedom of movement or freedom of establishment should be built. I think it puts a tax on invention and a premium on bureaucracy. It tends to create stereotyped training methods and to discourage creative thinking.

This is just at a time when alarm has been growing in countries, most recently in France, at the wave of mediocrity which is now enveloping their towns. In fact, these directives, unless improved, would be just the thing to perpetuate it. There is a new Bill on architecture in France—a Bill, your Lordships will notice, not on architects but on architecture—which has been drafted by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs jointly with the Ministries concerned to supersede the law of December, 1940, which is the current law. The new legal measure declares that the quality of architecture is to be of public concern. I thought that this was a little naïve when I first read it, but since then I have become more and more interested in it. The French are opening wider the door of the professions that have remained traditionally closed and they want to diversify the forms under which architecture may be practised. The Bill shortly will be presented to the Council of Ministers by M. Jacques Duhamel. A commentator in Le Monde said: The paradox is that we are building more and more while having less and less recourse to the services of the architect, in other words to the professional, who in principle has been trained to respond to our aspirations to quality. This is not purely a French phenomenon. It affects all affluent societies (in America as in Japan) where large engineering organisations produce their quota of square metres, technically irreproachable but lacking the quality which will make it in the long term to the public benefit. Instead of giving us architecture, they give us constructions. And it is the latter which bring about the death of cities. Specifically therefore, in conclusion, may I say that architects in Britain, as in France, would like to see in place of the present indirect system a genuine professional dialogue on this question of training and the codes of practice supported, as now, by Departmental representatives but with authority to report direct to the Council of Ministers. I have reason to believe that the Liaison Committee of Architects in Brussels think very mach as we do. The universities in the United Kingdom, even the Privy Council, and certainly the Department of the Environment, and the Department of Education and Science, share some of our anxieties about the possibility of slipping back in the standards of training.

In particular (and I am not going to elaborate this because it has already been done) there are three questions that I should like to see much more fully discussed. First is the question of minimum criteria. We recognise its usefulness and inevitability, but I think in addition to minimum criteria, one always has to add further qualifications which act as a stimulus to those who can only reach the lower rungs in the ladder. Our own criteria, as it happens, more than cover these minimum requirements as set out in the draft directive; but our architectural delegates want to see in addition an advisory committee backed by a system of periodic monitoring, as by the R.I.B.A. Visiting Boards to schools of architecture, which take place every five years. This system works pretty well over 80 schools both in this country and in the Commonwealth.

Secondly, we want to see the inclusion of professional practice and practical experience in the course of training. All United Kingdom architectural students must have a minimum of two years' practical experience and then take a professional practice examination. At present all architects seeking to practise as architects in the United Kingdom have to take the same examination, or a comparable interview if they are more senior and more experienced. They have to demonstrate that they understand the broad basis of law and practice in the United Kingdom and in a similar way to the one the noble Lord, Lord Cohen, illustrated in the case of medicine The present system seems to work smoothly and has raised very few objections front immigrant architects—of whom we have quite a number. The same system can be applied within the Common Market—it is applied at present to European architects entering the United Kingdom, and the R.I.B.A., I understand from their President, would be perfectly happy to have United Kingdom architects take similar tests or interviews when they go abroad as they do now when they wish to practise in the U.S.A. The Commission and indeed many architects in Europe are very resistant to this idea because of the point already mentioned, the fact that their university degree is the qualification. I think it would be difficult to insist on this examination for U.K. students and for those in the Commonwealth if the Common Market does not require it. It would then amount to discrimination against our own students.

Lastly, there is a very small but very important point on the so-called "Prestotions de Service". The present directives make an exception for people who want to practise abroad for a short period, for example, a doctor, as the noble Lord, Lord Cohen, said who wants to perform one operation or to go to a consultation, or an architect who wants to design a single building. According to the proposed rules, they would be exempt from the requirements for registration compared with those who seek to establish themselves and create an office abroad. This applies, I think, to nearly all professions. It would allow people in our case who are not properly qualified to give a very inadequate service and in the case of large partnerships there is no reason why many of them should not come over to do just one building. I think they should be required to register in the host country. With many methods of communication there will be a growing tendency to offer services rather than to open consulting rooms or offices. The R.I.B.A. regard it as important that everyone who purports to offer a professional service should provide proper evidence of qualifications and competence.

These then are some of the subjects that we are only too ready to discuss. A good deal of the ground work has been done through other organisations in the past. I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, say that the dialogue can now proceed. Certainly in my case this has been a very useful and constructive debate.

6.19 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, for giving the House an opportunity of discussing the problems that affect various professions as we enter the Community. I should like also to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, for her remarks about the accounting professions. She mentioned that there were at least six different streams all appearing to flow in the same direction. I am a humble member of one of those streams and it is in this direction that I shall attempt to guide my remarks.

In most member States of the Community members of the accounting professions carry out statutory audits of the accounts and the affairs of limited companies. That is the case in the United Kingdom. They are appointed and carry out the duties under the rules of the 1948 Companies Act, and also the 1967 Act. In this country, at least, these same members of the profession carry out associated duties and other services, such as giving tax advice, and offer management consultancy advice and other diverse business advice and services. But in at least two of the member States this advice fringe activity, as one might call it, is either statutorily forbidden or at least strongly discouraged.

How the members of the profession carry out their duties tends to vary; and certainly in France and in Italy there is, I believe, a great danger of a lack of trust between a company and its auditors. In several cases recently one has found suspicion of the company aroused by auditors, members of the accountancy profession, who wished to obtain a certain amount of information, and the company, for reasons which seemed perfectly valid to it, thought that the auditors should not have access to various books and documents simply because the company could be placed in a prejudicial position when facing the tax authorities. However, my Lords, I think the social problems which are prevalent in some of the member States of the Community should not necessarily affect the profession in Britain. There are other problems over this lack of trust. Only recently it came to my ears that a limited company in France was forced to negotiate or is at present negotiating with representatives of the workers to appoint yet another firm of accountants who will carry out a secondary audit which will, apparently, give rise to the same information and figures as appeared in the first audit which was carried out on behalf of the company's shareholders. With the growing harmonisation of European law this unfortunate side effect could spread to the United Kingdom, and I hope that it may be kept on the far side of the Channel.

I think the main problem which has affected members of the accountancy profession is that of qualification. At present, the six separate institutions in the United Kingdom and in Ireland are independent bodies which admit members usually by means of examination and also by varying amounts of in-service training. By that I mean that in most cases one cannot obtain admission to an institute of the accountancy profession in the United Kingdom simply on academic training. There was a rather frightening element in the fourth draft directive emanating from the Council of Ministers last July. It laid down three separate methods by which various persons could become qualified to audit or to investigate the affairs of limited companies in member States. The first method would require at least seven years, beginning with four years at a university followed by three years' in-service training. The second method would require three years at university but only up to diploma level, and we heard a certain example of this from the noble Lord, Lord Bowden. This would be followed by three years doing audit work only, and finally finish off with three years of in-service training doing general accountancy work. There is yet a third stream, which would require 11 years until one became qualified, apparently, to investigate and audit a company's affairs. There would be eight years' practical auditing followed by three years of in-service accounting. In all these cases the candidate wishing to take this training would have to prove his fitness to attend university. He would have to be up to a minimum standard of entry to a university anywhere within the Community.

My Lords, any one of these three methods of training would seem to eliminate 90 per cent. of the members of the accountancy profession in the United Kingdom and, I am given to understand, it would eliminate all the accountants in Denmark and most of those in Holland. So one can see that a great deal of negotiation is required by members of the profession who, I think, must go to the Council of Ministers and say that this situation will not work; it may be theoretically desirable but certainly it is not practicable. I understand that many accountancy professions in this country are beginning to insist on the preliminary safeguard of people being fit to attend a United Kingdom university, and I understand that requires two "A" levels in G.C.E. of a suitable standard. So at least something is starting in the United Kingdom and I think this will lead to greater harmonisation.

Another, smaller, problem concerning the accountancy profession is what I would call cross-border practice: whether a British accountant could practise, either under his own name as an accountant or under some other designation, in, let us say, Italy or France. Somehow, I think the profession has exaggerated fears with regard to this. There are several well-known and large international firms which have branches already in every member State of the Community and therefore it is quite possible, I think, for a varied interchange of accountants to take place, using these international firms. At present members of the Ragioniere in Italy or Expert Comptable in France are, I understand, allowed to practise in this country, and they would be allowed to carry out an audit of a United Kingdom company. But how desirable this would be in the interest of the shareholders is open to debate, and probably could be settled by further discussions in the Council of Ministers.

There is still a possibility of European companies being set up and acting under European company law. I think this will come about within the next 10, 15 or 20 years, with greater uniformity of qualification and financial reporting, both to shareholders and to other interested parties. These interested parties could be a workers' council, a supervisory board of management, as one finds in Germany, or a trade union. It could also come about, I believe, by laws in the member States being altered so as to give greater protection to shareholders and also to enable companies to carry out what is known as their social responsibility towards other third parties—workers or clients of these companies. My Lords, at this stage there is still some way to go before we can hope to obtain any form of uniformity in accountancy qualifications so far as membership of the Community goes, but I hope that the Government will use their good offices to assist in seeing that our standards of business reporting and the standards of work in this country are maintained and, so far as possible, that we can export these standards across the Channel.

6.31 p.m.


My Lords, I always listen to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, with the greatest pleasure, not only because of his extraordinary eloquence, but because of his tremendous enthusiasm. To-day I feel that he switched on the warning lights with a vengeance, and he really frightened me. But I received subsequent comfort from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, even though the procedure that he described seemed to me to be terribly cumbrous. It may be, however, that this cumbrousness in a way is our salvation, because, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill. pointed out, they have been at it for 17 years and there is still not a directive. So perhaps, in the directions where we feel we ought to influence the draft directives, there is still time.

To work in concert with other members of the European Community is one thing, but to work in the same way as other members of the Community is another. I feel that there is a Teutonic way of doing things and a Latin way of doing things, and they are different. There is a British way of doing things which is different from both. There can be little doubt that the primary objective of the Commission must be to harmonise the differences and to avoid any semblance of dictation. From what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, it seems that we can avoid any such semblance, but I mention it because it has been mentioned to me so often recently as being characteristic of so many of the draft directives.

My Lords, I am really only qualified to speak in this debate about engineering, but by sheer familiarity with the world of commerce and industry I have come to know a little about bankers and finance, accountancy and the City generally; and not only the British bankers and accountants and so on, but the European ones as well. So before I come to the few words which I want to say about engineering, I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, and say a few words about accountancy and the things that go with it. The story (and the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, did not give your Lordships the whole story) is in some ways comforting, and in some ways an object lesson for other professions which are in the process of negotiating draft directives. There is not the slightest doubt that in these complex and highly specialised fields of banking and finance and all that goes with them, this country's professional men are more sophisticated and knowledgeable than their counterparts in the rest of Europe. In the world of banking, the City of London is preeminent; in the world of insurance the City of London is pre-eminent.

It would be a very bold Frenchman, a very brave German, a very courageous Luxembourger who would question this and that in the affairs of this highly complex organisation; and the complex organisation of industry in this country generally the standards of reporting are ordered by our accountants, who penetrate to the very heart of this very complex system. They have developed satisfactory ways of ensuring the maintenance of their high professional standards, and though the institutes which govern accountancy are not uniform in their approach, they are all successful in their objective of keeping their standards high. The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, inquired which of the accountancy institutes were good—and she mentioned that there were half a dozen of them. I do not think I could recite the half dozen, but the field of accountancy is something like the field of engineering, where we have civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and chemical engineering. Well, we have the Chartered Accountants of England; we have the Certified Accountants (who are not quite as dotty as they sound), the Cost and Management accountants, the Scottish accountants, I think the Irish accountants—and there might be others. But they are all very assiduous in the maintenance of high professional standards. What is more, I think they are all willing to develop and adjust their systems in the light of a changing world.

In the countries of the Common Market, the attitudes to money and business are different from ours. They do not have the great shareholding public of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. They do not have the same approach to takeovers and mergers. Conceivably, their philosophies are superior. But we, must take things as they are, and the pattern of affairs here, like that on the other side of the Atlantic, is much more complicated and sophisticated than it is in Europe. I think in this field, where questions of company law are under discussion, we have to be extremely vigilant and to make sure that we do not have imposed upon us a system which we should find foreign to our way of working. It would be most unfortunate if anything of that kind happened.

But, fortunately, the British acountants have shown themselves fully alive to the situation, and I believe that if they are allowed to use their undoubted influence to the full, then (I hope this does not sound too boastful) the standards of the rest of Europe will benefit. I have mentioned their qualitative superiority, and this is supported by their status in the social professional fabric, which is higher here than it is on the Continent, and by the impressive quantitative fact that there are more qualified accountants in these Islands than in the whole of the rest of the Community.

They have, I think, felt somewhat handicapped by this method of negotiation which has been mentioned so many times this afternoon, by which the negotiations are conducted by civil servants working on briefs supplied by the professionals. In the case of accountancy, the liaison between the professionals and the negotiators has been, and is, very good. But it is not a good system. However, despite the difficulties which have been met, the British accountants have achieved the deletion from the Commission's proposed directive not only of the absurd 3,500 hours educational requirement, but of the four-year degree requirement, and the E.E.C. accountants study group (which I think must be one of the liason groups the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned) has been representative of all nine Member States. This is a group in which British accountancy has been able to make its weight and its expertise felt: for as recently as this morning we read in The Times that the group are effectively agreed among themselves on a basis which is close to the British practice. There are differences still, but they are close to agreement on a basis not too far removed from the one that we are used to.

Further, I am told that this group is more and more influential and that the appropriate part of the Commission is more and more willing to listen to what it has to say. So long as the Commission's organisation continues in this present form it is imperative that they listen at the drafting stage. It may be that the accountants' group will ultimately reach such a status that the Commission will accept without argument their recommendations. Whether or not they achieve this end, their progress so far in the somewhat frustrated atmosphere of the Commission is encouraging, and is an object lesson to other professions. I hope that the Government will support them to the full.

When one looks at the field of engineering, the patterns in France, Germany, Belgium and Great Britain are utterly different. I suggest there is no particular need to try to make them the same. There certainly needs to be a change in this country in the esteem which we accord to engineers. That has to do with to-day's debate only in one respect; namely, that our peculiar attitude to the profession seems to have spread to Brussels. We appear to have cast our shadow before, because in the open competition for administration held by the Commission an applicant must have a degree plus one year's professional experience in legal questions, economics and statistics, or social affairs, or management (finance and administration), or agriculture. They do not want engineers, or physicists, or chemists. Such people could not possibly be administrators. How we managed to infect Brussels with this dangerous doctrine so soon is. a puzzle. The only comfort to be drawn is that if our influence is so enormous perhaps we can formulate policies to ensure we wield it in more improving ways. Perhaps if the scientific and technological professions were better represented in the Commission, the directives would be more flexibly drafted and progress consequently faster.

But to return, my Lords, to engineering standards, which have been drifting and drafting in Brussels for some years, when one considers conforming with a uniform pattern in the training of engineers, one must realise that we have never achieved a uniform pattern here ourselves. To take the case of mechanical engineering, the accepted qualifications are the grades of membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. These can be achieved in several ways. What they have in common is the achievement of an appropriate combination of theoretical and practical knowledge. But it is recognised by the Institution that this combination can be gained in a variety of ways. There is, in my view, no need to change our system except by the normal processes of evolution. When the matter does arise, as it is bound to do if the present procedures which have been described this afternoon continue, I sincerely hope the Government will dig their toes in and allow us to go on in the way in which we have gone so far, which on the whole has been extraordinarily successful, except in the one respect I mentioned, of the esteem in which engineers are held. I must confess that that is rapidly improving.

Any attempt by the Commission in Brussels to impose uniformity on a number of educational systems, French, German, Dutch and so on, which have all grown up over the years under the guidance of responsible people is, I think, wholly unnecessary, a great waste of time, and a fruitful source of friction. I believe that our system of higher education, flourishing as it does with a ratio of teachers to taught which is not even approached by any other country in the world, should be left to develop in its own way. I think we could give some of the others a few tips, but that it would be an impertinence to do so, and I think the Commission in Brussels should move very cautiously before impinging on what are, essentially, domestic matters. The sensible thing is for the Members of the Community to reach acceptance of one another's standards by a process of creative comparison.

I happen to have had a great deal of experience in the fields of reciprocal acceptance of standards, though not in educational matters; my experience has been in aircraft safety. The two leading codes of airworthiness requirements in the world are the American and the British codes. They are not the same, but they are becoming more and more alike. They have been carefully compared over the years and the stage was long ago reached at which we in the United Kingdom say we will accept an aeroplane which has been certificated by the United States authorities if certain additional requirements of ours are met, and the United States authorities say they will accept a British certificate of airworthiness if certain specific requirements of theirs are met. There is a continuing dialogue between the two bodies. All the time the differences are being narrowed. This has proved a practical and worthwhile approach, whereas, before the war, when we tried to develop an international code under what was known as the International Commission for Air Navigation, we failed miserably.

The positive suggestion I make, my Lords, is very like other suggestions which have been made this afternoon; it is that we should seek to persuade the Commission to change its procedures for the drafting of directives; to persuade them that the word they use for so many of their activities—harmonisation—does not mean dictation. We should seek to persuade them that their bureaucratic system in Brussels, advised by the lesser breed of mere experts trying to impose professional uniformity over the Community, should be abandoned. You may say that they are not trying to impose uniformity; but that is the impression one has in certain areas, despite the encouraging experience of the accountants. At the present time the work of thousands of intelligent people is being wasted. I believe that instead of the present procedure the Commission should seek to bring together corresponding national professional bodies to compare, in the way I have already indicated, their codes and methods of maintaining professional standards. By these means the professionals will get to understand each other's systems and, if it seems desirable, will adjust them to bring them nearer together, and advise the Commission accordingly. That process—over-simplified I fear—would in the fulness of time react on the educational systems behind the professional standards and change would come gradually and harmoniously.

6.48 p.m.


My Lords, first of all I want to echo what my noble friend, Lord Kings Norton, said about my noble friend Lord Bowden and the enthusiasm with which he attacked this subject. We are grateful to him for opening a debate on a topic which is of enormous importance to the future of the professions and the universities, and which is very much under discussion at the present time and is causing a great deal of anxiety in many areas. I do not think he could have served the House better than in raising this particular matter at this time, and I want to assure him of my gratitude. I am particularly grateful to him for having made his views absolutely clear on the major principle involved. He said this twice. In an early part of his speech he said that all of us were in favour of free mobility of professional men. He said that was always welcome. Later he said that we need a policy which makes it possible for professional men to move freely from country to country in Europe, or words to that effect. I am grateful to him for having said that in such clear terms, particularly in the context of the rest of his speech. Nobody could accuse my noble friend of having taken other than a pretty objective view, both of the Commission and of the Government. Therefore, what he said was very welcome to me indeed.

If that is the view of my noble friend, who in this House differs from it? I have listened to every speech with one exception (and I have had that speech reported to me) and it has been a most valuable debate. We have had contributions from the leaders in many, if not most, of the liberal professions. We have had most authoritative speeches and not one speaker in your Lordships' House has said anything other than that he shared the view and the principle expressed by my noble friend of desiring a mobility of professional men, and freedom and the withdrawal of the barriers which are laid down in the Treaty. So we are all agreed on the main objective and we have to consider whether we can relax our efforts in making sure that the methods by which the objectives are achieved are the best possible.

I had better make it quite clear that my own view—and I hope I do not embarrass him by saying so—coincides completely with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, when he said that he considered advantages were to be gained by all provided that there was no lowering of standards. That is exactly my standpoint. I think in that connection we ought also to bear in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, said; namely, that our standards are not threatened by anything under discussion at the present time. That being so, I return to the question of what is the duty of an Opposition in these circumstances, where we are all agreed on the major principle, and means are all important.

I cannot think that we should do other than have the fullest regard to the views of the various professions and of the universities. I cannot see that it is logical for us to have a well-established system under which the professions are autonomous and the universities are autonomous, a system under which all Governments place the greatest possible regard on the wisdom of the professions and their ability to run themselves, unless the Government have the greatest possible regard to the views of the professions and the universities on how these barriers should be withdrawn. I do not think it is for an Opposition to lay down precisely the means by which this agreed objective should be reached. So, I repeat that I am delighted to listen to so many distinguished members of their various professions putting the professional point of view.

It seemed to me that our responsibility as Her Majesty's Opposition was to satisfy ourselves that three questions were being properly answered. The first question was: Should we have been warned that the Treaty included some terrible trap in connection with the freedom and the standards of the professions and of the universities? We know that for the past 12 years, at least—and I think one noble Lord put it even higher; I believe the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, referred to a period of 17 years, but I gather that he does not wish that to be regarded as his view—the regulations have been under discussion. Very fortunately they have not yet been decided. I cannot see that anybody in this country should be unhappy because the regulations are still open, and open to us to play our fullest part in amending them, in association with the other two new member countries of the Community, so as to suit all members and not merely the Six. I cannot see that there are any grounds for anxiety there. So, I repeat, these draft proposals have been under consideration for 12 years. That of course indicates the difficulty of the topic but it also shows that it is not a matter of immediacy and it is not a matter in which decisions have to be made irrespective of the wishes of the member States.

In fact, as we know, this is an issue where unanimity is required; where the Minister of the United Kingdom is able to protect the interests of all the professions in the United Kingdom and where, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, put it—and put it well, if I may say so—the Commission acts by agreement. I think that is a better word than any other to use in connection with this case. So I do not feel that there is any anxiety as to their first question; namely, have we—unfortunately and without being specially warned about it—let ourselves into a situation in which we find it impossible to protect the professions and the universities? Therefore, if, as I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, he shares the view that the professions ought to be fully consulted and that the matter ought to be approached profession by profession, the two remaining questions are: Is there full consultation with the Commission and is there full consultation with the Government?

First, regarding the Commission, there are in fact for all the professions that I can find (and I have read papers relating to a large number of them) certainly three channels of communication. All the major professions have a liaison committee established. They can all approach through their representatives; they can all approach the Commission direct. Nobody has ever been refused an audience or refused to listen to representations. Then, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, has reminded us, there is the European Parliament, to the Members of which representations can be made and they can play their part as well. I noted, incidentally, what the noble Baroness said in her invitation to others of us in this House to share in these responsibilities. All I can say to that is to utter a phrase that occasionally comes from the Front Bench opposite: "I undertake to convey to my right honourable friend in another place every-think that the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, has said".

So there are at least those three channels of communication so far as the Commission is concerned, and I am glad my noble friend Lord Bowden made it clear that he was not attacking the Commission but was attacking the Government. I am glad he made that clear because some of his comments left me not absolutely sure throughout his speech that that was the case; but he has made it clear and I accept completely what he has said.

I am bound to say myself that I have a certain sympathy with the Commission in the attempts they have made to try to solve this difficulty. They have a duty laid on them under the Treaty to try to get agreement to remove the barriers; they have consulted all the professions in all the countries which were members at the time. They tried very hard to get quality qualifications. It proved virtually impossible to do this, so as a last resort, and as it is now permissible to say, I suppose, faut mieux, they fell back on quantitative qualifications. I do not share fully the universal condemnation that has arisen about quantitative qualifications. As the noble Baroness herself said, insufficient regard is paid to the facts of the situation of every one of our professions. In my profession one has to serve a certain number of years—it is not a quality, but a number of years' apprenticeship. As my noble friend Lord Bowden made absolutely clear, this happens in universities. It happens in medical training; indeed it happens throughout. One of the ways of arriving at a rough estimate of quality is through quantity, and it would be going too far to reject that completely. I am not saying for one second that it is a satisfactory substitute, I am just repeating the history, which is no doubt well known to your Lordships, of the way in which "quantity" came to be used as a result of the failure to reach agreement on "qualitative" qualifications. I do not think we can properly say that there is any lack of consultation by the Commission.

Then I turn to the third question, which is: is there full opportunity for consultation with the Government? My noble friend, as I said, made it clear that his real attack was on the Government. As your Lordships know, I am by nature a shy and retiring person, but when I am invited to attack the Government I momentarily overcome my shyness and leap into the attack. Therefore I have been searching around for evidence with which to attack them. I have been in touch with as many professions as I thought it was appropriate to get in touch with, not bang up to date, but as recently as 12 noon at all events. First of all, there is my own profession. I hope that I do not embarrass anybody in any particular Department, but their view about consultations with the D.T.I. was that they were very good indeed. I made quite sure that I had heard aright as I should have preferred to hear a different answer, but I was told that the consultations were very good indeed.

I got in touch with the nurses. I do not need to explain to your Lordships that I happen to be an accountant but I should perhaps explain that I also happen to have been on the General Nursing Council for some six years and had the responsibilities which normally fall on the chairman of the Financial and General Purposes Committee. One learnt a bit about it during that period. Their view—and I give the words—was that "they have no complaints" about the consultations which are going on the whole time with the appropriate Department. We have heard to-day from most authoritalive representatives, Members of your Lordships' House, of the architects and of the medical professions, and I gathered in each case that it was made absolutely clear that there is no complaint about the ability for consultation with the appropriate Government Department.

So I naturally came to the conclusion that I was not looking in the right place and that my noble friend must be referring to the difficulties which the universities are having. But, on second thoughts, I do not think that that could have been his main concern, because fortunately I have been supplied with the background paper put forward by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors, dated February 16, 1973, and under paragraph 4, headed "Consultation with the Professions", they describe the methods of consultation with the Departments. They say: In the Committee's view there is no need for extension of the existing arrangements for consultation which are at present conducted separately with each profession and with the educational interests. So, much as I should like to criticise the Government on that score, and much as I am sure they should be criticised on some score or other, I am bound to admit at the moment that I cannot just lay my hands on the evidence. So I come to the conclusion that, so far as consultation is concerned, the professions are being served as they should be: that full weight is being given to their views; that no conclusions are being reached and no imposition of unacceptable new standards or regulations are being put upon them; and that therefore all one can do is to say to the Government that we are glad that they are taking this matter in this way, that we regard it as our duty in the Opposition to watch them very carefully to see that they do not fall back from this, and that we underline—without going into too much detail because there are many points affecting every single profession—the proper difficulties which each profession has.

It would be wrong were I not to say one word about the accountants' profession, if only to support what the noble Lord and my professional colleague, Lord Lyell, said a short time ago. The first regulations provided for 60 per cent. of existing chartered accountants being unable to practise, and among that 60 per cent. was myself. I took the view that however interesting a point of view it was, it was something that perhaps needed reconsideration, and I am glad to say that there has been reconsideration of it. The fact is that with the exception alone of the veterinary surgeons, I understand, there is considerable anxiety in some respect or other among most of the professions. This is not surprising as it is a new situation. This is a very early stage of the new negotiations and it is not surprising that there should be this difficulty. I am bound to make one comment with regard to vets: it is natural, if you are in a profession which teaches you about the habits of animals, that you should be aware that the early bird gets the worm. Certainly my understanding is that the vets entered well ahead of any other profession in the negotiation consultations; and it is because of that close and very early consultation that they have been able to achieve, through mutual understanding, arrangements which, as I understand it, they consider to be reasonably satisfactory. As to all the others, the regulations are still for consideration and for discussion, and I am sure that as a result of the debate initiated by my noble friend the Government will be in a far better and more informed position to help the professions in their various ways than they were before. It is a great responsibility and I am sure that we wish the Government every good fortune and assistance in carrying out this very difficult task.

7.7 p.m.


My Lords, if I may briefly intervene again, I do not think that I need say a great deal, because the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, has done it for me. I entirely approve of the way in which he shouldered the duty of the Opposition, but it makes the duty of the Government speaker even more difficult when he has chosen not to disagree on any point. I should like to echo the words he began with by saying that this has been indeed a most valuable debate, and again I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden. We are agreed on the objective, quite clearly, from what has been said in the course of the afternoon, and we are concerned about the methods. I was happy to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, had examined what had been said about the various methods of consultation, and I was very happy to hear that he had found relatively little fault. I am sure it is right that there is, and should be, the fullest possible consultation with the Commission at a very early stage. It is worth noting that the vast majority of the directives that exist at the moment were all drafted before we were involved, and therefore that is probably the reason why in many cases quantitative requirements are included rather than the special emphasis we should wish to give to the qualitative side.

I draw the same conclusion as did the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, that the veterinary surgeons have shown us the way. They have accepted many of the quantitative requirements, but they have modified them, as I understand it, and have put the agreed proposals to the veterinary schools in this country, who were quite prepared to accept the proposals that were made. I am grateful also that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, obviously spent some time on the telephone and received satisfactory answers from the various professions in this country, who told him that we were giving them the fullest possible consultation. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, I believe that he is making rather too much of one particular document in the case of the pharmaceutical directive. I know that he saw it for only a very short time. It was an official document and it was not at decision stage. It happened to be a document which was passing between Departments and which he had a very short time to look at. I can assure him that this was only a matter of consultation between the partners and was not concerned with a decision to which he ought to have been able to give much longer consideration.

My Lords, I should like to thank all your Lordships who have taken part in the debate. I was very encouraged to hear the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, immediately following my first speech, and very grateful to my noble friend Lady Elles who speaks with such knowledge of the European Parliament. I thought it entirely appropriate that she should be on the Committee of Culture, Youth and Education, all three of which talents she displays in her person. I was also delighted that senior representatives of all the major professions concerned, spoke on their behalf. The legal profession was very well represented by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, and the noble Lord, Lord Hale. I always listen to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, with the greatest attention and I always admire the clarity and logic of his words. In fact, although I have a brief here about the position of the legal directive, it corresponds exactly with what he said; so I do not need to go any further but to confirm that every word he said was accurate on the position of the legal directive.

The medical profession was very well represented by the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, who knows more than any of us about these matters from his Presidency of the Medical Research Council. He put his finger accurately on seven particular points on which the General Medical Council has expressed concern. As he generously said, the General Medical Council has been given every opportunity to make those points to my Department, and I should like to take this opportunity to reassure him that every one of those points has been duly noted and will be taken into account when the negotiations proper on the medical directive start in Brussels. I must emphasise that, since the accession of this country to the Community, no meetings have yet taken place of the Council working group which will in due course consider the very complex medical directive.

My Lords, I listened also with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Holford, speaking on the subject of architecture; I very much agree with him. I am grateful to him for speaking warmly about liaison with the Department of the Environment, and I very much agree with him that the more we can get these proposals agreed upon by the professions themselves so much the better for all of them. I hope that the Liaison Committee for Architecture will be able to influence his other European colleagues towards a more satisfactory agreement, but of course we would hope that in architecture as well as in other professions the policy we have proposed for establishing councils for each profession would allow the profession itself to set its own standards, and all the points he made will be taken into account.

We also heard from the accountants and the engineers. My noble friend Lord Lyell spoke for the accountants, and the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, to whom I listened with very great interest, spoke on the subject of accountancy and engineering. Of course he is absolutely right. This cumbersome procedure is the result of the determination within the Community to achieve agreement. It is a cumbersome procedure. It starts on an advisory basis and gradually works up to the top, and it is entirely for the reason that agreement between all the nations is the only way in which any kind of directive can ever become part of the Community law. I was glad to hear from him that we were enjoying a good liaison between the accountants and the Department of Trade and Industry.

My Lords, I can only say in conclusion that we have listened with great attention to this debate. It has been extremely interesting. I think I can reassure your Lordships that we are taking the greatest care that the professions shall be properly consulted and that the resulting discussions on the draft directives in Brussels are carefully argued with our colleagues from other countries. There is no question of the Government imposing rules on an unwilling profession, and there is no question of the Council of Ministers imposing laws on unwilling Governments. At the same time, we are not in the least complacent and we will keep this matter under continual review. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this very important matter.

7.16 p.m.


My Lords, I really believe that this has been, as many speakers have said, an extremely important and well worth while debate. Perhaps I should have mentioned to your Lordships when I made my main speech that I am willing to believe that Professor Dahrendorf, who is now to become the head of that part of the Commission concerned with these matters, is of the opinion that most of the work which has been done so far by the Commission will have to be scrapped. In particular, he sees no possibility of imposing the rules which have caused so much anxiety to so many people that no man shall qualify to practise in his own country unless he has satisfied criteria laid down arbitrarily in Brussels. I think we can forget this as an obviously totally impracticable exercise which has been twelve years under discussion and is doomed to be stillborn. That I think should be a considerable source of gratification to everyone.

I still come back, as I have done before, to the fact that the professions in this country should not in my view be represented in negotiations of this kind by anyone but themselves. The case of the vets has been mentioned several times this evening. They were the first of all the professions in England to join a study group in Europe. They seem to have been very much concerned with the operation throughout the whole period of the formation of the Common Market and I think even before the Common Market itself had begun. In fact, it was one of our own people who helped to draft the last directive. But in spite of all that, the vets themselves found it necessary to write to The Times about a fortnight ago complaining bitterly of the breakdown in communication between themselves and the Government, of the inadequacy of communication and discussion. I believe that it is not good enough that the professions in this country should be treated as professions in other countries have been treated, being represented by Government officials in whose appointment they have had no voice. This is my principal criticism of Government policy, the fact that the professions have not really been allowed to represent their own sovereign powers as independent chartered bodies, powers which do not exist in a comparable form in any other country in Europe. This frequently makes for difficulty in negotiation. I realise only too well that our Ministers must feel themselves at a disadvantage that they cannot speak with the authority on their own professions that their opposite numbers can for professions in Europe.

My Lords, that having been said, I believe that the Government have shown greater awareness of this problem than I thought them capable of, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have fortified what I had to say and made the points about the enormous significance to this country of the autonomy of the professions, their intentions and the authority with which they speak for their members. As one noble Lord said, echoing Shaw, there is a time when the professions are thought to be little less than a conspiracy against the public. This may perhaps be thought to be the reason for Government intervention in their affairs, but I think myself that is an accusation which we can dismiss fairly summarily. May I once again thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, which has been extremely helpful to everyone who is in any degree concerned with negotiations in Brussels or elsewhere. I thank everyone concerned, and most particularly the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for the winding up speech. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.