§ LORD WINDLESHAM rose to move, That the Regulations dated the 13th of November 1973, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Emergency Powers Act 1920, shall continue in force subject to the provisions of section 2(4) of the said Act. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. Perhaps I may begin by explaining the effect of the Emergency Regulations 1973, which are before your Lordships today, and point out any changes that have been made in them since the previous occasion when a set of regulations of this character were laid and approved by your Lordships.755
§ Noble Lords may like to be reminded that the earlier Regulations were those which came into operation on August 4, 1972 following a strike at the docks. The House debated and approved those regulations on August 9 of last year. I should also like to mention in the course of my speech the measures which my honourable friend the Minister for Industry, has already taken to reduce consumption of electricity and to refer to the relevance of the Emergency Regulations to the general economic situation.
§ My Lords, it has been the practice of successive Governments—and it has I think been accepted as a wise practice—to make a complete set of Emergency Regulations at the outset. No Government can forecast precisely the course that any emergency is likely to take, and this particular emergency is no exception to that. As always, I can assure your Lordships, as I stated on Tuesday, when I repeated the Home Secretary's Statement, the use made of these powers by the Government will be limited to what the essential public interest requires. To declare a State of Emergency and to take emergency powers are always, and rightly so, treated as grave decisions. The Government accept, and accept with enthusiasm, that it is a proper Parliamentary safeguard for both Houses to have an opportunity to question such actions, and debates of this kind, in your Lordships' House and in the other place, are a necessary restraint on any too ready recourse to powers of this sort.
§ I turn now to the regulations themselves. Regulations 3 to 5 are concerned with the control of ports. Regulations 6 to 15 are concerned with road transport, and use of road vehicles. It is not expected that immediate use will be made of any of these regulations. Regulations 16 to 20 relate to various public services and public utilities. Regulations 17 and 18, in particular, are concerned with the supply of electricity and gas, respectively. It may be necessary, as on previous occasions, to relieve some electricity boards of their statutory or contractural obligations to supply electricity or to maintain a supply of a certain standard.
§ I should briefly draw the attention of noble Lords to certain additional powers to give directions, or enable directions to be given, to various river and water 756 authorities, and to sewerage authorities, under Regulations 19 and 20. The 1972 regulations allowed the various water undertakings and water boards and sewerage authorities, acting under any general or special authority granted by or on behalf of the Secretary of State, to disregard certain restrictions imposed with respect to the taking of water or of the discharge of the contents of sewers. The additional powers are designed to facilitate the task of water and sewerage authorities in doing what is necessary or expedient to maintain supplies of water or to secure the most effective draining of the sewers under such direction as the Secretary of State may wish to give.
§ It is not anticipated that immediate use will have to be made of these new powers, although if we remember the lessons of some earlier emergencies, there is always a possibility that if the electricity supply situation deteriorated drastically, it could interfere with the provision of water supplies and the operation of sewage disposal plants. This addition, and it is the main one, seems to the Government to be only a prudent and useful addition to the existing range of emergency powers.
§ My Lords, it is under Regulation 21 that my honourable friend has already made orders restricting the consumption of electricity for certain purposes in connection with space heating and display and advertising lighting. There is an additional power included under Regulation 21 which enables the Secretary of State to regulate or prohibit by order the supply or abstraction and consumption of water, in terms similar to the existing powers relating to fuel, refinery products, electricity and gas. Again it is not anticipated that early use would need to be made of the power to regulate the supply or consumption of water.
§ Regulation No. 22 is in the same form as in the last set of regulations, and enables directions to be given in respect of solid or liquid fuel and refinery products. This regulation could be used if necessary to control oil deliveries by requiring suppliers of oil in this country to deliver only a stated percentage of what would otherwise have gone out and, at the same time, to meet, in full, the needs of certain essential users. But these regulations have a limited life (limited to 757 30 days, unless Parliament decides to extend them) and range and the Government will not hesitate to ask Parliament for additional powers in relation to oil allocation if it proves necessary to do so in the light of the recent war in the Middle East.
§ The remaining Regulations, 23 to 25, on consumption and supply generally are not ones that the Government envisage that it will be necessary to make use of in the immediate future. Regulations 26 to 29 are concerned with the regulation of various transport services, and here again it is not anticipated that immediate use will be made of them.
§ The remaining Regulations, 30 to 40, are in the standard form, but perhaps I should draw the attention of noble Lords to a proviso in Regulation 38. Paragraph 1 of this Regulation states that no person shall be guilty of an offence against the Emergency Regulation (and that includes breaches of orders made under the Regulations) by reason of his taking part in, or peacefully persuading others to take part in, a strike. I mention this merely to make clear that these regulations are in no way directed against the lawful activities of trade unions. Their sole purpose now, as on previous occasions, is to grant the Government the necessary powers to safeguard the essentials of life.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord said that these paragraphs are in standard form. I particularly have in mind No. 33, the question of trespassing within the vicinity of certain premises. Can he tell me whether this has been so on all previous occasions?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords subject to correction, I believe that is so. I asked the same question, because I wanted to draw to the attention of your Lordships any significant change in the Regulations that we are considering to-day as compared with the Regulations which on two occasions were considered and approved last year. If there is any change on that or on any other matter my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, who will be replying for the Government, will have an opportunity to notify your Lordships.
Governments are often accused of acting too slowly. I notice that in February of last year, when an Emergency 758 was proclaimed in connection with another dispute in the coalfields, my predecessor, my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, said in a similar debate, from this same Despatch Box:The second main criticism levelled in this context on the Government is that we moved too slowly in asking Parliament for these crucial Emergency Powers."—[OFFICIAL , REPORT, 15/2/72: col. 22.]That was last year, my Lords. This time some doubts have been expressed —they were expressed in this House on Tuesday last, and were expressed also in another place—as to whether the Government had acted too quickly. We believe that it is circumspect and wise, at a time when there is a triple threat to energy supplies and when winter is beginning to set in, to ask Parliament to agree that these powers should be given to the Government for a period of 30 days.
My Lords, let me review (and I shall do so briefly) some of the events which have occurred in the last few weeks, or, in the words of the 1920 Act, "are about to occur". First, as regards coal, a responsible official of the National Union of Mineworkers has stated quite clearly—and the National Coal Board have confirmed this—that the effect of the ban on overtime would be to lead very quickly to a drastic fall in coal production. The Home Secretary was asked in another place last Tuesday whether a ban on overtime had previously been a ground for declaring a State of Emergency. So far as we can ascertain, this is the first occasion when that has been so. But, equally, it is the first time that a ban on overtime is said by both sides of the industry to have such a marked impact in the near future in cutting back production greatly in excess of the reduction in the number of hours worked. I can tell your Lordships that since the ban on overtime took effect in the coalfields there has been a reduction in output which is estimated to be of the order of 20 per cent.
§ LORD BLYTON
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? Is it not rather peculiar that we had a ban on overtime before the last miners' strike and there was no call for an Emergency? Why is there a change of policy on this occasion?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I think I have answered that in what I have 759 just said: that we believe, as do the National Coal Board, that this ban on overtime will lead to a reduction in the amount of coal available at a particularly crucial time, when oil supplies from the Middle East are also in question. I have also given your Lordships the figure, which is a new figure to-day—and I would ask your Lordships to give due weight to it—that the National Coal Board and the Department of Trade and Industry have estimated that in the last three days output has been reduced by something of the order of 20 per cent. I do not want this afternoon to go into all the complexities of this particular dispute between the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board—I do not think it is the right occasion to do that—but I think it would be helpful to have some details in order to see this issue in a rather wider perspective. The National Coal Board's offer within the Price and Pay Code for Stage 3 would give the miners an increase on average of nearly 13 per cent. on the wage bill. This follows nearly 8 per cent., arising from a settlement in April, 1972, after the strike that took place in January and February of that year. The present offer would cost the industry £44 million. The offer is one of the best ever made in the history of the coal industry. Nevertheless, it has not been accepted, and the miners have persisted with a claim which the National Coal Board have estimated would cost approximately 30 per cent. of the wage bill to implement in full.
§ LORD BLYTON
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord again, this 13 per cent. has been bandied about. The 13 per cent. for workers working unsocial hours applies only to 10 per cent. of the men in the industry. Why say it is 13 per cent. over the whole industry when it affects only 10 per cent.?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, these figures can be argued in many different ways—and I do not want to get into an argument over figures. But let me make it quite clear to the noble Lord that the negotiators of the National Coal Board can make what adjustments they wish between different groups of workers. It was open to them to do this in the course of the negotiations in which they have been engaged, provided that the overall 760 amount is within the limits set by Stage 3 of the Price and Pay Code. It will therefore be seen, as I have already explained, that the miners will do better than average under Stage 3–because the average, as your Lordships will know, is 7 per cent., with a 1 per cent. flexibility margin, and a number of other special provisions—and thus they have more to gain than to lose from the pay policy. Their relative improvement would not be maintained in a free-for-all. So it can be said, I think with considerable force, that the miners themselves have a vested interest in seeing that the Stage 3 policy sticks.
My Lords, so far as the electricity generating industry is concerned, some members of the public have already suffered from termination of supply. This has not yet taken the form of organised rota cuts which the electricity boards have been able to operate in previous emergencies, but there have been black-outs without warning and uncertainty as to when it will be possible for supplies to be resumed. In these circumstances, it is not always feasible to guarantee supplies to priority consumers, and to maintain supplies to hospital operating theatres, to those on kidney machines, and others who have a great need for a maintained and constant supply of electricity. But, meanwhile, the talks continue with the power engineers, and it is the desire of the Government to reach a settlement in this particular issue, within the limits of its counter-inflation policy, as it is the desire of the National Coal Board to reach a settlement with the National Union of Mineworkers.
My Lords, so far I have confined my remarks to the content of the Emergency Regulations which are before your Lordships to-day and to the events which led up to the proclamation on Tuesday. But I think your Lordships would expect me, before ending, to refer to the balance of payments situation and the monetary measures which were announced also on Tuesday by the Bank of England. The October trade figures showed a deficit on current account of £298 million, and while there were some identifiable special factors—such as an interruption in the re-export of precious stones because of the Middle East war, increased fuel imports, a rise in the number of ships built in foreign yards on United Kingdom order and delivered abroad, and 761 some problems about recording imports at London Airport—there is no disguising that these figures were most disappointing and would be regarded as such not only in this country, but overseas as well. Consequently, the Bank of England, with the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, raised its minimum lending rate from 11¼ per cent. to 13 per cent., and at the same time made a further call on the banks for special deposits from 4 per cent. to 6 per cent. of their eligible liabilities.
This action has held sterling steady in the exchange markets at a very difficult time and, of course, is quite distinct from the Emergency Regulations that we are debating to-day. Yet in a wider sense there is a connection: what our nation is engaged upon is a determined effort— perhaps the most determined in the post-war era—to achieve and adhere to (and I emphasise the second of those words) a policy which combines economic growth with a reduction in the rate of inflation. This policy is assailed at many points: by the explosion in world commodity prices; by the comparative value of the pound and other world currencies; by the war in the Middle East; and by wage demands which exceed by a very substantial margin our real economic growth.
Of course, the miners can argue that they are a special case. They did so only last year, when in February a similar State of Emergency to that which we are discussing to-day was brought about by another dispute in the coal industry. I recognise that miners who work underground have a hard life and do work which many of us would be reluctant to undertake, even if we had the skill and strength to do so. But, my Lords, we are in Parliament. We have a duty to see the whole picture. It is not necessary to dismiss the feelings of men like miners, who work long hours in difficult conditions, in order to come to a judgment of the needs of society at large. I believe that an overwhelming majority, if not all, of us in this House accept the need for a prices and incomes policy. The aims of the policy have indeed been agreed between the Government and the main interests in the economy. There are, of course, differences as to the implementation of those aims, but as the standstill of Phase 1 has 762 given way to the gradual easing of Stages 2 and 3 we all know that it is simply not possible to abandon all limits altogether. To do so in response to the demands—legitimate and just as they may appear to those making them—of special interests would be to negate the effectiveness of the policy upon which so much depends.
We are really talking to-day, as we have been for some months when discussing the economy, whether we realise it or not, of the future of our country and of what sort of place Britain is to be. I would be the last to argue that human happiness and achievement can he measured solely in economic terms. But I am utterly convinced that unless we face up to the consequences of what a policy for expansion entails we shall fail in our responsibilities. We therefore must see these Regulations in the context of the wider considerations that apply, and that is why I have no hesitation in asking your Lordships to approve these Regulations to-day. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Regulations dated the 13th of November 1973, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Emergency Powers Act 1920, shall continue in force subject to the provisions of Section 2(4) of the said Act.—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, it is my duty, first of all, to thank the Leader of the House for his introduction of these Regulations and for telling us of the actions which the Government have taken up to now. Let me say at the outset that I am not going to discuss the actual dispute as between the miners and the Coal Board. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said that he was not going to do so, and then set about doing precisely that. When I say I am not going to do it, I am not going to do it; because I do not believe that at this stage it is wise for us in Parliament to go into what is clearly a dispute between the men and the management. Nor is it my intention to discuss the actual Regulations that we shall shortly be passing. They appear to me to follow the well-established precedents for Regulations of this sort, with some slight additions and with a completely new paragraph under the heading "Consumption and Supply of Medicines".
763 To these Regulations, and to the additions, we have no objections as such; but what I think the House will want to discuss are the reasons for their introduction; that is to say, both the reasons given to Parliament by the Government and the reasons that many of us suspect lie behind the move which caused the proclamation of an emergency on Tuesday last. In the past, the use of emergency powers has been a very rare event in the life of our country. Such powers were used once only during the five years of the life of the Labour Government, and that was on the occasion of the seamen's strike in 1966. Since this Government came to power, in three and a half years they have come to Parliament five times to ask for emergency powers: twice in 1970, twice in 1972 and once in 1973, up to now. In 1970 it was because of a dock strike and a power workers' work-to-rule. In 1972 there was a miners' strike and then another dock strike. Now a ban on overtime by the miners and certain electricity workers is given as the reason for a proclamation of a State of Emergency. One wonders if, at the present stage of the action by those workers, the overtime bans are really the cause of the State of Emergency that has been declared, or whether we have not to look a little further and probe a little deeper to find the real cause of the Government's precipitate action. I very much think, and assert, that it is a precipitate action. I say that because it is surely the case that the actions of neither the miners nor the electricity workers have begun seriously to affect the life of the nation, and certainly not to such an extent as would justify the declarataion of a State of Emergency.
The powers granted by Parliament to Governments under the Emergency Regulations procedure are of a very drastic nature and ought not to be invoked except in the direst emergency and as a last resort. In this case the Government seem to be seeking emergency powers as a first, and not a last, resort. They seem to be doing it without any attempt to settle the industrial disputes or to set up some form of inquiry with that end in view, namely, the settling of the disputes themselves. "Let us fight it out", seems to be the Government's stand at this 764 time: and with the economy in its present state and the winter upon us, one is bound to ask whether this is the right moment for a showdown between the Government and the industrial workers of this country.
What I suspect led up to the decision to ask for the proclamation of a State of Emergency was a Cabinet meeting faced with a catastrophic set of trade figures such as have not been faced by any Government before in the long history of this country. The shock of those disastrous trade figures, coming on top of the worrying situation with regard to oil supplies necessitating (as it probably will) the rationing of petrol and oil, caused the Government and the Minister to think: "We can surely lessen the impact of all this on the minds of the public by drawing attention to the possible result of pending industrial action and away from our failures to manage the economy successfully." It was a belligerent defensive action and, I am bound to say, well designed to hide to some extent the drastic squeeze on bank lending under which the Bank of England has created another disgraceful record figure of 13 per cent. minimum lending rate and the calling in from the banks of special deposits of the order of £600 million, to say nothing of the threat of increased taxation and further draconic measures that were promised.
I make no bones about my belief that in any country it is the job of the Government to govern, but we can have little confidence in a Government's ability to govern if it runs the country into the declaration of a State of Emergency five times in a little over three and a half years, or if it permits the economy to over-stretch itself to such a disastrous degree as to see our trade figures the worst in our history. Although blaming the Government for much that has led up to the situation, I am bound to add that a democracy such as ours demands the acceptance of large measures of self-discipline. "I'm alright, Jack, and damn the rest!" is not good enough, whether it be exercised by those whose greed and lack of self discipline at one level caused the Prime Minister to condemn the "unacceptable face of capitalism" or at another level for workers' organisations to press claims which could be met only by distorting the wage differentials to 765 such an extent as to cause massive counter-claims to be pursued which serve only to give a further twist to the inflationary spiral.
Perhaps, as an old man, but not, I hope, a soured one, I may be permitted a general comment. I see around me too many signs that make me think of the phrase "Whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad." I see a Government urging the economy to "Go-go-go!" to the point of a disastrously overstretched and over-heated state and printing money at an ever accelerating pace. I see the powerful trade unions, led from behind, demanding more and more regardless of the effects on others. If we do not pull ourselves together and face up to the realities of life, irretrievable disaster will inevitably follow.
My Lords, I end by urging the Government to try to get their industrial relations policy on a better footing, and the trade unions to accept their responsibilities, not only to their members but also to the community as a whole. Those are the responsibilities their accession of vast power demands, and great power has now fallen to the trade unions as a result of what has happened since the end of the war in 1945. I am not too sure that the trade union movement, of which I hope I was a useful part, has really faced up yet to these great responsibilities.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEEAR
My Lords, we on these Benches were very puzzled at the decision of the Government to introduce emergency powers, and puzzled also as to what our reaction should be to this proposal. Let me say first and foremost that we should have been extremely critical as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said, if the economy had moved into such a state that emergency powers were needed, drastic action was needed, and the Government had failed to take action in time. I agree we would have been the first to criticise them on a policy of "Too little and too late." At the same time, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said, all Parliamentarians and all Oppositions in a democracy must be deeply alarmed and deeply anxious when emergency powers are introduced. The burden of proof has to be on the Government to show that such measures, and only such measures, are appropriate 766 for dealing with the situation in which we find ourselves. We know that the Government really believe this, too—that you cannot have a democracy, or parliamentary government, if too often and too easily when difficult situations arise the Government resort to the use of emergency powers. And so far it is difficult to understand that this action really was called for at the present time, or is indeed appropriate to the particular situation in which we find ourselves.
Having said that, I do not go along with the view which has just been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that the decision was taken in order to direct attention, direct responsibility and to criticise the action of the miners and the electricians. I cannot think that the Government believe that this would have been an acceptable policy to adopt, or that they would have gained any kudos or support from the electorate as a whole if that had been their reason for doing it. This is a further reason for our puzzlement. It is difficult to see how there are considerable gains to be got out of the action which the Government are taking. In any case, as the noble Lord has told us, these powers last for only 30 days, and the problems will be there at the end of 30 days.
If we look at the real causes that lie behind the problems and the situation in which we find ourselves, to what extent will it have helped to have had emergency powers once again, with the anxiety, the suspicion and the bitterness that the use of such powers is bound to cause?—for we still have the problems upon us. Are the problems of such an order and of such a kind that the use of emergency powers is really what is needed to deal with them? As the noble Lord told us, there are three difficult areas at the present time; there are the trade figures, there is the problem of oil and there are industrial disputes and the impact of industrial disputes on the all-pervasive and over-ridingly important problem of inflation. We are groping in the dark at the moment both as to the real situation in the economy and as to the real reasons for the Government's action.
May I be daring and disagree with the previous speaker, and suggest that I doubt whether the overall trade position is really as bad as those October figures 767 suggest? We have been told again and again that one month's trade figures are not to be taken too seriously. We knew that preceeding the October figures the trend on the whole was somewhat better. We know that the CBI is reasonably optimistic. We know that the exchange rates have held up remarkably well in the present crisis. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has said that this is due to the fact that the bank rate went up to 13 per cent., and it may be that as a result of this it steadied the pound on the world exchanges. But I cannot believe that if the real underlying trade position was as serious as has been suggested the mere movement to 13 per cent., which could have been regarded as a panic and desperate measure, would have been enough to stabilise world exchange rates to the extent that in fact has taken place. So, sticking my neck out, I agree, and taking considerable risks in saying so, that it is very difficult to believe that our trade position is really as bad as has been suggested, and as that particular set of figures leads us to believe, and therefore as to whether real emergency measures are needed under this particular head. May I also make the point that although 13 per cent. sounds an alarmingly high figure, because of this evil and all-pervasive inflation it is really not all that high? After all, if money is losing value at about 10 per cent. per year, 13 per cent. is only 5 per cent. borrowing rate. That is not normally what one regards as a very pleasant figure though I do not regard it as either a very alarming or startling bank rate. Nor do I regard the present trade figures which we have been given as an indication of a very serious trading situation having regard to all the other indicators.
Secondly, the oil situation. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, had given us more detail about what the oil situation really is. It seems to me that this is the joker in the pack; this is the really alarming situation over which we have all too little, if any, control and which could indeed render the total economic situation very much more serious that it otherwise would be. May we ask that in the winding-up we be told more about the position in regard to oil? Because whereas many people are doubtful and anxious about the use of emer 768 gency powers, I am certain that if we knew the real facts about oil—as I said only last week—the country would respond to the need for drastic economies and drastic action in that particular to meet a specific danger with a specific draconic cure. This is something that we can all take; what we cannot take is a draconic measure for a set of circumstances which do not in themselves seem to measure up to the situation. If we have to have oil rationing, let us have it; and if it is put across properly and the reasons behind it explained—and I think the public are half way towards expecting it—then indeed we would take it. But we do not need Emergency Regulations in order to introduce oil rationing. I do not see the connection between the disease and the cure.
As to the industrial relations situation and the effect on inflation, of course this is what lies behind so much of our economic problems. We have said again and again that inflation is not solely due to excessive wage payments—we all know that by now. We equally know that excessive wage payments do make a substantial contribution. What is more important, we from these Benches have been saying for a long time that we support a statutory prices and incomes policy, properly and fairly enforced, with proper safeguards, and we cannot see with equanimity a breach in what is the Government's policy. We are debating the counter-inflation measures next Tuesday. I regretfully have the gravest doubts as to whether Phase 3 as it stands is going to work—but we shall be debating that next week. If Phase 3 does not work, it is my view that we are going to need something more, and not less, serious than is entailed in Phase 3. I believe that Phase 3 has so many loopholes that in fact it will be an encouragement to inflation rather than a cure for it. But let us leave that to the debate next week.
I cannot see that emergency powers are really required for dealing with the liability if not the necessity that Phase 3 is going to be breached. Some other action is required, but not emergency powers. So once again, while accepting that there is real danger there I find it difficult to understand that emergency powers are needed. May I say, having listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that I was appreciative 769 and welcomed the courage in the criticism which he made of the failure of the trade union movement to match its great powers to-day with a comparable degree of responsibility. It seems to me the greatest pity that the Labour Party has not been able to say that more loudly and more clearly in the past, to say, for example, as the Labour Party has not said, that there must be an incomes policy as well as a prices policy. What sort of a counter-inflation policy is it to advocate —as the Labour Party, in another place at any rate, has repeatedly advocated—a prices policy and no incomes policy? We from these Benches insist that there must be a real incomes policy.
My Lords, I hope I have made clear the attitude that we from these Benches take. We accept that there is a serious situation; we do not see the relevance of emergency powers to this situation. We are not immediately going to oppose them, but we would ask for a more detailed explanation about the relevance of emergency powers to oil, and what the oil situation really is, because this seems to be more at the heart of the matter than does the industrial relations situation, serious though that is. We say that we would accept oil rationing if this were needed, but let us be told the true facts about oil and not have the situation marked by the general application of emergency powers which seem to have little direct bearing in detail on the problems we face.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, the Government are certainly willing to give whatever information they can about the oil situation to the House, but will the noble Baroness accept that she is seeking certainty in what is a very uncertain situation?
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I think that both speeches indicate the tone and mood of the House while we are confronted with these Emergency Regulations and I cannot for the life of me see any reason for that action. I remember particularly the Emergency Powers Act 1964 and, in case noble Lords have forgotten, I would remind them that in Section 2 of that Act, under the Defence Regulations of 1939 (I am paraphrasing and cutting out the legal semantics), the use 770 of any members of the Armed Forces for any work of national importance shall become permanent—in other words, at any time. With the due presentation to Parliament Forces could have been used in an emergency. Instead of that we get a massive statutory instrument, No. 1881, with 40 to 41 provisions all about using old cars that are almost derelict for driving because the country is going on the rocks, control of port traffic, gas supplies, right down to the power of arrest without warrant, penalties and places of trial and supplementary regulations that in my estimation are unnecessary in this crisis.
The United Nations Energy Consumption Report which is just out (sales No. E.73.XVII.2) contains full information on the production of gas, solid fuel, oil, nuclear and thermal types of production of energy in the world, and the strange thing is that there has been a record world production of energy, a record world production of gasolene and a record world production of natural gas. At present, 50 countries in the world are producing natural gas, and in the past decade the percentage increase has been greater than ever before in history. Since the world export of natural gas has grown, from 1961 to 71, at the exceptional rate of 25 per cent. this highest rate has been due often to importing this gas in liquid form. In other words, just at the moment when we are playing a threnody of despair about the world energy sources the United Nations tells the world that there is more energy than before.
Nevertheless, despite that fact (and any noble Lord can check this) I am prepared to grant that at this moment this little country is confronted with critical questions. I want to endorse the constructive speech of my right honourable friend speaking from the Front Bench when he asked a pregnant question. Why is it—
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, it would be a help if noble Lords opposite would refer to Peers as "noble Lords" and not as "right honourable friends". It is the second time it has been done.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I did that once, did I? If that is the only thing that upsets the noble 771 Lord in life, I am delighted. I will try to be courteous and remember that, and I apologise to the House if that upsets anybody.
I repeat to noble Lords that it is the fifth time that this has happened in three years, and no other Government have had this problem. Why is this? I must endorse the interspersion of my right honourable friend—my noble friend—Lord Blyton when he speaks about the issue of the miners' wages. Only 14,000 out of a quarter of a million are going to get that £9. And if anybody knows anything about cutting coal he will know that they are well entitled to that £9 extra. Some of the rest are down to £3.5. I will not go into the analysis, but it is the usual and characteristic mathematical jugglery of dealing with averages. There was a fascinating letter in The Times the day before yesterday on the injudicious use of statistics in giving average wages. The fact is that if you take an average wage you find that over half the people involved do not receive it. This is due to what we call "skew" in statistics; and it can be due also to not comparing like with like. The sooner we get rid of using these averages to back up economic arguments, the nearer we shall be to reality.
I am reminded in this laissez-passer, laissez-faire system of society in which we are now living of the days of the "Robert E. Lee" running up the Mississippi. The Prime Minister seems to be like Steamboat Bill, running the ship of State up the Mississippi for a gamblers' race; he has used up all the energy and all the coal and is now burning the furniture and frightening the crew to death because the pressure of the steam in the boilers is on the point of explosion. This is exactly the kind of uncontrolled policy that this laissez-passer, laissez-faire policy has landed us in in the past three years of Conservative Government. When Wellington was made Prime Minister (I got this the other morning out of that delightful book by Elizabeth Longford on Wellington, at page 147) the King said this to him, rather lugubriously. "Arthur", said the King, sitting up in bed with a turban night-cap, "my Cabinet is defunct." And if ever a Cabinet was defunct, it is this one. Have we ever heard a more comic 772 and foolish explanation in the two explanatory speeches by Mr. Walker in trying to explain to the people of Britain why there is a great deficit of £298 million? He explains it by talking about buying a few ships and juggling with diamonds. This of course is absolutely absurd, when one is talking in terms of deficits of this size. The Government's panic crisis measures coincided really and truly with a deficit which, when a next Labour Government come in, will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of £2,000 million.
In the City yesterday, we are told, Mr. Anthony Barber's name was mentioned in far more scathing and bitter terms than those in which any Labour Chancellor's name was ever uttered before. The absurdity, therefore, of trying to blame just the trade union movement for problems that are world-wide should now be obvious. This folly, in my estimation, is gliding into sin. This is the kind of idiocy in high places that leads to the cold indifference of the people in relation to politicians. The people find themselves powerless and they say, "For God's sake! give us the truth." It is the truth the nation needs. We do not want a Watergate situation in this country. No Government need be ashamed of the truth, because the hard fact of life to-day, with the rapidity of modern transport, is that the interdependence of world commercial, economic, social and financial exchanges makes it difficult, and in some cases impossible, for any one Government of any political colour to have complete control over their destiny. But this Government are not even standing up to their competitiors abroad. Nevertheless, this is no reason for abandoning the reins of control and depending still on laissez-faire.
Let us take two examples, before I sit down. William Davis, in the Guardian, of Saturday, November 10, spoke about the "floating pound" which was a euphemism for devaluation. Whatever one may think of the right honourable Harold Wilson, had we in the period of the Labour Government descended towards euphemisms about the floating pound, we should have been told straightforwardly, "This is nothing more than common or garden devaluation." This euphemism saved the Prime Minister from crisis headlines. It would not have saved a Labour 773 Government. The way we have been borrowing in the Eurodollar market is completely irresponsible. The Eurodollar is, as somebody said, a green pig not fed but backed by faith. And there are billions of them floating around Europe with nothing behind them. They are worse than any fiduciary issue in history. Special Drawing Rights were built on them. But the dollar which we have been borrowing in private and in public industries is dangerous. The nationalised industries and British local authorities have been borrowing in tile Eurodollar market—the Electricity Council, the Post Office, the Gas Corporation; and they have borrowed vast sums, all helping to pile up the feeling of insecurity and lack of faith.
Up to last year, we have borrowed in the Eurodollar market some 3,000 million dollars. I should like if possible to have an answer to-day to the question: how much have we borrowed in the Eurodollar market, and why was this done? I know what it did. It was a wonderful trick. For the period of borrowing it boosted our foreign currency reserves and the Government could give out figures based on a fiction. It propped up sterling. But in sterling we have another massive possibility of blackmail—quite as powerful as oil. If there is lack of faith in this country, the withdrawal of sterling balances because of this precipitate action of creating a crisis feeling by declaring emergency powers could well intensify the crisis and lead to bitter scenes in Britain itself.
This should be a warning to my own Party. We have to get down to the brass tacks of the failures of industrialism. Growth is dangerous, and uncontrolled growth is deadly and cancerous. The fact is that perpetual growth is such a strain on the world's essential raw materials—energy, power; esoteric raw materials, copper, zinc, titanium. As standards of life go up in this world of ours, so the demand on these scarce raw materials and manpower increases. We must note that, despite the miracles of modern technology, there are areas of essential service and production where only men and women with brain and muscle power can do the work. For example, who can take the place of a hospital nurse? Who can take the place of a miner cutting coal, or the postman delivering letters?—and we are 9,500 postmen short.
774 These are the problems, and my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger added an apt phrase: when we are told that we are short of Tube drivers, we are short of miners, we are short of postmen, we are short of people on engines, and indeed we are short of manpower everywhere, she asked a beautiful question, "Where have all the flowers gone?" I can answer that question: they have gone into the "lump". They have gone into the lump system of production. Even in the mining industry now, if I am a contractor cutting coal I can go round the village and get 10 or 15 men and say, "Boys, come in with me and I will give you a wage rate according to my contract that is better than theirs". Noble Lords in this House know that in hospitals the supply of nurses is just kept going by means of the contract system of hiring nurses out at rates of pay higher than that of the S.R.N.s and others who have worked and been loyal to the hospitals. This is causing distress, and all these things should be cleaned up in our system.
It is time that the nation got rid of its avariciousness and we sought to put our own house in order, instead of rushing into the Common Market as quickly as we did and bringing out crisis measures like this Regulation, when really more discussions with the C.B.I., with the miners, with the electricity workers and others by the Cabinet and the Prime Minister would, I am sure, have led to a constructive approach by the trade union movement. For all our criticisms of the men and women of the British trade union movement, for my part they are the most common-sense trade union workers in the world.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
My Lords, for a long time I have thought that some of the things which I am going to say to-day should be said clearly, unequivocally and in your Lordships' House. I do so, however, with some hesitation and trepidation, not really on my own account but because it is taking a good deal on oneself as being one far less experienced in the matters on which I speak than most Members of this House. Secondly, I am concerned that what I say may have a useful effect, and it is at least possible that the reverse 775 might be the case. I have yet to find a moment which is suitable for saying the sort of thing that I propose to say to-day.
First, my Lords, few thinking, unbiased people could, in my opinion, doubt the gravity of the present and long-term future of this country, and I would emphasise the future more than the present. It appals me that in another place the Order should have been taken as an opportunity for playing Party politics on a level which I can only say was undignified. I should like to call it something quite else, but I think that is sufficient. Is it any wonder that the name of Parliament is tarnished in the thoughts of the people of this country? Perhaps this is just an expression of the general tendency to-day to have no common purpose and to be unwilling to make any sacrifices for the good of the nation as a whole.
Secondly, although I am no economist I believe we must accept that at present our output per man (in other words, productivity) is very poor in comparison with that of most E.E.C. countries. I conclude that our economic difficulties and failure to balance more than one of the economic variables at a time—for example, balance of payments, growth and our own Budget—are simply indications of this unpleasant fact. We are simply over-spending, and if we go on in this way our standard of living must inevitably fall. It is long past the time when both Parties should tell the nation some unpleasant facts about our ability to afford many of the social improvements and increases in wages which we should all like to see.
Another hard fact which the T.U.C. seems unable to grasp, or at any rate admit, is that wage increases for one sector can be obtained only at the expense of another, and those with the weakest bargaining power lose out. Let us make no mistake: if we add inflation and the increase in productivity over the years to wages, real wages have risen little more than they would taking these two factors into account, in spite of all the unions' efforts. This, if we come to think of it, is a fairly obvious truism, because there is only so much national cake to share out. The tragedy is that everyone, 776 including the workers, have less than they otherwise would because the amount of the cake has been diminished by unnecessary industrial action.
The prevention of excessive profits and large personal wealth might be good from a psychological point of view—and personally I think something should be done on these lines—but if such wealth were redistributed the effect would be small. Those who hold that view seem to be obsessed with high fixed incomes, which are utterly irrelevant from any practical point of view. The Labour Government did nothing effective to reduce the fortunes being made by entrepreneurs and there are relatively as many rich people as there ever were. The money has simply changed hands. The fixed income man, even at £30,000 a year, is not, after tax, in this league.
Thirdly, I am afraid I must speak of the unions. I suspect that those who did so much to form them into viable entities, if they are really honest, are also worried by the adult behaviour of the promising children they so carefully nurtured, with such success. Where is the leadership and the common sense to-day which they gave in so great a measure in the past? Unions to-day frequently lead from the rear and do nothing to restrain the trouble-makers, Communists and fellow travellers who are concerned only in wrecking our present society. I hope no noble Lords will make a mistake about that point. There are those whose only object is to wreck this society because they believe that it cannot be changed and they want to start again. If you ask them what they propose to do about it when they have wrecked society, they usually say. "That is a non-question". If you push them further they say, "It will take a considerable time to wreck society completely, and by that time no doubt we shall have found the answer as to where we want to go".
Part of the reason is, of course, that the unions have allowed just these people to obtain power within their structure. Unions are not democratic in any sensible meaning of that word. I was going to say that I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, would deal with this matter, but I gather that he has decided not to speak. However, I am afraid I propose to do so, briefly.
777 Mr. Bert Ramelson was reported to have said on I.T.V. on November 13–and he is the industrial organiser of the Communist Party—that politically-conscious Communists are now playing a dominant part in shaping the policies of the Labour Party. He said that the liaison committee of the T.U.C. now had a Communist chairman and secretary and was responsible for promoting the present wave of one-day strikes and for increasing violence by pickets. He pointed out that we had lost 24 million working days through strikes in 1972, compared with fewer than 2 million in 1963. The degree of infiltration in the trade unions was also revealed by trade union officials. The Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers have 40 card-carrying Commuists and 40 more automatic supporters among its 175 full-time officials. The Transport and General Workers Union had 12 to 15 Communists among its 36 Executive members. Let us hear no more of the stale joke of "Reds under the bed."
My Lords, I am not a "union-basher", and for a long time I have avoided talking about them. Nevertheless, I feel impelled to say that unless they can change, put their house in order and move into the 20th century, the outlook is bleak for everyone. They are a necessary part of our present society, and it is a tragedy if they cannot play a responsible part. This has been said rather less crudely, or hinted at, by a few of the noble Lords who have spoken earlier. In any case, for the future of real democracy, I deplore the hold they have over the Labour Party in government. This, in my view, is an order of magnitude—and if anyone does not know what that is, it is ten times —worse than the influence which big business has on the Conservative side. If we overcome this Emergency, and if we are not to have the future which Lord Rothschild mentioned, I appeal to all men of good sense, irrespective of Party, to put their shoulders to the national wheel.
My Lords, I mention the miners' dispute only briefly, but if it comes to the crunch (and I hope to goodness it will not, as I am sure most do) it is surely not too much to expect that a National Government should be formed. Let us state it quite unequivocally: if the dispute goes to the limit, then this country 778 at that stage is virtually ungovernable and in a state of anarchy. In these circumstances, and to some exent even now under Phase 3, the rights and wrongs of the case are not really relevant in the national interest. It certainly is not the case that the miners are as desperately poor as we find some other people still are in the country. I should like to leave that thought with noble Lords sitting on the Opposition Benches, because I am sure they are also men of good sense. Of course I sit on the Cross-Benches, so I do not normally differentiate, but I believe that unless we take the future seriously, unless we are prepared to move together more than we have in the past, and to eschew political causes in many of the more important issues, I, for one, have no great faith in the future of this nation.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, it is not my intention to deal with some of the very provocative statements made by the noble Viscount who has just preceded me. I imagine my noble friend Lord Shinwell may be speaking a little later on, but I was very intrigued indeed with the reference of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth to "Reds under the bed". This is the old bogey that he and people like him have been trotting out to the trade union movement down through the ages and in all possible conditions, in order to denigrate those responsible trade union leaders to whom this nation owes a real debt of gratitude for the way they have been able to harness organised labour, and under whom organised labour has played its part in building up the character of this nation.
My Lords, very sweeping powers have been asked for in these Regulations. The very sweeping nature of them indicates the serious position that this nation is facing. Therefore, the question must be one of analysing the real position. Is it because the miners, some 15,000 of them, are pressing for £9 a week increase? Is it because a few electrical power engineers have said that they agreed with their employers 18 months ago on a certain improvement in their conditions and, because of procrastination and delay, they are suggesting taking this step? Is this the real cause of these Emergency Regulations? Of course the answer is 779 "No". Those matters are just a smokescreen, so that ultimately, if the crisis develops, as is a possibility, the Government can say, "Who shall rule, the trade unions or the Government? Whore is the real trouble?"
Let us look at the situation as it is now being revealed almost hourly by the news that is corning in, with our disturbing adverse balance of trade, a £298 million deficit last month and an accumulation of previous months of deficit balances. One should bear in mind that when this Government took office in June, 1970, we had a favourable balance of trade. The Labour Government inherited a deficit balance of trade when it took office and had to get over the difficulties left by the previous Tory Government. By the time that Labour Government left office there was a favourable balance of trade. To-day, after three years of Tory government, we find we are deeper in the red than ever before—last month alone the deficit was nearly £300 million. This is the really serious situation that is developing.
We also find that in our trade relations with the rest of the world this Government are insisting that they know best. They have been riding roughshod over men and women engaged in industry, both employers and employees, and by the institution of certain measures they have so poisoned the atmosphere that the difficulty is not so much the dispute between both sides of industry, but that both sides of industry are greatly annoyed because the men who sit in the ivory towers of Whitehall think they know best. So we develop this recurring crisis.
A few moments ago one noble Lord referred to lost days of employment last year——23,900,000 days of lost work consequent upon industrial disputes. This under a Government which had passed measures such as the Industrial Relations Act, which are supposed to be in office to establish good will in industry. Compare that figure of 23,900,000 with an average figure for lost days previously in industry, of about 2 million per year. These are the root causes of the trouble with which we are faced to-day.
Then we have a further situation that is developing. In this Middle East dispute the Government have tried, as it were, to sit on the fence; in effect they 780 have become "men of Munich" by the appeasement of the Arabs over the oil. Ultimately we are going to receive the worst of both worlds; oil will be rationed to us and the price is bound to increase; at the same time the Israelis have lost all moral faith in us because we refused to honour our obligations to them under certain trade relations. Here is the real nub of the trouble, and here is the difficulty with which the Government are faced. The noble Viscount who preceded me suggested that this situation was far too serious and that we should rally round the Government in an attempt to get us out of these difficulties. The difficulties must be overcome, but on the other hand how can they be overcome when the situation continues in the way that has brought the crisis about? There has to be a clear-out process first.
Some of my noble friends are rather sceptical about the trade unions. I should like to draw their attention to what has been given as the excuse for these emergency powers; that is, the difficulty with the miners. The noble Lord who preceded me referred to the undemocratic position of our trade unions. What could be more democratic than what has taken place over the dispute in the mines? First, the matter was duly considered by branches, who put motions up to their national executive. Their national executive rightly considered these, and eventually called a special annual general meeting of their organisation to discuss the overtime ban that was then being advocated by their members. Their annual meeting arrived at a certain decision supporting a ban on overtime. The miners leaders, the executive, not satisfied with that, then referred the whole matter to district level, and at district level back to branch level. Here we get the real voice of the miners, who understand what is really involved; who understand that it is not a 13 per cent. increase all round; who understand all the difficulties of the very small number of men involved. This is at a time when the miners and the trade unions themselves know the difficulties of the industry; how the industry is going down because between 600 to 800 men per week are leaving the industry and seeking jobs either in "lump" labour or wherever it may be.
781 The mining life must be a terrible life; living among them and having very early experience of it, I know something about it. It is a very difficult life indeed. To prevent overtime and get good working arangements, the conditions, wage rates and so on must be of such a nature that they attract people into the industry. It is all very well for us to sit on these red Benches and tell these practical men what they shall do. These are men who are actually at the front in the productive effort, who understand these things, and the sooner the Government face up to this and realise what is taking place the better.
My noble friend who spoke a few minutes before me asked "Where have all the flowers gone?" In other words, we are told that men are leaving the mining industry, men are leaving the railways, men and women are leaving the Hospital Service. There is also the difficulty of civil servants; they are leaving local government. Where are they all going to? This is the question that the Government should be analysing, and I am sure that if they had the foresight to look at these things in the correct light emergency powers would never have been necessary; the deficit in our balance of payments would not have been anything so great as it is. The crisis that is upon us—even talk of a National Government to deal with these things—is due to the 'complete ineptitude and incompetence of this Government, and until they put their own House in order the nation faces some very difficult tasks indeed.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him this question? If we increase the wages of those sections of the community to whom he referred, the miners and the other areas where we are short of labour, who is going to have less? Because at the moment not everybody can have more. If the wages of one section of the community are increased, because there is only so much national cake sooner or later it must be at the expense of others. Could the noble Lord explain how he will do this conjuring trick, or, failing that, who will then have less?
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
Well, my Lords, there might be such a thing as a curb on profits. There are men such as the chairman of the Fatstock Marketing 782 Board receive an increase of £16,000 a year, the Chairman of Leylands, £60,000, the chairman of Fords, £40,000–people of that description. Men and women engaged in the productive plant realise these things. It is the maladjustment that is taking place; in other words, the way the national cake is now being eaten into and a greater share going to the wealthier sections of the community. That cannot be the way to deal with it.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
My Lords, the noble Lord was very kind and did not interrupt me, so I waited until the end of his speech. I would say only one thing. Will he read the remarks in my speech on the point that he has just made?
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, seldom have I listened to a speech more reactionary in its content and more vested with prejudice against the trade unions and the working classes of our country than that of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth. He demanded, in almost acidulated language, that everybody should make sacrifices for the nation. That is a very high moral attitude to adopt, but it is the kind of demand that could be made in the City of London or at the Conference of the Institute of Directors or perhaps a body of building speculators, of land-grabbers and the rest of them. Of course it is the duty and responsibility of every citizen, every right-thinking citizen, to be ready to make sacrifices for the nation to which he belongs. That one would accept. But there must be fairness all round. There must be justice, when it comes to sharing the cake. However limited that cake may be in its circumference, at any rate in its content the share must be a just one.
If the noble Viscount had addressed himself to that side of the coin one might have been ready to listen to him without any feeling of anger, mixed with sorrow, that such a speech could be made in an Assembly of this character. It was reminiscent of the 'eighties of the last century, when the dockers of London demanded 6d. an hour and the then Lord Devonport—nobody more reactionary—the boss of the docks, demanded that, because of this "revolutionary action and demand on the part of the London dockers for 6d. an hour" 783 the troops should be brought out to deal with them. The speech we have heard from the noble Viscount is reminiscent of that attitude. We have had it far too often in the course of this century. We had it from the Marquess of Salisbury who led the Conservative Government at the close of the Boer War and the beginning of this century. We almost had it from Arthur Balfour, who did not believe that the working classes existed. We had it from Herbert Asquith, who sent the troops down to South Wales because the miners had gone on strike. They had gone on strike for what? For a minimum wage, which eventually had to be accorded to them. This is the kind of attitude that is far from beneficial in its results.
What have we been discussing to-day? It is not the economy of the nation.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I should like just to ask him whether he realises that I have said almost nothing, or implied nothing, of what he is now accusing me; absolutely nothing to do with wages. In fact I said that I was in favour of reducing the wealth of the very rich people and making a distribution of that. May I ask him please to read my speech to-morrow and in future not to make accusations that have no relevance to what has been said?
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, that was a quite irrelevant interruption. It persuades me to deal rather more thoroughly with the noble Viscount, because he played one of these propaganda tricks. I wonder if noble Lords observed it. As an old campaigner, accustomed to Parliamentary methods and manoeuvres, I detected it at once. Short of a rational argument he brought in the Communists. He mentioned one prominent Communist. I have not that gentleman's acquaintance. He then obviously quoted from a book that has just been written by an ex-Member of Parliament, Woodrow Wyatt, or at any rate from a television programme—the language was precisely the same. He spoke about 40 per cent. of the Executive of the Engineers' Union being Communist. We have heard it all before. It is a clever trick, but everybody in his or her senses knows that the trade 784 union movement, generally speaking, is a very moderate organisation. In fact, it has never endeavoured to adopt a revolutionary position at all. That is unchallengeable on the facts. It is on the record. All that those in the trade union movement have asked for was a higher standard of living. Who prophesied that but a prominent Conservative, 20 years ago, "Rab" Butler, now Lord Butler, when he said that in the course of the next twenty years or so the living standards of the people of our country would be doubled. That was his promise. Has it been fulfilled? Of course not. Does the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, wish to interrupt?
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, if the noble Lord challenges me, I would say that Lord Butler's prophecy has more or less been borne out, but I would say that it was not enough.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, if you take into account the cost of living, and the comparative affluence in this country of those in the top drawer and those at the bottom level, I think that perhaps the noble Earl needs a little more education in industrial history. I will leave it there. If at any other time he wants to engage in a debate with me, I will take him on three times before breakfast.
As I was about to say, we are not discussing the economy of the nation, we are just discussing a very simple issue—complex it may be, but simple in its presentation—and that is whether it is desirable that the Government should introduce emergency powers. I say at once that every Government have that right. It depends entirely on the circumstances. The question we have to consider is whether emergency powers, and the regulations associated with those powers, are likely to produce beneficial results. One judges by results. Moreover, one has to consider, in this context, upon which leg the Government stand. I made up my mind about it right away, whatever disagreements there may be on the other side about what I now propose to say; and that is that the sole purpose, the exclusive purpose, of producing the 785 emergency powers and regulations was as a threat to the miners; in fact, intimidation. I use the present jargon, "blackmail".
Why do I say this? Because of the speech of the noble Lord the Leader of the House. I ask noble Lords to note what he said. He dealt just in passing with the electrical engineers' dispute as a matter that could be resolved; at any rate, nothing serious had happened. That is what he said. Then he referred to the adverse balance of payments. But then the figures could easily be adjusted; some mistakes had been made; there was some trouble at Heathrow, some trouble with the postal authorities; we had been perhaps importing rather too much at a particular period, and there are always oscillations and fluctuations when we come to imports and exports. How right he was! Of course that is not the reason. It is serious, because for obvious reasons it is not desirable to have too much of an adverse balance of payments. But that is not the reason for the emergency powers. The reason for them is as a warning to the miners.
My noble friend Lord Popplewell and my noble friend Lord Blyton, in one or two interjections, referred to the wages of the miners. I am not going to discuss that subject except to mention that Mr. Daly, the General Secretary of the Mineworkers' Union, said the other day, "Of course if Mr. Heath and others wish to have a shift or two in the mines, they are welcome." We ought to realise what sort of work it is. We ought to realise that there are fatalities every day in the pits. I do not want to be emotional. What is the good of it, anyhow? I almost said "What is the good of it in this Assembly?", but I know there are very decent people in all parts of this Assembly, and sometimes one becomes emotional and concerned about the wellbeing of others. But in a situation of this kind prejudice and bias reappear in the most formidable form, and sometimes in the most vicious form. It does not produce beneficial results.
Now what is to be done about it? I wonder whether noble Lords realise what is likely to happen if the miners continue with their opposition to the Coal Board's offer and go on strike—because this overtime ban may lead to a general strike 786 among the miners. Suppose that happens. What do the Government do? That is a fair question: What do the Government do—go on warning them? I understand the Central Electicity Generating Board and the area boards have about 13 weeks' coal in stock, and that will last for some time, but what happens after that? Let us not forget that after the General Strike, which led to the humiliation of many trade union leaders and the trade union movement in general, the miners remained out for eight months on nothing—no strike pay, nothing. We are dealing with very determined people. We are dealing with people who feel that they have a stake in the country and ought to have a real share in what is going.
Would any noble Lord present in this Assembly this evening deny that the miners' wages are inferior, with all the work that is entailed, including the overtime? That is what the trouble is about —the overtime, the unofficial hours. It is not the ordinary rate of pay: it is the work that they do not want to do but which they must do to keep the pits going. Would any noble Lord deny that their rates are much inferior to the rates which are being paid to building labourers? It is not only the "lump" people. I have seen the advertisements in the Press and I have noticed them on the boardings—£2 an hour for building labourers, £3 an hour for bricklayers. Some of them are boasting that they are earning £150 a week. The miners say, "What about us?" I think the argument runs this way. I do not know whether noble Lords would agree that it is a perfectly impeccable argument, but I venture to use it. The argument runs: "If some sections of the community can get very high wages—much higher than they deserve—why should we suffer low wages? Why do the Government not do something about it? "The fact is that the Government do not do anything about it—nothing at all. They talk of this "lump", as it has been referred to, in the building industry. The Government never do anything about it. The "lump" does not even pay taxes. But it goes on.
Now I want to come to what is the real issue. We are told that there is a crisis. How many crises have I seen since I came into public life! This country has been down and out many 787 times. It was down and out, so it was alleged, after the Boer War; it was down and out after the First World War; it was down and out after the Second World War—but there was always the power of recuperation, and it still exists. Despite what may be said on either side of the political fence, it still exists. I do not agree with some people, economists for the most part. Oh, how I wish we could rid ourselves of these economists! I heard some of them last night on television, arguing with each other. If I may say so with great respect—the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack is not present, and I can therefore say it with impunity—the legal profession can see both sides of the coin at the same time. They can argue both ways; they can see both sides of the question. It is the same with these economists. They are just a nuisance. It is far better to use common sense about it. Take the question of the balance of payments. What really is the trouble? We are importing more than we should import—that is the first point—and we are exporting far less than we should because we are using a lot of stuff in this country which we ought not to be using and which ought to go for export. That is what it is all about. I am no economist, but there it is—the whole case. We have got to put that right. How it is to be put right is a matter for the Government, and I do not see that the Government are capable of doing it.
Now I come to one member of the Government, the right honourable Peter Walker—the "whiz kid" of the Government. He is a financial pundit, as we all know. What does he say? "Crisis? No, no—everything in the garden is lovely. There is no trouble at all. Our exports are competitive". I heard him say that last night. He says, "There is no trouble"; and he frowns when he says it, as if the idea that anything is wrong with this country is absurd. Is he not in the Government? He says there is nothing wrong, that there is no crisis. Is there a crisis or is there not? In my view there is a crisis which will pass if we have the common sense and the good will to tackle it. That is my opinion. How is it to be done? You do not do it by issuing Regulations and taking emergency powers which the miners would 788 regard as a threat. You do not warn the miners: you bring the miners together with the Coal Board. Have an inquiry at once. Do not wait—hear the case. Let the country hear the case, though it is not for the country to decide; that is for the Government. If the Government feel that nothing further can be done and can make out a case in support of their attitude, the country will be with them; but the case has got to be made out.
There is one final point—oil. Is the crisis about oil? I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who speaks with such remarkable facility and knowledge. She asked: "Why do we not immediately adopt the rationing system?". I do not know. I do not own a car; it matters nothing to me. They can abolish all the cars so far as I am concerned. But it is a private service and a public service, and must be maintained. Therefore, there must be lubrication. It is the most amazing situation. The Government say, "We have got assurances". They have said this over and over again. Every time we raise the matter they say, "We have got assurances". From where we do not know, but they have got assurances that everything is all right. It is said that the oil will come, that it will flow, and that therefore there is nothing to get excited about. Mr. Peter Walker says this. He says, "The time will come when we have to face it, but at the moment we have no trouble about it; we have assurances." Could we know a little about these assurances? Where do they come from? Why do not the Government come clean about it? I do not think they have any assurances at all; I think it is just a piece of deception. They are trying to work up an attitude of confidence. But if they have assurances and I am wrong, then let them show me where I am wrong. That is a fair point to put to the Government.
There is another point. Is it not an ironical situation, this oil business? I can recall when the first British Petroleum Company was established, arising out of the old shale oil industry in Scotland. I can remember it. I can remember William Fraser, who became Sir William Fraser and then a Member of this Assembly; and I believe his son is now a Member of this Assembly. I remember the Government following the First World War deciding to have a stake in the British 789 Petroleum Company. I think it is 51 per cent., or it may be 49 per cent. But who started this oil business in the Arab States? It was British capital and American capital. The sheikhs never dug for the oil. They had no money and they had no influence. The money was provided by investors from the United Kingdom and investors from the United States of America. Now we are all held up to ransom by these people. What are we going to do about it? Have the Government got the foggiest notion how to tackle this problem? Because if they have they ought to tell us; and if they have not they should tell us, so that we know where we are. Because if they tell us they do not know how to handle the problem then rationing is essential at the earliest moment to conserve what we have.
My Lords, I end by saying this. The Government have introduced these emergency powers for obvious reasons. They have a right to introduce these emergency powers; that I will not deny; that is the Government's responsibility. If no beneficial results accrue the Government will be to blame. If they can persuade the miners to accept the offer of the Coal Board, well and good. It is a matter for the miners. But nobody in this assembly, whether on this side of the House or on the other, has a right to tell the miners what they should do. Nobody has this right. Leave it to the miners to decide. If they do what is wrong, we will suffer and probably they will suffer. If they do what is right it will be in accordance with their convictions and principles —and to that we should take no exception whatever.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I am glad to follow my noble friend Lord Shinwell—I nearly said, "my noble friend 'Manny' Shinwell". When I sit down, I hope that he will be equally glad. The reason I say this is that I remember a long time ago—it always seems a "long time ago" when one is getting on—in the early 1950s being greatly honoured when "Manny" Shin-well (as he then was) invited me to spend a weekend in the Seaham constituency to do some meetings. My Lords, I felt I had "arrived"; because although it has never heel my good luck, obviously, to work in the mines, I had always had a special 790 affinity with the miners. My mining colleagues in another place were grand friends and I had worked in South Wales. I say this because I hope to-night that I have a rational argument; and I am not looking for Communists. Nobody who has known my noble friend Lord Shin-well, in this House or in the other place, would ever deny that he says what he thinks. He says it with vigour and then he is finished with it. I hope to be non-aggressive and non-abrasive—and I am not accusing him of that—and I hope that at the end, whether he agrees or not, he will think I have a rational argument.
I want to-night to make an appeal. I think that there are certain times when one has to say what one really thinks. Sometimes this is difficult. After all, it may be said in the mere 30 days that these Orders are going to last who are we on the Back Benches to think that what we can say is going to have any effect. But this House is a kind House. In this House, too (and I have been in both), we do try to examine matters objectively, and this is what I want to do to-night.
For the first part of what I want to say I have divided my remarks into three very brief sections. For the second part I have taken the main point out of each section and I should like to comment on it. This is the first. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr. Edward Short, speaking on Saturday last, November 10, of Labour proposals for an incomes policy, said that Labour leaders:…believed that a statutory incomes policy is unworkable except with a quite unacceptable degree of injustice.He went on to say:We have come firmly to the conclusion that the only credible kind of incomes policy is in effect an effective prices policy in a socially just climate.He then went on to say that the trade union leaders were responsible men,and have the wellbeing of Britain at heart as much as anyone else.The two points in this section to which should like to return at the end of my speech—because it is easier for me to do it this way and I hope it is easy for Members of your Lordships' House—are the "socially just climate" and the "wellbeing of Britain". Before doing so, I should like to say something about 791 Edward Short. I have known him for 23 years, ever since I got into another place, and I have a great respect for him. I should have thought there was nobody in any part of either House who would not agree that to look at Ted Short is to make evident his complete integrity. That, I believe, is obvious to everybody.
My Lords, I come now to my second section. Stage 3 of the incomes policy, in the opinion of many people (I know that that is a loose phrase, but still I say it) has been designed to allow the miners, and others whose work is particularly awkward and inconvenient, to obtain the maximum increase in pay. I even saw it written the other day, I do not know with what validity, that somebody from the Coal Board had helped to write in the "unsocial hours" part. To the a-political observer, to the non-Party observer, I think it would appear as though this Government came in with a Conservative policy and are now advocating a Socialist one. There is little doubt that many Conservative voters are of this opinion. I think that nobody would deny that any incomes policy inflicts hardships. Nor, I think, would anybody deny that any particularly unjust cases coming to light should be investigated and, if possible, helped or remedied—and I have written the words in red in my notes—"within the policy". I should like to come back to the phrase "within the policy", if I may; and I am now coming to my third section.
My Lords, it would seem that the package offered by the National Coal Board is an effort (shall I say?) to give the miners more than the car workers. We are told—and I have listened to my friends this afternoon—that they were offered an increase of 13 per cent. minimum, with a possible productivity addition of 3½ per cent. and that this has been turned down. I should like to say that if my noble friends on this side say that those figures are not correct, I will accept that.
A NOBLE LORD: They are not correct.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, the other point that I should like to make is that we would all agree that to talk of "average wages" gets nobody anywhere.
792 I want now to come to a more important point. The figures of 13 per cent. and 3½, per cent. have been given, and we can leave them there. But why have the N.U.M. turned them down? The N.U.M. say that this is not enough. They say that what they gained last year has been eroded by inflation and that therefore they have been left behind. They state also (and I have heard this from Mr. Gormley and from Mr. Lawrence Daly) that they are fighting the Government and not the Coal Board. To the outsider, to people not connected with mines, it would appear that inflation did gather speed after the settlement with the miners last year—a settlement in which the public were on the miners' side. I think there is no doubt at all about that. But what helped inflation to gather speed? What helped it gather speed was that the other unions used the award to the miners to bolster up their claims. They all became special cases, too.
The miners believe that their job merits their being at the top of the wages table. If I remember rightly, in 1938, before I even got into another place (the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, can tell me whether I am right or wrong) the miners were complaining—and, although I knew nothing about it, I thought rightly—that they had moved down to 38th in the "league table". The miners believe that their job merits their being at the top of the wages table. I would have a difficult job with my car workers if I were still sitting as the Member of Parliament for Coventry. But Coventry, anyway, is now in the past. I would have thought that the miners' claim is pretty strong. I cannot think of anybody who would want to work down a mine for whatever money he was offered. I think everyone would accept that to be so. Here, of course, I cannot embark on the other aspect of the matter because it would lead us into the whole question of the social values of different kinds of work, which is a problem we are not dealing with to-day.
My Lords, I have said that no one would want to be a miner whatever wages he was paid. Therefore the public would agree that any claim the miners make is a strong one. But so are the claims of the nurses, the firemen, of hospital workers and transport workers. 793 They are all strong cases. The second reason for turning down the offer is because of the Government's policy, and the N.U.M. is determined to bring down the Government, and to bring them down by industrial action.
I should like now to move back to the first section of my speech, and to say something about a socially just climate. I think that a socially just climate must seem at the present time to be the millenneum. It is a very, very long way away, and so long as present attitudes continue, whichever Party is in power in this country it will be equally far away—I would think the lifetime of us all. Anyway, it is a very long way away. A socially just climate! What about the commuters on the railways? What about the passengers in the buses? I sat in a bus for half an hour to-day at Oxford Circus. What about the unions without the power of the "big battalions"? What about the old-age pensioners whose increases are swallowed up by inflation? Does anyone, in your Lordships' House or outside, imagine that the British public, deprived of trains, deprived of buses, deprived of light, deprived of heat, deprived of their holiday, or part of it, because of industrial action at the airports, think that we are anywhere near a socially just climate? I was going to say that we could listen to anybody outside; I expect that we form part of the "people outside" when talking about these things.
My Lords, what about the people with small fixed incomes; not the rich, just those who have worked all their lives and saved for retirement. I expect that some of us are affected; but let us deal with the general public and not ourselves. What about them? I have never heard even lip service for them from any Party. There are millions of such people. What are they going to do? The value of their life savings has gone down—by how much? Is it not 20 per cent.? And shall I say in the last couple of years? Anyway, I know that it has gone down 20 per cent. Never mind the large increases; the smallest increase in wages anywhere does not come to them. This is the effect of the backround. What are they going to do?
Last Monday, my Lords, we heard that on Monday next there is to be a one-day strike by some of the train drivers at 794 Waterloo Station. Yesterday we heard that drivers on London Underground are demanding a series of stoppages. Such action, they claim, would immediately paralyse services. What about the public, my Lords? I do not look only at the Government, I look at everyone in your Lordships' House. What about the public? The public just do not count today anywhere. Whatever the rights or wrongs of this particular case—and for this particular case have gone back to London Transport—or of any other, I think it must be obvious to us all, in this House and outside in the country, and whatever our political views, that we cannot go on like this. I think that that must be accepted.
I do not like saying so, my Lords, and I shall probably get into trouble for doing so, but I always thought that my Party stood for people like these commuters. I always thought that we fought for the weak and the poorly paid, those without union power to hold the public to ransom. In short, I thought that we stood particularly—it is what brought me into the Labour Party—for the ordinary citizen who just gets pushed around. But I have not heard any official condemnation from my side. I was glad to note the speech this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Champion. I do not wish to involve the noble Lord, and if I just say I drew comfort from it perhaps that will do. But in all this trouble I have not heard it said—not in public, not as a statement of policy—that these things are wrong. The words are always hedged about to avoid a definite commitment. Is nobody going to condemn this treatment of the public? Is there no one with the courage, whatever side they may be on, to get up and say, "This won't do"? My Lords, can we have any national wellbeing while this sort of thing goes on? I hold no brief for this Government, for the same reason as many on this side of the House. I think that they have offended greatly against the public conscience on land prices, on rents, on food prices, on housing—and so we could go on. But they are the elected Government of this country.
My Lords, what I have been saying has not been easy for me to say, and I hope that I have been relatively agreeable. I have belonged to my Party for 30 years—I know that there are many 795 who have belonged to it for much longer—and it means as much to me as to those of my friends who think differently from me. I believe that at the moment my Party is on the wrong road, just as those of my friends who think differently from me believe that it is on the right road. I think that all of us in this House (I know this to be true of noble Lords on this side) believe that if you think something in your Party is wrong, all you can do is to stay in the Party, if they will have you, and try to get it altered. Do not go out of it and criticise; stay in and take what is coming to you. There are occasions when the wellbeing of Britain is at stake. I would doubt whether there is a man or woman to-day whatever their political Party, who does not realise that that is the case at the moment.
My Lords, we are all politicians, more or less. I think we know that the recent by-elections have shown that the country has no belief in either of the two major Parties. There must be a reason. I think that people have had enough. They believe that they will be pushed around whichever Party is in power. They do not say that one Party is as good as the other; they say that one is as bad as the other, and they ask, "What is the use?" I think we know that. I believe that at the moment there is a crisis. I believe that there is a crisis for Government, for Parliament and for democracy. In short, soy Lords, who is to govern this country: the elected Government, until it is rejected at the ballot box, or the trade unions? It is as simple as that. I would beg my noble friends, on this side of the House, even if they do not agree with me, to realise that this could happen to us: it could happen to any Government. It is a question that has to be decided.
Now, I think this particular Government have brought much of this trouble on themselves but, my Lords, by no means ail of it. I believe that the leaders of the political Parties in another place should stand up publicly in that place arid say that Parliament has decided that industrial action for political ends has reached such a pitch that it must be brought to an end. The other way I think lies anarchy and the destruction of our democratic system. My Lords, 796 if Parliament does not intervene by its leaders in all Parties to say this industrial action has no place in our society, then we shall have no democratic society left at all, much less a socially just one. Therefore I think we should support the Government in declaring this State of Emergency and in moving these Regulations.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I hardly dare speak after that. I have admired the noble Baroness opposite, not least for her hat, but especially for what I consider one of the most encouraging and brave speeches I have heard in an admittedly short time in this House.
It appears to me, as it appeared to Lady Seear, that there are three crises with us at the moment: oil, which we could do precious little about; coal, which we might do a little about, and electricity which we might do a little about. But by far the most important one is inflation. Before 1931, we controlled inflation by staying on the gold standard. That gold standard was rigid and brutal, and created 2 million unemployed people in this country. There are certain well-known Liberal politicians who would make excellent Chancellors of the Exchequer to Mr. Gladstone—and by that I mean Mr. Enoch Powell, who seems to want to go back to the form of gold standard and monetary supply. It seems to me to be much too harsh, too cruel and too unkind.
Since 1961, and Mr. Selwyn Lloyd's "Pay pause", all Governments, whatever they have said in Opposition, have finally come round to a statutory incomes policy. It is very easy to be rude about a statutory incomes policy when you are in Opposition: it is very difficult to put one into effect when you are in power. It seems to me a little silly of the Party opposite to advocate just controlling prices and not controlling wages. Inflation is a serious business. As I have said, we cannot control it by the old-fashioned gold standard method, and we have therefore to control it by an incomes policy. This incomes policy is easy: t the end of six months, no increase. That is easy. Stage 2 gets more difficult. Stage 3 tends to have great difficulties in it and a lot of holes; and this is where the people industrial muscle can drive through it.
797 The noble Baroness, Lady Burton, was talking about the ordinary public who do not have that industrial muscle. But the members of the National Union of Mineworkers—about whom, basically, we are talking at the moment—are members of the ordinary public. They are sensible, if I may say so; they are very conservative people with a long history of service and hardship, and above all a long history of very close togetherness isolated from other sections of the community because of their jobs, where the pit villages are, and so forth. Therefore it is no use telling the coal miners to do this, do that or do a third thing. They have to be persuaded. And this is what the Government are trying to do in this issue. What they are saying is, "We have the emergency powers in reserve. We do not much want to use them unless we absolutely have to. While we have them in reserve, we will try to persuade the ordinary rank and file of the mineworkers that it is in their interests, as members of the British public, to try to follow this incomes policy. Otherwise, we have anarchy. If we have anarchy, the nurses, the teachers and the poorer members of society and pensioners—all of whom get talked about, though too often not enough is done about them— will go straight up against the wall: somebody will start hitting them with sledgehammers, and they will really suffer. Unless we have this incomes policy, this is what will happen.
Therefore, my Lords, I am going to support the Government hard to-night on these emergency measures because the incomes policy is so important. It is not a case of threatening the miners. I hope that the emergency measures are going to be used sensibly and constructively to persuade people that everybody is in this together, and to try to persuade miners that the attitude of Mr. Gormley (I think it was), who said, "We are not fighting the Coal Board; we are fighting the Government", must be wrong. It is not in their interest this should happen. I have spoken five minutes too long, my Lords, and I will now sit down.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, on the logic of her speech; it hung together. It was only 798 right and proper that in her conclusion she should give unqualified support to a Conservative Government. That is the logic of what she said. However, I want to help her. I think she ought to bring her alibis up to date. Currently the Conservative Government are not blaming the miners for the inflation. They were up until last year, and they were for their first two and a half years in office. Of course, then the responsibility for inflation was wage induced; it was rapacious demands by the trade unions—they were responsible for inflation—by the exercise of what has been described as the wrong use of democratic power. But, of course, a few months ago—and unfortunately, the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, has not yet caught up—they changed the tune. They turned the record over. They do not go along that line now. Now the reason is world prices. So, therefore, Lady Burton's excellent speech was spoiled by just that one point; she got her alibi wrong.
My Lords, I think it is a sign of increasing age that when things happen my mind begins to work as if I have been to the picture before; that I have been here before, listened to it all before. My mind went back vividly yesterday afternoon, when the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, was congratulating the Government over their defeat in the cod war, or from these Benches there were congratulations on their standing up to the miners. I went out and looked up at Mr. Churchill—Mr. Churchill is always invaluable as an aide memoire. He recalled for me what happened with the Baldwin Government. He said, "There we are, defeat after defeat." Never mind how bad things then were, there was always somebody to congratulate. "But, "he said, "of course, there was a bill to be paid." It has taken this country a long time to pay it, and it has not paid it yet.
I ventured yesterday afternoon to brave the titters from noble Lords opposite when I mentioned my own association with the miners and my record as a trade unionist, which happens to be much longer than that of the noble Lord who spoke about his record. I pray in aid the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek. I left the Army in 1938 and worked with the Workers' Education Association at a princely salary of £2 18s. 9d. a week. I worked among 799 the clubs which existed in a little township in Staffordshire, which the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, afterwards represented in another place, which had 100 per cent. unemployment. All the mines had been closed. We had visits from the Duke of Kent and from other members of the Royal Family; and they sent deputations from Eton College. They came to see these wild miners and how they lived. They found them very docile, and attending church on Sundays. They said that the miners were unemployable and would never work again. They were used to heavy manual work; they had arthritis and pneumoconiosis, and nobody wanted them any more. And they did not want them any more, until 1940, when they found them jobs quickly enough. But they found them work not for constructive purposes, not for peace; they found them work for destruction. I very much hope that the jobs they did in the factories which were established on the Cheshire border and Stoke-on-Trent continued after the war.
When the war was over I had the great good fortune to be invited by (and here I am going to use the expression "my right honourable friend") Lord Shinwell to be his Parliamentary Private Secretary. I went to him one afternoon, and he said: "What do you think of this?"—and he showed me the stock figures of coal, which were a war secret. Nobody had ever revealed what the stocks were. It was 11 million tons, with a manpower shortage that was acute, because vast numbers of people had come into the mining industry who did not do one shift a week. I noticed this afternoon that when the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham—for whom I may say I have a great respect—was bandying with statistics (the trouble about statistics is that you handle them selectively, and when you have as good a mind as that of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, you make what use of them you like) he was selective, but I did not want to interrupt him. He said nothing about the current stock position. My noble friend inherited a stock position of 11 million tons, with an army to be demobilised, being brought back from every quarter of the world, wanting jobs; the reconversion of industry from war to peace. What have the Government got now? They have 800 36 million tons, with 22 million tons distributed. So please do not tell us that this emergency is related to a shortage of coal, or to a possible shortage of coal, because we have seen all this before. Then, again—and here we worry about the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and this brilliant mind of his—does the noble Lord not see the illogicality of this position? Coal likely to run out through men not working overtime. Oil in very great doubt. Emergency for one, but no emergency for the other. It does not hang together.
Yet of course I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, and disagree with "my right honourable friend" Lord Shinwell. Of course we are in a crisis. I am something of a Marxist. I do not apologise to anyone for that; many people have been Marxist and anti-Communist. I would not want to live in a totalitarian society. But I recognise the power of the Marxist analysis. This country is reaching the logic of the position, because imperialism is in crisis. It is now over the divide; we have passed into the fates that Marx foretold, into a state of permanent crisis. And the most significant thing that has happened this year, which was a curtain-raiser and a prelude to the troubles in the Middle East, was the meeting of the non-aligned Powers in Algeria—76 of them. It produced no tension. Why should it? We were all preparing for the Royal Wedding. Let us deal with the things that matter!
Let us go back to the start of our troubles in 1956. What led up to them? It was the meeting in Brioni between the great neutralists—between Nehru, Tito and Nasser—and Mr. Foster Dulles at that time thought that to be non-alligned was to be guilty of a crime. So what did he do? He put the poor jittery Eden's head on the block, and put a finish to the support of the Aswan Dam. Khrushchev saw his chance and stepped in and they got the Oswan Dam, this miracle of making the Nile flow in the opposite direction. Incidentally, that produces a few problems, like the dam at Volta. Here were the great neutralists. But, of course, to-day the neutralists have become respectable. There are, as I say, 76 of them. I must say that I found myself greatly amused when I heard my noble friend Lord Popplewell and my 801 noble friend Lord Shinwell, and others, use the word "blackmail". In the name of God, in a capitalist society, to get as much as you can from the product you dispose of, to call that blackmail! I thought that was respectable. How did Harry Hyams amass a fortune of £300 million?—or is it £400 million? Was it by buying something dear and selling it cheap? Or how did the gallant Mr. Peter Walker make £1 million before he was 25? Was it from giving his savings away, or from gambling with somebody else's money?
Again, we talk about equality. I commend a study of this to the noble Baroness. Mr. John Moore, the richest man in England, with £600 million. This is respectable, you see. It is like fox-hunting, so dear to noble Lords opposite. When we hunt the fox it is respectable, but if the fox turned round and hunted us, that would be dastardly. This is why they are such humbugs. But their humbug has been shown up. Feisal and his friends now realise something. They listen to what you have to say, and they say: "It is better to keep a gallon of oil in the ground than to take one of your paper quids for it. Oil may be worth a bit more a decade on. You can paper the wall with your pound. "It does not apply only to oil, but to every commodity.
This, of course, is what is wrong with the Government's policy. They can only make it work if the terms of trade turn to the advantage of this country. From 1951 to 1964, 13 years, they stayed in power because the terms of trade were consistently in their favour. As soon as the terms of trade turned against them, then Mr. Maudling, that intellectual giant, proceeded to do, much more ably, I may say, because he is infinitely more able—he could not be less able—than the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, exactly the same thing: he tried to spend his way out of it with a policy of expansion, and he bequeathed to us a deficit of £800 million. The Labour Party, guided by the ghost of Lord Snowdon, a Party of probity and a puritanical Party that really believes and tries to practise, so far as it can, a policy of monetary honesty, turned the balance of payments round and went from the red to the black. And at that moment 802 they estranged the miners, and they estranged all the trade unions.
Let me turn now to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth. I listened to bits of what he had to say, and I was shocked: and what shocked me was his appalling ignorance. How a man can stand in this place, being as old as he obviously is, and talk such absolute nonsense is beyond me. What is wrong with the Transport and General Workers' Union is not that it is not democratic—it is too democratic. This is the point. The poor general secretary has at every stage to weigh up what his members will take. He often has to do things with which he does not agree. But either you have leadership of the kind shown by the present Prime Minister, which is another name for obstinacy, or you have an honest and intelligent leadership in which you try to govern but in the ultimate the decision rests not with you or with your executive but with what your members tell your executive. If you do not accept that, your executive is out, and so is the leadership. That is basically the problem.
I well remember going with my noble friend Lord Shinwell to a meeting at a time when he was in great difficulties. His policy was to mechanise the pits and as he could, stage by stage, to meet the demands of the miners' charter. Many noble Lords in this House are old enough to remember the conditions at that time. If the miners had wanted, they could have had this nation over a barrel in 1945, 1946, and indeed into the early fifties. The critical point came at Grime-thorpe, because it was proposed to lengthen the stint, and my noble friend went down to Doncaster (and so did I, because the St. Leger was the next week) —and whom did he take with him? Will Lawther?—not on your nelly! Did he take the right wing leaders of the N.U.M.? He took Arthur Homer, the Communist; and that brave little man stood up and faced his own membership and fought for those things that were necessary for the well-being of this country, at a time when the miners were in a position to enforce their power. I well remember a Sunday morning meeting which went on until the evening, and the miners said, "You can starve us to death, but you cannot work us to death."
803 To go back again to what I experienced in North Staffordshire before I joined the Army. I learnt that when you are dealing with miners you are not talking to them, perhaps you are not even talking to their fathers or grandfathers, but you are talking to the echo, to the memory of what successive Conservative and Liberal Governments, to their undying shame, did to the miners in this country when they had not the power to resist. If you can put the case to them logically, get through to them and treat them with respect, it is a different matter. I stood for a constituency which once had miners and mines in it, and I live in such a constituency now outside Stoke-on-Trent, near to one of the very big pits of this country; so I know the miners. Please treat them with respect. They live an isolated, lonely life, and the way they have been treated leads them to believe they are outcasts. They are not outcasts any more, but the memory still hands on.
And please, I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, do not quote phoney statistics at them. If you are going to quote statistics, at least take the trouble to understand what you are saying. Because if you look at a graph of what is offered by the N.C.B., you will find it is spread far too widely. The point was made this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, that it is only a minority of less than 10 per cent. that will get that 13 per cent. What is really wrong is the Government's policy. For the last few months I have found myself increasingly in agreement with Mr. Enoch Powell. We sat in constituencies side by side. There are many things he has said in the past with which I profoundly disagreed and I have said so, but what he has said about the Government's policy is right. It will not work. You can have a laissez-faire society, in which the pricing system operates—that is to say, where the decision as to whether to work in the mining industry, in a hospital, a "bingo factory", and so on, is left to the individual, and so is the price he can get for his labour. His parents, in turn, can decide how much investment they will put into their child's being trained as a doctor, a dentist, or a teacher against the rewards he will earn.
804 If you interfere with the functioning of the pricing system and you are not absolutely clear about it, then you are bound to run into trouble. It is no accident that, for example, in the Midlands workers are brought in from Ireland to drive buses, but they all want to go to work in the car factories, so there are no buses to take them to work. There are no window cleaners; there are no nurses. In the South-East there are all these other labour shortages, because you have a duality and this mixed system, which is neither one thing nor the other. As a democrat, I happen to believe, as I have said very often, in the philosophy of Nye Bevan—that is, that what our society in the West wants is a mixed society, in which one element, either the public sector or the private sector, must dominate. In a Socialist society which is run by a Labour Government the public sector dominates and the private sector is left free to get on with its work and to operate within the concept of a pricing system, which is either run or runs itself. If you do not do that you can get into a most unholy mess.
That is what has happened. I believe that the Prime Minister is a very sincere, very obstinate but extremely limited man. He did not expect to win the Election. Few people in his Party expected to win the Election; and so he made speech after speech without anyone pulling at his coat-tails and saying, "Wait a minute, Ted; you may be required to honour this cheque next week." So when he went into Downing Street on October 16, 1964, he was met with a battery of Opposition papers, and when he read those, to his horror he found out that neither Mr. Wilson nor Mr. Jenkins had been cooking the books. They had been telling the truth. So poor Ted could not then go back to the Tories and say, "Sorry, Selsdon man is stuffed." He had to start off with Selsdon man in the Industrial Relations Act, although, of course, if his advisers could have got at him they would have warned him what would happen. So for the first year or two you have Ted following through a policy which he was trying to run away from. And now—talk about broken promises!— he has gone completely round in his tracks. In the meantime the situation has become 805 so befuddled that it is like several balls of wool all mixed up together, and every step that he takes makes the next step one stage worse. That is why I say you have the Emergency Regulations today and it is no accident. I say to this House that it is no accident that you have had five Emergencies in three years as against one Labour Emergency in five years. My advice to the Government is, having got the Emergency Regulations through, not to take them off but to keep them on permanently.
I should like to conclude by returning to a theme I have mentioned before.I share with my noble friend Lord Shinwell a belief in the recuperative power of my fellow countrymen—but on one condition, which is that they must be told the truth. In 1940 what they were up against was dead simple—Hitler. Ernest Bevin became Minister of Labour, and the trade unions backed him, and the productive capacity was put into full gear overnight. But now we do not know what we are up against.
In the Communist bloc their philosophy is linked with conservation. They conserve their resources. They do not pump all their oil out of the ground, they hold stocks in reserve. Their productive capacity is strictly linked to this idea, and that is why they have no inflation. In the West, including the United States, it is not a case of conservation, but one of consumption. Here we have a raging, roaring inflation. I have in my hand a packet of credit cards, which I did not ask for, all of them for good money, encouraging me to buy. There is television advertising, and advertising on the radio. And look the newspapers! There is a roaring, raging rise in newsprint. There is the prospect of the Daily Express having to come down to seven pages. I am glad to see their profits halved. This was announced today. That is an act of God!
What of the future? We shall go on until at last there will not be any newsprint left. Therefore what is needed? Mr. Powell is absolutely right in saying there is this vast volume of money putting irresistible pressure on our productive resources. We have run out of labour; the investment has gone into the wrong things. The Government says "growth", not in experts but for home consumption, until of course the pricing mechanism which operates outside this country, but 806 does not operate completely here, brings Nemesis in its train. As Mr. Churchill said, here was this Administration, the most disastrous in our history—he did not know about this present one; but he said that there was a bill to be paid. And so the bill is going to be paid. I do not believe it will be paid by the present Government; the bill will be paid, as all the bills are paid, by the British people.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE
My Lords, we on these Benches shall not vote against these Regulations; apart from anything else, they come so frequently that it would be tedious if we constantly had to vote against them. I have been in your Lordships' House for a matter of three years and during that time we have had the presentation of five sets of Emergency Regulations. I am told by my noble friend Lord Champion that this is the longest debate on Emergency Regulations that we have had in your Lordships' House, and the longest speech in this debate has been made by a noble Lord whose name was not on the list of speakers.
§ LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE
He was, my Lords, but he withdrew, and then came back on the list at the last moment. I think that in the circles with which my noble friend is well acquainted that is called a "late starter".
It is right that we should have had a longish debate on this matter because this is basically a political problem and one has to put it into its political context. There has been only one speech today that I deeply regretted, and that was the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Han-worth. I can see nothing whatever discreditable in being a member of the Conservative Party, or the Liberal Party or the Labour Party. If those Parties did not have members I do not believe that our democratic machinery would be able to work as effectively as it does. If in your Lordships' House, admittedly with a degree of detachment which is not always available in other places, we did not discuss these matters in a political context, the public and Press would be doing so, and I do not believe that that would conduce to the prestige of our Parliamentary machine. I must say that I 807 thought that the noble Viscount's high moral tone began to quaver a little when he started smearing the Labour Party as being under Communist influence. I thought that was a lamentable observation. If, as a comparatively new Member of your Lordships' House, I say that it seemed to me to fall far below the traditions which I have always associated with this House, I hope that I shall be in order.
My Lords, may I just point out that I did not say it was? I quoted something from an interview on I.T.V. I make no personal judgment on that at all; I have not the facts. I was particularly careful to say that it was a report. It may or may not be true: I would not know.
§ LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE
My Lords, the noble Viscount was particularly careful not to say anything specific, but to indulge in about as discreditable a smear as I think could be possible for a noble Lord to indulge in, and I hope that in further debates in your Lordships' House we shall be able to avoid insinuations of that kind.
I made my maiden speech in this House on the subject of the setting up of the new super-Ministries, as they were called. I was critical at the time of the new mammoth Departments. Looking back, I see no reason to change my mind. Since then the giant Foreign and Commonwealth Office has earned the strongest rebuke from the Government of the United States that I can ever remember. It has incurred the bitter mistrust of Israel without apparently effectively appeasing the Arab States—and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, when he comes to reply, will respond to the invitation from my noble friend Lord Shinwell to tell your Lordships what assurances we have had from the leaders of the Arab countries. Also, so far as I can see, the Foreign Office has signally failed to influence the European Community towards giving real help to Holland, if indeed it even tried to do so. That is not an impressive record achievement for one of the new super-Ministries.
If we turn to the Department of the Environment, we see that the housing figures this year will almost certainly be the worst since 1958. The figures 808 announced yesterday contrast badly with the corresponding period three years ago; and, if I may say so, they contrast even more badly with the 414,000 houses a year for which the Conservative Opposition at the time so severely criticised me when I was Minister of Housing. I am not criticising Mr. Channon. Mr. Channon is an efficient Minister and a very compassionate man. It is the Treasury and the Government's economic policy that are to blame. Remembering, too, the criticisms I had to sustain four or five years ago, I find it ironical to note the remarkable increase in the cost of building houses, the escalation of land prices and the need for record mortgage rates.
The third mammoth Department, the Department of Trade and Industry, has produced the largest deficit in our balance of trade that we have had, even without including that mere trifle of £75 million which appears to have failed to get included in the calculations because of some little industrial dispute affecting computers. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, was a bit casual in dismissing this token sum of £75 million. While the Department of Trade and Industry has been running up this record, the borrowing rates to industry and traders, through the Government machinery, have gone up far beyond the modest figure of 14 per cent. used by Sir Hubert Newton in another context. Not surprisingly in all the circumstances we are faced with an emergency.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, discussed for a moment or two in a philosophical way why the Government are introducing these regulations at this stage. I confess, my Lords, that it is tempting to think that these regulations, imposed so soon after the miners' ban on overtime started, are a political manoeuvre to cover up a political and economic failure. After all, as other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Wigg, have said, the stock position to-day is reasonably satisfactory. It is certainly substantially higher than it was at the time of the mining dispute last year, yet last year the State of Emergency came only in February, after weeks of an all-out strike. If the Government had wanted to conserve stocks they should perhaps have declared the State of Emergency a week ago. But that, of course, would have been highly 809 embarrasing with four by-elections last Thursday. Or the Government could have declared it a few weeks hence, avoiding that unnecessary exacerbation of industrial relations which was referred to so movingly by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear.
The reason why the Government decided to wait was because they knew that the economic situation was rapidly deteriorating. They wanted to blur the issue. If the situation is so desperate, why not have petrol rationing now? The reason, of course, is that if we had petrol rationing now they could not blame that on the unions in the way that they can blame the coal situation on the unions. And one is tempted, with very great reluctance, to the conclusion that Her Majesty's Government are seeking to create a situation in which it can have an Election on the theme of, "Who governs the country?"
I am as sorry as anyone that this winter electric blankets and colour television sets bought with Access cards will not be working—your Lordships will remember the moving advertisement for Access cards: "Access takes the waiting out of wanting".
The Government, who were so unsparing in their criticisms and so prodigal in their promises when in Opposition, have utterly failed to work out a modus vivendi with the trade union movement, and on that point at least I agree with my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry—and I hope she is still my noble friend—in what she said about the Government's failure to achieve a fair society. The truth is, my Lords, that this Government have divided the country to an extent that I have never known before, and they have shown a degree of cynical improvidence which makes Mr. Micawber seem like a far-sighted, meticulous budgetary planner. On the very day that the by-elections were taking place, exactly a week ago to-day—and I am indebted to yesterday's Daily Mail for pointing this out—the Prime Minister made a speech which the Daily Mail described as one of economic euphoria. I ask your Lordships to listen to these words of Mr. Heath:I believe that the prospects and opportunities for British industry to-day are more exciting and more solidly based than at any time since the Second World War.810 Those were the words of the Prime Minister exactly a week before your Lordships' House is discussing the Emergency Regulations.
Yesterday morning, the Financial Times, under the heading, "Wait for the good news", said that last night Mr. Peter Walker was addressing the Insurance Debating Society on the subject "Britain Towards the New Commercial Greatness". Naturally I looked in the Press this morning to see how Mr. Walker handled that situation, which must have been a little difficult for him. I find in The Times, and I quote the words:Mr. Walker apparently dispensed with part of the speech prepared before Tuesday's trade figures …".One really cannot be surprised at that. I have a great liking for Mr. Walker, but I must say that there was very little in the speech which he is reported to have made which gave me any great confidence in the future. Personally the only prophecy about the future which I would venture to make with any confidence is that there is going to be a long and sustained demand for candles, prayer mats and bicycles.
There was certainly very little in Mr. Walker's speech to give any comfort to the man who is paying 18 per cent. On his overdraft; to the housebuilders who are having to borrow housing finance in order to sustain their building programme, or to the building societies which were just looking as though they were getting out of their difficulties. I should like to say at this point how pleased I am that the Government have set up a joint committee with the building societies and if, as I believe, the talks are to take place to-morrow I am sure that all of us will hope that a successful outcome can be achieved.
Like my noble friend Lord Champion I am a democrat, and I have thirty-two years' membership of a trade union behind me. And like my noble friend, whose wisdom is of immeasurable benefit to your Lordships' House, I have no sympathy with any trade union leader —or indeed any local councillor—who sets out to defy the will of Parliament or the Government of the day. That, my Lords, is a game which both sides can play and both sides can lose, but the greatest loser would be our democratic 811 way of life. Having said that, I want to go on to say that I am deeply shocked that so many of our fellow-citizens do not realise how much we owe to the miners and the firemen and the postmen and the ambulance workers until they resort to industrial action.
There is something wrong with an industry which depends upon overtime. How fantastic that one of the most essential industries in this country, one which we are told to-day is absolutely essential, can only scrape along by men working overtime! And when, with nothing to do with Phase 2 or Phase 3 or any other part of the incomes policy, they decide that they will stop working overtime the Government announce that an emergency situation exists. But, my Lords, 700 miners a week are leaving the industry. That is the crisis; that is the emergency; that is the situation that noble Lords opposite have to deal with. It is no good passing regulations and thinking that regulations are going to stop this drain of 700 skilled workers every week away from one of our most essential industries. The Government really are playing about with trivialities and formalities without getting down to the basic problems. Whatever the percentage is (we have been bandying percentages about this afternoon), it is not enough to convince 700 miners a week that it is worth staying in the industry in order to earn it. Until we face up to that situation, the drain away from the industry will continue.
Why are public services in London grinding to a halt? Why is there a lack of social balance in so many parts of our society? I have the good fortune to live in Hampstead. When I first lived there we had a balanced community. It was a pleasant little village. We had rows of working-class houses occupied by postmen and by ambulance workers and all those other public servants who make life so much more tolerable for the rest of us. They have all gone now. The little working-class cottages have Georgian bay windows in them, and they are selling for £25,000 or £30,000, or more; and, of course we have an unbalanced community. We are a kind of a rich man's ghetto, instead of the socially balanced community that we ought to be. I would never stand the slightest chance of getting 812 there now. It was only my good fortune in going there over thirty years ago that enables me to be a citizen of Hampstead at the present time. But we are getting this social imbalance, and this is the basic unease and the basic discontent of many working-class people. We are getting this discontent because the postmen, the bus drivers, the firemen and the teachers cannot afford to live in the inner city areas where their services are required.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, was most courageous: he did not like "union-bashing" but he gritted his teeth and courageously went forward and did it. I do not like "union bashing", either, and I deprecate as much as anyone actions of a minority of members of trade unions whose aim I believe is to achieve disruption. But, as I said earlier, I think it is quite monstrous to suggest that that influences the policy of the Labour Party. Although the noble Viscount said that he did not like "union-bashing", I am sorry to have to say that he really was guilty of it. I do not know how many of your Lordships saw the cartoon in the Daily Mirror to-day. It was a picture of a manager apparently talking to the chairman of a company, with a workman sitting in the antechamber, and the manager was saying to the chairman: "He's intelligent, well-informed and understands his rights—a real troublemaker." I had the feeling, when the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, was speaking that he had something of that attitude to the trade unions.
But, my Lords, we shall not cure our sickness—for it is a sickness; and a serious sickness—by making either trade unions or the bulk of their members the scapegoats. The guilty men—and we are all to some extent guilty, but the most guilty men of all—are those who are sitting on the Government Benches. They have no solution whatever to the crisis to which the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, referred. They have lost the confidence of organised workers. They have failed to control the economy by making the most effective use of Government expenditure or by restricting surplus purchasing power in the pockets of private individuals.
We have in this country the must sophisticated, efficient and honourable 813 financial institutions in the world. I wish I could say the same for the manufacturers of this country. They have not been able to provide the capacity which is needed to match up to the Government's proclaimed expansionist ambitions. They have failed the country, just as I believe the Government have failed it. The basic failure is that we shall not be able to afford the standard of living that all of us demand, unless as a nation we can plan our affairs in a way which enables us to buy the raw materials that we do not have and to organise our industry in a way which gives a sense of justice to both workers and consumers. Unless we can do that, my Lords, we shall have recurring crises—and the sixth emergency will be just around the corner.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, we have had a very wide-ranging debate on these Regulations to-day and we have had some notable speeches. If I might mention in particular the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, it obviously captured the imagination of, and provoked thought from, everyone in this House. This is the first occasion in the three years since the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, has come into the House that I have had the opportunity of replying to a speech he has made. I am hound to say that I thought he was at his most dismal to-day he seemed to be filled with gloom about everything. Obviously, I do not want to go into a wide-ranging debate at this time of night, particularly as we have another matter to discuss to-night, but I must say that noble Lords have not sufficiently appreciated what the Government have been trying to do and how far they have succeeded. They have taken all the sad features.
They have not mentioned specifically, for example, the enormous increase in what we have had to pay because of the world rise in prices—but this is a matter we can perhaps more conveniently debate on Tuesday. Nor have they mentioned the extraordinarily good position we are now in to compete in the world at the present time. What my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said was not in any way fantastic, it is the truth: that at the present time our prices are lower, and we are in a better position to compete in the world than 814 we have ever been. Investment has been building up this year and should, according to forecasts, when we can get through our present, immediate difficulties, build up even more next year. Our exports in volume are running at more than our imports, despite the situation last month. This is what we have been working towards, and if noble Lords on the other side all the time persist in being gloomy and decrying the future of this country, we shall be deprived of the success that we have been aiming for. I ask noble Lords to join with us in bending as much as we can towards the task of increasing our exports and balancing our trade.
The real point in this debate is: what has been the purpose of introducing these Emergency Regulations. My noble friend stated what the purpose was. Noble Lords opposite have regarded this with great suspicion. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, who I thought made, as always, an excellent speech, said that he suspected that it was because of the balance-of-trade figures. I must reassure him about that. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said that our introducing the Emergency Regulations at this time was designed as intimidation to miners. The noble Lord also asked: Is there a crisis? He implied that a proclamation should occur only if we were in a full crisis. But a proclamation is made under the Emergency Powers Act 1920, as amended by the Act of 1964. May I remind your Lordships of what that Act says:If at any time it appears to His Majesty"—this relates to 1920–that there have occurred or are about to occur events of such a nature as to be calculated, by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel or light, or with the means of locomotion, to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of the essentials of life, His Majesty may by proclamation (hereinafter referred to as a proclamation of emergency), declare that a state of emergency exists.That shows the purpose of the proclamation and the reason why we have these Regulations. It is simply because in the view of Her Majesty's Government there have occurred, or are about to occur, events of the nature set out.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? How can he in logic argue that an event is about to occur when 36 million tons of coal have been 815 extracted from the ground and 22 millions tons have been distributed? Twenty-two million tons is a far larger amount than we ever hoped to produce in a year in the 1950s.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I do not necessarily accept the figure given by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, but I am coming to the point that he has made. As my noble friend has said, the fact is that a loss of coal production is happening and it could get worse. As he said, we are losing about 20 per cent. in production this week, and in a couple of weeks' time the loss could well be double that amount. There is also the possibility that we may be affected by the cut in supplies of oil from the Middle East; there is a risk that at any time there may be a breakdown somewhere as a result of the non-availability of electrical power engineers. Thus, with a simultaneous threat of shortage of coal and of oil there is obviously a risk to our supplies, not only of coal and of oil but also of electricity. In these circumstances, surely the sensible thing to do is to conserve our stocks as far as possible. The object of introducing the powers is, first, to enable the Government not only to take action to economise in the use of fuel but to make manifest to the public that economy is needed; and, secondly, to enable the Government to take, without delay, any further action that may be necessary.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, would the noble Lord be kind enough to give way? I distinctly read out the section of the 1964 Act, and under Section 36(2) there are powers permanently to use the Forces in any crisis, without an emergency being proclaimed and without 40 different regulations.
My Lords, my noble friend explained very carefully that for the time being at any rate there is no intention of using the vast number of the powers contained in the Emergency Regulations. As I have said, the Regulations are in the form in which they were introduced on the last occasion, with the exception of water and sewerage, as my noble friend made clear. May I also tell the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his absence, and in response to the intervention during my noble friend's speech, that the provision on trespass is 816 in exactly the same form as it has been in recent years. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that Regulation 25, concerning the supply of medicines, is not new. It is in exactly the same form as the Emergency (No. 2) Regulations approved by this House on August 9.
These are the purposes for which the Government are introducing the Regulations. As my noble friend has said, on the last occasion we were criticised for taking action too late; on this occasion the noble Lord, Lord Champion, tells us that we have been precipitate. But without emergency powers there can be no interference in the public interest with the ordinary rights of the public or statutory duties of the public corporations. This is right, and is as it should be, but it is not the purpose of the emergency powers to push people around. In her excellent speech the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, said that people were being pushed around, and I am saying that is not the purpose of taking the powers. Without the emergency powers the electricity corporations could well be in default of their obligations. Regulation 17 of the Emergency Regulations allows the electricity boards to fall short of their obligations to provide electricity and to maintain in accordance with the standards prescribed. Regulation 21 provides necessary powers to regulate or prohibit the supply or consumption of electricity to ensure supply to the most essential needs.
As for oil, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said that we do not need Emergency Regulations in order to introduce oil rationing. That may be true, but the Government would need powers from somewhere and they would be able to introduce oil rationing, if they so wished, under the Regulations.
The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, asked who it was who gave the assurances about oil. The noble Lord will not expect me to reply to that; he knows very well that it would not be in the interests of this country, or indeed of the people who gave the assurances.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, the noble Lord has misrepresented me. What I suggested was that there were no such assurances at all. I suggested that if the noble Lord wanted to prove that I was 817 wrong he would tell me where the assurances came from. I assert that there have been no such assurances at all.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, the noble Lord is entitled to assert anything he likes. One of the oldest ways of extracting information is to assert something and then invite a denial. I have told the noble Lord that it would not be in the interests of this country to give that information.
My noble friend Lord Onslow placed emphasis on persuasion in the settlement of the two examples of industrial action, short of a dispute which could bring about the events—and I hope very much they will not—which would have the result of depriving large numbers of people in this country of warmth, light, heat and possibly many other things as well. I very much hope that these disputes will be settled by negotiation. I see the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, is departing from the Chamber. May I say that to him, as he is on his way, just as I hope that oil will flow freely again, even if more expensively, as a result of negotiation. The noble Lord asked what are our plans and how are we to get the oil. We had a debate on the longer term implications of this question very recently indeed; but in the shorter term to get the oil flowing again must obviously be a matter of agreement between the parties. I must say that I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Onslow that the emergency powers were taken only to be used as a reserve weapon if the miners will not listen to reason, although I very much hope that reason and moderation will prevail. It is relevant that we shall be debating the counter-inflation Orders on Tuesday, since the purpose of those Orders is to contain inflation in a way that is fair and just to all. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, made a great point of fairness and justice, and this is exactly what we are aiming at.
The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, asked for the miners to be treated with respect. He made a most interesting speech in which he re-wrote history in his own way (as we are often apt to do) but I can assure him that the miners are being, and will be, treated with respect. The National Coal Board's offer amounts to nearly 13 per cent. overall. I quite understand his point, but this offer represents £44 million and it is important to remember 818 that the National Coal Board is trying to reach agreement on the basis of what they are permitted under the counter-inflation legislation. Within limits the offer is negotiable; they can do the same as any other representatives of employees and employers and negotiate within the limits of the counter-inflation policy. I submit to your Lordships that that is fair and just. In his speech my noble friend said that the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board would be meeting today. I understand that this meeting—and I quote—"went quite well". I hope, therefore, that we may look forward to a further meeting next week, and that the negotiations will proceed as well as they seem to have clone on this occasion.
My Lords, as for the electricity workers' dispute, there again the talks are continuing and it is the earnest desire of the Government that a settlement should be reached within the terms of its counter-inflationary policy. It would be quite wrong for your Lordships to think that we are taking these emergency powers on the basis that these negotiations are not going to be successful. We are taking powers on the basis that the negotiations may not be successful, and if they are not it will be a great disaster for this country. That is why we are taking them now, so that we can have the powers we need. I hope your Lordships will give support to them.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.