HL Deb 30 October 1973 vol 346 cc6-30

The Queen's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houser of Parliament."

My Lords, it is with considerable diffidence and, indeed, no little trepidation that I rise to move the humble Address to Her Majesty—trepidation because, gorgeously attired in martial order as I am, I have to confess that this happens to be the first time that I have worn this uniform. As a National Service soldier I was rapidly transformed from the battledress of the Guards Depot and the Officer Cadet School to the jungle green of my battalion, then on active service in Malaya, and it was in that uniform that I served out my statutory period of service. Nevertheless, tortured as I am, I am deeply honoured and indeed privileged to have been invited by my noble friend the Leader of the House to propose this Motion to-day.

We have heard in the gracious Speech that Her Majesty, accompanied by His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, is to visit New Zealand, Norfolk Island, the New Hebrides, the British Solomon Islands, Papua, New Guinea, Australia and Indonesia. The list reads invitingly enough, but I know that your Lordships will join with me in expressing our hopes that Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will enjoy what will be a strenuous but rewarding tour.

It may be opportune at this moment to mention another forthcoming event which I know will bring as much joy to Her Majesty's subjects as it will to the Royal Family. Here I refer to the marriage shortly to take place between Her Royal Highness Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips. I know that I speak for noble Lords in all parts of the House when I say that we are greatly inspired by the example which Her Majesty and Prince Philip have set us as the heads of a devoted and united family. May I extend every good wish for her future happiness when Her Royal Highness marries the man of her choice in a fortnight's time.

My Lords, perhaps the greatest source of personal satisfaction to-day derives from the fact that I am proposing this Motion not only as a Member of your Lordships' House but also as a Member of the European Parliament. I am very well aware that there are deep divergencies of opinion as to the desirability of our being as a nation a member of the European Economic Community at all. Furthermore, there is controversy both as to the machinery of administration within the Community and as to the manner in which its affairs are conducted. Nevertheless, I hope I may be forgiven if I say a few words by way of comment upon that part of the gracious Speech which in effect pledges the Government's support for the continuous development of the European Economic Community in accordance with the programme established at the European Summit in October, 1972. For me the ten months which I have spent as a Member of the European Parliament have been one of the most interesting and rewarding, if arduous, periods of my life. I have been to every country within the Community, and there is nobody who knows the airport lounges of Western Europe better than I.

Naturally I have spoken to a wide cross-section of people, and it is fair to say that the overwhelming majority of the Members of the European Parliament have welcomed the newcomers from the acceding countries with no little enthusiasm. They felt that the delegation from the Mother of Parliaments had much to teach them, and we soon realised that they had much to impart to us. Nevertheless, so far as the European Parliament is concerned, the newcomers have undoubtedly stirred it from a certain introverted complacency to the gradual realisation that it can and must play a much more vital role in Community affairs in the future.

No one would pretend, my Lords, but that a great deal must be achieved before one can say that the European Parliament is a democratic force in Europe. Nevertheless, a start has been made partially to try to make the Council of Ministers and, indeed, the European Commission responsible to Parliament for their actions. By virtue of the new Question Procedure, individual representatives of the Council of Ministers or the Commission attend Plenary Sessions of the Parliament and answer oral questions put to them by Members. Contrary to what has been said in your Lordships' House not very long ago, I must say that the relationship between the Commission and Parliament is becoming increasingly co-operative. It is right to say that the Commission are now making more sustained efforts to put us in Parliament in the picture at a much earlier stage than previously so that we are in a position to receive, debate and suggest improvements, alterations and amendments to proposals from the Commission while it is still possible to influence future events. Our relationship with the Council of Ministers is less satisfactory, but at least we give our views frequently and strid2ntly on how we see the deficiencies, and we make suggestions as to how they should be improved. One example where Parliament has taken the initiative is the recent proposal for budgetary control which we arrived at after much debate. It is to be hoped that these proposals will receive the approval of the Council of Ministers in due course.

My Lords, it is right, in my opinion, that particular reference was made in the gracious Speech towards the establishment of a Regional Development Fund within the Community. One may recall that the European Commission proposes that some £1,000 million be invested over the next three years in those areas in the Community which qualify for assistance. Britain's share is expected to be in the region of 25 per cent. of that sum. It is fair to say that this money could be of immense help to those parts of the country where money for investment is badly needed; that is to say, in those regions which are heavily dependent on declining industries or where there is a persistently high rate of unemployment. While it is wrong to apply what I might call the "cash register mentality" to try to balance out sums received by way of grant against those paid out—for instance when we pay for our share of the Common Agricultural Policy—there is no doubt that when the regional development funds start to flow there will be considerable psychological results to be gained from this tangible benefit of our accession to the Community. The deadline for the formation of the Regional Fund is December 31, 1973, and I very much hope that that deadline will be met.

My Lords, it is a feature of modern life that questions of economics are continuously to be found in the conduct of foreign affairs. There are several paragraphs in the gracious Speech devoted to the promotion or continuance of good relations with a number of countries both within and without the Commonwealth. Of course, trade agreements are being negotiated and finalised all the time between the European Economic Community and countries as far apart as Norway and Chile. Even more importantly, the forthcoming Nixon round of talks is due to commence at the end of this year or the beginning of next. My Lords, I am sure I speak for all of us when I say that, bearing in mind that country's immense responsibility to try to restore peace in the Middle East, one is profoundly concerned at the situation in the United States of America. So much of our relations with other countries, our security and our economic wellbeing depend on the state of that nation that one can only hope that the present unhappy difficulties are speedily resolved.

My Lords, one paragraph in the gracious speech which intrigued me, as a Scot, relates to the extraction of petroleum from the United Kingdom Shelf. There is no doubt that the finds of oil and gas in the North Sea hold out a prospect of prosperity in Scotland to a degree undreamed of only ten years ago. An extra 5,000 jobs have already been provided, so I understand, and whatever multiplying factor is used the prospects of employment, at least in the North and East of Scotland, are little short of dazzling. Yet in spite of all that has been said and written on the subject there is still a vague sense—and perhaps not altogether vague —of public unease over the question of North Sea oil. The questions that may be asked are, first, is the taxpayer, through the Government, likely to gain an equitable share of the profits from oil revenues? Secondly, will a sufficient share of money be coming to the public purse, and a sufficient proportion of the service industries which will inevitably spring up come to Scotland? There are fears that the new rich East will look across to a sullen impoverished West. Thirdly, will the environmental hazards be appreciated and provided for in time? This is not the time and place to expound on that difficult question. Fourthly, my Lords, with the provision of oil now a world hazard, can it be ensured, in the event of this country facing a shortage, that American companies exploiting our oil will not send it back to America and also that an undue proportion is not taken under pressure by our partners in the European Economic Community who will naturally tend to regard our oil as a European asset to be shared?

My Lords, another paragraph which peculiarly concerns Scotland is that relating to the reform of crofting and land tenure. Crofting is an ancient and curious occupation which until recently has provided the crofter with security of tenure but with a bare living. Equally importantly, since the crofter did not own the house he was forced to provide on the land he was unable to use it as security to raise capital he needed. The right, in effect, to buy his croft or part of it will be generally welcomed in the crofting community, always supposing that an equitable bargain as to price may be struck. So far as land tenure in general is concerned, one may suppose that this means the end of feudal tenure in Scotland. Although the Government's Green Paper made a powerful case for its abolition, many of us are not wholly satisfied that as a form of land tenure it could not be improved rather than abolished. Although land conditions and their enforcement may operate in an arbitrary manner, in certain circumstances they provide an excellent private planning control. There can be little doubt, for example, that parts of Edinburgh which retain their unique character to-day would not have done so were it not for the feudal conditions imposed generations ago.

Not entirely surprisingly, my Lords, I have to declare an interest in the matter of feudal tenure. However, it is a unique interest that I declare, in that I am the possessor of one of the few protection rackets in this country—for all I know it may be the only protection racket—which is hallowed and blessed by law and is part of our legal land tenure. "Kindly tenancies", as they are called, is a form of tenure under which the rentallers enjoy full rights of ownership although they possess no written title to their land, and proof of their ownership is to be found only in my rent roll. So long as the tenants pay the rent they cannot he dispossessed, and they can sell their land at any time they like. Originally I believe this form of tenure was general in Scotland, but now the kindly tenancies are restricted to the four towns of Lochmaben in Dumfriesshire. It is a form of tenure which has continued since the time of Robert the Bruce, and my rights derive from my title as Hereditary Keeper of Bruce's Castle in Lochmaben. It is right to say that I have to provide certain protection to the kindly tenants, though I have never been called upon to provide it so far. More seriously, it is no doubt time that such anachronisms were swept away, even if a small part of Scotland's history is swept away with them.

As a member of the Bar, I listened to the gracious Speech for any reference to the reform or strengthening of our criminal law. Immediately after that provision which deals with Scottish land tenure we are informed that: A Bill will be introduced to strengthen the laws against indecent public advertisement and display; and to extend the controls over cinematograph exhibitions. I particularly welcome any measure that will have the effect of removing offensive display in the streets, whether it be a certain type of magazine now on sale at street news-stands or the posters put up outside certain cinemas. I had a vivid experience of how far matters can go only last week when I was in New York with a Scottish delegation. In fact, the main object of our endeavours was to persuade our American friends of the desirability of Scotland as a place for investment, but after one excellent lunch my noble kinsman, who is also my Clan Chief, and I went for a walk to work off the lunch before our next engagement. I beseech your Lordships to accept that the noble Duke and I found ourselves in 42nd Street purely by accident. The fact that remains is that our eyes were fully opened and our education enlarged. If the Bill to be introduced prevents here the kind of window displays that we saw on that occasion, it will be fully worthwhile; and if it stops the sending of unsolicited indecent advertising material through the post, so much the better. One will never stop the sale of this form of material, and it is probably undesirable even to try, but a measure which will prevent those who are not interested from being insulted or pestered is to be welcomed.

My Lords, although this Session may well not be so hard as the last, so far as its demands on your Lordships' time and patience are concerned, the gracious Speech implies that there will be plenty to occupy our attention. I very much hope that one or two important measures will come to your Lordships' House in the first instance. In the meantime, I beg to move the Motion for an humble address to Her Majesty.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(The Earl of Mansfield.)

4.3 p.m.


My Lords. I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for an humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's gracious Speech, and to use such an opportunity, for which I am much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, Leader of the House, first to echo the sentiments of my noble friend Lord Mansfield in respect of the Royal Family. My Lords, the debt which this nation owes to our most gracious Queen is incalculable. Other countries may indeed look with admiration, and some with envy, upon our nation, the great unifying force of which is the Monarchy—Her Majesty herself: the Head of State right outside the cockpit of Party politics. The life of Her Majesty is indeed dedicated to the service of the nation and the Commonwealth, and we should never forget it. I am sure we shall not. Is it any wonder that so many countrymen and countrywomen of Britain are imbued with a desire to serve, when such an example of sacrifice of personal and private life, as we know it, is ever before them?

The noble Lord the much respected Leader of the Opposition—perhaps be cause he served as a wing commander in the Royal Air Force in the last war—had. I recall, some trifling confusion over distinguishing Army uniforms this time last year. For clarification, might I just mention that my noble friend the Mover served in Her Majesty's Third Regiment of Scots Guards. He is also a captain in the Atholl Highlanders— but, as the catalogue parlance goes, that is not shown. I was privileged to serve as a lieutenant in the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot, the founding of which 309 years ago we celebrated two days before this day. More recently it has become styled Her Majesty's Corps of Royal Marines, Her Majesty being Lord High Admiral of England, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh our Captain General, and the noble Earl, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, our Life Colonel Commandant.

In this House former officers and noncommissioned officers of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines form a good proportion of our staff, particularly in the ranks of our doormen and I would submit to your Lordships the humble opinion that the happy and courteous atmosphere of this Chamber is aided considerably by their helpfulness and courtesy in the dignified performance of their duties.

My Lords, I would feel that at such a time your Lordships would yet again wish to signify admiration for, and gratitude to, our present Servicemen for their coolness, courage, loyalty and patience. One hundred and ninety-eight Servicemen have lost their lives in Northern Ireland. We continue to admire such devotion to duty and an absence of such bitterness as could so understandably grow into ill-disciplined retaliation. They are, in my opinion, wonderful people indeed, the men and women of our Services.

The gracious Speech refers specifically to policies aimed at achieving "a prosperous, fair and orderly society"; to policies for promoting employment and improving the standard of living, particularly for the old, the sick, and the needy. Every Member of both Houses of Parliament must and does share these objectives. If political Parties differ as to means, they cannot as represented in our Parliament to-day differ as to ends. We are a democracy and it would seem to me that all constituent elements of the nation are coming to recognise that counter-inflation has to be made to work if Britain is to survive, let alone prosper. As we debate in due time the Consultative Documents on pay and prices, Phase 3, fairness must be our deepest concern—fairness and effectiveness; although, alas! outside influences, and not least the Middle Eastern war, make price stability and raw material availability anxieties of the greatest proportion. It is one of the duties of Government to create and maintain the conditions in which industry can prosper, but it is other Governments that have slowed and cut supplies of oil feedstock for industry. Oil and petrochemicals are the life-blood of many industries and therefore of this nation. I only hope that Britain, industry and consumer alike, will heed the Government's warning and economise.

I exhort Her Majesty's Government to the utmost of my persuasive powers, small though they may be, to fulfil the earliest possible exploitation of North Sea oil as mentioned by my noble friend. I know many of the very serious problems, but energy resource in the form of oil must be most speedily developed. Surely it has to have the highest industrial priority in the national interest. I have read the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, upon this matter made only yesterday. My Lords, nothing can be achieved by an impoverished Britain. She must be strong in defence and strong economically, too. Recent events could not prove these points more clearly. Successful growth in the economy is the sine qua non of economic progress.

The aspect of the gracious Speech which appeals most of all to me I will lead into, if I may, from certain views which I formed regarding our industrial society over these past 25 years. Neither nationalisation nor free enterprise has yet provided an ideology which really fires a new enthusiasm within industry. We need a sense of mutual trust and joint endeavour, and I referred in my maiden speech, 51 weeks ago, to the detestable "us and them" syndrome in industry. My Lords, I so greatly welcome the concept in the gracious Speech which refers to "high standards throughout industry". I welcome the proposed major reforms in company law as outlined, but not clearly enough defined, in Cmnd. 5391. I do, however, caution the Government on disclosures—not of personal items, of course, but in regard to company disclosures. It is all too easy for a would-be predator company to take advantage—an undue advantage—of a medium sized company that may be forced to make perhaps too great a disclosure through the new legislation.

My Lords, I submit that the country is getting very impatient of those who deliberately disrupt and destroy, and there are some—but a few—hell-bent on wrecking the institutions which enshrine the very freedom without which their activities would carry the direst penalties. How right that the gracious Speech should have a keynote of respect for the law. Freedom within the law and the rights of the individual are the pillars of democracy.

Industrial reforms mentioned in the gracious Speech lead on to proposals for promoting a greater degree of employee participation in industry. It is there, my Lords, that we have not a key, but the key: an enlightened, fully participatory free enterprise system with identification of the employee within the enterprise in a mixed economy. Within companies we need a free exchange of ideas, and proper and prior consultation should demonstrate good communications. I am entirely for profit-sharing, and capital-sharing too, through employee shared incentive schemes as outlined in the gracious Speech. I have first hand experience of an enterprise to which I referred last year which has had in its 81 years of existence no strike, lock-out or serious dispute with management. It really is a matter of establishing and maintaining mutual trust within the enterprise: mutual respect, clearly identified shared objectives—fair to customer, fair to employee, fair to management and fair to shareholder.

I know this sounds like Utopia but it is a great deal nearer achievement than that. I submit that it is not "all give", nor is it "all take", but fairness and that most uncommon of sense, commonsense. It is in fact human relations in industry. Somehow this spirit must be nurtured in the very large corporations, and in the nationalised ones as well. Is it any wonder that those industries which suffer the worst industrial relations are losing out the fastest to competition in the European Economic Community, where Britain should, in the new circumstances, be doing so well? There is, I believe, a relationship between poor industrial relations and dull, repetitive, boring and tedious work. Job satisfaction, as it is known in industry, must be striven for positively, and improved working conditions and safety, too.

The diminution of environmental pollution is another most welcome feature outlined in the gracious Speech; but that is a subject upon which I doubt, with respect, whether the Government fully appreciate the colossal scientific and technical problems. Do not let us legislate the impossible. While being pleased to see the Channel Tunnel feature as a project in the gracious Speech, allow me to say that somewhat less affluent areas of Britain—the grey areas of Lancashire, the West Riding, the Potteries, Wales and the North-East—must all be hoping that such improved communication with Europe's mainland will increase prosperity more evenly than to date. I personally feel that too much over-centralised power lies in the South-East, the City, Whitehall and (dare I say it?) Westminster. It is not in the best interests of the whole nation. Greater decentralisation, particularly in industry and local government, away from the Metropolis to where much of the creative and industrial work is done would be no bad tendency. Some of these areas would be glad to feel some benefit, as my noble friend said, from the E.E.C's Regional Development Fund. If we want technological advancement a proper and fair return on investment must be allowed and accepted, or in the long run Britain will sink into industrial insignificance and a very low standard of living.

My noble friend, by agreement, freely given, undertook to deal with foreign, Commonwealth, E.E.C., agriculture and Scottish affairs, and pornography. As the Psalmist said, The lot has fallen unto me in a fair ground. Yea, I have a goodly heritage". But, my Lords, this morning in a moment of exasperation, at ten minutes to six, I thought I would just glance at my horoscope. Under the heading of "Lord Luck" it proclaimed of Leo: Much has to be organised in record time to-day, so you had better think fast and maintain your highest standard of efficiency". Not over-comforted I resumed my arduous toils with alacrity. I must now resume my place with alacrity, too.

My Lords, what appeals to me so much about the gracious Speech is the emphasis upon the individual, the citizen, the consumer. He (or she) is promised better law enforcement, disclosure of fuller information and therefore protection on credit matters. She is promised legislation to ban sex discrimination against her and more equal job opportunity. All are promised benefit from far greater encouragement to hack up voluntary service, particularly in youth work. If only time permitted I think I could interest your Lordships considerably in, for instance, such an organisation as the Wood Street Mission. It is a volunteer youth club and pursuit centre in Manchester and provides for the young of Manchester and Salford. Of a family of four children, the mother having left home, and the conditions being appalling, the elder two children (through Wood Street Mission) have gained Duke of Edinburgh Awards: one a silver, and one a gold. Success has come out of near hopeless conditions, and now a Service career is before the boy while the girl has returned and encourages other youngsters to take up the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. That is what I mean by voluntary service in the really tough areas of this country; and I admire it, and its counterpart in other cities and centres of population. These are the places which are deserving of our support and encouragement. They are doing what the State cannot do, and they really do care.

Another most welcome feature in the gracious Speech is the suggested tax credit system. Away with the "handout" approach and let the dignity of the individual be preserved! What an imaginative scheme it is! I congratulate the Ministers concerned. It is another "first" for Britain, and let us implement it as soon as possible. Where such improvements tempt abuse do let us tighten up so that such abuse does not become commonplace, to the discredit of us all.

May I end on a most personal note and say that some 30 years ago when I first wore a similar uniform—and the pity of it is that the Royal Marines have decreased in size in direct proportion to my own increase—I sat from time to time in the gallery of your Lordships' House, watching the Second World War being enacted during the days of the Party political truce and the great Winston Churchill war-time Administration. For it was this Chamber that your Lordships kindly loaned to the House of Commons following the destruction of their own Chamber in 1941. My father, therefore, sat here in this Chamber as a Member of Parliament, as I do now as a Life Peer. He appreciated, as I do now, the opportunity of serving, and the most kindly reception given to our modest efforts in this Chamber. My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for an humble Address.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to move that the debate be adjourned until to-morrow. In doing so I would first congratulate the noble Lord the Leader of the House on his selection of the two noble Lords who moved and seconded the humble Address. I wish to say to the noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, that I am most grateful for his explanation on uniforms. In the R.A.F. we do not go in for this complexity, and although I had taken considerable trouble to ascertain in advance what the uniforms were, it was not in such detail as was given us by the noble Lord, Lord Hewlett. I congratulate him on getting into perhaps his old uniform, and the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, upon getting into his new uniform—if indeed it is his new uniform. I would only say to the noble Earl that his eloquent remarks with regard to the European Parliament suggest that the impact which he believes we should make with greater force at the European Parliament would be strengthened if he took another opportunity to wear his uniform as an officer in the Scots Guards.

My Lords, the noble Earl gave a speech which delighted us all. He brought to it great humour and distinction. He himself has a number of distinctions. He is what I understand is called a double Earl; he is in fact the Earl of Mansfield and Mansfield. This is a refinement which perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, will be able to explain to me later. Since it is only recently that the noble Earl inherited his title from his father, who was so well known to us here, there is no information readily available on his life, though there is quite a lot on his ancestors. We know that one of his ancestors was fined £1,500 by Cromwell and given a pardon; so far as we know, none of his ancestors was actually executed. We know, too, the name of the great Lord Chief Justice, though I believe that he was not in the direct line.

What was so striking about the noble Earl's speech this afternoon was his Parliamentary feeling, which may come partly from his ability as a barrister—although barristers do not always automatically understand Parliamentary assemblies. If I may say so, the noble Earl did capture our affection and admiration. He has already built up his reputation in this House, and if we should have the appalling prospect of another Tory Government our anguish would be to some extent mitigated if he joined certain other noble Lords on the Government Front Bench who at any rate do their best—and do it very pleasantly —to mitigate the sufferings we have on this side of the House.

The noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, I am glad to say, represents an earthier group of Peers, many of whom are represented on this side of the House and a number on that side, including some distinguished Scottish Peers. The noble Lord is a Life Peer. Furthermore, he brings to this House a degree of experience which again points to the versatility and the value of our membership. He is a successful business man, and I would only say that if British industry and business had achieved the record and carried the principles that he himself puts into practice, we should be a great deal more prosperous in this country to-day.

We know that he is interested in politics; he held no fewer than 12 different offices in the Conservative Party, from which we have deduced that he is a Conservative; but now he has many other wide interests in social affairs and local government. I particularly liked his references to the voluntary and youth activities. I, too, welcome very much the references in the Queen's Speech to the support of "activities organised by and for young people"; and echoing to some extent the spirit of his own remarks I should like to repeat my fundamental belief (and many hold this belief with me, I think) that when people spend so much time condemning the young, and everybody in society, we should remember that there is among the young to-day as much idealism and determination to serve their fellow men as ever—indeed, more. May I also add that the noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, whose speech was highly acceptable to the House, neatly upheld the honour of the order of the Life Peers, as he actually brought his Coat of Arms into your Lordships' House.

My Lords, customarily we do not, unlike another place—and it is a recent custom there—debate the contents of the Queen's Speech to-day. But too, wish to echo the good wishes to Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh on their arduous visits ahead. I am particularly interested when I see that they are going to a part of the world with which I have some familiarity, the New Hebrides, the British Solomon Islands, Papua, New Guinea—territories which not long ago represented cannibals and to-day contain people of great potential who are showing great progress and wisdom. I have recently been to some of those territories to study some of the political and other developments there. Of course the New Hebrides have the unique distinction of being a Condominium, and this may raise some interesting diplomatic aspects. We would all echo the congratulations to Her Royal Highness Princess Anne and her future husband on their forthcoming marrage.

My Lords, the Queen's Speech did not contain much that was new to us, because practically all had been published in, I think it was, the Daily Telegraph yesterday. What was not there was published on the news this morning. I do not know whether this is an attempt on the part of the Government to fulfil their so far unachieved pledges for open government, but this is a rather unique procedure and has taken a little of the interest out of what certainly is an interesting collection of proposals: environment, worker participation— which I will not debate to-day. My heart shrinks at the thought of the Companies Bill. I am only relieved that my noble friend Lord Shepherd is not in charge of it for those of us who remember it on the last occasion.

Last Session, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will probably remember, we were promised better things in the conduct of business by the former Leader of the House, Lord Jellicoe; and I am bound to say that he honoured that promise to the full, and the present noble Lord the Leader of the House carried it through. I should be very interested—indeed, the whole House would be interested—to know how far the successful efforts of the Government to get some major business to your Lordships' House early in the Session is to be repeated this year.

May I ask the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, what action he is proposing —and it is basically a matter for the House—with regard to the very interesting and thorough Report by Lord Maybray-King's Committee on European Instruments? I am frankly disturbed, and others are, too, about the ability of Parliament to cope with the flood of business and now, of course, the flood of European business. This is a matter of the greatest importance which we ought to debate at a fairly early date. I may say that it was almost a unanimous Report. Only my noble friend Lord Diamond appears to have upheld the Government view on one point. We have had other Reports. There was an interesting Report from the Brooke Committee on Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation, and, also, of course the admirable Report by Lord Cobham's Committee on Sport and Leisure. These are all matters of great concern to your Lordships and subjects we shall need to discuss.

So far as the debates for the next three days are concerned, we know it is always difficult to organise these debates effectively. We understand that tomorrow we shall be discussing Foreign Affairs and Defence, and over all still hangs the agony and anxiety of the Middle East situation. On Thursday, when we debate Home Affairs, we shall have an opportunity to discuss some of the other proposals for legislation. On the following Tuesday the Government will not be surprised—despite the amiability of my words today—that we are sufficiently critical to put down an Amendment criticising the Government's handling of many matters. We are even more alarmed by the statement in the Queen's Speech that, My Government will continue their efforts to counter inflation". An effort which still achieves a 0.8 per cent. increase in inflation every month seems to call for a redoubling and conceivably even the trying of different policies. We shall be discussing these and many other matters, including the absence of any action with regard to the scandal of land prices and the problems of housing.

I do not wish to spoil the harmony of the occasion. I thing I have gone as far as is permissible. I would end by referring to something which was said last year. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, on that occasion welcomed my noble friend Lord Beswick back to the House —Lord Beswick had not been very well at the time; since then he has been in excellent health. I must express my regret that, as is now generally known, my noble friend Lord Beswick has decided not to continue as Opposition Chief Whip. I doubt whether the House as a whole even now appreciates the services that the Whips on both sides give in organising our business. They are subject to continual criticism, particularly with regard to the order of speakers. It is an office which demands a degree of concentration, of honesty, of frankness and of integrity, all of which my noble friend Lord Beswick has shown in marked degree. It is therefore with regret that we learn that one whom (he will not be surprised to know), so many have held in deep affection, has, for reasons which I am glad to say have nothing to do with health but with the demands of business and other activities, decided that he must give this task a miss.

May I end by again congratulating the Mover and the Seconder of this humble Address? The noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, referred to some of the social legislation. I am not sure whether he referred to the anti-discrimination legislation. I noticed the headline in the Evening Standardsaying, "Heath woos the women". Some of us remember the "flapper vote" of Mr. Baldwin. I would only give notice to the Government that if they wish their White Paper to satisfy those of us who want to see the real removal of sex discrimination, they will have to listen very hard to the wise and friendly advice that they will get in the next few weeks from this side of the House.


My Lords, I had thought the noble Lord was going to move that the debate be adjourned until to-morrow.


My Lords, I did do so at the beginning, and then I nodded, perhaps mistakenly from Commons practice, at the noble and learned Lord.


I am much obliged. I had not got my spectacles on. I wished to make quite sure that I was in order. The Question is, That this debate be adjourned until to-morrow.

Moved, That the debate be adjourned until to-morrow.—(Lord Shackleton.)

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Motion which has been so admirably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and I should like to echo the sentiments expressed about the approaching Royal Wedding and to offer from these Benches our very best wishes to the young couple. I must also—and I do this very willingly—add my congratulations to the Mover and Seconder of the Royal Address on the manner in which they have discharged a traditional and very difficult task. Their speeches were absolutely first-class and very much to the point. I only hope that the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, will find it possible to get out of that uniform and return it to the firm from which he borrowed it to-day. For he has done admirably, stuck up as he was in that high collar: I do not know how he managed it.

Not only are the two noble Lords to be congratulated, but the Leader of the House also is to be congratulated on choosing two Members of your Lordships' House who are singularly appropriate to the contents of this Session's gracious Speech. The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, with his legal training and interest in local government, proved to be extremely assiduous in his contributions to the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill and the Local Government Bill in the last Session. We shall look forward to the interest that he will no doubt take in the measures foreshadowed to deal with local government finance. I hope that, as a lawyer, he will come in on the business of investigating maladministration in local government, a matter which this House and the other place must take very seriously indeed in this coming Session.

The noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, in his maiden speech made exactly a year ago impressed the whole House not only with his knowledge of industrial relations but with his very moving description of the way in which human relations—and I repeat his phrase, which I think is far better than "industrial relations"—are dealt with in the business of which he is chairman and managing director. I have in fact had some acquaintance with his company, Anchor Chemicals; I have sat on different boards with representatives of Anchor Chemicals, and I have been very impressed with the progressive attitude which they take on matters of that sort. When we come to company law reform and worker participation his experience will be absolutely invaluable.

I wish to make only one or two general comments, and not a long political speech such as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, made just now, on the Government's programme for the coming session. On the whole, I think it is quite attractive. It proposes to clear up a number of topics on which we Liberals have held very strong views these many years and which in principle we shall want to support. We shall have a lot to contribute on the details of such measures as company law reform; worker participation, which we have been advocating for decades now: tax credit schemes, which we have been advocating for many years; anti-discrimination, on which my noble friend Lady Seear has done a great deal of work in the last few years; and the whole question of young people and voluntary service. I speak as Chairman of the Trident Trust. We had the good fortune the other day to have Lord Sandford looking at some of our endeavours in this field. We work very closely indeed with the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and other aspects of community service. I congratulate the Government on introducing this as something which we can discuss with real purpose in the form of legislation.

My Lords, there is enough in the Government's programme to keep us going until the next Election; and presumably the next milestone on the road to the Election will be the Budget. On that occasion we shall scrutinise with very great care the contents of the Budget to see to what extent the Government have been influenced by the results of the imminent mini-general election which is going to take place in the next few weeks.

I should like to end by saying that I was very sorry indeed to hear of the proposed resignation as Chief Whip of the Labour Party in this House of the noble Lord. Lord Beswick. I had no foreknowledge of this. Having worked with him very intimately indeed, I can only say that I shall miss his advice and help tremendously, as indeed will the whole House. My Lords. I beg to support the Motion.

4.41 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to follow the noble Lords, Lord Shackle-ton and Lord Byers, in adding my own congratulations to what they have said about the Mover and the Seconder of the humble Address. We have become used to hearing two really outstanding speeches on this occasion at the start of the debate on the Address, and this year the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, and the noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, have certainly more than measured up to the high standards that have been set in the past. In those two perfectly complementary speeches we listened to two quite exceptional speeches to-day.

It is particularly fitting, as this is the first time that Parliament has been opened by Her Majesty the Queen since our accession to the European Community, that the Mover should himself be one of the first Members of the European Parliament. I must be careful on an occasion of this sort, not to venture out on to controversial ground, but I believe very deeply that membership of the European Parliament is a most significant and valuable way to serve the interests of Britain. It is something that my noble friend Lord Mansfield will be able to tell his grandchildren about. Indeed, in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, I suppose that they have been able to do exactly that already.

In the last few months, Lord Mansfield as he told us, has been commuting regularly between London and Strasbourg and Brussels (the "constant shuffle" which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, in our exchanges last week); and on top of this, as he also told us, he has just returned from a visit to the United States. I know very well how much of a strain this continuous travelling can impose (it was referred to in our short debate last week by the noble Lords, Lord Boothby and Lord Gladwyn), but I can only say to your Lordships that my noble friend Lord Mansfield seems to thrive on it. Apart from his work at the European Parliament, he is a member of the Bar, as befits a descendant of his ancestor, the great common lawyer who became the first Lord Mansfield. Both in this capacity, and as a Member of your Lordships' House whose roots are firmly in Scotland, he has a particular interest in the proposals in the Queen's Speech which refer to North Sea oil, lay summary justice, and feudal and crofting reform in Scotland.

The House is drawing strongly on its regional representation to-day because my noble friend Lord Hewlett is a man of very wide interests—industrial as well as political—in the North-West of England. I think I am right in saying that his father was for a time Member of Parliament for the Exchange Division of Manchester, and the noble Lord himself was for some years a very active member of the Manchester City Council. Indeed, three generations of his family —his grandfather as an alderman of Manchester City Council, his fact, as Member of Parliament for Manchester, and the noble Lord as a councillor on the Manchester City Council—have given service to the City of Manchester. On our side of the House, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, many of us got to know him very well when he played a leading part in the affairs of the Conservative Party. How the noble Lord has managed to combine all this with a highly successful career in industry I do not know; but he has, and your Lordships who have listened to him to-day will admire his vigorous and forceful presentation. When my noble friend Lord Jellicoe spoke on this occasion last year he drew attention to a certain sense of isolation he experienced as the only Cambridge man in an ocean of dark blue. To-day, in the speech we have just listened to with such interest, the noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, as we would expect from a former President of the Cambridge Union, has done much to right the balance.

My Lords, since I became Leader of your Lordships' House earlier this year, I have seen something of the inner workings of the House. As we all know, the House of Lords is not the most easy institution to explain to outsiders, yet I feel that most of us believe that the way in which the House organises itself, depending as it does to a large extent on the will of the House—expressed through certain conventions—has many advantages. I am very conscious of the efforts of the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Byers, to educate me in the proper responsibilities of the Leader; and the Government Chief Whip has been a constant and wise source of advice and guidance.

On the other side of the House he has been matched by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I know that I speak, in the same way as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, did for all noble Lords in saying how much we shall miss Lord Beswick in that Office, since I understand he has indicated that he will not be continuing in the coming Session. In Government and in Opposition he has served his Party as Chief Whip for six years, which, while not yet rivalling my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn in length of service, is by any standards a considerable period of time in a demanding job. I expect that we shall continue to hear his voice raised often in debate. Indeed, I fear that I shall probably be at the receiving end of some of his formidable broadsides, but at a time when he is giving up his office as Chief Whip I am sure that it would be the wish of your Lordships that we should put on record our great appreciation of the services he has given the House.

If I may turn now to the legislative programme, we shall in this Session have a good deal to do in considering the legislation which will be necessary to implement the proposals set out in the Queen's Speech. After the exceptionally heavy burden of the first two Sessions of this Parliament, which saw the enactment of the Industrial Relations Act and the European Communities legislation, the Session which has just ended has been a good deal lighter. On present plans, I anticipate that the demands likely to be made of your Lordships in the coming Session should not be very different from those experienced in the Session which has just concluded.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked about the balance in the legislative programme between the two Houses of Parliament and about the three Reports of the Select Committees of your Lordships' House which reported at the end of the last Session. I hope that the legislative programme will maintain, or even improve on, the better balance between the two Houses which we saw in the last Session. The intention is that four Bills will be introduced in the House of Lords later this week, one of them a substantial measure. There is also a good prospect of another major Bill starting in your Lordships' House before Christmas. We should, therefore, have a fairly full and satisfying menu to whet and satisfy our legislative appetite in the earlier part of the Session.

Besides the legislative programme, I anticipate that your Lordships will wish to debate the Reports which have been produced by the various Select Committees. There is, for example, the Joint Committee on Delegated Legislation (presided over by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor), which last month published one Report and, I understand, is likely to publish another shortly. We all owe my noble friend a great debt for the work which he and his Committee have done over the past two years. My noble friend's first Report, in the 1971–72 Session, has already led to improvements with regard to delegated legislation, and I am confident that his second and third Reports will be equally valuable.

Then, the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, and his colleagues have produced two far-reaching Reports on the difficult question of how best this House can keep itself informed of European secondary legislation. The Government accept that the House will want to debate the Maybray-King Report in the fairly near future because it is of course true, as the Committee points out, that there is as yet no machinery existing in the United Kingdom Parliament for scrutinising the various proposals emanating from Brussels and elsewhere. In the third place, the Select Committee on Sport and Leisure, under the chairmanship of the noble Viscount, Lord Cobham, reported this summer; and here again I should like to pay tribute to the work of Lord Cobham and his colleagues for producing such a stimulating and important Report, which noble Lords will want to study and debate.

My Lords, perhaps I may say a word about how it is suggested that we should deal with the debate on the gracious Speech this week and next week. To-morrow, it is proposed that the principal topic should be the debate on defence and foreign policy, and it is intended that my noble friend Lord Carrington, the Secretary of State for Defence, should open for the Government and that my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir should wind up. On Thursday, it is proposed that the House should debate home and social affairs, with my noble friend Lord Colville opening for the Government and my noble friend Lord Aberdare concluding. Finally, on Tuesday next, November 6, it is envisaged that our debate should concentrate on economic and industrial affairs, with myself opening for the Government and my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, the Lord Chancellor, concluding the debate. My Lords, I am afraid I have failed to emulate the noble Lord, Lord Byers, in the standard of brevity he always sets to us on these occasions, but there were a number of items which I thought I should cover on this occasion and on which your Lordships would like some information.

One final matter to which I should like to refer is the fact that yesterday, for the first time, the enlarged and improved dining room was brought into use, and am sure I am speaking for the whole House in thanking the Members of the Refreshment Committee and of the Arts Committee under their respective chairmen. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hood (our latter-day Pugin), have both put in an enormous amount of work and deserve our very warmest congratulations, as I think have the painstaking craftsmen who have carried out the very fine decorative work. The enlargement of the dining room has inevitably meant some disruption, I am afraid, of our normal services over the past two years, but I believe all noble Lords will find the new arrangements a great improvement. I am aware, as my predecessor was, that the expansion in our numbers has made it very difficult to cater properly for all noble Lords and, in particular, for their guests. With the new very splendid dining room we shall be enabled to look after our guests in the future in a more fitting manner.

My Lords, let me end as I began, by thanking my two noble friends on this side of the House, Lord Mansfield and Lord Hewlett, for two such notable speeches in moving and seconding the humble Address.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until to-morrow.