§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, this is the last day, I think, on which we shall be debating the gracious Speech and, although the agreement has been that we should confine ourselves largely to Home Affairs, I may perhaps at some stages cast my eye rather more widely over the debate as a whole. It began with an opener and a seconder who made highly acceptable speeches which were justly praised by the House. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in particular, made a tour de force of brilliant improvisation which we all appreciated. And during the debate on foreign affairs my noble friend Lord Avon made a rare but I thought masterly intervention; and, if I may offer a mild word of complaint, I was a little sorry that what I thought was really a remarkable speech of worldwide importance received so little publicity after it had been delivered. I thought it deserved a very much wider audience than it received.
My first task, and a most agreeable one, is to welcome the debut of the noble and learned Lord who now occupies the Woolsack, and to congratulate him, not merely on his appointment as Lord Chancellor but upon his maiden speech as a Peer of Parliament in this House. The noble and learned Lord and I belong to a profession where personal friendships transcend political differences and forensic opposition. He and I have long been known to one another in the courts and in the somewhat more turbulent atmosphere of another place. It is therefore not at all difficult for me to welcome him here and to wish him well in his appointment. I should also like to thank him for the generous words with which he began his speech, not only on my own behalf—and he was most generous to me—but on behalf of the other members of the select club of ex-Lord Chancellors who sit in various parts of this House and take part in its debates from time to time. I hope we shall continue to remain, if not exactly lions under the Throne, at any rate hidden wigs behind the Lord 401 Chancellor to give him moral support. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will find no skeletons jangling in the cupboards of his office, nor even in his official residence above it; and he will find that the Woolsack was re-stuffed, last summer, at my urgent request. He need fear no interference on my part, but if there are any ways in which I can help him, either openly in this House or behind the scenes, he knows that he has only to call upon me and I shall be available.
In his office he will find a talented and co-operative staff, to whom perhaps I may be allowed to express my own thanks for what they did for me during nearly four years. I need not tell the noble and learned Lord, but I do tell the House, that the Bench and Bar and the solicitors' profession are always friendly and helpful to the Lord Chancellor, and I can only wish the noble and learned Lord the same job satisfaction—if I may call it that—as I felt in nearly four years when I was discharging, as best I might, the exacting duties of one of the most ancient Offices in the land.
On this subject I recall with pleasure the fact that the gracious Speech contains a reference to continuing law reform. I remind the House and the noble and learned Lord that in order to achieve the even flow of law reforms in Parliamentary institutions, where the obtaining of Parliamentary time is not always as easy as people outside seem to think, I myself made use of private Members in both Houses of Parliament in the production and introduction of Bills in which the Lord Chancellor's Office took interest. In particular I made use of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and I should like to tell the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that he has now two predecessors, both available—and I am one of them—and that I shall be very glad to help in introducing Private Members' legislation of a non-Party kind.
I should also like to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, who I believe is to answer this debate. He and I are twins: we were born on the same day of the same year—October 9, 1907—a vintage day! If anybody wants to disprove the pseudo-science of astrology let him look at the noble Lord and look at me and realise that we have 402 here two persons born under the sign of Libra who bear not the slightest resemblance to one another.
If I may return to the very acceptable maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, I myself was delighted at its non-doctrinaire tone. The social reforms which he recommented, though they are not precisely those which are given most prominence in the gracious Speech, are I think in principle acceptable to us. Certainly I would wish to commend any reforms designed to reduce the squalor of inadequate or bad housing, to which he drew attention at the beginning, and I was hoping, had things gone differently, to introduce measures relating to legal aid and advice which in many ways bore a strong family resemblance to those which he outlined this afternoon. However, I am sure he will forgive me if I make one or two comments upon what he said.
The problem of legal aid and advice is beset by two shortages of quite a different character. The first is the shortage of money, which makes the subject unpropitious in moments of economic difficulty, which perhaps we may infer—I hope we may, speaking professionally for a moment—that the noble and learned Lord will be able to overcome in his battles with certain of his colleagues. But the other and more difficult shortage, which cannot be overcome, is the shortage of manpower. Both professions, the Bar and solicitors, are considerably undermanned, and whatever may be true about the noble and learned Lord's remarks concerning the future training of barristers and solicitors, they are not found fully armed under gooseberry bushes. It takes time to mature a lawyer, and therefore this shortage cannot be overcome in the short run; so a careful use of trained manpower must be at the heart of this particular problem.
Quite clearly, the next phase in the development of the legal services must be the provision of some kind of law centre. In that I agree with the noble and learned Lord. The statutory framework for it already exists in Part II of the Act which we passed in the last Session but one of the last Parliament, and it was my hope—indeed, it was my confident belief—that I should have been able during what is now this Parliament to have implemented 403 Part II of that Act. This is an instrument which lies to hand and in my opinion it ought to be used, and used as quickly as financial resources permit. It is of course true that there are a number of private enterprise activities going on in different parts of the country. They have their merits, which the noble and learned Lord developed; they also have their dangers. There was one, principally supported by a local authority whose enthusiastic members allowed the word "bastard" to be attached to the principal member of the council which was supporting them. This led to a certain diminution of enthusiasm among those who were financially responsible for its activities. There is also a lack of uniformity which makes the expenditure of public money a rather difficult matter for the Lord Chancellor's Department. In fact nothing can substitute the gradual development of a uniform service through local authorities and through Part II of the Act, however that may be further developed in the longer run.
The third thing I should like to say to him about legal services is this: do not be too taken in by enthusiastic lawyers. The fact is that the need for advice for the citizen is not limited to legal advice, and by far the most urgent problem—at least in my opinion—is not one with which the Lord Chancellor's Office can deal by itself. To a great extent the citizen comes in trouble and the first problem is to identify his real trouble, because being inarticulate he often cannot identify the real problem himself. It may be that a knowledge of administrative practice in a local authority or of ministerial practice in Westminster will do him more good than advice from a solicitor. All over the country there are citizens' advice bureaux and it is vital, if the legal services, or indeed the services of advice are to be improved radically for the citizen, that these should be "thickened up" at least in step with, if not occasionally in priority to, the purely legal services serviced by the legal profession. There is a temptation on the part of the legal profession to think that they, and only they, can tender what is needed. This is a mistake.
The last thing I should like to say on the subject of legal services is this: 404 sooner or later one has to face the philosophy of the Legal Aid Act 1949 itself because now, more than 20 years later, the Legal Aid Act has been bumping along, roughly speaking, at the bottom, that is to say on the supplementary benefit level. In order to get totally free legal aid or legal advice you really have to be entitled to supplementary benefit. With the average male wage in this country running at about £35 a week it means that only a very limited segment of the community can get it free, and indeed since the partial grant of aid depends upon the bottom level, even those who can get partial aid represent a very limited section of the community. Both the capital limits and the income limits, although they are perfectly realistic if you assume the thing will go on bumping along the bottom for the rest of time, and are perfectly reasonable, leave probably the great majority of the community totally unprotected. In the end you have to re-think your basic philosophy and see whether a larger segment of the community cannot be entitled to some part of the assisted legal aid. When you reflect on the cost of a High Court action (any one person in this Chamber could have a High Court action on his hands to-morrow if he were run over in the street and damaged) and its inaccessibility to middle-class people and even to higher weekly wage earners, one realises the inadequacies are not only those which the noble and learned Lord told us about in his admirable speech. Having said that, I would not wish to qualify in any way what I have already said about the acceptable nature of his speech and of the universal welcome he will receive from lawyers and every Member of this House.
This has extended my time more than I intended, I am afraid, so my remaining remarks must be rather more truncated. But I want to say, even at the expense of taking up more of your Lordships' time, a little about the extraordinary Constitutional situation and the extraordinary Constitutional difficulties with which this Parliament has to contend, however long or short a period it lasts. These are difficulties which revolve principally round the constitution of another place, but they will reflect themselves in this House, and indeed, it may be that 405 this House has a notable role to play in the kind of constitutional situation with which we are confronted.
Let us not confuse ourselves or any other people by trying to read any mystical sense into the decision of the electorate. Indeed, as one commentator rightly pointed out in this context, there is no such thing as an electorate. What happened was that a little less than 12 million electors on a given electoral system voted for a Conservative Government with a strong Conservative majority. Something under 300,000 voters fewer voted for a Labour Government, also presumably with an equally strong majority. Six million electors voted for a Liberal Government; whether they wanted to take power, as the Liberal poster said, or to hold the balance, I do not rightly know. But nobody got what they wanted. Quite clearly not one single person, got what he wanted, who did not spoil his paper.
The fact is that we asked for a verdict, and what we got was what the Americans call "a hung jury". Whereas in the courts when a hung jury "occurs one orders a new trial before a fresh jury, in politics a fresh jury is not available and in any event, although a new trial will sooner or later take place, it cannot conveniently do so at once. That means in the meantime—and we do do not know how long the meantime will be—we have to live and work together. It is our duty, remembering that our first duty is to the country and to the House of Parliament of which we are Members rather than the immediate interests of our own Party or our own Party's Manifesto, which we all loved so dearly and which none of us will be able to carry out at all in full.
I would just venture to say this to the Front Bench opposite even though it is rather meagrely attended at the moment: that in the end the Government and not the Opposition bear the main responsibility for seeing that Parliament is not provoked unnecessarily. In that context I would rather deprecate the kind of bullying speech that came from the present Prime Minister at High Wycombe last week. He must get used to the fact that it is quite ordinary for Oppositions to offend Governments. Indeed, our institutions could hardly persist long if that 406 were not so. It is quite common for the Opposition to put down Amendments, to vote on them, and in cases where Governments have minorities, they must not go squealing to the Palace every time they are beaten on a Division. They must not, above all, seek to pre-empt the Royal Prerogative in either direction. In the minority situation which developed at the end of the Election, in my submission it really was quite right for my right honourable friend Mr. Heath to take time to consider his position, which was at least an unusual one. He has been criticised for doing so. In my view, it would have been extremely odd had he not done so. In any country with a Parliamentary system and Cabinet Government it would have happened. In many countries the process takes weeks rather than days. In our case it was done inside of a week and hardly a sound basis for a charge of clinging to office.
It was manifest from the first that if we could not make an arrangement with the Liberals, still sitting in the place they have occupied for so long below the gangway of the Opposition side of this House, which would have given the combination a larger number of seats than any other combination, although still not an absolute majority, Mr. Wilson would be summoned to the Palace and would have to do the best he could, since by that time he certainly had passed any other total of seats by three or four. This is what has happened. I am sorry that we could not make our marriage with the Liberals. I never thought we would succeed. I thought it was worth trying. Indeed, I think if we had not tried it, many of the voters who voted for our Party and many of the voters who voted for theirs would have felt we were failing in our duty, because it seemed to me there was a basis there for common policy. There was our commitment to Europe which is only doubtfully shared on the Benches opposite. There was our belief in a statutory incomes policy, and there was one opposition to nationalisation. But I offer no reproaches, knowing the difficulties that Party were in. Perhaps they understand the difficulties we were in, and we are therefore in the position we were before.
I know also there was a very great deal of feeling expressed from all sides of both Houses, and I think in the country as well, for what was called a grand 407 alliance or a National Unity Government, or a coalition of all Parties. But here I find myself in agreement with the Government. I regarded the suggestion, at least at this stage, as lacking in realism. Governments of national unity, even when there is a Duke of Omnium to lead them—if I may show myself to be as good a Trollopian as my noble friend showed himself in opening the debate—require a basic identity of policy to cement them. Whereas I did think there was enough to justify an arrangement between the Conservative and Liberal Parties, I felt confident that there was and remains no identity of policy sufficient to create a grand alliance at the present time.
It may be we all of us recognise the national need. We all of us recognise the situation created by the adverse trade balance of £4,000 million to which this country has been subjected by outside influences, but to identify a national need is not necessarily to prescribe the same remedy. Until there is a consensus of opinion about the nature of the remedy to be prescribed, I think it is more honourable for the Labour Party and us to carry on our dialogue across the Floor of both Houses, rather than to invent a kind of imaginary unity which in fact we do not possess.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord would forgive me, may I say that I do not think he is doing justice to the proposals discussed. These were proposals for a limited agreed programme for a definite period. It was not a question of having an identity of policy; it was a matter of trying to agree on what was needed in the national interest, and to get on with that.
§ LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE
What is needed in the national interest is to control inflation. That brings me to the exact policies which are outlined in the gracious Speech. I feel very great reservation about them. I should not myself have been prepared to agree them, and I think it is far better that one should express such disagreement in public.
I now mean to go on, in criticising sincerely some of the policies which I think are not policies with which I could have identified myself. I do not believe 408 the Speech contains the minimum proposals necessary to contain our present difficulties. I think it is inflationary in proposing great increases in public expenditure without countervailing economies. If I do not vote against it, it is because I believe that in the circumstances which I have outlined Mr. Wilson clearly has the constitutional right and the constitutional duty to form a Government according to his own liking, and, although I believe it is clear that he is under an obligation to govern in conformity with the general sense of Parliament as a whole, I think it would be dishonest of him not to govern in accordance with his belief of what is right instead of my belief of what is right. Nevertheless, I hope noble Lords opposite will not blame me if I say what I think is wrong. This is what Parliament is about.
I start on something which I think is much more to do with Home Affairs although technically it is in the international field, and that is our relationship with Europe. I think there is virtual identity of opinion in this country that in the Common Market there are very many features that need to be amended from time to time. There is a very great need for alteration and much that can be usefully improved. But in my view improvement and alteration require to be done item by item, and each item will require allies, sometimes different allies for different items. The worst way to set about it, I should have thought, is the way which is proposed in the Queen's Speech, which in the first phrase calls for a "fundamental renegotiation" and in the second phrase hints rather obscurely at a referendum or a General Election, though how either would be conducted or with what legal effects, or what our Common Market partners would be doing in the interim, is completely in doubt.
To my mind, this method has three fatal objections. In the first place, it ensures that we have no allies in what we seek to do at all. It will unite all the other eight members and the Commission against us. In the second place, it aims at putting too much into a single negotiation instead of proceeding step by step. In the third place—and I think this is the worst—it casts grave doubt on the credibility of Britain as a partner of honour not only in this Treaty but in any other treaty. If one British Government 409 can treat a solemn obligation entered into and ratified by Parliament as a scrap of paper to be "renegotiated fundamentally", and any subsequent British Government can do the same, there will in the end be nobody left in the world who can trust us at all. The phrase "renegotiation", in my judgment, is one which has been used far too much and too glibly in recent years. I was very sorry indeed to see that phrase put on the lips of Her Majesty by the present Government. "Renegotiation" is double-talk for repudiation of obligations. It means dishonour for this country. There is one other point. To my mind, the worst feature of the Common Market is its disarray, the disarray between the nine members. The policy of Britain should be to unite Europe, not to divide it, and the Queen's Speech is an apple of discord which sows another element of doubt and dissension among us.
Clearly, in the discussion of Home Affairs the economic situation which we discussed yesterday must dominate our policy. It is not so much what we want to do as what we can do in the economic situation. The total effect of the increase in prices of raw materials and oil, to the extent of £4,000 million a year in our adverse trade balance, if it stops there, is the test by which Government home policies must in the end be judged. Some part of that adverse balance may be met by borrowing, and, of course, there is no shame in borrowing in such a situation. But to borrow we must have friends, friends in Europe and elsewhere, and if we do borrow it does not alter the burden, it does not alter its incidence or its amount; it comes straight out of the standard of living of the British people. Borrowing only postpones the burden from this year to other years; it does not alter its character or its incidence. Yet the whole implication of the Queen's Speech, as I see it, is escapist and inflationary in character. There can be no shame in borrowing, but surely it is sadly improvident to use loans quite properly obtained simply on increases in current and recurrent expenditure, even on such laudable objects as increased pensions.
It is notable, of course, that each Labour Government as it was formed has done exactly the same thing. It has been faced with a difficult economic 410 problem. The Attlee Government of 1945 was faced with the situation after the war and it negotiated the American loan, and nobody complained that it should do so. Any blame for the terms of that loan rest not on ourselves but on our Allies. The 1964 Government negotiated, I think, about £3,000 million worth of borrowing, and again no one complains that they should borrow. If the money were being used to re-equip industry, if it were being used to finance projects which would increase our own earning capacity, I would myself welcome the borrowing. But it seems always to be spent on current policies which may prove rather popular in the short run because they satisfy desires and aspirations which are shared widely outside the Labour Party. This is what I believe the Queen's Speech means in plain, blunt, ugly fact at the present time.
The miners' settlement, of course, has committed us to another £100 million of recurrent expenditure. After the Relativities Report it was, of course, apparent that an increased payment of this order of magnitude would be undertaken by a Government of any complexion. But the only way in which to prevent further and leapfrogging claims would have been to do it on the basis of the Relativities Report with whatever adjustments were necessary to secure a settlement. That, at least, would have given a reason of principle for resisting other claims of the same sort. But, despite the recent disclaimer from the Secretary of State, the Relativities Report has in fact been thrown into the wastepaper basket. This is particularly sad in the present context. Whatever may have been the merits of the miners' claim—and I think on all sides of this House, and probably on all sides in another place, the distasteful and difficult nature of the miners' work has been universally recognised—it was not the merits which won the day; it was strike action which won the day, industrial action which won the day, and it was aimed directly at the life of the community coupled with political support from the Labour Party. It is unrealistic not to recognise this fact.
Since 1968 or 1969 it has been apparent that strike action or industrial action has paid dividends, and it seems to have paid greater dividends when it was directed not against the management of 411 private undertakings, or even against the management of nationalised undertakings, but aimed at the community at large, and assisted by secondary action by pickets designed not to prevent a resumption of work, or the production of the commodity produced in the industry and subject of the strike, but to accentuate the hardship on the community caused by the primary stoppage. Militancy has thus become part of the gospel of industrial relations, and on present policies the target of militancy is not the employer but the harmless and innocent members of the public.
This Queen's Speech is not merely neutral on this point. It proposes actually to weaken the law on picketing and to repeal the Industrial Relations Act without specifying what is going to be put in its place. It is silent on the future of the statutory incomes policy pending a voluntary system, although I accept that to some extent the gap has now been filled. In the light of recent events, what is proposed will disrupt even a voluntary system of wage bargaining, since from now onwards no bargains made, even as to procedure, need to be kept. Moreover, experience has shown that even a voluntary system tends to break down when it is applied to the giant monopolies created by nationalisation, at least unless the power of the market is restored by ruthless deflation leading sometimes, and I fear even in this case, in the end to massive unemployment. No doubt everybody, including myself, will heave a sigh of relief at the termination of the emergency and the resumption of full-time working. That is something about which we can all be happy. No doubt our ancestors heard a similar sigh of relief as the Danes went away with the Danegeld in their pockets. But how many other ships are queueing up outside the harbour? And when will this boatload come back with fresh demands?
The Election has settled nothing, because the problem is one of the use of industrial power for obtaining sectional advantages, and Her Majesty's present advisers do not seem to have recognised that there is even a problem to solve. Food subsidies are not deflationary. They do not reduce the cost of food only to those who need to be assisted; they reduce the cost of food to the consumers 412 and transfer it to the taxpayer, while encouraging consumer demand. It is idle to think in this connection that the taxpayer means the rich, since it is well known that the money is simply not there, and in any event that money is already committed many times over. The same is true of the rent freeze. The same is true of other types of subsidy, and subsidies can be extremely expensive. We are already subsidising milk under our own policy to the tune of £260 million a year. Every penny of the subsidy on the loaf will cost another £38 million; and how many hundred millions of pounds it will cost to reduce the retail price index by at least as much as 5 per cent. I do not know.
Turning to housing, to which the noble and learned Lord referred, my own conviction is that the clue consists not so much in reducing rents to those who are already in a position to pay, but in the increased availability of fresh accommodation. Yet in my view, at any rate, the only specific recommendations in the Queen's Speech would obviously restrict the availability of accommodation, and promise rent reductions to those with every ability to pay.
I must say one word about the introduction of the phrase the "redistribution of wealth". This does nothing to reassure me. Obviously all measures of social reform tend as their effect to redistribute wealth, and when this is done on a current assessment of priorities and a proper assessment of human needs no one, I suppose, will complain. But to assert redistribution as an end or principle in itself is not the recipe it is claimed to be for national unity. It is a specific prescription for social disintegration. I remember long before the war hearing an expert on French affairs describe the disintegration which was then sapping the morale of the Third Republic. A nation is not exactly divided into rich and poor, into the old "two nations" of Disraeli's novel; it is a continuous spectrum of possessors of infinitely variable needs and infinitely variable means. If one party starts by defining the rich as consisting of persons possessing capital or income just above a given level, another group within the same party, or another party, can just as soon lower the level and thus put at risk another band of human 413 beings in their own country. This is not a specific for unity but one for levelling down, and a direct encouragement to class warfare of a progressive kind leading to a general feeling of insecurity throughout society.
I must express my personal opposition to the compulsory and progressive comprehensivisation of secondary education for doctrinal reasons. These big schools are not in fact the best social unit for obtaining the best out of children or giving them the best training for life that we have to offer. The present problems of discipline and scholarship have not been solved, and in my opinion are incapable of solution along these lines, and occassionally a tragedy, like that which recently happened to a teenage girl, illustrates only too plainly the dangers of bullying and violence which these unproven units of education can show. Nor can a school (as is commonly asserted), based on a neighbourhood alone, improve the social mix of the pupils. This can only be done by smaller schools based on common educational interests and common educational needs.
I recognise, of course, and I would be the first to admit, that the Queen's Speech omits many of the more controversial proposals in the Labour Party's manifesto. But the tendencies are there to be seen. The proposals have not been abandoned, they have only been postponed for a better Parliamentary opportunity. There is no virtue in praising a speech for moderation when in truth and in fact what is proposed is nothing better than an instalment of an extremist policy. This is an inflationary Queen's Speech when a deflationary policy was called for. It is a divisive Queen's Speech when policies of national unity are called for, for I believe that the social tendencies in the speech are in fact divisive. I do not have confidence, with all respect to noble Lords opposite, in the political composition of Her Majesty's present advisers. Although I shall do my best, having said these harsh words about what they propose, to live with them in Christian charity and amicability, and certainly would hope that no vote proceeds upon the humble Address, I should like them not to mistake the extreme restraint I show in action for an agreement with what they propose to do.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT THURSO
My Lords, I am sure that you can imagine what a daunting prospect it was to me to find this morning that I had to follow two Lord Chancellors—one the present Lord Chancellor, and the other his immediate predecessor in Office. I am, however, comforted by the signal honour it is for me to be able to congratulate the noble and learned Lord, the present Lord Chancellor on a most humane and just speech from the Woolsack. I was particularly entranced by his commitment to social justice and by his concern for children, and these are indeed two of the features of this part of the gracious Speech which I most readily and easily welcome. We are glad that there is a warm heart sitting on the Woolsack to see these measures through. I was also pleased with his promise that, in regard to the Constitution, it will be the purpose of Her Majesty's Government to produce action. But I will come back later to this point.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, began like a disappointed suitor. He seemed to be looking at us and saying, "Why did you on those Benches not choose us as your partners?" Well, my Lords, he might think to himself that perhaps the bride, or bridegroom (whichever it was), was (a) not pretty enough, and (b) not bringing a good enough dowry to the marriage. He said in his remarks that no one at the last Election got what they wanted. I would submit to your Lordships' House that those who voted for sitting Liberal candidates certainly got what they wanted, and they showed that they knew they were getting what they wanted by the increased majorities which they gave the candidates. I would also say to your Lordships that the country as a whole, in my submission, and as I hear people talking in all walks of life, is quite pleased to see us in your Lordships' House, and the people in the other place, having to think rather hard about how we organise ourselves, and how we propose, bring forward and pass legislation. They think that it is no bad thing that we should sweat, and in that I tend to agree with them. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, said that a Government of national unity is not possible. But I think he will get a Government, or a policy, of national consensus so long as 415 we have a minority Party in power and, again, I submit that that is no bad thing for the country.
§ LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Viscount, but I did not say that it is not possible. I said that it is not at this juncture, at this stage, possible.
§ VISCOUNT THURSO
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for his correction.
If I may now turn to those paragraphs of the gracious Speech which deal with home affairs and the law, certain of the proposals can be quickly, warmly and wholeheartedly welcomed by most noble Lords, especially by those who sit upon the Liberal Benches. Specifically, I refer to the proposals to reform the law of adoption, to review the needs of handicapped children, to abolish museum charges and to secure equal status for women—a subject which has been so eloquently fought for in the past by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. It is therefore with sincere pleasure that I welcome the intention to implement these liberal measures, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not delay their intentions with regard to them.
As I am the first of the unlearned Lords to rise in your Lordships' House to-day, I do not propose to go into great detail about those parts of the gracious Speech which deal with the law. Although I had a great-grandfather who is reputed to have said that he was resolved to uphold his reputation as a determined and resourceful litigant, I do not intend to follow in his footsteps. One paragraph in the gracious Speech which I have found it harder to welcome so unreservedly is the one which refers to the Royal Commission on the Constitution. Had that paragraph read,My Ministers will bring forward proposals to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Constitution",I could have welcomed it with open arms, along with all the noble Lords on these Benches and 80 per cent. of the electorate in Scotland and Wales; but as it reads I fear it. I fear it even after taking the trouble last night to sit in the Gallery 416 of another place and hearing at firsthand what was being said by other people on the subject. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of KINGSBRIDGE, will be able finally to put my fears at rest, and to assure us that what is meant is a recipe for action and not, as I fear, a prescription for delay.
I had feared that Her Majesty's Government hoped to throw the whole question of Scottish and Welsh self-government open to discussion again to divert the people of Scotland and Wales from their purpose. I had read the wording of the paragraph in the gracious Speech as a deep-felt wish that the people's drive towards political self-expression might become dissipated in a morass of technical argument, and it is on this point that I should particularly like reassurance later in the debate. What need is there to go over all the ground again? Surely all that needs to be said has been said. Surely no one can deny that Wales and Scotland are recognisable nations. Nor can it be denied that for generations now their peoples have been demanding that first and principal right of all free peoples: political control over their own domestic affairs. All political Parties which are recognised within their boundaries have, to a greater or lesser extent, acknowledged this fact. The Labour Party at one time advocated Home Rule and are coming round to the idea again. The Conservative Party had a policy for Home Rule when out of office, but suffered from amnesia "at a stroke" upon winning the 1970 Election. The Liberal Party have always believed in Home Rule and would themselves have brought it in had they been able to remain in power long enough to bring in a Bill. Since then, although not in office, the Party have brought forward various Private Members' Bills for referenda and for devolution in Scotland. Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalist Party believe in nothing else. But, most important of all, the electors of both Wales and Scotland believe that what would be good for them and for their children, and for their happiness and prosperity, is Home Rule, Kilbrandon style, now; and they have demonstrated this belief clearly and unequivocally at the polls.
Even your Lordships' House did not spring into being whole, functioning and 417 immutable, like some fully armed Pallas Athene from the aching brow of Zeus. Every political institution is a living thing and has to go through the sequence of conception, birth and infancy on its way to maturity. So it will have to be with Scotland's Parliament. But prolonging the gestation period will not make the birth pangs any easier—indeed, rather the reverse—and we must remember that not until it is born can the Parliament of Scotland or Wales proceed through its infancy towards maturity. The important thing is to get these Parliaments set up. Then we can see how to develop them properly. I therefore urge Her Majesty's Government not merely to initiate discussions, but to enter into a definite commitment, conclude the discussions quickly, and immediately bring forward proposals for action.
At this point I must pause to consider the man who is to be charged with much of the responsibility for guiding the Government in this respect—the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt. May I offer him my sincere congratulations on his appointment as Constitutional Adviser to the Government, tinged with a certain sympathy at the awesome magnitude of the task which he undertakes? His ability is obvious, and he puts his sincerity beyond doubt both by his words and by his deeds. My hope—and I say this in a spirit of kindness towards him—is that he will not prove to be too close to his subject. I hope that his great technical knowledge will not prevent him from recommending to Her Majesty's Government quick and straightforward action. I am, however, horrified to learn that his cruel colleagues have cut out his tongue by turning him into a civil servant and forbidding him to speak. I hope that as the anaesthesia of the pleasure of receiving an appointment wears off, the pain of the wound will not grow unbearable. I hope, too, that in time the operation will prove to be reversible.
When we debated the Report of the Royal Commission in your Lordships' House last December I was greatly impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, and agreed wholeheartedly with the three objectives which he set for those seeking constitutional reform. I agree with him that England may well require some devolution within 418 herself and that its desirability should be examined. But I say to Her Majesty's Government that this need not, should not and must not delay the granting of constitutional reform to Scotland and Wales, where the desirability is undeniable, where the territory involved is already named and drawn on the map, and when the method of carrying out the devolution has already been the subject of a broad area of agreement between Parties, and indeed has been the subject of a Royal Commission. When we both spoke in the debate last December, I was guilty of failing to answer a question put by the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, as fully as I should have done. I plead that at that time I had already taken up much of your Lordships' time at a late stage of the debate and I felt that it was wrong to take up too much time by going into too much detail. I hasten now to repair my omission and will try to explain to your Lordships how, in my view, sovereignty can be devolved at the same time as it is shared in an upward direction.
In my view sovereignty can be split. It is like a spectrum and it can be split vertically. Let us take as a first example the sovereignty over things spiritual and that over things temporal. It is perfectly possible to have a situation where sovereignty over both these areas of human experience is held by one unified governing body, which either allows no religious activity within its domain or which forces its own chosen kind of religious activity upon everyone within it dominion. This is what one finds in totalitarian States and one-Party States. Equally, one can have a situation where sovereignty over religious matters is neither sought nor accepted by the temporal sovereign body—which is, broadly speaking, the case in democratic countries.
My other example is that of a son in a family business. The father, the senior partner, exercises sovereignty over the son's activities within the firm, even to the extent of having the power to merge with other similar or large businesses. But at no stage does he have power to control the domestic or religious life of his son. I therefore contend that it is perfectly possible to split sovereignty and to move some of it upwards and outwards and other of it downwards and inwards. I also contend that this may 419 be desirable, and indeed is desirable, in the specific case of Scotland and Wales.
My Lords, in the same debate I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, to expand upon my ideas for curbing the power of the central Executive. I answered him then to the effect that in my view the power of central Government grows particularly under a two-Party system. I submit that what is important is to keep the Parliamentary representative beholden to his electors rather than to his Party bosses or to the Government which dangles before him the carrot of office. What is wanted is a Government, not so much strong in the voting Lobby, as strong in its communication with the hearts and minds of the people. What is wanted is a truly representative Parliament so that it can give this kind of strength to whatever Government it keeps in power.
The members of the Kilbrandon Commission saw the importance of this and recommended proportional representation in the election of members to Scottish or Welsh Parliaments in order to achieve it. P.R. may well be vital in getting these new Parliaments off to the right start with the right sensitive lines of communication with the electorate. Reorganisation of local government has, in the view of many, failed before it has started. There is a widespread feeling in Scotland that we have been sold into perpetual bondage under St. Andrew's House. This sort of reaction, or situation if it be true as some think, must be avoided at all costs in granting devolution of a real sort to Scotland or Wales. Therefore new Parliaments in these countries should be given their own sources of revenue, and oil may well provide a painless source from which these revenues may flow. But they must have legislative and not merely executive powers. Therefore I say, and we say from these Benches, that however good, however liberal or however desirable are many of the measures which this Government intend to bring before us in this Parliament, there is not one of them which would not be made even better for Welshmen or Scotsmen by having been passed on the Floor of a Parliament in Cardiff or in Edinburgh. Certainly in Scotland one would then be sure that they would tie in properly with the existing law of the land and in Wales one would have the satisfaction of knowing that 420 they accorded with the culture and the lifestyle of the Principality.
I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, comes to wind up he will be able to assure us that discussions will only be about the means of granting home rule to Scotland and to Wales and not about whether they should get it. I hope, too, that he will be able to give us a time-scale for action designed to bring results in the lifetime of this Parliament.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, as the only woman speaking in this debate, I feel that I shall not be taken to task for congratulating the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on his outstanding maiden speech. I thought it was notable for the fact that he dealt with the deprived family. If he were here I would develop that point, but having congratulated him I will go on to my own speech.
I am quite sure that to-day I am not the only one in this House who thinks that the most important aspect of 'the problems which beset the country to-day are those concerned with industrial relations—and these must be associated, of course, with inflation. The increase in pay, which the former noble and learned Lord Chancellor was talking about just now, can be only one ingredient necessary to the betterment of the relationship between management and workers.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories which, in my opinion, provides one important key to good industrial relations. It tells us that accident rates are low in companies where managers at the highest level have accepted their responsibility and have managed to involve the labour force in the whole concept of safe and healthy working. According to the report these companies appear also to achieve very high standards of co-operation in other spheres. Surely, my Lords, after we have said all this in all these debates, what we are all striving for is co-operation. We have now moved into an era where all employers of labour must take into account factors which do not appear in black and white in the balance sheet. I believe that the success of planning in any industry depends on the continuous refreshment of existing ideas and concepts and the most important is the close 421 attention to the legitimate needs of workers.
In listening to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, for whom I have always had great respect, I was rather disappointed—and a kiss does not make up for what he said!—that he was too apt to condemn the poor, even as he talked about the big schools being built for the working-class child. I wanted to interrupt to ask him how many boys were at Eton.
§ LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, if the noble Baroness will give me a chance to say it. Eton is composed of Houses of about 40 each.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
I realise that it is a great mistake to tempt the noble and learned Lord to make another speech. I understand that Eton may have 40 Houses, but they have one Head. While it seems to be an anachronism in a mechanised age, nevertheless it is necessary to use a comparatively frail and expendable human being to direct the machine. That being so, in my opinion it is an affront to the dignity of the individual to compel him to work in conditions which have killed millions in the past few centuries, when he knows that the occupational hazards which he confronts are preventable, but because their removal would cost money the management ignores the dangers to which the worker is exposed.
While we lost 13 million working days from strikes in 1970–71, we lost 19 million from work accidents and 314 million from certified sickness. If I had had the time I should have liked to comment on certain aspects of the preventable diseases and injuries associated with various industries, but I think it is appropriate to-day, particularly in view of what the noble and learned Lord has just said, to confine my remarks to the mining industry, which will always remain associated with the General Election of 1974. I hope that the noble and learned Lord who made these (in my opinion) wild statements about the miners will consider what I have to say.
It does not surprise me a bit that despite the increase in pay to the miners there is a prevailing dissatisfaction among them. In 1968 the Minister of Social Security asked the Industrial Injuries 422 Advisory Council to consider whether any change should be made in the definition of pneumoconiosis, and whether, in assessing disablement, provision should be made for other respiratory conditions found in the presence of pneumoconiosis. The Council has now issued a report which gives the definition of pneumoconiosis as,the permanent alteration of lung structure due to the inhalation of mineral dust, and the tissue reactions of the lung to its presence";but it does not include bronchitis or emphysema. Furthermore, it says that abnormality of the lung need not necessarily entail disability. The report recommends that a diagnosis of pneumoconiosis should not in itself entitle to benefit.
Surely, my Lords, that is unjust. That means that it will be necessary, in cases where a radiological diagnosis of pneumoconiosis has been made, to show functional impairment before the patient becomes eligible for benefit. I am not using complicated medical terminology. It must be clear to everyone that this is manifestly unjust. No change has been recommended in the requirement that a claimant for benefit must have been employed for a minimum period of ten years in processes involving exposure to raw cotton and to flax dust. My Lords, think of it! The noble and learned Lord jeers at the workers—because that is how I interpret his speech—
§ LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Baroness, she must not accuse me of jeering at the workers when I did no such thing. I may have jeered at the Government and they may be working, but I did not jeer at the workers.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord—and I have felt this often about him—does not seem to realise the impact of some of his words, expressed in a jocular manner. I think that when he comes to read in Hansard to-morrow what he has said about these men, he will realise that surely he went a little too far. Having said that, my Lords, I do not ask the House to take my word for these things or my criticisms of them. The British Medical Journal of March 9—the week before last—I found had devoted 423 space to what I believe must be regarded as this grave injustice to miners and other workers in a dust-laden atmosphere. The British Medical Journal stresses that the controversies aroused by these issues in many quarters have been exemplified by the Advisory Council itself, for four of its 18 members dissented from the views expressed in the report. May I again remind the House of those views? They were on the important question of whether the presence of pneumoconiosis should itself be an entitlement to disability; on the exclusion of bronchitis and emphysema from prescription; and on the 10 years' qualifying period for byssinosis. Yet, my Lords, very soon after publication of this report the last Government announced their intention to continue with the present arrangements for compensation for pneumoconiosis.
I come here to-day having decided to devote myself to this one point. I want to ask the present Government to reconsider this decision in the light of the summing-up of the British Medical Journal. It says:The persistence of the pneumoconiosis and allied disorders represents an important public health failure of the past and the efforts of all doctors in this field including those on the pneumoconiosis medical panels should be closely integrated if we are to remedy the failure in the future".My Lords, I thought that, after what I have said, the noble and learned Lord had left the Chamber, but he is now coming back. I was hoping the noble and learned Lord had left the Chamber because he was perhaps feeling a little ashamed of what he had said about the miners.
§ LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE
Not in the least ashamed, my Lords; but I thought the noble Baroness had left my speech and I had something else which I particularly wanted to do.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I am not so enamoured of my own voice and personality that I must go on and on and on. I keep my eye on the minutes, and I know precisely 424 the number of minutes that each Member is allowed in this House. I am glad that the noble and learned Lord has come back to listen to my last two minutes, but I hope I have not encouraged him to make another speech because there are many more speakers to come and I am considering their comfort. I would say that I have tried to simplify the whole issue so that nobody in this House can fail to recognise the grave injustice of it. With all this in mind I was astonished, during the Election, at the attack on the miners—miners who were working a normal week (that is often forgotten) and had only banned overtime. In my opinion, my Lords, it is immoral to compel a man to work overtime in conditions which may impair his chance of survival. During the Election I heard that there were people, Conservative Members, who were saying, "What is the miner doing? The man on the seas in the trawler is having just as bad a time". The man in the trawler, my Lords, is breathing clean air all the time.
I am making an appeal for this worker, this unique worker, who during the whole of his working life is inhaling material which must affect his expectation of life. Overtime, in my opinion, not only conceals an inadequate wage but is associated with ill-health and neglected homes and families—and I was very glad that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor discussed the neglected home and family to-day. The miner should only be expected to do a working week compatible with health and leisure, for health and happiness are not to be obtained at the hands of doctors only. My Lords, if there is still unrest in the mines the blame should lie at the door of those who are prepared to subject the miners to hours of work in conditions which no human being should be called upon to endure without the strictest supervision.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, I hope you will forgive me for speaking out of turn; but I have a train to catch, and my noble friend Lord Moyola has allowed me to take his place. I should have been speaking after the right reverend Prelate. I apologise to all noble Lords here, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, for the fact that I cannot stay to the end of this debate. I have county council meetings in the North of Scotland all 425 to-morrow so I have to get this evening's train.
My Lords, it seems evident to me—and it has been mentioned already to-night—that in some form or another there must be, to a greater or lesser degree, devolution of government to Scotland which is bound to cause duplication and muddle with the imminent local government reorganisation. Would Her Majesty's Government consider postponing the local government reform until the position becomes clearer? I am well aware that the Secretary of State for Scotland does not agree with this view, but as one who for a great many years has been intimately connected with local government in Scotland I believe that this suggestion makes sense. The Bill itself pleases few of us in Scotland. The original idea propounded by the noble Lord, Lord Wheatley, was that local government should become more democratic, but many of us see this Bill as it stands doing the exact opposite and making local government even more bureaucratic than it is at present. Of course this, indeed, may have been the intention of the Bill. I do not have to remind noble Lords that the chief architect of the Bill at that time was a senior civil servant in St. Andrew's House of whom in recent months we have heard a great deal. I refer of course to that unfortunate man, William George Pottinger. I would stress that this Bill is coming at the wrong time. It is going to cause great expense, great inconvenience and frightful muddle, and I would ask Her Majesty's Government to consider the possibility of holding this Bill over (I know that it is a very late hour to do that) until we know where we are going in the devolution, however that is thought out.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ THE LORD BISHOP OF ROCHESTER
My Lords, as I am the first speaker from these Benches in this debate upon the gracious Speech I should like to congratulate the Members of the Front Bench on their appointment and to wish them well in their service to this House and to the country, be it long or short. I am bound to say that I share the regret of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, that we no longer have in this House a Minister from the Department of the Environment, that giant among the giants, with its total of nine Ministers in another 426 place. We were all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and later to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for their service as Under-Secretary of State in that Department and for the help they gave us all on a wide range of subjects, so many of which are either non-political or bipartisan.
It is about one such subject that I venture to say something to-day—namely, the part the State should play, even in days of energy shortage and financial stringency, in the cause of conservation. Last summer the British Association met at Canterbury and in his presidential address Sir Kingsley Dunham spoke on the advancement of environmental science. In his speech he posed the question: "Can our species survive the next few hundred years?" And he made an urgent plea for the advancement of environmental science to the point where we have convincing data to work with. He suggested that at the present time there is a polarisation of views on the deleterious effects on the environment of many of man's activities. Some maintain that pollution is a nuisance which at present inconveniences parts of society but which can be cured by political action such as the Clean Air Act or the cleaning up of the River Thames. Others, however, see in pollution what the noble Lord, Lord Ashby, has described asa nemesis threatening the future of … irreversibly damaging and depleting the environment".There are those who believe that the present energy crisis has shown up a new form of doom—namely, that if the Third World were to catch up with the energy consumption standards, even the present-day standards, of the advanced nations, the atmosphere and the seas might heat up until they became dangerous to life. Few of us have probably contemplated this form of doom and perhaps we find it difficult to take seriously. But it surely must demand the attention and concern of all civilised nations, including our own, for it would seem that quite suddenly we see three areas of concern converging together: our concern for the future of the human race; our concern for our fellow men less fortunate than ourselves, and our concern for our own pockets here and now. Perhaps this means that we must seek out modes of life that are economical in energy and must no longer be content to allow our judgment of what 427 we are pleased to call "civilisation" to be reckoned by the consumption of kilowatts.
Sir Kingsley Dunham's presidential address to the British Association was delivered in Canterbury Cathedral. Cathedrals are not the most efficient of buildings and they take a lot of fuel to heat in winter: yet what a contribution to civilisation that great building at Canterbury has made in a thousand years for a minimum of kilowatts! This is true in varying degrees of many other fine old buildings in all parts of our country; for architecture, unlike consumer goods, is particularly well suited to express the spirit of man in enduring form.
Noble Lords will remember that in the last Session of Parliament we had a debate in this House, introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, on historic towns and villages. It was, I thought, a notable debate in which speakers of all Parties and of none spoke with feeling of the pride we should have in our historic buildings and the care we should encourage those in local government and in industry to have about their maintenance. Since then we have run full tilt into the energy crisis and, if nothing else, this gives another reason for conserving our heritage, because conservation consumes less energy than demolition and new construction. Alongside this I believe that a society which has its priorities right will wish to foster a revival of real craftsmanship. For this, too, represents a maximum of achievement, of significant civilised action, and again for a minimum of kilowatts.
Many of your Lordships will know that 1975 has been designated European Architectural Heritage Year. Speaking from this non-Party Bench I know that it is probably unwise to look as far ahead as 1975, but the wide variety of matters included in the Queen's Speech suggests that Her Majesty's Government are not hesitating to do so—although perhaps the gracious Speech is a little thin when it comes to questions of conservation and our national heritage. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, when he replies, will tell us that it is the Government's intention to continue a policy of conservation; to allow the work of listing buildings, designnating 428 historic towns and encouraging the creation of conservation areas to go on uninterrupted, and that notwithstanding the present restrictions funds will continue to be found for essential conservation work. This would be a welcome assurance that, even amid our economic difficulties, the Government see the essential, irreplaceable nature of our heritage.
In conclusion, I hope that I shall not be thought importunate if I remind the Government that the largest group of buildings of historic merit, including some of the very finest buildings in England, still receive no help from the State. I refer, of course, to our cathedrals and to our parish churches that are in use. In 1970 we were very near agreement with the Government then in power and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was extremely helpful in considering ways and means by which churches of all denominations might possibly be helped to maintain their historic buildings. During the last Parliament we made considerable progress in our negotiations with the Department of the Environment. Those who are now responsible for that Department will find that we have done a considerable amount of homework since they were last in Office, and that the Department has now been provided with all the facts and figures needed for a decision.
This would appear, therefore, to be a bi-partisan matter, and although I realise that in the present circumstances it cannot be given a first priority, I hope very much that under the leadership of the present Administration, the situation will have improved sufficiently by 1975 for an announcement to be made that would coincide with the European Architectural Heritage year. If sacrifices are to be asked of us all in order to make the future secure for ourselves and for our children, I believe that there are many who will make such sacrifices the more readily if they know that on the one hand the Government are committed to continuing help to the under-privileged and under-developed countries, and if on the other hand they are ready to allocate sufficient funds to ensure that the work of conservation of our historic towns and buildings goes on, so that this country will be able to contribute from its own heritage of splendid buildings, sacred and secular, to the heritage of Europe and 429 to the maintenance of our common civilisation.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD MOYOLA
My Lords, as one who lives his entire life in Northern Ireland I hope I may be forgiven if I take this opportunity to make a few reflections on the scene as I see it. I should like to start by offering to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, a very warm welcome and my congratulations to him on his appointment to the Northern Ireland Office. I only hope for his sake that the problems will not prove as intractable as perhaps they may appear at this moment.
I should like to say a few words about the Sunningdale Agreement. The trouble with the Sunningdale Agreement has been that things moved too fast. The Agreement went forward at a very great pace after the forming of the power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland, and of course what is probably not realised in this country is what a major step the achievement of that power-sharing Government was in Ulster eyes. I am not going to dwell on the different viewpoints, but something totally new to the people of Ulster has in fact been established and until it has been seen to work and to have got some achievements to its credit, it is bound to be viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. In fact, it needed a honeymoon period which unfortunately did not happen. Before the new set-up could be digested in Northern Ireland the Sunningdale Agreement was upon us and the Executive got no time to put any achievements under its belt or to gain the confidence of the people and show that it was not the dangerous thing that many people suspected. In my view, it is from the speed with which all this took place that many of our present political problems stem.
As proposed, to rational people the Council of Ireland—which of course is part of the Sunningdale Agreement—should not be in any way alarming—certainly it is in no way alarming to me. The difficulty and trouble about it has been that everyone puts their own political gloss upon it. That is what causes the trouble. For their own political reasons some of the loyalist leaders have sold it as a first step to a united Ireland, despite the fact that, as I understand it, all decisions of that body, if it meets, 430 must be unanimous, which is in effect giving an individual a power of veto. On the other side of the coin, the S.D.L.P. have sold it as a step towards unification of the whole of Ireland, again despite the fact that there is this individual veto. In plain fact, certainly to me at this point in time and without some of the other commitments being fulfilled, it does not seem to me that it is any great advance on the co-operation across the Border which existed in the days of the old Stormont Government. It is not so "hole in corner"; it makes it a more open affair, something that everybody can see, which is a good thing. In abstract terms of course it was a slap in the eye to the terrorists who did not want, and did not believe that you could get, the two communities together in a Government of this kind, nor did they believe that you could get the two parts of Ireland round a conference table as one day Sunningdale may perhaps do.
But to go back to the political doctrines which are being preached, these, unfortunately, have done a great deal to alarm the Protestant population who so far feel that they have got nothing in return. They have also in fact in a strange way given considerable encouragement to the I.R.A. because they like extremists to be in control. That may seem to be a strange quirk, but the plain fact is that if the extreme views of the Protestant side prevail, the Catholic population is naturally more inclined to look to the I.R.A. for support because they think that danger threatens. Because of the Election, I have no doubt that the terrorists have gained support for these reasons; certainly in the light of events it would seem so.
In my mind there are two things which must be done if the Sunningdale Agreement is ever to make any progress. They are absolutely fundamental. First, action must be taken within the Republic against the terrorists who operate from there into Northern Ireland; secondly there must be extradition to the North of those people who are accused of murders, bombings, and all the rest of it. I am on record in your Lordships' House as saying that a Council of Ireland might well be a useful thing in defeating terrorism, in that through it both Governments, or both armies would be enabled to concert anti-terrorist operations. That is still my view. But if the various policies which 431 were formulated by the South at Sunning-dale remain unfulfilled, as appears to be the case at this moment, then they simply arouse fears and tempers in the North, and I do not need to stress the result of the Election to show that that is so. Unless the South of Ireland do more in these two fields my advice would be to hasten very, very slowly in trying to ratify the Sunningdale Agreement.
What is needed is a serious attempt by the Irish forces to flush the terrorists from their hiding places on their side of the Border. As a reminder of this, and in line with my own thoughts about the Council of Ireland, one would expect that when an incident occurs along the Border a call for help would go out to the Irish Army and the Irish security forces, and that such a call would be answered effectively and quickly. If one takes the tragedy which occurred last Saturday near Crosmaglen—when two unfortunate soldiers died as a result of a terrorist ambush near the Border, which was allegedly set by eight or ten men—one would like to think that when that happened a call for help went out immediately, either by wireless or telephone, to the Army across the Border, giving them the map reference and asking them to get there quickly to help to capture the terrorists. I do not know what did happen, of course, but I would ask these questions: Did it happen? Does it normally happen? If it does, then I would accept that there is a form of co-operation and that we are moving towards some measure of implementation of the Sunningdale Agreement.
Without being too much of an armchair tactician, I should like to take this further and suggest that both armies should be using the same wireless frequency so that they could conduct certain operations, patrols, and so on, together. Again, I should like to suggest that co-operation would also be enhanced if, regarding this popular amusement of blowing up Border trains, which happens now all too frequently, armed guards were allowed to travel on those trains across the Border in both directions.
I shall not labour the extradition side. I think it is obvious that it is galling and frustrating, and its an extremely emotive issue in the North that people who are known or at least believed to 432 have committed murder can escape the full penalties of the law by hiding in the Republic. This is something which has caused feelings to run very high and has increased the opposition to the Sunningdale Agreement.
I must also mention another subject: that is, the growing feeling in Northern Ireland that the Army is in fact not operating in top gear against the terrorists. I hasten to say that this is not a criticism of the soldiers on the ground. For their actions I have absolutely nothing but the utmost admiration and enormous gratitude. I may say these sentiments are shared by many thousands of people in Northern Ireland, but I think that the cause of the feeling I mentioned earlier has possibly something to do with the political direction. For some considerable time this feeling has pervaded Northern Ireland. I do not think that it would be helpful to speculate on the reason for this, but it is extremely frustrating for the people of Northern Ireland to bear.
Take last week-end as an example. Eight people were killed and there were nearly 150 incidents in the space of about six hours, ranging from shootings, bombings and car hijackings to arson—you name it and you can virtually say that we have had it. At the moment, very little is reported in the national news compared with what used to be reported, unless some very major incident occurs; but if (as I do every morning of my life) people were to listen to the early morning local news in Northern Ireland, they would get a very different picture of what is in fact going on there. The nightly list of incidents is really quite formidable, and I think it would be an eye-opener to many people here if they were aware of everything that was going on.
It is small wonder that the people of Northern Ireland are frustrated; and it must be far worse for those whose husbands and sons are serving there in the Army and who are entitled to expect that this sort of service will not go on for ever. Certainly on that score my sympathy goes out very much to the soldiers and their families—particularly since, because of the fact that they are in the United Kingdom, they are labouring under all sorts of difficulties which would be avoided if they were on active 433 service eleswhere. I hope that I may have some assurance that what I have suggested is not the case, but I would add that this idea was given credence the other day by a certain Minister (whose name I cannot now remember) from the Republic of Ireland, who has been attacked very much along the lines of what I have been talking about, about the failure to wipe out terrorists in Border areas. This man made some remark to the effect that, "You cannot expect the Irish Army to act at full stretch if your own is not going to go full blast at them as well". There it is, my Lords; and I hope that I shall be given some assurance about this matter.
Only on Tuesday the Secretary of State was quoted as having said that everyone in Northern Ireland should play a part in the fight against terrorism. He advocated joining the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve. In this I support him wholeheartedly, but there are many who, fat perhaps a multitude of reasons, cannot join one of those organisations yet would like to play a part in the fight against terrorism. It is because many people have not been allowed to play a part that various organisations such as the Ulster Defence Association have grown up. To me, it is unthinkable that were a guerrilla war to be fought in this part of the United Kingdom all the ordinary people would not have got themselves involved in some way or another. Yet in that precise situation in Northern Ireland they are totally debarred. It all stems from one thing: purely and simply from a lack of trust.
I do not dispute that there are reasons, or were reasons, for this, but most of our problems stem from this one thing and from the belief that no-one in Northern Ireland can ever be objective about those who are of another religion, or even that they can resist the desire to shoot each other. Every society has its dregs, and we in Northern Ireland certainly have our full share of them. But if the decent people were given some part to play I am certain that the huge majority of them would play that part responsibly and that the results would be worth while. The security forces cannot be everywhere, and even if all people did was to play some sort of observation role, keeping a look-out for bombers and searching for 434 information, I believe they would feel they were doing something useful and much of the frustration that exists at present would be removed. Something very worth while would come of it. I implore that decent people should be given something to do, because I believe that this is what must happen eventually, and the sooner this fact is faced the better it will be for us all.
To sum up, if the Sunningdale Agreement is to go ahead three things are needed: first, an absolute all-out effort against terrorism in Northern Ireland; secondly, an all-out effort of the Southern Irish security forces against the terrorists harboured within their Borders; and, thirdly, extradition from the South to the North for terrorist activity in the North. The opposition to Sunningdale has been born of frustration; it has been born of the belief that the operations are being "soft-pedalled", for lack of a better phrase; and it has been born of the belief that the South in fact is taking all and doing nothing. Until these things can be sorted out, I would ask everyone that there should be no pressure for ratification of the Sunningdale Agreement.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD FISKE
My Lords, may I first of all add my congratulations as well as my thanks to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack for the inspiring maiden speech that he made to us this afternoon, which laid out many of the problems we have to face and gave indications as to how we might set about putting them right. I was very grateful for every word he said, and for the great understanding he showed of the many social problems that beset us at the moment. It is with only one of those social problems that I wish to deal in a few remarks, and that is with regard to the Housing Finance Act, which is to be revised, repealed or replaced. Certain steps have already been taken by the freezing of public and private rents for the rest of 1974. This to my mind was very necessary.
The Housing Finance Act 1972 was a bitterly contested Act. Those who saw the inflationary pressures which were developing could only see the Act as a further piece of inflation, almost a piece of home-brewed inflation, imposed by the Government. This was something the 435 Government did not have to do, but which they chose to do and which has added one if not two points to the inflation figures which are now current. Like home-brewed wines of many kinds it has proved extremely heady and has had to be removed from consumption by the family because it is too dangerous. So we now have to think how we start again. There have been many attempts to answer the question of how to deal with rents. We can see the immediate freeze—and let us remember that the so-called Housing Finance Act was in its way a misnomer. It was not a Housing Finance Act, it was a Tenants Housing Finance Act. It affected only tenants; it did not affect anybody else in the housing world; so to start with it really was misnamed. I mention that although it does not have importance at this date, except in so far as one or two suggestions I wish to make later.
We see a stop in council rents; we see a stop in private rents, and we want to see what this means. I confess that I do not know what will happen in the field of council rents. This is a matter where the local authorities and the Government will presumably come to some arrangement. In the field of private rents, which have already gone up considerably in the past 18 months, I suppose also there may be some arrangements to relieve hardship, but otherwise I suppose the differences, or shortages, will be borne by the private landlords. Whenever there is a hold-up in the increase in private rents there is a class of individual who emerges known as the "widow". That was even referred to on a B.B.C. bulletin last night; an association of South Coast estate agents has got together to protect the widows who will be the great sufferers under this Act by a "wicked" Government. Well, if there are any widows who have been so badly advised that they are still holding rented property it is a shame; but l think they are a problem that a compassionate society can look after.
I always think a better way of considering the problem of the widow in rented property is to ask her Christian name. You usually find mat it is "Pearl" or "Pru" or possibly "Victoria". This needs to be borne in mind when dealing with the owners 436 of private rented property. In the past few years I have been very much associated with the housing associations. I am only going, so to speak, to underline what has not yet been said to your Lordships, because it will be said by a far more competent speaker in the person of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, who is the chairman of the executive of the National Federation of Housing Associations. They, having just got under way again, after solving the problems that were raised for them by the 1972 Act, now find themselves pushed down again, unless some suitable arrangements are made to tide them over for the period until a new Act of Parliament can be put on the Statute Book.
What type of Act would one like to see on the Statute Book? It is beyond my capacity to deal with Acts of Parliament in detail, but I want to throw out a few ideas as to the way I should like to see it drafted. The Housing Finance Act has put all the previous figures out of gear, but the latest figures available show that before the Act became really operative there were roughly 9 million houses which were rented—6 million in the council sector and 3 million in the private sector. They had total Government subsidies of about £280 million per annum. In the owner-occupied sector there were again about 9 million houses that had total help from the Exchequer by way of income tax relief of some £300 million. So we have two great sections in the housing world which are roughly, although not exactly, comparable.
One of the aims of any housing legislation, if it is to bring about social justice, should be to bring these two groups together. Too long we have berated the council house tenant as being an idle fellow, while praising the owner-occupier; but it is the owner-occupier who has been getting the money and the council tenant has not. Let it be remembered that the subsidies paid for council tenants are not necessarily paid to the council tenants; they are paid to the local authorities of which those people are tenants. It does not follow that the individual tenants get the subsidy. In millions of cases, especially in me case of older houses, the tenant never sees the subsidy at all. It goes straight into a housing pool and goes to pay for the deficiencies on houses 437 that are being constructed, at much greater loss, today.
My Lords, there is a new factor coming into our thought on taxation generally these days, and it is one which I think could be made to influence our housing policy. That is the idea of a credit income tax. If the Inland Revenue were to return money to people, as well as merely taking it from them, it would be possible to include in the income taxes allowance an allowance for rent. That allowance could vary according to the size of the family. It could be so much for one, so much for two, so much for a child, so much for dependent relatives who live with the breadwinner, and so on. In that way one could sweep away all the mortgage income tax assistance to owners, and all the subsidies to tenants. They would all get, in cash, rent relief on their income tax if they were entitled to it.
Nothing like this could have been done before, because under the old income tax arrangements, which are still in force, people who were at the bottom of the scale, and were not entitled to any relief because they had insufficient income, got no benefit. But with the Inland Revenue now returning credits, an entirely new situation has developed. Such a scheme as I have described would bring justice to everybody in the housing world in the sense that everybody would be treated in the same way. It would also, of course, make enormous manpower savings in the Inland Revenue, in the Department of the Environment and in all local authorities up and down the country where all these complicated adjustments have to be made.
It is of course an appalling commentary, when one thinks about it, that we are reduced, in our civilisation, to an age in which a man, or a woman, is no longer able to provide himself or herself with shelter without help. But there it is as a fact of our times, something that has happened within the last 50 years. I think we have to admit that it is something that is going to stay with us certainly for a long present, if not for all time. But I should like to see consideration given to a scheme of the sort I have outlined, which would simplify, on the one hand, and give social justice between all members of the community, on the other. I should like to 438 recommend it to the Government for examination.
§ 6.24 p.m.
My Lords, one of the difficulties of speaking on this last day of the debate on the Queen's Speech is that the range of subject matter is so vast as to present an embarrassment of choice. I know that it will be of no embarrassment to your Lordships, and it is certainly no embarrassment to me, if I start by congratulating my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge on his position on the Government Front Bench. It gives all of us, perhaps especially myself, very great pleasure to say with what interest we await his speech in winding up this debate.
My Lords, because I have been unable for a number of years to speak frequently in your Lordships' House, I have not resisted the temptation this time to touch on the wide variety of subjects available. I promise to do so quite briefly. I will start, if I may, with the penultimate paragraph in the gracious Speech (as indeed the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack did with much greater authority than I do), where the Speech refers to,reforms in the law and improvements in the administration of justice.I start at that penultimate point because it is in this area that I have in recent years had some first-hand experience. It is too early, and it would be too particular at this point in time, to offer specific comments on the parole system which your Lordships will remember became law under the previous Labour Government in 1967. But it is not too soon—seven years after that event and after six and a half years' experience—to be quite convinced, so far as I am concerned, that improvements can and should be made.
I will not dwell on this point which to some of your Lordships would no doubt seem to be a narrow one. I would far sooner say, or state my belief, that the time has come for a much more wide-ranging review of penal treatment, without which improvements in any particular, such as the condition of early release of prisoners from detention, would be relatively ineffective. Indeed, I would go further and suggest that the range and scale of prison sentences permitted by 439 the law simply cannot be excluded from such a review. I would stick my neck out further and put forward the contention that given that the purpose of prison sentences is in large measure to deter the individual and in other cases the public at large who might be minded to indulge in particular offences, some prison sentences are unnecessarily and counter-productively long.
My Lords, I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, will not feel that I am stealing his thunder, since he is going to speak shortly, but I have reason to believe that the previous Government had a review of that magnitude in mind. I very much hope that from the sentence to which I referred in the Queen's Speech, the Government now in power, whose predecessors carried through an historic measure in 1967, the Criminal Justice Act, have in mind to carry through yet another measure of penal reform. I also hope that the Government will rescue, and add to that legislation, a piece of private legislation; that is, a Bill introduced originally by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, in your Lordships' House and subsequently taken into the other place as a Private Member's Bill. I am referring to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Bill, by which those who keep clear of crime for a specified period following their latest offence are protected from the stigma and the handicap attaching to an earlier criminal record which they have long since put behind them. I have learnt in the last few years quite enough of the ill-effects of redeemed, but unexpunged, records hanging over the heads of some people to be convinced of the need, in the interest of society and in justice for the individual concerned, that such a measure should become law.
My Lords, still following the gracious Speech backwards, I come to the Government's excellent intention to work for the protection and improvement of the environment. Quite apart from such major threats, as I see it, as Maplin—and how glad I was to listen to the Statement earlier this afternoon from the Government Front Bench—I hope the Government will not be backward in intervening where threats arise, whether from industry or from any other source, on a smaller but not on that account less serious scale. I suppose that some Members 440 in your Lordships' House have especially in mind that appalling error of judgment by the outgoing Minister in bisecting the Lake District by a great through motorway, the A.66. It is too late, I understand, to put that right because of the contracts now entered into.
But I put to the Government this question: is it too late to re-open the question of the Dinorwic pump sewerage storage scheme in Snowdonia, North Wales? I would go no further than to beg the Government to look again at this scheme of the Central Electricity Generating Board, taking account of the strength of environmental opposition to it, and taking account, too, of the cost in terms of disturbance and damage—permanent damage, long-term disturbance—which it is bound to do in that small mountain land in return for a very small increment in our electricity energy supplies. Our National Parks are a part of our vital heritage. They have been under severe threat and everything must be done to preserve them from further depredations.
I should now like to refer to two other aspects of policy adumbrated in the Queen's Speech: first, the intention of the Government to resume where they left off in 1970 the development of a fully comprehensive system of education. Unlike the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, I am not against this and I do not think that anyone with some knowledge of secondary education can afford not to heed the warning of eminent educationists, people of the stature of Sir Alec Clegg, of the West Riding, about the dangers of systems which over-value the quick and discard the slow. Some of the comprehensive schools I have seen in years gone past greatly reduce this very, very serious social risk in a way which retention of the grammar schools emphatically does not.
Here I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, in what she had to say. But having said that, I certainly hope there will be some firm guidelines—guidelines firmer than the Department of Education and Science is wont to give to local education authorities, without of course fettering the hands of the local authorities themselves. There is quite enough evidence—and here I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham—to lay down an approximate optimum size of a school beyond which it tends to become a kind of 441 juvenile mini-university, which is a recipe for a bear-garden. Moreover, there must be effective academic streaming within the school which ensures the unimpeded advance of talent; and blended with this principle there must be other activities and aspects of school life in which the slow learners and the academically bright can achieve and take part together in that general aspect of society, completely disregarding the social and economic classes which the comprehensive school stands to represent.
I note the absence from the gracious Speech of any reference to draconian measures to abolish at a stroke the public schools. I know that I am sharing the views of many of your Lordships when I say that I am relieved to note this. I do not believe this to be the right way, and, for the reasons given by Lord Hailsham, it certainly is not the right time, to bring about a fundamental change which, unlike many of your Lordships I would think, I nevertheless believe to be desirable, if not necessary. I was educated in private schools myself—and I hasten to say that in regard to my old school I retain affectionate and grateful memories; I have come here wearing my old school tic to make the point. However, I have no doubt that, until the irritant of a largely segregated system, purchaseable by only a small minority of parents on behalf of the on-going advantage of that minority of children, which provides distinctive advantages which the great majority cannot under any kind of economy we can imagine enjoy (and it is an on-going opportunity; this is the important point), has gone from our scene, it will continue to be a divisive factor in our society.
I welcome the decision, which was referred to by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, to rescue from the demise of the last Government the Children's Bill. Speaking as a grand-parent with a growing tribe of obstreperous youngsters, two of them adopted kiddies, I know, albeit at second-hand, something of the damage and the heartbreak which persist in this difficult area and which in the interests of parents, would-be parents, and especially the children themselves, must be removed.
Finally, I cannot refrain from the briefest reference to Northern Ireland. Of 442 course, in this respect I listened with particular interest to the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, who spoke just before me. I know it may be held—and I am looking across at the noble Viscount, and I hope I may call him "my noble friend", Lord Brookeborough—by Lord Brookeborough and the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and many others on the other side, that it is unwise to speak from the outside and, in my case, to draw on experience, brief at that but intense and very concentrated, gained four and a half years ago—which is a world ago in terms of the altered scene in Ulster to-day. I suppose I could go back 300 years, as some others do unfortunately, to my ancestor, who, as an apprentice boy, defended the gates of Derry City, or should I say in this connection Londonderry, against the army of King James. I refer to this irrelevance, and if you like to the irrelevance of the report on the police in Northern Ireland four and a half years ago, only to make and to stress the point that it is fatal to go on looking back in Ireland. It has already been shown to be fatal, and one can only hope and pray that it will not continue to be demonstrated that it is fatal.
I am utterly persuaded, despite the cost in present terms—and this is not an easy thing to say, but I say it again: despite the cost in present terms—that the path of shared responsibility, of reconciliation leading to growing trust (and here I noted the words of Lord Moyola very carefully) between the communities and peoples of Ireland, is the only sane course to steer. I believe that Sunningdale laid down the foundation on which that course can be constructed. I am profoundly thankful, as I am sure that all your Lordships are, in this most difficult and dangerous and anxious area of our national life at least that all three of the major political Parties, supported I believe at any rate on this issue by the millions who voted, whether Labour or Conservative or Liberal, in the recent Election, are in full and firm accord. My Lords, I beg the Government to hold firm to that course.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BROOKEBOROUGH
My Lords, may I first congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, on his elevation. I look forward very much to making further acquaintance with him 443 on the field of battle in Northern Ireland. Would that it had been in fact the field of peace; but it is not a happy tale which one brings from Northern Ireland today. I would say with what interest I listened to my noble friend Lord Moyola, and how much I support what he says. I should like to join in the sympathy expressed over the tragic shooting at Markethill of the soldiers. I feel that it is remarkable in the present security situation which exists that we have not had more accidents of this description. I remember myself that during the war, when we were dealing with a much easier subject than guerrilla warfare, in the regiment in which I had the honour to serve we had three incidents in which our own people were shot or killed. I am absolutely amazed at the discipline involved and the way in which we have so far managed to avoid having such incidents as this. I should like to feel that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, would convey to the chief constable our sympathy, because he and his men deserve immense sympathy for having been involved in the shooting of their friends and our allies. I feel strongly that they must have a bad conscience about it because they are their friends. The co-operation in individual operations may leave something to be desired, but in total terms the relationship between the police and the Army is very good.
May I say that while regiments come and regiments go in Northern Ireland the R.U.C. is there for ever. Therefore the respect which we should be giving them is of the very highest order, and their discipline is tremendous. I know the area where this incident occurred; it is an area where ambushes can easily take place. Since I travel down a road home on three nights or so each week I can say that in the last six months the road between Dungannon and my own home has been blown up about seven times. I assure your Lordships that I watch extremely carefully any vehicle which happens to be parked on the roadside on my way down. That is only common sense. I can only repeat that so far as the police are concerned it is extraordinary that an incident of this nature has not happened before.
I only hope that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, will not heed 444 the outcry against the use of plainclothes police, especially the S.A.S., and that it will not cause us to look again at our security situation and soften up the procedure, because the people of Northern Ireland as a whole support the use of troops in plain clothes. It is the most effective use we have, and I speak of the Border and of Belfast, where I have been out and seen the operations on the ground. I know of the effectiveness of the troops and I know of their discipline, and I know too how little justification there is for the criticism which is so easily made by people who have a vested interest in the continuation of violence.
Turning to political matters, I should like the noble Lord to give those of us in Northern Ireland an assurance that there will be laid before Parliament the Order extending the life of the Assembly and the Executive for the next period, which I think is due before the end of this month. This would give a great boost to those of us who are taking part in the Assembly and supporting the Executive.
We in Northern Ireland have needed a weapon called detention. It is a most unpleasant weapon, but in the circumstances in which we live it is the only weapon by which we can remove men of violence from the streets. But detention must end. It always has ended and it must end as quickly as the security situation will allow. I should like an assurance from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, that security, and not politics, will be the reason why people are released when the time comes for them to be released, because if they are not released for security reasons the morale of the Army, who have spent so long in catching these people and putting them behind bars, will receive a major blow. In the past there have been releases and the figure for their reinvolvement was 60 per cent. This was so because no precautions, no assurances and no method was adopted by which those who were released were stopped from being re-involved in violence. I should like Her Majesty's Government to look very seriously into this matter with a view to finding some method whereby when a person has been released from detention he will in fact be subject to surveillance or to some such treatment to ensure that he does not become reinvolved 445 in violence so that our troops then have to go about the dangerous task of getting him back again.
The next, and rather mundane, matter which I think is most important is the question of Army pay. I find it humiliating to travel down the motorway—the M.1—at Dungannon at 9 o'clock in the morning and to see a soldier standing there, and to come back at 8 or 9 o'clock at night and see that same soldier standing there, in the knowledge that that man's wife is receiving a rent allowance from supplementary benefits. I have nothing against the miners, but goodness me! if we talk about unsocial hours our troops require very special treatment in order to recompense them for what happens in Northern Ireland. My admiration for our troops, as for the R.U.C. and the R.U.C. Reserve, is unlimited. If it is impossible to recompense the whole of the Army surely we can find some method of doing it when soldiers are on duty for these very unsocial hours in Northern Ireland.
I should now like to refer to a regiment which was commended by my noble friend Lord Hunt—the Ulster Defence Regiment, which is now a splendid part of our Army. I am glad to be able to say that, especially in my own area, when certain high-ranking soldiers feel they want a tonic they come down to see how the Fourth U.D.R. in County Fermanagh is doing, because they say that they get encouragement from such efficiency, such flexibility and such good service. If in the end we are going to remove our troops, to reduce the numbers, we must have the U.D.R. The hope of the United Kingdom is that the U.D.R. structure should be built up. My noble friend Lord Moyola has spoken of various inhibitions and problems. One of them is the question of the harmonisation of pay between the Regular Army, the Ulster Defence Regiment—both of them what might be called consolidated rate men—and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Perhaps I may give just one figure. In three years' service a Royal Ulster Constabulary reserve man will in fact earn £5,200 more than an Ulster Defence Regiment man giving the same service. This is staggering because the Ulster Defence Regiment people are in fact protecting the police station. I am not saying that the R.U.C. should not be paid; but I am saying that there must be 446 some harmonisation between the two, otherwise we shall not get the standard of men within the Ulster Defence Regiment and we shall have a commitment to troops within Northern Ireland for a far longer period than would otherwise be necessary. At the present moment, a man in the Ulster Defence Regiment—and I can speak with certainty about my own area—is out three nights a week. This is the case with all the men of the Ulster Defence Regiment. I should like people to think about what that means. Some of them are skilled technicians who could earn pounds on overtime. They give up three nights' sleep a week and they lose massively on pay. I really think that this and the career structure must be looked at, in order to make attractive the "con rate" for people who are full-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment.
May I now turn to a question which is worrying both the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and myself very much, namely, the implementation of what is now known as the Sunningdale Agreement to achieve devolved government within Northern Ireland, and all that goes with it. When this matter came before the House I am on record as saying that two particular matters had to be dealt with very rapidly: one was the security situation on the Border, and the second concerned fugitive criminals in the South. I also doubted in fact whether the Dublin Government had the ability within their own resources to achieve very much improvement in their security forces; and I believe, sadly, that I have been proved right.
The basic reason in 1972 why Her Majesty's Government abolished the devolved government in Northern Ireland was that a proportion of the population—somewhere about 10 per cent.—was in fact refusing consent to be governed. The elected representatives of that community were also refusing to take part in Government. In the two years since the imposition of direct rule, a proportion of that 10 per cent. have in fact been converted—I do not mean religiously—and are now actively supporting the Government, and their elected representatives are supporting the Constitution Act.
I believe that this Executive has the support of the majority of the community within Northern Ireland. I confess that when the Constitution Act 447 began to be implemented immediately after our Elections I personally did not believe that the Opposition Party, as it then was—the S.D.L.P., to use the short name—would be allowed by the electorate to take part in and to accept fully the Constitution Act. But I was wrong. Not only have the members of the S.D.L.P. immense personal courage (because some of them have had the most appalling threats made to them, and indeed actual attacks on their lives, which they would not have had if they had remained outside) but in office their ability has been something which has earned the respect of people who are willing to listen and to see. There are quite a lot of people in Northern Ireland who are not willing to see anything.
The Government in Northern Ireland has been restored, but although we have a functioning Assembly violence has not ceased. I cannot describe to your Lordships how appalling is the situation in the centre of Belfast. Belfast has been subjected to a completely deliberate attack. Store after store has gone up, and people have been murdered right in the centre of the city by murderers standing on the chapel steps. Town centres like Duncannon, Castlederg and Omagh, and many others that I could mention, now look as though they have been destroyed by a thousand-bomber raid. Night after night the I.R.A. terrorists operate from bases across the Border in the Republic.
I believe we were quite wrong ever to suggest that the Sunningdale Agreement, or anything like that, could ever produce an immediate, quick and radical improvement in the situation. But if that Agreement had not been reached, we should be discussing this subject in a different mood and situation to-day. It is security first, second, third and last. The ordinary people are being bombed. I was with a man yesterday who has had 68 bomb claims on his shop—68 in four years! Can your Lordships imagine the determination of the business people in Ulster who, after so many such claims, are still continuing to trade? I think we should pay magnificent tribute to their tenacity and determination to remain British—because that is what they are determined to do.
In December 1973, the representatives of the British Government and the 448 Dublin Government, together with the political Parties representing all shades of opinion in all political Parties except, unfortunately, the so-called United Ulster Unionist Council, came together and tried to produce what is now known as the Sunningdale Agreement. My noble friend Lord Moyola said that the basis of the Sunningdale Agreement, as in all international affairs, is trust. We as Unionists—and I am proud to be one—were asked to trust the Government of the Irish Republic. Our past experience has not encouraged us to place much faith in them. We remember that the previous Government, in 1969 or 1970, actually provided funds to start the Provisional I.R.A. They are now reaping the benefit of that, and trying to extinguish what has grown out of those funds.
At Sunningdale the Irish Government had to act very quickly and clearly on three particular issues: first, the recognition of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom; second, the bringing of fugitive criminals to justice and thirdly, the improvement of security along the Border. So far as we are concerned, the Irish Republic has failed on all these fronts. Dublin, reluctant to take action which would upset its own political body, has changed the whole atmosphere in which we now face the situation. We Northern Ireland politicians have put the whole of our future at stake in trying to get these changes through.
What happened immediately after Sunningdale? First of all, various Ministers in the Dublin Government went back and modified their recognition; they muddied the water. Then we had what was known as the Boland case, when Mr. Boland took the Government to the Eire High Court to challenge whether the Agreement at Sunningdale was ultra vires the Court. Incredibly, the Eire High Court declared that there was no Agreement. The people in Northern Ireland just cannot understand that. This is the sort of thing fed on by the people elected in other places. The clarifying statement made in the end by Mr. Cosgrave came too late and had no effect.
On the question of fugitive criminals, cases are still being brought in the United Kingdom to return people to the South of Ireland, and cases are being 449 brought in the South to return people to the North. We have not had any extradition from the South. As my noble friend, Lord Moyola said, this a matter which is most emotional, and the resultant situation very offensive. Even when terrorists are brought to justice what are their sentences? A man like Martin McGuiness, who if brought to justice in Northern Ireland would have a list of charges against him as long as your arm, involving the most horrific crimes, was given 12 months. Then there is the case of the Price sisters. What was their sentence?—life imprisonment. To demonstrate the difference of approach on legal matters, a bag-snatcher in Dublin got four years. This is a difference of approach. The Law Commission will not produce extradition, but we must have these people returned to the jurisdiction in which they committed their crimes, because judgment and punishments must be within the standards of the area in which the crimes were committed. This is a most important matter.
Not so long ago I went across the Border to a shoot. I had not the right permit for my gun, and at about half-past nine I went into the Garda Station where there was a sergeant scrubbing the floor. I said to him, "I have not got the right permit. Can you let me through with my gun?" He replied, "Them regulations were never meant for the likes of you." Personally, I think the firearms regulations are meant for everyone. My noble friend Lord Moyola has laboured the point of Border security. We were trying to get people elected to the other place, and at that particular time there was an attack across the Border on the police station at Strabane, and 700 rounds of ammunition of varying sorts, including rockets, were fired. There were supposed to be two companies of the Irish Army within half a mile, but nothing happened, and a squad of very gallant unarmed Garda, or Southern Police, did what they could. They had a radio broken and were fired on.
But what we really feel is that there is neither resolution nor resources for the Dublin Government to operate in a firm and resolute manner. The basis of trust on which we had hoped the whole of Sunningdale would be performed has in fact been changed. Trust, which could have been built up quickly if there had 450 been the rapid reporting of this judicial committee, has now gone. Although I am criticising the Irish Government for its failure on these lines, I believed that in trying to do this it was trying to do something it was incapable of doing, because for some years there has been no real condemnation there of the I.R.A. and the inertia which exists within the total body politic of the South takes a long time to dispel. I am absolutely certain of the sincerity of Mr. Cosgrave and his Government. They are winding the thing up as they can. But the trust which should have been there no longer exists.
My Lords, some association between Dublin and Northern Ireland must exist: the question is, what? What I feel very strongly—and I issue a very solemn warning—is that any attempt on the part of Dublin or London to railroad through the situation as it exists to-day will destroy our young Executive, which is governing Ulster with a certain amount of distinction: we must play this quietly. I further say, since the basis of everything is consent and trust, if trust can be built up gradually why should not the Council of Ireland arrive without any powers to begin with? Then, as trust and consent grow, powers can be given—because trust will obviously appear at that stage. If it does not, we cannot go anywhere. So I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, to take heed of my warning, and I hope my advice, that the Council of Ireland as it is at present must be attenuated or in some way modified, or we shall lose all the great bridge-building that was done by the various Secretaries of State and their able lieutenants.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I wish to confine myself to only one subject to-night and that is education. However, before I begin I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of KINGSBRIDGE, because I shall not be able to stay to hear his final speech, although I can promise him that I shall read it very carefully.
My Lords, we heard in the Queen's Speech that it is the Government's intention to press forward their scheme for comprehensive schools. We also heard from their Manifesto that they intend to 451 abolish the direct grant. I shall speak about that later. All this seems to imply that they are trying to abolish any kind of variety of education. I am not against the principle of comprehensive schools at all. I think there are many cases in which they can work extremely well. I think that up to date the great mistake with a good many of them has been that they have been made much too large. Whatever the nature of the school, of course, it is a mistake to make it too big, because one of the essential requirements is that the headmaster shall have as close a contact as possible with all that is going on inside the school; and with a school of, say, 2,000 that is absolutely out of the question. With a boarding school it is rather different, because there the housemaster rather takes the place of the headmaster. With a day school I feel this is essential; I think 800 to 900 should be the limit.
But even admitting that the idea is a good one, I feel that it should not be adopted as a means of eliminating all other forms of education. An exactly similar education for every child in the country would be an excellent idea given one condition; that is, that all children were exactly similar, but they are not. There are no two children in this country who are precisely the same either in their characteristics, their problems, their talents or in any other way. Every child deserves the education that is going to be best for it. Some, of course, are particularly gifted in one way or another and it seems only right that they should be allowed to go to schools where that particular subject is catered for in a very large way. One thing is absolutely certain, and that is that every child in the country should get adequate education, but "adequate" does not necessarily mean "similar". There is the further point that exact similarity of education throughout the country is much more likely to lower the general standard of education than it is to raise it, because education generally goes at the pace of the slowest.
Of course, I recognise the fact that there is streaming in comprehensive schools, but what is streaming if it is not selection? The Government are highly opposed to selection in education, but after all streaming is selection. We have 452 selection in practically every walk of life that is of any importance; we have it in the Armed Forces, we have it in the police, we have it in the Civil Service—I think probably even your private secretary has to have some standards before she can qualify. It is most certainly true that illiteracy has grown at an enormous rate. Therefore, I feel that the question of education should be looked at very strongly.
Not only the present Government but successive Governments, of course, have laid great importance on the school building programme. Well, I would be the last to say that that is unimportant. There are many schools whose buildings are quite inadequate. But one thing that is much more important than the building itself is the kind of teaching provided inside it. It is this question of finding adequate teaching staff that I see as one of the great problems to-day. I heard not long ago of a threat by the Inner London Education Authority to abolish all teacher training colleges which were specialist colleges—that is to say, which specialised in one particular subject or another. I do not know whether they are still holding to that, but to my mind that would be absolutely disastrous because in teaching staffs we want teachers who really are expert at their particular subject.
I want to conclude with one reference to the direct-grant schools. They are doing a splendid job of work. They are providing a first-class education at rates which everybody can afford. Where parents can afford to pay the full fees they are asked to do so, but where they cannot their children are admitted for less, or even for nothing, and every direct-grant school gives a certain number of places to the local education authority. The education is as good as one would find in any public school. I think it would be absolutely criminal to abolish the direct-grant schools; the educational level in the country would go down with a bang. If that can possibly be rescinded from the Labour Party's policy, we shall all feel a much greater sense of confidence that education will proceed along the same lines and, let us hope, be even better.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, I wish to apologise to my noble and learned 453 friend the Lord Chancellor for having missed the major part of his speech for unavoidable reasons. However, I had the opportunity of reading it, and even to read it shows clearly an understanding and a concern, particularly for the inhabitants of poor urban deprived areas, which bodes very well for the discharge of his Office and for the future of the Government. I rejoiced to read his forthright declaration of intent to do everything he can to see that funds are made available to neighbourhood law centres. He has recognised that there is a new wave of idealism drawing together lawyers and non-lawyers in a common effort to redress the injustices which are so rife in the communities of which he talks. He has recognised it, and he has responded to it.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor made reference to the Motion that I put down drawing attention to the work of the Legal Aid Advisory Committee and to the need for the development of law centres. While I do not think that I would want to have a more encouraging reply to such a Motion from the Lord Chancellor, I would still hope to be successful in that ballot, for while the need for radical improvement of legal services in poor communities is probably agreed on all sides of the House, the means of achieving it, the best use of limited resources, is a matter for considerable discussion in detail, and I would wish to add some reinforcing planks to the platform on which my noble and learned friend has chosen to stand.
My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor referred directly, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, indirectly to the North Kensington Neighbourhood Law Centre, with which I have been closely connected and of which I am honorary secretary. I should like to say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, that while the incident to which he referred was much regretted, and regrets were expressed, it was the failure of the Kensington and Chelsea Council to ever have provided a penny to the Neighbourhood Law Centre which so much underlines the need for Central Government direction and funding.
It is experience of living and working in a community of that kind that moti- 454 vates me to go on from law centres to the topic of housing. North Kensington, like many areas of London and other cities of our country, is an area where the majority live in privately rented accommodation, an area where all the scandals of private landlordism abound, and an area where, because of the operation of the private property market, thousands of families find themselves tricked, bribed, harassed, or forcibly evicted from their homes, and in the case of furnished tenants removed from their homes by the operation and authority of the law. Why does this come about? It comes about to enable property developers to realise huge profits, as we have seen, by selling with vacant possession to the rich. It is difficult to be moderate when one sees the misery that that situation causes, and it is difficult to be moderate when one sets that kind of experience against the background of the national housing statistics—fewer homes being built last year than at any time for years, and the numbers of homeless increasing year by year. It is yet one more area where the Party opposite, through a subservience to the interests of private property, failed to take a grip of the situation and take the measures that were required.
It is for those reasons that I welcome the provisions of the gracious Speech where it is said:Urgent measures will be taken to reverse the fall in house-building, to protect furnished tenants from eviction and to encourage municipal ownership".I see those proposals not merely as intentions for a single year, but as the first steps in a long-term Socialist plan to bring to an end the exploitation of land for private profit: a plan which if pursued with determination could, in ten years, ensure that it could be regarded as an anachronism for one man to own and make money out of the homes of other people; and equally an anachronism for one man, one corporation or private company, to exploit for profit the land which is so sorely needed for the benefit of the community.
What are the priorities? Certainly one of the most important is the granting of security to furnished tenants. This arbitrary and unfair distinction is probably the worst cause of misery in the housing 455 field. In London alone there are some 300,000 furnished tenancies and 20,000 evictions every year—that is to say, one in 15 year-by-year—and most evictions, of course, with due process of law, because the absence of security, beyond the six months or so which you can get from a rent tribunal, puts the tenant at the landlord's mercy. If the landlord wishes to sell with vacant possession he can do so. He can wait a few months and can get rid of the tenant quite legally. If the tenant complains about the rent that he is paying, if he exercises his rights to go to a tribunal, if he complains about repairs, again the landlord need only wait for six months, plus an extra month to get a court order for possession, and the tenant is out. Would any noble Lord in this House tolerate for one minute living, or bringing up a family, in that kind of home, a home which in fact you can never call your own?
I urge the Government to ensure that the new legislation to be brought forward is free of loopholes; putting furnished tenants on to the same basis of security as unfurnished tenants, so that the landlord can obtain possession only if certain defined circumstances are proved in a court of law. I would also ask the Government to watch over the early months, the months before the new legislation is passed, to see whether there is cause to bring in urgent measures to protect tenants against the sort of evictions which may well be going on at this moment, now that the intentions of the Government to give this protection have been made known.
That is a first step, but of course we must go further and the Government have proclaimed their intention of doing so. It is said that landlords will leave their properties empty rather than let them to tenants to whom they have to give security of tenure. If that is the case—and I do not accept it for the majority of landlords—it must be highly undesirable to be living under the kind of landlord who would want to have the right to turn one out whenever he pleased. The answer to the argument that a move of this sort might reduce the stock of rented accommodation and leave properties empty, is that it is already a scandal that tens of thousands of properties lie empty while thousands of people are homeless.
456 I should like to applaud the courage of some young homeless families who have refused to accept that situation of homes lying empty while people are homeless, and have started to squat in local authority homes, and other empty homes, and by doing so have already changed the practices of many local authorities and housing associations which have property lying empty. But that is not enough. That is only a short term, desperate measure to draw attention to the situation. Powers are required which must be used by local authorities or, if they will not use them, by a national organisation such as the Housing Corporation, to purchase compulsorily property which is left empty for no good reason in an area of high housing shortage.
There are yet further ways. The most common form of wastage of private rented accommodation occurs when a property is sold with its tenants, or more usually without them—for they have been gradually induced, by fair means or foul, to go—to a better-off family. That wastage could be stopped if a landlord were required to offer the property to the local authority and, if the local authority were reluctant to take up an offer of that kind, to the Housing Corporation. In that way these properties could be channelled into municipal or other forms of social ownership.
There was a scheme of this kind—and I give credit for that—in the White Paper Better Homes, published by the Conservative Government last year. One should also give discredit where it is due, because that proposal was dropped from the Housing and Planning Bill when it was introduced into Parliament. I hope that the Labour Government will ensure that such a scheme, giving first refusal to local authorities when tenanted accommodation is sold, is reintroduced in a new and strengthened Housing and Planning Bill.
Beyond all these proposals dealing with the privately-rented sector there is an overwhelming need to build more homes, which leads one directly to the quite admirable proposal in the gracious Speech to bring land needed for development for the benefit of the community into public ownership so that it can be properly used. Land is now too precious to be left to 457 landowners to get windfalls from its sale. Only landowners will lose as a result of a policy of public takeover, with compensation strictly restricted to existing use value. The public stand only to gain.
Housing and the use of land is not an area where we need only to tinker around with short-term solutions. We need to begin wholesale planning of a kind which certainly has not been seen in the past few years. The case for comprehensive public intervention in matters relating to land and housing is overwhelming. We need a Government which, as is set out in the gracious Speech, will act to end the worst causes of misery, and which has the vision to look beyond mere palliative measures towards a situation when, to use the example mentioned by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, children are no longer born to fail because of the environment in which they live. Then, having set our hands to that task in the first year, we can justly ask for the authority of the people to carry out the full programme as it should be carried out.
§ 7.25 p.m.
My Lords, I do not like to disappoint your Lordships by saying that, because the hour was so late, I came within an inch of taking my name off the list of speakers. But I shall try to confine myself to one point and will make my speech as short as I can. It is a point which, so far as I know, has not yet been raised in this debate. One never comes to this House without hearing something which one has not heard before, and it is news to me that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of KINGSBRIDGE, are twins who were born on October 9, 1907. As I was born on October 29, 1908, that seems to me a sad example of missing the bus. By being 20 days and one year too late, I got into the wrong sign. They, I understand, are both in Libra, and I am in Scorpio. If you want a better example of how astrology does not always work than the noble and learned Lord, I suppose a Scorpio subject ought to be capable of keeping to the point: which I am incapable of doing. I shall now try to do so, and to stick to it more comfortably than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor would have been, sitting 458 on the Woolsack, if it had not been improved for him by his predecessor.
The point I want to make relates to the sentence in the gracious Speech which states,A major review will be made of the particular needs of handicapped children.That proposal was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Thurso as one of several proposals of which he approved strongly. I need not say that I approve equally strongly, as I did of everything in his speech. I believe that the point I want to raise will be increasingly relevant this year, and for many years to come because it is a point on which many people have to make up their minds. There is only one class of child and one class of handicap about which I want to ask, and I should like to know whether they will be included in this major review. The children I refer to are those who are not yet born though they have been conceived, and the handicap is the serious one of being killed. That raises two questions: what is a child, and what is a handicap?
The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, may remember, though I do not, the name of an excellent American comedian who was invited to fill in one of those forms which ask one all sorts of questions, such as, "What is your favourite colour?" One of the questions was: "What is your handicap?" He answered, with truth, "I'm a hunchbacked Jewish Negro." Clearly, those would have been three very different handicaps at different periods, but the sum of them was formidable. He surmounted them admirably, becoming a great success and a brilliant entertainer. But he could not have done that if he had, with the best of intentions, been put out of the way on the grounds that he might be hunch-backed, might have Jewish blood or might have a Negro complexion. What I suggest is that people ought to make up their minds, on the evidence which will be abundantly in front of them in a short time, as to whether a child has rights before it is born, what rights they should be and at what age it should have them.
I shall not go into detail on those points now, but when we were discussing ante-natal injuries last summer I raised the question of whether death constituted an injury. I had a very interesting and 459 very careful answer from the noble and learned Lord who was then on the Woolsack, to the effect that it was a question which had not been decided; and, as I understood him, one aspect of it turned on whether it could be an "ante-natal" injury if a child was never born.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack this afternoon spoke also of one of the matters being inquired into as the issue of "injuries"—and he used these words—"to unborn children". I believe that this is a subject which, although it may not be in the news now, will become increasingly more and more newsworthy—rather like the Liberal Party, and for the same reasons because I believe that they are our neglected minority, though less silent than the Liberals, being unable to speak for themselves. But an increasing number of people are agreed from every point of view that the recent Abortion Act satisfied nobody. I forget the expression used by the noble Viscount—was it a "hung jury"?—something that satisfied no-one; but the Act will have to be adapted one way or the other to make it either harder or easier for children to be killed before they are born.
I believe that there is an immense amount of information there which nobody bothers to read, partly because it is not at the moment "news". But it will become "news". These things vary from time to time. Proverbially it is not news that "Queen Anne's dead", although it would have been news in seventeen something-or-other. Equally, it would not have been news yesterday that Princess Anne was alive. But it is today; and, like everyone else in this House, I am immensely relieved and delighted to hear it. These things come and go. It is the same with the question of whether a child has any rights, particularly the right to life, before its birth. That is a subject which has never been seriously debated in all the discussions about abortion.
I was relieved and pleased to hear that a new Minister of the Environment Department was one of the original opponents of that Act, and one who spoke to a meeting of several thousand people who lobbied Members of Parliament recently. He will certainly do as much as anyone can to preserve and improve the 460 environment, but it is not of course his office to do anything about altering the law, if it is to be altered. I believe that many people are extremely worried about the conditions resulting from the Act, but it is not enough to say, "These are complicated issues; I do not know about them". "I do not know" generally means, "I do not care", and "I do not care" may mean, "I do not care to say because I do not understand it", or, "I do not dare to say because it is too important to commit myself about." I believe that this question, which is getting more and more difficult in some ways, and more and more straightforward in others, since the Abortion Act was debated many years ago in this House, is one on which people have to make up their minds on all the available facts, of which there are many. It would be a great pity if any Government, even a "Caretaker Government" as the present Administration has been described, did not take care to study that point before it suddenly burst on them as "news", as important issues all too often do. One must include in this major review the whole question of whether unborn children are children, and that is one of the questions that was never discussed in the abortion debates in either of the two Houses. I apologise, my Lords, for speaking so long.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, I should like to join in the congratulations and the good wishes offered to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, on assuming his new office. I will not expect an immediate answer to the various points I want to make on housing, if only for the reason that the noble Lord has so many urgent and vital questions to answer about Ireland. Nevertheless, I hope that he will pass on something of what I have to say to his colleagues in the Department of the Environment. I am sure that the whole House will be grateful to him if he could persuade Her Majesty's Government to have personal representation of the Department of the Environment in this House.
As the ultimate Back Bench speaker at the end of a long debate, I should like to return to the beginning and say how grateful I personally was to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for his speech. I thought he showed a 461 really deep and sympathetic understanding of the problems that confront so many of the inner parts of our largest cities. I noted particularly what he said about the report of the National Children's Bureau and also his comments on the effect of bad housing and housing shortage on community relations, particularly in our big cities. What we need is a coherent urban strategy. I suggest to the Government that they should examine most carefully how housing action areas, educational priority areas and those areas which receive urban aid can be knitted together and a coherent working policy developed. If I may make one other general housing point, it is most strongly to urge the Government to do all they can to simplify all the procedures that relate to housing—and that includes planning procedures in so far as they affect housing.
I hope that the Government will pay particular attention to the recent statement issued by a body called the Public Health Inspectors London Action Group. How necessary it is to simplify the procedures can be seen if one considers that a slum clearance project may well take seven or eight years from start to finish. It may take four or five years to complete a fairly straight-forward scheme for new buildings on available unbuilt-on land. I hope that, as well as simplifying our appalling complicated procedures, the Government will be successful in bringing new resources into housing and, in particular, into the provision of housing for rent. I am thinking particularly of the large sums of institutional funds which flow every year into such bodies as life assurance companies, pension funds, trade unions and indeed into the Co-operative movement. There are noble Lords in all parts of the House with considerable influence over this type of big institution with their big cash flows.
If I may come to a more particular point concerning the London housing situation, I think it is fair to say that 1973 can only be described as having been a disastrous year. If an individual wished to buy his own home in Greater London he needed a minimum income of £3,000 and a deposit of £1,800; and, supposing he had those two things, he was still faced with a mortgage famine. If he was hoping to get a council house, 462 new council building dropped for the third year in succession, and in fact last year was 33 per cent. below the new building in 1970. If a man hoped to go to a New Town, he would have found that the waiting period between getting a new job in a New Town and getting a house there had lengthened to nine months. This places an impossible burden on the husband of a low-income family moving out from London to a New Town, simply because that man has to maintain himself in one place and his family in another place, and perhaps to travel between the two.
If, again, a person with a housing problem was hoping for a housing association solution, he would have found last year that the production of houses by housing associations in London had been severely limited by the effects of two years of a sellers' market, with a consequent spiralling of prices both for houses and for land. It is in that context that I urge upon the Government the absolute importance of taking every step they can to get new building rapidly going on the very large areas of redundant dockland which are now available in London. I urge once again—and this is something I have said on a number of occasions—that the outer London boroughs simply must come to the rescue of inner London. It is no good their hoarding and sitting on developable land for whatever reason. We are all in this thing together. This point has been made ever since 1965, and I hope we shall really see some action on it now.
My Lords, there are certain short-term steps which the Government can take without new legislation which will greatly help matters. The rent freeze has been announced in the gracious Speech, and this presents very serious problems indeed for housing associations. It will affect their new building programme, their improvement and modernisation programme, and what have been called portfolio purchases of rented properties from existing private landlords. I think these three things are something of which any Government of any colour would approve and be in favour. To prevent housing associations grinding to a halt, I believe it is essential that the Treasury agree that the withdrawal of subsidy on existing houses in the coming financial 463 year, 1974–75, will be automatically suspended. This is something for which the National Federation of Housing Societies is asking, and I think it is the minimum the Government can do; but, of course, if they can find other, additional methods of not putting the brake on housing associations, we shall be intensely grateful.
If I may now turn to new building arrangements for housing associations, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, that he may think that the 1972 problems have been cleared up; but I can assure the House that they have not, and that they will not be cleared up until we have new legislation. Nevertheless, there are certain administrative actions which the Government can take which will very much ease things. First of all, the Department of the Environment should base the subsidy that they pay on new buildings on actual income and expenditure on schemes when those schemes are nearly 100 per cent. complete, and not, as at the present time, base the subsidy on a calculation at the very beginning of the building stage. This makes a big difference. Secondly, there should be an increase, and a very quick increase, in the fixed management, maintenance and development allowances to allow for the inflated costs which we have seen in the last two years. Finally on new building arrangements, it would be most helpful if, in future, loans could be made at fixed interest rates.
Perhaps I may now turn to acquisition and modernisation by housing associations. There are ceilings of costs eligible for subsidy, and these should be raised as soon as possible because it is impossible to keep within the old ceilings. The rate of subsidy should also be increased within the ceiling. It may be asked why these things are necessary, and here I would just say that they are necessary because we have not yet got the subsidies which we were going to have if the late Housing and Planning Bill had been passed into law. They are all the more necessary because we have a rent "freeze" on top of the other problems. These two steps on the acquisition and the modernisation front can fortunately be carried out by means of Parliamentary Order, so within a month or two it should be possible to have them.
Now, my Lords, I will very briefly say something about new legislation as a 464 whole. First of all, the gracious Speech mentions protection for furnished tenants. I would urge the Government not to cover the whole country in a blanket of security. We have many localised housing problems, and they differ from one place to another. There is a danger, if overall security is given to every furnished tenant, that houses will stand empty during the winter, particularly in seaside towns and in holiday areas. I also hope that the Government will not go beyond the recommendations of the Minority Report of the Francis Committee, which dealt with owner-occupiers who let rooms or flats in the houses in which they themselves live. Some greater security for furnished tenants is certainly needed. In my view it should go to families with young children and to old people, and particularly to these groups in the known, recognised housing stress areas.
Then, if I may also briefly turn to Parts I to IV of the late Housing and Planning Bill, the whole country needs them terribly badly. Part I would have increased the powers and duties of the Housing Corporation very substantially, and this is something we need because this body is the nearest approach we have to a central housing executive for Britain. Again, Parts II and III of that Bill would have helped housing associations very considerably. Part IV would have created housing action areas, and that is something for which we have been searching and which we have been trying to get going for some nine years, ever since the Milner Holland Report. These action areas are urgently needed if the inner city and twilight areas are not to go the way some great American cities have gone. The urgency can be seen, just to take one example, in North Islington, where a study was made of four wards, with 10,700 houses. It was reckoned that 6,000 of those houses should be within housing action areas, and that it would take 12 of the fairly small-sized, foreseen housing action areas to do the job. That is just one part of one London borough.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, I apologise for the fact that, through an administrative maladjustment, my name did not appear on the list of speakers, and as some reparation I promise to be relatively brief. I should like to begin by saying 465 what pleasure it gives me to see my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge on the Front Bench, and my gratitude to those who have so promoted him reflects a lively expectation of certain favours to come, of which I will acquaint him a little later on in what I have to say.
My Lords, almost the first words that fell from the lips of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor were words which seemed to me to characterise the purpose and intention and nature of the gracious Speech. The words were as follows:The Government will move towards a greater measure of social justice as the prerequisite of national unity".That is an excellent text—and I can recognise texts when I see them! It is also a correct explanation of what is contained within the gracious Speech according to the principles which I think have animated it, that is to say, that you cannot assume that there is a national unity and therefore you cannot appeal to that national unity until you have taken such measures as will create its basic structure and provide something of its superstructure as well. It is this absence of national unity itself to which the Government very properly have addressed themselves in their preliminary and first hand and immediate projects.
It is reminiscent of the cricket match in which the batsman hoists a ball in the air in the general area of slips and a number of fieldsmen converge on the ball, only to be told by the captain, "Leave it to Smith". They retire and the ball falls to the ground because Smith was not playing that day; he was not present. The national unity, to which so much reference has already been made and from which so much can rightly be expected, has first of all to be created. It can only be created, it seems to me and it seems to the Government, by such measures as will provide a basis of social justice in which that national unity can find its birth and its nurture.
I am quite sure that a good beginning has been made, for instance, by the increase of allowances and of money to those who are aged—and here I declare an interest. I am sure that that beginning of social justice, or that increase of it, is to be found in the provision of subsidies for certain foodstuffs. I believe heartily 466 that the acquisition of land required for public and other building, a matter which is included in the gracious Speech, is another plank in that foundation platform upon which alone can be reared the principles of national unity. As the hour is late I will confine myself to one of the elements in this tangled and yet, I think, rewarding enterprise. If it is true, as of course it is, that the Government have not gone as far as they should have gone in my judgment—after all, you do not test the depth of a river with both feet—and if it be true that there is a great deal more included by inference if not by explication in the gracious Speech, I would commend to your Lordships that this beginning is entirely consonant with the principles to which reference was made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor as he began his maiden speech.
I would draw the attention of your Lordships, if I may, to one particular area which has primarily to do with the National Health Service. It has to do with old people and I can, I suppose, give a better illustration of this in a narrative form rather than by a series of propositions. You start a hostel, as I have started one or two, for old people or shall we say, for elderly citizens who are comparatively hale and hearty, and by the various processes of therapy and medicaments in a modern pharmacopoeia these ageing people get a long and unexpected tenure of life but with increasing incapacity to do the things which even in the first inception of their time in such a hostel is possible to them. There comes a period when they have to go to hospital. The hospital very quickly in many cases puts to rights the immediate problem and then they are sent back to the hostel. But they are sent back as increasingly incapacitated, in the sense that they require not full hospitalisation but a kind of protective housing. It is too much to ask the average matron, who is concerned not so much with a nursing home but with an old people's home, to cope with this. Consequently, the peril which comes to these people is a very real one. There are only two sorts of people in this world: those for whom physical existence is normally at risk and those for whom that physical existence is not normally at risk.
If you will allow the impertinence, I sometimes wonder whether people are 467 sufficiently aware of the division, the gulf, that is fixed between those who are normally expectant of a reasonable life and those who are constantly in peril of the actual life which they are endeavouring to give themselves and which they want to enjoy. For instance, had it not been for an equable and temperate winter it is coldly calculated that some thousands of old people in London and elsewhere would have died of cold. I vouch for that as I have some personal experience of the perils that they meet. I also know to what extent a great many ageing people, even those who are comparatively well off, are in fact constantly bedevilled by the problem of having an adequate diet. What is even more serious—and it is the point to which I attract your Lordships' attention—is the question of where they are going to live when a hospital cannot look after them and when an ordinary old people's home cannot be expected to provide the kind of specialised and extra care to which they are entitled and without which they will die. This is the kind of situation for which I hope very much that the present Government will find the available resources to provide a new category—not really a hospital and not necessarily a nursing home—of protective housing. I believe that this is one of the imperative needs.
I am not going to occupy time to-night in talking about one of the subjects to which I am addicted—that is care for alcoholics—but I would in one sentence remind myself and dare to remind this House that the provision of second-stage rehabilitation, protective housing for recovered alcoholics is, in perhaps 75 per cent. of the cases to which we have reference, the only way of guaranteeing or preserving that recovered alcoholic from relapse. In just another sentence or so I would ask that this problem be related also to another enterprise to which we are commited in the mission where I work; that is, for another group which does not belong. It is not necessary I think to accept the full Marxist definition of alienation to realise that there are a great many young people to-day, particularly those who come out of borstal institutions—and here I am sure I can count on the good will and favour of my noble 468 friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge—who are in desperate need, not so much of rehabilitation in the traditional sense of the word, but of incorporation and involvement in a community from which possibly they have been segregated for a time but to which it is absolutely necessary that they come back if they are to become responsible citizens. This is a programme which is deeply involved in what my noble friend Lord Gifford was talking about—and I will not attempt to rehearse his most admirable claims. If the Government are committed to the solving of this problem and if they are prepared, as they undoubtedly appear to be, to a recognition of the provision that is absolutely imperative of standards of social justice that will bring together people who at the moment are living in different communities, communities of fear, of alienation, of involvement in problems like alcoholism, then I am not surprised that the question is asked, "Where is the money coming from? Where are the provisions that should be available?" In the gracious Speech there is reference to the fact that as resources become available so these improvements will be made.
I want to finish by making two suggestions about the availability of resources. I noticed recently when I was listening in your Lordships' House to the debate on foreign affairs that the Opposition speaker—I think the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare—was canvassing the various options in which he supposed that money and resources might be found. I noticed that he did not feel there was any case for a reduction of defence monies, though it is stated in the gracious Speech that there will be a defence cut and that there will be attempts at multilateral disarmament.
I feel that I should be dishonest it I did not commend to your Lordships something which many of you will feel to be Cloud Cuckoo-land. I believe there is an increasing awareness that the whole fabric and argument of defence is shot through with all kinds of difficulties which become even greater and more forbidding as they force themselves into view, and, for the sake of my soul if you like, I plead with the Government to consider a much more radical disarmament programme than that to which they are even now committed. For I 469 believe that the first community which does venture into wholesale disarmament may in fact garrison and mobilise a growing tide (if it is possible to mobilise tides), a growing sense of the need for a different attitude to the whole wretched business of violence. I know that is a cri de coeur, but I also know that it is high time we were prepared to recognise that there are available resources which are now being squandered in making instruments of war that are obsolete before they are able to contribute to any constructive programme for peace.
But I do not wish to end on that note, because there is a reference in the gracious Speech to personal services, and I want to make a final plea for an added contribution from voluntary bodies and the kind of resources in manpower and in devotion which they can offer in this whole field of the provision of social justice. For instance, if my noble friend will offer some funds to people like myself in the field of the provision of hostels for boys out of borstal, we will guarantee to do the work. If a Government will provide through the National Health Service the opportunity for us to add wings to our old people's hostels so that we can have special care units, we will do the work. My Lords, give us the tools and we will make sure that we use them efficiently. We do not pretend that we will finish the job, but we claim that there are untapped resources in the field of voluntary effort. And we claim that those resources, when they are tapped, can go a long way to the realisation of that social justice which in its turn can produce not only the national unity for which we look but all the fruits of that national unity when it is utilised for the betterment of the community as a whole.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, before the noble Lord concludes his speech, would he say if he thinks that there is adequate provision at the present time, especially in a big City like London, for housing accommodation for discharged prisoners and for those whom one finds lying along the Embankment?
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, I can very quickly answer that question. We run a day centre for the down-and-outs and their poor relations, and we have no doubt at all that there is an untapped and unknown number of human beings who 470 are homeless and that they will be contented, or more or less not discontented, to be homeless as the weather improves and that this whole community is a real danger, not only to the welfare of society but to their own welfare. There is a paramount need, not so much for a greater addition of bricks and mortar (I believe it is true that 49 per cent. of all the housing accommodation in London is occupied by only two people) but for the utilisation on a far better scale of the available premises, and, indeed, the provision of a vastly increased public service in protected or semi-protected housing.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, it is always a privilege and a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and this evening he has not disappointed us. I echo his words in congratulating my noble friends on the Front Bench. I am particularly delighted to see that my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe has carried the cause of women to the high office she holds. I always find it very amusing at this stage of the proceedings to remember that when one goes on the hustings the local parties will say, "Do you mind if you have only a small audience?". I always assure them that anybody who sits on either Front Bench at the end of a debate in the House of Lords knows what a small audience really means. The Captains and the Kings depart—no doubt to have their meal—and leave the rest of us to hold the fort.
I have spoken in each debate on the gracious Speech during the 10 years that I have had the privilege of serving in your Lordships' House, sometimes from one place and sometimes from another, but on this occasion I should like to congratulate the Government on a splendid prospectus of activity. I found it difficult to select particular subjects on which to speak, but I have chosen those which are of my own particular interest. First of all, I was delighted to see that there will bebetter methods of meeting the needs of the disabled".And immediately there was the new appointment of my friend Alfred Morris to be the first Minister for the disabled. This is a splendid advance. He followed that immediately by the announcement that we were to have the Sharp Report 471 on disabled drivers on March 25. I would ask you to recall, my Lords, that almost the last debate we had in the House before the Election was on this subject, when I asked a Question and was told by the then Minister that this Report was coming but that it needed some consultation and deliberation.
I feel that the way in which the new Minister has produced the Report illustrates something which we all know to be a fact, that whether you are in Government or out of it, if you have good will there is nothing you cannot achieve. If you are the Government you can put through any measure you like as rapidly as you like, and if you do not want to put it through you can call in aid every Committee and Commission which will delay it from now until kingdom come. So I am delighted to know that we are to get action on the disabled drivers. I believe that in this particular connection we shall also get some action on a new disability income. The numbers of handicapped in our midst is not a large number, but it is an important minority which has been too long neglected and I am delighted to know that at last they are going to get some action.
I now move on to consumer affairs. This was one of the planks on which we fought the Election. One might have said prices, pensions and housing. Certainly in the speeches I made I talked particularly about the shopper, the housewife, and I hope that the Government are going to give some real powers to the Price Commission. At the moment it is an instrument which could be much more useful than it is. It is not much use to monitor prices if you do not do anything else about them—and I am delighted to see that my right honourable friend in the other place has made a very good start with the staple commodity of bread, though I might have wished that instead of subsidising it she had attacked some of the profits of the people who make this particular commodity. But we will not quibble so long as it is possible for people to buy bread. I am always hoping that one day I will get a job rather like the lady who goes round squeezing the loaves, who always has a retinue of young men with her and who appears to say. "That 472 is very suitable", but does not seem to do much else.
I hope the Government will extend the Supply of Goods Act to include services and not leave it to apply only to goods. There is real dissatisfaction at the moment with after-sales service, particularly of heavy consumer durables. Some people buy very expensive electrical equipment of all kinds and they cannot get satisfactory after-sales service.
There are all kinds of strange practices abroad: cowboys who call at your door and offer to put in double glazing, who charge a ridiculous amount and then disappear so that you cannot get any redress; and there is central heating. There are many things that still need to be dealt with in the field of consumer rights. Why cannot the shoppers be told of their rights? It has always been the custom for the Shops and Offices Act to be exhibited so that the workers should see what their rights are. Why cannot we have in each shop the "shoppers' rights" displayed? It is no use having splendid Acts such as the Trade Descriptions Act and the Supply of Goods Act if the shoppers still do not understand that these Acts exist to protect them. I believe this would require only a very small piece of legislation and I hope that the Government will very quickly put it into operation.
I come now to the phrase about increasing pensions and other social security benefits. Though not named, I feel that the family allowances will be included in these. I think we must remind ourselves that no Government in fact gives a pension: it is the working population in the main that contributes to pensions. Therefore, this is a wonderful opportunity for a new Government to put right some of the strange anomalies which were written into the last Social Security Act. The earnings rule, for instance, precludes men of over 65 and women of over 60 from earning unless they are willing to forgo their pension. This takes no account of the man who may have capital: it is only if you commit the wicked crime of earning. As I said before, we are not talking about the wealthy but about the little woman who washes up the cups in the corner-house, and if she earns more than £9.50 (though I believe this has been raised a little) her pension is taken away.
473 Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that in 1964 the Government removed the widow's earnings rule—this was one of that Government's first acts. Hitherto, we had been told that this would be costly but that something could be done; and it was done. The nation did not collapse, but many widows got the benefit of their wages. May we ask that some similar piece of imaginative legislation will be introduced? Perhaps the Government might also be asked to look at the question of the younger widow who enters the scheme under 50 and has to remain at the lower rate even until she is 65 and continues to work. This is a complete anomaly and reflects a totally different situation from that of anyone else. May we ask that the Government will also remove the cohabitation rule for widows? I will not go into the details of that now, but no doubt we shall have the opportunity for a debate on it later.
May I also ask that the Government will take an opportunity to review the whole system of supplementary benefits? There appear to be some very strange calculations. For instance, no-one has ever explained satisfactorily how the heating allowance is arrived at. Indeed, when I asked the Question recently in this House it seemed impossible for anyone to calculate what part of the pension was supposed to be related to the cost of heating, together with the various other comforts which, as we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Soper, the elderly need.
Finally, I should like to pick up the point which was made by the right reverend Prelate on the philosophy of conservation. Quite recently, during the energy crisis I was telephoned by a woman who asked what women could do to help with the question of waste. I made one small comment publicly, and was afterwards inundated with letters and telephone calls from women who wanted to do something positive about the quantity of waste and about products which they saw lying idle and unutilised. We are a pretty practical sex: if there is anything to done constructively, it is always the women who put forward constructive ideas. It is in this way that they get down to the various plans they would like to see put into operation.
474 Those of us who have read, The Waste Makers will know that we now have a society in which people have become accustomed to waste. But we are now right up against a crisis, which means that we can no longer allow ourselves to waste valuable materials: they must be recycled. When people approach local authorities and are told that it is too expensive to install the machinery to do this, I would say that this a moment when we must not consider the cost. We need those materials; so I should like to ask again that the Government will introduce a small piece of legislation to compel the local authorities to take steps. There is a circular that has been issued by the Department of the Environment, and anybody who writes to them about waste receives a copy. I think the circular is notable for what it does not tell you, and I would therefore hope that the new Minister will have a good look at it and immediately take action on these matters. This is a practical point—indeed, perhaps all my points are mundane and homely ones. But I would say that, in the last resort, Government is for people, and that people are concerned with very small and personal things.
§ 8.16 p.m.
THE EARL OF ENNISKILLEN
My Lords, I must apologise for intervening in this debate so late in the evening and without having put my name down on the Order Paper. I must also thank the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for allowing me to speak before him. I shall confine my remarks to Northern Ireland, where I live. The first of my two points concerns security, and I should like to endorse wholeheartedly what has already been said on this subject. I should like to stress that I fear this very delicate political flower has no great hopes of putting down roots until the people of the country feel they have both safety and protection. This is an absolutely fundamental point and must be given a very high priority. I trust that Her Majesty's Government (and we heard the statement tonight from the noble Lord) will carry that out to the Nth degree.
I should also like to endorse the remarks made—and indeed I have frequently made them myself in this House—concerning trust and unity. Trust is 475 delicate and has to be fostered; and trust is the one thing which is lamentably lacking in Northern Ireland. Indeed, it is one of the things which the security situation, almost more than anything else, has undermined. The involvement of the populace has never come off. They are not fully involved, though they would like to be. They would like to feel that they could do something and that they were really committed to something.
It is not enough to say that because a man is not in the U.D.R. or in the police he must play his role. What role? They must be given a role. They will, of course, report things which seem to be rather suspicious, but one must recognise that there is a danger in this, even in the use of the unidentified telephone call. A person whose car has been hijacked and who is told that if the news gets out 24 hours beforehand he will be shot, is not going to report the matter. But if, for example, many thousands of people were enrolled in a silent, watching capacity, the information that came out could well have come from any one of those. In this way it would be possible to build up more on the intelligence side, which appears to me to be the real key to the whole situation. Driving through the country to-day, you find it is as full of pill-boxes and barbed wire as if we were fighting an enemy. But we are not fighting a sizeable enemy; we are fighting something which is the size of a matchbox with which a man can walk through a barrier and do what he pleases. Only the people who are so intimately involved in the lives of those people will be of real assistance in preventing trouble.
I do not propose to say much more, except that on the political side, also, trust is what we have to go for. Those who have spoken in the debate to-day from my own part of the world have perhaps given a slightly "off" impression. I should be totally failing in my duty if I did not warn this House that the fact is that the Council of Ireland, so stated, has no support among the majority of the people presently in Northern Ireland. Before the act and essence of power-sharing can be accepted you must have the confidence that when you are power-sharing you are sharing power with somebody who is powerful. Of course this has to be put to the test, but the question is one of mutual respect. 476 I do not believe that there can be any mutual respect regarding international agreements when they require a deal to put that respect into effect. In the North/South relationship the North must respect what the South are doing: at present they do not. The South must respect what the North are doing; at present they do not. The people in the North must respect the Government they possess; at present they do not. They are suspicious of a selected Executive as opposed to an elected Executive. It has not been put to the test; so far the only test we have had has shown fairly conclusively a large volume of opinion which is thinking on the lines I have mentioned to-night. When the Government are carrying on with their duties I beg them to hasten slowly, otherwise I am sure they will kill what is in essence something so completely sound, but which in its practical application has gone ahead of itself to the extent that it is virtually wrecking itself.
My Lords, I wish the Under-Secretary of State, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, all success. I assure him that if he will listen to the voice of the people in Northern Ireland who wish to help and to remain British, and to continue with the British way of life, he will have support. I beg of him to trust that voice, because then we shall trust the Government, and the situations that arise out of our mutual confidence, which is something we have to rebuild and restore.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, in rising to begin the winding-up speeches of this debate—which seems to have gone on for days and days, and weeks and weeks—I must first of all wholeheartedly extend my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, on the position he now holds and the job that he has now undertaken, and tell him, as have so many of your Lordships, that our good wishes go to him. I thought that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, was a little less than accurate, when referring to the fact that he and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, were twins, when he said that it showed how different you could be if you were born on the same day. I am not a person who believes at all in astrology, but if I wanted a demonstration that 477 there might be something in it I suppose it would be that two people born on the same day under the sign of Libra have both such a devotion and passion for justice, and that is something they hold very much in common.
If it is not considered impertinent, I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips—and I do not think it can be impertinent as she has left her place—on removing to the Back Benches, because she made an admirable speech this evening. Now she is no longer burdened by those dreadful briefs from either Government Departments or Transport House no doubt we shall hear many more speeches from her. Of course I must congratulate the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack for an admirable maiden speech, as anyone would have expected, and say what a pleasure it is going to be to sit under him. There was much in the speech he made to-day that we on these Benches would welcome, particularly the assurances regarding urban aid and legal aid. Help in these areas, even with the caveat produced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham—and we do not necessarily see all these things happening immediately—is very worth while.
There are certain questions I should like to ask, and one or two small points I should like to take up, before I get to the two points with which I wish to deal at some greater length. The first is the Bill on women's rights. I was delighted to hear another reassurance about that. I should like to know what kind of Bill it is going to be. Is it going to be the kind of Bill which we have already had in this House, and which was pioneered by both the Labour Party when in Opposition, or some Members of it, and by my noble friend Lady Seear? Or is it going to be along the lines of the previous Government's White Paper, which concentrated on education, training and jobs, and not very much on education, and which totally left out the whole field of finance, mortgages and pensions which are equally important?
I should like to say how delighted I am that the present Government are going to abolish museum charges. I think it is only right—and here many Members of your Lordships' House will agree with me—that I should pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who never let 478 up and went on fighting the whole time. I was very grateful that he allowed me to hang on to his coat tails for part of the time. How delighted I am that we are not going to see that dreadful Bill, the Cinematograph and Indecent Displays Bill again—
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
Its intentions might have been good. My Lords, I did not expect to hear, "Why not?" from any Peer with a legal background, because I thought that one point which came out of the Committee stage of the House of Commons was that legally the Bill was total nonsense, and administratively it would have been worse. The intentions behind it were good; the way it was drafted was impossible, and it was practically impossible to rescue. I should like to ask a question about the Local Government Act, about which I have given notice. Are we to be given time to put forward the Amendments in this House which we were unable to do because of the General Election? Some assurances were given prior to the Election, and I think we ought to be allowed to have a look at that Act again.
I should also like to ask whether we are going to have an Environment Bill which will be along any of the lines of the Environment Bill of the last Government. Here I should like to talk about the proposal for help to Opposition Parties. This is extremely important, and is even more important in this House than in another place. In many ways, as noble Lords know, we are not yet equipped to be a full-time working House to do the jobs that we are asked to do. Let me give a small example. When the Environment Bill was started in this House under the last Government, I wanted to get hold of a number of copies to circulate to the Liberal Panel on the Environment, which is a large, eminent and well-qualified body. Under the present rules of this House, I had to pay for those copies out of my own pocket. I am not complaining that I could not afford this; I am merely saying that it is unfair that in pursuing our duties we should not be able to claim such expenses, and have this kind of expense reimbursed when we are asked to start important Bills in this House. I wrote to the noble 479 Lord, Lord Windlesham, about this matter, and he answered me courteously and put the matter to the "usual channels" where no doubt it is still circulating. Possibly the Government Whips might see that something is done about this.
Now, my Lords, I come to the subject of education which perhaps has not had as full a treatment as it should have had during this debate. I very much welcome the move towards the reintroduction of comprehensive schools, or continuing the move towards comprehensive schools, and the withdrawal of Circular 10/70. I also particularly welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has not dashed in, as the previous Secretary of State did, and that he has decided, before issuing another Circular, that he will take very considerable soundings. This is very important and worth while.
I support comprehensive schools, and my colleagues support comprehensive schools, not for the doctrinaire reasons which were, I think, slightly suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hail-sham of Saint Marylebone. I entirely reject the idea that one should use the comprehensive school system for social engineering. To start with it does not work. The fact that it does not work then enables the enemies of comprehensive schools to attack it on these grounds instead of, as should be the case, comprehensive schools being defended or attacked on a purely educational ground. It is not necessary for comprehensive schools to be large.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
If the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone (whose interjections from the Front Bench are almost as many as his interjections were from the Woolsack) does not agree, I really think he ought to catch up with what more and more educationists are saying. The Inner London Education Authority has recently had a complete volte face on this matter of the size of comprehensive schools. I am delighted to say that it is going over to the idea that we should have much smaller comprehensive schools. I want to see com- 480 prehensive schools which are smaller. I will admit my sins in the past, that I have too often defended large comprehensive schools, I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, that they are not particularly good, especially in the urban situation.
I would just touch on the question of direct grant schools. If one is going to have a comprehensive system, it is difficult to find an excuse for keeping the direct grant school system. There is little to be said for the direct grant schools which cannot also be said for grammar schools. I know that a large number of those who want to keep direct grant schools would like to have kept grammar schools as well. But if one is not keeping grammar schools, then there is not much case for keeping the direct grant system. I should not like to see a situation where the Secretary of State (I am delighted to see that in his speech in another place the Secretary of State held his horses about this, too) comes in and says, "Well, we will abolish all direct grant schools. They have got to decide whether they are going to be independent or whether they are going to come fully into the comprehensive system." I should like to see a situation where, if a local education authority wants to have a comprehensive system, and wants a decision about the direct grant schools, the Government will back up that local education authority and in such situations will say to the direct grant schools: "You have your choice. You either come into a fully comprehensive scheme or you go independent." But that is not necessarily something which is done from Westminster sweepingly across the board.
I would have a word to say to the noble Lord, Lord Somers. I am sorry that he has not been able to stay to the end of the debate. He seems to think that comprehensive schools mean that all children in the schools are taught alike. This is totally untrue. It is in grammar schools that all children are taught alike. In comprehensive schools there is a greater choice and a greater variety and so many different kinds of combinations of education. I can cheer Lord Somers up, too. He was worried by the fact that although we have comprehensive schools we still have streaming. Streaming is on the way out, too—not "streaking", my Lords; "streaming".
481 Finally, I come to what I think are almost the most important matters in the Queen's Speech—or, to be more accurate, the more important matters not in the Queen's Speech. These are the constitutional matters. I think we are in a completely different political situation. I do not think that this is just a one-off, odd Election. The noble Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, said that roughly 40 per cent. of the voters wanted a Conservative Government with a strong majority. He then went on to say that 40 per cent. also wanted a Labour Government—and here he put in the words, "presumably with a strong majority". I am not quite certain about the difference between the two.
§ LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, the difference is this. I am a Conservative and know approximately what Conservatives want; I am not a Labour man, and I can only guess what the Labour people want, and for what reasons.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I accept that totally logical point. But, of course, the noble and learned Lord's statement is really not very well supported by the evidence because, although I entirely agree with him that we cannot support a mystical view of, The electorate voted for an indeterminate situation", or "The electorate voted for a balance of power situation", nevertheless we have slightly more evidence than the noble Lord gave us the benefit of. For instance, however bad opinion polls may be, in fact they are not out by much more than 5 per cent. at the very most. We know from a very good opinion poll done during the Election that slightly over 60 per cent. of the electorate wanted a Coalition. That does not seem to show that all of these Conservatives and all of these Labour people necessarily wanted a strong majority. The noble and learned Lord says that because he is a Conservative he knows how the Conservatives think. He knows how Conservatives think, but that is not to say that he knows how the Conservative voters think.
The other thing which has quite clearly come out of the voting records of the last five or six years, and the studies of the psephologists, is that voting habits are very much more fluid than they were, 482 and that the hard core people, who always voted Conservative or who always voted Labour, are considerably fewer than they were. The noble and learned Lord also said that no voter got what he wanted. I think that this is not entirely true. I realise the sense in which he meant it, and the sense in which it is true. But a lot of voters got what they wanted, in that they got the Member of Parliament they wanted, which was a point put by my noble friend Lord Thurso. One of the interesting things about this Election was the interesting differentials in votes between different candidates, different Parties, and different parts of the country. But, of course, the noble and learned Lord is quite right: many more people did not get what they wanted than did. Of the votes cast in this Election 51.3 per cent. were cast to losing candidates. This is a tragedy—it is certainly a matter for very considerable concern.
I will not go deeper into the proportional representation argument to-night. My noble friend Lord Wade is initiating a debate on this subject on Tuesday. I will not expect the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, to reply to-night because I know that Lord Shepherd will be replying to the debate on Tuesday. But since we have been talking a lot about Ulster to-day, I cannot resist pointing out the tragedy of this Election for Ulster, for Northern Ireland, under this form of electoral system. Of the electors of Northern Ireland 51.1 per cent. supported Vanguard Democratic Unionists and United Ulster Unionists candidates, and got 11 Members of Parliament; 41.2 per cent. supported pro-Assembly Parties and got one seat. Even if one says: "All right. It was an overall majority for the Ulster Unionists, the extreme Ulster Unionists, and Vanguard and the Democratic Unionists" that is not to say it would have been that way under the form of election under which the Stormont elections were held, because a certain amount of that distortion can come, and will always come, because people vote to get someone out or to keep someone out under our present distorted system; whereas if there had been a system of proportional representation there would be a bigger vote for the moderates. Looking at what has been said about Northern Ireland to-night, and whatever one may think about propor- 483 tional representation for this country, we cannot think it anything but a tragedy that we did not have proportional representation in that particular election in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, we have an economic crisis. I rather agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Maryle-bone, that it is difficult to see how we could band together in a grand coalition to solve it. It might have been possible—I think it was worth trying—but it is difficult because, although we have the same aims in solving this economic crisis, we are very divided about the means. But that we will get through this economic crisis, I have no doubt at all. I hope this is not Panglossian optimism, but I myself am convinced we will get through it I am more concerned—and I ask noble Lords to believe that this has nothing in particular to do with Party advantage for the Liberal Party, or any minor reason—because we have reached a moment in our political history where we must fashion instruments which are more responsive to what people want than we have fashioned before. The great points which should be being debated now, and which, thanks to people like my noble friends Lord Thurso and Lord Wade, are in fact being debated in your Lordships' House, are the constitutional points as to whether and how we should change in order to make ourselves more responsive to the will of the people and to a very changed climate. The tragedy of this Queen's Speech is that it does not contain nearly enough about those matters.
§ 8.43 p.m.
VISCOUNT CpLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, it is a little surprising, perhaps, to find that this is the first real debate we have had in either House of Parliament on the range of subjects which have been broadly under discussion to-day. They were touched on, perhaps, or some of them, in another place, but to-day we have discussed them in rather more detail and we have had the foreshadowing of a series of even more specialist debates in the weeks or months to come. I must say at the very beginning to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, that if he thinks there is a great deal more included by inference in the gracious Speech than is set out, then I am deeply suspicious of 484 the gracious Speech and every single word in it. I hope he is entirely wrong and that the prospectus has been honestly set out for us. Inevitably the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson—whom I very much join in welcoming in his new position, difficult as it indeed is—has so many questions to answer that he cannot be expected to do justice to mine and I would not expect him to deal with them in detail, even though I have given him some notice of them. And I have rather to jump from one subject to another because I cannot hope in any reasonable time to deal with all the topics that have been mentioned.
However, I was attracted by the passage in the speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—again, whom I join in congratulating on his maiden appearance standing in his traditional place as he did this afternoon—when he spoke about the inner city areas. I think he would be the first to admit that the present Government are fortunate to have inherited in the Home Office the beginnings of a co-ordinating system to bring together all the agencies of central and local government to attack this problem, which we all concede to be an urgent and desperately important one. I do not think he intended in any way to disparage or derogate from what the previous Administration had done to start to try to tackle this problem. I am so glad that this Government are proposing to continue in that way. May I remind him of just one facet which he may not have had time to mention? That is the contribution the voluntary movement can make towards this particular exercise—the voluntary movement in its widest definition—because, from the little experience I had of this, it is very often the volunteers who can encourage the inhabitants of run-down inner city areas to start to rebuild local pride and to encourage each other and the local authority to bring back some sense of being, some sense of importance, to these areas, which cannot be injected by a rather distant local authority or even more distant body in Whitehall. I entirely agree here with the noble Lord, Lord Soper, in saying how important the volunteers can be in activities of this kind. Just as an example of this, those who are interested in the matter will see the emphasis that was placed in our 485 circular, issued in February of this year, on homelessness, which is very much one of the problems spoken about to-night, and the way in which voluntary organisations, such as the one Lord Soper mentioned, can take a very active, and indeed almost irreplaceable, Hart in this process.
There has been a certain amount of discussion about the Kilbrandon Report and, although it does not yet appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT of another place, there was a substantial debate last night on it, and the noble and learned Lord said a little to us earlier on this afternoon about it. The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, has asked some specific questions on this matter. I remember in December, in the debate in which I regret to say I made two speeches, saying that we were very much open to suggestion; and this is what the honourable gentleman the Minister of State at the Civil Service Department said again last night. Probably people would like to know (it may be that this cannot be said to-night) what part there is now for people to play in a constructive way in order to help the Government make up their mind. We have been promised a White Paper in due course; we have been promised a Bill. Do the Government want contributions? Do we want constructive suggestions, and, if so, in what form? I believe that if people are told, then the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, and his colleagues in Wales whom he mentioned before, will be able to contribute; the Scots will be able to contribute. It is a practical lead which is now required from the Government to say what it is that we are to be able to do to help them in this connection.
I wanted to concentrate a little this evening on the question of housing and perhaps in particular on one aspect of it. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor suggested in the course of his speech that some people show a surprising reluctance to seek the advice of lawyers—I may say that there are some Members of the Opposition, newly arrived in this position, who very much hope that that is not so. At any rate, I do not think that that reluctance will be found to extend to those who are at the present moment interested in trying to build houses. When they look at the gracious Speech, and indeed, worse still, 486 when they look at this awful Labour Party Manifesto, from which some of the gracious Speech is taken on this matter, they will see this statement:Land required for development will be taken into public ownership so that land is freely and cheaply available for new houses, schools, hospitals, and other purposes. Public ownership of land will stop land profiteering. It will emphatically not apply to owner-occupiers.The first part of this is paraphrased in the gracious Speech, in a paragraph which I may say (and I shall return briefly to this) seems to me to be absolutely packed with inconsistencies in a way which I have seldom seen in so short a space.
Naturally, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, will not be able to tell us tonight what will be the form of this confiscatory legislation. Indeed, probably this is part of the window-dressing designed to pacify the Left Wing of the Labour Party which will turn out to be all tinsel and cotton wool and will never appear in substance in this Parliament at all. I think it is one of those matters in regard to which the constitutional difficulties of my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone will probably prove fatal. But its mere inclusion in the gracious Speech has already started to do a great deal of damage, and the longer this doctrine holds, the more damage it will do.
This is the Socialists' third attempt to nationalise the whole or part of development value. So far, the history has proved to be disastrous, and I have no doubt that history will repeat itself. It was before my time in professional practice that the 1947 Act was passed. Perhaps it was not so disastrous in those days. At least some form of compensation was provided, and it was, after all, in the days of strict building control; and with a very different climate, too, of public opinion in relation to owner occupation of houses. Even so, the whole wretched scheme failed and it had to be repealed, although it is strange that even to-day in rare cases it trails behind it clouds of compensation when it comes to the occasional refused planning permission, and the Treasury still pay out under that abortive attempt.
Then of course in 1967, and in 1966 extensively before it, we had the Land Commission. This was an equally dismal 487 failure. It certainly never produced more than a trickle of land, either assembled or bought for building. It was probably invited (I certainly came across cases where local authorities and others had invited it) to step in—but I think that almost universally it declined to do so—in order to try to produce land which was for some reason ripe but not available for development.
Of course, the taxation side was another matter again. It was truly not 100 per cent. taxation of the development value. In my view it was an astonishingly well drafted Act although I know that this view is not shared by many people. But it was an Act of the very greatest complexity: it had logic and it had a remarkable construction, but equally remarkable were the grounds of argument about what it meant and what was its effect. Inevitably some of it was wrong. Indeed, after your Lordships had left out the whole of the taxation part on the Third Reading of the Bill and sent the matter back to the Commons with only part of the Bill, the Lords Amendments were sent back to us with quite substantial parts of the Bill re-written to deal with mistakes which had been subsequently discovered. Yet further Amendments and corrections had to be made in a subsequent Finance Bill.
The effect of this—apart from the activities of those who were happily engaged, with a certain amount of success, in trying to find ways around the Act—. was that those who were selling land merely inflated the price so that they could recoup some of the tax that was being laid upon them. Certainly if it raised prices it did nothing to bring forward parcels of land for development.
Against that background I look to see whether the Government are ever going to learn, and I am afraid that they are about to do it again, if they succeed in producing legislation at all. My noble and learned friend congratulated the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on being non-doctrinaire, but I cannot think that that accolade is suitable to be bestowed on this particular passage in the gracious Speech. If one had any doubts about this the enthusiasm with which it was greeted by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, seems to me finally to endorse what I am saying. After all, a 488 noble Lord who will gladly defy, for this sake, the law which he practices in his capacity as a barrister, something which I should have thought most people would be prepared to uphold, yet so strongly supports (if I have been correctly told and I am sorry that I did not hear his speech) the final end in sight of private ownership altogether.
If noble Lords opposite seek to nationalise land upon the grant of planning permission after some stated date when they have made their purposes clear, I would suggest to them that the result will be simply that people who own land will not bring it forward for development. What they will do is to wait until the wicked Socialist wolf has been slain by a more sensible subsequent Administration.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I do not know who is cast for the role, but I suppose the noble Baroness, with her beautiful uniform, is a fairly obvious contender.
The other thing that the owners of land will do is that if there is some attempt to coerce them into bringing forward land, either by applications for planning permission being made by the local authority—to whom I know not—or compulsory purchase orders being promoted, they will resist these with great vigour and no doubt considerable merit, on the grounds that the land has already had planning permission refused on it or is in some way unsuitable. The net result will be total and complete stagnation, which will apply equally to private building as it will to council house building because there will not be an acre of land upon which to build.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, the noble Lord says that there is very little now, but I am suggesting to him that the measures which his Party are suggesting are likely to dry up even that which exists. And this, I would remind him, is to be done against a background, according to the testimony of honourable Members of another place 489 on March 12, of a severe shortage of land for housing development in every corner of the United Kingdom. I read their speeches and they came as much from Cornwall as they did from Scotland, and this will apply universally right across the country.
There is of course the possibility that the Government of noble Lords opposite—although I fancy they will not be so foolish—will do even worse. If they nationalise at existing use value land which has already been granted planning permission, they may think that they are attacking what they call speculators and profiteers. I would remind them to look at the proposals in the Conservative Party's Manifesto to deal with people who were genuinely speculating in land, because these proposals were draconian enough. In actual fact, if that were to be done what they would be doing would be to attack the ordinary builder and his forward land bank, and they would cause a result whereby land which had been acquired by straightforward builders for their forward programme of house building would be confiscated from them at an existing use value, when they had in fact paid a development value for it. The result would be bankruptcy and there would be a great lack of people to build houses, whether for the private or for the public sector.
I just lay down those words of warning to noble Lords opposite. I do not expect the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, to answer me to-day because at this stage he cannot possibly know what the Department of the Environment will be putting forward in this connection. But I do emphasise that this mere mention of a doctrinaire ambition has already done great damage. The noble Baroness shakes her head, but she is not in contact with people in the way that I am now. She is isolated and insulated from them. It will continue, and increasingly continue, to do very great damage.
§ LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE
Would the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting, because he has made a number of very interesting comments and I am not sure how relevant they are. The noble Lord has constantly talked about our proposals to nationalise the land. We have talked about bring- 490 ing land ripe for development into the public sector. This is a power the New Town Corporations have had for the last half a century, under both Conservative and Labour Governments. What is the objection to extending that power to other local authorities?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I think at this stage of the evening it would be a little unfortunate if I had to go into the details of Schedule 1 of the Land Compensation Act 1961, which deals with the rate of compensation paid for land for New Towns, which is halfway between confiscation at existing use value and the price one gets for development under the New Towns scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, I am sure is familiar with this, because he will have administered it for some period of time. But I am speculating as to what will be the exact measures of the Act. I may say that at this juncture the building industry has what I consider to be very genuine fears, but I cannot take the detail further—
§ LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE
My Lords, it seems to me that the noble Lord is creating fears where they do not already exist. The noble Lord in fact admits, and nobody would accuse him of being doctrinaire, that it is proper for the New Town Corporations to have these powers. Why cannot the Government or the local authorities have exactly the same powers?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is now making a substantial contribution. If he can persuade his Party to put forward something more specific than what they have set out in the gracious Speech and in the Manifesto, that may allay some of the fears which are at present building up. I simply make this warning to noble Lords opposite. They may shake their heads if they like, but we will see in due course who is right on this. I think clarification will be very welcome. If the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, is right in the way it is going to be done, for Heaven's sake let the Government say so quickly before more people are upset and worried about the prospects before them.
I should think that although there are certainly places—and the South-East is 491 one of them—where the price of land is a substantial factor in the price of housing, this is not universally the case all over the country. It is not necessarily the price of the land itself which is depriving people of their present ability to buy a house. Of course there is the other problem of the shortage of and interest on mortgages. This is a problem with which we were battling when in Government. Nobody could possibly deny the utmost support and encouragement to the present Administration in their attempts also to solve this problem, because it is one which is not confined to the area of housing alone; it stretches right out into national and even international finance. It is not capable of solution at some simple stroke of a pen in the Department of the Environment or the Treasury. It is a highly complicated system involving negotiations with countries overseas, financial institutions and a large plethora of organisations. So if noble Lords opposite can deal with this, they will indeed be playing a great part in meeting a need. I do not wish to carp on that, but give them my good wishes in their attempts.
But I must just point to the two riddles and inconsistencies which I find in this particular passage on housing in the gracious Speech. First of all, we have talk of the encouragement of home ownership. That is a doctrine that my Party warmly endorses. One of the simplest methods of encouraging and in fact producing home ownership in the present circumstances is to encourage housing authorities to sell council houses to those of their tenants who would like to buy them. Do the Government propose to do that?—because I see nothing about that in the gracious Speech.
The second conundrum that faces me as I read the passage is relative to the proposal to protect furnished tenants from eviction, and I listened with interest to my nobel and learned friend Lord Hailsham on this matter. I doubt whether housing associations are the complete answer to the non-municipal rented side of the housing market, whatever the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, may say. There have been years of "landlord bashing" by the Socialist Party, and landlords have taken heed. It has been a great pastime, and is now to be ex- 492 tended, as one understands it, to the final area which so far has been exempt. As private unfurnished tenancies have declined because of the preposterous disincentives produced by legislation on private landlords, so under this proposal will furnished tenancies decline. When one looks at the words of the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister when he speaks of young people who cannot afford a mortgage, or who are otherwise in difficulties over housing, one asks whether furnished tenancies are not the stopgap for these people. Are they not the stopgap for a mobile working population moving more frequently from place to place and attempting to bring their families with them when they have found somewhere to live? Where is going to be the supply of furnished accommodation, this last resource in the private sector, for people who are otherwise in housing difficulties, if even this is hit over the head by the Socialist Government and their policies?
§ LORD STRABOLGI
If I may interrupt the noble Lord, may I ask whether he agrees with the policy of the former Government, of which he was a member, which gave considerable security of tenure to unfurnished tenants, the result of one of the numerous U-turns that that Government did during their last term?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I have to look at the fairly stark words of the gracious Speech. I envisage this as going all the way along the line of what has been said before by the Socialist Party. If they are going to find some intermediate ground and are going to modify or qualify the words they have put in the gracious Speech, then, just as I said before when the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, interrupted me, let them qualify it; and let them do so speedily, so that people will know where they are and will not finally be put off and discouraged from providing this sort of accommodation.
It is the very vagueness (I know that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, cannot put it right to-night), this very sweeping generalisation on doctrinaire policies, that is causing so much trouble; and we do not know whether it will ever be carried out or not. My Lords, I have reached the end of that nasty contentious bit of my speech.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
It is nasty because of nasty subject matters, the noble Lord will note. I come now to more peaceful waters—I suppose that is a mis-statement; but in Party political terms, at any rate, they are peaceful—because I can now, very briefly, welcome the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, to his arduous duties in Northern Ireland. He will be commenting, if not to-night at any rate on future occasions, on the speeches of my noble friends Lord Moyola, Lord Brookeborough and Lord Enniskillen. I am not going to enter into this highly specialised field, except to say one thing, because I think it should be repeated in this House, if it has not already been, in the course of the debates on the gracious Speech.
My right honourable friend, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, did say on March 12 that we will continue with our previous bipartisan policy on this Province, and I think perhaps the policy may turn out to be tripartite.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
The noble Lord confirms this, and it will I think give even greater strength to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. I believe we have little to fear from any possible actions of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I hope we shall be able to endorse them and to encourage and accept the progress that we very much hope he will be able to make. I cannot diagnose the undercurrents in the speeches from behind me this evening. The noble Lord may be able to do so already; I am sure that he will quickly learn, even if the nuances are not all immediately apparent to him to-night.
I therefore head finally for home, to the cover of Home Office territory—something at last that I know about. It is, however, territory very scantily covered in the gracious Speech. I agree of course with the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and others in welcoming the Adoption and Guardianship Bill. We all know what its history is. I also very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that we should urge the Government to 494 continue the full-scale review of penal treatment which was just starting under the Administration in which I had the honour to serve. I must say that if parole was a historic landmark in 1967, so (if I may change the metaphor) in the 1972 Criminal Justice Act I think we shall find that the acorn of noncustodial penalties as alternatives to prison, and indeed the provisions which prevent people from being sent to prison unnecessarily without proper legal advice, may grow into a very great oak which will take the place of prison sentences, except where they are necessary for the protection of society against people who cannot be trusted to remain loose in it. Although it may not be so spectacular at the moment as a growth, I think it is something which will develop and will turn equally into a very substantial achievement—perhaps one parallel with that which has been so signally administered and chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for a great number of years—and a very arduous duty I know it to have been, too.
There is just one last thing that I would like to say on this subject. Already twice earlier on to-day we have had comments in this House on last evening's atrocious incident in The Mall. We have heard that the police—and indeed the public, but I am concerned particularly with the police—were alert and, above all, were present; they were very brave, and they have caught a man. We were able in our time in Government to tell Parliament that crime figures overall were down, but that those for crimes of violence were still, unfortunately, increasing. I hope that the present Government accept that a strong, well-equipped police force, with good morale, is the best possible bastion against this sort of crime, and indeed against any sort of crime.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
The noble Lord has said what I should like to hear. I hope that the Government will go on recruiting for the Police Service. I hope that they will continue recruiting prison officers, staff for whom I had a particular responsibility and who also have a hard and hazardous job to do in protecting the public from, I am afraid, some thugs and villains who are not easy 495 to contain in prison. So if we can have, in lieu of some specific mention in the gracious Speech of provisions about law and order, an assurance from the noble Lord that this is an area well forward in the minds of the present Government, as it was in the last, then I think we shall be very much reassured. It is not, after all, necessarily a matter for legislation. It is a matter for good administration, and it is a matter for a Ministerial enthusiasm which breeds confidence and success among those who are actually administering the process of law and order. I hope that I can finish on a happy note. Although the subject I have been talking about is not in the Queen's Speech, from the gestures of the noble Lord opposite I feel that this is very much part of the policy of the Labour Government, for which perhaps there was simply not room in the gracious Speech.
There are many points that I have not been able to cover. If the noble Lord can answer me even on some of those that I have raised, I shall be very grateful. At the end of this very long debate we welcome his winding up for the Government on the large and important document which we have been discussing for so many days.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, a number of noble Lords have said kind things, for which I am very grateful. I have not done any research into this, but I should say that I am the oldest Under-Secretary ever appointed, which after all is something. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, referred to our astrological propinquity; we can be distinguished in that he is stepping off the top rung of the ladder as I put a timid foot on the bottom, and I can assure him that I am not going to follow him up it. It is a great honour for me to end a debate (it seems an awful long time ago since it started), so brilliantly and warmly started by my noble and learned friend, whom we are pleased to welcome here on the Woolsack. I thought his was one of the most encouraging speeches I have heard for a long time, particularly as certain parts of it applied to my own particular interest, which is the area of delinquency and the poor litigant. Law 496 centres, the duty solicitor, and things of this order, are absolutely vital, and it is an enormous comfort to know that the noble and learned Lord is setting his shoulder to that wheel.
We have had six hours of debate, of which only about 70 minutes have been Party political. The first and last speeches from the Benches opposite I do not mind at all. I just do not happen to be frightfully good at it, so I shall not spend a lot of time tearing what was said to pieces. The first 20 minutes of the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, seemed to me to fit admirably on to my noble and learned friend's speech, and we had a rather fine meeting of minds, with certain differences indicated, which kept me totally occupied in my mind. Then the noble and learned Lord changed gear, and went into overdrive, which was sheer knockabout; but we always look forward to that in this House. It is absolutely inconceivable to us that an ornament of a Government which brought this country to its knees—from a £1,000 million surplus to £4,000 million deficit (it may not be their fault, but at least they were in the driving seat)—should get up here and talk to me in that way. I find it hard to credit. I should have thought that the old Edwardian solution of six months in darkest Africa shooting big game until the obloquy blows over would be far more suitable for an occasion of this sort.
This has not been an easy debate to try to bring together. Some very serious things I particularly want to talk about, and I hope that your Lordships will be generous to me in not expecting me to deal with every question that arose. If I were to do that we should be here for a long time, and I am physically allergic to very long speeches, and I know that most of your Lordships are too. Let me finish with politics. The speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, was so general that I think I can reply generally to it. It was the kind of speech which the better, wittier, and more interesting orators (because he is marvellous to listen to) of his Party were making during the Election, and the electorate replied, if I may say so without offence, with an unequivocal raspberry, and that really was the end of it. It is 497 enough to say that at this stage we think that other approaches than those which were tried and which failed must be tried by this Government, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and his colleagues are busy on the job.
The problems of modern society are highly complex and it must take more than seven or eight days to come to the best conclusions after appraisal of all the facts. So, as I have said, your Lordships will not expect me to give answers to many of your questions. But there are one or two answers which I can give which, I am afraid, will not give enormous satisfaction. For example, several noble Lords asked about the Bill to deal with discrimination against women. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said that we shall be having one, and I can repeat that assurance. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, asked whether we intend to introduce a Protection of the Environment Bill on the lines of the one put forward by the last Government. The answer here is: yes, we do. The Queen's Speech referred specifically to this proposal, but my right honourable friend has decided that he will not make use of the previous Government's Bill but will introduce something on similar lines, with some changes and some strengthening. I cannot give a date for its introduction, but my right honourable friend is well-known for his determination in dealing with questions of pollution and I do not think we need fear any undue procrastination. Then, as regards electoral reform, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, will have to contain himself until his colleagues propose answers next week. I do not think he will expect me to say any more now about that subject.
There were one or two points of a not very controversial kind in the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone. I was rather surprised to hear us described as "divisive". What has happened in the last three and a half years has been divisive; that is the one effect which there has been in this country. I thought I ought to mention that point. The noble and learned Lord and I were at Eton together; indeed, as your Lordships already know, we were contemporaries. Of course Eton is a comprehensive school and it has houses. But does the noble and learned Lord think that com- 498 prehensive schools do not have houses?—because they do.
§ LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, there are two points on which the noble Lord is wrong. First, Eton is not a comprehensive school; it is a grammar school with a slightly larger than normal range of ability in it. But it is by no means comprehensive. Secondly, although a comprehensive school has houses, nobody lives in them.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, I accept the noble and learned Lord's modifications and I think we can pass on. The chief point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, about which I want to talk is the Kilbrandon Report. But I do not want to say very much because, once again, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has spoken about it. There is no question of delay, and it is an unwarranted suggestion that the whole matter is being held up. My honourable friend Mr. Sheldon said something on which I do not think I can expand, but which was very specific. He said that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has stated clearly that we intend to publish a White Paper and subsequently a Bill. If noble Lords think that that will take a very long time, then they must think that it will be a very long time before the next Election. They may be right—I do not know—but it seems to me to be a fairly immediate promise. That is as far as we can be expected to go.
I have dealt briefly with the politics. The rest of our debate has fallen under two main headings—housing and Northern Ireland, and I shall take Northern Ireland last. In between, one or two points were made which I hope noble Lords will agree I need not deal with. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, answered very well the question of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, on education. Of course comprehensive education does not mean identical education. I have had no notice of questions on education, and I do not really think that I want to expand on this subject, But we all know the argument about comprehensive schools. People on the other side of the House think in one way and we on this side think in the other way, 499 and I do not believe that we should thresh this matter out to-night.
I thought that my noble friend Lady Summerskill's speech was fascinating. She produced some remarkable figures. I can assure her that they will be passed to the right quarter and I shall write to her. I have a quick answer to the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie. He asked whether we could postpone the local government reform. The answer is, "No". The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester asked for a Member of this House to be a Minister in the Department of the Environment. That would be beyond my powers to arrange, but we have our noble Leader, Lord Shepherd, taking a special interest in that Department, and that would seem to be the next best thing.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, if I might interrupt the noble Lord, I am interested to hear that the Leader of the House will be taking a particular interest in matters concerning the Department of the Environment. Is that correct?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I also heard the noble Lord say earlier in his speech that the Secretary of State for the Environment would be introducing a new Bill covering some of the same ground as the Protection of the Environment Bill. May I ask the noble Lord why it is that the same Bill cannot be re-introduced into this House at a time when we have almost no business? I do beg him to talk to his noble friend the Leader of the House to see whether this cannot be done. The fact that the Bill would be taken over from a Government of a different political complexion should not enter into the issue. If the new Government wish to amend the existing Bill they have an opportunity to do so in Committee and at the Report stage. The noble Lord may remember that in 1970 we took over some Bills introduced by the previous Administration. The first Bill I handled in this House as a Minister was the Misuse of Drugs Bill, which had been inherited in the same sort of way from the previous Administration. I must ask him to think of the interests of the House as well as of his own Party.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, I am fully appraised of what the noble Lord is saying and I am not in any way hostile but this is rather a different matter from the Misuse of Drugs Bill. The Secretary of State is a person with a passionate interest in this subject. I have not discussed it with him at any length but I believe he feels that he has to proceed differently. If this is so, it is not a Party question at all and I doubt whether I can move him, but I shall certainly pass on what the noble Lord said with good measure.
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to refer to what he described as the "next best thing"? Although at first hearing that may seem to be something approximating to having direct responsibility, will he appreciate that many noble Lords on this side of the House regard this "next best thing" argument, which applies presumably to a large number of Ministers of whom so few have direct responsibility for their Departments, as something that is deplorable?
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, all I can do is to pass on the remarks made; but I do not take a strong view about this either way, and if I did it would not make the slightest difference.
If I may return to the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, I can assure him that the question of the 700 churches in Norfolk and Lincolnshire which is so interesting, and which is the basis of his request, will not be neglected; but no one in this House at this stage can expect many promises to be made, at least of a financial kind until next week. But this is a matter which I will put before my noble friend who is again greatly interested in this kind of matter.
We come to housing, on which we had a pretty good debate. Most sides were represented. My noble friend Lord Fiske, who probably has more practical experience in running housing than anybody in this House, with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, a close second, between them said about as much as there was to say from rather different sides, and my noble friend Lord Gifford made a blistering attack (I ought to have mentioned that; that was another 15-minute 501 speech that was faintly political; perhaps it was not quite fair to put it all on the other side) which I found very effective about the scandal of homes lying empty, evictions and all that; and Lord Fiske pointed out that it is no good putting this down all the time to widows, and trying to get sympathy in that way.
The noble Viscount, Lord Colville, brought in the other side and accused these speakers of "landlord bashing". I think the House can make up its own mind; we do not have to come to a decision on this. The main thing about the present Government's housing policy is that they are trying to find a means to get land on which to build houses; and here the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, thinks they are making a great mistake. I would say that, in spite of his worry, I do not think anybody should jump to conclusions about what will be the effect of proposals which are now in the process of being carefully worked out. The noble Viscount said that we did not know what they are, and I think that, not knowing what they are, he spent rather a long time on them; but that is a personal view.
The ownership and development of land is a notoriously sensitive subject, and the last thing Her Majesty's Government want is to inhibit this; in fact, the whole object is the exact opposite. On the contrary, the one thing they want to do is to secure that the development is carried out in the best and most effective way, in the right place and at the right time. Everybody always says that, but this Government mean it. It is something to which they are dedicated. We have been shattered by the poor results, if I may say so, of the Tory housing arrangements, and we are absolutely determined to alter this situation whatever the difficulties. So I do not think we need to be too worried about that until we see exactly what it is.
My noble friend Lord Hunt made one or two points to which I want to refer. As to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Bill, I know that from this position I am supposed to have no personal views, but I did speak strongly (and the noble Viscount may even think aggressively) on this Bill when I was sitting on the other side, so I am very happy to be able to say, without committing my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, 502 that I know he is sympathetic to the objectives of this Bill, and I hope very much indeed that this sympathy will lead in due course to action. We all know that there are some fairly serious difficulties, but I believe that my noble and learned friend's intentions in this Bill have a good chance of being fulfilled by this Government; and if they are fulfilled it will be a great triumph for my noble friend Lord Gardiner and to all of us who have backed him. This is a very difficult area, and this is a bold if small step forward.
Then my noble friend Lord Hunt, who headed the Parole Board with such distinction, has raised two or three points to which once again I can say my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is sympathetic. As to the question of looking at the conditions of parole after seven years and whether they can be improved, of course we will look at it. As to the question, also, of a more wide-ranging review of penal treatment, goodness knows!, this is what I have been asking for for years, and I think we are going to get it, just as we were beginning to get it under the last Government. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville, also referred to the great hope of the penal world, the alternatives to prison. That scheme started under a Labour Government; it came to fruition under a Tory Government, and we are going to press on with it—I have no doubts whatever about that. As to prison officers and police, I think it is enough for me to say to the noble Viscount that my right honourable friend regards both these as of the very highest priority. In fact, in neither Service is recruitment going too badly at the moment, as the noble Viscount knows, but we shall not ease up on that in any way.
My noble friend Lord Soper said so many things with which I agreed that if I attempted to deal with them all I might commit the Government to things that I ought not to. So I will just say that the general line which he has put forward is a general line which my right honourable friends in the various Departments—that is, the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Security—are looking at with great sympathy. To the noble Viscount, Lord Barrington, we could say that we have for the first time in this country's history appointed a 503 Minister, Mr. Alfred Morris, of whom we all think very highly, with the specific duty of looking after handicapped children. I cannot follow the noble Viscount into the rights of the foetus—there really is not time to-night.
My noble friend Lady Phillips never fails to produce a number of questions which are extremely difficult to answer, and I hope that she will be happy if I write her a letter about some of them. The chief thing we can point to on the question of the disabled, which she raised at the beginning of her speech, is the presence of Mr. Alfred Morris whom we trust to look after this question in the fullest possible way. I cannot commit anybody in regard to family allowances but I do not find myself out of sympathy with this. I can assure the noble Baroness that the widows' earning rules will be sympathetically considered.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIGE
Both these topics will be referred, with enthusiastic support, to my right honourable friend. My Lords, I come now to the most difficult part of this debate, which is Northern Ireland. I speak with rather unusual humility on this subject—it is not my strongest quality. This is something on which I feel very deeply and I should like to begin by making one or two remarks on what was said by noble Lords and then making a few general remarks. It is most important that this House should note the appreciation expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Brookeborough, of the sympathy which we feel for the Chief Constable and the R.U.C. in this dreadful incident that has occurred, and also to the Army of course. I think it is very important that we should note that and I do not think anybody would dissent from that. There are various rather tricky things to say here. We talk of trust. It seems to me that it is no good talking of trust if you do not trust people. Whether the situation is such that you have to do so or 504 not, the pulling back of trust from the Council of Ireland is to me terribly distressing. I am too new to say that I am right, but I hope that noble Lords will think about that. I shall refer to it again in a minute. The question of pay will be taken up, but that obviously is a very difficult subject. Relative pay has bothered other people recently and in this case it is particularly tricky and I should not like to say anything about it at the moment.
We have had three very fascinating speeches from people who know a great deal about this subject—from the noble Lords, Lord Brookeborough, Lord Moyola and Lord Enniskillen. You will not expect me as a newcomer in this very delicate field to say very much more. My Party has constantly supported the policy pursued by the previous Government and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has already stated clearly that he will continue to do so. I am very much encouraged to hear a reverse promise from the Front Bench on the other side. This is what we all hope for. This policy, my Lords, which we inherit, and of which we approve, has led to the establishment of important new forms of Government in Northern Ireland in which both sides of the community share. It has provided a framework for power-sharing in Northern Ireland. The political Parties which have agreed to join in the Northern Ireland Executive and in power-sharing have each taken a courageous step forward for Northern Ireland. We must not underestimate the courage on both sides in doing this or the really very surprising success that has attended it.
In the short time I have been able to spend in Northern Ireland—in my eight days in this position—I have already come across very encouraging instances of a similar sharing of responsibilities at other levels: in one case a training school in Belfast and in another case a chamber of commerce. Both were living proof to me that there is genuine good will among differing groups to work effectively together. That is what a United Kingdom Government is concerned with. We have not got the "rubs"; we can see the good will and somehow want to foster it. This co-operative spirit is not new in Northern Ireland at that sort of level, but the concept of power-sharing at the highest level in the Executive is new and 505 it promises to give Northern Ireland a stable and effective Government, and a fair one. The Executive deserves, and will get, the full support of Her Majesty's Government.
One of the major responsibilities of Her Majesty's Government in relation to Northern Ireland concerns security. We shall not weaken in our efforts to curb violence. The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and I think all three other noble Lords asked me, "Are you satisfied that the Army is really getting full support?" After eight days and talking to three Generals, I am. This is my first impression. I asked, simply because it is the first thing one wants to know, "Can you say we are holding you back?" I can give you a categorical "no".
On that same point, one noble Lord asked about the liaison with the Irish Army. I am informed that this exists in a perfectly straightforward way. Like all other things, it sometimes goes wrong, and I cannot find out whether on this particular, disastrous occasion anything went wrong or not, but there is, as it were, neither deliberate nor careless regular omission here. It is a normal drill. The level of violence is lower than it was 12 or 18 months ago, but I have to confess that the last weekend, and the last day or two, are a disagreeable reminder that the forces of violence are not yet spent.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brooke-borough, asked about the duration of the current Assembly. This is set out in Section 27 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973: a devolution Order was made under Section 2 of the Act to come into force on January 1, 1974—and by Section 27(1)(a) the Assembly will be dissolved on the fourth anniversary of that date unless any of the events referred to in subsection (5) should occur. I cannot forecast the likelihood of that, but I hope this is a fair answer.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brooke-borough, made a number of remarks about security and, in particular, detention. On that all I can say at this stage is that my right honourable friend has announced that he has asked the G.O.C. and the Chief Constable to report on what additional measures may be needed to deal with the security situation. I have taken careful note of what the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, has said. 506 I am sure he will agree with my right honourable friend's plea to the whole community in Northern Ireland to play the major part which they must play if violence is to be stamped out.
The problems in Ireland as a whole are so difficult and we all know they are so difficult, that progress can be made only by each side easing a little in its approach. Though he paid a generous tribute to the Executive, yet I am a little disappointed at Lord Brookeborough's reflections on the Council of Ireland and I think they were the most depressing of the remarks made by the three noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and the noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, were rather more hopeful. They saw many difficulties, nut I felt that the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, was taking the view that we should not go on with it and I believe we have to think very carefully before any line like that is taken.
I listened to the speech three or four days ago of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, in which he again, in a very moderate way, asked that the Irish Government should not continue to press for the immediate establishment of the Council of Ireland. But we have to remember that the Council of Ireland is only a part—though a highly important part—of the Sunningdale Agreement. That Agreement also contained declarations of the status of Northern Ireland which, as Mr. Cosgrave has since confirmed, mean that Northern Ireland's position in the United Kingdom, until a majority of people of Northern Ireland wish otherwise, is recognised as a fact. You cannot say more. You can say the same thing again, but you cannot say more. The Sunningdale Agreement also led to the setting up of the Joint Commission on Law Enforcement, to study urgently the possible solutions to the problem of terrorists who escape from one jurisdiction to another. Every noble Lord who has spoken has said that there could be no progress without this. These are vital parts of the package agreed at Sunningdale—a package which involves the Council of Ireland—and they cannot be ignored.
There are many things to be worked out between the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, but an important safeguard was agreed on at 507 Sunningdale; namely, that the Council of Ministers should act by unanimity. The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, referred to this, and this must be a reassurance to those in Northern Ireland who fear that their views might carry insufficient weight. It is a very good device which has worked well in the E.E.C. Also, my noble friend Lord Brown uses it in his firm, and has fewer industrial troubles than most people. I think it is a real safeguard. I do ask the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, and his friends to be patient. There is to be a further conference on the problems arising from the Sunningdale meeting, and I beg them not to reject an Agreement which, I am convinced, offers the best hope of progress for the real benefit of the majority of people in Ireland for years. All three Parties here are "sold" on this. I do not think I can say more than that this is the Government's policy and we shall stick to it.
On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.