§ 3.14 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Shinwell—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ THEMINISTER FO STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD HARRIS OF GREENWICH)
My Lords, I should like, if I may, to begin my speech with a reference to two noble Lords: first, my noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt. I am sure I speak on behalf of the whole House when I welcome him warmly to his new place on the Government Front Bench. Quite apart from his personal qualities, I think the House is particularly fortunate, at a time when a great deal of Parliamentary time is going to be devoted to discussing the Government's proposals on legislative devolution to Scotland and Wales, in having on the Front Bench one of the principal authorities on this crucial issue, For that reason alone I think my noble friend is particularly welcome.
164 However, he is not only a constitutional authority of very considerable note but he has been one of our leading political analysts on radio and television. Indeed, I might at one stage have said that he was a psephologist were it not for the unhappy fact that a few weeks ago one of them on the night of the General Election said that the Labour majority would be between 100 and 150. So a compliment of that sort might be misunderstood by him. Therefore, I will content myself with one other particular reference to him. The last occasion that I had the pleasure of being in a radio studio with him was one of those unfortunate moments in the political history of our Party when we were going through one of those brief and, happily, rare interludes when there was a slight difference of opinion between members of our Party. News of this had, unhappily, crept into some of the newspapers. The House will be relieved to know that my noble friend and I discussed this problem with our customary moderation and restraint. It was, as I recall, a programme for the Overseas Service of the B.B.C. I understand on very good authority that there are many inhabitants of Malawi and Zaire who still recall our discussion with pleasure!
I turn now to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I should like to associate myself with what my noble friend the Leader of the House said about him. His departure from a particularly active role in politics is a severe loss to the House. As the Minister responsible to the Home Secretary for broadcasting policy, I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is returning to the television industry, where he has a large number of friends, as indeed he has on both sides of this House. This is the moment to recall one considerable accomplishment of the noble Lord which has received far too little attention: that is the creation of the Voluntary Service Unit, which is now in the Home Office, and for which he was personally responsible. This Unit exists in order to give advice and encouragement, and indeed, a fair amount of financial support to many voluntary organisations. As someone who for at least a short period in my life worked in the Treasury, I realise what a formidable struggle the noble Lord must have had in securing 165 Treasury approval for that Unit. I know how much the existence of this Unit is greatly valued by voluntary organisations in this country, and I know that they would wish to be associated with the few words that I have said about the noble Lord.
I propose to-day to discuss two major areas of Home Office policy. By far the lengthiest section of my speech will deal with the increasingly serious crime situation in this country. But first I think I should refer to what is going to be the principal piece of Home Office legislation in this Session—the Bill aimed at ending discrimination based on sex. The provisions of the Bill were outlined in our White Paper Equality for Women which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary published early in September. They will reflect the Government's resolve to introduce effective measures to discourage discriminatory conduct and to promote genuine equality of opportunity for both sexes. I should tell your Lordships that in preparing their proposals, the Government have tried to avoid a number of weaknesses which experience has revealed in the enforcement provisions of our race relations legislation.
As to the scope of the Bill, in employment it will reinforce the Equal Pay Act which we passed in 1970, by covering non-contractual terms and conditions of employment, as well as job opportunities. When the Bill is enacted it will be unlawful for employers to discriminate in opportunities for recruitment, training and promotion either on grounds of sex or, equally important, on grounds of marriage. We also propose to cover access to partnerships in large professional organisations and to licensing authorities.
The Government's proposals also bring education within the scope of the Bill. Subject to a saving for single sex institutions, the Bill will place a duty on all educational establishments, in both the public and private sectors, to provide facilities for education to either sexof the like quality, in the like manner and on the like terms in and on which they are provided for members of the other sex".Our proposals will also apply to the provision of goods, facilities and services to the public, including such critical areas 166 as housing accommodation, banking, loans, credit and mortgages.
The Government have adopted a new and radical approach to enforcement machinery. This combines the right of individual access to legal remedies, which many organisations wanted, with the positive and strategic functions of a powerful Equal Opportunities Commission, responsible for enforcing the law in the public interest on behalf of the community as a whole. On the question of individual access to legal remedies, the Bill will provide individual civil remedies for victims of unlawful discrimination, who will have direct access to the industrial tribunals on employment matters, and to the courts on other complaints. The Bill will also make provision for dealing with general practices of discrimination.
While the proposed Equal Opportunities Commission has the same name as the body proposed by our predecessors, it will in fact have substantially different functions. It will, for instance, be able to represent individuals in suitable and significant cases. The Commission will be empowered to conduct investigations on its own initiative whether or not it has received an individual complaint. It will be able to issue non-discrimination notices, which could if breached be enforced through the civil courts, as well as to follow up court and tribunal proceedings. It will also be able to conduct general inquiries and research into areas not covered by the Bill; to advise the Government, and to take action to educate and persuade public opinion. In order to ensure its effectiveness the Commission will have adequate powers to require the production of relevant information and to summon witnesses to give evidence.
I regard this Bill as one of the most important listed in the gracious Speech. I would not argue for a moment that even after the passage of this Bill all discrimination against women will suddenly cease. It will not. Even after the enactment of two Race Relations Acts there is still, unhappily, a great deal of discrimination against both men and women solely on the grounds of their colour. We have seen evidence of that to-day in the Report of PEP, an exceptionally disturbing document it seemed to me. In these circumstances it will clearly be some time before we rid our society of the curse 167 of this deeply unjust and demeaning treatment of many women simply on the grounds of their sex. But this Bill will at least make a start towards creating a society where the majority of our fellow citizens—because that in fact is what women are—receive some guarantee of equal treatment under the law.
I should like to turn now to a totally different problem. This is the extremely disturbing increase in crime which is causing serious and entirely justifiable anxiety among the public. We have experienced a rise of 20 per cent, in recorded crime in the first half of this year compared with the same period of last year. It was already apparent from about the middle of last year that the decrease shown in the early months of 1973 was not being maintained. In fact, the last quarter of 1973 taken in isolation showed an increase of 11 per cent. in recorded crime over the same period in 1972. This was an ominous forerunner of the larger increases which we have witnessed this year. We do not yet have any comprehensive information about the period after the end of June, but such figures as we have suggest that the present trend is continuing. By comparison with the first eight months of last year, offences recorded as known to the police have increased by 17 per cent. in the Metropolitan Police District. To take only one example concerning a provincial force, in the area of the Kent police there has been an increase in the first eight months of this year of no less than 27 per cent. over the same period last year. It is important to recognise that many other advanced industrial countries are experiencing precisely the same problem. In the United States, for example, they have had a remarkably similar trend: a promising decrease in recorded crime followed by a resumption of a sharp upward movement in the crime statistics.
In this situation I think it is right this afternoon, as the Minister responsible to the Home Secretary for the police, to discuss some of the more serious problems now facing the Service. First of all, I must mention recruitment. At the end of September the total strength of the police service was 100,822 men. This is an increase, albeit a very small one, over the comparable period of last year. There was an increase of 257 men, and that I 168 suppose is a trend at least pointing in the right direction. Recruitment had totalled 4,880 this year, a slightly lower rate of intake than in 1973. Wastage rose in 1973 by 26 per cent. But perhaps we may take comfort from the fact that the total wastage for the first nine months of this year, 4,580, is also around the 1973 level and has not increased still further. Moreover—and this is an encouraging and important fact—the cadet intake this year is up by over 300 compared to last year, and given the fact that a substantial number of recruits to the police service come through the cadet scheme, this at least is a statistic which provides some slight encouragement. Nevertheless, the growth of the service as a whole so far this year has been disappointing and the manpower situation in a number of forces, including the Metropolitan Police, remains highly unsatisfactory.
However, I should make it clear that these figures do not include any marked effect from the changes in police pay which operated from September 1, New pay scales were agreed for all ranks from that date, and agreement has now been reached in the Police Council that the London allowance should be raised to £275. In addition, the Police Council have in hand a review of the structure of police pay. These substantial increases in pay will, we hope, do something to reduce the present high wastage of trained police officers and provide further incentive to young men and women to join the police service.
Next, I turn to the various scientific aids available to the police. Some measure of our recent progress can be gauged from these figures. At the end of 1965, when my right honourable friend the present Home Secretary first took up that Office, the police had a total of 1,450 personal radios. Now there are 26,500. In the same period the number of radios in police cars has more than doubled. A large technical and scientific staff are employed by the Home Office on research and development, and about £2 million is being expended this year in this particular area of police activity. A recent example, which I have had the opportunity of visiting myself, was the setting up at the Durham County police headquarters of an experimental unit, staffed by scientific and technical officers together with police officers. for the purpose of making 169 advanced technical equipment and a technical service available to groups of police forces. The experiment has been a success and we arc now having discussions with the Association of Chief Police Officers to see whether we can create further units on the same lines. Another example has been the establishment of an operational computerised control system in Birmingham. It is now proposed to extend this to the whole of the new West Midlands Metropolitan Area. Work is in progress on installing a still more advanced and highly developed system in Glasgow. Further studies are m progress both in Dorset and in Staffordshire.
Another important recent development is the police national computer. This began to provide an operational service for the police on April 1 when the national file of stolen vehicles was transferred to it. Your Lordships will gain an impression of the value and the significance of this development to the police by this fact. In the past it took around ten days to secure detailed information about the ownership of a suspected stolen car. This matter can now be determined by a police wireless operator checking through his head-quarters about the registration number of a particular vehicle, and he can get the answer not in ten days but in a matter of a few seconds. This obviously has a profoundly significant effect upon the operational efficiency of the police force.
However, inevitably there are some anxieties about the general question of the possible misuse of personal information held on computers, be it by the police or by other Government Departments. The police are highly sensitive to this, I know, and considerable steps have been taken by the police service to make quite sure that unauthorised hands cannot get access to the kind of information held on the police national computer. As we said in our Election Manifesto, we want to protect the citizen from unwarranted and mischievous intrusion into his private affairs. In considering what measures should be taken, the Government are able to draw upon the valuable studies of the Younger Committee, which examined the need for further measures to protect privacy in the private sector, and of the committee of officials which reviewed the 170 processing and storage of personal information on Government computers. In this field—as in any field in which the needs of the individual have to be balanced against the needs of society as a whole—many difficult issues are involved; but one aspect which has, perhaps, caused more concern than any is the one to which I have just referred—the possible abuse of personal information held on computers. This question was raised with me in the last Parliament by my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner. The Government have, therefore, decided that it would be right to publish in advance of our overall conclusions on privacy our views on the specific questions arising from the increasing use of computers in both the public and private sectors. We hope to do this by Christmas and we shall aim to present our overall conclusions as soon as possible thereafter.
I now turn to relations between the police and the public. Only a few weeks ago, I visited the United States in order to discuss a number of issues of common interest in the general area of law enforcement with a number of officials in the police service in the United States. I am bound to say, as I suppose many people have realised on previous visits of this kind, that one is struck by the degree of envy that there is in the United States about the quality of the relationship that exists between members of the public and the police service in this country. However, nobody—least of all anybody in our police service—is at all complacent about the current situation here. Sometimes, one is bound to say, and the police service would be the first to admit it, there are lapses of judgment—occasionally serious ones. But of course there are some lapses of judgment by politicians, and some by businessmen and even some by civil servants from time to time.
One of the questions which was awaiting our attention in this area when we came into Office was the general one of what steps should be taken to introduce an independent element into the procedure for dealing with complaints against the police. The previous Government had accepted the need for an independent element to play a role in this procedure, and on that point of principle I am glad to say there now appears to be general agreement. Last year, my 171 right honourable friend's predecessor as Home Secretary appointed a working group representing the police service and police authorities in England and Wales, to consider what would be the best method of achieving that aim. It fell to my right honourable friend to publish the working group's report and to set about forming his own conclusions on what, as the substantial difference of opinion that emerged on the working group has shown, is a particularly difficult question.
The basic choice which has to be made, as I see it, is between what the working group called an ex post facto scheme—one where the independent element can be called in only after a complaint has been dealt with to pronounce on whether it was dealt with properly—and a scheme under which the independent element intervenes in the handling of a complaint at a much earlier stage. The first alternative involves the minimum of interference with the existing system, but its great disadvantage from the point of view of the dissatisfied complainant would be that, even if the independent element found that he had good cause for dissatisfaction, no action to satisfy the complainant would follow from its finding.
In our view, an arrangement under which the opinion of an independent reviewing authority could have no effect on the outcome of the case it was reviewing would be far too weak to command that degree of public confidence in the system which the injection of an independent element is designed to secure. For this reason, my right honourable friend has come to the conclusion that it is essential for the independent element to be able to intervene early enough to make its intervention effective.
In July, my right honourable friend put forward an outline scheme, of which the main features were that the investigation of a complaint would remain in the hands of the police; but thereafter, unless the complainant did not want to press the matter, it must come immediately under the scrutiny of an independent authority. I will not trouble the House with the full. details of the scheme. All I would say for the moment is that we are now involved in detailed discussions with the various representative bodies in the police 172 service and that we shall attempt to make progress on this important issue as rapidly as we can.
However, I should like, while talking about this general question of relations between the police and the public, to come to another matter. It is one which was touched on at the annual conference of the Police Federation last week. Quite apart from the Government's own proposals for a major restructuring of the complaints procedure, there are strong feelings among policemen that the existing complaints procedure can be most unfair to them; that they arc insufficiently protected against malicious and ill-founded complaints; and that the complaints and discipline procedure can extend into areas which people in other occupations and professions regard as their own private business. We have some sympathy with the feelings of police-men on this point and, in considering amendment of the existing law and regulations, we shall certainly consider, when trying to give effect to our proposals on this question of the independent element, modifications which would make the present system a great deal fairer from the point of view of the police just as much as from the point of view of the public.
I do not think that I could appropriately, at a time like this, address your Lordships on this particular area of policy without discussing the problem of terrorism. We are being constantly reminded by a series of outrages throughout the world that terrorism is now a serious threat to the maintenance of stable and rational societies. In Great Britain, as in Northern Ireland, we have seen the killing and maiming of innocent people—men, women and children—who have been wantonly sacrificed in the pursuit of a political campaign, the logic as well as the morality of which passes all understanding.
First of all, let me deal with one problem arising in particular from the question of international terrorism. Largely as a result of the risk of terrorist attacks, the last Parliament was asked to approve the Policing of Airports Act. Using his powers under this Act, the Home Secretary has made an order transferring the policing at Heathrow Airport from the British Airports Authority Constabulary 173 to the Metropolitan Police. The change-over will take place at midnight to-night. Terrorists may, of course, strike at other airports and it has become clear, having taken the decision over Heathrow, that the British Airports Authority Constabulary itself is no longer a viable force. We are, therefore, holding urgent consultations with the British Airports Authority and the police authorities and chief constables concerned about the possible designation of the British Airports Authority airports other than Heathrow; that is, Gatwick, Stansted, Prestwick and Edinburgh. I very much hope that these discussions will be successful and will lead to the laying of orders under the Act at an early date.
I turn now to the domestic problem of terrorism. Destroying terrorism means catching those who perpetrate terrorist acts or, better still, forestalling them before they can carry them out. This task falls primarily to the police, often in areas like London and the West Midlands where the manpower situation is at its worst. I should like to say—and I am sure that I say this on behalf of the entire House— that we owe an immense debt to the police for the way in which they have responded in the last few years to the great additional burden which bomb attacks have placed upon them. To all ranks of the police service, upon whom the extra heavy hours of duty fall and who often have to risk their own personal safety in dealing with bomb outrages, we must express our admiration. It may be invidious to single out individual sections of the police for special praise, but I think that I ought to mention in particular the invaluable work of the bomb squad in London and of their colleagues in the provinces who have had to deal with no less than 200 bomb attacks carried out in Britain in the last couple of years. And I should like in this context to pay specific tribute to the work of the Special Branch. By its very nature, the work which they carry out cannot be fully publicised. Nevertheless, they have played a crucial role in dealing with this problem of terrorism and I am quite sure that the whole House would like to take this opportunity of expressing its gratitude to them.
LORD HARRIS FO GREENWICH
I am well aware that the situation which I have reported to your Lordships to-day is a pretty sombre one. The crime situation is disturbing and although, as I have tried to indicate, we are making some progress in improving recruitment for the police, the fact is that forces in many of our most densely populated urban areas are still significantly below establishment. As recent events have demonstrated, it is just in some of these areas that we have been confronted with a campaign of terrorist violence. We have also had to recognise that with all other advanced industrial countries we face constant risk of attacks by international terrorists; yet, despite the serious difficulties of the present situation, I do not consider that there is any justification for despair. Notwithstanding the growth of criminal activity, the police have succeeded in maintaining remarkably high detection figures. New technical aids to assist the police are being brought into service at a rapid rate; and although it would be remarkably foolish to make any positive statement about the likely level of terrorist activities in our cities, thanks to the devoted work of the specialist units involved, and many other police officers as well, some of the most dangerous terrorists have now been convicted.
In these circumstances it would be foolish to exaggerate our present difficulties, which are certainly formidable. No one in the Home Office or the police service would for a moment underestimate them, but I believe if we face up to our problems in a mood of calm determination we can overcome them.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down would he feel that this is a suitable occasion, or would he prefer some other occasion, to say just a word about Government policy as regards the housing of married police officers? This is a matter which very considerably affects wastage.
LORD HARRIS FO GREENWICH
My Lords, if the House will permit me I should be delighted to inform the noble Lord about the existing situation, perhaps by correspondence, as I am aware that I have spoken for nearly half an hour.
BARONESS EMMET FO AMBERLEY
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord one question before he sits down. He gave us most welcome figures with regard to the police cadets. Do those figures apply to girl cadets as well as boy cadets?
LORD HARRIS FO GREENWICH
My Lords, if the House will forgive me once again, the noble Baroness should be aware that in fact when I am visiting police forces throughout the country I always make a particular point of discussing with the chief officers concerned the recruitment of girl police cadets as well as boys. Quite apart from the fact that it is desirable to have them in the police service, it is a way of dealing with our current manpower problems.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I should like to join with others of your Lordships who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, and the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, on their admirable proposing and seconding of this humble Address. Also, I should like to thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House and others among my colleagues who have been kind enough to say nice things about me, which I much appreciate. This makes me all the more ashamed of the fact that I have to ask your Lordships' indulgence if I am unable to stay until the end of this debate as I have a longstanding engagement that I have not been able to avoid. However, my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross will be speaking at the end of the day and I am sure he is far more able than I am to tackle any questions that may arise.
We are speaking this afternoon about the home affairs part of the most gracious Speech, and it is a very formidable legislative programme. I will leave the questions that have been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on the Home Office front—crime and sex discrimination—to my noble friend, but quite apart from those matters there is a long list of proposals which will involve a great deal of legislation. Some speculation in the Press has put the number at over 40 Bills, and certainly at a rough run through there are 30 Bills there, many of them major Bills. Therefore I join with my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition in begging the Government to ensure that we start some 176 of these Bills in this House and thus get a better balance of legislation. We set an admirable example when we introduced the National Health Service Reorganisation Bill in your Lordships' House. That was a major Bill which was taken first in this House and I hope the Government will follow that example.
It seems to me that there is a tendency for us now to undertake too much legislation in this country. I am sure it is right from time to time to commit ourselves to major constitutional changes, and I think the time was right when we set ourselves the task of reorganising local government, of reorganising the National Health Service, of legislating for our entry into the European Economic Community and indeed for our attempt to set a new standard of legislation and a new form of legislation for industrial relations. But now, faced as we are with a very grave economic crisis and one that the Prime Minister himself has admitted is the most serious economic crisis that we have faced since the war, I believe it is quite wrong to burden Parliament with so much legislation, and especially so much legislation which is quite irrelevant to the demands of the present economic situation.
The Prime Minister has sought—and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has echoed his words—a spirit of national unity. Certainly that is no strange phrase to us, who included it in our General Election campaign. I am delighted that noble Lords opposite are now convinced of the need for this spirit, but, if I may say so, it is a curious contrast with some of the phrases that were used in the course of the General Election. For example, one phrase in the Manifesto of the Labour Party that stuck in my gullet was this:There is no meeting point between us and those with quite different philosophies.That has never been true in my experience in this House, and I hope it never will be true in this House. I certainly would deplore any such event.
At the same time as the Government are calling for equal sacrifices from all, they are proposing massive Government expenditure for reasons that are totally unconnected with the present crisis. It is proposed to spend vast sums on nationalising the shipbuilding and aircraft industries, on nationalising development land, on investment in North Sea oil and on establishing a National Enterprise Board.
177 My Lords, what a contrast to the action of the President of the United States of America, who recently put a comprehensive plan for the defeat of inflation to the American people. That is what the people of this country need, and indeed what they expect, and not an expensive ragbag of out-of-date irrelevancies.
One great mercy, at least, is that there is no mention of the nationalisation of our ports in the Queen's Speech, although this was included in the Labour Party's Manifesto. However the fact is, alas!, that we know from the Minister of Transport that the Government do intend to nationalise all commercial ports and cargo-handling activities along the whole coastline, including estuaries. This goes far further than that Ports Bill which your Lordships may remember fell at the General Election of 1970, and would include such efficient privately-owned small ports as Felixstowe. It would mean the destruction of free enterprise in Britain's ports, at vast cost to the taxpayer and at extra cost to the country's import bill. This is a surprising omission, but let us be thankful for small mercies.
Speaking of omissions from the gracious Speech, what about a subject which has interested your Lordships greatly over the last Session, that of public transport in rural areas? This has had a very curious history in this House. Your Lord-ships may remember that when the Bill came back here in the last Parliament, we on this side proposed three Amendments which were designed to make rural transport easier and more flexible. These Amendments were readily accepted from the Government Front Bench. In fact they spurred the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, to remark on the contrast between a Conservative Government who would not accept any Amendments and a Labour Government who accepted them with readiness. But what happened, my Lords? When the Bill got back to the Commons they took the Amendments out. The result is that in the Road Traffic Act passed in the last Session there is no provision for help for transport in rural areas and there is no proposal to help in the Queen's Speech.
May I turn now to the social services? Before I do so, may I associate myself with what was said by the noble Lord the Leader of the House in paying tribute 178 to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy. He and I had many dealings over the question of social services and I deeply respected his sincerity and his ability. He always took a particular interest in matters that concerned the staff in any piece of legislation. Within the National Health Service I regret that there is a considerable loss of confidence. I was glad that, as a result of his Report, the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, achieved some measure of justice for nurses and for other health professions, but I think we must find some way of providing a satisfactory career structure for National Health Service staff without the need for that militancy which is so alien to their nature.
I think that fundamentally there has to be a system of wage and salary determination by real negotiation between employers and employees, and these the Whitley system provides. I personally do not believe that there is a need to alter the basic principles of the Whitley system, but it seems to me that the machinery is slow and cumbersome and it should be possible to improve it, to cut out unnecessary delays and make negotiations more realistic. In our Manifesto we proposed to set up an independent inquiry into the workings of the Whitley system. The Government may have pinched some of our clothes in the past few weeks—perhaps they would not mind pinching this. I should be delighted if they would set up such an inquiry.
The Queen's Speech goes on to speak of proposals to introduce democracy into the National Health Service. I cannot understand exactly what this means, but in my opinion the National Health Service needs a period of stability in which to settle down and develop its new organisation, and I see no merit in further change. Already Area Health Authorities have local authority members nominated to them. Already community health councils are established to bring local opinion to bear on management decisions. To go further than this, as has been suggested, and allow each community health council to nominate two members to the area health authority, would confuse their role and make the area health authority into an unwieldy and indecisive body. A normal area health authority with some 15 to 18 members, with, say, 179 six health districts, would find its membership increased by some 27 to 30—far too large for effective management.
Certainly when the National Health Service is facing financial difficulties is not the time to abolish Health Service charges or private beds, and I am delighted that neither proposal appears in the Queen's Speech. We had a most excellent debate in this House just before the end of the last Parliament, in which the unanimous advice to the Government from a number of experienced and highly distinguished Members of this House was that to abolish pay beds in National Health Service hospitals would result in a two-standard Health Service and would be to the detriment of medical education; and I hope that that debate had a part in persuading the Government to hold back on that proposal.
So far as pensions are concerned, no one suffers more from inflation than the pensioner, and it was with their interest in mind that we proposed in our Manifesto to have a six-monthly review of pensions. If inflation continues at the rate it is at the moment, many of the social security increases granted last July will be more than wiped out by next July. If inflation increases in pace, pensioners will find that their living standards have fallen. The second pension promised by the Government will not start until April, 1978, three years later than our original scheme which they repealed, and a full second pension will be payable only in 1998. Admittedly this is a few years earlier than would have been the case under our scheme, but the real difference between these two schemes, as it was with the Crossman plan, is that the second pension proposed by the present Government will not be funded. We shall have to rely on the working population of the future to pay increased contributions to meet the full extra cost, and that cost is estimated at some £2,000 million when it is in full payment.
Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Byers, in a most interesting speech on this subject, spoke of the experts not being too despondent at this prospect of having to find extra money from the contributions. I should very much like to see the evidence on which he was speaking. I certainly welcome the proposals that he made for a joint approach to an agreed 180 scheme. My right honourable friend Sir Geoffrey Howe has already made an offer on these lines, that the provisions of the Social Security Act of 1973 should be implemented in April, 1976, which is the first date on which they are now able to be implemented, so that a second pension is got under way as soon as possible, and that an all-Party Select Committee should study the position and agree any necessary changes that should be made in that scheme.
However, I think the saddest aspect of all is the Government's complete rejection of the tax credit scheme. This would have had several major advantages. In the first place, it would have taken the majority of pensioners, who are now dependent on supplementary benefit, out of the net by providing them with an income as of right. In the second place, it would have paid child credits at a rate higher than the present rate of family allowances and including the first child. In the third place, it would have provided a basis for a gradual reduction in means-tested benefit—for example, the family income supplement which would have disappeared. Lastly, it would have provided an income for those who were in need much more efficiently, much more cost-effectively, than food subsidies which help the rich and poor alike. I must welcome the modest improvements that have been announced by the Government for the disabled. We are all conscious of the needs of the disabled and within the limits of our national income I am sure that all of us would like to do more to help. The proposals arc modest and in many cases will serve only to make savings in supplementary benefits. They are none the less welcome for that, although there is one omission in the case of the disabled housewife, in which your Lordships have taken an interest in the past, and whom we proposed to help in our Manifesto proposals.
My Lords, I so much agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, when he said that the underlying strength of our society is the family. The increase in juvenile crime, hooliganism and vandalism of which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, spoke, in my opinion results from the breakdown of family life. Social agencies, including the schools, can try to improve matters, but it is ultimately on the parents that the 181 responsibility rests. It is only too obvious to social workers, teachers, magistrates and others that there is a close correlation between juvenile delinquency and bad homes. Recently, there has been one example, a horrifying report by a research team of the Oxford Regional Health Authority on severely ill-treated young children in North-East Wiltshire. Their research into the background of parents who ill-treated these young children showed that—and I quote from their report:The most impressive feature of the parents and parent substitutes was the constellation of pathologies and of their own unsatisfactory childhoods which they exhibited.This is just another link in the chain of deprivation mentioned by my right honourable friend Sir Keith Joseph.
These are questions of enormous social significance to the country. I must say I found it deplorable that so many responsible people—politicians, journalists and trade union leaders—responded with so much instant abuse to the recent speech of my right honourable friend. They responded with such speed that it was quite obvious that most of them had not taken the trouble to read the full text of the speech which, as those who know my right honourable friend or have read his speech will know, was a very statesman-like effort to get at the basis of some of these major problems.
My Lords, there are many other major policy matters included in the Home Affairs section of the gracious Speech. I have no time to deal with more of them. My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross will certainly be dealing with some at the end of this debate. For example, the grammar schools, which have contributed so much to our educational system, are once more threatened by a full comprehensive system which is far from having proved itself satisfactory. Preparations are to be made for directly elected assemblies in Scotland and Wales; these are simply sops to the nationalist Cerberus. Over the whole of the Home Affairs section of the gracious Speech there hangs the spectre of inflation. Until that spectre is exorcised by firm Government action, the social services and moral strength of this nation will be weakened. Our fundamental criticism, then, of the gracious Speech is that it fails to single out this overriding priority and shows insufficient resolution in tackling it.
§ 4.4 p.m.
LORD BEAUMONT FO WHITLEY
My Lords, we are lucky to have a large number of distinguished speakers to-day, as we had yesterday, and we very much look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman. I only wish I could make my speech alter hers, so as to be able to appreciate it more fully. Yesterday we listened to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn. I cannot say I heard it because unfortunately, no sooner had she "popped" up and I started racing up from my subterranean office to hear her speak, than she had "popped" down. But I did read her speech in Hansard to-day and although extremely short, it was obviously a speech of great importance. Certainly for me, mention of the noble Baroness and her late husband fits in very well with the sadness that I feel that we are to lose the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, from his active role on the Front Bench. During the time I have been in your Lordships' House—and I hope other Ministers and ex-Ministers will not take this amiss—no one has excelled the noble Lords, Lord Windlesham and Lord Delacourt-Smith, in the great courtesy they have always shown to everyone who was debating with them, and the great intellectual capacity they exhibited for reaching the heart of an argument however badly one might have expressed it oneself. We very much welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Delacourt-Smith, to this House, and deplore the temporary loss of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, from the Front Bench.
My Lords, I take it that my duty on this occasion is to give some indication of the attitude of my noble friends on these Benches to the proposals on Home Affairs in the gracious Speech. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, dealt with the economic matters yesterday, and I will not touch on them. The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, later in to-day's debate will be talking about devolution, and possibly also about proportional representation and agriculture. If the noble Viscount will be talking about devolution, he might, incidentally, see whether he can extract from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, a little more by way of explanation of the reference to the sops thrown to the nationalist Cerberus, because I thought the 183 Conservative Party had been in the business of throwing a few sops themselves recently. I am not entirely certain of the distinction the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, is making, but no doubt we can hear about that later, or hear from the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross.
My Lords, I think it is important that we in this House should pay particular attention to the proposals in this forthcoming Session for Parliament because once again, although there is an overall majority for the Government in another place, there is far from an overall majority of votes. Although I take the point made yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that a Government is elected to govern, and that very often there is not a majority of votes, nevertheless something like 60 per cent. of the people of this country who actually bothered to vote, voted against the Government. It is up to the Opposition Parties in your Lordships' House to keep an eye open to see there is not an arrogance of the elected majority, which can be just as harmful as any arrogance of a minority.
I see particular reason to cast a slightly jaundiced eye over the political programme of a Party which, on the one hand, appears to be in favour of a referendum as a method of deciding things in this country, and, on the other hand, has put forward nationalisation proposals, when the most recent National Opinion Poll on this subject in July showed only 17 per cent. of the electorate of this country were in favour of any extension of nationalisation. This question of the attitude we should take on various parts of the programme of the Government will arise possibly most acutely when the amendments come to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act. Noble Lords in this House passed several Amendments to the original Bill in the last Session, protecting the rights of the individual in various ways. I think we would be failing in our duty if we did not say that we have no reason at the moment to abandon our stand on those points.
We welcome a number of measures which are being taken under social security, although, together with the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, we also deprecate the fact that no progress is to be made with the whole conception of credits or negative income tax. It is, of 184 course, extremely important, if this nebulous thing called the social contract is to have any chance of working at all, that we look after the poorest in our community. I think it is, therefore, a great pity that, as I understand it—and I am open to correction—the Government have not been able to see their way to make payments for the first child on family allowances. We have been told in the past that this would take a long time and is very difficult to administer. I find this difficult to understand, because we have already, presumably, in the files of the social security in this country the records of all first children who are first children followed by second and third children, if your Lordships follow me, and to obtain the additional information and documentation of first children who are only children surely is not so great a task. Along with this situation goes the unfortunate decision of the Government not to proceed any further with the recommendations on single parent families for the time being. It is at this moment of really bad inflation that we have to look after the really badly-off in the community.
With regard to the proposals for the National Health Service, again like the noble Lord. Lord Aberdare, we will look at them with interest. There is absolutely no doubt that we do need more resources for the National Health Service. On the question of more democracy in the National Health Service, it ill becomes anyone from these Benches to deprecate the introduction of more democracy into anything. But my noble friend Lady Robson has pointed out—and she, as your Lordships know, is the chairman of a Regional Health Authority—that they have just obtained their Regional Health Authority. It is a manageable body. They have been told that they have to organise it as a unit and not break it down into committees, and now they are suddenly told that it has to be doubled in size and to become something which appears on the face of it to be rather unworkable. We would like to introduce as much democracy as possible into the National Health Service, but perhaps it could be given a little additional breathing-space after the great reorganisation which has happened in the immediate past.
We welcome the emphasis, in line with what we have been saying, about the 185 necessity in these hard times of looking after the worst-off. We welcome the emphasis in education on looking after the disadvantaged children. Again progress on this is very long overdue. The land proposals of the Government we treat with mixed feelings. Liberals have always firmly believed that the accretion of value to land should go to the community and not to the individual, but these present proposals seem expressly designed to drive land off the market; to keep land off the market rather than to bring it on to the market. We ourselves still say that it would be far better to adopt the Liberal policy of site value rating.
With regard to housing, we must build more houses, and although I do not speak as a housing expert and I am subject to correction, I do welcome most warmly Mr. Crosland's initiative yesterday when he mentioned the need for building, if necessary, temporary houses and mobile homes, anything to relieve the immense pressures that are on people at the moment. The Parker-Morris standards were very good in their way, but they were not designed to deal with the present situation that we have. In dealing with rates I detect a symptom of something which I regard as very disquieting in our present legislation and in our present taxation system. At the moment the tendency appears to be—and the Government appear to be reinforcing this—to take more and more money into the central taxation system and to dole it out from this great pool. I think we need to get back to more local control of expenditure. At this moment, when we are all feeling the pinch, there is a very great deal to be said for increasing the impact of the relationship between what we pay for and what we get, instead of putting everything into a big coffer and taking it out again; to have a relationship between television licences and what it costs to run a television service instead of abolishing licences as has been talked about, to relate what people pay, admittedly on a fairer system than our present rate system, to what they actually get back in services. I have long thought that the basic Treasury rule that you should never apportion taxation from a particular source to a particular project was in fact a rather bad one and that people would place much more value on 186 what they were receiving and be able to estimate it if there were some relationship which they could observe between the taxes they pay in different ways and the benefits they receive in different ways.
Finally I come to civil rights. I think it is terribly important that we look after civil rights and keep a severe watching brief on what is happening. I very much welcome the remarks which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich made about the investigation of complaints against the police and about the whole question of computer security. At the same time we very much welcome the suggestions of the Government on sex discrimination. I regret that there appears to be no mention in the gracious Speech of enforcing and tightening up the procedure with regard to race discrimination which has recently had one or two rather bad setbacks. May I finally express the hope that we pay considerable attention to conservation in the course of the coming year, and that the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook (who is introducing a Bill for the preservation of rare animals), and myself, in introducing a Bill for the protection of wild flowers, may receive a helpful hand from the Government in these matters which I know the majority of your Lordships think are extremely worth while.
My Lords, that is somewhat of a rag-bag, but then legislative proposals are themselves, when listed, somewhat of a ragbag. But there has been one theme which has run through practically everything that I have been saying; that theme is that we must look after the individual and particularly those individuals who are the worst-off in our community; that we must make certain that at a time when inflation is rampant it is not the weakest who go to the wall; that we must make certain, at a time when Governments may have to pass extremely tough and far-reaching measures, that we look after the liberty of the individual. These two matters, the liberty of the individual and the protection of the underdog, are matters of principle with which my Party, I am proud and glad to say, has always been associated, and it is our intention to follow that through in this coming Parliament.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Baroness STEDMAN
My Lords, in rising to make my maiden speech, I am deeply conscious of the fact that my 187 subject should be non-controversial. Therefore, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for having at least trailed his coat and given me an opportunity of referring to the question of local government finance, which is one of the most important matters we have to face to-day. It is one of the fields which are suffering from the high inflation and the economic plight in which we find ourselves. The local authority associations are now assuming that we have to face something like a 25 per cent. rate of inflation next year. I think that is, perhaps, a little pessimistic, because my county treasurer tells me that at the moment the rate of inflation is running at 18 per cent. and is beginning to steady. But, even so, if the grant that we get from the Government purse remains the same there will be another massive increase in rates in the coming year. Therefore, I think the time has come for your Lordships to press the Government to consider giving a higher proportion of grant to local government.
Some of your Lordships who are members of the executive committee of the Association of County Councils will know that they have estimated that at the end of this financial year county councils will have a deficit of something like £250 million. That is something like 10 per cent. of the rate-borne expenditure of the authorities, and it will mean an increase of something like 4p overall before we start levying rates next year. This reckoning does not take into account the teachers' pay award which the Government have already accepted and have said they will back-date to May. Rumour has it that this could very well amount to some £250 million, which means that something like £100 million of the cost will fall on the rates, and might do so in the year 1975–76.
I think all of us accept that any planned rate of growth in public expenditure cannot exceed the resources that we have available, and that in a time of high inflation and economic difficulties most of those resources must be concentrated on getting right the public and private sectors of investment in industry. In the public sector, we also accept that we have a responsibility towards the lower paid and the less well-off to see that they have better pensions, that their rents are 188 stabilised, that they have better housing, and that, if necessary, food subsidies are paid to them. All this has inevitably put a very real constraint on the growth of local authority expenditure in the past years. Those of us who are working in local government accept that we shall all suffer unless our economic problems are solved, and solved fairly quickly, but what we ask is for a modest sustainable growth over the years that lie ahead.
I suggest that there are three things which your Lordships should be asking the Government to do. First, the Government should tell the local authorities what is to be the level of local government services; secondly, they should tell us what is to be the level of Government grant towards those services; and, thirdly, and perhaps most important of all, they should state how that grant is to be distributed. The associations have been discussing with the Government the various options that might be open to them in deciding what shall be the rate support grant this year. One option is that there should be no real growth over the current year's levels of expenditure as determined by the last rate support grant settlement. This would allow for built-in commitments, but it would mean an overall cutback in the present level of services which we supply.
The second option is that there should still be no real growth in our 1974/75 level, but that the basis should be the best estimate of the 1974/75 actual expenditure. This would mean no improvement in the present actual level of services, but, equally, there would be no major cutbacks. Or, thirdly, we could take the traditional forecasts of trends on the basis of existing policies of local authorities, which would allow for a very small area of growth. But it is imperative that local authorities should know which option is likely to be accepted and the size of the grant. Otherwise, authorities will become committed to additional schemes and we may find ourselves in one week in the position of opening a new school or a new old people's home, and going back a week later to turn the key on it because we cannot afford to equip it, to staff it, or to furnish and maintain it.
Local authorities do not yet know the size of the increase order for this year, or the size of next year's grant. I urge 189 your Lordships to ask that that information should be given urgently to local authorities, so that they know where they are going and what they can do. Local authorities are also arguing very strenuously against the multiple analysis regression system at present used to calculate the rate support grant and the needs element. This is proving totally unacceptable, because the figures on which it is based are completely out of date before they are used. There should also be more regard for areas which have a lower than average income, and those of us working in counties which include new and expanding towns would hope that for once this factor of high expansion might be taken into account when the needs element is being sorted out, because the services have to be provided in advance of the population moving in.
Local rates, as all your Lordships will know, have been a very live issue at both county and district level, and something more must be done to help local government to provide the services which we, as government, statutorily place upon it. The rates rocketed in many areas last year, partly to meet the cost of local government reorganisation—although this was only a very minute part of the increased expenditure in my County of Cambridgeshire. Some further relief was given to some domestic ratepayers by the previous Government, but many of them faced such high increases in rates that the "rough justice" meted out at that time by the Minister did not give anything like the help that many of us would have hoped they would receive.
In my county we are now preparing our budget for next year and are faced with a rate increase of about 40 per cent. just to maintain our existing services and to provide the basic needs for our new and expanding population. Because we have the new town of Greater Peterborough within our county area, our population expansion is now running at eight times the national average and is increasing annually. We have already been warned by our advisers that in fairness to the rest of the county outside the Greater Peterborough area, we may have to consider a slowing down of our commitment to the expansion of Greater Peterborough unless more money is forthcoming for that specific project. That 190 would be a great mistake, my Lords, because the scheme is well under way and is well worth while, and we do not want to see any hold-ups at this stage.
In education, our capitation allowances had to be reduced last year, and they are quite inadequate to keep pace with inflation. The cumulative effect of continuing these cuts for another year would be extremely damaging to the fabric of education. Our councillors, teachers and parents all accepted, at the start of the new authority covering a completely new area, that there would be some unequal standards. However, all of them would expect after 12 months to be able to see some common level of service emerging over the whole of our county. There will inevitably have to be a further deferment over a wide field, including pupil-teacher ratios, ancillary staffs in schools, maintenance allowances and so on. Authorities ought at least to have the opportunity of introducing a phased programme of levelling out, starting in the current year.
Our domestic ratepayers are already beginning to tell us in no uncertain terms that they bear equal rate burdens and that they expect to enjoy equal standards of service. Our cutback also means non-participation in what is approved Government policy of nursery education, with, as a consequence, even more startling effects in the provision of this education in areas where it is most required, in the Greater Peterborough area and the urban towns of our county. Our education funds this year have proved quite inadequate for the in-service training of our teachers, and they have thus left us a backlog to deal with next year. I believe that your Lord-ships would share my view that quality is the essence of a good education service, and increased rather than decreased provision for teacher training is absolutely vital.
In consumer protection, the amount of new legislation that has been passed is vast, and includes such things as the Fair Trading Act, the Hallmarking Act, consumer credit, and a great deal of EEC legislation on standards. In my own county these duties will increase the workload by 35 per cent. in the enforcement field, with the inevitable higher costs for staff and equipment. The new legislation on a consumer complaints service will 191 cost us a further sum, and neither help with consumer complaints nor new enforcement duties will be possible if we are facing a nil growth situation. In social services our departmental forecast of the minimum needs for 1975–76 is an additional net expenditure of 24.5 per cent. in real terms, so you can imagine the frustration there will be in that department if we find ourselves in a nil growth era.
Changes in the rate support grant which were made last year hit counties like Cambridgeshire very hard, and many of us feel that the change was far too much for anyone to take in any one year. The Local Authority Associations are anxious that the Government should recognise this. While perhaps many of us accept that there should be more help given to the urban areas, we hope that if a swing away from rural areas is necessary it will be taken at a much slower pace and that we shall not face the massive swings that we had last year.
I ask your Lordships to exert what pressure you can in all directions to see that local government does not bear more than its fair share in the cutback because of high inflation and our economic position. I believe it is essential that we safeguard our personal services, and maintain the very high standards of local government in this country. The Layfield Committee is now meeting, and we hope 'that there may be some possible alternatives and some restructuring of the rate support grant as a result of their findings. In the meantime, I would be bold enough to offer a suggestion to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he might consider writing off a proportion of local government loan debts in order to enable more of their income to go to revenue, or the Department might perhaps as a last straw consider it better to defer capital projects for at least a year and to grant more money on to the revenue side of local government.
One might ask, if the present formula for the rate support grant is to go on, whether it can be updated and realistic, because the historical data on which the figures are based so adversely affects counties like mine which have rapid expansion. My authority has already advised Government Departments that we are 192 quite unable to carry out any further statutory duties without the necessary financial help. I believe that many more counties are reaching the same position.
I am proud to have been associated with local government for over 25 years, and it is because I want to ensure that our local government maintains its high standards that I have chosen this subject for my maiden speech to your Lordships. All of us accept that public services have to be paid for by the public, and the real argument ought to be about how to share the costs and not how to avoid payment. Therefore, with this in mind, I seek your Lordships' support to ensure that local government gets its fair share of however small a cake we are all going to have.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Viscount BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to be the first to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, on her maiden speech. It is a particular pleasure for me because, although I can score only 23 years in local government, I have been there long enough to appreciate the depth and soundness of the knowledge of local government matters which the noble Baroness has displayed in her speech. I believe, too, that her services in the local government world are well known outside her own county, and as one who has worked on county council matters under the leadership of my noble friend Lord Amory on this side of the House, I think I can say that he would agree with me that the noble Baroness's arrival in this House will be a welcome reinforcement to the not very large band of people who understand local government sufficiently well to argue with their Front Benchers.
I am not going to be tempted into following the noble Baroness on matters such as writing off rate debt, and I shall talk about something rather different. In fact, as one who has spent 23 years on a police authority, I would associate myself very much with some of the tributes that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, paid to the police. I would add—and I shall have something more to say about this in a moment—that the corollary of those remarks is to make sure that if we are short of police we should not use them on anything except duties which can be performed only by policemen.
193 During the Recess. General Sir Walter Walker and Colonel David Stirling came into the news with proposals for volunteer forces to be used in maintaining the essential services of this country in a national emergency. I do not myself know the details of the organisations they propose, and if I did I should almost certainly have reservations about them; but I think that these two gentlemen have performed a service to their country in drawing attention to the present serious lack of manpower available at short notice to deal with contingencies and to ensure the continuance of essential services.
I am also glad to think that what they said, and what they were reported to have been doing, attracted considerable public support. I am more and more glad of this because on at least two occasions I have attempted to draw attention to the same thing in this House. I did it first when Mr. Healey was Secretary of State for Defence, and again in the time of Mr. Heath's Government, as my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross knows quite well. What is more, my noble friend Lord Chelwood, when he was in another place as Sir Tufton Beamish, did a good deal of work on this and wrote a number of papers, all of which must be well known to the Home Office. I shall now try again, and if I oversimplify some of the things I have to say it is because I do not want to spend too long on my feet when other people are waiting to speak.
After the last war the Attlee Government reorganised civil defence and the other emergency arrangements on the basis that the prime need in those days was defence against the nuclear threat. I am certain that at that period that decision was absolutely right. But over the years the nuclear threat has receded so much that I noticed the other day that the North Atlantic Council in their Declaration at Ottawa last June, said:The circumstances affecting the common defence have profoundly changed during the last ten years".I wish they had gone on to say why they thought so. Instead of that, unfortunately, the Declaration lapses into double talk. So we shall never know.
The point I wish to make now is that because the nuclear threat had receded it did not mean all threats had disappeared. But apparently this is how it was taken 194 by Mr. Wilson's last Government and how they interpreted the position when they disbanded TAVR HI and the Civil Defence Corps. That, I think, will turn out to have been an act of great unwisdom. I had hoped that Mr. Heath's Government would have moved faster in another direction, but although we got some fair words no action was taken. No doubt it would have been taken had his Government remained in Office. The opportunity still exists for the present Government.
To me all the indications seem to show that the nuclear threat to the institutions of this country—that is to say, a threat from outside—has been replaced by threats of disruption from the inside. This must be highly inconvenient to any Government and any Government Department because anti-nuclear bomb precautions are administratively easier to handle and to circumscribe, and are politically more or less harmless, because they relate to an aggressor from outside and not from inside. But in my view we are now faced with a threat which is much harder to counter, both administratively and politically.
This story goes back a long way. You can take it back to 1921, which was the first instance in modern times, at least since the Chartist rebellion, of the Government of the day—the Government of Mr. Lloyd George—taking the view that a force had to be raised to maintain national services. I saw a little of that at the time. There is a pattern. Then my interest started again. The reason I raised the matter first was because, when Mr. Healey was Secretary of State for Defence, a group of young men thought they would advance the cause of nationalism in Wales by blowing up certain parts of the aqueduct which takes water from the Elan Valley to the city of Birmingham. That in its turn created the need for the police to guard the exposed parts of the aqueduct. In its turn, that resulted in every single policeman being taken from his job and remaining at hand until the culprits were brought to book. So, my Lords, if another emergency had arisen in the same police area there would have been no one available to deal with it. Multiply that situation by any figure you like and imagine what the condition of this country would have been if similar groups had blown up all the exposed 195 water pipes and left the country with a choice of no water or no policemen.
Since those days, four or five years ago, it seems that the danger has increased, partly because the administrative arrangements for organising protests and demonstrations have been improved considerably. These activities take different forms but the pattern of organisation is basically the same. So it does not matter whether they are ostensibly students expressing their views about how Chile is governed or whether South Africans should play rugby at Twickenham: whether they are demonstrating against the dictatorship of vice-chancellors; whether they are ostensibly trade unionists forcing a rise in pay or on unofficial strike; or whether they are Manchester United fans out for whatever trouble they can see. The pattern is the same.
The recent events in Glasgow seem to me to give rise to a need for the Government to clarify their position. Either they approve of what has happened and how it has happened, in which case no doubt they will say so; but if they do not approve and were to say so they would have to add that they had no means of dealing with the matter, which is a bad position for any Government to be in, whoever they are. So I was very glad to hear some references by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, to the question of terrorism, although I thought they might have been made in a wider context. However, what he said dealt with one aspect of the problem which I am trying to deal with in more general terms.
Sir Walter Walker and Colonel David Stirling were right in one sense; that any organisation to deal with this kind of thing—as I myself knew because of my association with the Home Guard in the war and indirectly with Civil Defence—needs to be manpower intensive. There is no substitute for having many people turn out at short notice to do tiresome jobs. Again none of these people is of the slightest good unless the plan for making use of them has been made in advance. Unless they are told what to do. unless the key men are trained, unless there are arrangements for communication and transport and all those matters, any clarion call made at the last moment simply brings in an 196 assorted number of people, a great number of whom are not ready for the long haul and are too old or not fit for the tasks they have to do.
That is why it was a pity that one of the daily newspapers created the response by inserting a picture of a Chelsea pensioner shaking his fist, I imagine, at President Kruger. But after listening to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, I am sure that I am right in saying that the Government are correct in recognising the responsibility, although I am also sure that they fully realise, like everybody else with any experience in this field, what are the political difficulties in dealing with a hot potato like this.
Therefore, I can see why successive Home Secretaries kept the nuclear threat going as long as it was credible. I hope that I am not one of those people who see Communists and terrorists under every bush. Equally, I am not one of those people who say there are no Communists and no bushes. Therefore I should be very sorry if anybody asked a question in this House and received the answer that there was no evidence. That, I believe, is one of the worst clichés that any Minister can be given when answering questions. It does not answer the question as to whether those who wrote the answer would not have run for miles rather than accept the evidence which was unwelcomed. That very often happens.
However, the political difficulties of dealing with a matter like this do not really relate directly to the actual establishment of the necessary forces. They relate much more directly to the decision as to when to operate them, and that is a totally different matter. Equally, I think there might well be considerable political difficulties in recognising the forces which the two gentleman I have mentioned propose to raise. But these difficulties. I am sure, ought not to deter the Government from dealing realistically with the problem. I do not see how they can shirk the issue if they really mean what is said in the gracious Speech, that they intend to seea modern and effective defence systembecause in these days, when the borderline between peace and war is so hard to see, defence is something going much wider than the Ministry of Defence or the Defence Vote.
197 On the other hand, I feel that the right way to solve this problem is not to raise new volunteer forces, but to expand and reorganise the existing agencies which stood the test of time during the war. A great deal of what can be done can be achieved by a revived Civil Defence Corps and the Women's Voluntary Service—and here I would add that the revival of the warden service would produce sources of intelligence which would be most valuable to anybody who was trying to govern the country in these bad times. An expanded Red Cross and St. John's could do a lot that was necessary; an expanded TAVR III would provide the men under arms which, I would put to the House, are necessary even if only to deal with looting, as they were in the war. Some of the youth organisations which are ready to undertake the task and have members of the right age can also be used. Then, again, any organisation of people who are used to these tasks must work under a Government plan and under Government control. There is no other way of doing it.
Having said all this, I realise—and I say this again—that it will need a great deal of courage and determination by any Government, whoever they are, to deal with this problem effectively. I am not thinking just of the task of introducing measures of this kind, because I think that those would command a very great measure of national approval. I am not thinking of all the demonstrations and the sort of things that are said by people who want to have a free hand to make themselves a national nuisance. Of course we shall be told that any of these things would interfere with the democratic expression of views; or we shall get the other line—"How foolish and tactless you are ! These charming and sensitive people were just going to feed out of your hand and then you were so beastly to them that they all went away and cried." No Government which is any good should take any notice of that sort of thing.
My Lords, there are two forces, two undercurrents, which are at work all the time and are not nearly so well known. One of them is that any measures of this sort overlap the normal boundaries of Government Departments. Once you get that state of affairs, you get the stage set for discussions instead of action. It has been seen so many times in recent years. 198 It was seen in the time of the Macmillan Government, when they were trying to deal with immigration; it was seen in the early stages of trying to deal with the Rhodesian problem; it was seen in the Heath Government, when they were trying to deal with the picketing incidents in Birmingham. All this is because, after the war, the Attlee Government flew in the face of the practices used in the war, when there existed a body called the Home Defence Executive which was put there just for the purpose of teaming the Government Departments up for any particular problem. It was, I think, the brainchild of the late Lord Waverley, and it was run by a man called Sir Find later Stewart. In my personal experience it was a most invaluable organisation, and one which no one will be able to do without if they want to deal with this problem.
The second point is even less obvious. It is the inbuilt dislike of the amateur and part-timer by the professional and full-timer. This arises quite regularly. In the first war, my father was chairman of a committee to encourage the nursing services to make proper use of the VADs, and he was very badly scratched by matrons. The decision to abolish National Service and the decision to abolish the Territorial Army were of course political decisions, but they were very much supported by certain strands of professional opinion. You get the same thing with the police. You constantly see tributes paid to special constables and attempts to recruit them, but there must be some reason—which I am sure is the dislike by the professional of the amateur—why the number of special constables does not go up very much faster when there is a crying need, as I was saying just now, to confine the activities of the regular police to things which can be done only by policemen.
My Lords, I have come to the end of my argument, and I know that I have left some gaps in it. I am going to finish by reminding myself and the House that in the war a great friend of my father's, Frederick Scott Oliver, who was one of the finest Tory thinkers of his time, wrote a book on war aims Ordeal by Battle to encourage the people in 1915 to take the first war seriously. On the title page he put an extract from Pilgrim's Progress, when Christian, on his way to the promised land, met three characters called 199 Simple, Sloth and Presumption. Simple said, "I see no danger"; Sloth said, "Yet a little more sleep"; and Presumption said, "Every vat must stand upon its own bottom", which I take to mean, "I know my business better than yours". I always thought that was a wonderful text to put on the book, and I commend it to anyone who is concerned with this problem.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Viscount BROOKEBOROUGH
My Lords, may I join with the noble Viscount in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, on her brilliant maiden speech? This is the first time that I have had the honour to speak after a maiden speaker, and I have certainly been given a very good opportunity most sincerely to congratulate the noble Baroness on her clarity and delivery. Certainly she has not been intimidated by sex discrimination or anything else in this noble House, and I congratulate her very much. She has been speaking on a subject about which I know, too—not as well or as clearly as she does, but I was in local government for some 27 years, and I appreciate very much what she has said.
I should like to refer shortly to what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said when he was discussing the question of terrorism, because, with him, I believe that this will be one of the major problems which we shall have to deal with in the future. He has spoken very much about the use of terrorism in this country. What worries me is the vast amount of money—for instance, 156 million dollars—which has gone from Libya to the P.L.F.P. for distribution to other terrorist organisations, and other oil-producing countries which are contributing vast sums in order for terrorism not to exist in their own country, so that it can be exported. I am afraid that we shall catch quite a proportion of that terrorism. If, as looks very likely from the history of the last few years, terrorism will become much more international, with Red Japanese Armies combining with the P.L.F.P. or other terrorist organisations and committing terrorist acts in this country, and if, for instance, they capture in this country a number of diplomats involving two or more other 200 countries, we shall be faced with a very difficult situation, unless, in advance, we get together with those countries who see eye to eye with us in dealing with terrorists.
There are a number of such countries. The United States of America deal with the capture of diplomats by terrorists in the same way as we have done, by being absolutely tough and not negotiating. The Israelis are another people who have shown tremendous courage in standing eyeball to eyeball when they are dealing with terrorists. I am worried that if we find a terrorist act involving children, or women and children, we may fail, unless we get together with other countries to decide how to deal with these terrorist acts which are committed on our own soil but which involve other nationals. We must have a simple set of rules, easily understandable and totally consistent and predictable, so that if a terrorist carries out an attack in this country he will know exactly the inevitable reaction, no matter what nationals are involved. I feel that this is a most important matter to be dealt with in this country.
My Lords, I should like to come to two references to Northern Ireland in the gracious Speech. The first is the undertaking to pursue relentlessly the terrorists in Northern Ireland. I read with interest the Secretary of State's speech and the comments in the other House, as well as the Statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, on the Maze Prison riot, in which damage amounting to £l½ million was done. I should like to join with others in paying tribute to the troops in restoring order. I cannot speak too highly of the way their task was carried out. It was a very good example of the use of large numbers which ended with the use of minimum force. The total number of people injured was really very small indeed, considering that there were some 300 convicted villains—for that is what they were—fighting tooth and nail with spears, mallets, sharpened bed ends and every other form of weapon that they could lay their hands on.
§ Viscount BROOKEBOROUGH
My Lords, I am sorry. I understood that 201 there were only 300 convicted villains in the attack. I understood that the detainees did not take part in the battle. The Secretary of State was criticised in Northern Ireland—I do not know whether the criticism got back to this country—by members of the SDLP. I say this to try to illustrate the difficulties which the Secretary of State and his team have in dealing with the problems of Northern Ireland. He was criticised because in a news broadcast in the evening he was reported to have been inaccurate on the figure of casualties. In fact, the film in question was taken and recorded fairly early in the afternoon, just after the battle had taken place. The Secretary of State was totally accurate at that time, but he was accused of being dishonest, of being a man of no integrity, by men who were quite happy to sup at his table.
Whatever one may feel—and there are times when I disagree with the Secretary of State—nobody can doubt his absolute honesty and integrity, and I feel personally that there should have been more defence of him upon this count. Further to that, these people who have managed to convey to people in this country that they are moderate, intelligent and forward-looking politicians, never once condemned what was a major IRA attack. After all, it destroyed £1½ million worth of Government property and it was a major attack for propaganda purposes.
My Lords, I feel that the media also aided and abetted the IRA, by failing to tell the world that the figure for casualties given by the Secretary of State was arrived at immediately after the riot had finished and that the position was at that moment fluid. The media must be very careful before they contribute towards what is a propaganda victory. Terrorism depends enormously upon propaganda. Its support comes and goes depending on such victories. Also, may I appeal to the Government not to send the Price sisters back at this particular time. Nothing could be worse than their return as heroines at a time like this.
I should like to direct a slight criticism at the Secretary of State in that I feel that there was a section of the prisoners in the Maze who did not take part in the riot. The Secretary of State has said earlier that he will try to speed up releases, dependent upon the security situation. There was a very clear case 202 of better behaviour by what is called the "loyalist section" in that prison, and I believe that he should have made a token release on the basis of good behaviour. There is a very difficult balance to keep and I know the problems which are facing him. There are two security problems: the first is the danger of letting out dangerous men; and the second is the support that is given to retaining these men in prison. However, I believe that at this time the Secretary of State could have improved the security situation by a token release, making it absolutely clear that it was because the behaviour of the prisoners in question had been better than that of the others. Whatever one might say about their behaviour, it was a great deal better than that of those who took part in the riot.
The next question I should like to raise is that of special category prisoners. This House may not know that there is a person called a special category prisoner. Usually such a man is convicted of a foul crime and he can elect to be a political prisoner. He then goes into a compound where he is not made to work, where there is no discipline and where he plans to be a better terrorist, and has, I think, a fairly free time. I feel that the creation of this category was the most indefensible decision that any Government ever made—and it was unfortunately taken by my own Party. It elevates the terrorist—a person who has attacked the State—above the level of the thief and the prostitute. Unfortunately, in Northern Ireland we have more experience of the terrorist than we have of the others.
The security situation is a good deal better at the moment, as I think anybody who lives in Northern Ireland would agree. However, I should like an assurance from the Government that there will be no let-up and, above all, no drop in the force level. If the force level is lowered, we shall be in trouble. The linch-pin of the whole security situation in Northern Ireland depends on the prisons and on the operation of detention. I notice that the Secretary of State has said that he awaits the report of the Gardiner Commission. He has been under very strong pressure to abolish detention at once, and I congratulate him on withstanding that pressure.
203 We in this country take pride in the fact that the law, and everything to do with it, is biased in favour of the accused. We are very proud of that. But in conditions such as we have in Northern Ireland and may have in this country, where we have intimidation and murder of witnesses, we must have some temporary erosion of our freedoms. Carlos Margella, who is the oracle of terrorists, has said that it is the duty of a terrorist to provoke repression. Under the present conditions in Northern Ireland we have repression, because without it we should have had backlash on a scale so far undreamed of.
§ LORD GEORGE-BROWN
My Lords, I am most interested in the argument, but I wonder whether the noble Viscount sees where it is leading. I thought he said that no reduction in the British force in Northern Ireland must take place. As I understand it, that force is some 15,000 or 16,000 strong. If we reduce it we shall be in desperate trouble, the noble Viscount suggests, and we depend on the police and the prisons in order to live. I do not think I am misquoting the noble Viscount. But I wonder if he can tell me what is the democratic case for a system which cannot live without 15,000 or 16.000 British troops and a prison system of the kind for which he is asking. What is the democratic case for it?
§ Viscount BROOKEBOROUGH
My Lords, the democratic case is that the majority must have law and order in order to be able to live. At this moment, due to various circumstances, the vast majority of people cannot live without that presence. But the level of violence is, in fact, going down.
To continue with my argument, if the report of the Commission headed by the noble and learned Lord. Lord Gardiner, recommends the abolition of detention, then there must be a substitute for it. I believe it is much more honest to make a clean administrative decision, that the conditions in the country are such that the normal course of law and order cannot be established, and to detain without trial, than to tinker with the law—as, indeed, has been done in our neighbouring country under the Offences against the State Act. We would then be making the law carry out an administrative decision—and I believe that is cowardly and also 204 not honest—but we must have some method of putting dangerous men away for a long time. My information from people in the Irish Republic on the present Act operating there is (hat while it puts people away it does not meet the case for a prolonged terrorist campaign, which is what we have at the moment.
I understand there is to be an announcement about prisons fairly soon, and I hope that we shall make up our minds whether we are really having a prisoner of war camp, or a real prison—because that is what caused the break-up of the Maze, where there was the greatest concentration of Irish terrorists that has ever been put in one place. I wonder whether the time has come to re-examine the question of capital punishment for terrorists who attack the forces of the State. I think this is a very complicated and difficult matter, because many a terrorist has already made his commitment to die when he becomes a hardened criminal and the deterrent effect on him would probably be negligible. But there must be a lot of "one-off" people who are involved in terrorism for perhaps just one operation, to whom it might act as a deterrent. We fill some of our prisons with young people, and I wonder whether we should think more about the restoration of capital punishment, to make sure that young offenders do not fill our jails.
On the political front, it looked from the gracious Speech as though Government thinking had become somewhat stagnant, because the phrases "power sharing" and "the Irish dimension" have come to the forefront. The water has gone under the bridge now, and the 1973 Act cannot be revived. The phrase "power sharing". if it envisages a complete repeat of what happened in January, is simply not on and the electorate has said so quite clearly. But some method must be found by which the effect of sharing responsibility in Government is achieved.
Referring to the Convention, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said that I was an odd man out, and certainly I dislike it just as much as I did when I spoke last time. The Convention is to me a very bad thing. Parties are already taking up very intransigent positions. We all hear about Protestant extremists, the UWC and so on, but the SDLP, for electoral purposes (or for what I presume were 205 electoral purposes), are carrying on extremism in exactly the same way. They are paying lip service to asking for more policing, while utterly refusing to support the police in recruiting. I am saying this to put the picture right, so that when the time comes for this Convention the people will know the problems facing those who are trying to arrive at a sensible solution.
With reference to power sharing, the Ulster Workers' Council strike may have killed it but it was already dying because Members of different Parties were suspected of using their ministerial positions in the Government to further certain long-term political aims; that is, for a united Ireland. We must make it patently obvious to everybody in Northern Ireland that nobody in a position of power can use that position to further long-term political aims.
Lastly, sooner or later, we must be allowed to have our main civil right, which is Parliamentary democracy residing with proper representation in Westminster. This will have to be dealt with at some time. It may be unpleasant for some people to have to recognise it, but with devolution on the cards for Scotland and Wales it is quite wrong that we should not have fair representation—and I am not asking for unfair representation. I also believe that in this vacuum it is vital for the Government to announce a clear timetable with the administrative problems which face them. Direct rule must last for at least two years, and if that announcement were made absolutely clearly I believe it would give a certain viability to direct rule and make it more credible. In the end. the only form of Government that this Parliament here can enforce on Northern Ireland is direct rule and, much though one may dislike it, I feel we are working that way—not willingly at all. with me. I think circumstances seem to be pushing us that way. In the end, every other form of government depends on all political Parties taking part. Above all, before we can get really good political manoeuvring we must make quite sure that security continues to improve.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD MOYOLA
My Lords, coming from Northern Ireland, I should like to make a few remarks about the situation there. I do not want to make much of 206 the security situation on this occasion except to say that I agree entirely with the noble Viscount who preceded me that the situation is now considerably better. Of course, there have been some horrifying incidents, but if one regards them as isolated incidents one can say that overall the situation is much happier than when I last spoke in your Lordships' House. That being so, I think we should pay all credit to the untiring work of the Security Forces
Law and order is still the key to the whole Northern Ireland problem. Once law and order is under control I am convinced that many other factors will begin to fit into place, and that includes the political problem. May I say in passing that I am encouraged also by the fact that over the last few months one instinctively feels that the liaison between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Army has enormously improved, which is, of course, of great value. One is also extremely pleased to see the Royal Ulster Constabulary on the ground now in many places in which for quite a number of years they have scarcely been seen at all. Again, all credit should be paid to the heads of the Security Forces who brought this about.
The only other point I want to make on security is that I still feel—and I have said this in the House before—that greater efforts are needed to involve more of the population, more of the community, in the situation. It is a fact that when people have nothing to do extremism builds up. This comes simply from frustration. They would like to play some part in helping to defeat terrorism, but when they find themselves unable to do it they go off to extremes. Unhappily, the Ulster Defence Regiment or Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve as a means of serving is open to some people, but it undoubtedly is not open to a great number who, for one reason or another, simply cannot join them. I am absolutely convinced that if those people could be given some organisation, if nothing more than observation to add to the intelligence network, it would do a great deal of good and certainly make a considerable contribution towards reducing the temperature.
Political peace is still the top priority, and a large measure of it is certainly going to make peace much easier to 207 achieve. At the moment we are in a political vacuum. It seems—and I emphasise the word "seems", because it would be unfair to presume it was deliberately being done—that the policy being followed in political terms is one of, "Do nothing at all". That is the way it has seemed ever since the Executive fell last May. This must be ended quickly. To my mind, vacuums make extremists. If moderate opinion sees nothing apparently being done, sees nothing apparently being tried, they have nothing whatever to which to hitch their waggon and they go from one extreme to the other for lack of anything else. It has happened already; it is happening day by day. I am afraid that it will go on happening unless something is done quickly. It has probably already gone much further than any of us would wish. If it goes on happening any political solution that is produced is going to start with very heavy odds against it.
If the Convention is to go on—and I am one of those who have supported it in the past—we must be quickly told what the rules of the game are to be, when it is to meet, how it is to work; and let everyone start talking about it. I favoured the Convention much more some months ago than I do now. I do not rule it out yet; anything that keeps people talking is better than that they should be allowed to continue fighting. I am beginning to doubt, because of the polarisation which has taken place over recent months, whether the Convention can produce a satisfactory answer.
However, if it produces the wrong answer, for Heaven's sake do not try to force the issue! This is the one point I should like to get across to-day because I believe all of us lose out, not only over here but those who live in Northern Ireland. They are going to be certain losers if that situation should arise. What I am really saying is that one must have a cover plan if the Convention should fail, a plan which is acceptable to the bulk of the people of Northern Ireland. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, has already touched on this, but I should like to end by simply reminding your Lord-ships of what is really the simplest solution in the event that the Convention should fail. Frankly, the simplest solution and the one that is going to upset 208 the least number of people in Northern Ireland, is to continue the present situation, to continue Direct Rule, as it has been called. It may need refinements; I am told that there is much Northern Ireland legislation which, because of the heavy weight of business over here, cannot be got through. But I feel that the wit of man could devise a means for achieving that which would be acceptable to everyone.
I know that what I am saying in advocating the continuance of Direct Rule is anathema to Parties over here. I am under no illusions about it and, having been a political "animal", I think I probably understand why this is so. It seems if the Convention fails we may well be faced with a situation when we will have to act quickly to save lives, to save further destruction and possibly prevent wholesale fighting. That is the situation in which I envisage that permanent Direct Rule may have to be renounced. That may be unpalatable, but we have now passed our sixth anniversary of the start of violence. I can assure you the violence is a great deal more unpalatable to us who have to live among it. Let me remind you that at least 98 per cent. of the population want no part of it. I make these points not because I want to be a prophet of gloom, but because I believe the Convention is already beginning to run out of time. I want to put across the thought that if it runs out of time and fails there must be something to put in its place immediately, and that must be acceptable to the vast bulk of the population or the whole situation is going to deteriorate further.
§ 5.27 p.m.
THEEARL FO PERTH
My Lords, I am going to speak about Scotland while Scotland still qualifies under the topic of "Home Affairs". I want to welcome the Government's mention in the gracious Speech that they will urgently prepare to set up the Scottish Assembly. This is good news. I want to welcome the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, has been appointed with special responsibilities in this connection—it shows that the Government mean it.
But first I want to congratulate the Scottish Nationalist Party, not because of the Election results, and not because of their first recruit in this House. I must say that I myself might be a recruit but 209 for two things: I do not agree with their main theme of independence, nor do I understand why they want to withdraw from the European Community. It is curious when you think how all through history Scotland has had its special relationship with Europe, but there it is. I want to congratulate the Scottish National Party because within the past five years they have succeeded in getting all Parties lined up to have a Scottish Assembly. It is their achievement, and great credit to them for it. The Labour Party had, if I may so term it, a death bed conversion to the Assembly just in time before the Election. The Conservatives were a little bit earlier than that; but they made a stupid mistake in that they said they wanted a nominated Chamber. If it is only a nominated Chamber that is to me an insult to what it is all about. Not that I want it to be entirely elected; it would be good if there were some nominated members from several interests such as, for example, the Church of Scotland; but broadly the majority must be elected.
I shall not go into detail about the Assembly because I am hopeful that shortly we shall have a debate on the whole subject. In the summer we had our annual meeting of the Scottish Peers' Association and I was charged by my colleagues to try to arrange a debate on this subject in the autumn. Well, the Election came in between. But now I ask again and make a specific request. I have written to the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, telling him we want this and I am hopeful that later to-day he will tell us that we are going to have a debate, and soon. It is important that we should have it before Government thinking has crystallised. There is a great wealth of experience in your Lordships' House, particularly among the Scottish Peers who have dealt with not only central Government but also local government. I know that they can make a constructive contribution. So let us have the debate now rather than later.
I said that I was not going into detail now about the Scottish Assembly, but there is one point I want to develop. That is the problem of the Strathclyde Region if we have a Scottish Assembly—a half of Scotland in one region and an Assembly at the same time. Let us think of it in terms of England. Can you 210 imagine a situation in which you had a region which stretched roughly from the Wash to Bristol with all North of that line the great industrial centre of the Midlands. Liverpool, Yorkshire, Tyneside and Lancashire all one region, and Parliament having to try to deal with it—the Greater London Council four times its present size? Surely we must change this situation. I ask that we decide to change it now, otherwise the Region will get into its stride, vested interests will grow up, and I can see all sorts of trouble. I feel the more justified in asking for a change because when we were discussing local government the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, pressed very hard that there should not be this mammoth region and asked that there should be four districts or rather four regions in its place. He talked to the people of the area and got their support. He obtained support from many Members of your Lordships' House, particularly I think of all the Scottish Peers. For a reason which I shall never understand, the Conservative Government of the day refused to accept this proposal. The result is that we are faced with this problem now. I only hope that the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, and his colleagues will remember what Lord Hughes suggested and follow it out. I believe it is important if we are to get things right.
Your Lordships know that my constant theme has been that Scotland has been neglected too long. I have instanced the sugar beet factory at Cupar and how that was taken away from us. Now we have a sugar shortage. I do not say that the factory would have cured it, but it would have been a little help. I have instanced the disgrace at Turnhouse, where we have had an airport not worthy of the capital of Scotland. Only now, at last, is something being done there. I have instanced the derisory number of miles of M-road we have had. while hundreds of miles have been built in this country. I had recently a curious confirmation of this belief that we have been neglected too long. I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see an exhibition on "The Destruction of Country Houses". To those of your Lordships who have not been to that exhibition I can only say it is a "must": you must go and see it. I congratulate those who put it. on and I would suggest that in some form or 211 another it is shown all through the country. As I say, its theme is the destruction of the country house since 1945. There one sees the horrific example of over 700 houses of great quality and importance which have been destroyed since 1945. Of the 700, 230 have been destroyed in Scotland—nearly a third of the total, far too many. It is not that we have a greater number of houses, it is just the fact that Scotitsh owners, like all others in Scotland, have had too lean a time. My Lords, this position can and will be changed. With our share of the oil, with the character and skill of our people, and with our own Scottish Assembly to run our own affairs, I feel confident that we can build to the advantage of all the United Kingdom. Let us have our Assembly quickly!
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl. Lord Perth, will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail. I am as enthusiastic as he is about the establishment of a Scottish Assembly. Perhaps it is appropriate that I should follow Lord Perth because my first school was in his county when I was six years of age—in that beautiful place, Pitlochry. He will understand that in a debate of this kind one has to turn from subject to subject and I wish to revert to the issue of Northern Ireland about which the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, have spoken. I cannot claim, as they can, to have come from Northern Ireland, but it has been a problem very near to me over long years. I have been able to have valuable discussions not only with leaders—and to make visits—but, much more important, with the ordinary people of that area.
I cannot begin without expressing sympathy with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Merlyn Rees, Mr. Stan Orme and our own Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, in the task with which they are faced. I find the word "sympathy" is weak—it is a depth of feeling of identity with the almost intractable problem with which they have to deal. That goes, if I may say so, for Mr. William Whitelaw who preceded them and our own Lord Windlesham in this House. They made an heroic effort to establish power-sharing in Northern Ireland. It failed, 212 but to whatever Party we belong we should pay tribute to that great effort.
My Lords, one has been glad to hear | to-night both from the noble Viscount,; Lord Brookeborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, that the security position in Northern Ireland has improved and that violence is less. On the other hand, we have to face the fact that polarisation of opinion has extended and that a solution of the problem of Northern Ireland becomes, apparently, more difficult rather than easier. In recent weeks we have had the disturbances in the prisons, about which we had a report yesterday. We have had the bombing, not only in Northern Ireland but in this country, and we have had the series of sectarian assassinations. One looks at that picture and it is difficult to find hope. Nevertheless, I find hope in three changes which arc now taking place in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, the first is a coming together of the workers, both Catholic and Protestant. This increasing common action by Catholic and Protestant workers is not only a matter of opposition to internment; it is agreement about social and economic demands. I met an important trade union official only last v/eek who had been negotiating with the shop stewards' committees in the large industries—in the shipbuilding industry and others—in Belfast, and he said that as he spoke to them there was no difference between the Catholic worker and the Protestant worker; their demands, not only for their own industry but for Northern Ireland, were the same. In the last few days we have had the resignation of three leaders of the Protestant Ulster Workers Council—Harry Murray, who was so prominent in the strike of May, Robert Pagles and Harry Patterson—and they have resigned in order to initiate a Peace Council for Northern Ireland which will include not only representatives of the Catholic workers but of the Churches, both Protestant and Catholic. Harry Murray has used these words:It is time that working class members of both communities sorted out their difficulties.My Lords, in the long term that growing common action between workers, both Catholic and Protestant, is a sign of hope in Northern Ireland.
213 I think the second sign of hope to which I am going to refer may surprise some Members of this House. It is the growth of a sense of loyalty to Ulster among the people of Northern Ireland. On the last occasion when I spoke on this subject I referred to the Protestants' tendency to give priority to loyalty to Ulster—their red and white flags in their processions. The thing which has impressed me, perhaps, more than anything else in recent visits to Northern Ireland, is the growth among the Catholic people of a sense of belonging to Northern Ireland itself and to Ulster. The issue of partition between North and South is now ceasing to be immediately the dominant issue among either Protestants or Catholics in Ulster. The Catholics have accepted the view that there shall be no union of North and South except by the acceptance of the people of the North. They recognise, as I have learned in my discussions with them, that that will be over a long period and that the best way to settle the problems of all Ireland is to give an example by the co-operation of Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland itself. And there is the reaction in Southern Ireland of growing doubt about any immediate unity with the North while its conditions remain as they are. My Lords, there is a third ground of hope, but if your Lordships will permit I should like to conclude with that rather than deal with it now.
Internment is now the immediate, decisive issue in Northern Ireland. It was a ground for denunciation by the Catholics. It is now almost equally a ground for denunciation by the Protestants. Nobody can begin to look at the subject of internment without recognising the risks—the risk that if it were ended there would be released men of great danger to Northern Ireland; the risk that if one were to adopt the principle that one should be tried and found guilty before detention, witnesses might be in danger. I will say only that one hopes that the Commission under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, will be able to make proposals which will meet those difficulties. If, however, there are risks in ending internment, in my view the risks of maintaining detention without charge or trial are far 214 greater. Internment is now more a cause of violence in Northern Ireland than a safeguard against it, and there is no prospect of ending violence in Ulster as long as internment continues. And phasing it out is not enough. May I strongly urge the Government to reach the decision that detention without charge or trial—a basic civil liberty—shall be ended before the year is out.
In the two previous speeches on the subject of Northern Ireland we have heard references to the Constitutional Convention which is to meet next year. Strangely enough, I believe I was the first Member of this House to make the proposal for a Constitutional Convention. I did so because I believed that it must be the people of Ulster who decide the future of Ulster, but I have to acknowledge to-night that the polarisation of opinion which has taken place gives little promise that the Convention will yield practical results. There is the very great danger that it may just become a propaganda exercise, with 55 per cent. voting in favour of the reappointment and election of the old Stor-mont; 35 per cent. in favour of power sharing and a dimension with Southern Ireland, and perhaps 10 per cent. seeking some way out between those views. There is the danger that it may be used for the mere propaganda of different attitudes with, at the end, no difference from the present inaction, no contribution to a solution.
Ulster is unhappily now becoming accustomed to the shock of bombs and of violence. I am not sure that what is necessary now is a mental shock which will stir the political leaders into positive action. I am not in favour of the immediate withdrawal of British troops, but I believe it would help to make the Constitutional Convention a reality if its members understood that they had to reach conclusions, because the British Government could not continue for ever the maintenance of our troops in Ulster. I should like to see us setting a target date, maybe a year hence; the Convention to be called; the Convention to continue for at least six months according to the Government's intentions; then, if the members of the Convention were faced with the fact that we would withdraw our troops unless they themselves reached a solution to their own problems, 215 that might contribute a sense of reality to the Convention instead of the propaganda façade which now threatens to exist.
I want to draw the attention of the Government to another proposal which has been made by Mr. Stratton Mills. I was in another place with him and we often came into contact. I am interested to see that he has now joined the Alliance Party. He wrote a letter to The Times—I regret that I have not the date, but it was a few days ago—in which, despite the fifty years' failure of Stormont and the overthrow of power sharing, he said:It is essential that much more effective means be found at Westminster for dealing with Northern Ireland legislation and Parliamentary questions. This is perfectly possible.He went on to suggest that the day-to-day government should be carried out by a commission presided over by the Secretary of State. He said there were three possible types of commission: the first an appointed advisory commission, which he rejected because it failed in 1972. Second, an appointed commission of non-political experts, which I think everyone will recognise would be unacceptable. It is the third proposal to which I want particularly to draw the attention of the Government, and I quote:An elected commission: this would be, say, 15 to 18 members elected on a PR basis, taking Northern Ireland as a single constituency so that it would be truly representative.He asked:Could it have powers to deal with certain devolved legislation?My Lords, I see hope in this idea. It would not be power-sharing in the sense that the Ulster Loyalists rejected, but if legislation relating to domestic events—industry, education, social services and police—were devolved to such a representative commission the sense of self-government would be renewed. The Secretary of State, presiding, should have the power to veto religious discrimination and any departure from the Charter of Civil Rights. I urge Her Majesty's Government to look at that proposal very seriously.
I conclude by referring to the third hope that I see in the present situation. Over the years I have made a study of countries which have been under the occupation of more powerful peoples. There has been an evolution of history 216 and there has been much good—education, health, industrial development—but there has also been very great oppression. And of all the territories on earth Ireland has suffered that oppression more than any I know. There were the massacres under Cromwell; the starving peasants exploited for the wealth of alien landlords; the discrimination over the centuries of those who held the Catholic religion, and finally, the lost hope by military action just before the first world war.
My Lords, I believe experience passes from generation to generation, not only in knowledge but in character—a spiritual heritage—and the Irish people to-day have a sorrow for that past, a devotion to Ireland in the present, and a desire to serve it in the future. In recent weeks I have met young people, Catholics and Protestants, who have impressed me deeply by their attitude in this crisis—the younger generation, turning their minds from violence to dedicate their lives to the creation of the kind of Ireland they want: an Ireland without violence, without sectarian enmity, without poverty and ill housing, an Ireland of co-operative fulfillment. My Lords, it is the supreme duty of our own Government and of Irish leaders, overcoming their differences in the present, thinking only of the future, to give this new generation the opportunity to realise their ideals.
§ 6.1 p.m.
Baroness ELLIOT FO HARWOOD
My Lords, those of us who have been listening to the debate both to-day and yesterday cannot doubt the fact that your Lordships are in every sense well aware of the great importance of this debate on the Queen's Speech and of the many problems that face us all to-day. We had a very remarkable maiden speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, this afternoon. I wish she were here so that I could say to her how extraordinarily impressed I was and how greatly interested in all she was saying about local government. We also heard yesterday two extremely interesting speeches, one from the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, and one from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. There were also two very interesting speeches from this side, one from my noble friend Lord Molson and the other from my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire. To-day, 217 in order to pick up the discussion on devolution which was started yesterday by the noble Duke, I should like to make a few remarks.
My Lords, I am not quite such an enthusiast on devolution as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, appears to be, although this may be because I have perhaps had longer experience of working in local government in Scotland. I have been on the county council at home in Roxburghshire since 1946; I was married for 25 years to a Scottish MP who was for three years Secretary of State for Scotland and I know well the workings of the Scottish administration. I would yield to no one in my enthusiasm for Scotland, but I have never been a Scottish Nationalist in the political sense. I am against the break up of the United Kingdom; I am not in favour of any kind of federation of the Welsh Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament. I think that many of the Scottish Nationalists really do not understand the powers of the Scottish Office as it is to-day.
The footnote on page 2 of the White Paper which the Government have issued gives a list of the matters for which the Secretary of State has responsibility quite independent of the United Kingdom Government—agriculture and fisheries, criminal law, crofting, education, electricity, environmental services, health, highlands and islands development, housing, legal services, local government, police, prison and fire services, roads, certain aspects of shipping and road transport services, social work, recreation and the Arts, tourism, town and country planning, youth and community services. Nobody could say that the Scottish Office and those MPs who represent Scotland do not have a great power in Scotland in connection with all these matters.
§ The Earl of PERTH
May I interrupt the noble Baroness on one point? It is quite true that the Scottish Office is given all these powers, but what really matters is the power of the purse and that is very far removed from what we have.
Baroness ELLIOT FO HARWOOD
My Lords, I always thought we were very generously treated by the United Kingdom Government in the allocation which they make to us. It may be that we do not make the best of what is allo- 218 cated to us by the United Kingdom Government and that things could have been done better. That is probably true but I am a little afraid that simply more government—more bureaucracy, a Parliament with powers which the Scottish Office has already, more civil servants, more money spent on salaries and payments for Scottish MPs—may not be the answer.
I should like to have seen the reorganisation of local government take place first. We are a year behind England, my Lords, and only next May do the new regional and district authorities come into being. I should like them to have been under way before we started to construct a Parliament. However, that has been short-circuited by the Election results. I would support a scheme put forward in the White Paper as Scheme A—the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, knows all the details very well. But before this scheme is produced in a Parliamentary Bill, I believe that much work will have to be done. It is not something which you can take straight off the White Paper, and after all you are taking a step which is of immense importance and all the time it must bear relation to the United Kingdom.
I agree entirely with what the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said to-day about the 2½million people who are now included in the region of Strathclyde. I have always thought that that was a great mistake. It has put into that region half the population of Scotland and any elected assembly which is planned under the Crowther-Hunt Report or the Kilbrandon Report would inevitably find itself dominated by Strathclyde. All the non-industrial areas, the farming centres of the East, the South and the North, will be swallowed up in the interests of the shipbuilding, steel-making, mining and engineering majority and half the population and more than half the land of Scotland would simply be outvoted by the Strathclyde region. I voted, as did many other Scottish Peers in your Lordships' House when we discussed local government reform earlier this year, and I think with great wisdom we carried by a substantial majority the demand that Strathclyde should be divided into four districts.
We were indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for what he did to promote this discussion, and also to the meeting 219 which I attended in Glasgow which concerned the fact that the region, with the sole exception of Glasgow itself, did not want to be in one area. They wanted to be in four regions. Whether it is too late now to alter this, I do not know. Every day more people are being appointed to important jobs as directors of all the different services and whether you can, so to speak, now unscramble all this, I do not know; but it will make the question of an assembly extremely difficult and I hope that the Government, despite what the Scottish National Party are asking for, will move slowly in making up their minds as to how to handle this administrative matter.
Above all, I hope that the United Kingdom will remain united, which, in my opinion, is in the best interests of Scotsmen and Scotswomen. Our influence and skills have taken Scotsmen and women all over the world and have provided the United Kingdom with several remarkable Prime Ministers, as have the Welsh. I should not like our contribution to government to be confined to North of the Border only.
My Lords, yesterday in our debate many noble Lords spoke about industry, and made very remarkable speeches on the crisis facing many of the industries of our country. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, raised the question of agriculture. I am deeply involved in agriculture, and cannot stress too highly the terrible predicament in which we farmers are at present. Responsible, as some of us are, for a number of agricultural workers, whom we are all anxious to pay as much as we can afford, there is suddenly a complete collapse in cattle prices and sheep prices, causing very real anxiety. I know that next week we are to have a debate on agriculture in which I hope lo take part, so I will not say more now. I would only emphasise that the present problems facing the nation are not only industrial, but also agricultural.
My Lords, the references in the gracious Speech to the importance of the social services and to their development are to be welcomed. I should like to see a much closer liaison between all the social workers in the various aspects of the social services, from child welfare to geriatric services. Social work cannot be done from inside an office. It must be 220 done among the households and among the people. The terrible tragedies connected with children which we have all been reading about in reports, and in inquiries recently Into one or two really ghastly revelations of neglect and cruelty which we are shocked by every day in the newspapers, can be helped and possibly even avoided by social workers; knowing and visiting more and doing less on paper. This is very easy to say, and very hard to do. I am Chairman of the ! Social Work Committee in our county. I know it is very difficult to keep in close; touch with all the problems, but it can be done if there is this close liaison between the close personal contact, the following-up and the decision to be taken. Responsibility must not be passed from one Department to another, or from one person to another.
My Lords, in the care of the old far more should be done to keep them in their own homes, or to build sheltered housing or flats, with a day centre to which old people can go to meet their friends. We should not cope with the problem by building institutions for the aged. There is nothing so expensive as an institution, and nothing is so dreary and unattractive and unsuitable for old people today. I hope that in the plans for the social services put forward by the right honourable Member, Mrs. Castle, we shall take action which will not cost money—because we have the people there—but which will reorganise the service so it is much more effective on the ground than it is to-day.
My Lords, in her excellent speech the noble Baroness. Lady Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, talked about housing. As we all know, at the moment there is a crisis in the "not building" of houses. After the last war, we were helped by new methods. Temporary though they were, buildings such as the Portal House and the other different types of houses erected at that time have filled a gap and have lasted for a great many years. Undoubtedly they were a great success. To-day housing is again in short supply and enormously expensive. New ideas could well provide some more economical way of building, and I hope that the Government will explore the possibilities.
My Lords, I welcome, as I am sure do all the women Peers in this House, the reference in the gracious Speech to 221 the forthcoming legislation on non-discrimination against women. This is a subject on which I think a great many men and women are united. I look forward with great interest to what the Government are going to put forward when they produce their Bill. We are living in very difficult times. This has been reiterated throughout this debate. Many of us in this House, myself included, have seen many crises before. I do not despair that we shall get through this one. But I echo the words of many noble Lords in their pleas for unity of purpose, and legislation to unite the nation rather than divide it. If the Government do this, they will have our support.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ The Earl of KINTORE
My Lords, there is a very charming custom in your Lordships' House, that when English Peers take part in a Scottish debate they usually apologise for doing so. I feel rather like apologising for taking part in an English debate, although I am not going to talk about Scotland except very indirectly, but in fact my speech applies equally to Scotland. I just want to welcome the Nationalists, not because I believe in their policy but because I think that to have eleven men in Westminster making a Scottish noise is no bad thing. It is no bad thing to get Scottish Nationalists used to operating in Parliament. That goes to credit all round. I will not say very much more.
Temporarily, I must admit that I am a little ashamed of some of my brother Scots at this moment. I do not think a national assembly matters very much. What does matter is what power that assembly will have. Reflecting on power, the atomic bomb is an example of uncontrolled power. The results of an atomic explosion are disastrous. But if the speed of the explosion is slowed down by the use of a moderator, such as carbon or heavy water, this devastating misuse of power can be converted to a use for everyone's benefit. We can draw a moral from that in regard to some of the misuse of power that from time to time goes on; for example; in the political field, the industrial field, and so on.
My Lords, in our relationships with each other we have disputes from time to time. I suppose we always will have, as power groups are set UD and try to force their point of view. Those people who 222 say, "Pay up, or else" are just as guilty of using the method of confrontation as the people who say, "There is no money in the kitty. We cannot pay. "It is just as much confrontation, the one and the other. All too often, conciliation can be merely a face-saving device under which you can give way to a sectional demand. You are really not negotiating—merely conceding. I remember that some time ago our county council and town council gave a joint lunch; they called it" joint". When it came to paying for the lunch, it was a joint payment; the county council paid for the lunch and the town council paid for the cigarettes. This is the sort of thing that can happen under an alleged conciliation.
In wartime, it is self-evident that we are in a jam. Many of us have been through a couple of wars, or have experienced them. During those times we have pulled together, and when we have pulled together we have, up to date, been unbeatable. Is it because our politicians are perhaps at an all-time low and so discredited that people do not really believe we are in a crisis at all? I do not know. But it appears, going around the country, that this is the case. They say, "Oh! This is just politicians talking. You cannot believe them". This applies not just to the Tories but to the whole lot of us. I do not suggest this is something we should do, but if Her Majesty's Government rationed petrol, and food, instead of breaking our necks over sugar agreements—it would be a jolly good thing if we did not eat so much sugar, anyway—it would bring it home to the man in the street, the man in the country, that there really was a crisis. People do not believe it yet. If the Government did that, it would be fair to everybody—which is a very important point—and it would do us all good through not eating so much. The most common disease from which the children who are going to school suffer is obesity. They are too fat. We killed far less people on the roads when there were restrictions on speed, and we maimed less. This cannot be a bad thing. So we would have two benefits from that point of view.
Then, again, in our dealings with each other we must always remember that you can lead a horse to the water but you cannot make it drink. Therefore, to try 223 to force people to do things they do not want to do, without convincing them of the justice, the necessity or the right, is a bad method of approach. I think we must settle our disputes by common consent. One of the difficulties is that consent by only one section of the community is only a form of concealed confrontation, and that suffers in the same way as all other efforts at confrontation. This seems to me to be a shortcoming of the social contract.
What I should like to see—and I think it is needed—is not a social contract but a national charter embracing everyone, all sections of the community. That should set out guidelines within which various groups should endeavour to operate. I would include in the national charter all interested organisations who could freely consult one another—the Government, the TUC, the CBI, bankers, the City and, in particular, farmers, who have never been consulted about things of this kind but should be. In particular, the Treasury would have to come clean and not live in secrecy, saying only that there is a certain amount of money but never telling you anything else at all, except that they want more money for taxes. I think they ought to become a little more forthcoming.
There are statesmen in nearly all our organisations. There are certainly statesmen in the TUC and the CBI, and there are statesmen in the Farmers' Union. I think a nationally-minded Government, not a National Government but a nation-ally-minded Government, should consult on this wide basis and should back up their decisions with teeth or by the imposition of sanctions or some method whereby the will of the national council—call it what you like—could be more or less enforced. For example, it seems to me pointless increasing a tractor driver's wages to such an extent that his boss cannot afford to buy the tractor for him to drive. This is happening and this is the kind of thing which is silly.
It is surely more important to try to increase the size of the national cake, than to argue over the slice that each section is to get of an ever-diminishing cake. Provided the national cake is big enough the same percentage size of slice would pay even the teachers. But you can have 224 a bigger slice of the same cake only by taking it away from somebody else. If there is one cake and there is a bigger slice for one section, the other sections will get a smaller slice. This appears to me to be more or less self-evident. I would give wholehearted support to any Government measure that really buried sectional interests, and set out to enlarge the national cake for the benefit of everyone. We know that there are some brilliant politicians, but these times call for a super-statesman.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I hope the noble Earl will forgive me if I do not follow him—I have listened with much interest to what he has said—because I intend to devote my few minutes to following the three noble Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and my noble friend Lord Brockway, in confining my remarks to the passage in the gracious Speech on Northern Ireland. I was happy to notice that in all three of those speeches there was sounded, almost for the first time, a cautious note of optimism about the situation. I should like to sound a similar note. As usual, I agreed with every word spoken by my noble friend Lord Brockway. He expressed so much better than I could hope to express many of my feelings on this subject. It was less predictable that I should also feel a considerable degree of agreement with what was said by the two noble Lords opposite, but there were certainly particular areas in which I felt I was in agreement with them.
On the question of power-sharing, which is specifically referred to in the gracious Speech, I disagreed very strongly with the opinion expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, that the degree that had existed in Northern Ireland up to the collapse of the Executive was, as he put it, "just not on" in regard to any future similar Assembly. I know that there is much opposition by many in the Loyalist camp to the concept of power-sharing. On the other hand, it is my belief that power-sharing at the level which previously existed is essential if violence is to cease in Northern Ireland, and I believed that it was Government policy that power-sharing of that order should be insisted upon.
225 But, my Lords, I am a little disturbed by the way in which it is mentioned in the gracious Speech which talks aboutThe proposed Constitutional Conventionand goes on to say thatany solutionproposed by themmust, if it is to work, provide for some form of genuine power-sharing".This is phrased in quite a different way from any other statement in the gracious Speech, which says what the Government intend to do—"My Government will" do this and "My Government will do" that. When it comes to the question of power-sharing it is stated only that the solution offered by the Constitutional Conventionif it is to work, must provide for…power-sharing.I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Donaldson when he makes his intervention—I wish to say how grateful I am to him for the time he has given me in Belfast and for his correspondence—for a positive assurance from him that unless the Constitutional Convention eventually proposes a degree of power-sharing no less than that which existed in the previous Assembly those proposals will be rejected by the Government. But if he does so, and I should be very greatly disappointed if he does not. we have to ask whether the convening, the voting for the election and deliberations of this Constitutional Convention are any more than a waste of time and also something which, like all the other elections that have taken place in Northern Ireland over the past 12 months—I think this is the sixth—will not lead to a further degree of polarisation such as marked every one of the preceding elections. As soon as you have a vote you get that movement away from the moderate position to the extremist position, which is what we all want to avoid.
Every speaker so far has expressed apprehension about what the Constitutional Convention may be able to achieve. That makes me hope that the election will be delayed as long as possible, perhaps for a year or two, until more stable conditions exist. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, described it as "a very bad thing" and hoped that there might be Direct Rule—I apologise for quoting him when he is not at the moment in the House—which might have to continue
226 for another two years. The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, referred again and again to what might happen if the Constitutional Convention fails, and my noble friend Lord Brockway expressed very grave apprehension about the possibilities of its success.
I personally hope strongly that if it is not going to achieve anything—if it is only to come out in favour, as seems almost certain with an inevitable Loyalist majority, of a proposal which amounts to a return to Stormont and denies the possibility of power-sharing to the extent that the Government want—it will be seen far preferable to wait until somehow a less violent climate obtains. I think the degree of violence is declining. It will be better to have the election then and, in the meantime, for Direct Rule to continue, as the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, suggested.
How is it possible that this better climate, this less violent climate can be achieved? I live in the Republic and recently I have been several times in Belfast and to the most trouble areas. I have stayed with the people of the most deprived Catholic ghettoes in that unhappy city. I have no hesitation in saying that the vast majority of the people, North and South of the Border, Protestant and Catholic, want nothing more than an end to the sickening violence that has plagued their lives now for five years.
I believe that now the Government, if they can show inspired leadership and example and encouragement, can help towards the ending of this violence, first by doing everything they can to help those in the centre—those who want to end violence, those who want a community where all can live together in peace. I mean the moderate Parties, the Social and Democratic Labour Party and the few remaining followers (if they do exist, let them be encouraged) of Mr. Brian Faulkner. Secondly, I hope that the Government, in whatever way possible, can give encouragement to the kind of movement mentioned so eloquently by my noble friend Lord Brockway. I too have been tremendously impressed from my personal experience by the fact that at last there is beginning to be some movement together of the ordinary working class people of both persuasions. That is a movement that has to be encouraged 227 in every way that the Government or any individual can help.
My noble friend has already mentioned Mr. Harry Murray. At the time of the Ulster Workers' Council strike we regarded him—that is to say, those who were hoping for power-sharing and the Assembly to continue—as an enemy because he was the leader of the Ulster Workers' Council, which to some extent, but not quite to the extent suggested by the noble Viscount, was responsible for bringing down the Executive. But Mr. Murray has seen the light. He saw it immediately after his victory at the time of the strike when the extreme UUUC politicians came round to try to cash in on his victory, and he gave them very short shrift. Then he began to stretch out the hand of friendship To his Catholic working class friends and colleagues, and that process has continued and he has now formed his organisation. I believe that it is his movement that gives the greatest hope for the future in Northern Ireland to-day. He should be encouraged in every way possible, so that that movement gets a political organisation and becomes politically active. At present it is in-experienced, it has not got leaders; but it can grow into something that can unite the Province and end this sectarianism that has been the bane of life in the Six Counties ever since it was created.
At the same time I hope that instead of what I would consider the negative attitude expressed in the gracious Speech about terrorism—My Ministers will continue to act decisively against terrorism and lawlessness"—perhaps a more positive attitude might be possible, of making an appeal to the extremists of both sides at this time when everyone wants to see terrorism end. At the present lime it is the Protestant extremists who are the more active—I do not want to make too much of a point of that; perhaps next week it will be the other way round—but an appeal should be made to the extremists of both sides to agree to end violent action for a period of time if certain definite assurances were given. I agree with my noble friend Lord Brockway that internment, as he calls it, or detention, as I suppose it should more properly be called, is the main cause of violence to-day. I must add from what I 228 have seen that the visible Army presence in the streets also is a contribution.
I do not intend for one moment to criticise the Army in Northern Ireland. I know that the great majority of them are doing a first-class job under extreme difficulties—this is not universal, but it is true of the great majority; yet I know also that their very presence in the streets in the deprived areas, and in the areas where violence might not exist, creates a continual atmosphere of tension and resentment. Is it not worth taking the risk of appealing to the terrorists of both sides, the extremists of both sides, to agree to a cease-fire, an ending of violence, for a period of, let us say, six months, and that there will be a progressive release on a steady monthly basis of all political prisoners, so that one-sixth of them or, if you like, one-tenth of them, or whatever figure on which you strike a bargain, will be released each month provided the cease-fire is respected; and secondly that from the time this has been agreed, there will be an immediate withdrawal of the Army presence from the streets—not from the Province, but from the streets? If it fails, there is a breakdown and the truce is broken, then send the troops to that trouble spot; but so long as that cease-fire continues the troops will stay in their barracks. Just as the prisoners will be progressively released, so the Army will progressively be withdrawn from the Province, again at a steady rate to be continued, and to be seen to be continued, throughout that period. It might not work, but I think that it is worth taking the risk.
I ask the Government to consider if they will make this positive offer. It means making a proposal, entering into a kind of negotiation with the extremists; but I believe that this has to be done, and that if it can be done violence might come to an end, and a climate created in which elections could take place to a Constitutional Convention which could make recommendations to ensure peace and prosperity in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland.
§ 649 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, will not complain if I, like him, do not follow my immediate predecessor. He 229 turned to Ireland; I shall turn back to Scotland. First of all, it is always a pleasure to be able to join in the welcome given in this House to a maiden speaker. We listened to the observations of the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and found them full of earthy local government wisdom. We listened to our benefit. Certainly I did. I wish in advance to thank the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, for his presence. I understand it is his intention to wind up. Those of us who know him even just a little can be well assured of his readiness to harken to ideas no matter how impossibly interrogative or, in my case, superficial.
My Lords, one thing now manifest in Scotland is that the country is in search of new political attitudes on which to pin its faith. The Scottish National Party's campaign is a highly emotional response to that demand. So I address myself to the reference in the gracious Speech to the Government's intention "urgently" to prepare for setting up "directly elected assemblies". I endorse what my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood said when she begged the Government neither to hasten nor to become involved in too rigid attitudes before many points of view had been heard. Indeed, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said—I echo his remarks—"Please do not get committed (even in thought) to the outlines of a scheme until at least there has been a thorough full-dress debate in this House."
What sort of body shall be set up? It surely is common ground that it must be seen to be charged with clear and inescapable responsibilities for Scotland's economy and prosperity. It must be seen to be capable of making industrial policy and must therefore—I believe this too is common ground—control those trade, industry and employment activities now run by the Scottish end of Whitehall Departments. It must surely be able to command and contrive an industrial policy to stimulate the generation of new enterprises, to stimulate the development of those already there but above all to ensure that Scotland is the home of industrial decision-making instead of the branch factory economy under which we suffer and which has been the best product that could be had out of the regional growth policies of the last 35 years.
230 My first critical question—I am not expecting the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, to do more to-night than note it—is whether this new body is to have the critical power to refuse to vote supply and therefore be a real legislature with a Cabinet system? The same question was put by my noble friend Lord Perth in an intervention during the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood. Or is this body going to be, in financial terms, simply an extension of local government adjusting United Kingdom policies to a still subordinate region? Above all, will this body raise and be dependent upon raising its own revenues? I beg the Government in their studies and preparations, despite the urgency, to beware of façade, pretence and halfway politics.
The term "directly elected" has been used possibly as a riposte to the Conservative Party's idea not that the interim assembly should be nominated, as my noble friend Lord Perth suggested; no, that it should be quickly elected on a local government base and in that sense indirectly elected. At any rate the term "directly elected" is used now. It could mean anything. It could range from the Westminster model with its freak results. We have a Government backed by no more than 40 per cent. of the active electorate. In the case of my own constituency of Berwick and East Lothian we have a Member of Parliament who has just unseated his splendid—indeed, I think better—sitting Member and done it with 49 fewer votes than he got in February when he was unseated himself. Such are the acknowledged absurdities of the Westminster electoral system. Alternatively, "directly elected" could mean large constituencies returning several Members on the basis of proportional representation. I hope it will be nearer the latter.
The new body, whatever it is called and however constructed, will face problems of tension and balance which have already been referred to. The crux of any plan for the devolution of power in Scotland must be the region of Strath-clyde, whether that remains in being as a local government entity or not. It is, if I may so put it, a geo-political reality. It has natural cohesion. It has nearly half the population, nearly half the rate-able value and three-quarters of Scotland's 231 Community tensions. Do not let the Government imagine that, because we in Scotland have habitually made jokes about Celtic and Rangers or Hibs and Hearts, we are not deep down infected by many of the tensions that trouble Ulster. In Strathclyde they could burst out.
My Lords, Strathclyde and Central Scotland are the crucible and it is interesting that it is in Strathclyde that the Scottish National Party have so far proved themselves the weakest. The Highlands, the Borders, the North-East of Scotland, the areas that are underpopulated and even losing population, are exceedingly sensitive about the weight of Glasgow, of Central Scotland and of Strathclyde. These remoter areas cry out for repopulation and development. Yet a Scottish Assembly dominated by Glasgow would care little for them. That is about as certain as any prediction one can make in Scottish affairs. How could the balance be redressed? I put the idea to the Government that here may be the case for a bicamerel system whereby an Upper House would represent either the regions or maybe the district councils and one would have some counter equation to the overweight in Glasgow's voting power in the Lower Chamber based on one-man-one-vote.
Whatever the system it must have power to alter the whole tone of Scottish government. This is where we come to the need of a Scottish Assembly, if that is what it is to be called, literally managing the Scottish end of trade, employment and industry, instead of just being the Scottish administrative end of the same operations originating in Whitehall. It must be conducted with pageantry, panache and perspicacity. Great things can only be done in a great way.
What about the name? Certainly not "Assembly". Scotland has a General Assembly of which it is proud. I do not speak as a member of the Kirk of Scotland. I am a member of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. But I love, admire and honour the Assembly. The Assembly is the "General Assembly". Never let us muddle it up with a legislative body or the recipient of devolved functions from here. So let us drop the word "Assembly". What about Parliament? My Lords, this is Parliament here. You 232 cannot have two. May I suggest Convention? That would recall the historic erstwhile Convention of the Burghs. It is a distinctive term. It has Scottish history behind it. I believe it would command assent.
My Lords, it has been said that there are not four freedoms—freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech and freedom to worship—but five, and that the fifth freedom is freedom from fact. This is something in which my fellow countrymen have indulged, dredging the bottomless cornucopia of progressive illusions in their thinking about the relevance of oil. This has been emotionally pre-empted, and it really lies at the basis of the separatist argument—the emotion about so-called Scottish oil. There are many cautions. I list four. First, North Sea oil is high-cost oil, and if, as many market experts think, the world oil price slips back to somewhere about 5 or 6 dollars a barrel Britain will need not to raise tax but to cut it to avoid bankrupting every major project after the Forties. Second, the North Sea has but a slender lead in the offshore capital equipment race. If, as is expected, the United States in the next 12 months license some 10 million offshore acres off California, the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Alaska for exploration, and if they couple that with tax incentives to bring the rigs home, there might be few left in the United Kingdom sector of the North Sea and the next United Kingdom licence round might be a complete flop.
How Scottish is this oil? Some 64 per cent. of the reserves so far discovered—that is to say, in the Brent and the Beryl areas—are North-East of the Orkneys and Shetlands. It may come as a revelation to some, but the people of Orkney and the Shetlands feel themselves at least as Norse as they do Scottish, and probably more Norse than Scottish. Only 36 per cent. of the oil reserves so far found are off the Scottish mainland.
Then, my Lords, what about defence? There could well be need of more than 30 fixed production platforms North-East of Orkney and the Shetlands to get the oil ashore. These would straddle an area of high strategic value. They would straddle a potential military operational zone on NATO's northern flank and in the. forward deployment area of Russia's northern fleet. This area adjoins the 233 Barents Sea, already tense—tense with Soviet naval manoeuvres off Bear Island; tense with Soviet diplomatic claims to the Norwegian Shelf, and claims that the Shelf should be divided not in accordance with the Geneva Convention but according to the relative power of Russia and Norway; and tense with Soviet claims to joint sovereignty of the Spitsbergen archipelago.
My Lords, if the separatists had their way what would happen? Do noble Lords really believe that Orkney and Shetland would long stay immune to Soviet influence and would long remain in the Scottish orbit, given their underlying Norse affiliation? How could a separated Scotland—and this is what is proposed in the SNP Manifesto—protect the oilfields of Aberdeen, let alone those North-East of Orkney and the Shetlands? My Lords, given separation, the very basis of the separatists' claim to economic-independence based on taxable profits from offshore oil would wither, crumble and disappear. In that struggle of the Titans which the growth and menace of the most potent fleet on the oceans now portends, a separated Scotland would be about as impotent as the Faroes, at best a near client of the USSR.
My Lords, the Scottish umbilical cord is with Britain. Over the length and breadth of Scotland I have found, heard and seen absolutely no taste whatever for separatism. Once the Scottish people grasp that the separatists have fiddled the facts with regard to oil they will want Britain upheld rather than torn apart. They will not want Britain to be reduced to the SNP's proposed Association of States of the British Isles.
My Lords, against that background the Scottish Convention must be designed fairly and fully to express both the ethos and the aspirations of the whole of Scotland, the Borders and Highlands no less than the industrial heart. The issue is not a mean one, nor is it an easy one; but in the Scots phrase we must "set a stout heart to a stey brae".
§ 7.7 p.m.
My Lords, first of all it is my very great pleasure to add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, on her maiden speech to-day. As a local government officer I may say that her comments about local 234 authorities are much appreciated. May I also take this opportunity to congratulate my noble friend Lady Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn on her maiden speech yesterday. As not only a local government officer but also as one interested in housing, I feel I have something in common with our maiden speakers in this debate, both yesterday and to-day. I should also like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt. I look forward to hearing him speak on the many interesting subjects with which he will deal. We shall hear him at the end of this debate, of course.
To refer at once to the beginning of this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, made some very appreciative remarks about the work of (the police. This was most encouraging, and I for one, as I am sure do all your Lord-ships, join in his commendation of the bomb squad. I hope your Lordships never have reason to become involved in such acts of terrorism, but I can give one first-hand account involving the bomb squad. Fortunately, nothing happened, but it was just after I had returned to this country after an interesting period as a delegate to the United Nations. The morning's mail brought a strange and unexpected envelope with a Middle East stamp on it. It looked rather suspicious so, acting on the advice given to the public, we called the police. If the bomb squad did not arrive exactly instantaneously, they arrived with commendable haste. Fortunately, the letter proved to be harmless but profuse apologies for calling them out on what was apparently a wild goose chase resulted only in the very polite commendation that we had acted quite properly.
My Lords, I noted with pleasure the reference in the gracious Speech to the fact that local authorities and housing associations will receive encouragement to develop their programmes for the improvement of existing homes, and to provide more homes to rent. There is no need to stress the importance of the problem as it is already ultra-critical. Hardly any region can be considered as being free from it and London is certainly one of the "areas of greatest stress", to quote the words of the gracious Speech. As an employee at County Hall, I am aware of the efforts of the Greater London Council to meet the present need. Recently, the GLC has released details of 235 a strategic housing plan calling for implementation by the GLC itself, together with the London boroughs, the private sector and the housing associations.
There is a shortage of low-priced housing and a dearth of suitably priced accommodation for middle-income families. Privately rented housing is provided mainly in old houses and, whereas some are maintained in a satisfactory condition, there are many which are of poor standard and neglected. This neglect need not be deliberate; it may be due to financial limitations upon the owners. The private owner needs help and encouragement. It is unfortunate that there has been some prominence given to those who seem mean or grasping but there are many who do not deserve such a stigma. I hope I may be included in that category because, to declare an interest, I am a very minor private owner of a house in which there is a furnished flat in the semi-basement. Knowing full well from my own experience in past years the problem of finding a home, it has been my hope to provide decent accommodation for someone else at a fair rent. But the amount that has to be charged for rent to cover expenses for repairs and maintenance is frightening, added to which there are rates and a calculation for taxation which, in spite of available allowances, is quite heavy.
My Lords, turning to the private owner-occupier, his needs are not inconsiderable. Here, again. I refer to the gracious Speech and its mention of action to secure "a stable and adequate flow of mortgages." Loan conditions now favour newly built housing, and in applying for mortgages there is greater favour shown towards those who are under 40. Older potential householders are therefore under a considerable handicap, and it is to be hoped that this difficulty can be reduced if not altogether removed. In London, there has been a sad increase in homeless-ness. One of the factors influencing this position has been the much-maligned private owner evicting tenants from furnished accommodation. But there are other factors and among these is the large transient population of London, particularly students. Let us remember that London is now considered to be one of the very best places in the world as a centre of learning. Art and culture. Large 236 numbers of hostels and lodging houses to which the students could have gone have been closed.
In London, the Greater London Council and many boroughs have tried to alleviate the worst aspects of homelessness by handing over short-life properties awaiting demolition to housing associations and organised groups, such as the Family Housing Association and the Family Squatters' Advisory Service. But, in spite of all available action and assistance, the present housing stock is deteriorating at a faster rate than the work of renewal and rehabilitation is progressing.
The first logical and essential requirement for building new homes is land. The building industry tends to attribute shortages of land for housing to lack of planning permission, yet statistics show that between 1966 and 1971 more permissions were granted than dwellings were constructed. The larger firms of developers aim to accumulate a land bank sufficient for, say, three to five years' building at the present rate. Smaller firms manage to survive on smaller stocks of available land. The maintenance of large stocks of land is understandable. Nevertheless, when there is a high demand for housing there may be a shortage of land, because the smaller firms run out of their stocks and the larger firms retain their stock for their own future programmes. Once again, the smaller firm is in a position of worry and anxiety.
In the public sector, projects of housing development have their own special problems. Land and buildings cannot be acquired except at a cost which exceeds the residential value. The other important factor is time. It may take two to three years between the decision to go ahead with a project and confirmation of the order by the Minister to acquire land compulsorily. It may take another three years to clear the site and resolve planning considerations and construction can take another three years. It can be a total of close on ten years for a building programme to go ahead from the original idea to completion.
My Lords, the second essential requirement in providing new homes is men to build them. Here I speak from experience, as at present I have been working on the statistics of the number of men employed on Greater London Council sites.
237 There are barely more than one-third of the men required. I can assure those Members of your Lordships' House who are anxious about those self-employed tradesmen on construction sites who are known as the lump, that the GLC is already tackling the problem and I have no doubt that many other local authorities are doing the same. However, more men are urgently needed and they must be encouraged to take up employment in building or return to it. Skilled labour is available, but the uncertainty of the building trade has led great numbers of skilled men to take up other employment. The answer is easy to put into words: the country needs a stable building industry which will encourage skilled labour to return. But, whether skilled or unskilled, the men should be encouraged, rather than allow the situation to become so drastic that direction of labour has to be resorted to.
Yesterday evening, some of your Lord-ships may have seen on television the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for the Environment, suggesting what might be interpreted as a return to prefabricated dwellings; he was referring to the necessity of sacrificing quality to quantity. If it is necessary to build prefabricated housing to speed up the supply, then so be it. Perhaps it will be a lesser evil than having so many of the population living in caravans. Prefabrication for building, large or small, has its advantages. I have some knowledge of one site of a Greater London Council building project, and houses manufactured in Holland are to be sent over here to be erected on the site. This is to be carried out with the knowledge and consent of the Department of the Environment. It is commendable and will create more homes, but I wish that British industry was providing the buildings, since I have mentioned the need for a stable building industry.
Finally, I wish to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, on his beautifully patriotic speech two days ago. The demonstration in the Public Gallery at the end of it was out of order, but the speech deserved it. Like all your Lordships, I join with him in wishing to see Great Britain truly great, but we must achieve "stable" Britain in order to gain "Great" Britain. We need to see stability at the top, and once it is there it will follow down the line 238 so that we can economise in industry. It is still my hope that there will be some form of Coalition Government. Each political Party, particularly the three most prominent ones, has men and women who can contribute great things. Can we not, my Lords, even for a short period, put aside our political difficulties which are secondary to the economic issues at stake, and get down to the job? We were ready to do it in time of war. Can we not do it now?
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY FO STATE, NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, will, I hope, forgive me if I do not follow him in detail in what he has been saying but I should like to say that we have one thing in common. I, too, have a basement of which I am a proud landlord and I am not sure that I am charging enough rent. Perhaps if we get together after the debate we might compare notes!
I find myself here trying to catch some of the coconuts which are inevitably shied at my noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt. I wish to join with my colleagues on this side and also my colleagues opposite in welcoming my noble friend's first speech from the Front Bench. It was thought that as I have a steady triangular discussion with the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, and the noble Lord. Lord Moyola, it would be rather hard to make my noble friend go back over all that has been said in the past and that it would probably save time if I dealt with this aspect myself. That is what I shall try to do. I shall not deal in depth with the more serious questions raised because this is not the right moment to do it. I think they are worth a full-dress debate on their own. This week the Prime Minister has said:The House will expect, and is entitled to expect, an early debate on the deepening tragedy in Northern Ireland.That leads me to think that an opportunity will be made through the usual channels for a full debate on this subject. Therefore I am not going to deal now with the really big questions which are troubling us so much.
I should like to add my praise to the encomium of my noble friend Lord Harris on the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham.
239 It was a great pleasure to harry him from the Back-Benches, and he has left the Front Bench soon enough not to be able to harry me very much: so that is very satisfactory. He formed this Voluntary Service Unit, which is frightfully important and much to be welcomed. I hope very much that we shall start something of the kind in Northern Ireland: at any rate we have it in mind.
The one thing which is relevant to my particular subject which I should like to take out of the speech of my noble friend Lord Harris concerns terrorism. I should like noble Lords to recognise that whatever you have here, we have more of. My noble friend Lord Harris spoke of 200 terrorist offences in two years. We average that number per month, if you include shooting. This is serious and true. We are dealing with a situation which is absolutely different and in every aspect considerably worse than anything you have here. Even agriculture is worse, because beef is £2 per cwt. less than it is here. The situation is a very difficult one and we must be patient with those people who are living through it.
I congratulate my noble friend Lady Stedman on a most remarkable maiden speech. I was enormously impressed by her grasp of local government finance, and I am advising my right honourable friend Tony Crosland that if he does not make her a Minister fairly quickly he will be asked a lot of questions that he will not be able to answer: I hope he will take that action quite soon.
I should like now to refer to the interesting point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, during the general debate; namely that nuclear deterrents are appropriate for defence against the enemy outside but are entirely irrelevant to the present enemy we face, which looks increasingly like disruption from inside. This really is what we are faced with in Northern Ireland and we are all afraid to see it developing in this country—as it is already beginning to do. I believe two noble Lords said that things were a little better. I should like to seize on this: they are not tremendously better but they are a little better. For example, comparing the third quarter of 1974 with the last quarter of 1973, we find that there were 257 explosions in 1973 and 122 this year. That is quite 240 a big difference, when we think of what an explosion may mean. It may mean anything from three lbs. to 500 lbs. of explosive going off. Therefore, the fact that there has been a falling off during this last quarter is encouraging. The shooting incidents have fallen by a couple of hundred—from 900 in the last quarter of 1973 to 700 in the third quarter of this year. In my opinion, this has happend because many of the people who commit these offences are in detention.
I shall not pursue this point because we shall argue it in depth later on; but I think there is very little doubt that the ability to execute acts of terrorism has been diminshed by what the Security Forces call attrition, whereby gradually with a group of men who are known they are able to arrest first one and then all the others, and finally that little group disappears and the damage stops in that particular area, although it may start somewhere else. This is what the security forces are doing, and I think they are doing it extremely well, in conditions where it is impossible to be totally successful.
Things have changed in the last month. Shooting incidents were diminshing, but since the filthy murder of the two judges—one of the most revolting assassinations in our time, uncalled for and carefully planned—the other side have, possibly, one may say, with some excuse, started to commit very serious murders of their own. Of course, this always happens: one thing leads to another. So we have had some escalation recently and there have been 15 persons murdered since the murder of the two judges on September 16. The Royal Ulster Constabulary are really going hard for the culprits. Five persons have already been charged with murder and 15 have been charged with attempted murder. This shows a strong reaction of a fairly effective kind.
Then, yesterday I read the statement made by my Secretary of State about the Maze revolt. This was a very determined attempt by very determined people, and it is satisfactory that not one prisoner escaped. I think this reflects very great credit on the Security Forces. Over the whole question of detention, which is something which worries us all, I beg your Lordships to wait for the Gardiner Report. The Committee is considering 241 exactly this subject: whether that consideration will produce action of a kind people want, or not, I do not know. But it is ridiculous to discuss the matter until we have got the Report so I shall leave that on one side.
The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, referred to something he had said on a previous occasion and which I felt then I was unable to say very much about, but now there is something to speak about. He asked us to try to involve the community more. He said, roughly speaking, that Satan finds a mischief for idle hands to do. A lot of people have not enough to do and would like to help with the security situation. The noble Lord will be interested to know that the initiative taken on September 2 by the Secretary of State for the extension of policing in Northern Ireland has got off to quite a good start. We are putting up local police centres to serve local communities; the staffing mainly by members of the RUC Reserve, which is being expanded. It has been considerably increased to enable local people, especially women, to serve their own communities and contribute to their security. Over 2,000 applications to join were received within six weeks of its announcement, and two centres have already been opened. The noble Lord will be pleased to know this. It is a response of a kind for which he was asking, but it is very important and it is the way we have to go ahead.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, defended my Secretary of State in giving casualty figures. I am grateful to him for that. It so happens I obtained them myself so I feel strongly about that. I was in the Maze Prison and asked the doctor to ring up the Royal Victoria Hospital at midday to find out the figures because it was being rumoured that 20 people were dead. We received the figures, and at that time nine people were in hospital, two of whom had more serious injuries. This was put out on the BBC News. Later various people reported sick with bruises and bumps, which they had earned. The total number kept in hospital was nine, two of whom had suspected fractures. Some of the nine are already out of hospital. The Secretary of State not only spoke the truth but, as the noble Viscount. Lord Brookeborough, was kind enough to say, 242 could be expected to speak the truth. The fact that he was accused of lying was offensive. I am grateful to the noble Viscount for that point. I am not going to be grateful to him for very much else, but I am not going to go into much detail.
His suggestion that we should hang young offenders was a Freudian slip. He meant beat them. I am equally against that. As a matter of fact, with young offenders we have some interesting things going on. Some months ago I came before your Lordships with an Order in Council to allow us to keep a certain number of young offenders of a particularly dangerous kind in Crumlin Road prison. This is working extremely well. They are completing their sentences and we released one yesterday to Rathgael training school, which is the other way round. There is a great deal to be done and when we get the new young offenders centre in about two years' time we shall be able to do more. I shall not support the noble Viscount in reintroducing the birch.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I understood that the noble Viscount was advocating the return of capital punishment. If this was a lapsus linguae or a slip, Freudian or otherwise, should he not correct it himself?
LORD DONALDSON FO KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, he has corrected it in a note which I have in front of me. The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, could not know that.
§ Viscount BROOKEBOROUGH
My Lords, it was a slip of the tongue. I had been talking about capital punishment for other people, and whether it should be examined. I was told when I sat down that I had recommended capital punishment for young offenders. In fact I meant corporal punishment. It was a straight slip of the tongue.
LORD DONALDSON FO KINGS-BRIDGE
That clears that up, my Lords, I should like to endorse what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Moyola and Lord Kilbracken. Whether the figure is right, I do not know, but the general sense is that 98 per cent. of the population are against violence. I think it might be nearer 90 per cent. You need a little more than 1 per cent. on each side to give 243 the support to the men of violence there. It is a small group and the ordinary people in Ulster are just as opposed to violence as most of us.
My noble friend Lord Brockway offered us his sympathy and I shall pass this on to my Secretary of State. We need it in a sense that it is very comforting to know it is there. This is a job which is not going to come off in any spectacular way. One is not going to produce an immediate solution and therefore the sense of disappointment is not as great as if one expected something quickly. The Secretary of State is strong, firm and prepared to plug on. He is unmoved by criticism and his team follow him faithfully and with great satisfaction. My noble friend, who manages to get into a pessimistic situation a sense of optimism, which I admire, pays a good deal of attention to the possibility of the two sectarian sides uniting. I hope he is right; there are some small signs. But I should like to warn him that people in Northern Ireland always have united perfectly easily over common interests. Only the other day I had Mrs. Bernadette McCloskey on one side and the Rev. Ian Paisley on the other, united like a solid block against me over seed potatoes. This is the kind of thing the Irish unite very easily over, a common interest. I hope that there is more to it than this. There may be, but I do not think one wants to build too much on it. Of course we want to support Mr. Harry Murray and his Peace Council. It is a marvellous idea provided it can gather weight to do something constrictive. The question of loyalty to Ulster is extremely interesting and I believe it to be true. I believe there is a change; I believe more and more people who would have called themselves Republicans, and who are Catholics, are now beginning to think they belong in Northern Ireland and are not so frightfully keen to go down. The noble Lord went back to the 16th century which is his traditional right here——
LORD DONALDSON FO KINGS-BRIDGE
We will argue that afterwards. My Lords, my noble friend spoke of the desire to serve, and he spoke of various possibilities such as the suggestion of Mr. Stratton Mills. These are matters not for 244 discussion but which must come out of the Convention, which is for exactly this purpose.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, asked me to make a categorical statement about power-sharing. I shall do so in a form which may annoy him, but it is the best way. The Government have made clear in the White Paper of July their position on power-sharing. By this they stand. If the noble Lord can find anything wrong in it, please let me know. I do not think that I have very much more to say. There is a sense of vacuum at the moment, which is being filled in various ways with discussions. The Convention will be an opportunity for men of good will to make sense—and sometimes men of good will do make sense, but not always.
My Lords, I have shot back a few of the coconuts. I have not dealt with the deep situation; I hope that we shall have an opportunity to deal with this reasonably soon. Most of us think of very little else and so we have much to say, but I am not going to say any more about it tonight.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Viscount THURSO
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, will I know understand if I follow him in time and space but not in argument. Indeed, a curious feature of the most gracious Speech, it always seems to me, is that it is like a menu in a strange restaurant: it is fairly clear what the main ingredient of the dish or dishes is likely to be, but the garnishes and sauces to be used and the quality of the cooking have to be discovered at a later date. Indeed, it seems to me that the noble Lords who occupy the Front Bench opposite are in the role of waiters, and we may very well have to ask them to go back to the kitchen to find out exactly what ingredients are to be put into the various dishes and exactly how it is proposed to cook them. This will come out later when I speak about Scottish affairs where a great deal of questioning must obviously be put to the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt. In that connection, may I say how glad I am, and we on these Benches are, to see him back out of purdah and sitting in your Lordships' House.
One small point in the most gracious Speech upon which I should like to 245 touch is this. I am exceedingly pleased to see that there will be an opportunity to consider whether the proceedings of Parliament should be broadcast. I cannot help feeling that this will be a most interesting debate, particularly because of the example at the moving of the humble Address in reply to the gracious Speech. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, made a most witty and most impassioned and most appealing speech which, when reported on "Today in Parliament", arrived as a series of dusty sentences which bore no relationship whatever to either the content or the manner in which he spoke. I hope that the public will have an opportunity to see how they are served as well as by whom they are served.
Three subjects appear in the gracious Speech upon which I should like to touch as briefly as possible at this late hour. The first is agriculture. Although I know there is to be a debate on agriculture next week, unfortunately I myself cannot be here and I feel it is a matter of such great importance. I should like to couple this subject with an earlier pronouncement about the use of subsidies—the intention of Her Majesty's Government to use subsidies in order to keep down the price of foodstuffs. I plead with the Government not to confuse the use of subsidies with the idea that this may provide more of any commodity. The fact is that a subsidy may stop certain types of farming from going totally out of business—although in the case of beef the subsidy is not large enough to do that. It may encourage people for a short length of time to hang on in hope, but it is no substitute whatever in the matter of achieving supplies of any commodity for a fair price in the market, and a market for that commodity.
I have an interest: I am a farmer, and I give it as my first occupation. I went home by air after the humble Address was moved in order to sell some cattle and I returned this morning. I am sorry to tell your Lordships that young cross-Hereford cattle which I bought two years ago as calves for £45, upon which I received a subsidy of £9 a head, I sold in the market for £26 ready to go to the bull to produce more beef for the country. I do not think they will go to the bull but that they will be fed by somebody who has some cheap feedingstuffs 246 somewhere and then slaughtered. I cannot believe that this is what was intended two years ago when farmers were pled with to produce more beef and were literally encouraged to do so. If I depended entirely upon that kind of operation I should now be bankrupt and completely out of business. So we on these Benches sincerely hope that much will come out of the debate on November 6 and that Her Majesty's Government will then be able to give much firmer and more explicit pledges about the means they are going to use to keep farmers in business, and not merely say that they will continue discussions with the farming industry. They must come up with some real measures now. One of the facts they must realise is that to have failed to implement any form of support after the original forms of support were removed from agriculture is one of the root causes of the present agricultural crisis.
The main subject, obviously, on which I should like to touch to-night in this debate on the Address is devolution for Scotland. Here again, we have some questions to ask, but luckily we have one of the "cooks" here to answer. We are told that Her Majesty's Governmentwill urgently prepare for the implementation of the decision to set up directly elected assemblies in Scotland and Wales.I should like to know, first of all, who made that decision. Was it the Government as a whole? Was it in debate? Was it the Manifesto of the Labour Party at the Election? Or was it the noble Lord, Lord Crowlher-Hunt, in the solitude of his "think-tank" who decided which of the various alternatives which have been adumbrated should be the one to be implemented? I join with other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate in asking urgently for a very much wider debate on this subject because we want to know what really is proposed and how quickly it is likely to happen, and we want to have an opportunity at this stage to influence Government thinking and the drafting of any legislation that may be necessary.
This is a most important and vital constitutional change that we are contemplating. This is a change of importance not only to Scotland but also to England, Wales and indeed all countries within Great Britain or the United Kingdom.
247 We want to clear our minds of much of the misconception which is obviously there. For instance, there is a great deal of misconception about the difference between separatism and federalism. We on these Benches have always supported the idea of a federal approach to devolution.
I have often said on public platforms that I consider that the English need to get home rule; the English may well turn round and divide themselves up, if they wish, and say that they want home rule for the North or for the South-West. This is a most important subject to air at this stage, because if this is to be the ultimate aim of devolution, if we are to create a new, stronger grouping of members within the United Kingdom and within Great Britain, based upon a federal approach, then this should form part of the original discussion. We should not make the mistakes which we have made in discussing local government reorganisation. In fact, in Scotland we have carried out a disaster in local government reorganisation—a disaster to which nearly every other speaker on this subject has referred. We have created a monster in the shape of the Strathclyde Region, and we must dismember this monster before we can create an assembly, or a convention, or a "Scotch House", or whatever you like to call it.
My Lords, in considering the form of any Scottish assembly or, indeed, any Welsh assembly (because that also has to be considered, presumably, in this debate) and their relationship with Parliament here in Westminster, we have to consider how these assemblies are to be elected. I wonder why the unanimous decision of the members of the Kilbrandon Committee to recommend proportional representation has been left out of all mention of devolution by the present Government. From these Benches we shall urge upon them that proportional representation should be an integral part of any form of devolution for Scotland or for Wales.
That allows me at this stage to welcome my kinsman, the noble Lord, Lord Bel-haven and Stenton, dressed in his new tartan, fresh from the blinding light which he saw on the road to Dundee, to a unique position within your Lordships' House. I welcome it, not because I think that he has made the right decision—far from it; I would much rather he had joined our 248 Benches—but because he is one brave man better representing the climate of opinion in Scotland within your Lordships' House, and any improvement in the true representation of how people feel and think within our democratic institutions must be welcomed by all people who are interested in democracy.
So, my Lords, I urge that as soon as possible we have a wide-ranging debate on these important subjects not only of Scottish devolution but also Welsh devolution and that we include with it a look at the whole constitutional position which is involved—because, indeed, it is a constitutional position. When this matter is debated (I do not know whether we can debate it in your Lordships' House, but certainly it will be debated in another place) they will even think of proportional representation for the whole country, because the present anomalies are so obvious that nobody needs me to draw their attention to them.
My Lords, there are many subjects on this "menu" which I hope we shall be debating in greater depth at a later time. The hour is late and I will not touch on more of them at this stage. However, I think that this debate has made it clear how important to people in Scotland, and Wales, devolution is. I have been able, I hope, to give your Lordships' House some idea of how we on these Benches react to this important problem.
§ 7.53 p.m.
LORD BELHAVEN AND STENTON
My Lords, first of all may I apologise to your Lordships for not being on the list of speakers. I put my name down three days ago, but even in such an excellent institution as your Lordships' House things sometimes go wrong. My noble kinsman Lord Thurso suggested that I should be dressed in tartan. All I can say to him is that I am a Lowlander and that it would not be entirely appropriate if I were dressed in tartan.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, may I suggest to the noble Lord that he might appear in trews, even if he did not wear a kilt !
LORD BELHAVEN AND STENTON
Yes, my Lords. But if my noble friend will forgive me, trews are also bogus for Lowlanders. We have worn them 249 for a while, but I think that all the Low-land tartans were invented in order to open the door for George IV. However, I will not pursue that argument further now, or keep your Lordships any longer than you need to be kept.
I should like to join with other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I do not know whether I can say anything more than that. He is quite marvellous. He comes from a world that has gone and it is possible that we shall never again reproduce anybody as good as him. I have already apologised to the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, who is not in his place, for not having been here when he spoke. I had to go away in rather a hurry. However, I read his speech and I enjoyed it, as I always enjoy his speeches. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, also made a very remarkable speech. I think that we all enjoy listening to him, whether we agree with him or not. I think it is for about 50 per cent. of the time that I agree with him, and yesterday I think that I agreed with about 60 per cent. of what he said. However, I was sorry when he came to the bit about the "Break up Britain Brigade", and I should like to make a few observations on what he said.
A year ago I opposed in this House the idea of a Scottish and Welsh assembly. I thought that we could have gone on as we were. However, since then the Conservative Party and the Labour Party—the present Government—have put forward the idea of this assembly. To their credit, the Liberals have always been in favour of it. In my view, no major British Party (the Scottish Nationalists are a major Scottish Party) can go back on this idea without dishonour. The consequences are that we shall have an elected parliament or assembly. My noble friend the Lord Lauderdale said that it should be called a "convention", but I would call it a parliament—it does not matter what you call it—in Edinburgh. Already we have half of Scotland in the Strathclyde Region and other noble Lords have referred to this problem.
If, however, you are going to give an ancient nation like the Scottish nation—one of the most ancient nations in Europe, if not the most ancient nation, and a civilised nation—a parliament you 250 cannot confine it to the drains in Edinburgh. If you give them a parliament it is an insult to them to say, "We are giving you a parliament and you can do this, but you can't do that". I do not think that you can give a nation a parliament with one hand and then tell that parliament what it may or may not do with the other.
My Lords, most of my history was learned from that splendid book 1066 and All That. I do not have a copy with me, but, as I remember it, it said that Henry VII had a splendid idea whereby the Irish should have a parliament and the English should pass all the laws in it. I think there is a certain danger here. If you give the Scottish people a parliament, then, I think, they must be allowed to determine how they are to be governed and what they will do in it, without being told from Westminster, "Oh, no! You have done that, but you must not do it."
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, spoke about Britain being broken up. I am sorry, my Lords, but all the major Parties in this country are now going to break Britain up. There is no question about that. The proposals of Parliament for Scotland and Wales are, to that extent, breaking up Britain. I will not speak for Wales as I know nothing about that country; I have been to Wales and I like the Welsh people but that is as far as it goes. But if you are going to give Scotland a Parliament, then you must give it full self-determination. This may not—and I hope it will not—be the same thing as breaking up Britain into little bits. Of course when it is all over the island will still be here, and we shall still have to live in it and defend it, and, since this revolutionary proposal has been put forward, we shall have to learn to live together in a new way.
I do not think there is any reason at all why we should not learn to live together in a perfectly civilised way. After all, Britain has recently joined the Common Market and now we have problems about that, but there was no question that we could not live in a united Europe in a civilised way. If Scotland has self-determination, it does not necessarily mean that we are going to get rid of the Royal Navy or that we must have Customs posts on the Border. The fact of the matter is 251 that Scotland is being given a parliament and, consequently, the Scottish people have a right to have a proper parliament which determines everything they do in their affairs, both internal and external.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, I must apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, but he said something just now which I did not quite follow. I wonder whether he is fully aware of the terms of the Scottish National Election Manifesto, which spoke of a democratic Scottish parliament within the Commonwealth and went on to say,Scotland will have its own diplomatic missions abroad… . Scots will travel with Scottish passports… . Scotland will be represented at the UN and will be a member of the Commonwealth.Surely that is separatism, no more and no less. I am not quite sure whether or not the noble Lord meant to cover that in the words he used.
LORD BELHAVEN AND STENTON
My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Earl knows that I did not read the Manifesto, because about twenty minutes ago he asked me whether I had done so. I would not myself agree 100 per cent. with the Manifesto, but perhaps I may suggest to the noble Earl that he does not go along 100 per cent. with the Conservative Party's Manifesto. I think any political Party embraces a wide spectrum. One has to get an agreement in a wide way on what is done, particularly if it is going to be a governing Party. One fact that is quite clear is that there is a great wave of support for the Scottish National Party in Scotland and that wave will grow. Therefore a lot of new people will come into it with new ideas, but, as I understand it, the basic idea behind it is the self-determination of the Scottish people. The Scottish National Party seeks only one thing—to give back to the people of Scotland the right to govern their own affairs without interference from outside, and it seeks this through the legitimate means of the ballot box.
A lot of remarks have been made about the Scottish National Party which are not entirely fair. We are not using bombs; we are using arguments. On the other side of the Irish Sea we have seen things being done differently. The Scottish National Party seeks to persuade the people of Scotland, through the ballot 252 box, that they should make an effort once more to control their own destiny. We do not seek for wealth which does not belong to us. We are not setting out to damage England or Wales or any other country, and—and if the noble and learned Lord were here I should like him to hear this—the Scottish National Party, even before the time when I belonged to it, was always totally loyal to Her Majesty the Queen. There is no question of cutting off from the Monarchy. So far it has sought and achieved its objectives in a constitutional and democratic way, and I hope that those aims will continue to be achieved not only in loyalty to our ancient Scottish nation, but in loyalty to our long and happy association with our great neighbour, England. Such a name is an honourable name. It is a name which has been supported and applauded by men of honour and integrity since the beginning of civilisation. No matter what your Lordships may think about certain aspects of the Scottish National Party's policy, I would ask you to remember that.
§ 8.7 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE FO CULROSS
My Lords, I am going to take a risk; I am going to congratulate in advance the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, on the speech that he is to make. I have got to do that because nobody will speak after him and I should hate it to be thought that from these Benches we do not join with the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, in welcoming the newcomer to the Front Bench and in looking forward to what he is going to tell us. In fact I have little doubt that I am not taking much of a hazard upon myself because I am sure he will do it quite excellently. He has my sympathy in winding up the debate on Home Affairs, which is a quite disparate subject and covers a great deal.
I shall try to stick to the theme which seems to me to have underlain what has been said so far from this Dispatch Box; namely, that with, I believe, both the mover and the seconder of the humble Address we shall welcome the sensible, constructive and moderate things that would unite this country; but I am afraid that I shall not be hesitant in criticising where I think the Speech is 253 extreme, divisive or in some cases irrelevant to the problems that we are facing.
The first matter concerns something that seems to me to be directly within the province of the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, in the Department of Education and Science. It was touched on by my noble friend Lord Aberdare. I hope the commentators are right when they suggest that the paragraph on education foreshadows a less than extreme line on comprehensive schools, and, if that is so, that the noble Lord will lend his weight to that moderate and sensible approach.
I am sure the noble Lord will say something to us on devolution. We have just listened to an interesting speech by the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton. But I would suggest to him that he is wrong in two respects: first, if he thinks that what the Socialist Party, the Conservative Party and, I believe, the Liberal Party too, are proposing for Scotland and Wales involves the breaking up of the United Kingdom, he is very much mistaken. So far as Scotland is concerned, it is the Scottish Nationalists who are on their own in wishing to break up this great nation, and he must not fall into the error of thinking that devolution and a break-up are the same thing. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, will make that plain.
Secondly, he has not perhaps studied the Constitutions of some countries as well as he might have done if he thinks that you cannot have a Parliament if it is not omnipotent. There are many brands of federalism, many schemes which can be devised which have limitations on the subjects that can be discussed and decided. I must say that I should think that far the best thing was to take the line of those like the noble Earl, Lord Perth, my noble friend Lord Lauderdale, and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, who said that we ought to have a full debate upon this subject. There have been innumerable questions asked, some by my noble friend Lord Lauderdale, others yesterday in another place by my honourable friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns. There has not been an opportunity to answer these or many others as yet, and I feel sure that we would do very much better at any rate to listen perhaps to an outline from the 254 noble Lord this evening, and to come back to it in full on another occasion.
LORD BELHAVEN AND STENTON
My Lords, will the noble Viscount forgive me? He has criticised my speech, but when he talks about forms of federalism I agree that there is federalism in the United States but in the United Kingdom you have one nation—I cannot quote the numbers—one part with three million people and one with five million. Is the noble Viscount suggesting that there should also be an assembly for England?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE FO CULROSS
My Lords, I am making a speech in it at the moment, and I think we must discuss all this and the implications on England on a separate occasion. I am also delighted to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, that we shall probably have another opportunity to discuss Northern Ireland and its problems in the immediate future and be able to do so in some depth; therefore, perhaps I may be forgiven for leaving those topics for another day and go on to say a word to my noble successor, Lord Harris of Greenwich. I observed in the Queen's Speech that there did not seem to be very much for him except for the important subject of discrimination on grounds of sex and marriage. I listened with interest to what he said was to be in the Bill and I think a great deal of it will be a common ground with what we had proposed ourselves. We shall be looking with some care at the composition and powers of the Equal Opportunities Commission, because we are not entirely convinced that the mixture of education and investigation goes all that well with powers of enforcement. This may need a little further thought and discussion. It is high time that the law on children was simplified and rationalised.
I believe, or rumour has it, that we are to have the Safety of Sports Grounds Bill back, and the Prime Minister has said that the Government are going to promote a Bill to abolish hare coursing. Both these subjects are familiar enough to your Lordships and we can expect happy debates on them yet again.
We were particularly glad that the noble Lord dealt at some length with law and order and the police, because in the 255 Queen's Speech there was a notable absence of anything on this subject and it is good that he has hastened to repair that defect. My Lords, it seems that we are also to have national holiday insurance in addition to National Health insurance, perhaps both on a compulsory basis. I am not sure how seriously to take this. How much will the taxpayer have to pay? Is this really a top priority at this moment in our crisis'? Will it encourage the careless, the inept, the incompetent travel agent or tour organiser and merely allow the taxpayer to bail him out? I wonder whether at this juncture we are right to embark on a thing like that. At least I can fall back safely on the subject of law reform and the administration of justice, subjects which traditionally in this House I find non-controversial though somewhat liable to drive noble Lords from their seats into other more entertaining arenas.
I want to say a word this evening about housing and land, first of all on the two Bills that we are promised which are I think re-introductions of Bills which came at the end of the last Parliament. The first is the Housing Bill of which I have managed to obtain at any rate a typed copy. The Party opposite has made life so difficult and unrewarding for landlords, even, perhaps, for the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, with his basement, that realistically we must welcome the encouragement of the provision of rented accommodation by local authorities and housing associations because, quite frankly, nobody else will provide it. Therefore, I am sure that that element will not lead to any dispute.
It is interesting to note in passing that I am told that what we from these Benches said would be the effect in university towns of the Rent Act of last year has already come about. There is a shortage of accommodation for undergraduates and probably for post-graduates as well because of yet another blow against the private landlady who used to put students up. It is not right to deal with these matters on a doctrinaire basis and turn down the brilliantly drafted Amendments put forward by my noble friend Lady Young to cure the defects. We shall have to look most carefully at the financial side of the Housing Bill because although it has so many useful elements in it I am a little concerned to 256 find in the last part of the Explanatory Memorandum that, on the prices that were then available when that Explanatory Memorandum was written, in four or five years' time the total cost would be an extra £142 million a year in addition to what we already pay out by way of Exchequer subsidies and grants for this sort of thing.
The third element that perhaps underlies the housing field is that there will be no dispute on the desire to see people properly housed, to get rid of some of the shortages and to proceed rather on the lines suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Delacourt-Smith, in her admirably phrased and concise maiden speech yesterday. The waiting lists, in addition to the points she made, for local authority housing are much too long and they should be reduced.
My Lords. I am not so sure about the other Bill, not least for the reason that I have not been able to get a copy. There is not one in your Lordships' House although it was introduced in the last Parliament. I was told that there might be a method of getting a subterranean copy in another place but I have not succeeded in doing so. I think we should be very careful, if it has in it what I am told it has, to start making a major alteration of the burden of payment for council houses. If the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, is right (in another brilliant maiden speech) that the burden on the ratepayer is to increase to the extent she forecast, that if the concept of a "reasonable rent" means that the ratepayer has to shoulder the burden of paying part of the rent for people living in council houses which they will be perfectly capable of paying for themselves, I believe it will not be acceptable to the people of this country in addition to the other burdens which they may have to undertake. My Lords, that is only a preliminary shot. It is obviously going to be a much disputed area and one where we are going to have long and contentious debate.
As a footnote to it, when my noble friend Lord Kintore talked about some of the aspects of lawlesness I hope that the Government are not going to try to reinstate or rehabilitate, or in some way indemnify, those councillors who defied the 1972 Housing Finance Act. I particularly hope that these councillors will 257 not be let off any of the financial penalties that they have had imposed upon them for what they did. If ever there was an inducement to lawlessness by responsible people, I am afraid that to my mind that action was one of them. We shall be very hesitant indeed to do anything other than criticise most strongly proposals of that sort.
My Lords, I come to the question of what the Party opposite proposes to do about land, the subject upon which my noble friend Lord Gainford touched. Yesterday I read that the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for the Environment gave vent to a cry from the heart when he was down at Brighton addressing the National Housing and Town Planning Council. He found the housing situation to be painful and intolerable, and I should think he is perfectly right. I read that there are 735 million bricks stockpiled in the country at present. The builders say there are 30,000 to 40,000 new houses empty and unsold. Certainly one can see for ones-self that there are many unsold second-hand properties waiting for new buyers.
Until T heard the speech of my noble friend, I thought that there was severe unemployment in the building industry, but perhaps he is right, and it is simply that the skilled people are doing something else. At any rate, there is stagnation at the moment and the right honourable gentleman is right to be worried. At the present time, houses are unsold because of the price of mortgages as much as anything else and I rather fear that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, gave us little cause for optimism yesterday when he said on this subject that it was a foremost aim of the Government to ensure that mortgages are held if possible—I noted what he said there—at their present levels. It is their present levels that have caused a great deal of the difficulty, and unless the Government can do better than that, I do not believe they are going to make much impact on their stated desire to see more owner-occupation of houses.
My Lords, I believe that this shortage of money on the part of the buyers is probably also one of the reasons why the Department would tell the Government that there are at the moment quite encouraging reserves of land available for building. Local authorites now have to 258 send in from time to time, under a Circular of 1972, estimates of the reserves in their area. I would think they are telling quite a favourable story. At the same time, we are also told that prices are not rising very much. But let the Government beware of this. I hope there will be no false complacency that all is well. As one other noble Lord has said, there is a good deal of pressure underlying the situation, and it is pressure that will grow.
I believe the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, was quite right when he said that it is necessary to plan a long time ahead if one is to ensure a steady supply of housing on land released in the right places and in good order. I would suggest to the House that the present land stocks will certainly be used up because, if for no other reason, in most cases they do not appear to be going to attract any of the new taxes, and therefore there is everything to be gained by them being disposed of by building and by sale. But I do not understand why the Government are confident that any new land will come forward. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, was quite right in what he said on this matter. The Party opposite never seems to learn. They make a great deal of play in their White Paper of what they have learnt from previous occasions, but the 1947 scheme dried up the supply of land, and so did the Land Commission scheme, and so will the development land tax and the proposals in the White Paper which we are promised will be implemented in legislation.
My Lords, I commend to noble Lords opposite the special report in today's Times on this subject, and not least the article by Mr. Maas on the second page. The disincentives are so intense. If you sell land for development, you first of all pay capital gains tax on the inflation-based increase of its value just for its existing use. In addition to that, you are now to be taxed at 80 per cent. or more (because it will rise) on the development value. To most people this just is not worth bothering to contemplate. I am afraid that it is no use saying that this is something the community needs, and that perhaps, on the line that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, was talking about yesterday, people should have a moral obligation to do it. In this case, the 259 Community is not visible to the people concerned.
The community, as I read it, is primarily the Exchequer. One noble Lord has already said this afternoon that the hypothecation of tax is anathema to the Treasury. I wonder how we are to see the fruits of this impost going back, as it is indeed promised in a late paragraph in the White Paper, to the local community in any shape or form that people will be able to identify with the development tax that has been exacted on developments in their area. I do not think they will see anything which makes it worth while having a moral obligation at all. But if they will not do it for themselves, I am equally afraid that the local authorities will be able to do little to help, either.
My Lords, what I have seen of local government in fairly extensive tours around the country since I returned to the Bar has led me to think that the quality of staff there is very high, but there is a phenomenal shortage of it. One can go to local authority after local authority, and in the planning departments and in the legal departments there is a dire shortage of trained people. If it is thought that land held back by reluctant citizens can be extracted from them by means, for instance, of compulsory purchase, the Government should bear this in mind: almost all the possible land upon which this could be done is already clogged up with planning refusals. If it had not been, it would have been developed already. Therefore, anyone who wishes to bring it forward will have to convince someone—and someone on a fairly large scale—that all these planning refusals were quite wrongly made in the first place by the local planning authority. There is no help on the positive side of planning because the development plans are becoming pathetically and ludicrously out of date and are of no assistance to anyone; whereas the structure plans, let alone the local plans under the new scheme, are years ahead before they will be visible at all.
Quite apart from that, the compulsory purchase orders will be fought. This is a long process, a contentious process, and one which requires a good deal of competent staff to handle it on the part of the local authority. I believe that this 260 is a realistic point which should be borne in mind by the Government, that they will not see any salvation from that quarter.
My Lords, there is something that I believe will come to a complete halt, and it is a great pity. A good deal of the land is in fact released without touching the agricultural and the forestry land of our country at all, by way of redevelopment inside urban areas which already exist. But it is a particularly difficult operation because someone has to assemble the land, and someone has to tempt people to sell off parts of their gardens or, indeed, their houses, or parts of their places of business so that the whole lot can be pulled down, put together in a single site and redeveloped with a planning gain. It is a matter on which the local authorities are very insistent and very keen, and they will allow it to happen if there is a planning gain.
However, there has to be some incentive to the landowners and, indeed, to the assembler to make it worth their while. With the tax now proposed by the Government, I do not think it will be worth anyone's while. Those who will remain in the development business will I am sure do their best to help to build houses even under the scheme proposed by the Socialist Party, but they will do it on the easy land, not on the difficult land. I fear that many opportunities for redevelopment will be lost.
My Lords, on reflection, I am afraid that Mr. Barber overdid his dose of taxation last December. For reasons which I am afraid I think can only be of doctrine, the Party opposite are compounding this error. May I make one point: let us please, if we are to have them at all, have these Bills quickly. The Times of yesterday promised December and March for the introduction of respectively the Taxation and the Land Bills.
LORD HARRIS FO GREENWICH
My Lords, I was just trying to follow the argument about the then Chancellor's measures of last December. The point I was not clear about was whether the noble Viscount was saying that the then Chancellor overdid the cuts in public expenditure he then made. If not, where exactly does he think the then Chancellor made his error of judgment?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I said that in saying what he did about the development gains tax he overdid it. It was not, of course, crystallised into any legislative form until the Finance Act of 1974. I was not talking about public expenditure but about that.
I was diverted for a moment to put in a plea to have this legislation early, because I am equally certain that the period before the full proposals are announced is a period of particular stagnation, with nothing at all getting done, and if the be done, before there is time for a Con-Government are confident that they are doing the right thing they had better cut that period as short as they can. What I am afraid of is that in compounding what I consider to be the error, the Government are laying up a good deal of trouble for the future. The tragedy is, I believe, that we shall not see the full effect of what they are doing for quite some time, because there is this stock of land available and unbuilt on which will keep us going for a little while. Probably, I would venture to think, the full damage will not be done, or at any rate may not servative Administration to unpick the scheme. This has had to be done twice before, and it is for that reason, therefore, that the White Paper so confidently claims, because there has been no opportunity for it to be proved wrong, that if the schemes had been allowed to continue they would have worked. In fact they did not continue and we shall never know whether or not they would have worked.
With such conviction as I can muster I would say to the Government that they ought to make it perfectly clear to themselves, and I think to others, that their schemes are not going to encourage the provision of housing; they are not going to encourage the provision of factories and other places of work. I would really suggest to them that at this juncture this is one of the classic irrelevancies to which my noble friend Lord Gowrie referred last night. This scheme is so penal and so confiscatory that the people who are going to be taxed cannot possibly think it fair; and if they do not think it fair they cannot be expected to co-operate, let alone make the sacrifices that are necessary.
262 May I just say in closing that in making criticisms of this sort I find it dreadfully hard in this House to pin the responsibility for what appear to me to be extreme and irrelevant policies on noble Lords sitting on the Benches opposite. They always are so reasonable; they explain matters so sweetly; they are so gentle, and they make everything sound so harmless. But if their colleagues elsewhere prove them to have been perhaps deceptively mild there are two things we shall do. We shall first of all remind them of what they said and urge them to return, so far as they can, to the policies of moderation which they so very much prefer, or so it appears to us. Secondly, we shall have no hesitation at all in pointing out where there is room for a change of heart back to moderation, because for these extreme policies we have no time. We have time for the moderate; we have time for things that unite. But for those that divide we really must at this particular time make ourselves plain: we condemn them and consider that they are counter-productive and will not do a thing to help us out of the difficulties we face in our home affairs.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ THEMINISTER FO STATE, DEPARTMENT FO EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD CROWTHER-HUNT)
My Lords, it is with enormous trepidation that I rise to reply to this debate. It has been so full and so wide-ranging, and so many excellent points have been made, that even if I were an experienced Member of your Lordships' House I should hardly know where to begin. As a relative newcomer therefore I find the task particularly daunting, the more so since when I had just begun to absorb some of the customs and traditions of your Lordships' House I found myself suddenly cut off from taking part in your debates, since on my appointment as constitutional adviser to the Government last March I became a temporary civil servant and was thus unable to take an active part in the proceedings of this House. And while during all those months I regularly felt inhibited by the necessary restrictions imposed on me, now that I am suddenly unmuzzled, as it were, I feel singularly ill-equipped to enjoy this new-found freedom, particularly since my colleagues have chosen to throw me in at the deep end, as it were.
263 The point of this rather tedious introduction is not only to give me a bit more time to screw up my own courage, but also to beg your Lordships' friendly indulgence for any sins of omission or commission which may inadvertently follow. In this connection may I say how much I appreciate and was fortified by the flattering words which my noble friend Lord Harris and other noble Lords, including Lord Colville of Culross, used in welcoming me to my new duties. May I in turn associate myself with the congratulations that have been showered on my noble friend Lady Stedman on her most authoritative maiden speech, an authority born of her long experience in local government. She apologised profusely that she could not be here to take part in the winding-up proceedings. Clearly my noble friend has a major contribution on local government to make to the work of this House.
I should like to start now by taking up some of the points that noble Lords have made about devolution. In this context, I want to emphasise that, as clearly many Members of your Lordships' House are aware, the Government's White Paper on Devolution contains the most radical constitutional proposals which have been made since the Act of Union. As that White Paper made clear, the Government have decided that there should be directly elected Assemblies in Scotland and Wales. Here perhaps I might just pause for a moment to take up the points raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, when he asked, "Who decided?"—Did I decide? I think he ventured to suggest. This was, of course, a collective decision of Her Majesty's Government in Cabinet that they would issue a White Paper which made the proposals I am summarising at the moment, the proposals that there would be, and will be, directly elected Assemblies in Scotland and Wales.
I will not apologise at this moment to the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, for using the word "Assembly"; I know he prefers "convention". No doubt at the end of the day we shall get the phraseology right, whatever the right phraseology may be. The Government decided that there should be directly elected Assemblies in Scotland and Wales. The Scottish Assembly will have legis- 264 lative power in fields in which Scottish legislation already exists; for example, housing, health and education. The Welsh Assembly will assume certain of the powers of the Secretary of State for Wales in respect of delegated legislation. Both Assemblies will assume many of the executive functions of the Scottish and Welsh Offices and of the nominated authorities now operating within their boundaries. At the same time the Government have made it quite clear that it is essential that both Scotland and Wales should retain their existing number of Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom Parliament and that there should continue to be Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales to act as full members of the United Kingdom Government in the formation of United Kingdom policies.
In this connection I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, that it is not the Government's intention to break up the political and economic unity of the United Kingdom; in fact, quite the contrary. The Government have emphasised in the White Paper that it is their overriding intention to maintain the political and economic unity of the United Kingdom. They have stressed that they have set their face against separatism and against federalism. But the proposals in the White Paper are very radical proposals indeed. It is the Government's intention, as the gracious Speech makes clear, to prepare urgently for the implementation of these decisions to set up directly elected assemblies. It is because the Government attach so much importance and urgency to this question that a new unit is being set up in the Cabinet Office, under my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council. The new unit will be in charge of the further work on devolution policy, including the preparation of legislation, and it will also handle other work relating to the development of political institutions in this country.
As a further indication of the importance which the Government attach to this problem, my right honourable friend the Lord President will be assisted in this work by my honourable friend in another place, the Minister of State for the Privy Council Office. In addition, Mr. Harry Ewing has been appointed as an additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary of 265 State at the Scottish Office and Mr. Edward Rowlands, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Welsh Office, will work closely with the Lord President and the Minister of State on the Scottish and Welsh aspects of this work. Also, my Lords, I shall continue to be closely associated with the detailed formulation of Government policy on devolution, and on other aspects of the development of political institutions in this country. In this context, I shall be maintaining a base in the Cabinet Office in addition to my own office in the Department of Education and Science. I mention all this, my Lords, to indicate that the Government are most certainly not dragging their feet on the question of devolution. On the contrary, they are moving as fast as is humanly possible. I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, will be satisfied on this point.
As was said by my noble friend the Lord President at the Press Conference which launched the White Paper, the Government's plans seem to envisage that it will take about a year to solve the remaining problems, which are very considerable, and to prepare the necessary legislation. I think it was then envisaged that another year would be needed to get the legislation through Parliament. It is in this context that I found myself in so much sympathy with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, when he asked for an early debate on devolution, as did the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, as well. I find myself in sympathy with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, not just because of his kind words about myself, which I greatly appreciated, but because of the fundamental importance of this subject. I have no doubt that the usual channels will take note of what has been said in this general connection. If I may turn for a moment to the words of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale——
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting, but I gave notice of my question. I asked for a firm reply and all. that the noble Lord has said is that this matter will be considered by the usual channels. I must say that I find that rather unsatisfactory. What is the point of taking the trouble of saying that one is going to raise a matter, if one gets that sort of answer?
§ LORD CROWTHER-HUNT
I am sorry if the noble Earl, Lord Perth, is 266 disappointed, but I am advised that there is no other way of arranging this. I am also advised that the most immediate chance of a debate may be on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, calling attention to the nationalist movement in Scotland and Wales. If this subject comes up for a short debate on one of the Wednesday Motions allotted to Back-Benchers, this might be a possibility. But I am sure that the usual channels will take urgent notice of the question that the noble Earl has raised, particularly as it has the support of the other side of the House.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, merely to suggest that this should be the subject of a short debate is an insult.
§ THELORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD SHEPHERD)
My Lords, perhaps I may intervene. The usual channels is the mechanism by which this House orders its Business. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, is well aware of that. If the House wishes to have a debate on this matter, then I can say that I have never over 20 years experienced any difficulty about a debate being arranged. If the noble Earl would like to consult with me, I am sure we can overcome this difficulty. But I think it quite wrong to attack my noble friend, who is speaking for the first time as a Minister. However, I give the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that assurance.
§ LORD CROWTHER-HUNT
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that intervention. I was trying at that point to focus on the fundamental issues which the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, raised, because so often he focuses on the points with such precision that he goes to the heart of the matter. I noticed that he said that any assembly must be seen to be charged with clear responsibilities. He said that it must have responsibility in the trade, employment and industry fields, and must be seen to manage these affairs and not be an appendage of Whitehall.
He asked the crucial questions: is this body to have the political power to refuse to vote Supply? Will it raise its own revenue?—and so on. I was grateful to the noble Earl for not asking for a specific reply to these questions in this debate. I can give him the assurance that these are problems of which we are well aware. On this side of the House we are all well 267 aware of them and a great deal of work is going into these matters with a view to producing the right sort of solutions, which I hope will satisfy the noble Earl. I noted, too, what he and other noble Lords said about the problems provoked by the region of Strathclyde. This is another problem of which we are well aware, and is another question which we shall be taking into account.
I think I have already given the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, the assurance about not breaking up the United Kingdom. It certainly is not the Government's intention to do that. I think I have already given the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, all the assurances on timing and other issues which he raised in his speech. So, my Lords, I should like to come now to my new responsibility, education, which is important both for its own sake and in relation to the achievement of the reforms in a number of fields of Home Affairs which have been mentioned this afternoon.
The Government recognise that education cannot by itself compensate for all the handicaps and discouragement which the less fortunate receive from poverty of environment or domestic circumstances. Other measures in the gracious Speech to which noble Lords have referred will bite on this problem at several points. It is in the schools that disadvantaged children can be introduced to the possibility of new goals of achievement, and we must be most careful not to perpetuate, still worse to widen, the gap which separates them from those coming from more fortunate homes. The sooner we can tackle these tasks the better. Hence, the importance which the Government attach to nursery education. The Government's policy is to make provision as soon as possible for more nursery education for children of 3 or 4 years of age, mainly on a part-time basis, with particular urgency to meeting the case of disadvantaged children.
I was glad to note here that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, welcomed these proposals. It has been at the age of five that children first encounter the inequality of opportunity in education based on their previous home and environmental experience. The second stage at which they have encountered inequality has been 11-plus, 268 but here great progress has already been made towards a juster system and the Government are determined to complete this process. The development of comprehensive schools started to gain momentum after the issue of Circular 10/75 which asks local education authorities to prepare and submit plans for reorganising secondary education.
Viscount COLVILLE FO CULROSS
My Lords, i do not think the noble Lord is anticipating next year. It cannot be Circular 10/75.
§ LORD CROWTHER-HUNT
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his correction. I meant to say 10/65, as he so rightly inferred. The gist of what I was saying, apart from that accidental mistake in the number, was correct. Here was a Circular which asked authorities to prepare and submit plans for reorganising secondary education. Then Circular 4/74, issued in April of this year, restated that the intentions were to develop a fully comprehensive system of secondary education and to end selection. The Circular said that authorities and governors would be expected to direct their efforts to planning the organisation of their secondary schools in such a way as to avoid the need for selection. It asked local education authorities to submit by the end of the year information about the successive measures they will take to complete this process of reorganisation in areas where selection still operates. I cannot, therefore, give the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, the comfort for which he was looking in this area.
It is in this context that I want to emphasise that the Government fully intend to carry out the commitment in the Party Manifesto, which said:… the next Labour Government will stop the present system of direct grant schools and withdraw tax relief and charitable status from public schools as a first step towards our long-term aim of phasing out fee paying in schools.It would be wrong to conceal from this House that these are complex and difficult matters, and that there are some formidable technical problems to be solved. It would not be appropriate for me to go into detail about these at this stage. I will say only that the Government will make a further statement on this subject as soon as possible 269 I want to turn for a moment to higher education. I wish first to declare here that I have been, and continue to be, an expansionist. I just do not accept the view that is fashionable in some quarters, that more means worse. It is contrary to all my 25 years' experience as a university teacher in this field. In my view, we still do not provide enough opportunities at the higher education level for our abundant national talent to be developed to the full. Here we lag behind so many other countries, so it will be my policy to put great emphasis on the plans for the expansion of higher education.
In this connection, I want to say a special word about our universities, since some people seem to believe that the policy of this Government is anti-university. This is simply not so. Our Manifesto emphasises that we shall continue to support the further development of the Open University founded by a Labour Government, which has enriched the lives of thousands of people of all ages. Equally, I want to emphasise that our other universities generally are a crucial part of our national heritage. They are, for the most part, centres of academic excellence of which we can all be proud, and some have an international reputation which is the envy of the world. Modesty prevents me from drawing attention to Oxford and Cambridge in this context, and of course I hardly need to do so.
I did not accept this new office—and I want to emphasise this—to preside over the decline of our universities. A crucial part of my job is to ensure their continuing and expanding success. It is in this connection, too, that I want to emphasise that, in my view, the overwhelming majority of our students are hard working, decent young people, who have not gone into higher education to disrupt those institutions, or to ferment revolution in society from them. They have gone to our universities to develop their talents in the service of the country and of the community. I do not accept the "bully-boys of the Left" thesis that has been propounded by a right honourable Member of another place. I have to point out that the education service as a whole is, and must continue to be, a large consumer of public resources. When, in times of economic difficulty, local authorities and other bodies are 270 asked to limit increases in their expenditure, those concerned with education must accept that it would be unrealistic to expect fully to protect education at the expense of all other services, but it must be given the highest priority.
I know that there are many other specific points that have been raised in this debate which it is really too late to answer now. I refer particularly to those points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Gainford, the points on agriculture raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and the particularly important points on housing and land raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. I shall do my best to make sure that my colleagues' attention is drawn to these points, and they will no doubt take appropriate action.
In conclusion, I want to suggest that the domestic programme outlined in the gracious Speech is one of which we can all be proud. Its essential message is to produce a fairer and more just society. It does this by foreshadowing a new leap forward in social security benefits and a new earnings related pension scheme. It docs it, too, by our determination to ensure that our education policies are given the highest priority. Above all, it recognises that opportunities must be provided for all our people to have a greater share in the decisions which affect our life. This is why there are proposals to democratise the Health Service, and it is also why Scotland and Wales are going to pioneer the way to devolution.
As the White Paper on devolution emphasises, when the detailed scheme of devolution has been worked out, the people of Scotland and Wales will be able to have a decisive voice in the running of their own domestic affairs. At the same time the political and economic unity of the United Kingdom will be preserved, with all the attendant benefits from that unity which accrue to the people of Scotland and Wales no less than to the people in the different parts of England. In addition, it is only by creating this fairer society, and by providing these opportunities for individual fulfilment and initiative, that we can hope to tackle successfully the very grave economic problems we face. In my view, this is not a divisive programme. On the contrary, it is a programme for national 271 unity—though not on the terms of one political Party, but on the nation's terms.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, on behalf of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, I beg to move that the debate be adjourned until Tuesday.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Strabolgi.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until Tuesday, November 5.