HL Deb 25 November 1975 vol 366 cc140-261

2.47 p.m.

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by Baroness Phillips—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."

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, my speech today will fall into two sections. By far the greater part of it will deal with the crime situation, and how the Government are dealing with it. I propose to begin by describing briefly some of the major Home Office proposals which the House will be asked to consider during the forthcoming Session.

I turn first to what will be by far the most substantial piece of Home Office legislation; that is, the Bill dealing with racial discrimination. As the House will recall, the Government published their proposals in a White Paper in September. They are designed to enable the difficult and continuing problem of racial discrimination to be tackled more effectively. They are based on the radical measures to promote equality for women embodied in the new Sex Discrimination Act. The Government propose that the Race Relations Acts of 1965 and 1968 should be repealed and replaced by a new and more effective Statute.

Like the 1968 Act, the new legislation will apply to employment, training and related fields, education, housing, and the provision of goods, facilities and services. The definition of "unlawful discrimination" will be extended to cover discrimination on the grounds of nationality. It will be further widened to apply not only to deliberate acts of discrimination against identifiable victims, but also to "indirect discrimination" occuring when unjustified requirements are imposed which place at a disadvantage people of a particular racial group. In addition, the new legislation will allow a number of facilities and services to meet the special needs of particular groups; for example, in relation to education, instruction, training and health and social services.

My Lords, clubs and other voluntary bodies are largely outside the scope of the present law. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, introduced a Bill to bring them within the 1968 Act at the beginning of this year. As he will recall, I then indicated that the Government would move on this matter. The Government have now done so, and the proposals which we shall make in this respect will be embodied in the new legislation. We propose that it shall be unlawful for clubs to discriminate on racial grounds, whether as regards applications for membership, or in respect of the facilities accorded to members. The proposals will not affect the right of a club to apply a test of personal acceptability for membership on other than racial grounds. There will be exceptions to avoid interference with genuinely private and domestic social gatherings, and for bona fide associations whose main object is to confer benefits on a particular ethnic or national group.

The proposals for the enforcement of the new legislation represent a major change from the existing law. The pre sent procedure under which every complaint of discrimination has to be taken to the Race Relations Board will be changed. It is proposed that in future aggrieved individuals will be able to seek redress directly, through the industrial tribunals in employment cases or the county courts in other cases, and indeed this is very similar to the legislation which, as the House will recall, we dealt with only two months ago when we debated the Sex Discrimination Bill. The new procedure is intended to give victims of discrimination speedier and more adequate redress than the present mandatory conciliation procedure.

The Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission will be replaced by a new statutory body. The main emphasis of its activities will be on the strategic attack on discrimination and the promotion of equal opportunity. In addition, as the White Paper indicated, the new Commission will have powers to assist individual victims of discrimination. The exercise of these powers will be at its discretion and not, as at present, a statutory obligation. A good many representations have been made that the Commission's powers to help individuals will not be wide enough, and we are giving careful thought to the position of the individual under the new legislation in the light of the comments we have been receiving since the publication of the White Paper.

My Lords, Her Majesty's gracious Speech also promised that proposals will be prepared to amend the Official Secrets Acts and to liberalise the practice relating to official information. I am sure this is a matter in which the House will take great interest. It is now widely accepted that the Franks Committee were right in recommending the repeal of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 and its replacement by a more limited criminal provision. But their recommendations have far-reaching and complex implications for every aspect of Government. The history of the present Official Secrets Act shows the importance of making sure that any new proposals are thoroughly considered. So the Government are pressing ahead with the preparation of detailed proposals to meet our broad Manifesto commitment to …replace the Official Secrets Act by a measure to put the burden on the public authorities to justify withholding information". I have so far mentioned two major areas in which the Government intend to move forward in the forthcoming Session, race relations and official information. The third matter is that of complaints against the police. Last July my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced his proposals for a scheme designed to introduce an independent element into the present procedure for handling complaints by members of the public against the police. The Police Bill introduced yesterday in another place is intended to give effect to that scheme. Your Lordships may recall that the Government had announced an outline scheme as a basis for discussion in the summer of last year. The scheme which the new legislation will introduce takes account of the detailed and useful consultations with representatives of the police service and the police authorities which followed that first announcement by my right honourable friend.

As at present, under the Bill which is now before another place, the initial investigation of complaints will remain with the police, but the legislation will establish, as part of the police disciplinary procedure, an independent body whose members will be appointed by my right honourable friend. The two main functions of the new body will be first to consider cases—they are, of course, the great majority of cases—where the Deputy Chief Constable, who is responsible for determining matters of this sort, after considering the report of the investigation into a complaint, decides not to bring disciplinary proceedings against the officer against whom the complaint has been laid. If the new independent body disagree with the Deputy Chief Constable's view, they may recommend, and in the last resort may direct, that disciplinary proceedings be brought. Secondly, where disciplinary charges have been brought and the officer concerned has not admitted them, the new body will consider whether to direct, in any particular case, that because of exceptional circumstances inherent in it the charges should be heard by a disciplinary tribunal rather than by the chief officer of the force concerned, which would be the normal arrangement. In such a case, a tribunal would sit, the chief officer of the force would be its chairman and there would be two members of the new independent body sitting with him to determine the facts of the matter.

I would think there will be ample opportunity to discuss the details of the scheme during the passage of the legislation through this House. We believe that we have been able to strike the right balance. There is a widely recognised case for introducing an independent element into the investigation of complaints against members of the police service. But it is equally important to ensure that no officer will be placed in jeopardy twice in respect of the same complaint, and that the responsibility of a chief officer for the discipline of his force will not be undermined. I believe that these changes will further strengthen public confidence in the police at a time when they are, as I am sure your Lordships will agree, coping with skill and courage with the problems that now face them.

It is to these problems that I now turn. The most immediate problem now con fronting this country in this area is clearly that of terrorism. London appears to be the terrorists' principal target for the moment. But, as the explosions which took place in Birmingham only about a year ago demonstrated, any British city can find itself involved overnight in the IRA's campaign of indiscriminate murder. The problem of terrorism is now a major pre-occupation of every police force in Britain. And it is right to pay a tribute to the police for the remarkable run of successes which they have had in the past year. In the period from 22nd October last year to 7th November this year 40 people were convicted in England of offences connected with explosives. Noble Lords will recall that in August six people were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the bombing incidents in Birmingham to which I have referred, and that last month a further four people were convicted of murder and other offences and sentenced to life imprisonment in respect of the attacks at Guildford and Woolwich. Another 16 people are at present awaiting trial in England for offences connected with explosives.

The position of the police in carrying out their investigations has been greatly strengthened as a result of the powers conferred on them by the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. The House, as noble Lords will recall, passed this measure in a single day following the explosions which took place in Birmingham. As your Lordships know, a further Order has been placed before the House, which will I think be debated on Thursday, which seeks to extend the Act for a further period, on this occasion not of six months but four months. The reason that we are not asking for the renewal of these powers for six months is that my right honourable friend considers that in view of the speed with which this piece of legislation had to be hurried through Parliament on the last occasion, Parliament should have the opportunity to debate the very substantial powers which are conferred on the Government in this legislation. Accordingly, we have re-introduced this Bill, with a few minor modifications which have been found necessary in the year which has passed since its enactment.

This Bill has now been presented in another place and will be before us early in the New Year. It is right that Parliament should give a substantial amount of time to these issues, affecting as they do issues of civil liberty on one side and the protection of life on the other. But we should recognise—I think it is important to do this—that this problem, this debate, is not unique to this country. For the problem of terrorist violence has been, or is being, experienced by every other major industrial country in the Western world. This, and the sometimes related menace of kidnapping—often for a political purpose, sometimes solely for money—are now a constant threat to the police forces not only of this country but of the United States, Germany, France, Italy, and of all our other partners in the European Community. This is why it is desirable to ensure that the closest collaboration exists between the law enforcement agencies of the developed world. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary greatly valued the opportunity he had last March of discussions in London with the French Minister of the Interior. In September I had the advantage of having talks in Bonn with the Minister of the Interior of the Federal Republic, and later with the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington and the United States Attorney-General.

Discussions of this character can be extremely valuable in formulating our own response to the dangerous new problems that confront us. It does not mean that we necessarily must slavishly adopt techniques used by other police forces—sometimes this would be wholly inappropriate. Nevertheless, as the Spaghetti House siege in Knightsbridge demonstrated, the police were on that occasion able to consider their response on the basis of the experience of other forces in dealing with similar situations; and later they were able to pass on their experiences to the Irish police in handling the kidnapping of Dr. Herrema. I am sure that the whole House would like to co-gratulate the Irish Government, and the Garda, on the successful outcome of that extremely difficult operation. But it is also right, perhaps a little belatedly, to congratulate the Metropolitan Police on the Spaghetti House operation. As the House will recall, at that time we were in Recess, but 1 think it is right to acknowledge the cool, professional skill demonstrated on that occasion by the Metropolitan Police. We are, as a country, perhaps a little too addicted at the present moment to neurotic self-criticism. When something does go outstandingly well, as it did on that occasion, it is right not to indulge in an orgy of self-congratulation but simply to pay tribute to the men and women who were responsible. And this, I am sure, the whole House would like to do concerning all the officers of the Metropolitan Police who were engaged in this operation.

I should now like to turn to the current crime situation. This, although it does not often attract the same public attention as terrorist outrages, is likely to affect in their everyday lives far more of our fellow citizens. I must say at once that the crime statistics continue to be most disturbing. In 1974 crime rose sharply. In the first three months of this year it was up 6 per cent. on the first quarter of 1974, and in the second quarter of this year there was a rise of 8 per cent. compared with the same period last year. There were, it is true, some hopeful features. Crimes of violence against the person, which rightly cause the greatest public concern, still amount to only between 3 and 4 per cent. of the total and they do not now constitute the fastest growing type of crime. Sexual offences showed an overall drop in the first six months of this year as compared with the same Period in 1974. However, the general situation is serious and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise.

To counter this increase in the level of crime the Government have been concerned to increase the size of the police force, and we have had some success. I am glad to be able to tell the House that at the end of October the strength of the Police Service in England and Wales was very nearly 106,000 men andwomen—105,878 to be precise. This is a net gain of 3,892 for the first ten months of this year. Part of this increase was due to the reduction of the age limit from 19 to 18½ which took place in June, and indeed to transfers from the British Air ports Authority Constabulary which occurred following the transfer of responsibility for the policing of Gatwick and Stansted airports. But even discounting this special gain there has been a substantial increase in the size of the police. In the Metropolitan Police area where, despite an improvement, the problem still remains unsatisfactory, and where the shortage of manpower has, as everybody is well aware, been particularly acute, there has nevertheless been a net gain of 270 officers this year compared with a loss of 198 in the same period last year.

One consequence of an increase in police numbers, aided, as the police have been, by better equipment, has been an increase in the number of offenders brought before the courts. This, in turn, has led to an increase in the number of people sentenced to terms of imprisonment. The prison population has in fact grown from about 35,000 to 1973 to just over 40,000 at the end of October this year. The figure appears to be hovering at the moment between 40,000 and 41,000, but I must make absolutely clear that any further increase can only result in even greater overcrowding and a fall in the standards of supervision and training.

Imprisonment has, of course, one obvious advantage. It keeps out of circulation, at least for a time—in some cases a substantial time—those who, because they are men of violence, or have shown a complete disregard for the interests and rights of others, are a danger to their fellow citizens. It takes them out of circulation for a significant period of time. There will always be people for whom there is no conceivable alternative but a substantial term of imprisonment. But having said that, it is right to look at the other side of the balance sheet, to look at the clear and striking disadvantages of terms of imprisonment sometimes applied in other cases. First, imprisonment is very costly. But there is another aspect of the cost which is in some respects even more important. The cost of the prison system cannot be measured only in terms of what it costs to house, feed and supervise the prisoners; there are wider social costs as well. The prisoner's wife and children may need support from the State. It may be difficult for the prisoner to obtain employment on his release, and the cost of supporting him until he can find a job will fall on the State. Imprisoning men may mean depriving children of the support and encouragement of a father, and creating yet another one-parent family with all the problems that have constantly been discussed in this House.

We are concerned, therefore, that the prison population should be reduced. This is not simply a question of imposing shorter sentences. It calls for a continuous examination and revision of the criminal law to try to ensure that it reflects the attitudes and opinions of the present day and also the development of alternatives to imprisonment, particularly those which enable the offender to be punished for his offence while remaining in the community and continuing to earn aliving. To this end the Government have been pressing ahead with the provision of community service schemes for offenders. I think that six of these experimental schemes were begun during the period of Office of the former Government. After careful thought we came to the conclusion that these experiments had been an outstanding success, and we decided to offer community service orders to areas outside the original six. Therefore, at the end of August last year, all probation and after-care committees in England and Wales were invited to submit proposals for the introduction of community service arrangements from April of this year; to begin by introducing them on the basis of one part of an area at a time to ensure that they were not overwhelmed by a sudden onrush of clients.

The news I think is fairly striking. From 1st December this year community service arrangements will be in existence in all or part of no less than 49 out of the 56 probation and after-care areas in England and Wales. There has been a welcome acceptance both by the courts and the general public of this constructive and forward-looking scheme. I emphasise that in the overwhelming majority of cases—obviously, it is always difficult to be precise—the people against whom a community service order is made are those who would otherwise have gone to prison. Therefore, in this respect, we are acting directly against the size of the prison population, which it is crucially important for us to do, faced as we are by this substantial and increasing general level of crime and, therefore, by the inevitable risk of a rise in the prison population.

In addition, the Government hope to reduce the numbers of those in custody by increasing the use of bail. The Working Party on Bail Procedures in Magistrates' Courts, whose Report received widespread approval when it was published last year, made wide-ranging proposals for achieving this objective. We hope to introduce a Bill early this Session to implement those recommendations of the Working Party which require legislation. These include, first, a presumption in favour of the grant of bail to unconvicted defendants; secondly, a requirement on courts to give reasons when refusing bail; thirdly, the replacing of the existing system of taking a defendant's personal recognisance by a new offence of absconding while on bail; and, lastly, a requirement that a person who is remanded in custody should have the opportunity of obtaining legal aid on or before his second appearance, unless his means are such that he does not require assistance.

The effect of the presumption in favour of bail will be that, where a person is before a court on a criminal charge and a remand is necessary, the court will be required to consider whether to remand him on bail, whether or not he applies for bail. The court will be required to remand on bail unless it considers it probable that the defendant will abscond, commit offences while on bail or interfere with the course of justice, or unless the court is satisfied that he should, for his own protection, remain in custody. If the court decides to remand in custody it will be required to give reasons for doing so, and I am sure that that is a most important requirement. The proposal for the introduction of an offence of absconding while on bail derives partly from the presumption in favour of granting bail, but is also, in the Government's view, a positive step forward. This sanction should be a more effective deterrent to the potential absconder than the often ineffective forfeiture of his personal recognisance, and should thereby encourage courts both to grant bail more freely and to place less importance on the provision of sureties.

Other recommendations of the Working Party are being implemented by administrative measures. A circular was issued to the courts, the police and the probation and after-care service last month proposing ways within the existing statutory framework in which the number of remands in custody might be reduced or their length shortened. To some extent the circular was based on our experience of an experimental project at Camber well Green magistrates' court in London which was introduced in March of this year. The Inner London Probation Service has carried out this work in collaboration with the Vera Institute of Criminal Justice in New York, which itself has had a great deal of experience in various bail projects in New York City. The central purpose of the project is to be able to ensure that when a court is faced with the decision whether to remand in custody or on bail, it has as much information as possible about the defendant's background—his employment situation and his other links with the community—so that it can make a more informed judgment about the defendant's suitability for bail. I had the opportunity of visiting this project at Camber well recently and I was impressed not only by the quality of the staff responsible for operating the scheme, but also by the clear evidence that because of its existence, a number of men and women who would otherwise have been remanded to our overcrowded prisons had been granted bail.

Obviously the speed with which this type of scheme can be extended to the rest of the country depends on how successful the agencies concerned are in redeploying resources at local level. But it is already clear that the scheme has great potential value, not least because of the added advantage it has of involving volunteers in the very important work of verifying the information given by criminal defendants to the members of the probation service who are responsible for obtaining it in the court. Despite the difficulties caused by the need to limit public expenditure severely, I believe that we shall be able to make considerable progress in this field during the course of the coming year. The forthcoming Bill on bail, the extension of bail application verification schemes and our expanding programme of bail hostels should make a significant contribution not only towards limiting the size of the prison population, but also in ensuring that men and women are not remanded in custody unnecessarily in our penal institutions.

My Lords, I have outlined today the response which we are making to two of the most difficult problems now facing our country: first, the continuing rise in the general level of crime, with all the trouble and anxiety which this causes so many of our law-abiding fellow-citizens; and, secondly, the threat to the lives of many innocent people by the murderous campaign of terrorist violence by the IRA and, indeed, by the potential threat posed by other extremist groups throughout the world. The Government are determined to deal with both by firmness, but also in a rational manner and with common sense. If further legislative weapons are required, we will not hesitate to ask for them. But the most urgent need at the moment is to use all the powerful resources at our command to act against these twin threats, which together are such a menace to a free society. That we are determined to do.

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, spoke with such measured reasonableness that any noble Lord who did not know the political procedures of your Lordships' House might wonder whether any opposition could be put against any of the measures which he outlined. If I do not follow the noble Lord down all the paths he trod this afternoon, it is perhaps because he dealt with matters as he has seen them from the Home Office. As I understand it, this debate is about home affairs and perhaps goes a little wider than the Home Office. However, some of the points he made I hope to cover in my speech, but I shall be going slightly wider in my remarks.

On Thursday last your Lordships had an interesting and indeed profitable debate on the economic situation of this country and how it may be, or is likely to be, helped or hampered by the Government's plans for the future as outlined in the gracious Speech. I suppose there was a general consensus as to the overwhelming need to reduce the level of inflation not only to manageable limits but even below that, to a single figure in percentage terms, if we as a country are to hold our own economically and, perhaps more important, are to help those who are not so prosperous as ourselves.

The consensus, I fear, was of short duration because as soon as the manner in which the Government hope to achieve their aims came to be examined, so far as the economic sphere is concerned, the rifts soon became apparent. My noble friend Lord Thorne croft illustrated the likely divisive impact of the new legislation as he saw it and I want to discuss matters today, as I have said, from the rather different point of view of home affairs. As for terrorism and Northern Ireland, my noble friend Lord Belstead, who will sum up on behalf of noble Lords on these Benches, will no doubt vouchsafe an opinion on the situation covering these subjects and the Government's proposals in relation thereto.

May I say this by way of introduction. If I do not stay to the end of this debate, it will be through no discourtesy to your Lordships but because of a previous engagement which I find it difficult to refuse at this stage. The gracious Speech revealed several proposals with which I imagine most if not all noble Lords would agree, at least in principle. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, about the amendment to Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act and about the Complaints against the Police Bill. If I have any complaints against that Bill, it is that it does not extend to Scotland, and I should like to know whether the Government have any thoughts in that direction. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, who deals with Ireland, may care to answer that question later on. It is, I feel, a matter of regret to all Scots that we in Scotland arc two Criminal Justice Acts behind England. We have no Community Service Orders and we do not even have suspended sentences yet, and I hope that this is something which the Government will reflect upon. Perhaps they will consider how judges in Scotland may be given the same discretion as is now cur rent in England. I made my maiden speech on the Criminal Justice Act in 1972; we are nearly in 1976 and nothing has been done about Scotland.

The Insolvency Bill is an example of a matter which—coming, as I believe it will, before your Lordships on Thursday week—contains certain provisions relating to bankruptcy and winding up which will not only strengthen the law but will at the same time provide flexibility in keeping up with modern conditions. Speaking personally, I am delighted that the Government recognise that the problem of bail procedures needs constant attention. However, as in so many other fields, it is by no means easy to reconcile the rights and interests of the accused or the convicted person with the public interest. I certainly found during my professional career that much has to be left to the discretion of the court, which has to hold the balance, as it were, between the rights and interests of the accused or convicted person and the public interest. However legislation may he framed and however the court may be directed to attend to the matter in hand and whatever record it is directed to make on a piece of paper, in the end it is left to the discretion of the tribunal as to whether or not a man should be set at liberty, either pending his trial or after trial and awaiting sentence.

There are several other matters with which, at least in principle, I do not suppose noble Lords on this side of the House will quarrel. However, whereas the "barrel of apples"—if I may so describe the package—contains many that are good and sweet, there are always a few rotten ones which spoil the whole collection. What is the purpose of a Bill to ensure comprehensive employment safeguards for dock workers, unless it is a blatant attempt to advantage one powerful and vociferous body of Government supporters at the expense of other workers who have less influence with the Labour Movement? As I under stand the position, it could mean that men working in warehouses miles from a port or the coast, who have never even seen the sea, will be liable to be described as dockers and to be under the National Dock Labour Board. It is difficult to envisage how any such measure can improve efficiency or reduce costs. The likelihood is that the opposite will be the case and that this will lead to over-manning and increased cost and inefficiency.

One can quite understand that concern should be felt, with the introduction of new techniques and the downturn of ship ping, that there are now numbers of dockers who are redundant. How much better it would be to provide opportunities for those men to learn new skills in productive employment rather than forcing employers away from the ports—for instance, in container bases—to employ men in jobs to which, by outlook and disposition, they may not be suited.

It is by this kind of proposal that the Government stand to be judged, giving the impression—as they do—that they are the hostages of powerful groups among their supporters. As to the coming of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, the less said the better, except that I believe we are all agreed that the Government are doing what they are constitutionally and legally entitled to do, just as we did what we were legally and constitutionally entitled to do in the last Session. However, I think that it is proper and fair to criticise the Government for the words placed in Her Majesty's mouth in that part of the gracious Speech which deals with the matter. I shall not put it higher than this. It is displaying a certain arrogance on the part of the Government towards a large and varied body of opinion which thought, and still thinks, that the Government were, and are, acting unwisely. Worse, it made the constitutional Monarch speak in a contentious and pejorative manner which was at once offensive and totally unnecessary.

I want to pass on to matters which are both important and deeply worrying for all those who care for the continued existence of the United Kingdom. I refer, of course, to the proposals for the establishment of Scottish and Welsh Assemblies. I am not competent to speak on Welsh matters, but, so far as Scotland is concerned, I am sure that the Government are right not to rush into legislation without time for adequate consultation and debate. I feel it is unfortunate that this debate on the subject of devolution has to take place at all. It is only because successive Governments have allowed this situation to develop, and feelings to build up, that we now find ourselves in this present predicament. With the White Paper almost upon us, it is probably not profitable to say very much about devolution this afternoon. But I feel that it is right to make our own position perfectly clear, not least because Peers on these Benches are described as "Unionists".

If the Government bring forward proposals which ensure the integrity and strength of the United Kingdom, and at the same time improve the government of Scotland and the participation of its citizens in their own affairs, I am quite sure that such proposals will receive sympathetic consideration both from noble Lords on these Benches and from Conservative Members in another place. However, the task will be by no means easy. With direct elections to the European Parliament on the horizon, I foresee the day when Scots will have to face elections to no less than six bodies. There will be the European Parliament, the United Kingdom Parliament, the Scottish Assembly, and regional, district and community councils. Clearly, there will have to be changes to avoid duplication and unnecessary expense.

There is also the question of the role of your Lordships' House, which will have to be considered if there is to be some form of Westminster control or veto on the deliberations or acts of the Scottish Assembly. I very much hope that the Government will not be tempted to impose solutions which may be politically expedient from the Government's point of view, but which, far from helping the present situation, may exacerbate it. If they do, they should not expect—nor will they get—any bipartisan approach to the problem.

Passing to other matters of Scottish flavour, I welcome the Freshwater and Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Bill. I have not had time to do more than read the Bill through, and there are one or two matters which will no doubt receive attention as it proceeds through both Houses, but it is a reform which is due and which will be welcomed in Scotland. My noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley will no doubt welcome the fact that the Bill seeks to correct certain anomalies in the law relating to fish farming.

As a practitioner, I was intrigued to hear that the Government are minded to reform the law of conspiracy. In the practical sense, the prosecution, or, indeed, the defence of a count of conspiracy in an indictment poses a number of formidable problems, both as to the admissibility of evidence and, more especially, as to what may be fair tactically, particularly where evidence, while admissible to prove the conspiracy, is prejudicial to the defence of one of the accused charged with a substantive offence.

When I came to draw indictments when I was at the Bar, I was strongly tempted, I must confess, not to include a count of indictment if I could possibly help it. The fact remains, however, that the offence of conspiracy is useful and, if abolished, 1 think it probable that it will have to be replaced by something else. We understand why some of the Government's more vociferous supporters are demanding a review of this law, but we must see to it that any reform does not enable persons to injure their fellow citizens either bodily or through their rights or property, or to inflict injury on the community and then have the ability to rely on being charged with some minor summary offence; thus, in effect, being in a position to flout the law.

My Lords, I have no doubt that in the coming Session there will be plenty for your Lordships to debate. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, an outline of how the Government see the new Bill affecting racial discrimination. I very much hope that "discrimination" will not become "unconscious" as it has in certain other fields of our law, because that would make a nonsense of the law of intent. I have no doubt that there will be much in the Government's programme with which we shall disagree. Nor do I have any doubt that where the Government's proposals deserve support we on these Benches shall give it. Where the proposals need improvements we shall seek to make them, and I have no doubt that we shall do so in a constructive fashion. Where condemnation is merited—and I fear that on certain occasions it will be —equally I have no doubt that it will be forthcoming.

3.32 p.m.

Viscount THURSO

My Lords, it is impossible to open on every subject that was raised in the gracious Speech; nor is it possible to follow on every subject raised by each noble Lord who speaks. Accordingly, I shall attempt to confine myself to Scottish affairs that are mentioned in the gracious Speech, and I know that my noble friend Lord Avebury will be dealing with matters relating to racial discrimination. May I follow the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, on one small point which follows upon the subjects which he raised? He drew the attention of your Lordships to the tremendous dangers of terrorism in our midst, in our cities. I wonder whether the Government have any proposals which they intend to bring forward for the tighter control of detonators. Without a detonator one does not have a bomb, but my understanding is that detonators are not nearly as care fully controlled as, for instance, firearms, and that they are available in far too great a measure to the would-be terrorist in our midst. Therefore, I should like to ask that one question on that subject.

Before I go on to Scottish affairs, may I also mention how pleased I am to see that I am to be followed in this debate by the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, who will be making his maiden speech in your Lordships' House. I know that your Lordships' counsels will be greatly enhanced by his contributions both today and in the future, and I should like to welcome him, even though I shall not be able to congratulate him, not having yet heard what he has to say.

My Lords, a year ago when I spoke in the debate on the Address in reply to the gracious Speech, I likened the contents of the Speech to a menu in a strange restaurant. I think I spoke truer than I realised for, despite the blandishments of the waiters, has not the "dish" which I chose to discuss proved to be "off"? I refer of course to the promised White Paper on devolution for Scotland and Wales which the gracious Speech assured us in the last Session Her Majesty's Government would urgently prepare. However, I am glad to see that they now seem to have managed to get this "dish" up from the kitchen, and I shall look forward to sniffing its aroma, and even to tasting it, when it does arrive; and I shall pick on this again, nothing daunted, as my main course for debate this afternoon.

But for starters, the gracious Speech has three small kickshaws offered in the name of Scottish fare. First, reforms in the law on crofting are promised. Nobody would deny that reforms of the law on crofting are long overdue, and one wonders whether the Government will have the courage to bring crofting into the twentieth century and provide both crofts and crofters with a means of escaping from the bondage of an archaic way of life in an archaic system of land tenure. Will the Government ensure that crofting, crofts and crofters become an efficient part of Scotland's agriculture, and not merely the most heavily subsidised part? Do Her Majesty's Government realise that many statutory small tenancies, land holdings and small farms, which have never before been crofts, registered as crofts when the Crofters' Commission was set up, not for the way of life offered, but for the size of the grants offered? Indeed, the Department of Agriculture for Scotland itself is the landlord of what is reputed to be the biggest croft of all—a farm of several hundred acres—and I wonder how it justifies that farm's qualifying for grants of a size which it would deny to other similar hill farms in the crofting counties which surround it?

Will the Government be following the example of the European Economic Community, which offers grants designed to bring farms up to an economic level which should support a family in dignity, if not in affluence? In reforming crofting, will careful thought be given to proper land use planning; in particular, to the virtues of multiple land use, which must be the key to proper land use planning in Scotland? In reforming the law on crofting, do the Government realise that they should stand today where the "improving" landlords stood at the end of the eighteenth century, when they did away with the run-rig system of agriculture and its multiple tenancies, to replace it with the system of farming which we know today? Do they realise that they have the same kind of responsibilities on their plate? I hope so, because I live in, and I love, the crofting counties. But I fear—I fear greatly—because the reform of crofting is tucked away in a little aside in the same sentence as that dealing with liquor licensing, that all we shall get in fact is a nasty little doctrinaire exercise in land-lord bashing, so that another pledge can be ticked off in a Manifesto which seems to have been as full as Noah's Ark!

The reform of the Scottish liquor licensing laws must have been as widely and as frequently discussed, examined and reported on as any other proposed Scottish reform, which is, I suppose, why it was uttered in the same breath as the reform of crofting in the gracious Speech. Nevertheless, not even the most hardened publican, nor the most drink-sodden sinner, could pretend that it occupied the same place of importance in the list of pressing Scottish reforms as reforms of the law on crofting. I doubt whether it is as important to the health and happiness of the Scottish people as a reform of the Scottish divorce law, which was conspicuous by its absence from the gracious Speech, although I was glad to see that it is proposed to be discussed as a result of the Bill moved in your Lordships' House today by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. But I suppose it is reasonably popular, reasonably desirable and reason ably easy to draft; perhaps, also, it was a little animal in the aforementioned Noah's Ark.

The most desirable result we can hope to get from this reform is in the field of tourism. Such a reform will help to entertain visitors from other countries (and I include England in this broad category) and make them feel more at home. It will case the lot of licensees a little, but it will do nothing, in my view, to increase or decrease the percentage of alcoholics in the population of Scotland. One wonders why a measure like this was not left to a Scotish Assembly to work out. Could it be because it is known that a Scotitsh Assembly is but a will o' the wisp on the horizon?

The third little bonne-bouche for Scot land is a White Paper or Green Paper, or something—I am sure it is not a Bill, as the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, thought it was—proposing improved access to freshwater fishing. If this sentence had been worded, "to bring about improvements to Scotland's freshwater fisheries", I might just have managed a little squeak of joy; but what depresses me is this dreary fixation of the present Government with the idea that if you issue more permits all will be well with Scotland's fishing. There is a lot of good fishing very readily available to the public, and at very reasonable prices. There could be very much more if some real encouragement were given to fishery owners and fishery managers to carry out improvements with some hope of reaping a just reward for their effort. At the moment, salmon fisheries are heavily taxed and heavily rated, while trout fisheries are given no legal protection to make it worth while improving them at all. The emphasis must be on encouraging owners and managers of our fresh water fisheries to improve their fishings and bring them up to the highest standards, and this in itself will make more fishing to which access may be had. It is no good just putting more rods on the water if you do not first create more territories for the fish to occupy. I know, because I manage a river which is 50 per cent. man-made, and I have designed, and had a hand in making, my share of it.

Now, my Lords, for the main dish on the menu, which is Scottish devolution—the proposal to set up a Scottish Assembly. Once again we are being kept in suspense. We are being kept in suspense about Her Majesty's Government's intentions; and, if I may change my metaphor, I would say that the Government seem to be trying to compose a new pipe tune called, "The Assembly is coming and a' and a'." We in Scotland are driven to wondering why the Government are dragging their feet. Have the Government finally decided on their policy? Shall we really know what the Government's policy is when the White Paper comes; and are they then going to give us a date for the establishment of the Assembly, and a timetable that we can see going ahead to devolution in Scot land? Or are they hoping that, by delays, they may be able to discredit the very idea of Scottish and Welsh devolution and at the same time encourage the so-called English backlash? One can only speculate—one is forced to speculate—and this speculation is doing no good. It is obvious that Socialists, who are centralisers by their very nature, must find it difficult to put their hearts into a task which will bring about decentralisation of both government and administration. Let me therefore, my Lords, as a Liberal—the Party which proposed Home Rule before the Scottish Nationalists existed—and as a Scot who believes sincerely in decentralisation of government and in Scottish home rule, re-state the reasons for wanting to devolve the government of Scotland to a Scottish Elected Assembly.


My Lords, I hope the noble Viscount will forgive me for pointing out to him that socialism has always stood for democracy and for the people, and not for something centralised.

Viscount THURSO

I am delighted to hear that, my Lords. First of all, we are now in the Common Market, which is meaning, and will mean, more and more centralisation of both government and administration within Europe. It is important to see that enough control of purely domestic matters, and democratic control at that, is left behind in the regions of Europe and in the hands of the people. Scotland is not merely a separate region within the United Kingdom: she is a separate nation, with a separate history, a separate culture, a separate legal system and a separate religious background. Even were it not for the need to devolve in a European context, there is a pressing need for democratic devolution in a United Kingdom context.

Since the mistake was made of abolishing the Scottish Parliament after Scot land joined in Union with England and Wales, the periodic complaints which have continually arisen about London centralisation have been met by the transfer of more and more Departments from London to St. Andrew's House. None of this has been democratic. Quite the reverse: the poor Scots are merely enabled to see better how their bureaucratic burden grows while their democratic control of the administration grows effectively less and less. There is a clear demand in Scotland for decentralisation. A nearer and a more democratic control over a growing bureacracy and a political focus in Scotland is demanded for the ambitions and aspirations of the Scots. But there is no majority demand for separatism.

Therefore, my Lords, what we all should seek is a transfer to a Scottish Parliament of all the powers at present wielded by the Secretary of State for Scot land. A Scottish Government should be answerable to the Scottish people for housing, education, health and social services, agriculture, forestry and fishing, transport and law and order. If this were done, and done effectively, then it would be better to add a substantial control over trade and industry in co-operation with United Kingdom Ministries, and political control over the nationalised industries in Scotland. To get this we must accept a reduction in the powers of the Secretary of State in the Westminster Parliament, and a reduction from 71 to our proportionate 56 Scottish M.P.s at Westminster, as recommended by the Kilbrandon Commission on the Constitution. We must also implement the other import ant recommendation of Kilbrandon and elect the Assembly by proportional representation. If we are out to get justice and democratic control over bureaucracy, we must use the best means available to give the power to the people and not merely to the political managers.

I see, and we Liberals see, a Scottish Assembly in a federal context within the United Kingdom. We do not see it as disruptive. We see a Welsh Assembly in the same light. We see these Assemblies as the means of more strongly uniting the Kingdom of which we are proud to form a part, by giving renewed identity to the parts which voluntarily combine to make the whole. We see the Assemblies, not as sops flung to a howling pack of Nationalists, but as a birthright given with love to the adult sons and daughters of this Kingdom. My Lords, give Scot land and Wales a chance to show their greatness—aye, and the regions of England, too!—and you will go a long way towards restoring our self-respect as a nation and the unity of purpose within the United Kingdom.

3.49 p.m.

The Marquess of ABERDEEN and TEMAIR

My Lords, in addressing your Lordships' House for the first time I must ask for more than the usual indulgence on such an occasion for my inadequacy of expression and insufficient knowledge of your Lordships' customs. The reason I ask more than the customary indulgence is because I fancy I see one or two noble Lords and noble Baronesses about the Chamber who have submitted themselves to my attentions in BBC radio studios down the years, and one or two of them may be thinking: "All right; he tried to cut me down to size then, now I will see him make an ass of himself!" But I know your Lordships' customary, traditional friendliness and courtesy, as evidenced by the kind remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and I do not think I need have any worry on that score. Much more important is whether I shall be able to steer successfully between the anodyne and the controversial, to borrow the elegant phrase used last week by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, will forgive me if I do not follow him in any detail in his remarks, although I too wish to speak on the theme of devolution in Scotland as mentioned in the gracious Speech. It is on that subject that I wish to offer a few observations. Since some measure of devolution on an organised basis is favoured by all Parties represented in Parliament, what I have to say about it cannot possibly be controversial, can it? In any case, what I personally think about it is today beside the point; but the lesson I learned from history is very much to the point.

Scotland may be an ancient nation in terms of the antiquity of its land boundaries, but I reckon that a sense of Scottish nationhood by all the people of Scotland is comparatively recent. This is not so much because of dominant and alien influences from different quarters, as of the disparate nature of the land and its people's pursuits, and where they came from. It was not the resistance to the hammer blows of Edward I, first by that superb man William Wallace and later by Robert Bruce, which brought about the total consciousness of nationhood. If it existed then it was partial only and it was soon torn to shreds by internal strife. It was not the extension of the King's justice and administration to the remoter parts of Scotland by James VI and I, important though that was: it was certainly not the union of the Crowns at 1603, for look what happened during the next 100 years and more!

I think that the dawning of the sense of Scottish nationhood (and here the noble Viscount may part company with me) was contemporary with the union of the Parliaments in 1707. Even then, it took a long time to come to full reality. As late as 1822 George IV, having for given the Scots, and wearing a kilt, held his levee at Holyrood. And why not?—it was good politicking and he liked dressing up. The people of Edinburgh were amazed at this indecent display and some of the nobility, mostly of Anglo-Norman origin, sent jokey letters back home about the likely consequences of so many wild Highiandmen gathered about the city for so long. But people from every part of Scotland and of every sort by then undoubtedly felt strongly a sense of national identity, even if many of them had to emigrate. Already Lord Selkirk of Red River, himself not a Highlander, had expended his life's energies trying to settle Highlanders in Canada, a shining light in the mostly dark story of the emigrations and clearances of those times.

If I am right, and if the union of the Parliaments influenced the unity of a people who hitherto had shown that they were not totally united, the conclusion I come to is that there may be in the course of time a Scottish Assembly which could be the cause of a tendency, already observable, to want to split up into yet smaller units. We Scots are a rather divisive people, my Lords, not so much on class or Party lines as because of our history and geography. I arrive at this conclusion by an exercise in pragmatism, and I may be wrong. I may have got my history wrong, and history may be bunk, but I ask your Lordships to ponder this point. To me the hazards of devolution are much more the chance of splits within Scotland than the possible breaking up of the United Kingdom. Every body concerned in the move towards a Scotttish Assembly, from those who throw a few crumbs of assent to the idea to those who go for full sovereignty, should weigh this possible consequence. The history of quarrels between the different branches of the Christian faith and of schism within the Church of Scot land, though they are now mostly passed away, also deeply affected lay men and women and are further evidence of a tendency to split apart.

My Lords, I have been thinking too of the possible effects of Scottish and Welsh Assemblies upon England and upon Westminster. Already these are matters of public comment. So I have talked with a few people who have much better in sight than I and certainly much greater knowledge of the history, theory and sometimes the practice of government in the United Kingdom. One person tells me that there is no real worry, no real demand for reform at Westminster nor for the creation of regional Assemblies in England. Another tells me that just such demands are bound to grow but not throughout England; and how can you set up an Assembly for some regions and not for others? Yet another argues that rather than risk playing havoc with Westminster and the status quo in England it would be better to maintain also the status quo in Scotland and Wales. My Lords, I have today no views on all these matters; I merely summarise what I have heard from others. The prolonged public debate has already started and will doubtless expand after publication of the White Paper expected on Thursday.

Finally, may I remind your Lordships, as did the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, of that passage in the gracious Speech indicating reforms in the law on crofting and on liquor licensing, and on improving access to freshwater fishing. I am but an expatriate Scot, born in Kent, spending most of my working life in London and now living in the wilds of Suffolk; so I cannot judge for want of knowledge, and therefore take it that these matters need legislating so urgently that they cannot wait for the existence of a Scottish Assembly whose province they would otherwise seem peculiarly to be. Perhaps at least two of those items may be deeply controversial, so I must say no more. May a busy Session be had by all your Lordships! It looks likely.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, it is my privilege to be the first to congratulate the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, on his maiden speech. He was, if I may say so, well informed and I think that he will find it always best in this House to speak on those subjects with which we are familiar. To an ignorant Sassenach like me, everything he said was of the greatest interest. He was modest, brief and non-controversial and therefore fulfilled all the requirements of the best of maiden speeches. I congratulate him on it and I am sure that we all hope to hear from him again very soon.

My Lords, on home affairs and Northern Ireland, may I first say a word about Northern Ireland. I have two causes for current satisfaction about Northern Ireland. The first is the way in which the so-called Diplock courts are working. My Committee found that they gave general satisfaction with very few divergencies from the normal laws of evidence and procedure in criminal courts. They are the ordinary criminal trial in open court except that there is no jury because of the existing state of intimidation; but they give general satisfaction and it is clear from what my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich has said that they are continuing to do so. The second is the declaration by the Secretary of States that he proposes to end detention by Christmas. I welcome this. My Committee took the view that internment or detention without trial is a weapon which a modern State is entitled to use against modern terrorism. Furthermore, despite any statements which had been made to the contrary, our having done so in Northern Ireland was not a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights. But we went on to say that it should be resorted to only as a last resort and ended as soon as possible. It has grave defects. One of the things I was afraid of when I read the Secretary of State's Statement was that this might lead to an increase in violence by the IRA, or the equivalent Protestant bodies, because naturally they are tempted to do something which will make us change our minds about ending detention, because there is no doubt at all the biggest propaganda weapon which the IRA or their Protestant equivalents have among their population is the existence of internment or detention without trial. There is all the difference in the world as to what families believe when they can hear in open court the evidence on which a man has been convicted, and what they believe when the only circumstance is that there is no proper trial, because all that happens is that a Special Branch man or Army personnel say that they have been informed by a paid police informer of this or that. Naturally, the families do not believe that the person has done anything which ought to have led to his being put away. The Statement made by the Secretary of State was both wise and courageous and I congratulate him upon it.

Regarding home affairs—following on what I said about speaking on the things which we know— I want to ask some questions about the state of law reform. May I begin by making it plain that nothing I say is intended to be a criticism of anybody; all I am desirous of doing is obtaining information. What are the Government's attitudes towards various reforms which have been proposed? They are as follows: No. 1: the Report of the Law Reform Committee on Conversion and Detinue. This was in June 1971. No. 2: the Law Reform Committee's Report on Wills. That was in March 1973. No. 3: the Law Commission on Forgery and Counterfeit Currency. That was in May 1973. The Law Commission are immensely thorough. They get out a working paper in three parts: Part One, "This is what the law in this field is now"; Part Two, "These are the criticisms which have been made of it". Part Three, "These are provisional proposals as to how the law ought to be reformed". Then over months, and sometimes more than a year, this document is discussed with experts in this branch of the law. It goes to the Judiciary, the Bar Council, the Law Society and to representatives of anyone who may be affected by the proposed changes in the law. It is only after this intensive and thorough discussion on both principle and detail that the Law Commission then produces a Report accompanied by a draft bill which is prepared by one of our ordinary Parliamentary draftsmen, seconded for the time being to the Law Commission.

No. 4: the Report of the Law Commission on the Assessment of Damages in Personal Injury Cases. No. 5: the Report of the Law Commission on Injuries to Unborn Children. If we were ever to have another disaster like the Thalidomide disaster, it might be desirable by that time that our law should be in proper shape. No. 6: the Report of the Law Commission on the Solemnisation of Marriage. No. 7: the Report of the Law Commission on Implied Covenants in Leases and Tenancy Agreements. No. 8: the Report of the Law Commission on Exemption Clauses. No. 9: the Report of the Law Commission on Rent Charges. Your Lordships will no doubt bear in mind that the resulting Bills in the case of the Law Commission are eligible for the Second Reading Committee in the other place. Such Bills would take up no Parliamentary time on the Floor of the House.

No. 10: the Justice report on a suitors fund. Perhaps that wants a word of explanation. Some 15 years ago—it may be more—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Somervell of Harrow, and I tried to persuade a Government Committee that it was not right, as between litigants in a civil action, that any litigant should have to pay the costs of an appeal when the sole cause of the appeal was that the trial judge did not know the law. We took the view that the State ought to pay in such circum stances. This was subsequently considered by a committee of Justice which wanted to get something done quickly in this field. They knew that if you want to be quick you will achieve your object quicker—or so they thought—if you do not ask for public money. This committee of Justice proposed a suitors' fund; every litigant should pay a small sum on starting an action, and the resulting fund would be available to pay the costs of a successful appeal where the sole cause was that the trial judge did not know the law. If you ask, "What amount?" The answer is, "an additional fee of one shilling on every writ would produce £80,000 a year, and half-a-crown would produce £200,000 per year". The amount lies somewhere between these two. They found such a scheme was already being operated in New South Wales to everybody's general satisfaction.

No. 11: the Justice Report on Litigants in Person. No. 12: the Jellicoe Report on Prison Boards of Visitors. The ones I am dealing with are mainly civil cases. There is an old-established convention which I must confess I concurred in—whether or not it is a good idea I do not know—that when it comes to the gracious Speech from the Throne, the Speech always states the measures for the reform of the criminal law the Home Secretary is to introduce. When it comes to the civil law it just says that measures will be put before the Houses of Parliament for the reform of the law and the administration of justice. This year is no exception. It says: My Government will perservere with efforts to improve the law and the administration of justice. It never says what. When it conies to the Home Secretary, it says: My Government will give early consideration to the report, when received, of the Law Commission on the law of conspiracy in England and Wales, with a view to preparing legislation for the comprehensive reform of this branch of the law. Here is the Home Secretary announcing legislation about a Law Commission Report which has not yet been made. The matters I have been talking about concern civil issues and are somewhat older.

No. 13: the Report of the Renton Committee on the Preparation of Legislation. Thanks to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, we are to have an opportunity of debating that Report on 10th December. No doubt we shall be told then all I want to know about all these other matters. Have the Government made up their minds yet on these various recommendations? If not, why not? If they have, have they accepted the recommendations?

No. 14—and I may add there would have been a lot to be said for my making it 13, which is a more appropriate number—is the Report of the Brodrick Committee on Death Certification and Coroners. I was well aware when I be came Lord Chancellor that all was not well with the law regarding coroners. My noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill appointed a Committee on 17th March 1965. For some reason I have not discovered, this Committee took nearly six years to report. It is now ten years ago since it was appointed; the Report has been published for four years, and I should like to know—this is probably more in the field of the Home Secretary than that of my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack—when the Report is going to be implemented, or whether the Government accept its provisions.

No. 15: the Report of the Younger Committee on Privacy. Here two entirely different points arise. First, what about the White Paper on Privacy and Computers which my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich in the autumn of last year hoped would be published by Christmas? It is only fair to him to say that he did not say which Christmas. Perhaps we could now be told something about the position. There is a second matter—and do not let us be put off by the first—in that I think I am right in saying that there were five or six recommendations about computers. In that Report there were 33 recommendations about the law of privacy, none of which had anything to do with computers. What I want to know now, after 3½years, is: what are the Government's attitudes towards those recommendations?

Do they accept them, or do they not? The Financial Times on Wednesday expressed the view that the Younger Report on Privacy was the best report of its kind made in any country. They pointed to the fact that most industrial countries had already legislated in this field, and inquired whether we were to be the last of such countries to legislate accordingly.

Regarding No. 16, the Bell Report on Supplementary Benefit Appeal Tribunals, some of your Lordships may remember that a long time ago now—I think it was in July of last year—I initiated a debate in this House on the administration of the cohabitation rule and voiced complaints about the supplementary benefits appeal tribunals. Much of what I said, if I remember correctly, was echoed in other parts of the House. We know that the Minister asked the Supplementary Benefits Commission itself to answer complaints about its officials; and Professor Bell, who is a member of the Council on Tribunals, has now conducted a long inquiry into the supplementary benefit appeal tribunals, and his Report amply bears out all the criticisms made in the House at that time. There are only three or four fairly simple recommendations which she makes and one would like to know when we may expect legislation concerning such of those recommendations as may require it.

Then No. 17 is the Report of the Faulkes Committee on Defamation, and No. 18, the Report of the Phillimore Committee on Contempt of Court. I should also like to ask what is the position regarding the following matters: No. 19, family courts and No. 20, company law reform. I have never really under stood why it is that Conservative Governments do not deal with company law reform. I should have thought they would be more interested in that subject than anybody else. I think the original Act was passed by a Liberal Government, and then we had to wait for the Companies Act 1948, which was produced by a Labour Government. Then there was another Act in 1966 which was again passed by a Labour Government. Undoubtedly, further company law reform ought now to be considered.

May I also ask, again, what is the position with regard to human rights? Having years ago signed the two United Nations Covenants on Human Rights, when are we going to ratify them? They come into force when 35 signatories have ratified them, and 31 have now done so. Are we really to be the last country to ratify them? I say that looking at my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich, but for some reason which I cannot myself understand, when it comes to human rights, in relation to the United Nations Covenants they are dealt with by the Foreign Office whereas the European Convention on Human Rights concerns the Home Office. That is how things are at the moment.

We have all read articles by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, and others on the interesting question of whether we ought to have a Bill of Human Rights. I think that a brand new Bill of Human Rights would be immensely long, immensely controversial and full of difficulty. But we could do one fairly simple thing which others have already done. The best extant Convention on Human Rights is, I believe, the European one. We are parties to that Convention. Why on earth do we not simply make it a part of our domestic law? I believe this would satisfy most of those who want a Bill of Rights. It would save us from being, as we are now, of all the countries who are parties to the European Convention, the one most complained about at Strasbourg because of alleged breaches of the Convention. Other countries have very sensibly made the Convention part of their domestic law so that it is then possible to go to one's own domestic courts instead of having to go to Strasbourg. It seems a very curious affair altogether for a Government to have become a party to a treaty which provides for legal rights but not to make it part of their domestic law.

Perhaps I might deal with one more Report, since this is the one I should prefer to see implemented earlier than all the others. This is the Justice Report on the Prosecution Process. I believe that our police forces are probably the best in Europe, but they are also the least responsible and the most powerful. We do not always realise this. They are the least responsible because every other West European police force is the subject of responsibility to a Minister, who in turn is responsible to Parliament. It is only in the United Kingdom that the policeman is responsible to no one except his chief constable and, except rather mythically towards the Watch Committee, the chief constable is responsible to no one. True, the Home Secretary can make orders for conditions, pay, pensions, and so on, but not with regard to police work. A chief constable can, in a sense, alter the law. I read the other day that a chief constable has issued an instruction—and a lot depends, of course, on which crimes they concentrate on and what sort of charges they bring—to the effect that in future, if A kills B by dangerous or drunken driving, there is to be no prosecution if B is the wife, husband or close relative of the driver. This may be a very proper provision and whoever decides on prosecutions has to draw lines of this; kind but because we still have 43 different police forces in England and 20 in Scotland, to some extent the law depends on what the chief constable decides, and the—


My Lords, for my own information, may I ask the noble and learned Lord: is it not the fact that there is in Scotland an official who is a lawyer? He is a Procurator Fiscal.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, I am coming on to that, because I am only dealing at the moment—


My Lords, I wonder whether I might just finish? The noble and learned Lord said that this was the United Kingdom, not England and Wales. That is the point I was making.


My Lords, I am much obliged. I was dealing with two quite different things. I said that the police were the least responsible and the most powerful. When we come to the most powerful, the noble Lord's point would be quite right. I said, "the United Kingdom" because the responsibility of the police to anybody, how the police are organised and our uniqueness in the United Kingdom in having a separate number of chief constables are peculiarities of our own. They are the most powerful, because when a crime is reported to them they interrogate suspects, decide whether or not there is to be a prosecution and, if so, who is to be prosecuted, what the charge is to be and what evidence is to be called. Then they prosecute. This does not apply any where in Western Europe except in England and Wales. In Scotland the police interrogate suspects, but they do not decide whether or not there is to be a prosecution, who is to be prosecuted, what the charge is to be or what evidence is to be called. All that is done by the Procurator Fiscal, who is an independent prosecuting authority, standing between the citizen and the police. There are certain European countries, like Germany and Holland, who have a similar independent prosecuting authority. On the recommendation of the Committee of which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was Chairman, we extended this to Northern Ireland. He is not called a Procurator Fiscal; he is called, which might be more suitable to us, the Director of Public Prosecutions. But apart from motoring cases, prosecutions have now been taken out of the hands of the police in Northern Ireland, for the good reasons recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and put into the hands of an independent authority.

The French civil law system is somewhat similar. There it is the Juge d' Instruction who takes charge as soon as any prosecution starts. He decides who is to be prosecuted, what the charge is to be, whether the police are to oppose bail, what evidence is to be called and so forth. So it is only in England and Wales that the police have these enormous powers. I feel very strongly that the relations between the public and the police are of great importance, but it is because of this extraordinarily powerful position of the English police that there is some public mistrust. I strongly believe that if there was an independent prosecuting authority it would he as great a gain to the police as it would to the public.

The only objection I have heard made against it is that it would be so terribly expensive. I cannot understand this at all. The large majority of our counties now have a prosecuting solicitor's office. Gone are the days when the chief con stable sat in the police court and prosecuted himself, usually sitting next to the clerk. The court was known as "the police court," and no wonder! In the majority of counties there is now a county prosecuting solicitor with a proper staff. He conducts the whole of these matters, but there is one defect. It is that if he says: "This prosecution cannot possibly succeed and it ought not to be continued," and the policeman in charge of the case says, "I say it is to be continued," the relationship between the county prosecuting officer and the police is that of solicitor and client and the solicitor has to do what he is told.

The existence of the county prosecuting officer and his staff means that we are in an exceptionally good position now, and have been quite recently, to adopt what is almost a ready-made system to hand of an independent prosecuting authority, because the county prosecuting solicitors, under the Director of Public Prosecutions, take the place of the procurator fiscal and the local procurator fiscal; but these matters would be for them to decide and not the police. There would be the advantage that exists in Scotland. Any accused person could at any time he likes go to see the procurator fiscal about a case he is in, and all the public know is that one is being prosecuted not by the police but by an independent prosecuting authority. Already 88½ per cent. of the cost of all prosecutions is borne by the Exchequer, either direct on indictment or on reimbursement of local authorities for minor cases. So I should have thought that any additional cost would be small.

I am conscious of the fact that I have so far concentrated entirely on Bills we may or may not be going to see. Before closing, may I mention just one Bill we are going to see, which is the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill. I am taking advantage of the fact that last Wednesday the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who I am very glad to see here, said that he would welcome proposals for the better proceedings of your Lordships' House. I simply have a suggestion to make. I have been surprised in the last month at how many noble Lords I have met, some of whom are regular attenders, who have no idea of something that happened in 1968. It is not surprising in a way, because since 1st February 1969 there have been 142 new Life Peers created and 108 new hereditary Peers have taken the place of their ancestors. So there are 250 Members of the House who were not here in 1968. May I say to them that what happened was that a White Paper was put before this House for its approval which would have swept away its hereditary basis and swept away the built-in Conservative majority. One hundred and eighteen Peers put down their name to speak and at the end of three days the result was: Contents, 251; Not-Contents, 56. So by five to one this House has already agreed that it cannot defend its hereditary composition or the built-in Conservative majority.

As a Back Bencher I greatly admire what both our Front Benches do, particularly the Opposition Front Bench, nearly all of whom are wholly unremunerated and without whose attendance and careful work Parliament's legislation could never be carried through. We are a House which exists not on Erskine May volume II, but on conventions. We can make a new convention and give it up if it does not work. What I suggest is that in future we should have a new convention whereby if a Labour Government is in power the two Front Benches behave exactly as they do now—their respective supporters come to cheer them on and of course to speak if they wish to, because that is the Back Benchers'right—but the Labour side of the House should not vote.

I suggest this for the sole interests of the House since it would save such an enormous amount of time. Let us take the Community Land Bill. We had 20 Divisions. I am told by the Table that a Division takes getting on for 10 minutes or, if there are large numbers, up to 17 minutes. Let us say 10. The result of the 20 Divisions was: Government, nought; Conservative Party 20, because that is bound to happen. Many of us no doubt think that our Liberal colleagues are so outstanding that each of their votes ought to count as two, but it does not and so in practice there are only about 12 of them. If one looks at the current edition of Vacher's one finds there are only 27 Peers marked "Independent", one or two of whom are fairly well-known Conservative Party politicians. I am not accusing them of being wolves in sheep's clothing; they have no doubt good reason for sitting on the Cross Benches. But the situation depends on what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, I always thought rather irreverently, used to call "the St. Aldwyn overkill". The plain fact is that if the situation is properly organised the Conservatives can win every Division they like.

As to those 20 Divisions on the Community Land Bill, they took over three hours just walking through Lobbies. Cui bono? What on earth good does it do anybody? I have looked at my record for the last two years. It has never made the slightest difference whether or not I was here to vote. We have a Chief Whip and I shall not be revealing any confidences if I say that we are all devoted to her. She and her helpers send us imperious messages and rush around to increase the vote. What an appalling waste of time! In the last Session there were in all 114 Divisions, with 98 Government defeats. That leaves 16—I have of course obtained these figures from the Table. Of the 16, 11 were not Party Divisions. So out of 114 occasions there were only five on which the skill of the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, partly faltered or he miscalculated. This all took 19 hours, at 10 minutes a Division. If we work a five-hour day, we could have saved four whole days by simply not voting. My Lords, I seriously suggest that, when there is a Labour Government, if we did as I propose it would save a great deal of time.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, for some time I have thought that at least one member of the Cross-Benches should speak out and condemn the doctrinaire legislation which has been enacted by this Government and which is forecast in the Queen's Speech. All of us, in general terms, believe in a fair, free society with, so far as is reasonable, equal opportunity for all. Principles such as these are a useful guideline, but no sensible solution is possible by pushing a principle to its ultimate logical end. More often than not, those who advocate doing so are simply equating principle with emotional prejudice. They fail to take into account the side effects of their policy and the fact that a perfect solution is never obtainable, simply because society is com posed of human beings who never live up to the dreams of the idealist.

I condemn the Government because, supported by less than 30 per cent. of the electorate and with a bare majority in the Commons, they have at a time of national crisis introduced many doctrinaire measures to which the vast majority of the electorate are opposed. This makes a mockery of democracy in any sensible meaning of the word, and cannot be justified by the convenient dogma of mandates. For most electors who are profoundly dissatisfied with Parliament and its representatives, the choice lies between, at the most, three very unsatisfactory alternatives. I should like the Government and their supporters to think very carefully about the following points.

First, I believe that extreme Socialism and nationalisation, because of its inefficiency, can lead only to autocracy and loss of freedom. In the present context, it would be impossible to stop short of Communism. Secondly, the distribution and redistribution of wealth and earnings has reached a point where there is nothing of magnitude left to redistribute. If we are sincerely concerned with helping the poorer sections of the community and improving the quality of life, we must get on with the job and increase our gross national product. The redistribution lobby may well stand accused of being motivated by greed and envy, and a desire to drag everything down to the lowest common standard of mediocrity.

Thirdly, the key to establishing a stable Socialist society with a sensible partner ship between workers, management and shareholders—I include the Government under the latter term—lies in having fully responsible and representative trade unions to serve the nation. For this to come about many changes are necessary. These can most easily be brought about if those with a union background will speak out publicly and not simply defend the unions, right or wrong. Fourthly, the time has come when we must stop blindly accepting the principle of collective bargaining and some other shibboleths. Collective bargaining has always equated to a great extent with the law of the jungle, but it worked because both sides had roughly equal bargaining power. This is simply not true today. We must seek new or modified methods of wage agreements, if only because of the limited wealth of the nation. There is no hidden pot of gold. This means that higher wages in one industry can be obtained in the long run only at the expense of other workers, usually those with lower bargaining power who are in greater need.

My Lords, I should like the Government to think about those matters. They may not agree, but I believe that those points are important to the future of our nation, because a very great deal of their legislation has been both irrelevant in a time of national crisis, and harmful in its effects and side effects. It is not leading to what they hope for, which is a reason able and sensible kind of Socialist State.

4.34 p.m.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, the noble Viscount will forgive me if I do not follow him along the line he has chosen to adopt. He will realise that his points are not new. Some of us who joined the Labour Party 40 years ago rejected those points at about the same time, so the noble Viscount will not expect us now, at his instant command, to fall into line. He must realise, to put it bluntly, that he is an extremely old-fashioned Conservative. Why the Government should be expected to renounce their own programme at his request baffles me. But it is a free country, and other noble Lords will join issue with the noble Viscount. He is as much entitled to his opinion as anybody else, but why the noble Viscount should expect a Labour Government to accept his instructions I cannot imagine. The noble Viscount will. I am sure, allow me to say all that in meekness and mildness, as St. Paul would put it.

I am told that the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen, has left us and is at tea. I am sure he has earned a good tea and, I hope, something stronger. I should have liked to congratulate him on his maiden speech. I can remember an ancestor of his coming to stay with my father and mother in Ireland when the ancestor in question was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In those days he was a spokesman of the Asquith Government and, therefore, a strong Home Ruler. I was going to say to the noble Marquess—but when he returns from tea somebody will perhaps tell him—that if his ancestor had been listened to we should be much better off now. The problems which confront us and which the noble Lord, Lord Donald son, coped with so heroically in Northern Ireland would not have arisen. It is all due to the failure to listen to the ancestor of the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen, about 60 years ago when I was quite a small boy. That has some bearing on the question of devolution to Scotland and Wales.

May I offer a few observations on the treatment of prisoners. I shall not attempt to cover the whole field but will deal only with some particular aspects. I would begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, not in his capacity as a Government spokesman on penal questions, but in his capacity as a Minister for Northern Ireland, and his admirable chief, Mr. Rees, on one of the steps that they are taking in Northern Ireland. May I take the opportunity, since everybody is not congratulating Mr. Rees at the moment, to say what a fine job I personally consider he has done and is doing in Northern Ireland, so ably supported by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and Mr. Orme, and beallowed to select one particular step out of many and congratulate them upon it this afternoon, because it is relevant to the topics I am discussing.

On 4th November it was announced both here and in another place that all convicted prisoners in Northern Ireland would be released after serving half of their sentences. I strongly applaud this step which has been taken in Northern Ireland where there has not been and still is no parole system. One cannot, therefore, make an exact comparison between the situation that will prevail there, even after this change, and the situation which prevails here, because there will not be a parole system in Northern Ireland. In view of all the pressures and the rather foolish outcry against Mr. Rees and his colleagues in Northern Ireland, this step has shown great courage and imagination on the part of Mr. Rees, the noble Lord and others, and I should like to congratulate them upon it. However, they are not introducing parole. I am ready to believe that a parole system which involves, as we work it here, a rather elaborate assessment of individual prisoners is for the moment impossible in Northern Ireland. I can only say that I hope the time will very soon come when it will be possible to operate a parole system, but for the moment let us regard the plans now being introduced there as the best.

I want to say a few words about parole in this country. Some noble Lords will remember that in June of this year I introduced a debate on this subject in your Lordships' House. I spoke then, and I speak now, as a strong and unrepentant believer in parole. I argued then that our parole system, which has many virtues, was being applied much too timidly, and up to the present I repeat that it is being applied much too timidly. On that occasion I begged the Home Secretary to give a new lead and to introduce a much more liberal application of the parole system here. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who as a distinguished former chairman of the Parole Board has unique qualifications to be heard on this subject, made a speech of much significance on the same occasion.

The noble Lord said that in one import ant respect he had changed his mind. He said that he would now like to see the great majority of prisoners—leaving over life prisoners for another occasion, although I happen to be particularly interested in them—receiving parole after they had completed a third of their sentence, whereas at present only about a quarter of the prisoners receive parole on the first occasion; that is, after serving a third of their sentence. About 40 per cent. of them receive it some time or other, but for many of them it is very near the end of their sentence. So it would be a very big step forward if the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, supported by lesser people like myself, had his way. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has come round to the view that no legislation will be necessary for this purpose. He considers—and I agree with him—that it lies within the power of the Home Secretary to bring about a large liberal advance of this kind. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, strongly urged the Home Secretary—and again I support him—to take the necessary steps.

I was sorry to see, when I read Hansard, that I had been rather discourteous to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. I do not know whether other noble Lords feel they have been quite polite until they read Hansard, and then wonder what was biting them? At any rate, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, replying for the Government, fought a good holding action on the question of whether it lay within the power of the Home Secretary to move the Parole Board, in the application of parole, a long way in the direction indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the noble Lord, Lord Soper, myself and other speakers. Several of us—myself, in the first place—made the obvious point that if the Home Secretary really believes (as I am sure he does) in the policy of reducing the prison population, no other course is open to him. It is essential to release far more people on parole than has been the case to date.

Since June, the aim of reducing the prison population has, I am glad to say, been restated in the Queen's Speech. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, is not with us now, but I should like to support all that he and the Home Office Ministers seem to have in mind in liberalising bail and making it much more readily available. That is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is only one step and it certainly in no way obviates the need for a much more liberal system of parole. In August, well before the Queen's Speech but some time after our debate, the Home Secretary announced that he would be issuing new guidelines for the benefit of the Parole Board. I gather that what he said on that occasion did not represent the guidelines them selves, but it gave us a broad idea of what those guidelines would be.

In my own speech in this House on 11th June, I raised this very topic. I asked whether the Home Secretary accepted responsibility for giving the Board guidelines and many of us, like the noble Baroness who played a spirited part in those discussions, will remember that, whether in relation to a particular case or generally, we were given no clear answer as to whether it was in the Home Secretary's power to take steps in regard to the general policy. But a great deal was said by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, about the independence of the Parole Board, its autonomy and the fact that it must not be unduly interfered with. As I have said, I think the noble Lord, Lord Harris, was carrying on a kind of holding action, and I must give credit to him. It may well be that he was influenced by that discussion; the Home Secretary may have been influenced and now the new guidelines are on the way and we are told that they will be issued at any time now. They are certainly long overdue.

In his speech on that same day, 11th June, the noble Lord. Lord Hunt, informed the House that in 1967 the late Lord Stonham—a much beloved Under-Secretary at the Home Office and later Minister of State here—had outlined, when speaking for the Home Office, what would be the criteria for the Board and for the committees. Lord Hunt told this House in June that these criteria stated eight years ago by Lord Stonham in 1967: …were passed down as notes of guidance"— that was the expression used by Lord Hunt, and after all he was chairman of the Parole Board for seven years, so he ought to know— to all local review committees and they have been used and respected by the Board. So we understand from Lord Hunt, chairman for seven years of the Parole Board, that the guidelines announced by Lord Stonham in 1967 have been observed ever since. If the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, says that then no doubt it is true that I was informed recently, after official inquiries, that the guidance given to the local review boards has never been published. I will ask the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, to confirm that, but I am sure it is true; that is, that for reasons unknown the guidelines which the local review boards are supposed to carry out have not been published.

So the first question I put to the noble Lord is whether there is any reason at all why any guidelines—the old ones or new ones—should not be published and why we should not know what criteria the local review boards are being instructed to follow. I hope he will tell us that in future these guidelines will be published, because I cannot think of any possible grounds for not doing so.

But I have a more fundamental point to put to the noble Lord. Will he be kind enough—now he has had proper notice, and by "proper notice" I mean 24 hours'notice—to spell out for us the intended difference between the new guide lines and the old. Perhaps I may repeat that question because I shall not speak for very long: will he be kind enough to spell out for us the intended differences between the new guidelines and the old? If he could do so only briefly, or might he be ready to answer a Written Question, or perhaps he can tell us when the new guidelines are to be published? Of course, he may say that it will be better to discuss them when they are published. That is one line of argument, of course; but, at any rate, can he throw light on the difference between the new guidelines and the old?

The new guidelines, of course, could mean little or much; they could mean nothing or anything, so a lot of importance attaches to his answer. Can the noble Lord demonstrate to us that the new guidelines will lead to a substantial increase in the proportion of prisoners receiving parole, and receiving it early? I appreciate that life prisoners—in whom the noble Baroness and others are deeply interested—will require special treatment; but putting the general question I wonder whether the noble Lord can give us some idea as to what proportion of prisoners in future will receive parole, and receive it early. For instance, I know that one of the great train robbers was eligible for parole after 10 years, but lie was released after 11 years and eight months—20 months later. In my view, there are no possible grounds for supposing that after 11 years and eight months he would be more suitable to move about in society than he was after 10 years. That is the really nonsensical aspect of the parole system, but I hope all these things will be cleared up by the noble Lord and his colleagues in the Home Office when the new guidelines come out. I know that the noble Lord (of all men) whose services to penal reform are even more prolonged—I will not say more distinguished—than his services to Northern Ireland, will want to give us all the help he can.

Before I sit down I should like to deal with one other aspect of penal matters in a less cordial spirit, although here again I am not altogether without hope. The whole business of the control units is a wretched tale. If there are any noble Lords who do not know what control units are, I can only say that they are very lucky. It is a shocking story and we should not spend time recriminating about it now if they really have been buried for good. The Home Secretary has now suspended their use for the time being, while, I understand, reserving the right to make use of them if, in his view, it becomes imperative. I am persuaded that this last proviso is a face-saving device, so that the Home Secretary may bring them back, something to preserve his amour propre, or that of his advisers. I can only hope it will mean nothing in practice, and that we will not see anything more of them again.

My Lords, what is more relevant to my theme is that the Home Secretary at the same time has indicated that he has it in mind to use the prison accommodation released from the control units for the benefit of those 600 or so prisoners who are under Rule 43, and who are segregated for their own protection. The Home Secretary has not exactly said he will do it, but he is looking into it care fully. I hope the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to say that the Home Secretary intends to use that accommodation for that purpose.

The treatment of these segregated prisoners—this is a separate question from parole—is a subject on which I opened a debate in the spring of last year, and it is not a matter which shows the Home Office to advantage. I concede that prisoners, who if they were let loose in the general prison would be attacked by their colleagues or other prisoners, are a problem, but they are not an impossible problem. There are plenty of prisoners at present who are segregated, and who are enjoying association with each other. Therefore, one cannot accept the view that, once a prisoner has to be removed from the general run of prisoners, he cannot enjoy association at all.

My Lords, may I put these factual questions to the noble Lord, of which I have given him 24 hours' notice. How many segregated units are there at present? I am not talking about individuals shut up in their own cells, which might happen for various reasons. Secondly, in how many cases is association between segregated prisoners possible? In how many cases are the segregated prisoners allowed to mix with each other? I do not know the latest figures, but when I last looked into the matter, there were about 25 in Worm wood Scrubs. The point at issue is not whether they should be allowed to mix in the general prison, but with each other. In how many cases may segregated prisoners mix with each other? If anyone says it is inconceivable that they should mix with each other, that answer would not work out, because prisoners are allowed to mix with each other in quite a number of prisons. In some cases they are not allowed to, and in others they are; hence, the drift of my question. These are questions of fact, but this point raises a value judgment. What possible excuse can there be for not making possible association in all such cases? I am not referring to prisoners segregated for reasons of punishment, or even those who are segregated because it is thought to be necessary for good order in the prison.

Since the summer of 1974, to the best of my limited power and with a total lack of success—I stress that in order to arouse the sympathy of the House—I have been pressing that permission should he granted to the segregated prisoners to enjoy association between themselves at Wormwood Scrubs, a prison I will nominate in the light of day, although I will not deal with any particular prison this afternoon. Anything I imply about a particular prisoner there would apply to all the segregated prisoners. In principle, my argument has long been accepted. I was told by the excellent governor of Wormwood Scrubs, for whom I have a high regard, that he would bring this about as soon as possible. Having raised this argument last year, here we are, at the end of 1975, and nothing at all has happened. I cannot blame the governor. I must put the blame somewhere, which is our political system, and it must lie fairly and squarely on the Home Secretary. I can only hope that by now the Home Secretary, with his many virtues, will have come to realise that this is an unworthy position, and I hope he proposes to do something about it.


My Lords, if the noble Earl, Lord Long ford, will permit me to interrupt him—although it is not the issue I want to ask him about—when he writes, presumably directly to the Home Secretary, on this particular issue and he says he has taken action over a long period without any result, does he really get a reply? I do not know all the procedures in the Upper House, but I find it very difficult to get a reply. I used to be able to get a reply when I was in another place, but if the Home Secretary does not want to reply, he just does not reply. The other day I got into great trouble when I asked a Question of the Government Front Bench about letters which had not been replied to. The noble Earl and I have a great deal in common, and I am grateful to him for what he has said, but I should like to know whether he receives replies to his letters.

The Earl of LONGFORD

Well, my Lords, in the end one gets a reply, but it may be at very long last. I should not like to say that I can demonstrate that the Home Office are slower than other Departments in replying to letters, but they are very slow indeed. At first one may get an acknowledgement—that is the first sign; then, perhaps, one may get a further letter saying that the Home Secretary is looking into the matter, and so on. Eventually, an answer comes along. I have never failed altogether to get a reply. But the noble Baroness, Lady Ward of North Tyneside, is so much more formidable than I that she ought to be able to extract a reply far more quickly. Perhaps between us we can do more than we are doing now.

My Lords, I was raising the point that there were plans for a control unit in Wormwood Scrubs. The control unit that was operated in Wakefield Prison has been abolished, and we are told—and the noble Lord will perhaps give us further information—that that accommodation will be made available for Rule 43 prisoners. I gather that is intended. But what about accommodation in Wormwood Scrubs which, although it was not in fact used for that purpose, was intended for the control unit people? This is accommodation which, on the face of it, is vacant, and which could be used for Rule 43 people. I do not want to tie down the noble Lord in too much detail, because he will have many topics to answer, but can he give the House some clear indication that far more positive steps than hitherto are being taken in the immediate future to cater for Rule 43 people? The noble Lord knows that he and I have the same aspiration, he in his exalted place and me in my humbler one. He is well aware that I am not out to make difficulties. No one would rejoice more than I if he has a start to give us.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, it is a pleasure to congratulate the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, on his maiden speech, which we all enjoyed. We congratulate him on its content, brevity and rendering, and hope we shall hear from him again. I should apologise to the House for being absent for half an hour. I wanted to hear the end of the speech of the noble Marquess, but I had to help entertain the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. It is a great pleasure to congratulate the noble Marquess because we remember his father with great respect. I remember his grandfather and his many appearances in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to which he was very devoted.

My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Earl, Lord Long ford. For one thing, I do not know much about Northern Ireland or, thank goodness! the problems there. I propose to stick to other matters of home affairs. With regard to Her Majesty's gracious Speech, enough has been said, particularly last Thursday, about the tenor of it without my doing any more than declaring that I go along with The Times in describing it as containing "clique-ish rubbish" and, further, "a preposterous set of damaging measures". I go further and, with my noble friend Lord Mansfield, protest at some of the partisan words which the Speech has put into the mouth of Her Gracious Majesty. In saying this, I agree in general terms with my noble friend Lord Molson, who last Thursday cited Clay Cross and the Shrewsbury pickets and so on, and who said that the spirit behind Parliamentary democracy seems to have changed.

All these factors give me to fear, reluctantly, that we are drifting towards a situation when civil disorder, and even more political violence than we have already, may begin to be a danger. Alas! the point has been reached—and we must face it—that no longer can we say, "It cannot happen here". The situation is not one of confrontation, but I feel most strongly that it is one of affront. I do not say that it is calculated, but it is extraordinary to me that even the most bigoted Socialist cannot take his or her head out of the sand and see the small cloud that is on the horizon.

Be that as it may, I turn to some of the contents of the gracious Speech which are not so provocative. I first refer to devolution, though only in passing. These notes were written before this debate, and I have studiously avoided saying too much about devolution because of the imminence of the White Paper and the debate which is bound to take place in this House at, I hope, not too great a distance. But it is interesting that in this Chamber today we have already had three somewhat differing views on devolution. I will leave it at that. My noble friend Lord Mansfield did not take quite the same line as the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and I do not take the same line either. I will stick to the question of the possibility of a referendum. I do not think this has been mentioned by any noble Lord.

The point I wish to make is that if the White Paper contains a reference to the referendum I should like to repeat something to which I referred obliquely at this time last year in debating the gracious Speech, which is this. When people talk of a referendum on Scottish devolution, on what electoral roll is it proposed to be based? The roll in Scotland? If so, it would be entirely misleading and wrong. There are thousands and thousands of Scots as devoted to Scotland as I am, as devoted as any to their native land, who do not appear on that roll—thousands of them. They can be in England or in Wales, in Northern Ireland, in Europe or indeed anywhere in the world. I spent much of my life in the Far East there were Scotsmen at every corner, all devoted to Scotland and all concerned. That is the point I want to make. To them the issue is of paramount importance, perhaps even more so than to the Scots who live in Scotland. In other words, I cannot see that a referendum is worth considering at all. For instance—and it is a mischievous thought—if a referendum were to be based on the electoral roll for the United Kingdom, one could not blame the English if they voted solidly for Scottish independence in order to get Scotland, as visualised by the SNP, right out of England's orbit. In that respect I disagree a little with the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, whose proposals were extremely interesting in regard to the Liberal approach to a Parliament, if such were to be created. But I propose to leave the question of devolution at that.

There are several matters in the gracious Speech which are not bitterly controversial. Take, for instance, authors' public lending rights: splendid, the sooner that is brought in the better. though it is a tricky one. There is mention of the tightening up of Post Office procedures and access to freshwater fishing, which has already been mentioned by two noble Lords. That is something that has to be gone into with care. I intend to refer only to a matter which many of your Lordships know has been a particular interest of mine for many years, and that is the broadcasting of the proceedings of Parliament. Any advance in this respect is worth it. The recent Commons experiment was, in my view, a marked success. I am sorry that the gracious Speech refers only to sound broadcasting, but even one step at a time is welcome. To avoid the possibilities of disorder, such as I begin to fear and have already mentioned, I feel that it is essential that the people and Parliament should be brought more close to each other, and broadcasting is the prime medium, because the unions have already got the Press by the throat. Legislation on the question of privilege, when we come to broadcasting, will be necessary before full broadcasting of proceedings can be complete, and that is a matter which I know lawyers think will take some time to work out. But how much more important than sound broadcasting is television. I myself feel that the decision, by one vote, in the other place to reject a television experiment in 1968 was a grievous and quite unnecessary blow to our body politic. I think I am right in saying that the late Richard Crossman referred to his failure to have a full House on that particular night as one of the greatest mistakes he ever made as Leader of the House. I think that was, as I say, a blow to the body politic from which we shall never recover, as matters would have been very different had the proceedings of Parliament been televised in the last few years. I look forward to the day when at least the other place will be televised. And it is bound to come; I cannot see how it can fail to come about.

In this hope, I put forward an idea which I have recently had. Over the years I have been in Parliament—it is 17 now—my heart has gone out to the public who wait patiently, sitting on the seats in St. Stephen's, or standing out in the street, waiting to go to the Galleries. Only a small proportion of them ever get a chance of seeing a full House, of being present at Question Time or being there for a Division. If there were ever a closed circuit system in the House of Commons—I believe there will be—with coverage of the proceedings, could there not be a discreet series of screens, in Westminster Hall or in St. Stephen's, where waiting crowds could see what was going on inside the House before they eventually managed to get a seat in the Gallery? This, so long as the relay was within the Palace of Westminster, would not require any legislation in respect of privilege. Television coverage, in any case, would be necessary when even Today in Parliament reaches the "box". Whereas the radio programme Today in Parliament and the programme Yesterday in Parliament are splendidly done, they are both at times which cover only a very small audience, and the day will come when there will be a broadcast account of proceedings of Parliament on the "box". In any case, let us hope that it may not be long before the TV services will carry a report of that nature.

We in Parliament sometimes do not appreciate the real and ever growing interest in our Parliamentary proceedings, especially of the other place, and the "box" is really the prime medium. I believe I am right in saying that over the last two or three years, promoted by the experiment of broadcasting the proceedings of the House of Commons, the general interest in what is happening in Parliament has increased.

There is one other matter I wish to mention in conclusion; that is, that after the harum-scarum—shall we call it?—end to the last Session, to hope that the "other measures" forecast at the end of the gracious Speech do not include a measure about hare coursing. But if the item does include such, there are many far more important matters which should come first. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, has not yet put down on the No Day Named List his Motion for Papers which was for many months on the list last Session, to call attention to the Green Paper for a proposed new Highway Code, which was published in 1974. I was surprised to find today that already there is a supplement to it, dated February 1975. I hope that we shall see that Motion back on the list as soon as may be, and that the Government will give time to this matter which is of paramount importance to the body politic today, particularly on the economic side.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to refer to the expression in the gracious Speech as to Her Majesty's Government's intention to abolish the agricultural tied cottage. We have heard that the reason the Government are anxious to carry this out is that the Labour Party put it in their Manifesto. What I am anxious to know, my Lords, is the reason that induced them to include this in that Manifesto. The abolition of the agricultural tied cottage, one must realise, is an emotional subject. The belief that the agricultural worker must have security of his house sounds reason able—indeed, desirable—but if the matter is investigated in depth it then becomes apparent that it is far from being as simple as that.

Who will gain if the present situation is altered? First, and most importantly, all farmers will find their work severely hampered—but, most of all, livestock farmers and in particular dairy farmers. As a dairy farmer myself, I know that it is essential for the milk producer to have his workers close at hand; in fact, that applies to all farmers who keep livestock. If for this reason dairy farmers are forced out of business, supplies of milk will drop, the consumer will suffer, and furthermore the whole nation will suffer as it will be yet another serious blow to the balance of payments. Finally, the farm worker himself will suffer, because he will find that instead of living in a tied cottage he becomes a "tied worker" It will become difficult for him to change the farm at which he works, whatever the reason, because the farm to which he wishes to go will not have a cottage in which to house him and his family.

It may well be that the Government were persuaded to include this in their Manifesto by the National Union of Agricultural Workers, but your Lordships must realise that only a very small percentage of agricultural workers belong to that union, and I am reliably informed that quite a large proportion of those who are union members agree with the bulk of the workers who do not belong to the union, that it is to their advantage that the tied agricultural cottage system should remain. It is significant that the Scottish Union has pleaded with the Government not to abolish tied cottages. The National Union of Agricultural Workers' campaign has been based on the fact that eviction orders are often granted in order to obtain farm workers' houses for their successors. It is not appreciated, how ever, that the great majority of such orders are obtained with the full under standing, and often at the request, of the farm workers themselves, so that they in turn can obtain alternative accommodation from their local housing authority. The number of evictions actually carried out each year is very small indeed.

I should also like to know why the Government have selected the agricultural tied cottage for abolition, when it is a known fact that only 10 per cent. of the tied homes in this country are agricultural. The same emotional desire for abolition must weigh with the miners, the railwaymen, the police, the nurses and many others. I repeat: why have the agricultural 10 per cent. been selected? One thing I do know—it will cause unprecedented damage to a vital and essential industry.

Some of your Lordships may have noticed the paragraph in The Timesa few days ago, which put this much better than I can. It said: Tied cottages on farms are only a small fraction of the total proportion of tied housing accommodation in the country and are among the most justified. It is of course right that provision should be made to provide housing for retired farm workers. But tied accommodation is as necessary if cows are to be milked as it is if junior hospital doctors are to be available for emergencies in the small hours. It went on to say: The only hope is that this Bill will be so discreetly drafted as to be quite ineffective; otherwise the British dairy herd will be slaughtered even faster than it has been in the past year. Various systems have been suggested to alleviate any hardship to agricultural workers; some are workable and some are not. It has been suggested that local authorities should be required to rehouse agricultural workers when their employment ceases. But do the local authorities know whether they could possibly cope with the enormous extra pressure which would be placed on their limited accommodation or resources by the additional building that would be required? It is estimated that at least 35,000 extra homes will be required, even if the 20,000 pensioners or widows who are already privately housed by farmers in this country are left undisturbed. Certain local authorities now work a scheme whereby, as agricultural workers approach retiring age, they can be put on the waiting list so that their rehousing is facilitated when the time comes. This practice would be most helpful if it were common to the whole country.

There are many other things I could say about this matter, but I shall not bother your Lordships with them at this juncture. I should prefer to wait until we hear what Her Majesty's Government propose in order to bring about abolition. But I would emphasise—again referring in particular to dairy farmers—that they must be deeply concerned about the sanitary effect of having on their holdings tenants who might be employed on another farm, in slaughterhouses, catering establishments, packaging or compounding industries and so on, from which infection might spread. In the event of another outbreak of foot and mouth disease, for example, constant incursion on to the premises by outsiders, their families and possibly pets could be devastating in effect.

Finally, I would say, my Lords, that the issues raised and the implications of the Government's proposals are so serious for the dairy industry, its employees and the general public, that further time before legislation is imperative to allow for obtaining the considered wishes of agricultural, horticultural and forestry workers, including managers, and to ascertain the degree of support for the abolition of the existing system; also, to allow local authorities, as I have mentioned before, to consider how they would be affected, and further to allow full discussion of any constructive proposals which would be more in the interests of producers, employees, the union and the nation as a whole.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I should like on another occasion to speak at length on the subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling; that is, the tied cottage. Many years ago, as the MP for Chislehurst, a considerable amount of my Parliamentary time in the constituency was taken up in the county court listening to cases of eviction, in many cases where the farm worker was not even legally represented, so much so that I persuaded lawyer friends to team up with me and in many of the cases we defended we at least won a considerable extension of time. The judge in the county court at that time got rather annoyed over my Parliamentary Questions and on one occasion when we had lunch together he said that he had to administer the law, although he added that he would like to see the law changed. There are two sides to this argument and I have no doubt that in time we shall have an opportunity to debate them in the calmer atmosphere of this Chamber as distinct from the other Chamber, which has a different type of atmosphere on such occasions.

I do not intend to tread the same path taken by any noble Lord in this debate today, altough to some extent I shall be commenting on certain points about the National Health Service raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, in his speech last Thursday. There will be a debate on 3rd December on a Motion standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. I had the impression earlier that this subject would be debated during the course of our debates on the Queen's Speech, but it is obvious that the usual channels have adopted the attitude that the noble Lord's Motion should be debated. Nevertheless, I am well within my rights, as a Member of your Lordships' House, to speak about the Health Service on the gracious Speech—a reference to which appears in the gracious Speech—although I shall do so not in the fire and brimstone terms adopted by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, who rather inferred that the Labour Government were inserting words into the Queen's mouth that she should never utter. He rather forgot the constitutional point that the Opposition, when they come to power, often put words into the Queen's mouth which give offence to a large number of people who do not share their political beliefs.

I wish to speak about the National Health Service, but, first, I declare my interest, in that for nearly 40 years I was or have been involved in either an effort to get a National Health Service or as a member of a hospital management committee, and up to the moment of speaking—there may be reason later for my saying that—I am a member of an Area Health Authority and have very deep feelings about the National Health Service. That is why I welcome, on a controversial issue, the mention in the gracious Speech of the fact that the Government intend to introduce legislation this Session to phase out private practice from the National Health Service.

Pay beds—I do not refer to amenity beds because there is a vast difference—have created an anomaly that has cut right across the basic principle of the National Health Service; that is, that medical need alone justifies priority. I do not in any way object to the private system—that is, a private system outside the Service—and, in fact, I firmly believe that in future there can be valuable co-operation, in the sharing of research and so on, between the private and public sectors. I am sure that this can be achieved by common sense and goodwill.

Let us not get the impression that privacy, which is needed in some cases, will be cut out of the Service after the abolition of pay beds. That is not true. In fact, there will be an extension of privacy facilities. There are cases where it is medically essential that there should be privacy, whether or not the patient is able to pay. However, it is completely wrong to believe that the payment of large sums of money by way of fees can assure for the patient greater medical skill. Indeed, to believe that it can is a slur on the undoubted professional skill of the British medical profession which, let us face it, has deservedly a worldwide reputation. I know that many people belong to BUPA and similar organisations and I do not object to that; if people wish to do so, there should be freedom of choice. But the great majority of people do not, although for reasons which your Lordships will readily understand I cannot give factual detail. However, it is within my recollection, as chairman of the finance committee of a former hospital management committee, that an illness, possibly terminal, can last far longer than expected, and in that event the relatives can be faced with outstanding pay-bed fees well beyond their capacity to pay. How can anyone force legal recovery of moneys under such pathetic circumstances? For many such cases it is not a question of privacy, but the desperate hope for a medical miracle. As I say, privacy will still exist and be available.

In his speech last Thursday, the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, referred to Aneurin Bevan. But let us get the facts straight. Aneurin Bevan did not negotiate a compromise, but he did make an eventual concession. However, he is on record as urging the gradual reduction of pay beds and their eventual abolition, as those who have read his book written in 1952, In Place of Fear, will be aware. In his speech the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, also referred to the bitter ness and misery today in the Health Ser vice. I agree with him, but he entirely failed to point out a prime factor behind the situation; that is, the reorganisation of the Health Service rushed through in dangerous haste by the previous Conservative Government, creating a bureaucratic monster running the Service like a chain of impersonal supermarkets. This may seem exaggerated language, but it describes the frustrated feelings of many of those involved in the Service today. Whatever the faults of the old system, at least the old management committees were close to their medical, nursing and ancillary staffs. Now control is remote and impersonal. The lines of communication have been extended to such an extent that staffs have become increasingly frustrated and irritated, and small wonder this is a fertile breeding ground for militants and so-called militants, and paper work has multiplied by the ton.

District management teams, composed entirely of officials under the district administrator, are closest to the work in the field, the day-to-day administration, but they are subject to overall control by the Area Health Authority, another team and set of officials. It is at the Area Health Authority level that the appointed lay members operate, but they have little or no contact with the district management teams. Numerically small, they cover too large an area to have personal contact with the work in the field, making their work virtually impossible. It is true that community health councils exist, but they have pathetically limited powers. Many of the people on them (good luck to them!) have had no hospital experience, although they have done valuable work in the social and other fields. But they have not had the experience of many people who have virtually had to leave the Service because of the reduction in the numbers of people selected, and many valuable people have been lost to the Service as a result.

At the far end of this extended line of communication are the regional health authorities. I do not have much idea what they are doing at the moment. I believe they are the main authorities for planning, whatever that may mean. They are in the closest contact with the Ministry and it would be of great advantage to the Service if the Ministry had closer contact with the Area Health Authorities. I have every possible sympathy with the Secretary of State, attacked as she has been, in taking on a legacy of frustrated and angry staffs due to the remote and bureaucratic nature of the reorganisation imposed on them. By its nature, the National Health Service is a personal ser vice and we must somehow or other get back to a closer and more personal contact at local level. Area Health Authorities are far too remote and I feel strongly that lay membership should be extended either completely or partially at district level so as to restore at least to some extent the close contact that existed prior to reorganisation.

The Secretary of State is facing a dilemma. Noble Lords in all parties and on the Cross-Benches admit that there arc faults in this reorganisation, but the Secretary of State cannot institute any major reorganisation because she is facing other bitter and difficult situations as well. However, the change that I am suggesting could quite easily be made without adding to present difficulties and, by personal contact, it would help to solve some of the problems and difficulties which exist today. Nothing is more useful in solving a difficult situation than a personal touch and contact. That is why I am hoping to see an extension of the kind of situation which already exists in some hospitals where we have joint consultative councils with staff, in which members of the Authority can sit with the staff and give the lie to many rumours which start because of lack of consultation.

I do not want to be controversial about the doctors' dispute. It is a difficult situation and there has been a lot of distortion, particularly in the media. Whatever the rights and wrongs on either side, the fact is that industrial action is putting patients' lives at risk There is no argument about that. I know that one leader in the North-West—a somewhat eccentric looking character, let us face it!—has publicly admitted that to be the case, but it is far more serious than that. In my area, as in many others, the accident and emergency centre is closed. It was closed immediately the doctors started unofficial action, and the result is that patients from my area—the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, knows this as well as I do—have either to go to the Brook Hospital, where they are overworked, or all the way to Guy's. Imagine what could happen in an emergency case where time is valuable for the saving of life. That may happen. I hope to God it will not, but this is the result of unofficial industrial action. It is action which is not yet officially recognised. Had it been the miners or the workers in the public utility companies, it cannot be denied that the Parliamentary Opposition and, to a great extent, the news media would have been baying with fury against them instead of indulging in personal and petty attacks on the Secretary of State. How mean and low can you get?

I hope that reason will prevail. The great majority of us, whoever we arc, have always held our doctors in the highest esteem and have credited them with the highest of ideals. I cannot help comparing the words and actions of the doctors' leader in the North-West with that of a young, Bart's-trained doctor whom I met working against overwhelming difficulties in the Royal Victoria Hospital at Bathurst in The Gambia. Nothing else mattered to that young man, who was working all hours of the day and night, except his dedication to the service of the sick. I know that that is an extreme example, but I believe that noble Lords will understand the shattering of ideals which some of us have experienced. In my idealism—I make no apology for it—I have always regarded the National Health Service as based on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Those ideals are lacking at the moment, but I hope they may very soon prevail again.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, it is almost with a feeling of guilt and with some hesitation that I rise once again to bore your Lordship with the topic of Northern Ireland. I am sure that the heart of my noble friend Lord Donaldson sank when he saw my name on the list of speakers today, but it is indicated on the Order Paper that Northern Ireland is one of the topics to be included in the debate and I should therefore like to make two points.

I believe that the main political and constitutional implications of the Northern Ireland Convention Report should per haps be kept back for the debate on that Report which I imagine will take place some time early next year. However, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will find it possible to indicate their reaction to the Report with the minimum of delay. I agree that there has not yet been significant delay, but the longer the delay the greater the risk of a political vacuum and that would be a very dangerous thing in Northern Ireland today. With a political vacuum, there will always be a grave risk that the non-elected, paramilitary members of the community will step in and try to fill it.

I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will not see fit to accent the Report as it stands but, if I may respectfully make a suggestion, I would ask that, if the Report is rejected, it should be rejected in a very careful and tactful way. I should like to think that it would be rejected simply because it is not an agreed report. Other parties in the Convention have, I believe, asked that Her Majesty's Government should set up parameters and should even set a framework for the sort of future devolved government in Northern Ireland which would be accept able. I believe that would be dangerous and the Party which I represent is also of that opinion, because anything like that would allow the UUUC to say that it was another imposed solution. For instance, if Her Majesty's Government said that they would not accept any form of Government in Northern Ireland which did not include power-sharing, there would be a risk that the SDLP, labelling the solution as imposed, would refuse even to reconvene in the Convention to discuss it because it would put them in a position of appearing to be open minded about it, or, indeed, of being prepared to accept it. So I suggest that the report should be rejected simply because it is not an agreed report.

The figures show that this is the case. In the Convention, there were 42 votes in favour of the report, but 36 members of the total of 78 did not support it and, of those 36, there were five abstentions. The interesting point is that, of the 36, 17 were Roman Catholics from the SDLP and Alliance Party and 19 were Protestants. I believe, therefore, that it can truthfully be said that, whereas there was tribal support for the Report, those who rejected it were cross-community and represented both sides of the Northern Ireland community. So what I am saying is that we need a definition of the term used in the Act, "most widespread acceptance". I suggest that that definition should lay down that the acceptance must be cross-community and not just acceptance by the majority.

Turning to another topic—that of security, which is indeed topical at the moment—I believe it is important that people in Great Britain should know that what has been happening in South Armagh, which has been much in the news, and what occasionally happens in other Border areas is not typical of what is going on in the rest of Northern Ireland. Three years ago, when trouble was running at its height in Belfast and in Londonderry, the tragic events there perhaps rather tended to overshadow what was going on in South Armagh, or in Strabane, or in West Fermanagh. Now, thank God! things are very much quieter in Belfast and in Derry. What goes on in South Armagh tends to hit the news rather more. This does not mean that the recent murders were not more tragic than words can express—they certainly were! But from reading the national Press and listening to national radio and television, noble Lords and other inhabitants of this country might well form the opinion that things are getting worse, that because of what has happened in South Armagh the situation is out of hand all over the country.

In my opinion there has been a substantial and measurable improvement in the security situation during the course of this year. All credit must go to the Royal Ulster Constabulary for the part it has played in securing a much higher rate of detection of crime, particularly of murders, than has been the case since the trouble started. But it must be said that its successes in this respect are to a large extent due to the greatly increased co-operation and information which the RUC is receiving from areas which previously did not co-operate.

If we are to continue this progress—and it really is progress—it is essential that the climate be kept favourable in order for the relationship of greater confidence between the RUC and the public to develop still further. It is very easy to say: "Go in and get them; untie the hands of the Army." But if the Army was to resume what is known as a high profile in certain predominantly Roman Catholic areas of Belfast and London derry, this information would dry up just like that! The matter of building community confidence is what is so much more important. In this respect, I say without hesitation that I am sure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is entirely right to stick to his guns in phasing out detention without trial. It is the prospect of this detention being ended in the foreseeable future that is helping this community confidence, and helping to break down resentment between the minority in Roman Catholic areas, and the Security Forces. I admire the Secretary of State for having had the courage of his convictions and having stuck to his guns in that way.

However, this does not detract from my strong conviction that the Security Forces must crack down relentlessly on any remaining pockets of IRA activity in Northern Ireland, such as in South Armagh. It is rightly being said that South Armagh is a peculiar place; it is most difficult terrain from a security point of view. It is now probably the part of the country where the population is less in sympathy han any other with the Security Forces. Therefore this information, which has been so vital and which has provided so many successes in places like the Falls Road in Belfast or the Catholic areas in Derry, is not forth coming. The men can be seen slipping across the border, going into hiding no one is going to tell the Army or the police. So the position is extremely difficult, but it does not mean that this hard nut should not be cracked.

The security committee of my Party—of which I am chairman—has over the years endeavoured to make constructive suggestions. I am sorry to say that it seems to us that few of those suggestions have been accepted. But one thing which we rejected at an early stage is what one might call, "instant solutions". It is very easy to say: "Reintroduce capital punishment; that will make it all right. Seal off the border". But that is impossible; it cannot be done. We do not think that instant solutions of that kind work. Thus we tried to make constructive suggestions which we thought would work. One suggestion which I made personally some months ago was that an area like South Armagh, should, for the sake of the morale of the law-abiding citizents there, be saturated for a period with not only Regular soldiers—there is a limited number of them—but also with part-time volunters from the Ulster Defence Regiment and the RUC reserves, backed, of course, with sophisticated Army equipment, such as helicopters, which they would need. I suggested that that area should be patrolled almost to saturation point. They could not go on doing it indefinitely, but I thought that that would raise the morale of the people and that, furthermore, it would show those part-time volunteers that their role really was worth while.

When I was in the Ulster Defence Regiment, I remember that one of the most frustrating experience was when, just before one went out on patrol in the evening, a signal came through on the radio, stating that there was trouble in such and such an area and advising one to keep away from it. That is an insult to anyone who has volunteered to join up. What the men want to hear is: "There is trouble in this area—come here quickly to help us sort it out." That is why I make that suggestion. I am not saying that it was anything to do with me, but a couple of weeks afterwards an operation was mounted and large numbers of soldiers and UDR men moved in. But I am sorry to say that in my view the operation was bungled—or at least mishandled. It was given advance publicity and the IRA men all quickly slipped across the border, so that when the forces arrived they were able to pick up 18 people for questioning, most of whom, if not all of them, to the best of my knowledge were subsequently released.

I do not know whether the noble Lord on the Front Bench can give me an answer when he is summing-up, but I should like to know whether the Government of the Republic of Ireland were warned in advance about this operation so that it could be co-ordinated; so that the Southern Army and Garda could do their best to set up road blocks and prevent the means of escape for the IRA men before the British forces moved in. If that Government were not warned, then I suggest that they should have been.

Our Army stayed there in that strength for a while, but did not seem able to make much progress. They crated some roads—an operation which was much publicised—and then, when the farmers living on both sides of the border brought in machinery and began to fill in the craters, all the soldiers could do was take up observation posts and watch them through field glasses. If anything makes the Army feel and look stupid, it is some thing like that, particularly when the operation has been mounted in so well publicised a manner. That was something that depresed and undermined many of us who have always tried to speak in support of the Army and to defend it against the many unjustifiable criticisms to which it has been subjected.

The most recent major incident—unless anything further that I have not heard about has happened today; and I pray to God that it has not—was that at the observation post in South Armagh where the young soldiers were killed. One could ask many questions about this. I think it was a lance-corporal who was wounded. The last I heard he was still alive; and I pray to God that he is still alive. I can understand that until such times as that soldier recovers to the extent that he can give a first-hand account of exactly what happened, the Army does not want to make speculative statements about the matter. But the sort of question you ask is: why was not the normal procedure for an OP adopted? An OP is always in an exposed position because it has to be close enough to the enemy for you to observe what the enemy is doing. Of course you can see yourself, but, still, you cannot be surrounded by a ring of armoured vehicles in an OP; you have to be in a hideout. But the essential thing about an OP is that you have your back-up force far enough away for them not to be seen by the enemy but near enough for them to be able to arrive in minutes; and there should be constant communications between the OP and the back-up force.

In case of the 1,000 to 1 chance and the first bullet goes through the radio in the OP, there should be another radio: and in case the second bullet should go through the second radio, the back-up base should radio continuously to the OP—every ten minutes, or something like that—and, if they get no reply immediately, go out to see what has happened. For 24 hours a day while that OP is being manned there should be personnel standing by with their flak jackets and their rifles, and with vehicles available and the drivers in possession of the keys, ready to go off at a moment's notice. That is the sort of question one would ask in trying to ascertain why there were no communications and why, if the report was correct, it took 90 minutes for the back-up force to find out that three soldiers had been killed and one seriously injured.

Yes, my Lords, we must crack down on the IRA where they still exist, but we must not aggravate the civilian population where relations with the security forces are improving substantially. In cracking down on the IRA I hope that liaison with the Southern Government, with the Garda and with the Southern Army, which I know has improved, will be yet further improved. I should like to think that, even if politically it is difficult for the British Army to have a direct radio link with the Southern Army, at least there should be liaison, by means of liaison officers, between the Southern Army and the Garda. We can ring up the Garda—there is no problem about that—but that liaison officer should be able to radio a signal immediately to a unit of the Southern Army so that they can be in position to cut off, say, a terrorist gang who are trying to escape across the Border.

In cracking down on the IRA, does it really make sense to continue to have contact with them? I am glad the Secretary of State has closed down the incident centres; they have not proved to be a success. I wish that the confidence of the people in Northern Ireland could be further restored by their being assured that no longer is there a "hot line" between the terrorist leaders and senior civil servants. Indeed, it has been said that if you are a paramilitary, either Loyalist or Republican, you have more direct access to the Northern Ireland Office than if you are an elected representative in the Northern Ireland Convention.

Finally, my Lords—and this, I know, is something about which Her Majesty's Government cannot do anything—I wish that the SDLP would take their courage in their hands and support the RUC. I know that many Roman Catholics and SDLP voters are feeling distinctly uncomfortable that this is not the case; and the more the police can get into the Roman Catholic areas and establish a proper relationship between themselves and the civilians, the more important it is that the SDLP politicians should give their official blessing to the police and say, "Yes, we support them". After all, when the internecine feud was taking place between different Republican factions, how very much more important was it that the SDLP should support the police when assassinations were taking place in areas where most of their own members live!

So I leave your Lordships with this message. Please do not lose patience. We are making progress in Northern Ire land, though one might not guess it, per haps, from reading the papers and watching television. I can see that substantial progress has been made during the course of this year, and the best way for that progress to be maintained is for your Lordships, Her Majesty's Government and the people of this country to remain patient and to control their very natural emotions when such horrors occur as that which took place last Saturday evening. If we can just have the courage and the endurance we will wear down the opponent.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot say what a pleasure it is for me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, who has just sat down. I heartily agreed with every thing that he has said. I also agreed with the paragraph in the gracious Speech which said that Her Majesty's Government are striving to find a constitutional solution to the problems of Northern Ireland. But of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has just said in so many words, before constitutional solutions can be found we must combat terrorism. While I agree with the Secretary of State's decision to end detention by Christmas, I would warn Her Majesty's Government that when that happens the Security Forces should be on extra guard, because have heard rumours—they may be quite untrue—that there are certain elements in Northern Ireland, certain terrorists, who are not particularly concerned with the affairs of Ireland but are professional agitators with other interests, who do not want detention to be ended and whose activities might therefore increase. But, my Lords, I shall not speak any more about Northern Ireland, because the noble Lord who has just sat down has put the case so admirably that that would be a waste of my time, and I do not now have the practical experience of Northern Ireland which the noble Lord has, because he lives there permanently and I do not.

May I now change countries and jump to Scotland, because I am, I suppose, by blood two-thirds Scottish? I was very pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Mansfield on the Front Bench express my sentiments on Scotland completely. May I at the same time take this opportunity to congratulate the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, on his speech? I heartily agreed with nearly everything he said. It is, of course, true that Scotland was not really a united country till it was united under the British Crown. But throughout a vast area of the world we have seen that once the British Crown has been withdrawn—we have seen it in India, in Africa and in other places of the world—you get strife, divisions and countries breaking up. If Scotland had the form of devolution that the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, was speaking about, it might lead eventually to the break up of the United Kingdom which would be disastrous. Does the noble Lord wish to interrupt?


My Lords, does the noble Viscount recall the remark that was made by Lord Salisbury in 1886, that the Irish were no more fit to govern them selves than the Hottentots? Does he think that that applies to the Scots as well?


No, my Lords. I do not think it applies to the Scots, but I think it would be a tragedy if the United Kingdom broke up. Therefore, I would not put any temptations in the way of the Scots to bring that about. I have known some people in various islands in the Hebrides who have talked about "that foreigner from Skye", and I remember one fishing ghillie who was called McDonald. The guest who was out with him drew a blank on one or two days and I asked him, "McDonald, what on earth is the trouble?" "Ach", he said, "he called me Campbell!"

My Lords, I should like for a moment to make a few remarks on the gracious Speech, and I am afraid that I shall have to pull it apart a little. I realise that we are supposed to be discussing home affairs and Northern Ireland, but Northern Ireland has been so aptly covered that I shall not discuss it any more, or Scotland. Home affairs are to a very great extent competely dependent on how Her Majesty's Government manage the finances of this country.

I was hoping that after the meeting at Chequers the gracious Speech would pro duce harmony and would be free of Party doctrine, but I find that it is divisive, doctrinaire and contradictory. Might I just point to the first page of the gracious Speech, the second paragraph—and I am now talking of its being contradictory—which states: My Government will maintain their firm support for the United Nations and the principles of its Charter". You cannot say that the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill is abiding by the Charter, when we think of the Charter of Human Rights. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, spoke about human rights under the European Convention, but human rights as expressed in the United Nations Charter is very applicable to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill which, as the Government wanted it, although your Lordships' House amended it, denies to the individual the choice to join an organisation of his liking. That appears to me to be contradictory.

My Lords, might I now go on to quote from the gracious Speech on page 4, when it is again contradictory? It says: My Government will continue to give the highest priority to the attack on inflation and unemployment". I must draw the line at the word "continue". Since when have they been continuing?—because in the last two years public expenditure has increased by over £25 billion; not million but billion.


My Lords, will the noble Viscount allow me to say that we had a day last Thursday for an economic discussion, we have a day for foreign affairs and we have today home affairs, and we have had at least 15 major subjects broached. I must ask the noble Viscount to keep off the economic situation this afternoon.


My Lords, I agree that the noble Lord finds it very embarrassing to discuss the financial inadequacies of the Government, but home affairs are bound up inextricably with the financial management of the Government. I will cut short, as far as I can, my few words regarding Her Majesty's Government's handling of the economies, but I must point out that we now have a deficit in the public sector of £12 billion to £14 billion and, though this is a meaningless sum to the average person, what it means in practical terms is that the Government are spending £250 for every man, woman and child in this country, which they have not got.

Having said that, and in order to please the noble Lord opposite, although I do not see why I should please him, I will try to come off finance, but I must say that it is inextricably bound up with Home Affairs. Here we have the Equal Opportunities Commission. This surely comes into home affairs, and has to do with the Sex Discrimination Act. I under stand that the Government are now setting up the Equal Opportunities Commission to deal with the Sex Discrimination Act. That, I understand, will cost £2,230,000 a year to start with, to staff it with 400 people. But, just like all Government Departments, it will grow and grow and will probably end up by employing 2,000 people. There you have this persistent policy of the Government to transfer people from the profitable private sector to the unprofitable public sector. If they go on doing that, they will be placing the most appalling burden on the ever weaker private sector which produces the wealth of this country. By depreciating the currency, you are really starving the country of the financial support it should have.

My Lords, might I now turn to the phasing out of private practice from the National Health Service hospitals? I understand that this will deprive the N.H.S. hospitals of about £40 million a year. Then the Government say in the gracious Speech that they will fight inflation, but that will add to inflation. I feel pretty sour about this question of phasing out private practice. My grand mother, like so many other people, left a very large fortune to a hospital—in her case, the Brompton Hospital. The Government of the day, of course, just seized all this money. I think it is immoral and iniquitous not to allow private patients to go to National Health Service hospitals, when so many private individuals gave huge sums of money for this purpose.

If you really want to cut unemployment, the only way of doing so is by stopping excessive taxation which is driving many firms into bankruptcy, thereby causing unemployment. If you stop this, you will give confidence to industry and then to the investor and you will prevent the rise in unemployment; because, in the long run, it is of no benefit to create over-employment in the State monopolised and subsidised industries, as you will only cause more inflation.

The Government's July cut down is only a pinprick, but it is quite incredible—and I know that this comes into tomorrow's debate—that they have chosen to cut defence further. Defence is already cut down to the bone, but they are now cutting into the bone. Good heavens, my Lords, if this goes on one man with a bow and arrow will be able to take over the country. If the Government really want to cut down, I suggest they should read a very good report of a committee set up by the Government, which reported in March 1973 on the abuses of social security benefits. If they acted on that report, I am sure they could cut down by many millions of pounds. It could be a far better way of saving expenditure and helping to reduce inflation than cutting down the Armed Forces. But it would be unpopular with the voters, and therefore I do not suppose we will see it done.

Turning again to the gracious Speech, may I refer to an extraordinary contradictory paragraph? The gracious Speech says: My Government…will continue to encourage the maximum economic production of food at home in the interests of producers and consumers. We heard the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, speak about tied cottages. If the Government do away with tied cottages, that will hardly encourage the production of food. I have had men coming to live in tied cottages and giving up the job within a week. They are then in the tied cottage rent free, not working on the farm. Sometimes for up to eight months.

At the same time, the gracious Speech says that a Bill will be introduced to give dockers control over cold stores and depots within five miles of the docks. There, again, the consumer will be denied. The gracious Speech says that the consumer is to be helped but, at the same time, the consumer will be affected by the dockers' slightest whim which can hold up the food supply. Not only will food production be hindered by doing away with the agricultural tied cottage, but the import of food will be held up at the docks and cold stores if the dockers so wish.

If we are to survive as a nation, we must stop being brainwashed. On the whole, I am a compassionate person, but we have been brainwashed too much about the compassionate society. There is far too much waste of public money; too many abuses of the Welfare State; law and law and order have become dirty words; profit, the accumulation of wealth and thrift have also become dirty words. I beg of the Government to try not to be so doctrinaire, not to be so divisive. I was appalled to read in the Press a few days ago of a Home Office report. It has taken 11 years todiscover—and it is almost impossible to believe—that by the time some nine out of 10 boys in London have left school they have stolen. I presume that is correct. What a terrible indictment that must be on our education system!

I commend teachers and parents to observe nature more. In nature, the predators especially have great love and affection for their families. If one of their family transgresses it gets a good blow from a paw. I think our human society, rather like animals kept in zoos and cages, has been so protected from the outside world that it cannot exist without artificial protection. I hope that this country will shake itself out of this dangerous situation. We are such a great country and we have ridden greater crises than we now find. I hope that we will knuckle down and survive the present dire straits which we are in.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, it had not been my intention to say any thing about the countries of Ireland, Scot land and Wales, but there have been certain remarks this evening which make me feel impelled to say something. I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, who made some important and interesting remarks. Speaking as a Welshman, there is some thing which I should like to say to my English friends. You cannot hold down or impose any system on a part of this country. You cannot expect that the Irish, the Scots or the Welsh will go under to something which one tries to impose upon them. The Government are wise in looking at the whole possibility of devolution. I have lived in both Wales and Scotland and know what it is to be remote from the centre of power. This is what lies behind a great deal of these matters. I agreed with a great deal of what the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, said. If I interrupted him, it was because of what I thought was an irrelevance in his speech.

Regarding the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath—if I may say this in his absence—I hope we will bear in mind that mere sophistication in armaments, mere ingenuity in trying to impose something, will not work. For many years, the Americans used the world's most sophisticated armaments in Vietnam. All they did was to lose. It is no good imagining that one can subdue any part of these islands by mere sophisticated armaments. In the end, the solution is a political one and nothing else. One may find that one has to use methods of holding back terrorism; but do not let us imagine that these methods will solve anything. They always leave bitterness behind them, and all we can hope for is that we move towards a rational, political solution.

It is not easy, and I do not envy my noble friends who are engaged in this process. But it is only by this method of constantly, slowly and patiently winning the confidence of people, and get ting a political solution, that we get anywhere. That is why I believe it is essential that we should look today to wards Scotland and Wales, and try to see that we have the right political solution ready before there is trouble; not come in too late and then find that we have to use all sorts of methods which are un pleasant, unfortunate and unproductive. Let us, for Heaven's sake!, reach the right solution quickly. Like the noble Viscount, I do not believe that either Scotland or Wales want to have separation, but I am quite sure that they want to have the right to run their own affairs—in so far as they are separate affairs. In my opinion, the whole United Kingdom would benefit if this were done, because it would relieve central Government of a great deal of this onerous work. As I mentioned earlier, I did not intend to say anything about this and it was only the fact that I listened to two interesting speeches which made me say anything at all.

I should like to refer to a passage in the gracious Speech about education. I know that we have discussed education before in certain ways, but this is a matter of vital importance to the people of the whole United Kingdom. The gracious Speech says this: Within available resources, they will give priority to children with special needs and to the vocational preparation of young people aged 16 to 19. I believe that this matter of giving particular consideration to those with special needs is absolutely vital. But there is one matter I hope the Government will look at more carefully; that is, the provision for nursery schools. This, also, is a matter of special needs and, further more, it is not something which costs a lot of money.

I happen to have been in Newcastle at the end of last week, and I learnt from the Director of Education there that in 1974–75 the City of Newcastle received £111,000 in the way of capital grants for nursery schools. In the following year—that is to say, the year we are now starting upon—they have been given £172,000. This is very welcome, but it has sprung from the fact, which is perhaps a little depressing, that other parts of the country have not taken up their grants adequately, so they have an extra amount because of that. I find this rather sad, although I am glad that Newcastle have got the money, and it is unfortunate that other parts of the country have not taken it up.

Newcastle have been told that for the following year the amount they will get is £36,000, which is a very substantial drop. Admittedly, this is new capital expenditure; but let us notice that the number of full-time places—not the total number of places, because one could probably add about 50 per cent. to the number of full-time places, since so many nursery pupils are part-time—in 1974–75 was 1,100, and this is now increased to 1,385. Add approximately 50 per cent., and you will get the total number of children involved. This is not a very large number for that area. When it is recognised that the children who go to these nursery schools are, very largely, the children of women who go out to work, it means that one is really depriving them of care, maintenance and education at a very important and impression able age—something which is quite essential. Surely we ought to regard this as a very important priority in our whole educational scheme. That is my first point.

My second point concerns the reference to the 16 to 19 age bracket. Here we are dealing with people of considerable importance. It is no use saying that after you have educated them up to the age of 16 you can throw them out. First, at the present time there are not the jobs to go to. Secondly, if they do not get continuing education between 16 and 19, they get fixed in the job they first go to. They get trained in a very narrow way for just that one thing. Then when they reach their twenties they find they have lost the opportunity to do something better; they have not had the training or the general education between the ages of 16 and 19 to enable them to go further.

Therefore, this training between 16 and 19 is absolutely essential if we are to have what I call Socialism, because to me Socialism means creating for every single person in the community the same opportunity—not exactly the same training—to advance. That is why I have been a Socialist for more than 50 years, because I know from what I have seen that, unless one gives the young an opportunity, one restricts what happens to them later. Afterwards, one turns around and says, "They are only fit to be unskilled labourers". The purpose of a community, it seems to me, is to provide an opportunity for every single member of that community to realise what lie is capable of doing. Therefore, this emphasis in the gracious Speech on the 16 to 19 age bracket is absolutely vital, and I congratulate the Government on it. I shall look with great care at their proposals, and I hope they will be sufficiently wide and all-embracing to ensure that all get what they need and deserve, and what the country needs.

We may say that there is unemployment at the present time. Are we assuming that there will always be a vast pool of unemployment? Or are we assuming that, as we have been in the past, we are still a lively, virile country doing new things? How do you do new things?—only if you have the young trained to do them. It is not the old "dodderers" like our selves who are important; we are of no significance. It is the young who matter—the young and the young alone—and unless we put our money on the young there is no future at all for this country.

If I may run briefly through the educational spectrum, perhaps I might go on now to the next stage, which is secondary education. During the past year, we have had two debates on secondary education. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I say that I have rarely listened to such a lot of irrelevant material as we heard during those two debates. It was assumed by many who took part that what we are concerned with is training a minute number of brilliant mathematicians. A noble Lord, a friend of mine, made this very remark quoting, if you please, Russia! It is not often that your Lordships quote Russia as the pattern to copy. But here, because the Russians happen to have special schools for mathematicians, we were told that grammar schools in this country have to be given State support. It is not that they are not to be allowed to continue; they are to be allowed to continue, but they are to be given special State grants, in order to produce what—half a dozen brilliant mathematicians! Really, my Lords, can nonsense go further than that?

I inquired at Newcastle, again from the Director of Education, about the position with regard to schools in Newcastle—and these are figures I was given yester day. In the State schools, the comprehensive schools, in Newcastle there are 25,000 pupils; in the direct-grant grammar schools, leaving aside the Roman Catholic ones, which have all opted to go into the State comprehensive system, there were 350 pupils being maintained by the local authority. We are asked to believe that the future of education depends upon dealing with 350 pupils who have been carefully selected, creamed off by some magical method, and to neglect the 25,000. My Lords, really: Have we lost all leave of our senses? Are we talking about the world as it exists or about some marvellous imaginary thing?

If I may refer to what the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, has been saying, there was reference to political prejudice and doing things because we have dogmatic beliefs. My Lords, there is your dogmatic belief; that is, the dogmatic belief that to pick out 350 by some marvellous process of selection is more important than to deal with 25,000. Where are we? Of course we have beliefs. I have very clear and fervent beliefs. Am I to be told that, having those beliefs and being confident from all my past experience that those beliefs are valid and would be good for this country, I am to throw them aside be cause I am dogmatic? I wonder where we come in some of these discussions.

I come to another point where I may be critical of the Government. I refer to higher education. I know that higher education is the most expensive part of education; I know it perfectly well. But if we do not have well-sustained higher education where are we going to get those people who will provide the important ideas which will sustain us in the future? Where will they come from? We in this country have been abundantly justified in our expansion of higher education. It has been splendid. I give credit for this to Conservative Governments as well as to Labour Governments. I have no doubt at all that, if we had not been putting money into higher education over the last 20 years we should be far worse off than we are today.

May I move quickly to my final point, because I do not want to detain your Lordships long. It is research. Research is the whole basis of our future development. It is the seed from which every thing else springs. I have been in charge of research laboratories and I know quite well that there may be extravagance; I know quite well that a lot of what is done is not successful. But if we look around us today we see that there is not an important industry which has not come forward through research. Which are the industries which have failed us? Not the ones which have been doing research, but those which have not been doing re search. Our motor car industry has been deplorably backward in research and it is a positive disaster. To take engineering, look for example at our machine tool industry. For the last 20 years I have been urging parts of our machine tool industry to do better. They would not look at anything new at all. They are as dead as the dodo.


My Lords, may I interrupt. I once had a factory. With great respect I think the noble Lord is talking nonsense. Often if one introduces new machinery the shop steward comes along and says, "Hell! We are not going to work this. We are not going to do it because it will mean having less labour." With due respect, I do not think the noble Lord is speaking from practical experience, although I admire his great academic qualities.


My Lords, as I am a friend of the noble Viscount I never accuse him of speaking nonsense. But in this whole field we must remember that the future depends upon what we are doing today. I urge the Government to look at this whole problem of research and make certain—I do not say to encourage every single piece of research —that the real seed corn is not destroyed.

6.36 p.m.


My Lords, before turning to the gracious Speech in more general terms I wonder whether I might make just a couple of points on the question of terrorism and security in this country. I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said this afternoon, in particular about what he said about expressing our admiration and gratitude to the police in their very difficult task. In watching, I think, the ITV "News at Ten" as recently as last Wednesday, I was rather concerned when there was an interview with a leading restaurant owner whose restaurant had been bombed about a week or 10 days earlier. The gist of what he said was that he had received no guidance at all from the authorities and was very much on his own. He was busy erecting laminated glass windows. Since then I know there has been a meeting of restaurant managers in London and so no doubt they will have received police guidance.

What concerns me and may well concern other noble Lords is that it may well be that terrorist tactics will change. Perhaps, instead of aiming at the smarter restaurants, they may turn their attention to the more common or garden pubs, museums, cinemas, and so on. I should like to ask two questions. First, are the police going round to all these establishments—I know it is a vast job—and making sure that there is somebody on the staff who so far as is possible is able to keep on the alert? I can see the difficulty if one considers a crowded Fleet Street pub, but I should have thought something could be done and it would be far better for a customer to lose his last drink rather than to lose a leg or an arm.


My Lords, may I deal with that point in view of its importance? The noble Lord has pointed out one difficulty which is that, although the target at the moment is restaurants in the West End of London, it could become almost anything. It is therefore difficult to know precisely what type of advice to give and exactly to whom. But I have made it clear in the past, as has my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, that the police are willing and able to give advice to anyone who feels he may be subject to this form of attack, and every local police station has a crime prevention officer who is always available and will come and discuss the matter with any one who has any anxieties on this score.


My Lords, I welcome very much what the noble Lord has said. The only other matter on this topic that I was going to mention was whether or not the Home Office view was that it would be a good idea to have posters on the entrances of various public establishments giving guidance to members of the public on what they should or should not do in the event of an attack. Turning in more general terms to the gracious Speech, I regret to say that, as I see it, we are in for another batch of somewhat partisan measures. Moreover, this Government hardly won a landslide victory at the last Election. Therefore, it can hardly be said to have a mandate in any real sense of the word. Indeed, very far from it; they have a majority of one in a House of 635 Members.

I know it was Churchill who said that a majority of one is enough, and certainly, a majority of one is enough. In fact, the present Government have so far gained much bigger majorities than that, owing to the fragmented state of the smaller Opposition parties: but it should be borne in mind that this is a Government which had the support of only 29 per cent. of the entire electorate at the last Election and of only 39 per cent. of those who actually cast their votes. Moreover, in England which consists of 83 per cent. of the United Kingdom electorate—and, incidentally, has only 81 per cent. of the seats at Westminster—the present Government are in a minority of seven or eight seats. I mention that point because it is one which ought to be borne in mind.

I should like to draw attention to the fast erosion of individual liberties and the increasing State interference that is taking place under this Government. During the past Session a vast paraphernalia of State apparatus has been clamped upon us, severly threatening the already hard-pressed free enterprise sector. It is a sobering thought that in the past year the additional public bodies that have been established include the British National Oil Corporation, the National Enterprise Board, the Scottish Development Agency, the Welsh Development Agency, the Land Authority for Wales, the National Consumer Council, and others. There has been a big expansion of Ministerial powers through the Petroleum and Submarine Pipelines Act. All of these bodies are being set up at a time when curbs on public spending are the overriding need. The mind simply boggles at the cost and at the vast amount of bureaucracy which will be required to run all these public bodies.

Then—I apologise for still harking back to the last Session—there is the Land Community Bill which I hardly dare to mention in this House after the many hours that your Lordships have spent upon it. However, as noble Lords opposite know, many of us on this side of the House still regard it as an iniquitous measure with wholly insufficient safe guards for owner-occupiers and with quite inadequate safeguards as to rights of appeal. This measure will also mean another vast army of bureaucrats. In the Session which we now have before us there is a further mass of divisive measures, partly, I suppose, to placate the Government's trade union masters. There is the nationalisation of shipbuilding and aircraft, thereby smothering two more industries under the blanket of nationalisation. There is the wholly unwarranted interference with agriculture through the intention to abolish tied cottages.

There is what The Times says should be called, "Mr. Foot's Trade Union Wrongful Exclusion and Expulsion Enabling Bill", removing personal safe guards of appeal if persons are deprived of jobs by their trade union membership being withdrawn. It seems to me to be such a pity that the Government still have to proceed with this measure just when there is a glimmer of hope as a result of the postal ballot in the engineering union which, if it has done nothing else, at least appears effectively to have slain what some of us consider to be one of the more terrible of the trade union dinosaurs, Mr. Hugh Scanlon.

More than anything in the gracious Speech, I regret what seems to me, to be the vicious vendetta against pay beds, private medicine and parental choice in education. In particular, I deplore the measures to curb the growth of the private sector in medicine. This has deplorable implications. I know that, at the moment, it is not Government policy to forbid people spending their own money on either private education or private medicine, but certainly there are those who wish to see an end to the private sector in these fields. What I cannot see is where this kind of thing ends, where the dividing line eventually is to be drawn. It is only a minority—albeit by no means an insignificant minority nowadays—who wish to spend their money on such things as private medicine and private education, but in all logic I cannot see why one should not be able to spend one's money on those kinds of things any more than, say, on a particular kind of motor car. If some of us are able to spend£3,000 or £4,000 on a particular kind of car, why should that be right if everybody is unable to do so?

Alternatively, let us take holidays in Spain. Why should some people have holidays in Spain if not everybody can have holidays in Spain? Indeed, we have Mr. Jack Jones telling us in no uncertain terms that we should not have holidays in Spain because he does not like the regime there. There seems to me to be so much interference in our daily lives at the present time that it is leading to larger than ever numbers of people emigrating. Many of those who do so are professional people—doctors, businessmen, and so on—who in various ways feel that they are victimised or that they just are out of tune with the way of things as they are going in this country at the present time, for example, the self-employed who have to put up with swingeing increases in National Insurance contributions, businesses that are hit by capital transfer tax, not to mention penal taxation of a more general nature.

As Sir Geoffrey Howe—surely one of the most mild mannered of men—mentioned over the weekend, may not the time come when emigration reaches such proportions that the Government will be forced to restrict and control it. In today's climate, this does not seem to me to be so very far-fetched. Half a century ago a leading statesman—and it was not a statesman who was very favourably inclined towards the Conservatives—warned in a speech: If you establish a Socialist community, it means the most comprehensive, universal and pervasive tyranny that this country has ever seen. It is like sand of the desert. It gets into your food, your clothes, your machinery, the very air you breathe. They are all gritty with regulations, orders, decrees, rules. That is what socialism means". The speaker was David Lloyd George and it seems to me that his words have the harsh ring of truth about them. At a time when acquisitive Socialism is so very much on the rampage it behoves those of us who value the free enterprise system—for all I know they may well include quite a number on the Benches opposite as well as on these Benches—to unite, close the ranks and cry, "Enough!"

6.49 p.m.

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, may I join in congratulating the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, on his maiden speech. I was quite stirred by the perceptiveness of his remark that the danger of devolution might be more the disintegration of Scotland rather than the disintegration of the United Kingdom. I, a dedicated supporter in home and international affairs of self-determination, take note of that warning. I have a similar rather secret fear which he has brought to the surface. If devolution goes too far and Scotland secedes from England, undoubtedly England will insist on seceding from Northern Ireland. If that should come about one might expect, following upon that, that Dublin would be applying to Westminster for a restoration of the union which was broken in 1922, in order that this intractable problem too might be solved. So the noble Lord has given rise to food for thought.

In turning to the gracious Speech, I want to stand back a little, and I notice that the Prime Minister, in about 15 months—so far as I can ascertain from the people who offer me records—will have been Prime Minister for as long as Winston Churchill and, a few days later, for as long as Asquith and a few days after that he will have been Prime Minister of this country for longer than any other person this century. I am sure he is aware of this; I am sure also that he would like to go down in history as a great Prime Minister and not as a failure, as winner not loser of the battles in which he is now engaged.

Of these battles, one which is mentioned by everybody is the battle against inflation, inflation on such a scale that we are in danger of a lasting decline. Nobody questions that. The second one is the permeation of his Party and the trade unions by Marxist philosophies, if only because international Marxism has designated its supporters to operate wholly within the Labour Party. I am sure that he recognises that, and there are people on the Government Benches in this House who acknowledge it and who perceive that a turn in favour of the less extreme in views is taking place.

The third is the campaign against law-lessness. I have heard in this House a debate in which the only speaker in favour of the application of law in industrial relations—the only person on the present Government's side to speak in favour—was the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown. But I am certain that the others are law abiding, I am certain that even those who spoke most vigorously against the application of the law in these relationships at the present time are regretful because it is not practicable, and they would much prefer that it be so.

So the Prime Minister has a battle on his hands on three fronts, and I find it a most intriguing spectacle to watch what happens. I do not wish to comment on the details of his tactics. It would he impertinent for me to do so, and if I happened to be right it might be embarrassing but I note that the basis of his attempt is consent, because when you offend too many million people, and even if you put them in the wrong with the law, you cannot put them into prison. You cannot apply a sanction of that sort, and therefore persuasion has to be under taken. Rightly or wrongly, he took the step of what was called a "Social Contract", and in his speech to which I have previously referred, his speech to the National Union of Mineworkers on 7th July, the Prime Minister chided them bitterly, and others in the trade unions, for having failed to live up to their side of the contract while the Government had done all and more in the most difficult circumstances to fulfil their side of the pledge.

There is much that is unpleasant. For instance, I am very much on the side of The Times in its article on the gracious Speech, but I greatly disliked its method. I like pretending that the gracious Speech came from Her Majesty and not from Mr. Harold Wilson. Instead of saying, "dreadful Queen's Speech," I would say, "The most gracious Speech"; and in stead of saying, "Seven bad Bills" I would prefer to say, "Seven humble Amendments to the gracious Speech". I do not think anything is gained by being insulting. I like the pretence, and I think it is a safeguard against discourtesies that we refer to the "most gracious Speech", and we think of the Queen and not of the legislators on the opposite side, whom we do not like.

In that speech to the National Union of Mineworkers, I detect a turning point in our history. The Prime Minister said things to the National Union of Mine workers that go right to the most militant heart of the Labour Movement. He said things which nobody else could have said and got away with them. After all, we have to bear in mind that Mr. Heath was driven from the battlefield by the miners and the electorate, and that the Prime Minister and the Labour Government came in in the face of the cock-a-hoop miners and many other people and facing a very difficult task. That he should at once scrap the whole of his part of the Social Contract is in my view impossible. Some people are asking for too much. In battle there have to be sacrifices; in battle there are great losses and he who comes out is the one, not who avoids battle and avoids losses, but who makes the fewer mistakes.

I had intended to spend more time than I have left on juvenile crime. I noticed in the London Evening News, which claims to have the largest evening sale, the headline, "London hit by child crimes". I was born in London; I joined a regiment which consisted of nine-tenths Londoners, and I did a stint running the junior section of a working boys' club in Bermondsey, among the sons of dockworkers. I wanted to know more about this. I have dedicated a large part of my life to the service of Londoners—all of them young, some very young. It was said in the newspaper that an alarming epidemic of theft by schoolboys was sweeping the city and that nine out of ten boys have stolen 100 times by the time they are 16. This report is the result of a study over six years by some body appointed by the Home Office.

The Home Office paid the expenses for that study of £110,000, and the volume in question costs £15, which is why I have been unable to read it personally and had to go to somebody else in order to discover what this was all about. For that purpose I have been to my friends in Scotland Yard. My link with Scotland Yard is an accidental one. I have never asked them for any particular help, but I am by accident an honorary member of the Fraud Squad. I obtained an introduction to the juvenile department and spent some hours talking over the problem with them. "Are these statements true?" is what I first asked, and they said "Yes, they are more or less true". Is the crime scale new?" They said: "No, it is not; it has been going on now for a considerable time. Even the man making the report has taken six years to do so and he is not up-to-date. He talks about juvenile delinquents of seven years old, but even down to four-year-olds commit quite serious crimes." I asked whether all the crimes were serious, and he said, "It includes everything."

I understand that the evidence was taken in a slightly questionable way. The boys were given £1, a good meal and an evening out. If boys are treated like that, asked a question and given an immunity as to what they may choose to confess, they will confess in a rather exaggerated form; they will say almost anything you like. The report itself has not so much by way of value, but it has enabled me to discover that this is the truth. Scotland Yard expect that the situation will get very much worse.

Their reason for saying this is that we in this country have only a fraction of the crime committed in many of the cities of the United States—and in Tokyo it is many times worse. We are not alone. Knowing that I was going to speak, the people I have been in contact with said to me: "Try to persuade your fellow Peers to let us send a small representative party to the United States, because they are 10 to 15 years ahead of us in this. Some of their developments are very bad, and we should like to know whether there are lessons to learn so that we can avoid this." I asked how bad were the developments. "Well", they said, "recently a gang of 14-year-olds murdered six people at intervals and at random. They had nothing against them; they did not know them. They did not want to enrich themselves; they did not rob their victims, but merely killed them to see what the authorities would do about it." I love Londoners, and we do not want them to come to that.

My Lords, I am aware, only too keenly, that person after person has dealt with this matter: the noble Earl, Lord Long ford, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner—this House is stiff with people who have studied this matter. I am not unfamiliar with the situation. I have "crammed" the vast amount of legislation on this subject. I have looked hard at the summary and report of the 1969 Act, which is the last Act, and I have looked hard at a summary of its legislation. What is wrong? So far as I can understand, legislation for the most part is not wanting. But in every case where there is delinquency, there is not onlydeprivation—it is not only a question of the deprived; there are the depraved as well.

There are some who must be taken out of circulation, otherwise they may become popular leaders of gangs and they may corrupt people who otherwise would not be corrupted. I understand that the carrying-out of the terms of the 1969 Act has turned out to be too difficult and too expensive. No one wants to apply the care, even if it is ordered by the court. They do not; they will not; they cannot—it is too expensive and the accommodation is not there. Cannot the State intervene where the local authority is unable? This is an important matter, because the worst people are at large because nobody will contain them.

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not in the Chamber at the moment, but the other day he quoted a little story about St. Anthony and Satan. The noble and learned Lord told us how the saint had been offered a pea on a plate by Satan. I have another story of St. Anthony and Satan. Satan visited St. Anthony one night when the saint was staying up, having fasted and stayed awake. Satan said: "Anthony, you do a lot of things that I can do a lot better. You do not eat very much; I do not eat at all. You do not sleep very much; I never sleep. But there is one thing that you do very well that I cannot do at all. I cannot obey." And that is the answer. Some people have to be disciplined, they have to be made to obey.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, in addressing your Lordships for a short time, I wish to talk on the housing problem. I consider it to be one of the important social problems that we have today in this country. The gracious Speech said: My Ministers will pursue vigorously their programmes of social reform by legislative and other means, within available resources. They will take energetic action to encourage the provision of more houses in both public and private sectors; and following from a comprehensive review they will bring forward recommendations for future housing finance policy. I wish to say a little about the financial side. But before I do that, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a speech the other day that one of our problems today in the social sphere was the problem of inadequate and bad housing. Two or three years ago we thought we had broken the back of the housing problem because we had built and improved a vast number of houses. But the fact that people are getting married earlier and living longer means that this problem is much in our minds today.

In many parts of the country, we have large housing waiting lists. Last yew was not a good year at all. In Great Britain, in both the private and public sectors, we completed about 270,000 houses; 130,000 in the public sector and 140,000 in the private sector. It seems as if this year the figures will be a little better. The projection for this year—it is only a projection because we are not yet through the year—is that 150,000 houses will be built in the public sector and 150,000 in the private sector, giving a figure of 300,000 houses against 270,000 last year, provided these projections are right. I put that forward in order to show that a little progress has been made.

My Lords, what worries me is that every council house built today has a subsidy of £1,000. That subsidy on a house costing about £10,000 goes on for something like 40 years, until the loans are paid off. In my part of the world, in East Anglia, the average rents are somewhere around £4 to £4.50 a week, and the average income of the workers is about £35 a week. East Anglia is not a highly rated area with regard to wages. I was always brought up to believe that the right amount to pay for rent was about one-fifth of your income, but the figure I have quoted is about one-ninth. I believe the rent is going up by about 50p.


My Lords, if I may just clear up that point, the figures that the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, is giving relate to the gross income received by the worker today as opposed to before the War. But since the deductions are very much higher—both tax and National Insurance—it is appropriate to look at the proportion of the worker's net disposable income represented by his housing cost and not by his gross income.


Yes, my Lords; but does the noble Lord think that one-ninth is the correct amount? If he is only paying £4.50, it is only one-ninth, and I consider that is not enough. We all want to encourage people to own their own houses, but unless a man earns about £50 to £60 a week he cannot get a mortgage; he must be left with a large proportion of his income before a building society will look at him. It costs him anything from £20 to £25 a week to get a mortgage. That excludes a very large number of people who would like to own their own homes, but under present circumstances cannot because they are not earning enough. We all want to get down inflation and therefore it means keeping wages steady, but this is what we are faced with today, a mounting number of people going on to housing lists.

I can assure noble Lords that, even in my part of the world, in East Anglia, the housing lists are getting very severe indeed for council housing, and now with the restriction on expenditure by local authorities and the reduction of their grants, they will not be able to afford in the future to build the number of houses that they should build. I was very pleased that in the gracious Speech Her Majesty's Government have said that they are going to set up, or have set us, a high level committee to look into the whole of this housing finance, which I think is in a chaotic condition, and I am not the only one who thinks that. We have somehow to find an answer to it.

With regard to the rent restriction that is going on, the other day at the local government conference at Eastbourne Mr. Crosland, Secretary of State for the Environment, said that he would have a review made of the Rent Acts. I am very glad he is going to do that.

I should like to read to your Lordships a very short paragraph in the Cambridge Evening News of November 11th 1975: American airmen at the Mildenhall and Lakenheath bases are having to live in hotels because the two bases have run into a critical housing shortage problem". Then it goes on with details of the problem: Mr. Novak blames the Rent Act which is affecting the bases' house hunters in common with British tenants. 'There are plenty of homes vacant and for sale in the local areas', he said yesterday. 'But owners arc not pre pared to take a chance on putting tenants in and risk not being able to move them out when they find a buyer.' That is perfectly correct; there are a large number of empty houses, because of the Rent Acts; the owners can never get them back again. It is not only affecting our people but our American allies who are doing a grand job of work in Western Defence and NATO at Mildenhall and Lakenheath. I am very glad the Minister is at last going to look into this Rent Act problem to see if any thing can be done. It is, in my humble opinion, a very vital thing to get good housing. I remember the late Lord I Salisbury telling us in an earlier debate, when we were struggling with this problem after the War, that good housing was essential to bring up a good Christian family. I do hope Her Majesty's Government will pursue vigorously these great problems and try to solve some of them; otherwise I do not feel we shall get the houses we so urgently need.

7.15 p.m.


My Lords, at the end of the day in our Home Affairs debate on the gracious Speech, first I should like to apologise to the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, for not being present during his maiden speech. He is an old friend of mine, but I did not recognise his title. However, on this account I will read his speech with particular interest.

I welcome two of the Government's proposed measures, the one on public lending rights for authors and the other, and major one, on education. I shall speak only on the proposals for education, for it seems to me that if this Government in these difficult days succeed in abolishing selection in secondary education, this will transform not only the educational climate but the social and economic climate in this country. Most people now agree that 11 is too early an age at which to judge the potential of a child, but they still persist in separating children into first- and second-class schools, so stamping them as first and second-class citizens. However, of late the psychological and social arguments about sowing the seeds of inferiority in so many of our children, due to selection, are now reinforced by the disclosure of the many mistakes created by the examination itself. It has been shown that a quarter of grammar school places awarded each year are given in error. No system of selection is foolproof, and now it looks as if the more selection we have the more mistakes we make.

The leader writer in The Times Educational Supplement, commenting on the Queen's Speech, said that he was not in favour of prolonging the 11-plus examination, but would have no truck with legislation now or in the future. How very obtuse since, ironically, on the same page there appeared a long paragraph on the increasing number of errors in the 0-level examination. Yesterday, that lively politician, Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas, the Conservative spokes man on education, spelled out the all too familiar arguments for maintaining selection in secondary education. He made great play about the wickedness of politics in education. To me he appeared to be saying, "No politics, please; I am British".

One of the less worthy arguments used in the education debate is that the abolition of selective secondary education will destroy schools of proven worth. I wonder whether we realise that there is more than one side to the excellence of those schools. Why, for instance, have we not managed to produce the number of scientists and technologists we require and which are badly needed in the 'eighties? The loud Conservative cry is that the abolition of selection will destroy secondary education as we know it. Indeed, it may. My hope is that it will transform completely our education system. So let us not keep politics out of education.

We in the Labour Party do not go along with the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, in the thought that we have a right to be unequal in education. We stand firmly on the need to stretch and to multiply the opportunities for all our children, and particularly for the late developers and the less able. How else can these children obtain the choice of jobs to which they are entitled when they grow up? Our education system in the last one hundred years has failed in that it has been a caste system. It is not so long ago since careers in industry, commerce and engineering were looked down on socially. The Butler Education Act of 1944 was a great Act of Parliament and, as Mr. Fred Mulley, the Secretary of State for Education, rightly pointed out in the Commons, it would have been a still greater Act if it had done away with selection. Mr. Mulley trumped the criticism of the Conservatives by showing that his intention was to build upon its detailed proposals.

We can only work towards a fair and high standard system of secondary education within the framework of a comprehensive system. Our schools must more and more represent all the mixed abilities of our children, roughly all our children in the country, and this means more and better comprehensive schools. Educational research today should concentrate on the best techniques to bring to their greatest strength the ability and the talents of the less able as well as the able. We need to allocate more of our resources to the comprehensive schools. This is the relevant and urgent task for today, to give the less able and the poorer children a better choice in their working lives. Good industrial relations can only be achieved in this way.

We have lagged behind the Germans and the Americans socially and economically because of our class structure. Our education system up to date has been compared to a narrow ladder, and some people get to the top; whereas the American system, a non-selective system, has been described as an education escalator. That is the difference between those countries which are successful today and those countries which are suffering from malaise. If we do not change now we shall go limping into the 21st century. I believe that the step which this Government are now taking is relevant, urgent, and courageous in these difficult days. Finally, perhaps my noble friend Lord Donaldson, who is to reply for the Government, will enlighten us on the final words about education: and to deal with certain other matters.

7.23 p.m.


My Lords, the age-old problem of the gracious Speech has always been that the Minister of whichever Party who has to reply last has to answer a whole plethora of questions on subjects well outside the ambit of his or her Department. I would mention only one or two aspects of Northern Ireland, which is the subject very close to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. I watched on television, as many probably did, last Sunday's "Songs of Praise" from that lovely cathedral in Londonderry, St. Colombes. As I listened to the beautiful singing not only of the choir but of two of the leading schools of the city, I thought, "If this kind of quality singing and this kind of gathering can get together under this lovely roof, why do we have the terrible and tragic problems which have besotted this lovely country for 300 years?". That is a question to which many people would like the answer. Many dedicated people from all sides are trying to find the answer. But one thing I believe to be quite certain, having had many Irish friends over the years, in both Eire and Northern Ireland, is that the vast majority of them want to see both countries living in peace.

Having said that, I should like to turn to one or two subjects outlined in the home affairs section—and I stress, home affairs section—of the gracious Speech. First, I should like to follow to some extent my noble friend Lord Ferrier in his comments regarding the broadcasting of Parliament. I believe that the time has come for a comprehensive sound broadcasting system of our Parliamentary proceedings, not only in another place but in this House—and I stress, broadcasting. I have far greater reservations about television, but at this hour I do not propose on such a subject as the gracious Speech to get embroiled in any controversy there. I think that the spoken word is of vital importance.

Of course, one of the problems of that admirable programme "Today in Parliament" is, as I understand it, that it is not possible in the time available to give a really accurate and comprehensive assessment of what has been said, particularly by whichever Minister or Shadow Minister has wound up. Also, as my noble friend said, it is late at night, 10.45 in the evening or even later.


It is 11.15.


As my noble friend rightly said, 11.15. There are not very many people, except insomniacs—as we sometimes are, with the worries which we carry on our shoulders these days—who are in a fit state of alertness to take in what is said. Therefore, we are faced with the technical problem of putting it either on Radio 3, thus depriving the music lovers, like myself, or on another channel. Of course, this has financial implications. But no doubt these are matters which those who have drafted the Bill, and have presumably consulted about it, will have borne seriously in mind. Be that as it may, I think that the time has come for much fuller broadcasting of our proceedings, because we are now discussing matters of great importance, nationally and internationally.

I cannot help feeling that there is too much backbiting, too much political bickering, on the television screen, which may be good fun and good entertainment, as per last Sunday's television programme, "We the British," which had a fascinating portrayal of the Party at present in power. However, what any body learned from it, despite its superficial entertainment value, is rather dubious in serious times such as these.

I come to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, about education. I was not able to take part in the debate on direct grant schools due to other commitments and I do not want to raise the temperature of the House at this hour. I have the greatest possible respect for the noble Baroness and agree with her in many of the views she expresses, although not entirely with the views she expressed tonight. I listened, as many did in the course of the recent debate, to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, in a speech which, although I did not agree with chapter and verse, should be circulated to all educationists because it had an enormous amount of sound sense in it. I was educated at a small but well-known public school in Devonshire and my son is there now. My younger daughter is at a grammar school in Epsom and my elder daughter is at a teacher training college in the Midlands, and as part of her training she has been doing some teaching in what I understand is a very good comprehensive school just outside the City of Nottingham. She enjoys teaching at the school, which has just over 1,000 children. However, when I talked to her the other day she told me that she had yet to meet the headmaster.

This is the main problem we face at present with all-in schools. It is a communications problem, and I put this question to the Government: when, as I understand it, in September 1976 reorganisation really gets started, what optimum size have the Government in mind for comprehensive schools as a whole? Obviously it must vary from area to area, but I submit with the greatest possible respect that any size over 1,750–1 quote that figure would be too high. That is my view, which I know will not be shared by all— there are those who have studied this matter far more carefully—but obviously there must be some optimum in the mind of the Government, particularly in regions where there is a heavy population and in regions where there are perhaps more backward children than in others, because I take the view that those children who are not particularly gifted must have their opportunities. I have always felt that, and I speak as one who did not go to university because of war service and one thing and another. At the same time, the bright child must not be overlooked because he or she might be in a comprehensive school which is too large or in any type of school which is too large.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a simple question about the size of schools. Can this be decided other than by trial and error? Does that not mean that we must have a comprehensive system working with a variety of school sizes before we can find out what is the right size? Does he agree that there is no theoretical method of deciding it?


My Lords, I wondered whether the noble Lord, who has great experience of these matters, might put a very erudite question. The only answer I can give is that comprehensive schools are not new; I think the late Lady Horsbrugh opened the first comprehensive in Birmingham. I should have thought, therefore, that before bringing in specific legislation this matter would have been thoroughly examined. This is not something which can be experimented with. This is far too serious a matter for experimentation, but obviously at this hour of the evening this is not a point which can be pursued. Nevertheless, I ask the Government to give some thought to it, and I am trying to make these points in as non-political a mariner as I can.

I must comment briefly on the National Health Service, a subject in which I and my family have had an interest for many years. I shall say very little, because I am hoping to speak in the debate which my noble friend Lord Aberdare will initiate next week. The right honour able Member for Blackburn has recently taken some knocks and, reading the speech which she made last Friday in the House of Commons, I am bound to say, being as charitable as I can, that she earned some of them. She and others made a great fuss when my right honourable friend Mr. Heath stood out against the coal miners. Now she is complaining because some of the junior doctors, some of whom work 90 to 100-plus hours a week, are having their say. Having said that, I would, as one who has many friends and acquaintances in the medical profession, say that enough is enough. I believe the time has now come for the doctors to return to normal working, and I feel that if they did so they would get a much enhanced respect from the general public. I think they have a particularly strong case, not only on the question of pay, though the £6 limit is there and everybody must adhere to it. As for the legislation regarding the phasing out of private beds in the National Health Ser vice, again I submit that this is rushed legislation, even though it has been on the cards for some time.

We had a very gruelling time last Session and I believe that we face another one this Session. I am bound to say that there is some legislation in the gracious Speech which is good and sound—for example, the CBI and the trade unions working together, which every Government want, is sound, and there are other admirable measures—but there is still too much divisiveness in the legislation before the country. There is still too much which, at a time when we are all being exhorted to save and draw in our horns, will cost far too much public money. We in this House have the responsibility, as we have had before, to revise as much as we can and be, as we always have been in my 18 years here, a responsible and vigilant Chamber.


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask him whether he would not agree, in relation to education, that, at this time of all times, it would be wrong and quite unnecessary to build more comprehensive schools—for I understand that comprehensive schools have to be what is called "purpose built" and that one cannot change an old grammar school into a comprehensive school—and that the Government ought to save rather than to build more comprehensive schools when there are plenty of grammar schools and other schools for these pupils at the present time?


My Lords, I would just say to my noble friend that no doubt the Government will take into account the remarks which have been made on this subject on all sides of the House.

7.41 p.m.


My Lords, the articles of Mr. Bernard Levin in The Times seldom fail to amuse, even when he is rehashing a week old leader in his own newspaper, as he has done this morning in his references to the Queen's Speech. This familiar technique of wild exaggeration is almost invariably amusing, and I feel that the technique of the verbal cartoon sometimes vividly illuminates some aspects of our life which might otherwise be less clearly seen. Without going anything like as far as Mr. Levin in his speculations about the mental health of the Cabinet, one is astonished that a group of people with, as he says, a high intellectual capacity, can produce a series of measures such as we have seen in the Queen's Speech which are positively harmful or, in many cases, irrelevant. For instance, one might refer to the development land tax, which could have been very useful in the 1960s when huge fortunes were being made in property but which would, in my opinion, simply create a new bureaucratic incubus on top of all the other measures which have been introduced to deal with this problem. Falling land prices are not the consequence of Government action but we have the nationalisation of development land at existing user prices, the capital transfer taxes, and the huge burden of interest rates which stifles many development schemes at birth.

Reference has already been made to the nationalisation of the shipbuilding and aircraft industries. That will absorb a great deal of the time and energy of Parliament in the coming Session which could otherwise have been devoted to working out long-term solutions for the management of a mixed economy which we now all agree we are going to have and to identifying the characteristics of a sustainable life style—and in my opinion this is a most important task. That sustainable life style will either be forced on us and will lead to uncomfortable and perhaps catastrophic discontinuities—a small foretaste of which we experienced during the oil crisis two years ago—or we shall have to plan for it so that we can make the transition in good time.

But, like all the best cartoonists, Mr. Levin tends to concentrate with gusto on the bizarre and unlovely aspects of his subject, and he ignores some of the many good features which his subject may possess or, if I may put it in the words of the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, the barrel of applies which we are discussing contains many which are good and sweet. Personally. I happen to agree with much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, said about the abolition of selection at the age of 11. I believe that that is long overdue, and the only question in my mind is whether the Government will provide the funds for local education authorities to see that the remaining stages of the reorganisation are carried out sensibly and competently. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, that that does not mean that we should have the huge educational factories which we sometimes see passed off as comprehensives.

I also agree with the phasing-out of private practice in the National Health Service hospitals. I believe that the ability of rich people to pre-empt beds and all the other resources of the hospitals—which are, after all, provided at the expense of the taxpayers as a whole—is absolutely intolerable. I feel that the threats of resignation which are being made by the consultants should be seen as what they are. They are threats to the life of individual patients who may not be treated as a result of the withdrawal of these services, and I believe that the consultants should be told plainly that the Health Service belongs to the people as a whole and not to certain overpaid medical prima donnas who are taking industrial action as if they were violently Left-Wing or Trotskyite trade unionists.

I also agree that we have had a very valuable measure outlined in the Queen's Speech and referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Harris—that is, the establishment of an effective independent element in the machinery for handling complaints against the police, which is at last to be achieved 11 years after the opportunity first arose in the Police Act 1964. I believe that it is now widely recognised, as it should have been then, that these changes are needed in order to maintain public confidence in the police. Finally, as another example before I come to my main theme, there is the Public Lending Right Bill, which puts an end to a controversy which has gone on even longer, for it started some 25 years ago. I hope that this will be a satisfactory solution to that problem.

The gracious Speech referred to the Bill which is to be introduced to strengthen the law on racial discrimination, an out line of which was given in the White Paper in September and which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has now explained. The Liberal Party welcomes the concept of working towards the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of racial equality to replace the nebulous objective of "harmonious community relations" set out in the 1968 Act. That phrase could mean—as it does in some States which might claim to have harmonious community relations, such as South Africa—the repression of ethnic minorities and the smothering of their complaints. Conversely, I believe that we shall have to recognise that, in order to promote genuine equality and the eradication of racism, we may have to accept some transitional friction which would have been incompatible with the objective of harmonious community relations. We also approve of the Government's stated intention to replace the Commission and the Board with a new public body which, in the proposals which we submitted to the Home Office, had the title of "Community Relations Executive". The name is not all that important but, on reflection. I still prefer "Executive" to "Commission" as an indication of the more positive and wider functions which are to be conferred on the new body. I should be grateful if the Home Office would take that point into consideration.

We agree that the scope of the legislation should he as wide as that of the law on sex discrimination and, in addition, that discrimination by clubs and discrimination on the basis of national origin should be dealt with at the same time. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, anticipated, I particularly welcome the proposals on clubs because they appear from the terms of the Queen's Speech to follow closely on the lines of the Bill which I introduced a year ago.

We also endorse in principle the suggestion that, generally speaking, complains of discrimination should be pursued by individuals either through the industrial tribunals or through the courts, as the case may be. In this connection, I should like to call attention to the following sentence in the White Paper: Help will be given to a person who considers that he may have been discriminated against unlawfully to decide whether to institute proceedings and, if he does so, to formulate and present his case in the most effective manner. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will be aware, some anxiety has been expressed over the possibility that the complexity of the procedures involved in the presentation of a complaint either to a tribunal or to the court might erect an even greater barrier between the victim of discrimination and the means of redress.

The primary function of the "Executive"—as I shall continue to call it for the time being, if I may—is to deal with practices and rules which are not ostensibly directed against any individual but which have a general discriminatory effect. However. I note that the "Executive" will also have a wide power to give advice, assistance and representation to individuals. On the face of it that also removes any apprehensions which were felt on this score, although the question of legal aid before tribunals is still outstanding generally, as has been pointed out in the Runnymede pamphlet on the White Paper. This would have been an additional item to have entered in the catalogue of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, because the reform of the legal system, the provision of legal aid before tribunals, was, I think, a recommendation made to the Lord Chancellor by a committee established for that purpose.

I should now like to turn to some criticisms that we have to make of the White Paper. The first point is the unsuitability of the Home Office as the sponsor of a body which is supposed to eradicate racism, when the Home Office has itself in the past promoted and enforced racist immigration laws. I suggest to the Government that these proposals in the White Paper would carry much greater weight among the ethnic minorities if they were to be implemented by some other Government Department. Since they obviously do not readily fit into any of the existing Ministries, we were driven to the conclusion that a new Department should be created which would assume the responsibility for combating sex and race discrimination. Of course one recognises that the weight of official opinion is against that solution; and as a second best I personally would support the solution which has been advanced by the Select Committee on Race Relations, that a Minister of State for equal rights should be created and attached to the Home Office.

Next, we were extremely concerned over the absence of any decisions in the White Paper on the matter of links between the local community relations organisations and the new national body. The White Paper says that the Government want to do nothing that will hinder the valuable work being done by local CRCs and their officers, and would indeed like to enhance the effectiveness of that work. But the longer they take to make up their minds, the more damage will be done to the morale of the local professional and voluntary workers, and hence the less favourable will be the conditions for the improvement which the Government want to see. In our view the community relations officers should be employed by the new "Executive", so as to ensure their independence from local pressures, and in order to achieve national co-ordination in the war against racism. But the voluntary CRCs at local level would still be necessary as a channel of communication between local organisations of various kinds and the "Executive" at the centre, through the CRO, and as a means of bringing pres sure to bear on local authorities or other bodies, as the case may arise.

The role of local authorities should be limited to provision of office space, secretarial assistance and information services which are required to back up the work of the CRCs, as indeed many of them do already. By the way, that policy is very much in line with recommendations made by the Select Committee, while the Com mission in its comments on the White Paper emphasises that the "Executive", will be incapable of carrying out its stated functions unless there is a strong functional link with local activity. So far as we are aware, practically nobody believes that the CROs should come under the local authorities, as Mr. Alex Lyon was suggesting at one time. It will obviously be absurd to create a new and entirely separate organisation in parallel with the "Executive" to which the CROs could become responsible. Therefore, by a process of elimination we are forced to the conclusion that, even if there were not other good reasons for doing so, the CROs must be responsible to the "Executive". With regard to its composition, the White Paper says that the Government will ensure that ethnic minorities are substantially represented among the membership of 15, although the Home Secretary is to be obliged only to consult other Ministers in making the appointments. We suggest that the Minister of State for equal opportunities, or the Home Secretary as the case may be, should be obliged in the legislation to take the advice of such representative minority groups as he may think fit. While I am perfectly certain that the present Home Secretary would anyway wish to do this, it would be reassuring to have such a requirement written into the Bill.

We believe that it is not possible to gain a proper understanding of discrimination, and hence to fight it effectively, so long as attention is confined to individual acts, and the White Paper states that the "Executive" will be given wide powers to conduct inquiries into matters not covered by the Bill which cause or contribute to discrimination. This must include the examination of what is called the, familiar cycle of cumulative disadvantage", referred to in paragraph 11 of the White Paper. The "Executive" will thus have the ability and experience to judge where resources ought best to be allocated in order to break this cycle. It is a matter for consideration whether it ought not to be given responsibility for disbursement of funds under the urban programme and Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, in much the same way as funds are available to the UGC or to the research councils on a global basis and are then allocated by them to the applicants on the basis of their own decision without reference back to the Secretary of State who has provided the money in the first place.

Finally, we propose that the "Executive" should be given the responsibility of assisting with the settlement of new comers to the United Kingdom. The Uganda Resettlement Board was supposed to do this job for one group of uprooted persons, but gave up the ghost as soon as the camps were closed and long before the task was really accomplished. For other new entrants—for United Kingdom citizens of Asian origin from the rest of Africa, for the Chileans, for example, and for the Cypriots, whom we have received since the troubles in their country, as well as the dependants of householders who are already here—there is no statutory agency whatsoever to provide help. The United Kingdom Immigration Advisory Service has the much narrower function of advising on questions of entry, and it follows that the "Executive" ought to be invited to take over this function as well. But it would also deal with the many problems which face newcomers after they arrive, such as, for example, in obtaining accommodation and work.

The legislation announced in the Queen's Speech will not of itself put an end to discrimination. But, as Geoffrey Bindman has said, the proposals together make up an extremely powerful legal armoury, as well as a much stronger commitment by the Government than has ever been made before. While there may be other matters in the forthcoming Session that will be the occasion of much political controversy, as we have heard this afternoon, I hope that Parliament will be unanimous in its support for the principles which the Government have followed, and by doing so will bring nearer the day when racism is truly eradicated and there is genuine equality for every citizen.

7.58 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, is to wind up today's debate. I hope that I may be able to add just a few observations from this Bench on the situation in Northern Ireland. But the points that I shall make on that subject will be few, because I believe that affairs in Northern Ireland today stand at the constitutional crossroads. After all, the Convention has reported; upon the next steps for the search for a constitutional settlement, a very great deal depends. Meanwhile, Parliament awaits the views of the Secretary of State on the Convention Report.

I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I do not follow the points made by all noble Lords in regard to the very wide field which this debate has covered. I say this with particular reference to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who has just made a very interesting and detailed speech to which no doubt the noble Lord will be making a reply. I should like to say how much I enjoyed the speech by the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, who has been good enough to send me a note to say that he has had to leave the House early.

I also wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for giving some information about the forthcoming order to renew the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I must say that I find myself particularly in agreement with the noble Lord's view that, although very welcome successes in the apprehension of terrorists have been achieved within the past year, none the less terrorism can occur anywhere within the United Kingdom. I am sure that this cautionary view is right, and for that reason alone, if for no other, it will be necessary to continue the provisions of the principal Act when the order comes before your Lordships' House on, I think, Thursday.

But before Northern Ireland, perhaps I may turn to an aspect of Government policy which, like my noble friend Lord Ellen borough, I must say I find thoroughly disquieting. This is the belief, which is expressed in a variety of ways, that wherever possible State control ought to be extended; and this is literally at the expense of the individual, who not only suffers in terms of personal liberty but is also, in many cases, required to foot the bill. A readily available illustration of this is to be found in the paragraph in the gracious Speech which deals with education, and some noble Lords have already dealt with this subject today. The paragraph includes the announcement that legislation is to be introduced to force local education authorities to make plans for the entire abolition of selection in secondary education.

I must say, my Lords, that I can well understand the Government disagreeing with selection at the age of 11-plus. I think that they can mobilise quite powerful arguments that this is a very early age, although I would not in any circumstances go along with them that it should be a matter for legislation. But what the Government are apparently unable to answer is the question which arises from their policy; namely, if selection in some way or another is proper at the age of 16, 17 or 18, why is it totally wrong—not just wrong but totally, completely and utterly wrong—at any stage whatsoever before that?

On the last day of the previous Session, I sought to draw the Government's attention to two articles which had been written during the summer not by Conservative politicians, but one by the Editor of The Times Educational Supplement, Mr. Maclure, and the other by Dr. Harry Judge, formerly headmaster of a highly successful comprehensive school. Both articles warned in essence against the educational monopoly which the Government are apparently determined to create, and both advocated some choice of schools for pupils at 14 years of age. No answer of any sort was given to that point of view at the end of the debate, and the gracious Speech provides the reason why. It is because, regardless of parents' wishes and regardless of cost, the Government are set on a course to establish a monopoly of education in this country. If the Government are reluctant to argue their own case on educational grounds, or in regard to individual liberty—although may I say that I immediately acquit the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, and the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, of that, because they have indeed argued the case whereas the Government, from the Front Bench, have not—then they none the less have a direct responsibility to stand by their policy in terms of finance.

For 30 years now, expenditure on education in this country has been increasing steadily year by year in real terms. The rate support grant settlement announced last Friday has, however, signalled an end to that process. By no stretch of the imagination is this the time to force LEAs to embark on secondary reorganisation education schemes, some of which have probably been postponed precisely because of the cost. Is this the moment to drive direct grant and voluntary aid schools out of the reach of tens of thousands of children?

My noble friend Lord Auckland reminded the House in his speech that last week the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, made an important speech. The noble Lord, Lord Alexander, has an unrivalled knowledge of local authority finance and he pointed out that the Government's own circular, Circular 10/75, requires local authorities not only to prevent any increase in their expenditure in real terms now, but also to make substantial economies in 1977–78 and 1978–1979. Yet here is Government policy, set out in the gracious Speech, which is bound to increase the expenditure by local education authorities. The noble Baroness will forgive me for a moment. Indeed, three months ago the Secretary of State for Education and Science announced that £25 million would be allocated for comprehensive reorganisation alone, and this at a time when nursery education, primary schools and universities are crying out for money, and when unemployment in the teaching profession is causing real concern.

My Lords, these are the reasons why, regardless of any matter of principle, I disagree fundamentally with the speeches which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, on the subject of secondary reorganisation. The tragedy is that the gracious Speech includes two more educational policies which were, in fact, picked out by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, which are wholly desirable—priority to children with special needs, and the vocational preparation of young people between the ages of 16 and19. Doubtless, children with special needs include immigrant children and children in areas covered by the urban programme. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, selected children who need nursery education and I would not for one moment contradict him on that.

If I may take a rather more restrictive view of this former objective than perhaps the Government intend, special education is undoubtedly something which needs additional resources. In 1972, the Conservative Government's educational White Paper planned almost to double in real terms the special schools building programme over a five year period. Doubtless the forecast figures have been abandoned. In the economic climate, I think this would be understandable.

But the question which the Government really have to answer if they are to stand by these two further educational policies in the gracious Speech is: From where are the resources to be transferred, if priority is to be given to children with special needs or to vocational training for young people? From a Government careless of the welfare of private industry and commerce—which, after all, provide the profits upon which social policies are founded—from a Government who are prepared to spend their money like water on their own ideologies, and cast aside the assistance which voluntary and independent agencies want to offer, there can be no answer.

I am not in the least surprised that the trumpet call which introduces the paragraph in the gracious Speech on social policies is: My Ministers will pursue vigorously their programmes of social reform…within available resources". For what are those resources to be avail able?—universal compulsory comprehensive education, the abolition of pay beds and the abolition of tied cottages. Not a word about how to build more houses—and we had to wait for a most interesting speech from my noble friend Lord Wolverton on that subject—no mention at all in the gracious Speech of how to save the National Health Service; nothing, absolutely nothing at all, about those things in education which really concern people, such as the retention of good schools, the improvement of bad ones, the future of higher education. This Parliamentary programme has justly been called irrelevant. So far as the social policies in it are concerned, I think that "irrelevant" is too kindly a word.

My Lords, on Thursday of last week the Report of the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention was published. After six months' work, this marks another step in the search for a constitutional solution in Northern Ireland to which the gracious Speech refers. In the following sentence, the gracious Speech turns to security matters and I have no doubt that it is right to bracket together constitutional and security questions in this way. When the House last had a general debate on Northern Ireland security, which was on the 25th September, the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, said: Political solutions will come much more easily when violence is at an end."—[Official Report, 25/9/75; col. 605.] I think that is undeniable. Indeed, I believe that an increase in violence is something which can persuade otherwise law-abiding people to support paramilitary organisations either actively or by consent if that violence escalates within their own community.

It would be totally unjust for me to infer that the brutal and often seemingly irrational acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland ought in all cases to be prevented. But since we had that debate in September I considered that a valid criticism was being made by several noble Lords in claiming that the continuation of the ceasefire was tying the hands of the Government and therefore of the Security Forces. On that occasion I put it to the Government that the ceasefire was restricting the Secretary of State to a policy of response. In reply the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said: There is no inhibition of any kind. I could not make this point more forcefully or clearly. The Secretary of State is a free man."—[Official Report, 25/9/75; col. 622.] If I accept that assurance, which coming from the noble Lord of course I do accept, then in turn I must ask the Government to accept that there has been a lack of confidence in security policies and that this, despite the efforts of the Ministers and the Security Forces, none the less remains so for reasons which at the moment are apparent in South Armagh where tragically three young soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers met their deaths on Saturday.

My Lords, during the last three and a half years it would always have been possible to have taxed the Government of the day with the lawlessness which appeared to prevail in a particular area at a particular time. Like some disease terrorism has constantly recurred, disfiguring different aspects of the face of Ulster. But I put it to the noble Lord that the South Armagh situation is of particular concern. If I might put some points to him, I do so in the hope that he may be able to give me information and for no other reason. Although these areas are subject to extreme Republican influence, many of the inhabitants in much of the area concerned want to live in safety within the United Kingdom. What support can it be said that they are getting for what they stand for and believe? From some accounts it is an area where the ordinary law is being disregarded. Would the noble Lord say that this is true? It may not be true, but I should like to hear it from the noble Lord. If it is not true, what police measures are being taken to prevent such a situation occurring?

I expect that the noble Lord will confirm that the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, is accurate in asserting that the problem of South Armagh is in getting confidential information from the people who live there. I think we must all bear this in mind when it may seem that the Security Forces are not cracking down hard enough. But the Army and the UDR must be given every facility to maintain the initiative in this area, for geographically the future of South Armagh could be the future of Newry, of South Down and even perhaps of Fermanagh.

May I ask the Government how they see developing in Northern Ireland the enforcement of law and order generally? On 4th November in another place the Secretary of State paid tribute to the tireless work of the Army in Northern Ireland, but made the point that in the final analysis it must be the police who will be the principal guardians of law and order. From these Benches I should like to associate myself with the words of the right honourable gentleman. I know that under the direction of the chief constable the RUC have stuck to their work although often exposed to great personal danger; that they have met with considerable success in crime detection, and that they have made innovations such as the introduction of what is called the "A" squad. Similarly the tenacity and effectiveness of the UDR should be recognised, for without the men and women of the UDR the Army in Ulster would be stretched intolerably.

But, my Lords, the question on which so much hangs is this. How can the RUC and the UDR widen their recruitment? So far as the police are concerned, some 18 months ago proposals were made for the setting up of local police committees and for a new look at the Northern Ireland Police Authority. Incidentally, in saying that, I am assuming that the Police Bill which was introduced yesterday in another place does not extend to Northern Ireland. We discussed these matters briefly on the Emergency Provisions Order taken in your Lordships' House on 4th November when the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, gave his view that the SDLP would probably not be prepared to give unqualified support for any reorganisation of the policy authority in Northern Ireland unless the overall committee visualised at Sunning dale were set up. Since the noble Lord gave that view, it has been possible to read the SDLP proposals in the Convention Report. It strikes me that there is nothing in their proposals to prevent the SDLP from supporting perhaps another look at the way in which the police are organised throughout Northern Ireland to try to improve the grass roots confidence in policing. What I do find interesting is that all the parties in the Convention are so concerned for the future of law and order that each wishes the police to be a responsibility of a Northern Ireland Administration. I make no comment on that conclusion, but I suggest that one of the most vital subjects that the Secretary of State will now require to discuss with the Convention parties will be how the RUC and the UDR can broaden their recruitment.

My Lords, the Report of the Convention now brings Parliament face to face with the constitutional realities of Northern Ireland. The Report has been made to the Secretary of State and there fore we await his comments, but with nine different parties represented in the Convention I think it would have been reasonable to have forecast all along that after publication the Secretary of State will need to undertake discussions with the Convention parties. If this is to be done I join with the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, in hoping that an announcement could be made soon. Otherwise although direct rule will be continued, in a sense there will be a political vacuum and into that vacuum could move those who have already taken up prepared positions. But this can be prevented. It is true that if the Secretary of State can extract, by having discussions with the Convention parties, a greater measure of political agreement than is contained in the Convention Report, so the danger of IRA terrorism will increase. For let us be under no illusion about the IRA objectives. After the Government issued their White Paper in July last year, the IRA gave a statement demanding self-determination of the Irish people, British withdrawal from Northern Ireland and an amnesty for political prisoners. Divided though the Convention parties are, it seems clear that they are united in rejecting those sort of demands out of hand, and because the IRA is aware of it, any hint of political agreement will be attended by increased terrorism.

So once again we find politics and security are inextricably linked in Northern Ireland. If little else has been decided yet by the Convention Report, one thing emerges already on which I hope there is general agreement in Parliament: a consistently firm Government security policy may yet win a response from the political Parties and from the hard-pressed people of Northern Ireland.

8.19 p.m.


My Lords, as always happens in the home affairs debate, we have covered a fair bit of mileage. I estimate that no less than nine major topics have been raised this afternoon, each of which deserves a major debate on its own, and there have been about as many minor ones. It would take an inordinately long time to deal with all of these, and I hope that noble Lords will allow me to be a little selective in winding up this long, interesting and—with the exception of one Box thump—very good-tempered debate. We are in difficult times when irritation arises from people not doing what one thinks is right; and there is a total absence of agreement as to what is right. I think it remarkable that in this Chamber at this time we can discuss these affairs as amicably as we have done. I have heard some of the discussions elsewhere and they are very different and less profitable. I am helped in two or three ways; for example, regarding the National Health Service, my noble friend Lord Wallace of Coslany made a most arresting and moving speech on this subject and the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Lords, Lord Auckland and Lord Avebury, each referred to it. As there is a debate tomorrow week at the request of noble Lords opposite, it would be supererogatory for me to deal with it, considering how many other matters I have to deal with, so I will not do so. This is the saddest day perhaps in the history of medicine, and Hypocrates must be turning in his grave.

A number of noble Lords spoke about devolution. Even though the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, is not in his place, as he spoke from the Opposition Front Bench I will endeavour to answer one or two points. The noble Viscounts, Lord Thurso and Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, referred to devolution. I do not propose to answer what was said in any detail because we shall discuss this next week. I must not neglect the opportunity to congratulate the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, who has, as he did to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, told me he could not be in his place at this time. He made a most interesting speech. His fear of further fragmentation is something we must all keep in mind when looking at the devolution problem. It is not one I thought of before; I thought it was very interesting. We look forward to hearing his views, which were clearly and forcibly put; during the great debate which is going to go on in the next year, we will have a good opportunity to hear him again.

It has been suggested that with devolution, Scotland and Wales will become over-governed and that there is some danger of over-egging the pudding. The White Parser to be published on Thursday will go some way to reassure noble Lords about this. This matter has been faced and thought about. The general view is—I do not want to anticipate the document—that devolution will not create a new tier of Government; it is rather a question of transferring democratic responsibility for existing work from one area to another.

There were one or two speeches which did not fit in any of my headings. The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, made two points. He supported the reference in the gracious Speech to public lending rights, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, sup ported him. I should like to support them all; it is an important and overdue measure. The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, showed great interest in the broadcasting of Parliament. The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, supported him in this. I was particularly interested in the suggestion that loudspeakers should be placed outside Parliament for the benefit of people waiting to get in. That is a very good idea. If we ever get loudspeakers fitted inside we should get them outside, too, as we do at Covent Garden for people who are late for the opera. That was a very constructive suggestion.


My Lords, I said television rather than loudspeakers.


Better still! The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, as usual, made a charming speech. I cannot pass on without appreciating his appreciation of my Leader and his problems, and his attempt, which is how he holds us all together, to go forward by consent. This is the basic point and it was interesting that the noble Earl should have raised it. If I may go on with my major topic, which I shall try to get through as fast as I can, I come to the question of parole which was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, and my noble friend Lord Long ford. Both noble Earls referred to the problems of parole and to the hopes that the present guidelines would be somewhat liberalised. I was asked: what is the essential difference between the new parole guidelines and the old ones? I think I might satisfy the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, but I never expect to satisfy my noble friend Lord Long ford. As regards persons convicted of more serious offences, the main difference is that while the protection of the public remains the paramount consideration, parole and, in some cases, fairly early parole, should not be ruled out because of the nature of the offence, as has often been the case in the past. This means a cautious move towards more and earlier parole for those prisoners who show clear signs of having changed their ways. Regarding relatively minor offenders, the bias has changed towards granting parole unless there are clear negative reasons rather than confining it to cases where there are clear positive factors. Secondly, I was asked: why should not the guidelines be published? I do not think there is any reason why they should not be published. Fresh guidelines for local review committees are now in preparation; I shall certainly draw my right honourable friend's attention to the suggestion regarding publication.

There was a suggestion from both noble Earls that the Home Office is being too harsh in the application of the parole scheme. I must make it clear that the Home Secretary has no power to grant parole unless recommended to do so by the hoard or. in certain minor cases, by the local review committee. My right honourable friend is anxious that more use should be made of parole and he has had discussions with the parole board to this end. There is agreement between him and the board that a more liberal policy towards the granting of parole is appropriate in view of its success to date, when only about 8 per cent. of those paroled have been recalled for breach of their license. I hope noble Lords who have spoken on the subject will feel that what I have had to say is optimistic and that changes in the direction they have asked for are on the way.

My noble friend Lord Long ford asked a question about treating prisoners under Rule 43, which means putting them in solitary confinement either because they are in danger of being attacked by other prisoners—in other words, for their own safety—or because they are thought to be likely to attack other prisoners; so that is for the prison's safety. There seems to be some confusion in my noble friend's mind which I may clarify by explaining that the five existing open units are used to accommodate two distinct classes of prisoners segregated under Rule 43. I have just described them.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? He has already shown a good deal more con fusion in his mind than could possibly exist in my mind. He has implied that all those confined under Rule 43 are in solitary confinement. But they may be in segregated units.


My Lords, that is correct. I was coming to that. Originally, Rule 43 was as I stated it.

The Earl of LONGFORD

I thought we were talking about 1975.


My Lords, we are now, arid I propose to do so. The first group are segregated only for their own protection. The second group are segregated for good order and discipline. Prisoners in the former group can usually be offered an opportunity to associate together during exercise periods, during normal labour hours and, in some circumstances, during evenings and weekends. It is open to any prisoner to decline such facilities. Apart from the prisoners' own wishes whether or not to take part in the association period, there are occasions when staff shortages may reduce the opportunities for association, particularly during the evenings and weekends.

The noble Earl will no doubt be aware that special units exist at Gloucester and Reading, where prisoners are in most cases segregated under Rule 43 for their own protection. In these units, which provide a total of 171 places, prisoners are able to enjoy association at work, during exercise and for recreation in the evenings and at weekends. A further unit of this kind has recently opened at Wakefield. This unit will eventually accommodate 39 prisoners. The prisoners segregated for their own protection are not accommodated in any of the units which I have just described. These prisoners are at local prisons throughout the country and are normally permitted to associate with others during exercise periods; and, in some circumstances, may be allowed a degree of association during labour or recreation time.

On 1st October—the latest date for which I have complete figures—there were 155 prisoners in special units in Gloucester and Reading. In addition to this, there were 555 prisoners segregated under Rule 43 for their own protection. Of these, 69 were not accommodated in the segregated units I have mentioned. The remaining 496 were held at other prisons. The noble Earl asked about the accommodation which had been a controlled unit at Wormwood Scrubs. This is now being used for ordinary prison purposes to relieve overcrowding.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, if the noble Lord is leaving that point, I shall have to raise some issues another day. Could he say more clearly whether the accommodation that has been used for a controlled unit in Wakefield will now be used for Rule 43 purposes?


My Lords, at Wakefield it will be used for Rule 43 people, whereas at the Scrubs it will not. I turn now to tied cottages. I must say a word about these. I made my living as a farmer for many years, and have always known both sides of the question—for there are two sides, both vitally important. I regret the comment made last week by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, which was read out again today by the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling. The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. said that he foresaw, as The Times did, that there would be a further slaughtering of some of our herds. I leave aside The Times: it was scraping the barrel for hostile comment and I thought a prophecy of this kind was in keeping. But both noble Lords are usually fair, if perhaps harsh, critics and they might have looked more carefully at what the Government have said before endorsing what had been written by The Times leader-writer. The Government are firmly committed to disengaging the circumstances in which farm workers are housed, from the conditions of their employment.

The consultative document acknowledged that there were serious problems, and invited comment from all concerned. There have been useful consultations with the National Union of Agricultural Workers, the National Farmers' Union, the Central Land Association and the Association of District Councils about this, and the discussions continue. It would be more generous if noble Lords opposite said they were glad that the real problems had been acknowledged, and that they would await with interest the Government's proposed solution in the proposed Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, quoted a significant remark from, I believe, the gracious Speech, though it may have been from something else. It is, of course, right that provision should be made for retired farm workers. This is part of the whole problem which has to be dealt with and it is clearly difficult. May I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, on the question of security that I hope he will allow me to write to him about detonators. This will save time. I also have two answers for the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, and I propose to write to him on these also, because time is going on.

I turn to education, to which a number of speakers referred, including my noble friends Lord Wynne-Jones and Lady Gaitskell, and the noble Lords, Lord Auckland, Lord Avebury and Lord Belstead. We had a debate on this not more than a fortnight ago, and I do not propose to go into the whole subject again at this stage and at this time of night. I would only say that I was very much impressed by the two speeches from my side of the House. I do not mean that I was not impressed by the speeches from the other side, but I thought that the determination of my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones to put his money on the young, and his estimate of the importance of higher education and research as a basis for the future, was very significant. Personally, I felt that my noble friend Lady Gaitskell put the case for the Government action as well as it could be put. I would not expect noble Lords opposite to agree with all of it, but I thought we had a very reasonable speech from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and of course the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, supported it.

My noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner raised a number of questions concerning the Law Commission and various reforms which he was awaiting, which are really a topic in themselves. I have here replies to all his questions, but I think the House would prefer these matters to be dealt with in the way he suggested; namely, that he should put down a Question for Written Answer so that the answers are then available in Hansard for all to see. My noble friend's impatience with the pace of law reform is well known to your Lordships. When any lawyer is impatient it pleases me, because the people who make me impatient, generally speaking, are lawyers; and it is only to be expected that both my noble friend, as the chief architect of the Law Commission Act, should look with a watchful and critical eye at the progress successive Governments make in fulfilling the expectations embodied in that Act. This Government make no complaint about his periodical reminders that much remains to be done, but may I suggest to him that he sometimes fails to give credit for what is in fact being achieved.

I would remind your Lordships that the following measures of law reform were enacted in the Session just ended, because so many other things happened that your Lordships may have forgotten them. There was the Limitation Act, implementing a report of the Law Reform Committee; the Local Land Charges Act, implementing a Law Commission Report; the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act, implementing another Law Commission Report; the Litigants in Person (Costs and Expenses) Act, a Private Member's Bill supported by the Government; the Arbitration Act, enabling us to ratify an international exemption of Arbitral Awards; the District Courts (Scotland) Act, setting up a new system of inferior criminal courts in Scotland; and the Evidence (Proceedings in other Jurisdictions) Act, enabling us to ratify the Hague Convention on the taking of evidence abroad. In addition to those, there were 17 Consolidation Acts and the Statute Law Repeals Act.

I do not think that is too bad a record of law reform in a Session which was as crowded as the last one with social legislation. An immense amount of work on law reform is going on—by the Law Commission, whose Tenth Annual Report will be laid before you shortly; by the Scottish Law Commission, the Law Reform Committee and other bodies. This Government have not been slow to implement reforms once the policy has won acceptance. For example, both the Inheritance Act and the Local Land Charges Act were based on very recently published Reports of the Law Commission, but unfortunately some of the Reports present difficulties which, as my noble and learned friend will know, take time to resolve.

As I have indicated, some difficulties arise on specific matters to which my noble friend has referred. I promised him an answer tonight on one point for which he had particularly asked. He asked about the Government's attitude towards the question of computers and privacy. I can tell him that the Government now hope, within a few weeks, to publish a White Paper on computers and privacy which will cover both the public and private sectors. The White Paper will take account of the Departmental review of categories of personal information held on Government computers, of the findings of the Younger Committee on computer use in the private sector and also of more recent developments in this field. The Government have not completed their consideration of the need for further measures to protect privacy, but they will announce their intentions—


My Lords, would my noble friend set a limit at all to the words "within a few weeks"?


My Lords, I could not set a limit at this moment, but I will make some inquiries as to what is meant. It has a fairly elastic interpretation as a rule, but I think it means "fairly soon". That is all I am going to say to my noble and learned friend. I will withhold one or two other things about which he asked until another occasion.

Finally, I turn to Northern Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, will forgive me if I say nothing about housing at this stage. His speech was a very interesting one, particularly concerned with the financial side. This was referred to in the gracious Speech. I will write to him on this matter, but I am now rather past the time I had allowed for, as it were, other business. We have had a number of speakers on Northern Ireland, and I would like to say who they were so that we may know about whom we are talking.

We have heard my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene, and the noble Lords, Lord Auckland and Lord Belstead. The outstanding speech for me was that of the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath; it was the most constructive and helpful one. Even though the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, spoke a little about the convention, I do not think he would expect me to do that. Our position in Government is perfectly clear. We are looking at this matter. We shall have debates in Parliament and put something before Parliament which will then go to Northern Ireland. It is said: May it be soon! I echo the wish, but do not want to commit the Secretary of State. He must have a free hand to look after this as he likes.

Several speakers, naturally, have referred to the tragic incident in South Armagh on Saturday during which three soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers were killed and a fourth was very seriously wounded. I should like to place on record—I am sure I speak for all noble Lords—my revulsion at this brutal attack, my deepest sympathy for the relatives of these brave young men, and my admiration for their refusal to throw down their arms and surrender which course of action they were offered when they were completely cut off. There have been criticisms of the co-operation afforded by the Security Forces in the Republic. On this I must make it clear that in the incident on Saturday the Republic immediately deployed their Security Forces in an effort to catch the escaping gunmen and co-operation is now better than ever before. We are continually seeking ways to improve co-operation yet further and we meet encouraging responses from the Irish authorities.

There has been criticism, not only now but ever since I have been at this Dispatch Box, that the Army in Northern Ireland is hampered by political direction. I must make clear that the detailed tactics of the Army are in the hands of the General Officer Commanding and not of the Secretary of State. The General Officer Commanding is one of the Secretary of State's advisers on security, and security policy is discussed and agreed between them. When decisions are made, it is the task of the General Officer Commanding to carry them out in whatever way he thinks best.

Despite the tragedy in South Armagh the Security Forces are having increasing success in enforcing law and order. In the last three weeks no fewer than 55, 39 and 36 people, respectively, were charged by the police with serious offences; 128 people already this year have been charged with murder—this compares with 75 last year; 84 have been charged with attempted murder and 300 travelling gunmen have been caught and charged. The suggestion that South Armagh is left alone by the Security Forces is entirely untrue. The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, bore this out and the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, asked me a question about it. Since 1st August the police have charged 30 people with terrorist type offences. Four more have been arrested yesterday and are helping with inquiries into the recent crimes, including the murder of the soldiers.

The ordinary rule of law, moreover, is also being enforced, and this is made clear by the fact that some 300 people have been charged in South Armagh with non-scheduled offences since the beginning of September. This is not a picture of a lawless desert. It is a very awkward country and support for Security Forces and the Government is probably lower there than anywhere else in the Province. But this is not a picture of law and order stepping out and abandoning it to its fate.

There has been criticism that the Government are playing into the hands of terrorists by releasing detainees. Here, once again, we do not receive all that number of words of praise, but I was pleased with what my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner and the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, said about this. It has taken great courage on the part of the Secretary of State to do as he has in the face of so much opposition and to stand up to it. It is worth looking at what it means and what it has done. When we had between 300 and 400 men in detention it was often my duty at weekends to be concerned with the Secretary of State in making ICOs against gunmen where the evidence presented by the Security Forces left us in no doubt that, as a result of intimidation, it was impossible to get proof for a court of law. Holding these men in detention, however, did not eliminate violence. Whether because of the releases—my belief is that this is the real reason, though I cannot prove it—or for some other reason, the prosecution of gunmen in court is being noticeably more successful than it was. This can be only the result of greater readiness to give evidence on the part of the public.

The IRA have always used detention as a propaganda weapon—a successful propaganda weapon what is more—to recruit persons to their ranks. At the same time, detention has been repugnant to the ordinary citizen and causes resentment in the law-abiding community on both sides. It has reflected adversely on the normal judicial system, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, stated in his Report. It has been a political red herring when matters of constitutional and lasting importance should have been to the fore. My right honourable friend has reduced the numbers to 93 and I cannot too strongly express my support of his courageous determination to finish with this distasteful business by Christmas. I believe it was a reasonable option when it was adopted and I was involved in it without scruple or qualms, because I thought the protection of the public came first. But now that the public seem more ready to co-operate with the Security Forces and successful prosecutions are more and more the rule it would be madness to lose the undoubted advantage to be gained from the end of detention because of a local success, however tragic, by the gunmen in Armagh.

I think that is all I will say about Northern Ireland. We shall, evidently, have a full debate when the convention comes up for debate. It is important that people should understand this point, and Lord Dunleath made a speech which has been helpful to me in putting this across. Things are not only not getting better quickly; in some places they are not even better at all. But they are better in other places. If one looks at the situation compared with a year ago, one sees areas where the situation is very much easier. People are more at ease. The possibilities of something coming out of what my right honourable friend has been working for for nearly a year, which is the convention, are not great but they exist. Most people in Northern Ireland, in my opinion, hope that something will come out of it, even though it does not. There is some movement here.

May I conclude by asking noble Lords opposite, who have been extremely good to us in taking this kind of view over Northern Ireland, whether they could not perhaps take a little more of this view about our own country. There is some change. Who would have thought a year ago that the miners would accept the £6 a week, and who could have done it but Harold Wilson? But I am not a political fighter at all; I like consensus and going on in that way. But I do not speak with a bowed head. I speak with the greatest hope in an appallingly difficult situation. We have the best leadership we could have. We have the only leadership at this moment which can avoid disaster; and, whether noble Lords are on my side or opposite, we can probably manage to down our differences enough to work together to try to do something about the situation.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.

Moved, That the debate be adjourned until tomorrow.—(Lord Strabolgi.)

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