§ The Queen's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Baroness BACON
My Lords, I beg to move, That a 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."
My Lords, usually I think it is a mistake to turn back the clock, but I believe that today I am doing just that because it was in March 1950 that I seconded this Motion in another place. Although I say "another place", so far as the building was concerned it was in this place, as Members of the House of Commons were then sitting in your Lordships' House while the Chamber of their House was being rebuilt after the war-time bombing. But I must admit that when I look around at many of the faces sitting on the Benches of your Lordships' House today it seems to me that I am speaking not only in the same building but to the same audience as I spoke to in 1950.
I have read—as those who make this speech always have—the speeches of those who moved and seconded this Motion in 8 the previous two years. The movers of this Motion in the last two years could refer to Her Majesty's Silver Jubilee— two years ago in anticipation, and one year ago in retrospect. But I suppose that for her Majesty this has been what is called a normal year, not a Silver Jubilee year. But a normal year for Her Majesty is one of great activity on our behalf both at home and abroad. At the beginning of September I was in Ottawa in Canada and I know from speaking to Members of the Canadian Parliament and to Senators how much Her Majesty's visits there during the last year were appreciated. Perhaps I might also add that I am very pleased—and I am sure that every Member of your Lordships' House is very pleased—that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is taking such a great interest in industrial affairs.
When the Prime Minister announced that there was to be no autumn Election it was said that the rest of this Parliament would be useless, that it would be difficult to find legislation to put through this Parliament in its dying days. But the gracious Speech has proved that that is wrong because it refers to much legislation which will bring great benefit to millions of people.
I would, however, remind your Lordships' House that the success of a Government is not measured by the number of Acts of Parliament which they pass. The great issues facing us today are inflation, unemployment, the troubles in Africa—particularly in Rhodesia—the Middle East and Northern Ireland. If these could have been solved by Acts of Parliament, they would have been solved long ago.
Many problems can be solved only by good, firm and resolute government—a Government with powers of persuasion to bring about changes in attitudes in the hearts and minds of men. So that even if very little legislation had been outlined in Her Majesty's gracious Speech—and that is not the case—I should not have minded because all the work which is to be done is administration rather than legislation. I remember that when I was a Home Office Minister, at a period when there was a good deal of legislation— legislation with which I have been pleased to be associated—there were times when I was rushing from Committees in the morning to Report stages in the evening, 9 lasting perhaps half the night or all through the night, when I could have wished to be rid of the legislation in order to get on with administration because we had a great many problems to deal with. At that time Mr. George Thomas, who is now the Speaker of another place, was also a Minister at the Home Office and one of his responsibilities was for immigration, at a time when quite a few illegal immigrants were entering the country. One of my responsibilities was to look after prisons when there were, I am afraid to say, some rather spectacular prison escapes. One day the Prime Minister said to Mr. Thomas, "George, how are you getting on at the Home Office?", to which he replied, in that accent which I cannot imitate, "Fine, Harold, fine. I can't keep 'em out and Alice can't keep 'em in! "So you see, my Lords, there is always quite a lot of work to do without legislation.
I am pleased to see that the gracious Speech concentrates on the key issues of inflation and unemployment. I have lived all my life in a small mining town in Yorkshire where the men work in the mines, on the railways or in engineering. In spite of what might be said, I know that the men and their wives realise that it is sensible to have wage restraint in order to keep down prices.
I was interested to see in the gracious Speech reference to a new Bill to amend the Local Government Act 1972. I do not know what this will be, but I would think that any amendment to this Act can only be an improvement—unless, of course, it were to create more tiers of government and more elections, because we have rather too many elections now and some more to come. I knew an elderly Party stalwart in Yorkshire who always used to say, "Democracy is a very fine thing until it 'democs' too much". I believe that if we have any more elections it will be "democ-ing" too much.
I was pleased that the gracious Speech contains a section on law and order. I do not want to dwell on this issue at any length, although I could do so, but I believe that law and order is simply a matter of behaviour. We must do something to ensure that the behaviour of our young people improves. I believe that this problem has changed in the last 10 10 to 15 years. Ten or 15 years ago when I visited an approved school which contained 120 boys I found that only 37 of the 120 had been living with both their parents before they entered the approved school. That showed that at that time the problem was very much a problem of the deprived child. I cannot say that that is so to the same extent today, because some youngsters from affluent homes and from seemingly good homes engage in anti-social behaviour. In fact, some of them seem to commit acts of violence just for kicks or for the hell of it. But it would be wrong to blame the schools. The bad behaviour is not created in the schools; it is brought into the schools from outside. Or, is it television? In some instances it may be. I find that the most horrific and harrowing pictures of suffering and atrocities are not to be found in gangster films, but in the news bulletins and the true documentaries, because we are living in a violent world and at a time when truth is more violent than fiction. There is something wrong in the world, which it is going to be very difficult to eradicate. I am pleased that the Government are concentrating on this and asking for co-operation from parents and the community.
We know that today the Government are much concerned with the trouble spots in the far-flung corners of the world, but we must not forget the troubled Province nearer home, Northern Ireland—part, in fact, of the United Kingdom. I have always paid an especial interest to this, and I was pleased to see the references to Northern Ireland in the gracious Speech. We hear about an internal settlement in Rhodesia. I do not want to discuss that this afternoon. But while some of us believe that an internal settlement is not possible in Rhodesia, I believe that in Northern Ireland any settlement must be an internal one because the English cannot settle the troubles of Northern Ireland. Only the people of Northern Ireland can determine when enough is enough.
It is sometimes said that it is the ordinary people who have influence in Northern Ireland. That may be so, but I believe that the leaders in Northern Ireland, religious, political and industrial, could do more. I think we have still to hear loud and clear voices of reason from those 11 who ought to be leading. I have recently been reading a book written by a friend of mine. He makes a few remarks that I should like to quote because they are so apt. He says in one part of the book:The most frightening thing is the extent to which one becomes hardened. This is neither insensitivity nor cynicism. It is the necessary mechanism of self-defence. The extraordinary has come inevitably to seem almost ordinary".Well, that is happening in Northern Ireland. I have a fear that if we are not careful we in Britain will also regard the extraordinary in Northern Ireland as the ordinary. We have to pay a good deal of attention to what is happening over there.
Finally, my Lords, I should like to say a few words about your Lordships' House. There are no proposals in the gracious Speech for any changes in your Lordships' House, although there has been much discussion this last year. I have my own views, which I do not propose to put before your Lordships today, but I should like to say that in eight years in your Lordships' House I have come to realise how different working here is from working in another place. I know that some of my noble friends who have come from another place miss the cut and thrust of another place, and that it is difficult for them to get used to the politeness and consideration which one finds in your Lordships' House.
I was very amused when my noble and very good friend Lord Shinwell first came here and wanted to fight with somebody. It took him some time to realise that nobody wanted to fight with him. In fact, as time went on, the Opposition came to like him, and indeed I think he now rather enjoys that. Whatever changes there are to be in the future we have to carry on the work in this House as it is now, and your Lordships' House is run well and efficiently in a civilised way because of the good will of all concerned. The co-operation of the Opposition Front Bench—both Oppositions—and the Whips plays a great part in this. My noble friends on the Government Front Bench carry heavy responsibilities, and particularly my noble friend the Chief Whip who keeps the wheels running so well, and the Leader of the House, my good friend Lord Peart, who, although he has been here a short time, has impressed 12 us by his grasp of what goes on in your Lordships' House.
Many years ago he and I had an interview for the same job. It is a long time ago, and I shall not say how long, but we were both unsuccessful. I am very pleased that we were, because if either of us had got that job we should not be here today because it proved to be a political graveyard for the successful applicant. I am quite sure that whoever had got it— whether it was he or I—we should not have entered another place and should not be here today. I should also like to pay a tribute to the Officers of the House in all Departments who serve us so well. I often wonder, if your Lordships' House were abolished, what it would be that we should miss most. Would it be the trappings and ceremonials? I think not. Would it be the power that we have? I think not. No, my Lords, I believe what we should miss most of all would be our friends in this place. My Lords, I beg to move that a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty.
§ Moved, That a 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."—(Baroness Bacon.)
§ 4.8 p.m.
Lord BRUCE of DONINGTON
My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech. I must say how much I agreed with my noble friend's recollection of her friends in another place. Having been in another place myself from 1945 to 1950, I seem to see around me on all sides a number of my good colleagues in the Parliament of that day. I sincerely hope that I shall not embarrass the noble Baroness, Lady Ward of North Tyneside, when I inform her that during the moving of the Motion for an Address in the first Session of the 1945 Parliament, I occupied the precise geographical position that she now occupies.
As my noble friend has said, the very breadth and extent of the most gracious 13 Speech is such as could quite adequately occupy one complete Session. This of course will not stop speculation as to the date when the inevitable Election takes place, but it is quite clear that there is meat within the Address itself quite adequate to keep another place and ourselves in this House occupied in what corresponds to gainful employment.
My Lords, you would expect me, as your representative in the European Parliament, to pass some comment on those parts of the gracious Speech that deal specifically with EEC matters. I find there is mention of the Common Agricultural Policy. I rejoice that this should be so, and the words in the gracious Speech are:My Government will continue to press for improvements in the Common Agricultural Policy …Much diligent research has revealed to me that the identical phrase was incorporated in the gracious Speech of 1976, though for some reason it was omitted from the gracious Speech at the commencement of the Session in 1977. I am sure I carry your Lordships with me in my supposition that the only reason it is being given emphasis again is because Her Majesty's Government have paid very considerable attention to the report of the Select Committee of your Lordship's House on the 1979 budget which reveals to the public that the United Kingdom is contributing close on £1,000 million net to the European Community budget, mainly in connection with agriculture. I trust that all those on every side who are vitally concerned with limiting public expenditure will give attention in due course to this aspect of the matter.
The other aspect affecting EEC matters is this mention in the gracious Speech:Bills will be introduced to improve safety and discipline at sea, to help to control marine pollution …It was my privilege recently to preside over a public inquiry in Paris on the prevention of accidents at sea and the avoidance of consequent pollution and held under the auspices of the European Parliament. It became abundantly clear to us all at the conclusion of evidence from a number of very expert witnesses drawn from all quarters of the globe that the real way to prevent accidents at sea is to ensure that the Governments of the 14 great shipping States ratify and enforce the conventions to which they have put their signatures.
The passing of these Bills will enable the United Kingdom to increase its lead in this respect. Of all the nations of the world, the United Kingdom holds a lead as being the one country which actually ratifies the conventions to which she puts her signature and passes the legislation to enable enforcement. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give this item considerable priority in their programme because, on your behalf, I want to be able to go back to Europe with my colleagues and make representations to the remaining eight Member States of the European Economic Community so they may hurry to catch up with the example the United Kingdom has set.
I now wish with the indulgence of the House to pass to the broad ethos of the gracious Speech, and in doing so I shall be a little nostalgic concerning the year 1945, when the first Parliament after the war assembled and when, as has been indicated, the other place sat in your Lordships' House. Those were days of great hopes and high purpose. Most people thought it lay within our power to achieve such changes in our society and economy as would bring much happiness, contentment and more material possessions to the vast majority of our fellow countrymen. We were full of confidence; at least I was. We would not have thought in those days, some third of a century ago, at a time when Germany lay prostrate and Japan was on the brink of defeat, that the day would ever come when the dollar would tremble in the face of the yen and adverse comparisons would be made between the pound sterling and the German deutschmark. That thought never occurred to us.
Something has clearly gone wrong because, although there may be the same hopes today—possibly they are not quite so high—it is quite clear that there is not the same intensity of purpose as we experienced and in which we participated in 1945. What went wrong? It is quite clear that, in terms of material possessions and prosperity, the country and its people as a whole have prospered; there has been a great increase among all the people. Despite the fact that great inequalities and injustices remain, there has been a 15 considerable and significant increase in the standard of life of the people of this country since the end of the war.
Yet, as my noble friend indicated, something went wrong. Perhaps it was because we got our values and priorities a little astray. Perhaps it was because we put too much emphasis on the gaining of material benefits and did not pay quite as much attention to the other important factors of life, including above all things personal serenity. It is difficult for me to express in eloquent terms my precise meaning, but a writer, an American historian, Lewis Mumford, who always had a most profound influence on me, penned these words in 1944 while the flying bombs were still coming over London:What is the purpose of each new political and economic measure? Does it seek the old goal of expansion or the new one of equilibrium? Does it work for conquest or co-operation? And what is the nature of this or that industrial or social achievement—does it produce material goods alone or does it also produce human goods and good men? Do our individual life-plans make for a universal society, in which art and science, truth and beauty, religion and sanctity, enrich mankind? Do our public life-plans make for the fulfilment and renewal of the human person, so that they will bear fruit in a life abundant: ever more significant, ever more valuable, ever more deeply experienced and more widely shared?Those words encapsulate my views and express essentially the kind of direction in which I believe society, indeed ourselves, should move as an adjunct, but not subordinate, to our efforts to increase material production. In this I believe that Parliament has a supreme role to play. Parliament is sometimes thought of as a machine for legislation; its powers are alleged to reside in its power to enact legislation of various kinds.
There is, I believe, a greater power, and that is the power of persuasion; and that is why I am so glad to see in the gracious Speech a reference to the fact that Her Majesty's Government will continue to make information on public policy more readily available. Quite clearly, Parliament must take the lead in this, but, in order to do this, Parliament must be seen to be supreme. Parliament must be seen to rule. I am indebted for this thought not merely to myself, but to my late right honourable friend Aneurin Bevan, one of the country's greatest politicians, who 16 believed in the supremacy of Parliament above all things.
A number of our citizens have a number of franchises. They all have the citizen vote. Some of them have votes in trade unions. Some of them have votes in trade associations. Some of them occupy positions of power in great corporations, whether they be multi-national or otherwise. But some of these people have only one thing, and that is the vote. It is not right that any sectional interest, of whatever kind, or from whatever quarter, should be seen to challenge, or should be seen to succeed in challenging, the overall authority of Parliament. I hope—and I am convinced—that this gracious Speech is one of the steps that have been taken and which are progressively going in this direction precisely to prove that point. The next three years will be very critical and in the next three years the supremacy of Parliament must be re-established beyond all reasonable doubt: I am quite sure that all Members of this House and another place will dedicate themselves to this end.
In conclusion, I should like to express my thanks to my noble friends Lord Peart and Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe for having given me the honour of addressing your Lordships on this important occasion; and I am also indebted to your Lordships for your indulgence.
I beg, once again, to second the Motion.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow. I cannot disguise from your Lordships that it comes as a disappointment to me, as undoubtedly it does to your Lordships opposite—though for a very different reason—to find myself yet again having to make this speech at the opening of Parliament. I had thought that the boot would be on the other foot—or, more accurately perhaps, that the seat would be on the other side, and that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Peart, generously and magnanimously, would be congratulating two of my noble friends behind me for the remarkable and splendid manner in which they had proposed and seconded the humble Address. Alas! the Prime Minister's native caution has enabled Lord Peart—at any rate for a short time—to escape this onerous duty. 17 I remember a poem by G. K. Chesterton—I think it was called "Elegy in a country churchyard"—the last stanza of which goes:And they that rule in England,In stately conclave met;Alas, alas for England,They have no graves as yet ".I wish noble Lords opposite no physical harm, but we on this side of the House will do our best in the coming Session to dig their political graves.
However, there is one good thing about this distressing state of affairs. It has enabled us to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, propose and second the loyal Address. It also gives me the opportunity, on behalf, I know, of all your Lordships, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, upon his 90th birthday today. I had feared that he was not going to be here—probably at a party, but more likely drafting some Questions to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. We wish him a very happy birthday.
Previously on occasions such as these I have remarked that much tact and delicacy is called for from the two noble Lords who are commending to your Lordships a Party political speech in an uncontroversial way. Over the years we have seen quite a bit of skating over thin ice, and occasionally the ice has cracked ominously. Sometimes we have seen a stately dance—a minuet—where two bewildered and nervous dancers skirt the obstacles on the floor, not daring to dance too vigorously, and not listening to the tune the band is playing. But on this occasion not even the clumsiest of dancers or the worst of skaters could come to grief. How could one be controversial about so comparatively uncontroversial a business? How could one be indecently enthusiastic over such incredibly dull fare? I do not suppose that this was entirely unexpected, having regard to the circumstances, but we on this side will have to do something to liven things up in the next year.
So it is with even more warmth than usual that I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, upon having found anything at all to say, and upon having said it so agreeably—not, of course, that one would not have expected that from both of them. Lady Bacon—if it is not 18 unchivalrous to say so—has been in politics for a little time. Indeed, she was a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party from 1941 to 1970. For those of us who are not privy to the dark mysteries of the internal workings of the Labour Party, but who have from time to time observed with interest its more public manifestations, this says a very great deal for Lady Bacon and for the esteem in which she must be held by everybody in her Party. Indeed, it is nearly 30 years since she was the chairman of the Labour Party, and to those of us who see her in this House now she is as vigorous as she was in those days. The noble Baroness was also a school teacher, and I do not think there is any noble Lord on this side of the House who, if in her class, would not have treated her with caution and deference. I am sure that even the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, would not have put his tongue out when her back was turned—though he looked a little uneasy at one point in her speech. The noble Baroness has the respect of everyone in this House and, if I may say so, this afternoon she made a delightful speech.
In terms of membership of this House the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, is a comparative newcomer. He was defeated at the Election in 1950, but he has remained active in politics ever since the end of the war, and he has had a distinguished career in the Royal Signals. But, as he indicated, his interest at the moment is in the European Parliament, and I think it is for the work that he has done in the European Parliament that he is recognised particularly in your Lordships' House. When the noble Lord speaks in this House it is particularly noticeable and welcome that, unlike a number of your Lordships, he is not prepared to keep the subject of his speech to himself and can be heard even by the deafest of us without the aid of a microphone.
Just after Lord Bruce became a Member of this House he made a speech in which he was good enough to say that I had made a speech which fell lower than the standard of courtesy which was normal in this House. It struck me then—but it was an unworthy thought, and I immediately discarded it—that at that particular moment Lord Bruce was not perhaps the best judge of what was, or was not, 19 in accordance with the traditions of this House. But if I may repay him in kind, I think that the speech he has made this afternoon is wholly in keeping with the traditions of the House.
For the rest, we shall have to see how we go. As I said earlier, we shall try to make what is basically an unappetising menu rather less dull, though of course there are a number of uncertainties still left. Where are all these proposals for the nationalisation of this, that and the other, about which we read at Blackpool? Are these just postponed until the next Election? Have they been abandoned? We shall probe these matters. And what of your Lordships' House, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, said? Are we to be abolished? Apparently not just yet. Are we to be reformed? Are we to be left alone? Or are we (and here I would be prepared to have a little wager) to be reinforced, through the New Year's Honours List, by a large squad of Labour recruits requiring a short tenancy over a condemned property? In any event, they can be assured of a warm and hospitable welcome if they are lucky enough to find a seat in the tea room or the Library.
My Lords, tomorrow the Party warfare starts, in our usual courteous and gentle way. In the meantime we are grateful to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, who have started this Session so auspiciously. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—(Lord Carrington.)
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Lord BYERS
My Lords, I should first of all express my sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, at the frustration which he is feeling at not being able to speak from the Bench opposite; but I should like to tell him that so far as we are concerned we are quite happy, as a first step, to take over the seat which he is now occupying. My Lords, I think it must have come as quite a shock and surprise to the mover and seconder of the loyal Address to discover that they had been selected to perform this task today, instead of promoting the cause of socialism on the hustings. However, they both come from that excellent vintage, 1945, to which I had the honour to 20 belong; and I shared the same fate with the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, in that I had only the statutory five years and then lost my seat. But it is a very great pleasure to support the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in the congratulations which he has extended to the mover and seconder of the Address.
I had always thought that the signal honour of being selected to make these speeches indicated the likelihood that the recipients would soon enjoy promotion to the Front Bench. That certainly was the case in the other place, I think, but in this House, under this Government, it does not seem to hold. Of the 10 noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have moved and seconded the Address during this Parliament, I find that only one has risen to ministerial rank. It seems, therefore, that the odds against preferment arc quite high. But I would say to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord: do not despair; one day some irresponsible move will be made to abolish this House, and then we shall have to form an all-Party committee and, as is the fashion today, undertake industrial action. In that case I think no better-equipped shop stewards could be found than the mover and the seconder, on whom we shall rely to defend the cause of continuing this House.
My Lords, I am not going to say very much about the gracious Speech itself—I shall leave that to my noble friends who will be speaking in the debate in the next few days—but I would say this. I agree with the noble Baroness that it is not a question of legislation, but I think that even with a relatively non-controversial programme this is being regarded as a "fag-end" Government; and it is a Government which will find it difficult, I am afraid, to inspire sufficient confidence to obtain the authority which will be needed to govern this country over a full Session. I only hope and pray that the Government know what they are doing. I beg to support the Motion.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ The Lord PRIVY SEAL (Lord Peart)
My Lords, I am happy to be able to join the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Byers, in congratulating both the mover and the seconder on this occasion on their excellent speeches. I am so glad that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, 21 mentioned the birthday of my noble friend Lord Brockway. I was going to do it, but he beat me to it; but I second what he said. What a remarkable man—may I just say that to you, Fenner? Whatever our differences, you are one of the great figures in our great Labour Movement. I believe that on the opposite side, too, there is a friendliness towards what you do because they know you are sincere. I pay tribute to what you have done. Rather sadly, I should also like to say how much we miss the Clerk of the Parliaments today, and on behalf of the House we send our wishes for his speedy recovery.
It was a pleasure for me to ask my noble friend Lady Bacon to propose the Motion. I have Yorkshire connections— my mother was Yorkshire—and I have always regarded my noble friend, who comes from Normanton and who represented Leeds, as one of the authentic voices of Yorkshire in politics, that fine county. I am sorry that some of these counties are now in a bit of disarray—the fault of a previous Government, who fragmented?my own native Durham and did the same to Yorkshire. Nevertheless, my noble friend is Yorkshire, and it was good to hear her clear voice and a clear, argument. Much has been said about her: 25 years a Member of Parliament, six years a Minister and 30 years on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. That aroused a rather joyful criticism, in an ' odd sort of way, of the National Executive by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. It is not very much different from the body which runs the Conservative Party. I think both are rather similar. I have never been on either, and I do not suppose I ever shall be. Anyhow, my noble friend Lady Bacon has been 30 years on that committee, including a stint as chairman. My Lords, I think that spells a pretty active life.
It was indeed a pleasure for me to ask her to propose the Motion. She was, as we recall, in another place, where she seconded the Motion on the King's Speech, which was then moved by the honourable Member for Norfolk South-West, Mr. Dye, a farmer, who I remember so well. On that occasion Alice Bacon, as she was then, now my noble friend, made a very effective speech. It is a fitting tribute to her career that she should 22 have been invited to second that Motion in the lower Chamber and, some 28 years later, to propose a similar Motion in the upper Chamber. After all, this has been women's year. Last year it was International Women's Year: this year we have celebrated the 50th anniversary of votes for women, and many of your Lordships will have visited the exhibition on that theme in Westminster Hall.
My Lords, my reply to an accusation of sex discrimination would be that I asked Alice Bacon to speak today because she has shown by her long career in the Labour Party that women were activists while many of today's women's libbers were in their cradles. When my noble friend seconded the Motion on the King's Speech in 1950 she regretted that the General Election had returned so few women to Parliament, but she said that she was confident that her women colleagues would more than make up in quality for their numerical inferiority. My Lords, my noble friend and her distinguished women colleagues in all parts of this House have continued to do this. Your Lordships will know that I mean this sincerely, and that I am not saying it just because my noble friend the Chief Whip is sitting beside me. My noble friend Lady Bacon made a fine speech, and I am very proud of her.
I knew when I invited my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington to second the Motion today that he would provide a very soldierly seconder. He is a person who will always take the bull by the horns. My noble friend has been a Member of your Lordships' House for three years, and, as is appropriate for a former major, a signals officer in the last war, he rapidly established his communications credentials by his forceful interventions in the House. He was, as has already been mentioned, a Member of another place, during which time he had the fascinating task of serving for five years as Parliamentary Private Secretary to a great Minister, Aneurin Bevan, the then Secretary of State for Health.
He is perhaps best known among those Members of the House who are most closely concerned with European affairs—and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, quite rightly highlighted this—particularly, of course, the delegation to the European Parliament, where he is chairman of the 23 Regional Policy, Planning and Transport Committee. This is a very arduous task, and my noble friend has shown himself energetic even by the standards of Members of the European Parliament, who take for granted the constant flights to Europe and back. A good example of his enterprise was his reaction to the "Amoco Cadiz" disaster, when my noble friend held a series of public meetings of his committee in Paris to study the issue.
My noble friend is also a member of the Budgets Committee and has already acted as rapporteur for the Community Budget; that is, he has had the intimidating task of drafting the report of the Committee on the Community's Budget. I could not go so far as to say that the noble Lord was single-handed in promoting the European Parliament's effective scrutiny of the Community Budget and other matters; I am sure that the noble Lord would admit to some minor assistance from his colleagues in another place. But, as a former Member of the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons and as a professional accountant and as someone with decidely economic and European views—and perhaps I should simply leave out the words "economic and European" and say plain "decided"—he is fortunate, if that is the word, in being in a position to make a more forthright contribution on budgetary matters than is generally possible for a Member of this House.
Although an active Member of the European Parliament, the noble Lord takes a keen interest in the activities of this House. He is a great believer in the value of the work of the European Communities Committee; indeed, he ensures that all its excellent reports are known to other European Parliamentarians. It was a pleasure to hear him second the Address today. He lived up to his high reputation.
May I quickly turn to the new Session. Noble Lords will see that the programme is not top heavy as it is inevitably sometimes, or was in the last Session. The two devolution Acts accounted for 30 per cent. of the House's time and for some 60 per cent. of the time spent by your Lordships on legislation. I should just like to say in passing that some of the debates on these Bills were the finest I 24 have listened to in my 33 years in Parliament. I really mean this. I shall never forget those debates and how proud I was to boast of their quality to some of our colleagues in another place who listened to the debates; they were really something that the House should be proud of, and, indeed, Parliament was. When I listened to the Second Reading debate on the Scotland Bill in this House, I do not think I have ever heard such a fine debate in either place. The consideration of these Bills showed that this House combines the best traditions of Parliamentary debate with a carefully-conducted detailed review of legislation.
In the new Session the legislative diet will be more varied. Noble Lords will have noticed reference in the gracious Speech to a wide range of measures, including Bills relating to banks, deposit-taking institutions and credit unions, to merchant shipping law (very important), to the safety of offshore oil and gas installations, together with Bills on housing, nursing and another to strengthen the consumer voice in relation to nationalised industries. Scottish Bills were also mentioned in the gracious Speech. Noble Lords with Scottish interests will no doubt be relieved to hear that they should not prove as taxing as the Scotland Act, although I am sure that the Bill on a system for Scotland of registration of title to land will provide scope for detailed work if Scottish Peers miss the intricacies of devolution.
Several Bills will be introduced into this House in the period before Christmas. There will also be some debates on reports of the European Communities Committee. The first of these will be on the Seventh Directive on VAT and this will be followed by debates on misleading advertising and the substantial report on relations between the British Parliament and the European Parliament after direct elections. Arrangements will also be made for a debate on the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Boycotts. This Committee has been a model for coming to grips with this sensitive and complicated subject without delay.
My Lords, in closing, I should like again to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, for their notable speeches moving and seconding the Motion before 25 your Lordships. I should also like to say, although noble Lords will doubtless have enjoyed the Recess, that it is very nice to see everyone again.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until tomorrow.