§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Baroness ROBSON of KIDDINGTON rose to call attention to the need to balance and to reconcile economic and environmental factors in social and industrial policy-making; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to introduce the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. It is a Motion of enormously wide implications and to do it justice would take much more time than your Lordships would graciously allow me. I shall do my best to cover one or two parts of this very wide subject, but I am enormously heartened by the interest indicated by the number of speakers on the list and I look forward to listening to the contributions made by noble Lords, in the hope that at the end of our debate we shall between us have covered most of the important aspects of the subject.
§ What we are here to discuss today are not merely specific remedies for certain obvious social and environmental ills but the whole of our attitude in the future in the light of our present knowledge of finite resources. It is only 30 generations ago that the iron plough first appeared in this country, and now man is capable of landing on the moon. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, Western civilisation has been dazzled by the irresistible march of technological progress. For as long as most of us can remember, the maxim that nothing can stand in the way of progress has been the mainspring of economic thinking. This concept, I believe, must now be challenged if it means thoughtless exploitation of our resources with no thought for the future and the wellbeing of generations to come. Technology has been responsible for much of the damage done to our society, but this need not be so in the future. It could equally be directed towards enhancing the environment if we so wished. For this to happen we need co-operation, not animosity, between technologists, planners, conservationists and politicians. We should do well to remember that each time a species dies out an imbalance is created and so the bell tolls for man as well.
§ All industrial, indeed any human activity, is attended with risk, but it is undertaken 1397 for the satisfaction of social needs, both through the goods produced and through profits and taxes raised. Unfortunately, in the wake of this desire to satisfy social needs, we have created other items which are unwanted. I should like to refer to them as disamenities, such as noise, air and water pollution, technological disasters such as thalidomide and Aberfan, road deaths and industrial accidents, and the destruction of visual amenities, and, if the argument is taken to its logical conclusion, matters like unemployment. As long as society accepts the current economic thinking that growth for its own sake is a good thing, we shall have difficulty in reconciling the views of the economists, who look on consumption as a wholly admirable activity, with those of the ecologists, who believe that human consumption is destroying irreplacable resources.
§ Economics till now has meant labour costs and material costs. The social costs of production are now mounting so rapidly that they must be taken into account. That means that as far as possible society must try to put a value on them to compare with the value of material production. In other words, society as a whole is presented with a problem of making value judgments with a view to creating a society worth living in, both for ourselves and for future generations.
§ Of all the finite resources about which society has to make a value judgment energy is probably the best example. I say this because energy is about the only resource which cannot be recycled and of all resources it has the greatest impact on human life. It is a prerequisite for all our industrial activity as well as the basis for our personal comfort. I well remember the heady days of the 'fifties, of virtually uncontrolled industrial and economic growth, when the Herbert inquiry into the electricity industry was given the remit of an expected demand for energy amounting to a doubling of consumption every ten years. That was only in 1950. This resulted in enormous investments being made in the nuclear power industry, with all its attendant dangers for future generations.
§ Since then, progressively, the estimates for expected energy demands have come down, until today we have before us the 1398 astonishing report of the International Institute for Environment and Development, the Energy Report, the main conclusions of which are that the United Kingdom could have a future of prosperous material growth and yet use less energy than it does today. It comes to this conclusion despite numerous detailed assumptions about improved living standards, such as the rise in average house temperatures, increased ownership of cars and other domestic energy users such as freezers, dishwashers and colour TV. It does, however, also expect society to make certain value judgments. Are we prepared to accept, for example, the disappearance of the high-powered, high fuel consumption motorcar, and are we prepared to speed up our investment in energy conservation, insulation policies for home, office and industrial building? I have no doubt that the nation would agree if it was asked.
§ To achieve the energy savings envisaged in the report, some Government intervention would be required, but that would be minimal compared with the intervention given to the supply side of the energy industry. In the report, nuclear power assumes a very minor role in the future, and the fast-breeder reactor is simply not needed and could easily be shelved indefinitely. The whole report emphasises that Britain, with its resources of coal, gas and oil, could set an example to the rest of the world in energy conservation.
§ Energy, although the most important of finite resources, is only one resource which society has to consider and about which we have to make value judgments. Almost equally important are the considerations necessary for the use of finite resources of certain metals. Here, I believe, the approach must be twofold. First, we must get away from the idea that waste is a measure of society's abundance. Only the rich can afford waste and, although the resources of our earth may seem abundant, we now know that they are finite. Therefore, society must make a value judgment now and choose to end the hitherto deliberate economic policy of production for obsolescence, and demand of industry a return to quality and long lasting production.
§ Secondly, we must turn our attention to improved methods of recycling the 1399 waste material which our way of life inevitably creates. Apart from the consideration of finite resources, it is estimated that recovering, for example, metals from waste is 10 to 20 times energy cheaper than the present primary production. One perfect example is the recycling of a bottle. The production of a glass milk bottle involves an energy cost of 1.5 kilowatts. If the bottle is discarded after a single use then the energy cost involved in delivering one pint of milk is 1.5 kilowatts. However, if the same bottle is re-used 15 times then the energy cost is 0.15 kilowatt/pint delivered. If, at the end of its useful life, the glass bottle is crushed and used to make a new bottle then, on the assumptions which I have just put forward, further energy cost savings are made as the raw materials do not have to be mined, graded and delivered. Wherever a material can be recovered in a concentrated form, it provides a cheaper energy cost source for that material than is the case with the natural deposits. It also goes a long way towards preventing the disfigurement of our environment by waste tips and slag heaps.
§ According to an EEC Energy and Research Committee report one person produces about 550 lb. of waste a year, a great proportion of which is recoverable and valuable material. The Control of Pollution Act 1974 charged local authorities with the duty of producing waste disposal plans. Would the Government be kind enough to inform the House how many councils have produced such plans? Would they also tell us whether there is not a case for greater Government subvention to local authorities to help them fulfil the demands of the Control of Pollution Act 1974?
§ When we come to the environmental aspects involved in actual industrial production and the kind of environment we expect the working people of this country to enjoy, I believe there is a strong case for calling for a comprehensive review of all environmental legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work Acts, to see quite specifically whether the whole matter could not be drawn together into comprehensive legislation administered by one independent agency, easily identifiable and able to act against strictly defined legal criteria. I personally believe 1400 that the United States legislation is much tighter than the British legislation in this regard and gives far less discretionary power to the Executive, and therefore, I believe, would be a better model. It would require certain tighter company legislation so that firms must report annually on such matters as the dangerous chemicals they keep, the accidents they have, the industrial relations problems that have occurred, the consumer complaints which end up in the courts, the improvements they have made to working conditions and so on. I believe that that would obviously add certain complications to a company report, but it would go a long way towards improving the environmental aspects of mass production. I also believe that the environmental aspects of working conditions should be part of the collective bargaining point as in Germany and Scandinavia.
§ There are many other aspects of the environmental problems that 1 should like to mention, but there is one in particular where again I believe that the bringing together of the legislation that we already have would be important. I am referring to the use of land. A very careful balance must be struck between the pollutant effects of intensive modern methods of farming and the desirable necessity to produce food in abundance at reasonable prices. I understand that in Scotland discussions are going ahead to put into practice the principle that conservation and agriculture should not, as at present, be in the care of two separate departments, but that Ministry of Agriculture advisers should be given a totally different remit and training and their job should be to consider environmental, agricultural and economic considerations at the same time, and to balance them where conflict occurs. Where, for example, a man wants to drain wet land, the adviser should be able to judge whether that is justified in terms of increased food production, or whether the land is far more valuable as a wildlife reservoir. I believe that the Government should be equally prepared to pay a man not to grub an important hedge or plough up moorland as they are to pay him to do it.
§ We should have comprehensive legislation and the power to judge contained in one organisation. I know that this sounds like centralisation, but it is 1401 impossible for the agriculturist—the farmer—to be given the right advice if at one moment he is offered money to do something which is environmentally wrong and the next moment is told by the environmentalist that he should not have done it. So, it is desperately important that we look at the whole question of the environment and the productivity of our land through one organisation.
§ In conclusion, I believe that environmental issues should not just be something that are thought of as an optional extra, which is what we have been doing up until now. We have paid lip-service to the environmental aspects of our lives and the lives of future generations. Consideration of environmental issues should be a necessity when all other feasibility studies are done. In economic terms alone, the cost of short-term planning that ignores these issues is enormous. Until there is a general awareness that the end and goal of human life is not mere economic growth for its own sake, there is no real hope of tackling the current political malaise. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, for introducing this debate this afternoon. She has chosen a subject of enormous importance and, like her, I only wish that I had had more notice of it for there is much to say on so many of its aspects. Her Motion calls attention to,the need to balance and to reconcile economic and environmental factors in social and industrial policy-making".I was interested that she should put the verb "to balance" before that of "to reconcile", for I am not quite sure what she means by "balance" in this context. However, I am quite certain that reconciliation in all its aspects is something that we need in this country today.
In my more depressed moments, I believe that it is arguable that over the past five years we have had very little improvement in the environment and equally little economic growth, and that that in itself is a sort of balance. However, is it what we want? Pressed to its logical conclusion, nothing makes this point better than the present state of the country: thousands striking for increased pay for 1402 which there is no increased productivity, while the rubbish piles up in the streets. One might almost say that the one redeeming feature of the situation is that all is blanketed by snow, and that has produced for us the worst of all possible worlds.
However, if we look at the effects of a no-growth economy, we see what has happened—and I am very glad that the noble Baroness mentioned it—to the workings of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. Noble Lords will recall that this important Act had the support of both political Parties.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, yes. It was a major Act about the environment and it concerned four major areas of policy: waste, water, noise and atmospheric pollution. Last year in the Local Government Chronicle an article was published showing how of much that Act had not been implemented. As I understand it, the fact is that no waste disposal plans have been put forward by county councils, and I am quite certain that the reason is that they cannot afford to do so. By no means have all authorities provided the rubbish tips which were originally asked for under the Civic Amenities Act 1967. Much of Part II of the Control of Pollution Act dealing with the pollution of water has not been implemented. It is encouraging that some parts of Part III on the provision of noise have made progress, and here progress has been made in a quite new area of the environment.
The most progress has been made in Part IV, covering atmospheric pollution. But surely it is not without significance that much of this improvement in atmospheric pollution is the result of the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968, which were passed at a time of economic growth and when, as a country, we not only believed in economic growth but actually achieved it. I make that point because I am not yet convinced that a policy of no economic growth will mean an improved environment. On the contrary, it could lead to a deterioration, as inevitably there will be competing claims for the money available.
No one with any imagination can fail to recognise the agonising decisions which, 1403 with the background of our present economic difficulties, must be going on in local authorities up and down the country at the moment, trying to decide whether to spend the limited resources that are available on schools, welfare, the elderly or the environment. I share the view of the noble Baroness that the environment is very important, should not be forgotten, if for no other reason than that the effects on the environment are permanent, whereas the effects of other policies may not fall into that same category. Nevertheless, the environment has to compete for the resources available with the other services that also need money.
However, I believe that within this there is a second argument that has been put forward by those who look not so much to the industrial society and economic growth as to a new type of industrial society altogether. This argument has been put forward in a document entitled One Europe, One Environment—a Manifesto. It is a philosophy that has been supported by very many environmentalists, many of whom have joined together under the organisation called the Green Alliance. On reading their view of the new society, I could not help wondering whether this heralded a return to romanticism. Unfortunately, time has not allowed me to look up my Rousseau, but it sounds a little like the philosophical belief in the paradise of man in his natural state, living in perfect harmony with his neighbours and his environment.
I am not one to condemn either ideals or romanticism. The good life, or the simple life, away from the complexities of modern living, has a fascination and charm of its own. But nowadays, for those who support it, it usually means life in the country, certainly with all mod. cons; not a return to a pre-industrial society, with its life of unremitting toil for men and women. That is not something which I would advocate or think either desirable or possible.
Politicians need to keep their ideals, but at the same time they need to face reality and life as it is and is likely to be, at any rate in the foreseeable future. When one considers the complexities of reconciling industry and the environment, I am reminded very much of Adlai Stevenson's dictum about politics: 1404Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable".That said, looking at the documents of the environmentalists, there are many points with which I find myself in entire agreement. I very strongly support the belief that individuals can and should do much more for themselves; the belief in self-help and individual responsibility is, above all, a philosophy which we all need to exercise now. I very much support their concern about the centralisation of power and its attendant dangers and the belief that centralisation should be reversed—that more power should be returned to local authorities and to the individuals exercising their rights in society.
Like the Green Alliance and many others, I recognise that we in society are suffering from the belief that bigger is better, whether in industry or in Government. It has had its effect in our cities. There is a need to return to units, not simply of a more manageable size, but of a size that can be understood by everyone who works in them. However, I do not think that this theme should be confused with the belief that we should simply stop economic and industrial growth, for surely we need small businesses and small industries in which everyone working recognises the vital role that he or she has to play. What is this development but industrial growth? Perhaps it is not recognised as such, but it is growth and development none the less. Furthermore, the industries have to go somewhere and will inevitably affect the environment.
In considering the complexities of the society in which we live, we need to make use of all tools at our disposal. One of these is the new science of ecology. It has much to tell us about the social needs of individuals, and I believe it could stop us breaking up communities for redevelopment or building high-rise flats—policies from which we have suffered in the past and mistakes from which we must learn for our future development.
Above all, there is a need to reconcile, and here I very much agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, says in her Motion. If there is one thing that is needed in our society today, it is reconciliation; and it is needed in the environment where there are always so 1405 many conflicts. Perhaps, therefore, it would be helpful if I set out where I believe there are wide areas of agreement among us all. I do not believe that a policy of unlimited economic growth is possible even if desirable. However, it is necessary to combine economic growth with the most and the best use of our resources. When I was a child I was brought up very firmly on the adage "Waste not want not", and there is no doubt at all that today we live in a very wasteful society.
We begin by wasting land. As Alice Coleman has reported, after 30 years of planning legislation we are still using up good agricultural land and creating waste land in the inner urban areas. We need therefore to press on with our urban development; to use the land in the city centres and stop using up so much good agricultural land. If it is not possible to build on some of this land immediately, I myself would not be afraid to use it for other quite new schemes such as allotments, and such as urban farms. It would at least have the value of growing food, and it would bring the country into the town.
We need again to look at wherever it is possible to recycle: to recycle waste; to recycle bottles. Incidentally, I live in Oxford where there are now a number of bottle banks where you can take all your empty bottles for recycling. I am sure that this is the kind of project which needs to be taken up by local authorities. There are, however, limits to recycling, and local authorities will tell you that they have had their fingers badly burned when they have had special collections of paper which is suddenly no longer needed. Perhaps when she comes to reply the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, will be able to tell us how much, if any, recycled paper the Government use.
We need always to restore the environment; to make good the ravages of some of our industrial processes. Far from a sense of despair, I think we have cause to pick out some very good examples of reconciliation between industries and the environment. I believe that the new workings of the National Coal Board at Selby are an excellent example of what can be done to restore the land. From private industry I would recommend the 1406 example of the Amey Roadstone Company at Abingdon, in which they have been able to fill the pits left by quarrying the stone with a mixture of GLC rubbish interlaced with the ash from the Didcot power station. It has then had top soil put on it, and it is able to be returned to agricultural use. This is surely an example of what can happen. I believe there is a far greater understanding on the part of industry about the needs of the environment. I think it would be a great mistake to spend our time condemning industry, which has so many problems at the moment for what it failed to do 100 years ago when we look at what they have done in the light of principles that we have today. Modern industry is playing its part in the environment and I think should be encouraged to do so.
The same need to conserve goes for energy. Energy saving not only buys time; it pays for itself. We need to give all the support that we can to all the campaigns to save energy though, like my noble friend Lord Strathcona, I think the title should be changed not to "Save it" but to "Do yourself a favour". Enlightened self-interest is so much worth promoting and I believe achieves far more effective results. But, in looking at the need to reconcile industry and the environment, we need to look at all the tools at our disposal. At the moment almost certainly the greatest environmental concern is the development of nuclear power stations. I think that this concern has arisen over the whole Wind-scale inquiry. It will inevitably arise again over the whole question of fast breeder reactors, on which I feel certain other noble Lords will speak. Here again I believe that we ought to look at the tools at our disposal. There is, for example, the proposal by Lord Rothschild on what he calls "risk impact analysis". It is valuable for us to compare the risks in different types of energy industries: the numbers who sadly die in the coal mining industry as compared with the other risks in the nuclear industries. We need to look at the facts.
I would be in favour of the use of the technique known as "environmental impact analysis" in certain cases, particularly in cases where there is a need to reconcile a national objective with local objections. Before, however, we take all the cases of the use of this particular 1407 technique from other countries, we need to remind ourselves that we have had for some considerable time very useful planning laws, and I think these new techniques need to be seen against the background of our planning legislation. We do not need to add anything which will contribute something which we already have. Of course in all these matters we need to look at ways of refining and improving the whole system of public inquiries. That in itself would be a subject for debate, but I think we need to recognise the value of a public inquiry and the opportunity that it gives for the fullest possible discussion of the facts before us.
This is an important debate on a matter which must be of concern not only to ourselves but to future generations. In a debate like this, it is all too easy to generalise; to generalise about a whole mass of very large subjects. What is clear is that we cannot attempt to turn this country into a museum, and to think that everything must stay precisely as it is. Nor indeed can we just go on having unlimited destruction anywhere, which nobody wants. We want to proceed with care. We need to look always at all the facts. We need to use the best tools at our disposal, and we need to proceed with care. If we succeeded in reconciling some of the problems between industry and the environment, we might proceed indeed in reconciling some of the warring factions in our society today.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of GUILDFORD
My Lords, I wish first to apologise for any apparent discourtesy if I have to leave before the end of the debate. My father is in hospital following a stroke, and the events of the past few days make it imperative that I should get home in time to visit him this evening. I am very grateful indeed to the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, for raising this issue in the House today, and grateful to her for the general remarks which she presented to us at the beginning of her speech, with which I find myself in entire agreement.
All I want to do is to raise three particular issues in this context. The first is to refer to the criteria by which we judge the excellence of design, or of 1408 social planning. It is comparatively easy in industrial design to work within a very narrow framework; that marked out, for example, by efficiency or by quality of performance. The trouble is that such design, however brilliant it may be, may in fact be very wasteful of resources, or destructive of human values in those who have to use the designs or who live in the environment where they are used. Examples of the dangers in such design, I think, are found in modern airports and in the noise levels of modern aircraft, and in the conflict between the needs of modern transport and the communities through which modern highways have to pass, whether they be villages or closely built-up urban areas.
A major problem in this area of design is the mismatch between the slow pace at which human society evolves and adapts itself to new conditions, and the speed with which technology can now develop new machines and speed up the means of production. Only three years ago at the Royal Aeronautical Show at Farnborough the commentator mentioned with pride that one particular aircraft had been built directly off the initial designs through computer links with the jigs and the tools which produced it, thus cutting out the drawing-room stage of production. Now the acceleration of design has been greatly heightened by the micro-processors. This shifts the problem away from problems of technical design to the problem of educating society to cope with the changes which this new technology imposes upon society. Incidentally, this places a great onus on the Churches to assist in the discussion of attitudes to work, since it was the Protestant work ethic which played such a part in the emergence of Western Europe.
I suggest that, as the Motion implies, the excellence of any policy, whether in the industrial or social field, must be judged by the total context in which it is to operate. "Design in context" rather than "design" in and for itself is what is important, and I believe people are beginning to appreciate this in the social audit which some firms practice and in the development, in a different context, of intermediate technology which seeks for a technology compatible with the constraints of the society in which that technology is used.
1409 The Motion speaks of environmental factors, and J suggest that the environment which should be considered is that of the whole community of mankind. We are, I believe, on the threshold of a new era in which the evolution and development of mankind as one community is what we must think about. I am not the disciple of any particular group in this respect but, rather, I have come to the conclusion, in the light of what a wide variety of people tell us about the future of man and his world, that this is one of the most important issues before us today; and it may seem surprising to say that at a time when our country is beset by all sorts of questions.
When one listens to modern prophets like Martin Luther King, to statesmen like the Commonwealth Secretary-General, to economists as diverse as Barbara Ward and the Club of Rome, or even science fiction writers like Arthur Clarke, one comes to the conclusion that one of the great issues today is to plan for mankind as a whole. The economic interdependence of the nations, the spread of travel and the communications explosion have made the achievement of world community a necessity for the welfare of mankind, something which is not only necessary but right and just as well. In his posthumous work, his universal history Mankind and Mother Earth, Arnold Toynbee wrote:The inexorable condition for mankind's survival is the unification of the whole of the Oikoumene, and this not only on the technological level but on every plane of life".In drawing attention to that, I do not want to depreciate in any way the contribution which a particular nation can make to the whole enterprise. Indeed, it is only strong and self-confident nations which will prove themselves able to contribute generously to the development of the whole world community. It is only such nations which will have the necessary courage to determine their national policies in the light of what are the wider needs of the world community—in the sharing of resources and the bringing into being of the world community—and I hope that with our history we will take a lead in doing that. We have made some worthwhile contributions in the past, such as the writing off of aid debts from some of the less developed countries, but can we not afford to be 1410 more generous at the United Nations conferences on trade and development than we were at the fourth conference at Geneva in 1976? And of what long-term value is the arms trade on which we have made ourselves so dependent and which misuses so much of resources and research?
It is interesting to note that in the book by Arnold Toynbee to which I referred he raised time and again the issue of religion and the need for man to have transcendent goals to help him unify his experience. The Motion speaks of the reconciliation of economic and environmental factors. I would only say in passing that we should not minimise the importance of religious beliefs and sanctions in achieving this reconciliation, a word which seems deliberately to have been inserted in the Motion.
I wish, finally, to emphasise how important the schools are in preparing young people for the world of tomorrow, in which the matters raised by the Motion will press ever more severely on us, and Lady Robson referred to our attitudes to the future. I refer noble Lords to the 1977 Consultative Document Education in Schools, from which I take this quotation which corresponds so closely to the Motion we are debating:Nor are our young people sufficiently aware of the international interdependence of modern countries. Many of our most pressing problems can only be solved internationally, for instance environmental pollution"—which is the subject we are discussing today—so our children need to be educated in environmental understanding as well".One of the eight aims which the Consultative Document set down was:… to help children understand the world in which we live, and the interdependence of nations".The Motion sets out an attitude which will need to prevail in the future if the human community is to cope with the ever-increasing pressure of technological development and the pressure on resources which it will bring. I suggest that the Department of Education and Science needs to give the most serious study to the problem of adjusting our educational system to meet those needs. In particular, the curriculum itself needs examination to see if it is adjusted in two important respects to the future which presses upon us and to which the Motion refers.
1411 The first is this: are children being helped to see that the national environment is a complex whole in which mankind is a participant and not simply its master? In other words, are they being helped to understand words like "design", "efficiency" and "planning" in terms of the whole context in which we and other humans live our lives? The second is this: are children being taught history, geography and religion in such a way that they see themselves to be citizens not only of our own country but of the world? Much work has been done in this field, particularly in multi-ethnic areas like Birmingham, but it needs to become part of the outlook of all our schools. A recent article in Educational Research said:An insular curriculum is unjustifiable in the final quarter of the twentieth century. The curriculum needs to be both international in its choice of content and global in its perspective".I make no apology for bringing that reference into this debate because I believe the environment is not simply the environment of our own country but the total environment, the whole ecumene, which we share with people of all other races in all other countries across the world, and I hope very much that this dimension will be borne in mind in this debate.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Lord PARRY
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, has set very high standards both in the terms of her Motion and in her presentation of it. In doing that, she has challenged us to obtain the very best from all those who will be contributing to the debate, and if we fall below her standards we apologise, but we are aiming for them. Those who have spoken since she did have accepted the challenge and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, from the Front Bench opposite, despite the statutory fusillade across the bows, or perhaps the stern, of the Government, also put forward very thoughtful and provocative ideas. The right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Guildford, set the subject in an international context and within the Christian ethic.
It is extraordinarily important that at a moment when we find ourselves divided naturally and nationally over the way in which we tackle issues that bedevil us as 1412 a nation, we should take time out from that confrontation and out of the issues which it involves to look both forward and backward. Lady Young will not expect me to leave unexplored those points in human history at which we have made a change for the better. When one considers policies for the future it is always essential to base them upon the solid knowledge of the past.
In the tradition that the right reverend Prelate has laid down, I should like to quote here from a countryman of mine, Richard Llewellyn. At the beginning of a very memorable book, which has also been made into several memorable films, he says, as a young Welshman standing at the window of a cottage:I am packing my bag in the old blue cloth that my mother used to tie around her hair when she was cleaning the house, and I am leaving my valley. As I stand at the window and look out over the valley I think of the green grass before the dark fingers of coal had begun to work their way through the roots of the grass of my valley"—and then there is a reference to the title—how green was my valley then".I think it right that we remember that there was a pre-industrial society. As the noble Baroness has said, it would be incredibly foolish if we were to attempt to return to such a pre-industrial society. The way back is never open to mankind, however difficult the way forward may be. I believe it is essential that, whatever the Party political point of view from which we may speak in the debate, we should isolate this single fact: Great Britain is at this moment in a post-industrial society, and there is no way back from that, either. I say this because for a very long time, almost unnoticed and often unremarked upon, there have not been available to Britain, nor indeed to the Western countries of Europe, the two main things upon which industrial societies are built—namely, cheap labour and cheap raw materials. When these two resources are removed from a nation it ceases to base its politics and its economy purely upon heavy industry. Many of the arguments in which we involve ourselves, and many of the energies which we run to ground and divert from their proper use, are caused by the fact that we do not concentrate upon the lesson that Britain will never again have available to it those heavy industries that built its greatness and in fact founded the British Empire.
1413 When we sigh for the declining glories of the British Empire we must remember that they died because fuel resources died and because men learnt lessons to the effect that they need no longer work in the bowels of the earth for a pittance, that they need no longer go down to the mill for less money than was rightly theirs to expect. From a non-Party point of view, and in as much as it is possible to me with my tradition, I make the submission that when an individual finds himself challenged by his environment and the evils of it to seek more out of life than he is getting, he is rising to the best challenges within him, rather than responding to the worst. If Western society has a fault—and its faults are many and gross—it is that it has tied its whole working system, and its whole system of motivation, to the pound sterling or to the almighty or shaky dollar, rather than to the true incentives for which man has always worked in order both to provide food, clothing and shelter for himself and his children and to give them a better opportunity to expand than he himself has had.
So I begin from the point that we are at this moment challenged by the difficulties of running a post-industrial society. If, from the position of a new type of industrial-social economy, we attempt the delusions of grandeur that have for too long followed the declining might and spread of the British Empire, we shall run into the same types of error that we have met elsewhere in the world as our Empire has contracted.
I would challenge this House, at its best moment, when it is trying to come to grips with real problems and not imagined ones, to accept that what we now must do is look at the whole issue of environmental planning as though the environment is not additional to society and indeed is not only the context in which society is built, but is part of the whole business of living and, in that sense, can be included in the credit column or the debit column of the business ledger. We must realise that the whole proposed, and expected, boom from the North Sea, the development of North Sea oil and the fuel represented there, has already been overtaken by something that might not have been expected at the moment when Richard Llewellyn, or the character whom he wrote into his book, left the valleys of 1414 Wales seeking a better environment. It has already been overtaken by the simple fact that men, women and children from other countries in the world are now able to travel across the world to those very valleys, seeking places where they will find human interest and a different environment.
In the doom and gloom of the 'thirties, the Prince of Wales stood in an industrial valley, depressed by what he saw around him in the social conditions of the time—and I apportion no blame here—and said, "Something must be done". Who then would ever have thought that 30 years later Welshmen from the continent of America, from Canada, from all parts of the world, would be returning to those very valleys to see how they were taking on a new look, to see how the scars of industry themselves, because they were part of the emergence of the Welsh people, are now of interest to people who come seeking roots? What a phrase, what an evocative phrase, to put into the debate, because transient humanity is constantly seeking its roots. So Welshmen come back looking to the very scars that were left by a passing industry for some of the inspiration through which they might find themselves.
In case I might be thought here to be dealing in an esoteric way with what is a clearly defined debate, let me accept its disciplines. I believe that the disregarded industries of the past make a contribution even in the present, but I believe also that it is much more important that the green and lovely areas of the world should be preserved and conserved. I so much agree with the contention of the noble Baroness, Lady Young—applauded all around the House—that we cannot make museums out of places in which people live. I believe that some of our ecological planning has suffered from the fact that early planning officers believed that all that had to be done in planning was to say, "No". I believe that the planner who says, "No" is falling far short of the challenge of his time, because the challenge must surely be so to use the environment—and I mean in its best sense—so to conserve it and so to preserve it that it becomes part of the capital stock of a new industrial economy.
I believe that tourism is emerging as a very substantial item in the credit balance
1415 of this new economy; and here 1 declare my own associations with the Welsh Tourist Board and plead the Addison rules. While we find other sources, while we look for the alternative fuels to empower us to travel, and look to the sources from which we shall get the funding to pay for that travel, we must also be careful that we do not lose the will of the people of the nation to co-operate in the planning experiment.
Anyone who has been brought up in a national park, as 1 have been, will have a knowledge of the beauty of the environment and the quality that it gives to life. He or she will also realise that there are some disadvantages to living in such an area. When a young man and young woman wish to marry and find their first home they have to go to innumerable planning authorities in order to grapple with what might be the biggest single expenditure and the greatest challenge of their life. When the young man seeks to fund the business of living he has to find a job for himself, and because he lives in a national park he may have to travel a very great distance to the job, leaving his young wife and children trapped in a beautiful environment, in their house or bungalow, while he takes the car because there is unlikely to be public rural transport to take him to work. So if we are not careful there could grow up in society a new group of young people who were themselves anti the concept of the conservation and preservation of the very environment that they chose for themselves and their children. Thus it is essential that we look at the negatives, as well as the positives, of the situation.
I believe that one thing has so far, naturally, been missed from the context of this debate. I in fact picked up some words of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who said that it saddened her that over the last five years so little had been done, in real terms, for the development of the environment. That charge cannot be laid in a House where, only a short while ago, we were discussing the growing importance of bodies which form a new tier of government; bodies which have great and heavy responsibility in developing the environment, in controlling and stimulating industry and in investing in the new economy. It is a fact that there exist, for example, in Wales bodies such as the 1416 Welsh Tourist Board, the Welsh Development Agency and the Development Board for Rural Wales (and I could name three or four others) which are, and have been over the last five years, indeed over the last 15 years, drawing together all those philosophical decisions taken in this and the other House in order to improve the environment and to develop the economy. It cannot be said that nothing much has happened over the last five years. In fact, a very great deal has happened, and it has now been recognised that this country has to look for new sources to drive its economy forward.
The right reverend Prelate made the point about our contribution to the underdeveloped areas of the world. That is a theme which I, in all my contributions, whatever they might have been, have always emphasised, so he will accept from me I am sure that, in precisely the same way as the people who benefit most from the activities of the conservationists and the preservationists might unconsciously be turned, if we are not careful, into anti-conservation and anti-preservation lobbies, so indeed do the people of Britain sometimes get turned away from their natural and traditional generosity to those areas or spheres of influence because, they say, charity begins at home. So I make the philosophical point that in this debate we have both to assess what is being done by all the bodies that we have set up—and this is firmly, within the terms of the Motion, home—and to see to it that people who live their lives in the areas which are most affected by decisions taken for conservation and preservation are parties to them at every level.
I gladly accepted the invitation to take part in this debate because I felt it gives us the real basis for what we are trying to do in our membership of this House. I believe that I cannot emphasise too strongly the fact that from time to time we feel frustrated that we cannot make a more positive contribution to the thinking, as opposed to the reaction here and there to events that can often be seen to preoccupy us too much. I am not detracting from the difficulties of the times when I say that I believe that this debate does more than offer us a series of mechanistic solutions to problems that have bedevilled us for a very long time. It can in fact stimulate us to a far greater attention to the working of those bodies which, in 1417 their way, perhaps below the level of Government control, perhaps needing closer control, have worked towards the main aims that your Lordships have laid down in this House. In closing, my Lords, may I be allowed to say that I should like at this time, on my first opportunity in this House, to pay my respects and congratulations to my noble friend who will respond to this debate from her new position as a Minister of State.