HL Deb 03 November 1982 vol 436 cc4-14

Bill, pro forma, read a first time.


The Queen's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.

3.44 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I beg to move, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in the following terms: 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". Ten years ago the mover of the humble Address drew attention to Her Majesty's then forthcoming visit to Australia. Today we are able to welcome the return only hours ago of Her Majesty from another visit to Australia and South Pacific Islands. From what I was told when I was in Queensland a few months ago, I know that Her Majesty's visit, together with His Royal Highness Prince Philip, to the Commonwealth Games was anticipated with affection. The Royal visit was of particular significance for my noble friend Lord Swansea. He was inspired at the games to even greater endeavours than usual, and returned with a silver medal won in the rifle shooting event.

Your Lordships now know that Her Majesty is to undertake further journeys early next year to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the West Coast of Mexico, the United States of America and Canada, together with a visit to Sweden. The House, I am quite sure, would wish me to express our heartfelt appreciation of the many tasks that Her Majesty undertakes on behalf of the nation, accommodating, as she does, these strenuous visits into a very burdensome schedule.

The gracious Speech expressly refers to the security of the nation and the high priority to be given to the preservation of peace. I am particularly pleased to see set down in plain terms in the gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government plan to meet NATO targets of expenditure. There are those who make much play of the varying degrees of emphasis and of the different opinions expressed between members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but I suggest that only by exchanging these feelings between each other can a firm resolve emerge.

There are those also who see the Alliance only as one predominantly of a militarist nature. I believe them to be wrong. NATO involves itself in many areas—in scientific and research fellowships, in information and cultural relations fellowships—and it also provides grants to postgraduate students. It organises among other things co-operative projects between the international youth movements. The role of NATO and its influence in these many areas, together with the parliamentary arm—the North Atlantic Assembly—can quite reasonably claim significant influence in matters of science, technology and the other spheres I have mentioned. I believe the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is involved with peace.

I welcome the fact that this year Her Majesty's Government are to host the annual meeting of the North Atlantic Assembly here in London later this month. This will provide a further opportunity for the United Kingdom delegation—of which I am a member, under the leadership of my honourable friend Sir Patrick Wall—to reaffirm, parliamentarian to parliamentarian, their total support for NATO.

Prominent in the gracious Speech are those references to the importance of the Commonwealth and the United Nations and the work of those organisations. Also prominent is the statement of our Government's support of the United States proposals with regard to the reduction of nuclear arms and the Western proposals in connection with conventional weapons. But these proposals have to be seen and recognised against the background of those countries which seek to dominate us and our allies, and whose arsenal of weaponry is growing month upon month. It is important that we do not forget in this context the all too recent conflict in the South Atlantic where, once again, Her Majesty's armed services and unarmed services who went to the South Atlantic proved their loyalty and devotion to duty.

I should like to tell your Lordships that I have a son in Her Majesty's forces. I might add that he wears a different uniform from the one that I wear this afternoon, in that he is a sapper. I might also tell your Lordships that he wears the insignia of a higher rank than I do. But, like many others with kin in the services or who have served, I would say that we cannot expect those men and women to undertake their tasks unless they are provided with the right tanks, the right ships, the right planes and the right equipment, and we as politicians must ensure that we do not negate their efforts.

I turn now to matters which are certainly of no less importance, but are a little nearer home. I do so with some diffidence, since your Lordships' House numbers among its Members many eminent captains of industry. Control of inflation, higher productivity, sharper competitiveness, lower costs—these are among the familiar phrases which we have now heard for many months. Beware, my Lords, that we do not hear the cry, "Wolf!" once too often. Protectionist policies, grants and subsidies to industry will not by themselves secure for us as a trading nation the benefits that some may dream of. We can sustain ourselves only by the creation of wealth. Profit is a part of the creation of wealth, and that creation of wealth can be generated only by an enlargement of our country's manufacturing base.

While some cost elements to industry may be lessened by governmental intervention, I see the role of Government in negotiating and securing equality of opportunity between our trading partners, and in ensuring that fair competition clauses are written into trade agreements, whether these be with members of the European Economic Community or with other trading nations right across the world. The gracious Speech refers directly to the sustaining of British interests within the Community and supporting trade where problems have arisen. I hope to see quite shortly policies being brought forward, and, if necessary, measures laid before Parliament, that will encourage the impetus for an enlargement of that industrial base which in its turn will provide some employment opportunities.

In this context, the universities, the establishments of higher education, the training boards and other training establishments have an important role to play. They have a role today which is even more important than the one that they have recognised in the last few years. They have to identify the needs of industry. They have to provide those courses that will encourage young men and young women into the industries that will require their services. We need scientists, we need engineers and we need technicians; and the courses will have to be structured to meet the needs of the latter half of this decade and the next century. No longer can they see themselves just as oases of learning. Translation of the ideas that we have in this country—and we are an inventive nation—into the manufactured goods that our salesmen can sell across the world is a necessity and the universities are part of this.

I see in the gracious Speech a reference to the intent to reform Scottish law; whether it is the law of trespass or something else, I know not. But I have once, quite recently, trodden the path of Scottish legislation during the passage of the Transport Bill and I assure your Lordships that I shall not be treading that same path again. That is to be left to my noble friends across the Border.

Excluded from the gracious Speech is any mention of taxation, but I hope that, included in the phrase Other measures will be laid before you", will be some measures with regard to the reform of taxation, particularly the taxation of husband and wife. The relevant Green Paper was laid in December 1980. and so far we have heard nothing more. It is quite iniquitous—when we encourage equality of the sexes; when we encourage, and in fact see, women in important career positions—that their taxation situation should be linked to that of their husbands, particularly now when so many men find themselves unemployed and so many ladies find their services in great demand. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will see fit in this next Session to give some indication of the direction which they may take with regard to taxation reform.

There are a number of measures outlined in the gracious Speech—British Telecom, public investment in some of our industries, the encouragement of private electricity generation and supply; and all these things I particularly welcome from this side of the House. Whether or not one calls it "privatisation", I prefer to call such a measure direct public participation, because it is direct and it brings with it the accountability that is so necessary, when the public are shareholders and go to the annual general meeting. I welcome that.

Other measures that are set down in the gracious Speech I leave to my noble friend Lady Trumpington. I have to say that my noble friend has been of great help to me this afternoon. If I were to say Cette femme est jolie mais trés formidable, I am sure that she would appreciate that. Finally, I have to thank my noble friend the Leader of the House for the honour which she does me in asking me to propose this Motion, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, and I am immensely grateful.

In conclusion, I wonder whether I may say just this to my noble friend the Chief Whip—and perhaps I may include his deputy, my noble friend Lord Swinton. My noble friend will recall where my father sat in your Lordships' House some years ago. He will therefore recognise that sometimes—just sometimes—some of the sins of the father are visited upon the son. My noble friend will recognise the uniform I wear today, which is that of the Royal Tank Regiment, of which I was a proud serving member, and I am doubly proud to wear this uniform this afternoon. I wonder, in the context of my earlier remark, whether I may draw to my noble friend's attention and commend to him the motto of that regiment, "Fear Naught". My Lords, I beg to move the Motion for a humble Address 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."—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)

4 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech. Until this moment I had thought that the high spot in my life lay in speaking the immortal words: "What, no strawberries?" during the recent "Nationwide" television programme concerned with your Lordships' House. It is therefore with sincere gratitude that I thank my noble friend the Leader of the House and my noble friend the Chief Whip for granting such a rare privilege to one who has yet to complete her second year as a Life Peer.

I need hardly add that it is a very happy situation to find myself in the role of lady in waiting to that king of transport, my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth. My pleasure in undertaking this most honoured duty is only tinged with sadness that I was unable to take up any of the Chief Whip's ribald suggestions as to what I should wear. Despite the fact that I started work during the last war picking Lloyd George's raspberries, it was actually a relief not to appear before your Lordships carrying a mucking-out fork and dressed as a land girl. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that, later as a wartime civilian employee of the Foreign Office at Bletchley Park, I am not entitled to wear full diplomatic dress. And I did not think that your Lordships would appreciate the Chief Whip's other suggestion that I should stand here in a black chiffon nightdress as a sort of reincarnation of Mata Hari.

While thanking my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal for inviting me to second my noble friend's Motion, I should also like to congratulate her on the successful completion of her first parliamentary session as Leader of this House. She and I were both used, in our days of involvement with local government, to the rowdy and often rebellious atmosphere of a council chamber. How welcome it was to me, and I am sure to others who were associated with local government, to enter this House with its atmosphere of good manners and courtesy shown to all by all. And yet, is it my imagination that even in the short time I have been attending Question Time and debates a certain trend, familiar to me from my past life, seems to be creeping into our day-to-day proceedings? Are we, regardless of party or political opinion, as self-disciplining as we were?

This past year has been one of great contrasts, from the ghastly shock of the war in the Falkland Islands to the triumph and raising of the "Mary Rose". The events in the Falkland Islands, tragic and grim though they were, were certainly not of our seeking. However, once aggression had been established against one of our dependencies the old British lion stirred, roared and, supported by the greater part of the world, fought successfully to protect his own and a just principle, as so often in the past. Those who denigrate the youth of today must surely, through the courage and devotion of our young men and women in that far-away place, hesitate before they express such views in the future. Sadly some did not return. Others, from that lovely man in the Catering Corps who manned a gun because he was "blankety" angry, to his Royal Highness Prince Andrew, did.

We mourn with the families who lost their loved ones, we grieve for those who were wounded and we fervently hope that those who risked their lives so gallantly in a just cause will never have to do so again. I am sure that this House will greatly welcome that part of Her Majesty's gracious Speech which refers to the future of the Falkland Islands, and I also hope that those countries which provided such invaluable assistance during the emergency will continue to bear in mind the wishes of the Falkland Islanders in future political decisions.

His Royal Highness Prince Charles's involvement in the raising of the "Mary Rose" was not a mere paper affair. It involved fund raising, diving and acting as an informed reporter. Through him we learned of the ingenuity and engineering skills employed in the rebirth of the "Mary Rose"—skills which are indeed splendid examples of British technology. Another form of technological advance is the ever-increasing use of computers. But there are dangers here. Computers are now regularly used for administrative purposes. "Information power"—a terrifying phrase—brings with it a corresponding social responsibility of the data users in the private and public sectors. In modern society, many decisions affecting individuals are based on information stored in computerised data files—pay rolls, social security records, medical files. The list is endless. It is essential that those responsible for these files should make sure that the undeniable advantages they can obtain from automatic data processing do not at the same time lead to an undermining of the personal privacy of the individuals about whom data is stored. It is for this reason that I welcome the Government's proposals set out in Her Majesty's gracious Speech for a Bill for the protection of personal information held on computers.

My comments have so far dealt with the protection of lands for which we hold ultimate responsibility and the protection of the individual's personal privacy. Now I turn to and welcome that part of Her Majesty's gracious Speech which sets out the measures envisaged for the day-to-day protection of and safeguards for the citizen and which deals with specific legislation concerning the police. I rejoice in the fact that we have now abolished the offence of loitering, et cetera, with intent and, to use prison jargon, persons can no longer be "nicked for dipping". Yet I most strongly support the need for the police to have the necessary powers to arrest or otherwise stop a person, to search him, to stop and search vehicles and to enter and search premises.

The Philips Report has done much valuable work towards establishing a code of conduct which would allow the police to exercise certain investigative powers while at the same time commanding public confidence. It is my hope that the forthcoming legislation will do just that. I have always believed in community involvement with the police. Indeed, there are times when I feel that the need of the police for protection by us is as great as our need for protection by them. What I mean is that our support and concern is as important as their very presence is to us.

The top priority of the police must be the prevention of crime and the maintenance of law and order. The Bill set out in Her Majesty's gracious Speech seeks to modernise police powers. It also sets out to amend the law of criminal evidence, to reform the police complaints procedure and to introduce new arrangements for consultation between the police and the community. Inevitably, during the course of their duties mistakes will be made by the police, and if human errors do occur the public must know and feel assured that complaints against the police are properly investigated and that a complaint, if upheld, results in the perpetrator undergoing the same kind of process of law as would any other wrongdoer. It is sad to reflect that, despite the very highest esteem in which the police are held by society in general, there is still an element of them-and-us in some of the most difficult areas of inner city conurbations. Last week your Lordships debated the Scarman Report and, following that debate, when so many wise and pertinent remarks were made, your Lordships will no doubt feel as encouraged as I do to know that action is to follow talk.

Researched though I have during lunch, it has not been possible for me to find a peg on which to hang my Shops Act. No doubt my noble friend Lord Elton is greatly relieved. However, I cannot resist informing the House that the result of a MORI poll was released this morning which showed that 69 per cent. of those asked now think that more shops should be allowed to open in the evenings and on Sundays. A year ago in a similar poll, the figure was 63 per cent. All I can do now is to hope fervently that this matter will be raised shortly by a Private Member's Bill in another place. I had thought of concluding my remarks by quoting those most admirable men, the Two Ronnies, by saying, "So it's goodnight from him and it's goodnight from me." On mature reflection, I decided that such words might detract from the dignity of this occasion. So, my Lords, I merely wish to thank you for listening to me and to repeat how deeply honoured I am to have been asked to speak this afternoon. I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address.

4.12 p.m.

Lord Peart

My Lords, my purpose today is to move that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow, but, before doing so, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, upon their speeches—the excellence of which superbly reflects the grandeur and importance of this ceremony, the State Opening of Parliament. Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness have a highly distinguished record reflecting great credit on your Lordships' House.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is perhaps most renowned for his activities in the field of transport. What especially appeals to noble Lords on this side of the House is that he began his career as an apprentice with Vauxhall Motors. His later achievements included the presidency of the League of Safe Drivers, and we all appreciate his services to the country as vice-president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. He is president also of the Institute of Transport Administration and has membership of the RAC Policy Committee. We on this side of the House are delighted that the noble Lord feels able at times to combine forces with us against the Government. We remember with relish his contributions to our deliberations on speeding offences and we felt privileged to receive his support.

It was, as always, with great pleasure that we listened to the speech of the noble Baroness. Lady Trumpington. Her qualities and abilities ensure for her an eminent position in public affairs and the respect of the entire House.

Several noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Peart

We are, my Lords, delighted to recall that she began her career of public duty (I could hardly believe this) as a land girl of the right honourable David Lloyd George. She has spent many years of distinguished public service in local government, in the world of mental health, and as a prison visitor. In her infinite variety she has combined being a delegate to the United Nations' Status of Women Commission with being a steward of Folkestone racecourse. She is a champion of that underdog, the consumer, and let us hope that the multifarious activities of the noble Baroness will never prevent her from attending your Lordships' House.

I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their valued speeches. My Lords, I now move that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.

Moved, That this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—(Lord Peart.)

4.15 p.m.

Lord Byers

My Lords, it is my very great pleasure to support the Motion which has just been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Peart, and to add my congratulations to the Mover and Seconder of the humble Address for the competence with which they discharged their duties and for the real pleasure which they gave your Lordships in doing so. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has been a Member of your Lordships' House for about 15 years and I am very pleased that at last he should have been selected for this honour—not least because, as the noble Lord, Lord Peart said, he demonstrated during the last Session a very deep knowledge of transport affairs. With others, he was instrumental in making considerable improvements to the new Transport Act. This was the kind of contribution which is typical of so many of your Lordships who have special expertise in a particular field. Those outside this House must realise and recognise what this House can contribute to technical problems such as those. Such is the noble Lord's knowledge, I understand, of this area of modern life—transport—that he is variously known as the petrol pump attendant's Peer, the Baron of the forecourt and the transport scourge of the Tory Party! Not a bad achievement.

The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, is a relatively new arrival in our House but an extremely welcome and active one. She seems to have some tenuous Liberal connections, having been a land girl to Lloyd George! I do not quite understand why she should have selected the occupational activity of mucking-out on a Liberal estate as something which she thought your Lordships ought to know about; there is not nearly so much muck in the Liberal Party as people would have us believe! I did actually hear about the noble Baroness long before she was a noble Baroness, when she was secretary to the Conservative Member for Dorset South, when I was trying to regain Dorset North—which I did not, and I am not sure that it was not her fault!

The noble Baroness distinguished herself in the last Session by the tenacity she showed in carrying the Shops Bill through all its stages. I do not know whether she is going to repeat the same performance in this Session, but she started a very important public debate on a most important subject, and I believe the House is very grateful to her for that. I will not now comment on the content of the gracious Speech, but I hope that your Lordships will allow me to do so next week. In the meantime, I support the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Peart.

4.18 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young)

My Lords, I rise to support the Motion proposed so well by the noble Lord, Lord Peart, and spoken to with his usual eloquence by the noble Lord, Lord Byers. I have now been Leader of your Lordships' House for just over a year—not, I have to admit, a year of constant peace and tranquillity, but at least I have come to learn that the task of congratulating the Mover and Seconder of the loyal Address is one of the most pleasant in our parliamentary year. This is particularly true today and I know that the House will join me and the two noble Lords opposite in congratulating today's leading players upon their really excellent speeches. They have rounded off for us another magnificent State Opening ceremony, and I thank and congratulate them.

My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth has been a Member of your Lordships' House for 15 years. He has—I know he will forgive me, perhaps he will even thank me, for saying so—a reputation in this House for his forthright views on a number of subjects, though he made today a speech which was a model of restraint. He is a very experienced Backbencher who commands respect from all sides of the House. Woe betide any transport spokesman on these Benches who ignores his Committee points on such matters as road safety. "Woe" will probably mean a fairly hefty Government defeat at Report stage, although I apologise to my noble friend the Chief Whip for even mentioning such an unlikely event! But we much value my noble friend's participation in this House. Like so many hereditary Peers, he has the widest experience in the outside world and he brings the benefit of this experience to our debates.

I am sure that many noble Lords will have been surprised to hear that my noble friend Lady Trumpington has been a Member of the House for less than two years. In that time she has become—and I mean this in the nicest possible sense—a familiar and much-loved figure on the Benches behind me. She, too, made a characteristically robust speech today, and I should like to say how much I agreed with what she said about the Falklands crisis, which so much dominated our proceedings here in the middle of last Session. Noble Lords opposite have referred already to my noble friend's wide and varied interests, and I should here like to pay a special tribute to her and to so many other Members of the House who somehow manage, in many cases against the odds, to combine extremely active lives outside the Chamber with regular, not sporadic, attendance in the House. We might think of my noble friend as essentially a Home Office specialist; I am sure that my noble friend Lord Elton does. But there are in fact few of my noble friends on this Bench who do not hear her views and requests on a host of departmental problems.

There is one further point that perhaps I should make. Not all noble Lords will know the important fact that my noble friend Lady Trumpington and myself and, I am delighted to say as well, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, all share the same birthday. I looked up our horoscope for today to see what it would bring for us all and perhaps to find some encouraging news, though I would not, of course, wish the House to read too much into it. The horoscope says: Money matters look promising rather late in the day". The rather less encouraging ending brings a note of reality, for the first part is clearly a triumph of hope over experience.

As we look back on the last Session, I should like to take this opportunity to thank your Lordships in all quarters of the House for the tolerance and forbearance which on the whole noble Lords have shown over the past 12 months. It is, I believe, these qualities which enabled us to emerge relatively unscathed last week, and it is these same qualities which I am sure can be relied upon as we now begin a new Session. It is these qualities as well as the long hours we work which are admired outside the House and which I believe came across on the television "Nationwide" programme.

I should like to say a special word of thanks to the Front Benches opposite for all that they have done, whether in usual or unusual channels, to make our business go so smoothly and so reasonably. We can, I think, look back with a degree of pride on the work of the House in recent months. Those extremely difficult weeks during the Falklands crisis showed the House, in my view, at its best. I should like to pay tribute to the support which the Government received from the Benches opposite, especially to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, but indeed to all noble Lords, whatever their views and conviction, for the wise and restrained way in which the House conducted its business at that time. They were indeed difficult days and I can only tell the House that the debates here were of a very high standard and were of positive help to the Government.

My thanks go, too, to all my noble friends on this Bench who have as usual borne the burden of the legislative programme. May I perhaps say a special word to my noble friend Lord Ferrers for his mastery of the Employment Bill, and on more than one occasion until well into the long watches of the night, and to my noble and indefatigable friend Lord Elton, who, again rather against the early odds, piloted the Criminal Justice Bill through to the calmer water of Royal Assent.

I should like, too, to thank my noble friend Lord Sandys for all he has done, both in Opposition and as Deputy Chief Whip and Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, not only for the Government but also for noble Lords on the Benches behind me and for the House as a whole. To his successor, my noble friend Lord Swinton, I extend a warm message of welcome.

This is not the occasion for long speeches. I must conclude by turning now to the Session before us. Once again, I can confidently predict that several fairly major Bills will shortly be introduced into this House. Indeed the intention is that three substantial measures will have begun their parliamentary stages by the end of next week. As the House may recall, we experienced some fairly disagreeable legislative congestion in 1980, and the Government have for their part tried to spread the load rather better in the last two years. I am afraid this does mean that the House keeps pretty busy throughout the Session, but I am sure that this is preferable to the sort of unbalanced programme which we have suffered in the past.

Besides the legislative programme, I am sure the House will look forward to debating the reports produced by various Select Committees. Some very important and valuable reports from the European Communities Committee will shortly appear on the Order Paper, and we shall also have the opportunity to debate the report from the Select Committee on unemployment on Tuesday, 16th November. We can look forward, I am sure, to many other debates of interest on the floor of the House, whether on Short Debates—and I think many of us welcomed the extension of the use of this procedure in the last Session-—or on Unstarred Questions or Private Member's Bills. If I may put up one word of warning about Private Member's Bills, although many of these Bills produce valuable debates, they have increased in number in each of the last two Sessions. I venture the hope that collectively the House will apply a self-denying ordinance, particularly on the later stages of Bills which can stand no chance of ultimate success.

So far as the order of our business during the debate on the Address is concerned, it is proposed to devote tomorrow, Thursday, to debating home and social affairs. I will open the debate, and my noble friend Lord Elton will wind up. On the second day, next Tuesday, it is suggested that we should deal with foreign affairs and defence, and my noble friend Lord Belstead will be winding up. Finally, the last day of the debate on the Address, next Wednesday, will be devoted to economic and industrial affairs. My noble friends Lord Cockfield and Lord Gowrie will be speaking for the Government in that debate.

That said, my Lords, I should like to thank very sincerely both the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for what they have said about the speeches of my two noble friends, and to add my own congratulations to those which they have already proffered.

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