HL Deb 06 November 1985 vol 468 cc4-20

Bill, pro forma, read a first time.


The Queen's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.

3.46 p.m.

Lord Middleton

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".

The presence today of the Queen in Parliament causes us to remember humbly and with gratitude her dedicated life as Sovereign and Head of State here and in the Commonwealth. Her Majesty has only recently returned from the meeting in the Bahamas of the heads of government in the Commonwealth, followed by her tour of the Caribbean. We are reminded in the gracious Speech that Her Majesty will pay a state visit in February to Nepal and that she will then visit Australia and New Zealand. Her Majesty's state visit to China in October will be a significant and a historic one in that she will be the first British monarch to set foot in that country. There will follow a visit to Hong Kong, and there will be important state visits to this country. We appreciate deeply the duties which Her Majesty performs in the service of her people both at home and abroad, and we are thankful that the performance of this multitude of tasks is shared by a Royal Family whose work is unsparing.

In three successive years the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip, by inviting us to move the presentation of a humble Address, have honoured a Grenadier, a Scots Guardsman and now a Coldstreamer. This triple distinction conferred upon past members of the Household Division brings to mind another shining event in the calendar when the presence of Her Majesty stirs our hearts. Many nations emphasise their might with military pomp and power, but the Queen's Birthday Parade is something quite different. It is a profoundly moving ceremony which symbolises the special nature of the British monarchy that makes it the focus of the loyalties of the armed forces of the Crown.

It is these armed forces which, as we have heard today, the Government are pledged to maintain. It is indeed the first duty of Government to provide protection and to ensure that our people at home and abroad can live free and in peace. The most difficult task of Government is the allocation of public expenditure, and it is right that this Government continue to give the highest priority to providing resources for the maintenance of our national security.

When, 40 years ago, the Soviet Union extended her frontiers into Europe, the size of the forces which she kept ready behind the Elbe and the Danube was thought by the European powers to be so menacing that they united in a defensive alliance under the aegis of the United States. The Government, as we have heard, are committed to this alliance and the greater part of our armed forces continues to be deployed alongside those of our NATO allies.

We are glad that the Government have decided to support and to enhance our reserve forces. Nearly a third of the Army's mobilised strength is made up of part-time volunteers; and it is a great privilege for me to be associated with officers and men of the territorial army, to share in their enthusiasm and to watch them (as I was able to do last year) practising in their NATO role at the side of our regular troops in Germany.

However, as I became aware during the course of Exercise Lionheart, the nearer one approaches the Elbe the more apparent are the harsh realities of a divided Europe. Not only do the Warsaw Pact armies have a preponderance of men, tanks, artillery and aircraft, but they have a powerful chemical warfare capability as well. There are units of the Warsaw Pact forces, trained and ready, whose role is to penetrate far behind any future front line and to cause disruption and damage.

Vital installations in this country are well within reach of these special forces, so the enhancement of the defence of the United Kingdom, to which this Government are committed, must be welcomed. Home defence units of the territorial army and the newly-formed home service force were practised this autumn in Exercise Brave Defender. These forces are to be expanded, and it is good to know that the other volunteer reserve forces are also being strengthened.

The Government are pledged to work for progress in arms control and disarmament negotiations, and for greater co-operation and trust between East and West. Recent statements by Mr. Gorbachev have raised the hopes of many, and we must all be agreed that every effort should be made to reduce the threat of nuclear catastrophe.

Agreement on arms control can only be made in an atmosphere of mutual trust. The obstacles in the path of agreement are formidable. It was disappointing that Mr. Gorbachev's new Communist Party programme contained references to the forces of imperialism and to the United States as the main threat to peace. The Russians will have to be persuaded, when President Reagan says, as he did recently at the United Nations Assembly, "It is in the nature of Americans to hate war and to yearn for peace", that he is speaking nothing but the truth.

The United States will enter into negotiations conscious of the realities of the present nuclear arms build-up. It is a matter of fact and not a matter for controversy that the Soviet Union has a massive superiority in Europe, not only in conventional forces but in what are called long-range intermediate nuclear forces. It is a matter of fact that the balance of strategic nuclear systems is now tipped against the West and that there has been a huge increase in Soviet naval power.

In negotiations about what is called the star wars programme account will no doubt be taken by the United States of the fact that the Soviet Union has worked on anti-ballistic missile defence for 20 years, that she is the only power with such a system deployed, and that she has established an anti-satellite system which is operational. The United States will be mindful, too, of past Soviet acts of consolidation and of expansion abroad, and that, as the President reminded the United Nations, Russian or Russian-backed forces are now engaged in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Angola and in Central America. The world awaits with anxiety a relaxation of tension in the relationships between East and West, and it must be a prime objective of our foreign policy to help to bring this about.

Your Lordships will, I am sure, be glad of the commitment by the Government to work for peaceful change in South Africa. This is not the time to enter into the argument as to how this should be brought about and at what rate changes in the political status of the black and coloured races should be made. These are matters for sharp differences of opinion. Your Lordships will, however, be agreed that any advice to the South African Government—and there are many who seek to give it, often at very long range—must take into account the economy of the whole of the southern part of the African continent. Your Lordships must also be agreed that the long-term material welfare of black South Africans would be ill-served by violent revolution.

Your Lordships will appreciate the Government's commitment to the European Community and in particular the pledge to work towards the reform of the common agricultural policy. A sub-committee of the House of Lords European Communities Committee, on which I have had the privilege of serving under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, has recently published a report on the CAP, and it warns that, left unreformed the CAP could break down. If this were to happen, the EEC itself would be put in jeopardy. We therefore consider reform to be necessary". The report goes on to make recommendations as to how this should be done, and I believe that our conclusions are not far removed from those of the Government and from those of the Commission itself, which has initiated—not before time—a debate on the subject.

The build-up of farm surpluses is putting a great financial burden upon the Community and is causing friction in the world markets. The need for the Council of Ministers to carry out reform is a matter of urgent necessity. This is just one of the areas, but an important one, where improved decision-taking is so desirable.

Turning now to home affairs, the references in the gracious Speech to terrorism and to Northern Ireland will, I am sure, lead your Lordships to join me in expressing admiration and gratitude to our own troops deployed there and to the Ulster Defence Force and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who bear the main brunt of that terrorist violence which the Government are determined to eradicate.

At home, the most intractable problem which the Government have had to face has been the number of unemployed persons in the country. How to surmount this is a matter for much argument, and this is not the occasion to express a view. I am sure that the Government will do all in their power to encourage the growth of new jobs within a framework of firm monetary and fiscal policies aimed at the reduction of inflation.

Some hold the view that public funds should be allocated in greater measure in order to alleviate social problems. There will therefore be disappointment that despite the £1,500 million spent on the urban programme over the past four years disorders in the inner cities persist. The recent outbreaks of violence in Birmingham and in London have shocked the nation. I was glad that when a Statement was made recently in this House there was agreement on all sides that nothing could excuse sheer wickedness and wanton criminal behaviour on our streets, and that full support be given to the police. Your Lordships will therefore no doubt welcome the statement that the Government are determined to strengthen the powers of the police in combating disorder. The Government seek also to modernise the law relating to public order offences.

They are pledged, too, to protect the public against the evils of drug addiction, and it is right that the financial rewards from trafficking and handling should be cut back by an enhancement of the powers of the courts. The problem of the inner cities and the problem of drugs are so often interlinked. Those who exploit the one for political purposes and the other for gain have much to answer for.

I welcome the announcement that measures will be introduced to regulate financial services, which will seek to combine a high standard of investor protection with a level of freedom and competitiveness consistent with the City's position as one of the three leading financial centres of the world.

As a farmer, I welcome the proposed agriculture Bill. I can say that the farming industry knows well the value of agricultural research and advisory services. I think it is right that the industry should become a partner with the Government in contributing towards their cost. The proposal to aid environmentally sensitive farming in particular areas, for which the Minister of Agriculture fought so hard in Brussels, is a welcome addition to the lengthening list of measures which reconcile agricultural and environmental objectives.

Your Lordships will bring to your deliberations upon these and other matters the wisdom and experience which have for so long given a special quality to the proceedings of this House—a quality of which a newly-informed public have been made aware through the medium of television.

It is an honour for me to be asking your Lordships to approve this Motion. It is an honour for me once more to be wearing the uniform of my regiment, whose regulations require that I should be dressed as a mounted officer. During the performance of the next part of my duty a few moments from now I shall be mindful of the very practical reason behind the Household Brigade standing order, which I remember having to read as a very young officer, to the effect that at a court ball officers wearing spurs must not reverse when waltzing.

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 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".—(Lord Middleton.)

4.4 p.m.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech.

Your Lordships will understand that it is particularly pleasant for me to be seconding a Motion by a fellow Yorkshireman. I deeply appreciate the honour bestowed on me by my noble friend Lord Whitelaw, the Leader of the House. It is not, I believe, unusual for a lady Member of the House to undertake this duty, but as I am generally propelled electrically in a somewhat unorthodox fashion along your Lordships' corridors I find myself more than ever fortunate and grateful to be entrusted with today's responsibility.

Her Majesty and her family are a constant source of inspiration to us all in the nation. Their support for people and projects, whether in this country or in the far corners of the Commonwealth, is astonishing to recall, and their example of courage lights our way. Her Majesty's close association with the day-to-day difficulties of her subjects was well illustrated for me this summer by just one event. The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, opened the new London headquarters of the Disabled Living Foundation. It is from that centre that many thousands of disabled people find information and invention designed to meet their search for independence and self-help. That independence for those who are struggling with handicap, and, moreover, for their helpers, is of first importance, so Her Majesty's support is indeed very well placed.

Your Lordships are well aware that the younger members of the Royal Family have a growing involvement in the life of British and Commonwealth people. The Prince of Wales shows devoted interest in the enterprising endeavours of young people. Only last week His Royal Highness was interviewed on the subject, live by satellite, direct from Melbourne, Australia. It was for the Telethon programme. That interview focused on ideas of the requirement of youth and enhanced the highly successful programme, the results of which will benefit large numbers of children and young people in the Thames Television area.

The Prince of Wales has his own advisory group on disability, and those of us who are its members are struck by his keen ability and dedication to get to the nub of our tiresome and sometimes intractable problems.

May I refer to just one of the many aspects of Princess Anne's indomitable work for children overseas? I refer to the attention given by Her Royal Highness to organisations striving to increase the take-up of immunisation against poliomyelitis in Africa. The Princess has given great impetus to the campaign to defeat this scourge on humanity on a continent where that odious virus has been raging for far too long.

The gracious Speech provides for a reform of social security. The mind boggles at the forecast of much increased longevity during the next century. It is therefore imperative to keep a realistic balance between ensuring proper financial provision for the elderly and not placing too heavy a tax burden on the working population. Being no expert on insurance I speak with due deference before your Lordships' wealth of wisdom. However, I am experienced in living as a disabled person between 1930 and 1970 and receiving no benefit during that time. That experience has convinced me that golden eggs are more than necessary, yet that their recipients must not be made to threaten the lives of the geese that lay them. If the size of the eggs is too large the recipients can become the targets of resentment for disrupting the economy. Therefore, a very delicate balance is called for.

It has always been my view that a relaxation of the grasp of the wages councils will improve employment prospects, especially in one respect. To accept low pay is one of the few privileged ways of getting a job for someone anxious to work but without qualifications. Once in employment, he or she will have a positive chance to prove his or her worth. Similar cases have made the most of their qualities of reliability and have become indispensable to their employers. That is their great opportunity. Why should it be denied to them? It is for this reason that I warmly welcome this new legislative proposal.

The sale of council houses has developed for many families a new form of saving, as well as a more fulfilled way of life, and this is one of the real principles of Conservatism. It was in the late 1940s that the right honourable Harold Macmillan MP—now my noble friend Lord Stockton—wrote what for me are timeless words: We walk and play in public parks, but we cultivate our own gardens. Ownership promotes a constructive attitude that deserves encouragement, so it is good news that the wider selling practice is to be extended to the legal sale of flats in the public sector. Security in family life has never been more valuable than amidst the current menace of violence and drugs.

The very firmest, sternest measures are required to combat the enormity of the alien evil of drugs. The danger and damage it its train cannot be exaggerated, for it hits all ages and children are very much at risk. It is therefore reassuring that, to put it mildly. fierce moves are to be made to take the profit out of illicit drug deals.

There is a well-timed Bill proposed to link parents more closely with the governorship of schools. It must help if parents and teachers get to know each other better. My memories are of notes written to my mother by the teacher of the little dame school that I attended—notes that were, I fear, conveniently forgotten by me and later found unopened at the bottom of my school satchel. Closer involvement with the family promised to be a better way for teachers to understand the background and how they can help in a combined effort to assist children, and a surer method for the parents to have more influence and choice in the running of the schools.

The gracious Speech refers to the sex equality issue. Being myself no feminist, I believe that there are subtle, and not so subtle, differences between men and women which generally should not be altered. I uphold the saying "Vive la difference!," but the question of equal work is quite another story. There can be no justifiable excuse why women who do the same job as men, and sometimes do it better, should receive less pay than the men. This is one of the anomalies that surely should be corrected.

There is a mention in the gracious Speech of legislation on Sunday trading. Here we shall be catching up with Scotland. It is necessary to accommodate the shopping habits that today some are compelled to adopt. For instance, the career woman has only the weekend to go out and replenish her stocks, while the housewife may wish to take her husband shopping not only to decide whether it is to be sausages or sirloin, but also to get him to pay the bill.

May I express what I am sure is the general wish of everyone that there shall be an ever-increasing effort to smooth the way for all for whom the going is hard? Given that, may I ask that we do not forget the good news—the good news about which we hear too little from the media? It is very satisfactory that the Department of Transport is to establish a statutory advisory committee on disability. The Secretary of State is to issue guidance on improving access and facilities on buses. We do not have to be very disabled to be thankful that London Regional Transport has on order 260 split-step buses. The magic Dial-a-Ride service is now to be funded by London Regional Transport, which means that it is recognised as part of London's public transport provision. All this is wonderful humane progress.

There is the increase by 40 per cent. in hip replacements, the magical operations in open heart and other surgery and even the installation of pacemakers—all are great achievements. Then there is the rebuilding of York Minister in so short a time, the beautiful Concorde aeroplanes that span the skies in minutes and the youngsters, boys and girls, who never fail to help an old lady in a wheelchair on a London street. This is the real spirit of Her Majesty's Great Britain, where it is our good fortune to reside. I thank your Lordships for your courtesy in hearing me and I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address.

4.16 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.

It is a very great pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, who have so felicitously moved and seconded the Motion. As we have been reminded, it is a happy coincidence that both our colleagues are from Yorkshire—a county with a reputation for producing tough, determined and independent realists. These are all essential qualities at this time, especially as one contemplates the gracious Speech.

They are also the qualities needed to deal with the problems of the agricultural industry at this time. As I know from my own experience the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, has made a distinguished contribution to farming in this country as holder of several offices in the Country Landowners' Association and ultimately as President of that important body. He referred to the recent report of the Select Committee of this House on the CAP, and I know he has made his own very substantial contribution to its work.

I would say to the noble Lord—and I am sure that he will agree with me—that the farmers of this country do, at the present time, face a very uncertain future. They will certainly need firm leadership of the kind one would expect of a Yorkshireman who is also an Honorary Colonel of the Yorkshire Volunteers as well as a "Coldstreamer". They will also need the wisdom and experience that he has gained over the years in his work in the farming industry. As St. Paul said to the Corinthians: He that ploweth should plow in hope.". There will be need of that—and faith as well.

The noble Lord delivered a wide-ranging speech, and I am sure that many of the points he made will be referred to as the debate proceeds. We shall be dealing with foreign affairs and defence in detail tomorrow, and the remarks he made about the needs of the armed forces and the all-important question of disarmament will, I am sure, be dealt with by noble Lords.

We also greatly appreciated the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. The noble Baroness has made a splendid contribution over a long period in the field of disablement, and has held office in a number of organisations which promote the interests of the disabled and the handicapped. This came out clearly in her excellent speech, which, like all her contributions on this subject, was helpful and enlightening. We respect and admire the noble Baroness for her courage and good humour and for her work in this House. She was chairman of the recent great television effort for charity, Telethon, to which she referred. What she did not mention was that they collected over £2¼ million. It is a remarkable achievement, and we congratulate her and her colleagues who worked so hard to achieve that splendid result.

The gracious Speech, which was extensively reported in the weekend papers, is always interesting because it opens a new chapter and gives the Government another opportunity to redeem themselves. The previous chapter is not forgotten. How could it be forgotten? The Chinese have an interesting custom of naming years after animals: the Year of the Tiger, the Year of the Rat, and so on. The Session which has just ended will be known to future generations as, "the year of the banana skin", when the sound of Conservative Ministers skidding and thudding in the corridors of Whitehall could be heard throughout the land. It was a sad experience and a reminder that great majorities do not always make for great governments. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House avoided the banana skins, and we are very glad of that because we do not want to lose him. The noble Viscount knows a banana skin when he sees one!

The Times said last week (and I quote): the Government has the opportunity to show that it still has real shots in its locker.". I have been looking for the shots, but I am bound to say I have been disappointed. We note the long list of potential Bills referred to in the gracious Speech, and we must wait to see what they are like, although we can be sure that some will be better than others. We shall welcome any steps taken to deal with the wicked traffic in drugs mentioned by the noble Baroness. We support in principle any effort (and I quote the gracious Speech) to seek widely acceptable arrangements for the devolution of power in Northern Ireland. The measures to protect areas of environmental sensitivity and to protect animals will also deserve our general support.

Some other measures cause me a little trepidation; for instance, that referring to the funding of agricultural research. The Agriculture and Food Research Council has over the last two years gone through a very hard time, and we shall be looking at the implications of that proposal very carefully when it comes before us. Then there is the question of the reform of the wages councils, which was referred to by the noble Baroness. This is something which I am sure she would expect us on this side to study very critically. Then we come to a major measure which will deal with the reform of social services in this country. The House will expect us on this side to be vigilant and sensitive when we come to look at that Bill, because it may have very profound implications. In short, we are in for a very heavy Session, and I know we shall do all we can to improve these Bills as they come to us.

I hope also that the noble Viscount and his colleagues can avoid the volume of amendments at the end of the Session such as we experienced on the Insolvency Act. I also understand that some important Bills will start their course in this House. I should like to thank the Leader of the House for striving to make this possible, because I am quite sure it is due to his efforts.

There is one very important shot which is missing from the Government's locker. That is one referring to re-invigorating the economy and giving hope to the unemployed. Curiously, the word "unemployed" is not mentioned in the gracious Speech. I wanted to direct some remarks to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Employment, but I shall have to defer them because he is not in his place. As I said on a previous occasion, we do wish him very well, but we fear that this is a Government of high interest rates, low investment and low output. The gracious Speech gives no great hope that the unemployment figures will be any better in 12 months' time. That is our deepest concern, and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Employment was candid enough to concede this recently when speaking at the Conservative Party conference. Unemployment at 3,500,000 to 4 million in 12 months' time is a most depressing prospect, and there is nothing whatsoever in the gracious Speech which would lead us to hope that some positive and constructive action is going to be taken to deal with it.

Also, there is to be legislation on law and order, and we shall examine it carefully and constructively. However, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, said four years ago, and indeed as I heard the noble Viscount the Leader of the House say in another place eight years ago when unemployment stood at a million, law and order in our cities must be balanced by appropriate social measures and positive steps to deal with lack of work. The gracious Speech seems totally bankrupt when it comes to new and hopeful policies on these crucial issues.

I have failed to mention one heavy shot in the Government's locker—though whether it proceeds in the right direction is another matter—and that is privatisation, and in particular the privatisation of the gas industry. Personally, I am an old-fashioned believer in the mixed economy and in the right balance between the public and the private sector. This privatisation Bill and the others, when they appear, will waste a great deal of parliamentary time. They will generate a great deal of heat—and gas—but they will give people no additional confidence; nor will they create jobs. The public sector gas industry has been an acknowledged success. Why not leave it alone? Ministers opposite will say, "Ah, we are giving it back to the people." We have heard that said on several occasions from the Box opposite; and that is the kind of balderdash which gives this Government a bad name. They know, and we know, that at the end of the day the gas industry after privatisation will belong to a small number of people who are accountable to no one. That is really not the way to lead Britain back to prosperity.

This time last year I said that our country is, unhappily, divided in many ways. I then called for clear policies which would narrow and eventually close this gulf; for when there are divisions it is the extremists at the end of the political spectrum who thrive, and it is they who stir the cauldron of discontent in this country. For the country's sake, therefore, I hope the Government will listen very carefully to what is said in this debate on all sides of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Middleton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, have given the debate a good start, and we are all very grateful to them. I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.

Moved, That this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.—(Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos.)

4.28 p.m.

Lord Diamond

My Lords, I have always regarded it as being far from an easy task to move or second the loyal Address and to strike the right balance between impartiality and non-controversiality; to be sure that one is able to be heard, because everybody wants to listen to you; to have the responsibility of making the first speeches in a new Session; and to follow a tradition of speeches of high quality with that knowledge.

Everyone who has listened to today's speeches by the mover and seconder of the loyal Address will agree with me that they have carried out their task with such competence and distinction that they can rest well assured that they have the gratitude of the whole House and that they have carried out their duties in conformity with a very high tradition. I am particularly happy to give them the congratulations of these Benches, and, in a purely personal capacity, to add that I could hardly have expected any lesser achievement from a fellow Yorkshireman and a fellow Yorkshirewoman.

The noble Lord, Lord Middleton, brings to the counsels of your Lordships' House the fruits of a very distinguished military career and vast experience as a local authority member. As we heard from his speech today, he is also able by virtue of his professional expertise and background to understand the problems of the inner cities in a way which I am sure will be most helpful to the consideration that the Government will, I hope, have to give to this matter.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, deserves and I am sure receives the admiration of every one of us. She has made herself an expert in all fields relating to disability. Whenever I feel that I should like to grumble a bit about some little ache or pain, I remind myself of her ever-ready smile and permanent good spirits and tell myself, "Please realise how fortunate you are". I am happy to congratulate them both. I am sure they feel relieved that their task is over. I assure them in all sincerity that they should also feel the satisfaction of a job really well done.

I turn now to the gracious Speech. There is a good deal in it that we can welome. We can welcome in particular the paragraph about the accession of Spain and Portugal to the European Community. I am sure all your Lordships will welcome the intention to bring in provisions to confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking and to penalise the handling of such proceeds in the hope that that will deal with what has become one of the major social difficulties of our time. We on these Benches are always interested in any reference to the word "Falkland", but I am afraid we take the view that the problems of the Falkland Islands will have to await a new Government for their solution.

On a great number of the intended legislative provisions we shall have to wait and see. We are perfectly open to be convinced as to the merits of a great deal of this legislation, but we shall have to see much more detail than is at present shown in the gracious Speech to reach a conclusion. One of the most important issues will be the nationalisation of gas, which has already been mentioned——

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)

Privatisation, my Lords!

Lord Diamond

Privatisation, my Lords, I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor. It was, I recollect, in this Chamber that the gas industry was nationalised a year or two ago, and I was happy to vote for the measure on that occasion.

We shall want to listen to the arguments. We shall want to be satisfied that it is not merely transferring a public monopoly, with all its safeguards, to a private monopoly with no safeguards, or virtually none. At first blush I am bound to say that it strikes me as being very much like a continuation of the Government's policy of selling off the family silver to pay not only for the groceries but for tax concessions, and to do so in a way that benefits most those who need the relief least. We shall wait, however, to see what is provided.

As has already been pointed out, the great omission from the gracious Speech is a reference to legislation to deal with unemployment. There is not a mention of the word itself. I do not know whether that was intentional or whether the Government attach importance to the use of the phrase "creating new jobs" rather than "reducing unemployment". I do not know whether they intend to escape from their responsibilities with regard to unemployment by continually reminding us of the new jobs that have been created and the growth in the labour force—as if that had not happened before! When I had government responsibilities, the growth in the employable force was enormous, but we maintained a level of unemployment one-sixth or one-seventh of what it is today. The implications of a growing labour force are not all one-sided: far from it. It can help to reduce unemployment as well as creating the obvious arithmetic difficulties.

I hope that the Government will not seek to escape their responsibilities by diverting attention from the real issue of today and the real difficulty in our society—the human tragedy of something like 4 million unemployed, as we heard from the Front Bench opposite only the other day. Because of that situation, I fear that we shall have some critical things to say when we come to debate these matters in detail in the forthcoming days.

4.36 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw)

My Lords, it is one of my most pleasant duties as Leader of your Lordships' House to support the Motion of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow. It is a particular pleasure because I can count on being able at least to start the Session on a note of all-party agreement. Since the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, says that I know a banana skin when I see one, let me say that I do not think I see one in this speech; but one can never be too sure.

I am delighted to be able to concur wholeheartedly with both the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penhros and Lord Diamond, in offering warm congratulations to my noble friends Lord Middleton and Lady Lane-Fox—I was going to say on the delightful way in which they have proposed and seconded the Motion for a humble Address this afternoon, but the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, being far more clever with words than I am, as Welshmen nearly always are, used the word "felicitious" instead of "delightful"; and so I will concur with that as a far better way of expressing our thanks, perhaps particularly to my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox.

Last Session the proposer and seconder were both Scottish Peers, and, as has been mentioned, today they are both Peers from Yorkshire. I assure your Lordships that that does not mean that I have set out in company with my noble friend the Chief Whip—though nothing would be more agreeable—on some kind of regional tour of my noble friends behind me.

As my noble friend Lord Middleton referred to choosing ex-members of the Brigade of Guards, I have to say also that, though my loyalty and utter faith in the Brigade of Guards remains totally undiminished over the years, it was not for that reason either that, together with my noble friend the Chief Whip, I chose my noble friends this afternoon. It was that I was sure they would play their part in a way that would do credit to your Lordships' House. From what has been said by both the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn and Lord Diamond, they were not disappointed; and we were not disappointed. I certainly am thrilled by the choice that my noble friend the Chief Whip and I made.

My noble friend Lord Middleton became a Member of your Lordships' House some 15 years ago. As he said, he served in the Coldstream Guards during the last war, and I am particularly delighted to see him in their uniform this afternoon. I have reflected that, mercifully, no one will ever suggest that I might move the Address in your Lordships' House because, if I had to get into the uniform which I wore in the last war, it would be an extremely painful process! Not so, as far as my noble friend is concerned.

As has been said, my noble friend has served his home county of Yorkshire in many different ways. As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, said, nationally he served the Country Landowners' Association in many offices and indeed at one stage was its president. I believe that my noble friend's contribution to your Lordships' proceedings exemplifies the way in which this House can benefit from the wide and varied experience of its Members—a quality which to my mind is one of your Lordships' House's great strengths.

As the House recognises, my noble friend speaks with great authority on all agricultural matters. It is worth pointing out once again that the European Committees of this House have gained a very wide support and a very wide reputation, which is not surprising when people like my noble friend have taken the time and the trouble to serve on them and to make a considerable contribution to them. It is all the better because my noble friend practises what he preaches. He is not only a landowner of considerable distinction, deeply interested in the preservation of our countryside and of the beautiful area around his own Yorkshire home; he is also a highly successful farmer, and he has the satisfaction of seeing his son carrying on this considerable family tradition in the Yorkshire wolds.

As has been so obvious this afternoon, my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox has, I know, won the affection of your Lordships in all parts of the House since she came here in 1981. Before that, my noble friend had already given public service in a wide variety of fields. Like my noble friend Lord Middleton, she once served as a Yorkshire county councillor, though in her case it was in the West Riding whereas he served in the East Riding. More recently, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, mentioned, my noble friend presided as chairman over the successful Thames Television "Telethon". Her hard work on this event—which, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said, has apparently raised nearly £2.5 million for charity—is typical of my noble friend's tireless public service, which is an example to us all. Perhaps I may add one remark which no doubt will be noted by many of my honourable friends. Her continuous devotion to the work of your Lordships' House is much admired, and the support which she gives my noble friend the Chief Whip and I is also much appreciated.

The noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn and Lord Diamond, have made various comments about the gracious Speech. I do not intend to say much in answer to them this afternoon, because there will be opportunity for my noble friends on the Front Bench and indeed myself to comment on many of their thoughts during our various debates. However, I am bound to say to the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, that, after a considerable period in Government, I always respect anything to do with the Treasury. As is well known in your Lordships' House, if one had presided over a committee on public expenditure for four weeks, as I have just done, one would appreciate that one has even more respect for the Treasury than ever before. However, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, my respect does not go so far as accepting his subtle distinction between promoting the growth of new jobs and reducing unemployment. I am sure that in Treasury eyes there is a difference, and I can see a subtle difference; but I must assure your Lordships that when the Government say that they are working—as my noble friend Lord Young of Graffham most certainly is—for the growth of new jobs, it is purposely to reduce unemployment. There can be no doubt about that and I should like to make that perfectly clear.

We have just completed what has, by any standards, been a very full and busy Session. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, made some remarks about that which perhaps I should say, in that famous phrase, "I have noted". However, on another point, I believe that your Lordships can be justly proud of the part that this House has played during the past year. For my part, I hope that I have been able to ensure that Her Majesty's Government have taken proper account of the views expressed by this House. I would be the first to acknowledge that Goverment legislation has frequently benefited from a very real improvement as a result of the detailed scrutiny undertaken by this House—even if on occasion the Govenment, and indeed I myself, may not have appeared noticeably enthusiastic at the moment of Government defeats.

I know very well my failings. If the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, thinks that I can see a banana skin when it is coming, I should point out that what I cannot do is disguise my feelings, which are shown on my face on every possible occasion, so I never attempt to do so. I discovered long ago that it would be unwise for me to play poker; I never have. Therefore, at the same time I have decided to make it a virtue that I show my feelings on my face at all times, and no one is left in any doubt as to what they are. Therefore, when I do not like the Goverment being defeated, no one is in any doubt.

However, when I have thought it over a bit I suddenly realise that perhaps after all the House was right and the Government were wrong. Then one thinks that the House has done good for the legislation, and I hope that I am generous enough to show that.

Although there has been no lack of political controversy in your Lordships' proceedings over the last Session, the House has once again shown its ability to regulate itself successfully with a minimum of formal rules and time limits. We have our difficulties; it would be surprising if that were not so. However, I think that we can still say that, and as a very new Member of your Lordships' House I hope very much that we shall be able to say that for many years to come. This is in large measure due to the close and effective co-operation which takes place through the usual channels. As always, I remain very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, for his unfailing help throughout my time as Leader of your Lordships' House, as indeed I am to the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear.

Nor do I think that any of us in this House should underestimate the importance of the contribution of the Chief Whips and their staffs, who, by the nature of their jobs, frequently attract more blame than praise. Obviously I rely greatly on the wisdom and remarkable instinct of the mood of the House of my noble friend Lord Denham. However, I should also like to express my thanks and that of the House to the Opposition Chief Whip, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, and the noble Lords. Lord Tordoff and Lord Kilmarnock.

So much for the Session which has just ended. As for the one which is just beginning, your Lordships will have learnt from the gracious Speech that, once again, we have a substantial programme, including several major Bills. Indeed, I think it will take some little time for the full significance of the programme, and the reforming measures it contains, to be digested. As I say, some of the measures which will be brought forward will be seen as significant reforms by any standard. Some of these will be introduced into your Lordships' House, and I hope that we shall be able to repeat the pattern of keeping the House busy from quite early in the Session in order to lessen the usual pressures in June and July.

However, I have to warn your Lordships that there are difficulties. Many of the major Bills have to start in another place for financial and other reasons. I also have to struggle against the natural desire of my senior Ministerial colleagues to have the first say on their own Bills. There is accordingly no easy way of avoiding a cluster of major Bills in the summer months. I can only say, therefore, that I will do my best to avoid the congestion which, if it is of any satisfaction to your Lordships, certainly causes the Government themselves just as many problems and anxieties as it does your Lordships.

It may be helpful if I say a brief word about the arrangements which have been made through the usual channels for the rest of the debate on the humble Address. Tomorrow the debate will concentrate on foreign affairs, overseas aid and defence. My noble friend Lady Young will open for the Government and my noble friend Lord Trefgarne will wind up. Next Tuesday the debate will concentrate on home and environmental affairs, and my noble friends Lord Glenarthur and Lord Elton will open and wind up. The debate will conclude next Wednesday, when the principal topics will be economic, employment and industrial affairs. My noble friend Lord Young of Grafrham—I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, for welcoming him as Secretary of State for Employment in your Lordships' House—will open for the Government and I will wind up on that occasion.

I shall be very pleased to deal with some of the points that have been made about the economy. I shall also stand up for the remarks which I made eight years ago. After all, in life, and certainly in politics, it is no use not standing up for what one has said, because one has said it and if one is right then it is even better to stand up for it. I believe very much that I am right. However, as always in life when one feels one is right, when one has said something simply, people add to it; they produce other thoughts slightly beyond what one's own were. Thus I shall continue to say, yes, unemployment is a factor in the social difficulties that we have and has to be met by social as well as by economic measures. I have never had any doubt about that. However, I believe it is a factor and only one among many others. I said so eight years ago. The second part of what I said has been happily forgotten so I have a great opportunity to remind people of it. Otherwise it will be said that when I said it I put a banana skin under the feet of those of my friends in another place who it might be said did not agree with me. However, I do not think I shall accept that.

Your Lordships may also like to know that on Thursday next week my noble friend Lord Stockton will introduce a debate on the economic and social implications of the new technologies.

Thus I look forward to the third full session as Leader of your Lordships' House. I look forward to it because I am certain that our debates and proceedings will continue to be conducted in that spirit of good humour and courtesy which I have found so welcome since I came to your Lordships' House and which is, I believe, widely admired in many places.

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