HL Deb 12 November 1986 vol 482 cc4-19

Bill, pro forma, read a first time.


The Queen's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

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".

It is my most pleasant duty and privilege not only to thank Her Majesty for the gracious Speech but also to offer Her Majesty our best wishes for the forthcoming visits to Berlin and Canada. Berlin, celebrating its 750th anniversary, is a divided city in a divided country—a sad commentary on our modern world. I am sure that the beleaguered citizens of West Berlin will greatly appreciate the honour that Her Majesty does them. In Canada, one of Her Majesty's older realms, her visits always bring joy, and the Commonwealth Heads of Government always find in Her Majesty a true friend.

We congratulate Her Majesty on the successful visit here of the King and Queen of Spain and also particularly on the most historic event of the recent visit to China and Hong Kong of Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. In the wake of the Government's successful diplomacy and friendship with China and the agreement over Hong Kong, this happy event has created an atmosphere of good will which we all hope will bring not only trade benefits to China and ourselves but continuing peace and harmony.

I am sure that all your Lordships would like to join me in wishing Her Majesty much happiness on the marriage of His Royal Highness the Duke of York and in particular on the way in which the whole country has taken his Duchess to their hearts.

I must thank my noble friend the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip for the great honour done me in asking me to move this Address. The noble Viscount and I both commanded tanks in Normandy in 1944 and have both been Whips, but in each field he has considerably outranked me.

This is the first time since I have been in this House that both the mover and the seconder of the humble Address have been of the same regiment, and, having worn this uniform only once before, on the occasion of Her Majesty's Coronation as a Gold Staff Officer, I am surprised and proud to be wearing it again. It was that regiment of what was then called 1st Guards, whose second and third battalions comprised General Maitland's brigade at Waterloo, to whom the Duke of Wellington in the evening is supposed to have uttered his famous words "Up Guards and at 'em!". My noble friend and I, then as now, would have done our best. I must tell your Lordships that my noble friend the Earl of Arran, who is sitting beside me, survived enormous perils some 38 years ago when he was only 10, by going boating with me on Loch Lomond.

Being firmly of the opinion that weakness in this country's armed forces might lead others to take advantage, I welcome the Government's continued commitment to maintaining the strengths and the efficiency of the services not only in the conventional area, but also in the nuclear field. Nobody abhors nuclear weapons more than I do, but we must remember that in the real world, with all its horrific weapons, those without deterrent might well go under aggressors' heels, left alone by allies. One does not inspire confidence and respect in one's friends by just being good and not providing one's own mite.

Having said that, let me welcome the recent disarmament conversations in Iceland between the leaders of the two great super-powers. Surely we should welcome the fact that they were able to agree as much as they did. I trust and pray that it will be a good augury for the future.

The Government's determination to protect the interests of the Falkland Islanders and their interests in the conservation of fish stocks round the island is to be welcomed. All interested in the well-being of the South Atlantic should surely be working towards harmonious and sensible fishing agreements, and the action of Argentina in allowing Russia and Bulgaria to increase their catch in this area is perhaps somewhat misconceived. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government will continue, as the gracious Speech assures us that they will, to seek a modus vivendi with Argentina which, while protecting the Falkland Islanders' interests, will somehow get round the thorny problem of sovereignty. I wish the Government success in their endeavours to this end.

The gracious Speech contains the intention of the Government to continue to work for peace and fundamental change in South Africa, together with our European partners and the Commonwealth. South Africa is not only the most powerful and richest country of that continent but possibly the most self-sufficient. Unless we wish to see a bloodbath in this area I would hope that your Lordships would agree that firm pressure from South Africa's trading partners and world opinion are more likely to move them to consideration and action than direct threats. I am sure that we all wish the Government success in their endeavours.

The Middle East is still an area of strife and conflict, and it is not easy for us to influence the inflamed passions of that area, especially when some, however misguided, are directed against ourselves. Our alliances with the Gulf States and our bases in Cyprus are, I would hope, a stabilising influence.

I, like all your Lordships, wish well to all Ireland, south and north. Like the problem of getting oil and water to mix there is no easy or quick answer to the Northern Ireland question. I was glad to hear in the gracious Speech of the Government's continuing intention of seeking closer co-operation with the Irish Government to try to return to some form of devolved government under the umbrella of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. What worries me is that the young there, far from finding the old arguments outdated, seem to be growing up as passionately polarised as ever. Surely if ever there was a problem crying out for all parties here to unite on, this must be it. I pray that overwhelming public opinion in this country may help to soften the conflict between our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland and lead to what really would be a miraculous event—an Irish solution.

As a transport man I welcome the continuation of the Government's increased spending on road construction, with all its important implications to our infrastructure, and I should also like to congratulate the Government on the completion of the M.25.

Local government legislation is at present a highly contentious issue. When the promised legislation on this subject is before us I hope that we shall remember the importance of the quality of local government for us all, directly impingeing as it does on all our lives. It needs to be of good quality as well as giving value for money, and I hope in our debates that we shall always bear this in mind.

Being, as I am, somewhat of a hybrid—Yorkshire in the first half of my life and Scots in the latter part—I am naturally interested in the forthcoming Scottish local government legislation on rates announced today. For a Scotsman it is hard to think of anything worse than the present situation, and it is surely to the Government's credit that they are to produce a Bill. I am sure that it will cause argument and also arouse wide interest because of its implications for the rest of the country.

I feel that we shall probably all welcome the debtors legislation for Scotland as there seems to be a strong demand for it. The Scottish criminal justice legislation will not be unwelcome either. I am certain that most of your Lordships will agree that the proceeds of drug trafficking in Scotland should be forfeited.

Now that the unhappy period of the coal strike is behind us I welcome the legislation to provide further financial assistance for the coal industry—now slimmed down for efficiency—and also the fair representation of the work force. It is surely high time that this industry should enjoy the reward of its industry in peace without strife.

Legislation about teachers' pay, duties and conditions of service is promised in the gracious Speech. Few can feel happy about the educational standards of many schools. It is surely our duty to get the best for our young, which is the intention behind this legislation.

I now come to the reintroduction of the Channel Tunnel Bill, a hybrid Bill carried over from the last Session. When we see it next year I personally shall welcome it as another exciting leap forward, especially for British Rail. I have been glad to receive in my mail assurances from the Channel Tunnel Group that it is well advanced in its local consultations in Kent it has good plans for the disposal of soil and has extended its compensation package for residents affected by the link. Through rail traffic from British industrial centres will be speeded to European destinations rapidly and cheaper. I expect the Bill when it arrives here will go to a Select Committee, and I hope that when it reaches us on the Floor of the House, with all safeguards and provisions made for those affected, we shall be able to give it a speedy passage.

I should like to wish my noble friend Lord Whitelaw every success in his chairmanship of the committee on AIDS—possibly a danger even greater than most of us yet realise. I do not envy him the agonising that his committee will have over its recommendations. He will need all his well-admired traits of discernment and firmness of purpose, coupled always with the art of the enforcement of what is possible.

Her Majesty is well served by her Peers, spiritual and temporal, in this House. My noble friend the Leader of the House has never lacked comprehensive advice and suggestions from all sides of the House. Weighty problems have been discussed at length with the accustomed good manners of your Lordships' House, and in many cases the Government have introduced amendments to their Bills after well-argued and reasoned discussions. Also in many cases, after your Lordships have disagreed with the Government, they have accepted the amended clauses with good grace. I am sure that your Lordships will continue to scrutinise legislation carefully and diligently, as befits this House, and enable legislation to be enacted in the best interests of the country.

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 Mowbray and Stourton.)

2.59 p.m.

The Earl of Arran:

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

Before doing so I should like to say to both my noble friend the Lord President of the Council and my noble friend the Chief Whip what a great honour I consider it to be invited to speak—an invitation received with considerable pride, and not without more than a little apprehension.

It is indeed a most glorious occasion and opportunity for us to express our loyalty and admiration for Her Majesty for her ever-abiding and selfless dedication to her subjects at home and abroad, which endear her to so many peoples throughout the world. We also send our warmest wishes to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother for a speedy recovery from an injury which at this moment keeps her in hospital. Our thoughts at this moment are very much with her.

Noble Lords:

Hear, hear!

The Earl of Arran:

My Lords, we also regard with great pleasure the continual care and concern of the Prince of Wales for the problems confronting the many and varied sections of society in this country. Similarly, his sister, the Princess Anne, whom we never cease to admire for her tireless efforts in her work for "Save the Children" in so many other parts of the world, is an ambassadress of the highest essence and quality.

I am delighted to be seconding my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton. Not only is he my senior in age, but also in rank and in number of decorations, for even those with poor eyes like my own will see that he has six while I have none! Thus it is a pleasure to be able to rest my arm for just a few moments from its hitherto ever-attentive position of the salute. It distresses me, though, to realise that if war were to break out tomorrow my age would force me to lay aside the tunic in which I now stand. Doubtless, however, this would be to the profound relief of all soldiers around me but more so to the profound dismay of the enemy who, hastily spotting my inability to see beyond the end of my rifle and eager to pop a quick one in the bag, might have regarded me as a good thing.

Nevertheless I like to feel that my noble friend and I are bound by one particular tie common to us both: that of having served in a regiment which is of such high renown, not only for its courage in battle in foreign fields but also at home for its great traditional role in colourful pageantry so often performed in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen: beautiful, moving pageantry which both here and abroad symbolises the protection of and loyalty to the British Monarch through the Armed Forces of the Crown. It is the Armed Forces who protect our shores from alien aggression and the Crown that safeguards our ever-cherished state of democracy, enabling freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of choice to the citizens of our country.

It is a continual worry that those who would wish to disrupt our state of democracy continue to serve notice to that effect through the perpetration of horrifying acts of violence and terrorism. The gracious Speech continues to avow total and complete resistance to all forms of terrorism. Last month, Nezar Hindawi, who was found guilty of attempting to blow up an El Al aircraft at Heathrow in April, was sentenced to 45 years' imprisonment. If he had been successful, 375 innocent people would have lost their lives. It is evil deeds such as this and many more besides that makes the pursuit for peace ever relentless and unending.

A further evil that strikes into the souls of so many is drug abuse and the indescribable despair and squalor it leaves in its wake. This problem is undoubtedly one of the gravest we face in the Western world. No part of society is free from its threat. It can strike anywhere and at any time, destroying hope and promise in our youth and bringing untold grief upon family and friends. Her Majesty's Government are committed to reducing supplies from abroad, tightening controls on drugs produced and prescribed in the United Kingdom, strengthening deterrence, and improving prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

But drug abuse is not the responsibility of government alone. It is the responsibility of of all of us. For example, I doubt whether there are many in this House today who do not know of someone afflicted with drug addiction. Terrorism and drugs are ugly subjects for discussion, and the debate around them is, of necessity, depressing, but we ought never to forget that they are there, they do exist and they will not disappear overnight.

In the gracious Speech, Her Majesty also refers to the Government's commitment to promoting economic growth and restraining inflation and also to their commitment to privatisation and wider share ownership. This is not a day on which to be contentious, but is it not rather remarkable, whether one agrees with privatisation or not, that there are now nearly 6 million individual owners of shares? In 1979 there were 1½ million. More than 2 million people acquired shares in British Telecom, with British Gas and British Airways yet to come. Over 80 per cent. of employees in privatised companies have bought shares in their companies. Privatisation has created a new appetite for share ownership and a new pride in its workforce. The United Kingdom is now in its sixth successive year of growth. Last year's was the highest in the European Community—while inflation is at its lowest for nigh on 20 years.

Unemployment, however, and all its attendant misery, is still with us. It destroys the soul being out of a job—I know, for it nearly destroyed mine. One fine day—and recent figures might be heralding just such a day, one fine day—unemployment will start its long-awaited retreat and those previous drab dawns will be the dawns of yesteryear.

Regarding the European Community and in particular the common agricultural policy, any changes that are to be introduced should be done without damaging either the structure of agriculture or the spirit of the farming community. It must be possible at all times for agriculture to adapt and to thrive and not to have to succumb to bureaucratic rules. For if that were allowed to happen the numbers of those entering the industry would fall dramatically and the initiative of those already there would be stifled.

Moving closer to our own island home, with so many seas lapping our shores we must be ever vigilant that the laws governing our shipping are sufficient and appropriate. Thus, is it welcome to find in the gracious Speech that a Bill is proposed to bring the administration of pilotage law more into line with the needs of today's shipping industry.

Furthermore, the gracious Speech makes commitment to a Bill which will deal with the land and water space in the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. The claims on this great scenic sweep of our heritage must be carefully balanced between agriculture, recreation and conservation. There are many of your Lordships' House with immense knowledge on these matters and thus do I feel sure that this delicate balance can be struck.

In the gracious Speech we also find that the Government propose a number of measures designed to make Britain a safer place for its inhabitants. Thus, a Bill is to be introduced to improve our system of fire precautions and crowd safety in sports grounds, as outlined in the Popplewell Inquiry. Such a Bill can only be welcomed by all sides of this House. Similarly, other protective measures will be incorporated in the consumer protection Bill which will deal with the widespread concern about the present weakness in the law relating to dangerous goods and the necessity to impose clear responsibility on manufacturers and importers. It is proposed in addition to include a Bill which will update and improve the framework of banking supervision.

The gracious Speech proposes also the introduction of, I believe, a most important Bill concerning criminal justice. Her Majesty's Government are strong in their determination to crack down on major crime and to strengthen the support given to its victims. So often in the past victims have been forgotten, but now it is proposed that they shall be given a statutory right to compensation. One of the measures to be introduced will be the strengthening of the courts' deterrent powers to give them the right to claw back the proceeds of all types of crimes from which substantial profits have been made. Another measure will be the stepping up of the international fight against crime by reforming our extradition laws. These and further measures, including the strengthening of the jury system, are designed to increase the fight against crime. Crime must be fought, my Lords. and fought hard. Results must be clearly achieved and well publicised, for it is the expectation of detection that is the greatest deterrent of all.

In a world which becomes ever more fraught with endless problems of disease and disaster, crime and punishment, two very recent world events will, I hope in the first place, have brought some comfort and will, I know in the second place, have brought undoubted joy to your Lordships' House. Both of these subjects have already been touched upon by my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton but tidings of comfort and joy today should not be too lightly dismissed.

On the theme of comfort, I refer first to the meeting in Reykjavik between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev. I most earnestly suggest that it would be a great mistake to look upon that summit as a failure. Of course, we must never relax our guard when examining Soviet proposals; of course, we must always deal with a hand possessing strong cards and negotiate with a clear mind, firm in our multilateral resolve. Of course, the ramifications of the problems surrounding this broad canvas of arms reductions are complex and immense with the retention of nuclear weapons for Europe still being a requirement. But the fact that they talked about such far-reaching objectives and even solutions needs to be taken in, well digested and fully realised. I believe that these talks were among the most important since the end of the Second World War.

On the theme of joy, I return to where I began, to Her Majesty and in particular to her state visit to the People's Republic of China and her visit to Hong Kong. There in the midst of this vast country strewn with treasure and fascination we shall never forget those daily pictures on our television screens and in particular that picture of Her Majesty striding out and up one of the sections of the Great Wall of China while behind her struggled her entourage, delighted but breathless. Who, I ask you, who, could ever have foretold of such a happening?

In conclusion, we note that the gracious Speech was a little shorter than in some previous years. As to why this should be so, no doubt your Lordships will draw your own conclusions. Whatever these may be I am in little doubt that you will be much relieved, nay, even perhaps downright enthusiastic after the rigours of that Session now past.

Finally, I thank your Lordships for granting me the great traditions of the House, those so warmly appreciated traditions of patience, of courtesy and of tolerance.

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

4.14 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

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

It is my very pleasant task to congratulate the noble Lord and the noble Earl who have proposed and seconded the Motion. We have heard the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, many times before and it was good to listen to him again this afternoon. He has many years of experience as a Whip and as a ministerial spokesman in this House and this experience became apparent today as he spoke. He nearly succeeded in persuading me that the gracious Speech was one of the most historic of recent years. The noble Lord is also the premier Baron of England. I am not certain whether that gives him any jurisdiction over me, but I always listen to him with great respect and I do not overlook the fact that one of his ancestors, William Stourton, was Speaker in another place in 1413. I understand that Mr. Speaker Stourton stuck it out for a few weeks from May to June and then wisely departed.

The noble Lord referred to many aspects of foreign policy and defence and we shall return to those in our debates tomorrow. The other matters he mentioned in relation to the Bills in which he is interested will also be dealt with in due course and all of us look forward to his active participation during the Committee stage of those Bills.

I know that the House also appreciated the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Arran. It showed that he has wide-ranging interests. Some of the matters he raised on defence, on terrorism and on foreign affairs will, I know, be raised by noble Lords during tomorrow's debate on foreign affairs and defence. Also, I understand that he is interested in the media, in the British Broadcasting Corporation. I was expecting that he might have enlightened us on some of those matters in the course of his speech. Perhaps he will speak again on those subjects. I am sure that the Chairman of the Conservative Party would be glad to receive friendly advice from him if he were to be good enough to give it; and I am sure that the noble Viscount will arrange a meeting with the Chairman of the Conservative Party.

If I may turn briefly to the gracious Speech itself, I am sure that the House on all sides will agree that it has certain qualities which were absent from the Speeches of recent years. First, as the noble Earl said, it is shorter, and we certainly do not complain about that. Secondly, it is marginally less controversial and that will make life easier for some people. The noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Denham, naturally equable men, looked more relaxed that I have seen them looking for years. I do not wish to impute motives to the Government but I have a sense of something in the air. If we look at the Chancellor's Statement last week alongside the gracious Speech, we hear the distant, growing sound of the hustings—and we do not complain about that either.

Be that as it may, this House welcomes the rather lighter burden of legislation envisaged in the gracious Speech. As a revising Chamber of part-time Members, we have been called upon in recent years to grapple with long and complicated Bills at a late stage in the Session. The strain has been considerable but as the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, said in his speech, this House has borne it very well indeed. The House could not let undigested Bills pass through Committee on the nod. That is not the nature of this House at this stage of our parliamentary history.

The result has been that the number of Sittings has gone up, the number after 10 p.m. has increased substantially and furthermore the average length of our Sittings during the last Session is the highest on record—7 hours 42 minutes compared with an average of 6 hours 9 minutes in 1979–80. This is a development which noble Lords in all parts of the House have commented upon during the last few months. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House has as good an appreciation as anyone of the difficulties which have arisen over the last three years. When the noble Viscount entered this House in 1983 I am sure that he was full of hope, as I certainly was, that he had put all-night Sittings and very late Sittings behind him forever. I suppose it could be called the triumph of hope over experience.

But I feel sure that the noble Viscount, who I know has given this a good deal of thought during this past 12 months, will have something to say about that and maybe about our procedures generally when he speaks shortly. I also see a reference in the gracious Speech to the Government's: firm monetary and fiscal policies". Here again we note a triumph of hope over experience. I said that this is a lighter and a less burdensome programme than we have had for some years, but it contains several Bills which we shall approach with good will.

There are three important legal Bills. One is on crime, the Criminal Justice Bill, to which the noble Earl has just referred. I hope that the Bill will match up to the serious crime that is one of the greatest challenges facing this country at the present time. I know that my noble and learned friend and other noble Lords on this side will wish to assist in making this as effective a Bill as possible but I know that they will also be scrutinising it very carefully indeed.

We have other Bills of interest and importance which we hope to support and improve. There is the Bill on marine pilotage, for example, to which the noble Earl referred, the Bill on safety at sports grounds, and so on. We shall seek to give those Bills our warm support. We shall also make suggestions, if necessary, as to how they should be improved.

One of the matters which I believe has gained this House a new and good reputation outside is the fact that it has been able over the past two or three years substantially to improve Bills. Given that the ordinary man in the street is expected to know his law, and if he does not and if he appears before the court it is no excuse that he does not know it, it is our obligation in this House and in the other place to make sure that Bills are as good as possible when they get on to the statute book of this country. I believe that this House has made an extraordinary contribution towards that important principle.

There are other Bills—for example, in the field of local government and in relation to privatisation—which may cause acute concern and apprehension on this side of the House; but we must now wait and see. We look foward to three days of interesting and constructive debate upon the gracious Speech. Once again I repeat my warm tribute to the noble Lord and the noble Earl who have opened our debate so well. I beg to move.

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

4.22 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I am very glad that it falls to me to be able also to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, and the noble Earl, Lord Arran, on the speeches they have just made. The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, has given a great contribution to this House in very many ways and also to the country in the military service that he undertook during the second world war, from which he came with the disablement that he bears for the rest of his life but bears with a courage and a lightheartedness that all of us most greatly respect.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I feel that the fact that it is I who am making this response to the noble Lord in some ways represents the great capacity of your Lordships' House to combine tradition with radical change—I, a life Peer and a woman, congratulating the noble Lord who I understand is no less than the 25th Baron of his family. We have heard in the past about the 14th Viscount, but when it gets to the 25th the inadequate computer in my head is quite unable to work out where, back in the middle ages, that great tradition started. And yet the capacity of this House to combine in effective action the working Peers, the life Peers of today, with the hereditary Peers is surely a sign of its capacity to change and to contribute as effectively to the modern world as it has contributed in the past.

I should also like to congratulate the noble Earl. I address him in a somewhat bitter-sweet mood, in that in the past we on these Benches so greatly enjoyed the contributions of his father: always witty and always original. I remember particularly his introduction of a Bill for the protection of badgers, to which he was greatly attached, and in that he so greatly symbolised the capacity of this House for dealing effectively with a wide range of subjects and its particular passion for dealing with matters connected with animals. It is sad that the noble Earl did not see fit to join us here but perhaps some day he might see the error of his ways! There is always hope.

The noble Earl's speech had the forthrightness and the clarity that one would expect from a publisher, and I suspect he has done himself no very good turn in the quality of the speech he made today for I can only think that his Chief Whip and his Leader will want him to make a very frequent contribution to the work of this House when he has shown his capacity for doing this so clearly in the speech that he has made today. I fear there is more coming to him!

Turning now to the gracious Speech, others have said that it is shorter; but seeing is believing. We have not yet seen what the Bills are going to contain and a seemingly innocent-sounding Bill can often contain a great deal that is highly controversial. I am not necessarily convinced that this means we are coming to a speedy end. The noble Lord the Leader of the Labour Party seems to foresee that we are moving towards an election before very long. He apparently foresees this from the extent of the gracious Speech, but until we know what these Bills contain how do we know how long we shall take in dealing with them? So far as the subject matter is concerned, there is a great deal here that we welcome. Of course we all welcome improvements in dealing with crime. That is common to all of us. We welcome further consumer protection, but we could well start arguing about how that should be done, and that could engage us in many lengthy debates.

We welcome, too, the fact that we understand there will be an end to the teachers' dispute. I would only say that the Government have gone to a great deal of trouble to give greater powers to people locally to control what happens in their schools. It would be surprising if they contradicted that innovation in the previous Parliament by introducing a greater degree of centralisation in handling the question of schools in the Parliament which is before us.

There is, it seems, to be more privatisation. We on these Benches have never taken a doctrinaire view about privatisation, but we hope that the enthusiasm for competition to which the gracious Speech refers in dealing with public services and the provision of services for local authorities will be found to continue when the Government are privatising. We hope that they will not be creating further public monopolies in which there is no evidence of competition. It is for that reason, surely, rather than privatisation for its own sake, that we wish to see (if we do wish to see) further extension in that field. One sees in the gracious Speech much that could be extremely valuable but much also, I suggest, that could be extremely controversial.

There are also matters to which we see no reference. For example, there is little reference to the continuing and searing problem of unemployment. We are told once again that the Government will encourage the increase of employment but we see very little in the gracious Speech which suggests how that is to be done. In particular, we see no reference to the plight of manufacturing industry. Without the recovery of manufacturing industry it is difficult for us to see how the return to fuller employment, which we all hope to see and which the Government claim they wish to promote, is to be brought about. Unlike the previous speaker, I feel there is a considerable amount in the gracious Speech which is highly controversial and which may well engage us for many long days, though one hopes not long nights, in the Session that lies ahead.

I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said in regard to the way in which this noble House has been working. I was taken to task by a correspondent for having said (I think in a broadcast) that we were finding it very difficult to deal with the amount of work that came before your Lordships' House. I was told that I was complaining about overwork and underpay. People tend to read their own ideas into other people's speeches. Of course we were not complaining—any of us—about that. What we were complaining about was the inability of your Lordships' House to fulfil to its highest standards the work that it is called upon to do. I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that we cannot continue as we have done in the past, with the hours we have had to work and the vast subjects which we have attempted to cover, without any change whatsoever in our procedures.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, I am aware that the Leader of the House has given this matter a great deal of thought. I hope that out of that consideration and the discussions that have taken place we shall find a way to do justice to the task that is given us in carrying forward in our discussions the intentions embodied in the gracious Speech.

4.31 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw)

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to support the Motion of the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, That this debate be adjourned until tomorrow. It is more than ever appropriate, after the stresses of the past Session, that we should start the new Session of one accord. I should like, at the same time, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, the Leaders of the other parties and indeed the Leaders of the Cross-Benchers for the undoubted and generous co-operation which I have always received on many very difficult occasions during the past Session. I am very grateful for that.

I should also like to endorse wholeheartedly what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, have said in congratulating my noble friends Lord Mowbray and Stourton and Lord Arran on the way in which they have proposed and seconded the Motion for the humble Address this afternoon. I think the whole House will feel that they have done us very well on this occasion and we are extremely grateful to them.

Last year the proposer and seconder were both from Yorkshire. The year before they were from Scotland. This year we have an English Peer who lives in Scotland and an Earl in the Peerage of Ireland who lives in England. But it so happens, as they have both told us, that they have seen service with the Grenadier Guards. I notice that their speeches complemented each other very well indeed. I can only presume that that must have at least some basis in the training in good order and military discipline which they certainly received in the Grenadier Guards. I am bound to say that that is training which I received myself and which during my political life I have sometimes longed to see more broadly exercised.

My noble friend Lord Mowbray, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has said, is a member of one of England's oldest families. He is, as has also been said, the premier Baron of England and is very well known to all of us in your Lordships' House. He was kind enough to refer to me in generous terms on the subject of rank. As I heard the descriptions of his parentage and the long line that he represents, I had to reflect sadly that here was one particular rank where I was at the absolute opposite end of the scale, because. unless somebody can suggest something very remarkable (which I do not think is likely), I seem to think that I shall almost certainly end by being both the first and the last of the line that I represent! My noble friend rendered valuable service to the Whips' Office for over 16 years, both in Government and Opposition. Perhaps as he indicated (though not in this House) I do understand something of that particular work. He now renders equally valuable service on Committees of the House.

As regards proceedings on the Floor of the House, I am forcibly reminded regularly by a strong resident voice just behind me that it offends against good order if any member should be on his feet at the same time as the Lord Chancellor. Long may this continue. I hope my noble friend will turn his attention to other areas in which our tradition of self-regulation and good order needs strong and continuing support. More seriously, I am sure all noble Lords agree that with his excellent speech this afternoon my noble friend Lord Mowbray has confirmed the high esteem in which he is so widely held in your Lordships' House.

My noble friend Lord Arran is, like me, a relative newcomer to your Lordships' House, having succeeded in 1983. As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, indicated, many of your Lordships will remember my noble friend's father with affection. Some of the debates he initiated in this House carried great weight and inspired legislative reforms which endure to this day. The noble Earl, his son, brings a wide range of interests and experience to this House and on the strength of his fine speech today I am sure all noble Lords look forward to seeing him play as prominent a part in its work in the future. I am sure all noble Lords would like to thank him very much for his speech this afternoon.

Your Lordships have just concluded, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has said, a hard Session—I accept, it was too hard. We have talked about our difficulties on a number of occasions recently and the circumstances are familiar to us all. The Government's initial distribution of Bills between the Houses was to some extent upset by the loss of the Shops Bill in another place. Some Bills—but by no means all—called for a great deal of revision and amendment in your Lordships' House. Others gave rise to a great deal of interesting debate, even though eventual amendment may have been slight.

Painful though it may sometimes have been, there can be no doubt that some of the Session's major legislation—such as the Building Societies Act, the Financial Services Act and the Public Order Act, to name three—benefited considerably from the attention that your Lordships gave to them. Of few other Sessions can it be said with such conviction that your Lordships' House rendered great service as a revising Chamber.

I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, rather indicated that it was only Bills introduced by Conservative governments that needed amendment and revision. I shall not pretend that I was in your Lordships' House at the time but, looked at from the other end of the corridor, I think there were times when your Lordships' House felt it was advisable to amend some Labour Bills as well. However, we are all in the business and if this House is a good revising Chamber, then I think we ought all to congratulate ourselves upon it.

As part of this revising process I should like to think that the Government have been responsive to the views expressed in this House and have sought to accommodate them wherever practicable. Sometimes accommodation has been thrust upon us rather reluctantly following defeats in the Lobbies. This I do not deny and I must also say that sometimes the results have been accepted more graciously than on others. But on the whole, whether they are accepted graciously or not, acceptance is probably what most of your Lordships think would be right. I refer to the substantial changes made to the Housing (Scotland) Act, the Education Act, the Social Security Act, the National Health Service (Amendment) Act and the Housing and Planning Act.

That was the last Session. What of this Session? I hope that we shall avoid the excesses of the Session just past. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, thought that both my noble friend the Chief Whip and I looked relaxed. Perhaps that was because we did not exactly expect to have a Division this afternoon!

I have on a number of occasions said that I should do my best to secure a more even distribution of Bills between the Houses. I am delighted therefore to be able to say that between now and the Christmas adjournment I expect no fewer than six major Bills to have been introduced and to have been given a Second Reading in your Lordships' House. Two of the Bills—the Family Law Bill and the Marine Pilotage Bill—will be introduced tomorrow. This, I am sure your Lordships will agree, will enable the House to make an encouragingly early start on its work.

I have also given some attention to other ways in which pressure on the work of the House might be relieved. A number of your Lordships have suggested that one or more Bills should be referred to a Committee off the Floor of the House. Others, I understand, do not think that such an exercise would yield the results that are expected of it. Nevertheless—and from the noises that I hear it seems I have judged those two moods correctly—in response to those who wish to repeat the experiment last tried in 1976, and following discussions through the usual channels, I have decided that one Bill should be taken through the Public Bill Committee procedure this Session. I shall enter into consultations again soon to decide on a suitable Bill. I think that that decision is extremely important.

A number of your Lordships have also made representations to me that the conventions whereby we conduct legislative business in this House should be reviewed with a view to determining whether they can be strengthened or improved. I have therefore decided to appoint a small, informal group drawn from all parties and the Cross-Benches to advise me on the working of the House. I shall explain this proposal to the House more fully when the group is set up. But there will be some among your Lordships who will remember that a similar group was set up in 1971. On the basis of recommendations made to the then Leader of the House, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, a number of proposals were put to the Procedure Committee which were adopted and have subsequently become valued conventions of the House. I very much hope that we may be able to do the same again.

As your Lordships see, the Government are taking a number of steps to seek better and smoother running of our work, but there are also steps which individual Members can take. We are—to coin a phrase from the Financial Services Bill—a self-regulating organisation, the SRO to end all SROs. But there have been times recently when some of us have felt that the House was not always exercising the restraint and self-discipline that is so essential for your Lordships' House to be able to function at all. The Companion to the Standing Orders and the brief guide set out the conventions of the House clearly and I am sure your Lordships are fully aware of them. I feel that now is the time when we must all try to observe them scrupulously.

One of the conventions is particularly valuable. I refer to the Resolution of the House in July 1965 that speeches should be shorter. I shall immediately set an example now by drawing my remarks to a conclusion. But first it may be for the convenience of the House if I say a brief few words 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 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 affairs and the environment and my noble friends Lord Caithness and Lord Skelmersdale will open and wind up the discussion. The debate will conclude next Wednesday, when the principal topics will be economic affairs and employment. My noble friend Lord Young of Graffham will open for the Government and I shall wind up on that occasion.

I look forward to the coming Session. I am confident that I shall have the support of you all in seeking to ensure that our business will continue to be transacted with that courtesy and good humour which are the hallmarks of your Lordships' House and which I personally find such a welcome feature of working with you all.

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