HL Deb 21 November 1989 vol 513 cc4-19

Bill pro forma, read a first time.


The Queen's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Holderness

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". Alarming as it was to make my first speech to your Lordships' House, it was far less overwhelming than the honour done to me today. I am further daunted by looking across at the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, whom I understand will follow my noble friend and myself, because I feel that they know all too much for my comfort about my past in another place. For those reasons, I am very grateful for the support of my noble friend Lady Blatch, who with her very wide experience will be able to fill the gaps which I shall inevitably leave.

The opportunity of replying to the gracious Speech gives us a renewed chance to express collectively to Her Majesty the admiration, respect, gratitude, and, as I hope I can add without presumption, the affection in which we all hold her.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Holderness

My Lords, Her Majesty's energy seems each year to grow greater. Apart from visits to Canada and Iceland, we hear that she plans to cross the world again to visit New Zealand. All of us would like to wish her Godspeed, but I think Her Majesty will understand that there are many of her subjects in this island, perhaps particularly in the Principality of Wales, who would be very glad of a short respite from New Zealanders at the end of the football season; not that the Principality need be the least discouraged by temporary setbacks. However, I do not think it ever will be. Victory will come —Cyrnru am bith!

As honorary colonel of its fourth battalion, I am proud to wear the uniform of the Royal Green Jackets. This, as your Lordships will know, is a large regiment which was brought into being rather unusually not by two but by three parents, of which one was my old regiment, the 60th Rifles. Our regimental motto was, Celer et Audax. That ideal was faithfully fulfilled by the regiment, although the necessary swiftness and boldness were occasionally beyond me personally. In these enlightened days it was quite unnecessary for me to translate from the Latin, but I was mindful of the wisdom which I think was attributed rightly to the first Lord Samuel, who said that in his time if any of his contemporaries quoted from the Latin all the Tories smiled and looked very knowing, even if they had not understood, and those on the Benches opposite tried to look bewildered even if they had understood.

A few weeks before my first speech in 1980, Soviet troops poured into Afghanistan. The words of the gracious Speech today recognise a very different situation. But the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan has been wholly outshone by the astonishing transformation which we are witnessing in Eastern Europe. The recapture of freedom there is by far the most exciting and challenging political event of my lifetime.

That is a change wrought first by the indomitable courage and patient determination of men and women in Poland and Hungary in whom the hope of freedom never died, aided certainly by a Soviet leadership with a new vision of the future, helped immeasurably (I am determined to claim) by the continuing liveliness of freedom in the West, nurtured and preserved since the end of the Second World War by governments willing to ask for the sacrifices necessary in order to maintain their defensive strength.

The lessons of the past have been very painful but they have been well learned. I am now encouraged to hope that governments may soon be rewarded for their watchfulness in the past by success in their search for new and secure methods to control the level of arms.

Against those optimistic hopes must be set what I should describe as the disastrous disappointment of China and the inevitable threat posed by the events of last June for the continued remarkable achievements and future well-being of the people of Hong Kong. There and at the other end of the world in the South Atlantic Her Majesty's Government face two problems of immense complexity. However, I have unbounded confidence in the judgment, compassion and diplomatic skill of my right honourable friend and his ability to find solutions within this country's capacity to bring comfort to the citizens of Hong Kong and to continue the process of turning enmity into friendship with the people of Argentina.

In the never-ending search for peace and greater stability on this planet, our close ties with the United States and our other NATO partners, our membership of the British Commonwealth and our relationship within the European Community are all of great importance. Of those three, Europe is physically closest and we are part of it. Therefore there must be no doubt of our European commitment.

Looking back, I remember my own enthusiasm for membership. My enthusiasm is even greater today because I am proud of the contribution which Britain has made over the last two decades. Perhaps today we have more to give in this country than ever before, with our greatest potential contribution a positive leadership in the direction that we believe to be right. If, as I suspect, most of us prefer to look forward to a closer partnership of nations rather than a federal Europe, if many of us look with apprehension on the later stages of the Delors proposals, and if we see grave flaws in the social charter, then we have not only the right but the compelling duty to say so. There is more than one way forward in Europe, and I am anxious that my country should help to lead our European partners along the right one.

Last year my noble friend Lord Colnbrook reminded us of his abiding but continually disappointed hope that the rate of legislation would one day slow down. After the last few weeks I should be very surprised if many noble Lords would not agree with me. I did, and I do. I thought I detected in the gracious Speech a slight reduction in the flow. However, on more mature reflection—and thinking particularly of the Bill to control pollution, the broadcasting Bill, the legal services Bill, not to mention the social security and National Health Service Bill—I fear that their weighty content will more than make up for any numerical reduction, thus providing your Lordships with many hours of interesting debate and probably forcing my noble friend the Chief Whip to cut a few more days off our Christmas and summer holidays.

The National Health Service Bill will be of particular interest to me for, as chairman of a special health authority preparing to integrate within the National Health Service the services that we provide at present, I am naturally concerned with the future shape of the service which the new Bill will help to determine. We shall no doubt have long debates on the wisdom or otherwise of my right honourable friend's proposals, but I fervently hope that both here and in another place we shall not confuse argument about method with criticism of motive. It will bring no gain whatsoever to the National Health Service if anyone tries to suggest that the arguments of opponents are directed more closely to its destruction than to its improvement.

Finally, I noticed a little over an hour ago that your Lordships' House has ceased to be the sole provider of live, visual political entertainment. However, from all I hear I believe that we shall continue to have the potential to provide the better entertainment so long as the cameras continue to visit us. If that is so, it will add further to your Lordships' well deserved reputation—which I have come increasingly to admire—for hard work, constructive debate and the conscientious discharge of the business before the House.

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 Holderness.)

3.57 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

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

My noble friends the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip do me a very great honour in inviting me to second the Motion. I thank them most warmly for the privilege. It is also a great honour for me to follow such a distinguished, colourful and interesting speaker as my noble friend Lord Holderness. His experience of high office in government, his military record and his interest in the wider community, especially the disabled, adds a glowing dimension to the proceedings of this great day.

This House guards its traditions most jealously, and for that we give thanks. Self-regulation, courteous and informed debates, and energetic argument conducted always in a constructive manner, have become its hallmark. However, some new Peers who are introduced to this great place are sometimes left to discover its customs and traditions for themselves.

I have one such memory of my arrival in 1987. On the very first occasion on which I entered the Chamber at the start of the first normal day following my introduction, feeling just a little apprehensive I took my seat right at the back of the Chamber. Following the very short introductory prayer, a scuffling broke out around the Chamber. With head bowed, and one eye open, I was not prepared for the sight of noble Lords climbing on to the Benches into a kneeling position—some more agilely than others. It was obvious that I must do the same. Because it had not been explained to me, I felt rather undignifed, and I am afraid that that rather detracted from the reverence of the occasion. When I asked later why it was that some noble Lords who flanked me to right and left put their hands up on the wooden panelling I was told, slightly tongue in cheek, that that was simply to hold on.

Another tradition that has added considerably to the colour and pageant of these occasions is that of wearing uniform. Perhaps I may say how very splendid my noble friend Lord Holderness looks as he so proudly wears the uniform of the Royal Green Jackets.

My noble friend the Chief Whip uses gentle persuasion for us to don uniform on these occasions but, like my noble friend Lady Trumpington who seconded the humble Address in 1982, I also declined this invitation. I entered the Women's Royal Air Force over 34 years ago when, as a non-commissioned officer and later as a civilian with the Ministry of Supply, I worked in air traffic control at Boscombe Down Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment. I have to say that it was a most exciting and interesting time in the history of aviation. I enjoyed having an involvement in the maiden flights and development of a number of prototype aircraft. My marriage to a test pilot in 1963 kept my interest in aviation alive. A particular highlight for me was to see the Avro Vulcan, which my husband flew and tested in those early years, perform in action so effectively during the Falklands War.

Even with those memories fresh in my mind, coupled—for those who know me—with a rather old-fashioned tendency not to wear short skirts, I could not be persuaded to wear uniform.

There have been a number of highlights in the year for me. Today of course is one. And another was my visit only two weeks ago with members of an Anglo-American committee to East and West Berlin and to have been there on 9th November, the very day that the Berlin Wall was breached by the people of East Germany.

However, a great sadness to me during the year was the loss of my noble and very good friend Lord Trafford. His wit, charm, and considerable contribution to the work of this House will be greatly missed.

The admiration and affection for Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth and her family have been referred to by my noble friend Lord Holderness. I should like to add congratulations to their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales for a most successful visit to Indonesia and Hong Kong. Following the tragic events in China in the summer, times have proved difficult for the people of Hong Kong and therefore the visit by their Royal Highnesses was most welcome. We must all have witnessed on our television screens the visit by Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, to a hospital for leprosy in Indonesia. It meant so much to those working in that field of medicine and to the sufferers. Her Royal Highness displayed a real concern for the patients and staff without being patronising, and her visit will have done much to encourage enlightened attitudes towards the sufferers of that cruel disease.

Much of what was contained within the gracious Speech builds upon and strengthens many of the achievements of the past decade. Quality of life continues to be a theme running through much of the proposed legislation. The introduction of a Bill concerned with food safety is to be welcomed. It will provide a comprehensive strategy to control and regulate the production, processing, handling and distribution of food. Such a Bill confirms the commitment of Her Majesty's Government to the highest possible standards of food safety and consumer protection.

I feel sure a universal welcome will be given to the bringing forward of an environmental protection Bill. I have no doubt that there will be lively and contentious debate over the detailed clauses of the Bill. But there can be no argument about the objective which is to establish a firm policy for responsible stewardship of the environment, and to create a safer and pollutant-free world for people in which to live. It must not be under-estimated just how many initiatives to improve the environment have already been taken by Her Majesty's Government; nor how much is yet to be done.

The United Kingdom has provided a strong lead by establishing an agenda for the environment for discussion at both national and international levels. However, the need for scientific data has never been greater nor more urgent. All too often emotional and irrational argument, misinformation, second-guessing, and at worst distortion, is presented as a substitute for hard evidence or responsible and well-researched information.

The setting up of a centre for climate prediction that will research into the ecological dangers confronting the world, and the work being done by the Natural Environment Research Council in the North Sea to predict the way in which the sea reacts to waste disposal and environmental disasters such as oil pollution are just two examples of British-led pioneering work. Responsibility for the environment is a matter for each one of us. However, for governments the need to maintain a strong economy in order to produce a range of practical policies is essential.

The House is to return to the subject of education during the coming Session. A Bill will be introduced to allow students to supplement their grants by the use of top-up loans. It was encouraging for me to learn recently that the major banks have successfully negotiated an agreement with the Government to be involved with student loan schemes. It is little known that the United Kingdom is unique for the size of grants it pays to students and for the range of students who receive them; and new funding arrangements need to be re-considered. However, increased access to our universities and polytechnics is a desirable objective and therefore any expansion of places in my view must be accompanied by a broadening of the base for funding. I believe the proposals contained within the Bill will help to that end.

Many will welcome a reference in the gracious Speech to further measures which are proposed to eliminate the scourge of illicit drug trafficking and addiction which afflicts the American continent to a great extent but also threatens to escalate here in the United Kingdom. While practical measures are required here on the ground, it is essential to co-operate and consolidate efforts internationally. The same can be said about the fight against terrorism, which I am pleased to note is also addressed in the gracious Speech today. We have suffered for too long from the cowardly efforts of the terrorist, often with devastating consequences. One has only to think of the bombing of the Pan American jet over Lockerbie and the killing of a few weeks ago of the young British soldier and his baby in Germany to agree that these treacherous acts must be resisted by all countries; and that it is only consistency of policy and co-operation at an international level that will prove an effective deterrent.

Reform of the legal services will tax the energies of your Lordships during the coming months. Perhaps I may say that much praise is due to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor for his diligence, patience, fortitude and good humour. I am certain that all of these attributes, and more, will be required of him as tensions rise and the reforms are put in place. However, it is important to remember the element of service to the customer both in terms of an understanding of the system of law and justice and the need for value for money.

I find it difficult to develop any arguments against the privatisation of the Property Services Agency. However, with their customary ingenuity I am sure that opponents of this proposal will inevitably find a way to do so.

Over the past decade freedom and choice have been extended in many fields: education; the workplace; pensions; telecommunications, and so on; and now in the promised reform of the National Health Service, the establishment of a community care policy and in the proposed changes to the employment legislation. There will of course be contention over means to ends which will engage your Lordships in this House. However, I hope that there can be agreement about some of the aims of these measures. They are to increase choice; to provide more efficient management and performance measures; to reduce waiting lists at our hospitals and to provide a more responsive service to the patient; to shift the emphasis to preventive medicine, and, wherever possible, to keep people in their own homes among their family and friends, and to work more closely with the voluntary and private sectors.

One of the key issues will be the relationship between local authorities and other agencies: for example, the health authorities, central government, and the voluntary and private sectors. But one of the dangers which must be guarded against is that of overbureaucracy—too many liaison committees dissipating energies and resources that could be better deployed delivering services to people.

Many people will welcome the clarification by Parliament of that most vexed of issues—that is, research using human embryos. But we should not under-estimate the considerable anxiety and heart-searching that will be caused to Members in both Houses as they struggle with their consciences to determine this most sensitive of issues. On that issue, I predict much praying for guidance.

I also welcome the continuation of firm economic policy as confirmed in the gracious Speech. Inflation remains the enemy to be defeated. There are signs that the policies of Her Majesty's Government are working despite what the sceptics may say. As a result of investment in plant and machinery, much of it overseas, manufacturing industries will increase their activity and respond more effectively to market demands at home and abroad. This will help to reduce the trade deficit.

Some would say that it is action and not words that matters. I agree. I am confident that the measures set out in the gracious Speech today represent positive action for a brighter future. But it is not enough to talk in grand terms about quality of life, stewardship of the environment or the extension of freedom and choice without having the resources to deliver effective programmes. It is only sound financial and fiscal policy providing a strong and buoyant economy—which is the policy of Her Majesty's Government—that can fulfil our hopes to achieve these goals.

As my noble friend mentioned, many of us held out hope for a more manageable programme in the coming year. However, the list of legislation looks formidable and the tailpiece reference to other measures being laid before the House sounds ominous. I fear that our hopes have been dashed and I am afraid that a troglodyte-like existence must continue for some time to come. But whatever the demands on your Lordships during the coming months, I am sure that courteous, vigorous debate, good humour and copious cups of black coffee consumed during much burning of midnight oil will see us through.

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

4.11 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

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

My first pleasant duty is to congratulate the proposer and seconder of the Motion on their excellent speeches. The Front Bench opposite does not always get the balance right in the conduct of our affairs. However, on this occasion it has succeeded. On the one hand, we have the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, with his long and distinguished parliamentary career. On the other hand, we have the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, who joined us recently and has shown herself to be an assiduous and able Member of this House.

The noble Lord, Lord Holderness, an old friend, has been one of the most respected and popular parliamentarians of his time in both Houses. His experience and knowledge were reflected in his speech. I am bound to say that my heart sank when he mentioned the All Blacks but recovered when he spoke in Welsh! We shall bear him in mind when next we are looking for recruits to the Honourable Society of Druids. In our debates during the next few days we shall return to many of the points which he raised. His wide experience in foreign affairs would be of value to the House and I hope that he will take a greater part in our debates on foreign affairs. He spoke movingly about the revolution in Eastern Europe. That subject will occupy our minds during our debate tomorrow.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, who for some years was Leader of Cambridge County Council, also gave us the benefit of her local authority experience, as she did in our recent debates on the Local Government and Housing Bill. Her speech also demonstrated her expertise over a wide range of subjects. Over the past two years we have learned that she will always take an active part in the Committee and Report stages of the Bills in which she is interested. I observed that the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip woke up and showed delight when she gave the impression that she would be active in Committee, especially late at night! The air in Cambridgeshire must have a special quality because wherever I turn in this House I meet former members of the Cambridge County Council. The noble Baroness is a most valuable recruit from that elite club.

I turn now to the gracious Speech, I thought that we were entitled to expect a less burdensome Session, but, I am afraid that we are once more presented with a heavy package. The two Sessions since the general election have by any standards been extremely heavy. Noble Lords in all parts of the House have faced up to the challenge and worked very hard. This House has a lively awareness of its duty to ensure that legislation is free from flaw and error—after all, we are a revising Chamber—but, as the House knows, that is not always easy.

During the past two days I have been looking at figures which I shall now give in order to illustrate our growing problem. In a series of important Bills—for examples, the Local Government and Housing Bill, the Employment Bill, the Children Bill, the Companies Bill and the Electricity Bill—the Government introduced a flood of new amendments at a late stage. In many cases it became clear that the Bill had not been properly thought out in the beginning.

I am sure that Members of the House will wish me to extend a particularly warm welcome to my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones on his return to the House after his recent illness.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, my noble and learned friend, together with others and myself, protested about that. It is fair to say that the noble Lord the Leader of the House has apologised, but this is a proper moment at which to express the concern and disquiet which are shared on all sides of the House. I shall give two examples. First, the Children Bill was non-controversial in party terms. When it left this House it contained 124 pages. When it returned it contained 136 pages, with 447 new amendments. Secondly, the Companies Bill returned to this House with 180 pages and 531 new amendments. And so I could go on.

Furthermore, when comparing the average number of amendments in the lifetime of a Parliament we find that from the 1979 to 1983 Parliament to the Session since the last election there has been an increase of 57 per cent. The figures show that in this House the average number of amendments made to Government Bills was 1,106 in 1979 to 1983, 1,609 in 1983 to 1987 and 2,668 in 1987 to 1989, which is only two years.

I believe that successive governments have been guilty of overloading the legislative programme. But in recent years this Government have gone beyond the limit of what is reasonable and practical. In so doing they have shown a lack of concern for this House in particular. The Conservative manifesto of 1979 took a very different line. When I read it at the time I found myself in agreement. It stated: The traditional role of our legislature has suffered badly from the growth of Government over the past 25 years. We will see that Parliament and no other body stands at the centre of our nation's life and decisions, and we will seek to make it effective in its job of controlling the Executive". It is very strange to see how people in opposition want Parliament to control the Executive but take a most jaundiced view of Parliament when they are in government. I am told that at times even the Prime Minister tends to be impatient with us. In 1979 Mrs. Thatcher said: In the last few years, governments have often treated Parliament in a very high handed manner … The enormous mass of legislation"— and other factors— have sadly diminished Parliament's standing". I believe I need say no more save that we should consider urgently how best to amend and improve our procedures to deal with this growing trend. Perhaps a Select Committee, an independent inquiry or study of some kind should be set up to look at these matters dispassionately and to find solutions, as otherwise the conduct of our affairs must inevitably deteriorate. I believe that to be a matter of urgent concern.

As I said, it is clear from the gracious Speech that we shall be kept very busy during this third Session of Parliament. There are some Bills, like the embryo research Bill, based on the Warnock Report, and the law reform Bill, which are controversial but are not controversial in a strict party political context. We on this side will do our best to co-operate and help amend them sensibly where that appears necessary.

We are glad to know that some major Bills will start here. That will help to balance our work with that of another place as we proceed through the Session. We are grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip for arranging that on our behalf. We also look forward to the so-called "green" Bill and the food safety Bill in which there will be great public interest.

The noble Baroness referred to the economy and here at home our chief worry must be the deep flaws in the national economy. I believe that Ministers make the mistake of being over-confident about it. It would be much wiser to admit the difficulties which lie ahead: namely, inflation at more than 7 per cent. for most of next year and perhaps beyond, a daunting balance of payments deficit, continuing high interest rates, an insecure industrial base and a downturn in investment. It would need the prophet Jeremiah to do full justice to the dangers, but we shall be debating all this next Tuesday.

In foreign affairs and in relations with our partners in the Community—and 1992 is not far away—and with our partners in the Commonwealth, our country faces some difficult challenges. We cannot go it alone any more. We can only make progress in concert with our friends. I hope that that will be the Government's objective. I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.

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

4.24 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

My Lords, I am very glad to support the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has moved with the combination of charm and wisdom which has become so much the hallmark of his leadership of the Opposition, if I may be permitted to say so.

I turn to the two speeches to which we have listened with much interest and appreciation today. Perhaps I may take them in reverse order. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is a contemporary of mine as a Member of this House; in other words we have both been here a very short time. However, she has the advantage of being by far my junior despite her notable services to the Royal Air Force and then on the Cambridgeshire County Council in other ways.

In my capacity as Chancellor of Oxford, I am sure that the House will believe that I am constantly looking for ways in which I can elevate the name of Cambridge above the regrettable second position to which, despite the order of the alphabet, a combination of euphony and custom has condemned it. I think that I have found one this afternoon. As a breeding ground of Life Peeresses, local government in the city and county of Cambridge has proved far more fertile than Oxford and Oxfordshire. Of course we have the concentrated honour of having the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who has the unique distinction of leading your Lordships' House, but for the rest there is a remarkable concentration, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, suggested in all directions. There are the noble Baronesses, Lady Trumpington, Lady David, Lady Nicol, Lady Stedman and Lady Blatch, for the purpose for my remarks. Perhaps I can show my impartiality by summing up and saying that Oxford may be for Prime Ministers—12 out of 15 in the past 120 years—but Cambridge, without doubt, is for lady Life Peeresses.

The speech of the noble Baroness this afternoon has shown that it is a question of quality and not just quantity. I very much hope that she is prepared for office because precedents in the past few preceding years show that it will assuredly be upon her very soon.

The noble Lord, Lord Holderness, is by far my senior in this House but my broad contemporary in the other place and in politics generally. The noble Lord said that he was rather nervous as to how the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and I would deal with him. His nervousness is unnecessary because the noble Lord is someone who carried great respect and, indeed, affection on all sides of the House in the other place.

I always recollect vividly—and perhaps I may say that, as it was in 1929, I recollect it from written sources rather than personal memory—Baldwin saying of the noble Lord's father in a peculiarly disengaged remark for a party leader, made at a time when Baldwin was under great pressure to be more partisan on India, when Lord Irwin was Viceroy, and on tariff reform, that: I will only add that if ever the day comes when the party which I lead ceases to attract to itself men of the calibre of Edward Wood, then I have finished with my party". It was a remarkable statement in many ways, and while I would not wish to comment on exactly how that great party stands by that test today, I would most certainly say that if ever a time came when British politics did not have room for men of the quality of Richard Wood, then it would be a very bad day for us all.

I turn for a moment or two to the gracious Speech. It seems to me that none of the lessons has been learnt and none of the promises has been kept about not overcrowding the legislative programme. I strongly endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said. The bossiness and inability to leave reasonably well alone, and the carelessness about whether legislation is properly thought out or considered, remain regrettably unabated. They are not so much a reforming government as a restless government. They have no capacity to exercise a still or calm authority. Indeed, the restlessness causes a fair proportion of the Government's problems. That perhaps applies particularly in the field of inflation, which the Government elevate to the central position, and it comes first in the home policy and economic section.

In advance of our debate on Tuesday I make only one brief comment on the Government's position towards inflation, because their logical position increasingly puzzles me. It seems to me that there are three propositions which are at the centre of the Government's current thought here. First, the Government believe, even if nobody else does, that their economic policy and record have been a great success and that existing policies must be continued in order to reinforce that success.

Secondly, the Government say very firmly that control of inflation is the central test of success or failure for the conduct of economic affairs. Thirdly, they say that Britain's inflation after 10 years of this Government is almost uniquely so high that it means that we, unlike all our neighbouring Community partners, cannot be in the exchange rate mechanism of the EMS.

I should very much like at some time to hear a calm, considered, clear reconcilation of those propositions from a government spokesman. We say to the Leader of the House that we do not expect it today. We have four days of debate ahead of us and hope that in the course of those four days—when we look forward to expanding on this point and other points—we may hear a calm reconcilation of the three propositions which the Government consistently put forward and which seem to my no doubt slightly muddled mind to be just a little incompatible.

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Stedman

My Lords, from the SDP Bench and also as one of the five much referred to women Peers from Cambridgeshire, I also support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and offer my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.

The noble Lord, Lord Holderness, came to this House after a very distinguished time in another place and an honourable military career. He may not know that it was not all the wiles of Cambridgeshire which brought me into this House but that it was he who gave me my first push towards national politics when he appointed me to the Domestic Coal Consumers' Council many years ago under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lady Burton. Therefore he must bear some of the blame for my entering national politics as well as the fertileness of Cambridgeshire County Council.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, very ably seconded the Motion this afternoon. She joined Cambridgeshire County Council shortly after I left it to come to your Lordships' House. She has lived up to the reputation she made in Cambridgeshire as the chairman of that authority and also as a member of Peterborough Development Corporation. I am delighted to offer our congratulations from this Bench this afternoon for her contribution.

We are obviously in for a busy Session, and I shall not detain the House unduly. We are going to have long nights. We shall no doubt have lengthy discussions on the health service. On some issues we may decide to support the Government because we think reforms are overdue, and no doubt we shall vigorously oppose them on other issues. We shall certainly be taking a stance on student loans. We feel that the time has come for the parental contribution to be stopped because many parents are not paying it anyway, and we should like to see the repayment more on an ability to pay basis rather than on a statutory basis.

I am sure we shall have long debates and that the noble Baronesses from Cambridgeshire will be to the fore when we are discussing embryo research and the many other issues which will come before us.

We had hoped from these Benches to see much more emphasis on help for the poorest and the more vulnerable in our community. They will face considerable problems with the rising inflation rate, the increasing fall in our economic position and the community charge. Many people on low fixed incomes will have a tough time. I hope that when we are considering those other matters that may be placed before us there will be an opportunity, if it proves necessary, for the Government to find the time and the money to alleviate some of the distress that may be caused by the community charge when we know exactly what that will amount to.

We are in for another busy Session. I am sure your Lordships' House will play its part and will take its duty seriously as a revising Chamber. However, I add my appeal to that of the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn and Lord Jenkins, that the government managers look at the Bills that come before us and that they take care that they are thought out before they reach this House so that we do not face many amendments at very late stages of Bills in the long hot nights of the summer. I support the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn.

4.34 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, it gives me real pleasure to support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow. On this occasion last year I thanked the noble Lord and the other party leaders for their co-operation and wise advice in the general running of your Lordships' House. I certainly acknowledge that during the intervening year the need for that co-operation has been just as necessary, and I thank again the two noble Lords and the noble Baroness who are the leaders of the other parties and the noble Baroness the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers.

It is in the nature of our proceedings that by and large the Government propose legislation but it is your Lordships who dispose of it. As a self-regulating Chamber I believe it reflects credit on all sides that we achieve all that we do. Sometimes this requires growth in our procedures. Of course I listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, had to say on that issue and I am sure the whole House would like to consider further what the noble Lord said. However, let us not forget that growth or changes in our procedures do not necessarily come from formal committees or reports but very often simply from the day-to-day need to respond to circumstances. Sometimes that response is unanimous; sometimes it involves a degree of healthy disagreement. I say "healthy" because I always think that one of the strengths of your Lordships' House is that when we agree to differ it does not affect our united determination to see that your Lordships' House continues to play its part in the work of Parliament.

I should like to thank the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, for what they said regarding the speeches of my noble friends Lord Holderness and Lady Blatch and to join them in congratulating my noble friends on their speeches this afternoon. After 10 years as a Member of this House your Lordships may have felt that it was high time that my noble friend Lord Holderness should move the Motion for a humble Address, a task for which he is so obviously well fitted.

If I may say so, my noble friend's political career is more than remarkable. Following a very gallant military record he was PPS for four years from 1951 to the late Lord Amory in no fewer than three government departments. He was then in office in two more departments before becoming Minister with full responsibility for the Ministry of Power in 1959, which was exactly a year before the youngest Member of the Government Front Bench in your Lordships' House was actually born.

Following that, my noble friend returned to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, once again with full responsibility as Minister, and subsequently served as Minister for Overseas Development during the whole of the government of 1970 to 1974. It is an astonishing example of achievement, fortitude and encouragement to disabled people, for whom my noble friend has done so much.

The speech of my noble friend this afternoon was what many of us expected from his experience and wisdom. Among the remarks which my noble friend made on international affairs, I was particularly interested in his views on the implications of the dramatic changes which are taking place in Eastern Europe and which your Lordships' House will be debating tomorrow.

Well over 30 years ago I had the unexpected privilege of acting as a page to my noble friend's father, the first Earl of Halifax, when, as Chancellor of Oxford University the late Lord Halifax conferred an honorary degree on Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. It was a great personal kindness to be asked to do this by such a very distinguished statesman. The only blot on an otherwise perfect day was that as the chancellor of the university and his page were both well over six feet tall and the Emperor was only just five feet, conversation was strictly limited to those moments when we adopted a seated position. I have never forgotten that day, and the memory of it makes me reflect on his family's record of public service which is so well represented by my noble friend today.

I have no hesitation at all in confirming that in the time that my noble friend Lady Blatch has been a Member of your Lordships' House she has demonstrated a commitment to the work of the House which I believe can genuinely be described as second to none. Indeed, if I may say so, my noble friend is an excellent reminder of how incredible it is that it was not until 30 years ago that noble Baronesses even became Members of the House.

It was a particular pleasure to hear my noble friend speak this afternoon. She has of course extensive experience, as the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn and Lord Jenkins, said, of local government, and has also been a member of the European Economic and Social Committee of your Lordships' House. I was particularly glad at this time to hear my noble friend's firm words on the threat of terrorism. It was also interesting to hear her views on those Bills mentioned in the gracious Speech which are designed to improve the quality of life; for example, on environmental matters so far as concerns food safety, and on education, issues which will all be the subject of debate here in the coming months.

The programme thus outlined in the gracious Speech is of a somewhat different character from that of last Session and deals broadly with social matters affecting the quality of life for individuals. Thus in the next few weeks my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will introduce a Bill to make the legal system more responsive to the needs of litigants; and my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate will introduce a Bill to effect legal reform along the same lines in Scotland. Other important measures will also be introduced in the House. Tomorrow, my noble friend Lady Trumpington will introduce the Food Safety Bill and my noble friend Lady Hooper will introduce the Embryology and Fertilisation Bill which concerns a complex matter raising ethical and scientific issues which it is appropriate to introduce into your Lordships' House.

In addition to those four Bills, the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Bill will be introduced here: that will improve the United Kingdom's ability to co-operate with other countries in tackling international crime. When those Bills are taken together with two smaller Bills—the Greenwich Hospital Bill and the Pakistan Bill—I believe that I can promise your Lordships a stimulating time, if not perhaps a quiet life, from the start of the Session.

The arrangements for the remainder of the debate on the humble Address are that tomorrow we shall concentrate on foreign affairs and defence. My noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara will open for the Government and my noble friend Lord Arran will reply. On Thursday, the subjects will be home, health and social affairs. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will open and my noble friend Lady Hooper will reply. Next Monday, we shall debate the environment, agriculture and food, with my noble friend Lady Trumpington opening and my noble friend Lord Hesketh making the reply. Finally, on Tuesday next we shall debate the economy. My noble friend Lord Caithness will open and I shall reply to the debate.

I am pleased to support the Motion of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition that the debate be adjourned until tomorrow. I should like to join with him and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, in warmly congratulating my noble friends who moved and seconded the Motion for a humble Address today.

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