§ Bill, pro forma, read a first time.
§ ADDRESS IN REPLY TO HER MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS SPEECH
§ The Queen's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
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 a great privilege to thank Her Majesty on behalf of all your Lordships. We are indeed fortunate that Her Majesty undertakes so many public duties with such dedication and devotion.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, Her Majesty is an example to us all. Perhaps our thoughts can best be summarised by the line from the National Anthem: "Long may she reign".
I welcome the announcement that Her Majesty will go to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of D-Day. June 5 next year will be the last major occasion when so many veterans—especially from the United States—will assemble on the south coast of England and in France. That commemoration of the largest single military operation in the history of warfare will obviously have very special significance for me personally. But it will also be poignant for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who, together with King George VI, played such an important role in those great events. Like many of my generation, I was still at school at that time; but I am most conscious of the great sacrifice of many which has enabled us to live in freedom.
I turn now to other Royal visits. I should like to mention Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, who has made a series of trips in recent years to many parts of the world, including several to Latin America where I have a special interest. Those have been a great success and I hope that they will continue. At the end of last year Her Royal Highness recounted her Latin American experiences to a large audience at Canning House, the UK centre for Latin America. That was extremely valuable for all concerned.
Although I have spoken regularly in your Lordships' House during the past 17 years, I am more accustomed to a situation in which two or three are gathered together rather than a capacity House. Therefore, I am indebted for this honour to my noble friends the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip. In passing, I congratulate my noble friend on his first appearance as Chief Whip at a State Opening.
A review of past occasions reveals that the proposer is generally a bit over the hill, and the seconder is much younger and on the way up. That pattern continues today. My noble friend Lord Lucas is very much a man of the future and will no doubt compensate for my deficiencies.
Being somewhat gastronomically inclined, I likened the parliamentary agenda for this Session to a menu. It is an extensive bill of fare with some extremely large courses, all of which must be consumed by next summer. Some dishes will be most palatable—even tasty—but others may prove rather indigestible.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, however, there is something for almost everyone, and as we shall be examining the whole menu over the next four days, I propose to go à la carte to sample a few of the more appetising morsels.
One chef's special which is a particular attraction to me is the reform of Sunday trading. Noble Lords will recall that we spent many hours on that some years ago only to see it consigned to the garbage at an early stage in another place. I presume that we shall receive the measure in due course from another place. I hope that it will incorporate some of the rather good ideas which we approved last time. I understand that various alternatives have been suggested, so we should be able to reach a satisfactory solution. One thing everyone agrees is that the present unsatisfactory state of affairs cannot continue.
The gracious Speech includes a section on deregulation, or the removal of red tape. That is an 6 excellent idea but not always as easy as it sounds due to a certain built-in resistance. Some years ago, a Brazilian military government had exactiy the same bright idea. They created a ministry of "debureaucratisation"—a terrible word—but, unfortunately, it did not quite work out as it rapidly became a very large department of state and had to be disbanded. I am sure that we will not follow that course.
There is a great deal in the gracious Speech on home affairs, justice and law and order, which is understandable in an increasingly violent age It has recently been suggested that identity cards would help. I am sure that that is right. Some opponents of the proposal have commented that ID cards would be an infringement of human liberties, but I should have thought that it was exactly the opposite and a considerable protection.
Despite my name and immediate past heritage—or, more possibly, because of it—I have never spoken on defence issues, but I am required to do so today. We are most fortunate to have such dedicated men and women in our armed services—
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
But I have no idea what is their correct size nor how they should be equipped. There are many experts on the subject in all parts of the House—some may think too many. But I wonder whether we are looking at the problem through the wrong end of the telescope. Surely we need first to address what is the threat. For example, who is the enemy, and where is he? Secondly, perhaps we should consider what are our interests, especially overseas, and our commitments and obligations. Unfortunately, they are sometimes in conflict.
Therefore, I feel that what we need is a major review of foreign policy which would put the horse before the cart and not the other way round. The Foreign Office is the smallest and most efficient department in Whitehall. Given proper resources, it would have the calibre to conduct such an exercise and deliver a considered report to the Government.
Clearly, one specific interest is trade. We live on an island, now fortunately ever more closely integrated with the European scene, but we depend on trade in goods and services for our survival. We need agreement on GATT; indeed, the whole world needs agreement on GATT as the motor for recovery and growth. Approval last night in the US Congress of NAFTA is a very important development. It means that the focus of attention to achieve a successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round returns to Europe. Therefore, it is rather amazing that the French farm lobby can delay this, especially as French agriculture plays such a small part in the French economy compared with a most successful commerce and industry sector. It seems to me to be a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Staying with Europe for a moment, it is good news that Her Majesty, together with President Mitterrand, will open the Channel Tunnel in May. I must declare an interest—albeit a very small one—in that I am a small shareholder in this great endeavour in which I have always believed. Not only is it a remarkable feat of 7 engineering skill and international collaboration, but it is also a symbolic manifestation of our permanent link to the mainland of Europe. Maybe this could be combined with the incorporation of Western European time on a permanent basis. As noble Lords can see, I am for ever an optimist.
I have only sampled a few of the dishes in this large menu and perhaps added a few spices where these might have been overlooked. We shall certainly be well nourished in the coming Session. As my noble friends on the Front Bench are the chefs of the feast, I conclude by wishing them every success.
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".—(Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.)
§ 3.56 p.m.
My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech.
It is a privilege and an honour to have been asked to second the Motion. I thank my noble friends the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip most warmly for doing so. I accepted the invitation without hesitation but with a great deal of trepidation. Therefore, noble Lords may imagine my comfort when I discovered that I was to follow my noble friend Lord Montgomery. I am more than happy to come second to his eloquent and amusing speech and to his distinguished knowledge of trade and foreign affairs. I should also like to add my congratulations to my noble friend the Chief Whip on his assumption of that office. The Lake District is famous for its sheep-dogs—mean, hungry, sharp-toothed and hard-eyed beasts. But we are a notoriously ornery and self-willed flock. I am sure that my noble friend and his shepherd will earn their suppers this Session.
It is also a privilege to have inherited the right to attend your Lordships' House. One may view the hereditary peerage as the crowning glory of this House—its peacock's tail—or, alternatively, as an appendix to be cut out and thrown away at the first opportunity. However, I take a less dramatic view. I see the strength of the House—indeed, the strength of our whole system of democracy—as flowing from the fact that it is has evolved over hundreds of years and lost the fragility and uncertainty of human creation, replacing it with the strength, the durability, the flexibility and the complexity of a natural creation. That also applies to some of its eccentricities.
Therefore, we should celebrate the fruits of evolution and enjoy the historical accidents that have thrown us together here. We should appreciate the courtesy, the wisdom, the great traditions and the formalities of this 8 House. But we should also obey the rules of evolution: we should change as the world changes—and I do not mean just abandoning uniforms on these occasions.
The monarchy has changed. In the course of her long and glorious reign Her Majesty the Queen has brought the monarchy out of the age of deference; but, as I am sure your Lordships will agree, has retained the undiminished respect and love of her people.
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has not hesitated to become involved in some of the great transformations of the past 20 years. All of us associate him with the change in our attitude to professionals like architects and doctors—and a great change for the better it has been, too. Many of us know of his involvement in the renaissance of our belief in education. Moreover, tens of thousands of young people through the Prince's Trust and the Prince's Youth Business Trust have been given an opportunity to realise their ambitions or to start their own businesses, not just by receiving money that no one else would provide but through the active help and involvement of the thousands of successful business people who have followed where His Royal Highness led.
The gracious Speech contains many things that we should welcome. We shall see a Bill to deal with the problem of persistent young offenders. We shall embark upon the long awaited reform of local government in Scotland and Wales. We shall lay the foundations for an environment agency; we are to have another education Bill to build on the many achievements of this Government—which I find celebrated in all the schools and colleges that I visit—and we shall continue to tackle the outstanding problems which have been so clearly set out in die recent reports of the Audit Commission and the National Commission on Education.
But I wish to concentrate on just three subjects. I have chosen something old, something new, nothing borrowed because of course the gracious Speech is entirely original, but something blue. For something old I have chosen privatisation because it is one of the first, longest running, most successful and most widely imitated initiatives of this Government. I find it hard to remember what these privatised companies used to be like. I have grown used to telephone boxes that work. I have grown used to British Airways being the world's favourite airline. I have grown used to being proud that these companies bear the name "British". I am more than delighted that British Coal is to be given a chance to join its other successful forebears.
For something new I wish to welcome the first glimmerings of the reform of the welfare state because the welfare state is another long running and highly successful idea but one which over 50 years has accumulated a number of unwelcome distortions. It seems to have become anti-family, to wish to wait until the family has disintegrated under the weight of its tensions and then to pick up the pieces individually and at great expense rather than trying to hold the family together and help it solve its own problems. It has become anti-thrift—taking away the savings of those who come to it for help and making it difficult for those 9 whom it helps to build up fresh savings. But whoever heard of anyone spending his way out of difficulty? The welfare state has become anti-enterprise. When someone who is on welfare starts to earn, his benefits are clawed back at rates of 65 per cent, and upwards. Those are rates of taxation which are reminiscent of a socialist government, and an unreformed socialist government at that. We have shown the benefits not only to the individual but also to the economy and even to the Treasury of reducing rates of taxation. Surely we should put into effect with the poor the lessons that we have demonstrated so effectively with the rich.
Neither should we leave the pension industry unreformed. I speak not only of the state scheme, where we can see that in 20 or 30 years' time there will be a crisis of funding which we need to address now, but also of the private occupational pension industry where the crisis is with us already and where far too many people in their fifties are being thrown out of work and are finding it hard to become re-employed because of the final salary nature of company pension schemes. The managers of our public companies find it hard to plan for the long term—something which is vital for our economy—because those companies are owned by institutions which look only at the short term and have little experience or understanding of how to manage a business.
For something blue I have chosen the empowerment of the individual which comes to us this Session in two new manifestations the reform of the police and deregulation. We have a marvellous police service but we need it to be more responsive to our priorities. Our experience of crime is of petty crime—the small assaults and burglaries that happen to people whom we know and that hurt us so much when they happen to us. However, they do not seem to feature very high on the police's list. I hope the reforms that we are to introduce will bring the police closer to the communities which they serve and will enable them to focus more on these crimes which are so corrosive of our belief in our society.
On deregulation, I hope that the Government will equip themselves with a large and effective broom to sweep away this mountain of regulations which oppresses us. Most of these regulations have been put in place with the idea of protecting us and in some cases that is justified, for example with children and with employees where the person who takes the risk is not the person who decides whether the risk should be taken. But for the rest of it, we can decide for ourselves. What we need is information and not regulation. To take an extreme example, we should not ban by regulation the sale of rotten meat or meat which is contaminated with high levels of poisonous metal. We should demand that such meat is properly labelled, for example "pheasant, well hung, lead shot hazard".
My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.
I start by congratulating the noble Viscount, and indeed the noble Earl, his deputy. I congratulate the Government Chief Whip and the Government Deputy Chief Whip on their performance this morning. I congratulate them not upon their positions but upon the transformation in their appearance that we witnessed in the Chamber. They stood their ground with a martial air, dressed in red, arrayed as competent soldiers, holding the plumes and the sword. I admired their skill in holding both at the same time. I also admired their experience. I am only sorry that this afternoon we have not been treated to yet another sighting of them dressed in red. They have reverted to what are now known as grey suits.
It is my pleasant task to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, the mover of the Motion, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, as seconder of the Motion, on their excellent speeches. With their joint experience in the financial and commercial worlds, they bring to any task a businesslike thoroughness with which this House cannot fail to be impressed. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, also has experience in the scientific world because he took his degree in physics. I see that he nods his head in agreement.
We are all aware of the noble Viscount's wide range of interests which were reflected in his speech. He speaks with authority on foreign and particularly Latin American affairs and his contributions to debates on these matters are greatly valued. The noble Viscount is also noted for his defence of those who fought for their country, and their dependants, and for his lucid contributions when matters of business and trade are debated. He is President of the Restaurateurs Association of Great Britain—I believe this may have accounted for the gastronomic flavour which I detected in parts of his speech—where he has undoubtedly played a great role in ensuring that the part played in the life of this country by those who produce atnd prepare good food is properly recognised and appreciated. I join in that recognition and appreciation.
I observed in one of his biographical notes that he is the President of the Puma Fund. That intrigued me somewhat as I wondered whether it was a society for the conservation of large carnivorous felines or whether it was a society that aimed to benefit the Argentine rugby team. However, I was somewhat disappointed to learn that its purpose was rather more prosaic but none the less admirable; namely, the promoting of wider share ownership in Latin America. I congratulate him on that appointment. I also congratulate him most warmly on his speech.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will no doubt have recognised that his speech was not entirely devoid of some controversy. He made what I thought was a bold, democratic defence of the hereditary peerage which I shall read with great interest to see to what extent it is a view that we might be able to share. He was also somewhat controversial in relation to some of the elements of the Queen's Speech itself.
11 During the last Session—which I believe was the noble Lord's first in this House—he contributed to discussion on a wide range of subjects, especially on matters concerning children and young people. He is obviously a noble Lord who has views and is not shy of expressing them. However, I hope—and am sure—that he will avoid an experience which I had many years ago shortly after I was called to the Bar. I was sent to the High Court by a junior in my chambers to appear in the Chancery Division, my junior (my senior in chambers) having decided that discretion was certainly the better part of valour for him on that day. I had to argue before a somewhat forbidding judge called Mr. Justice Harman the proposition as to whether a trustee in bankruptcy of a tenant in common could sell one moiety of the settled land. It was not a proposition which I understood before I walked in to the court. By the time I had finished it was a proposition which I certainly did not understand. Therefore, I was amazed to find some three weeks later that the case appeared in the Chancery law reports. I read what I was supposed to have argued with great interest. A few weeks later I received a letter from a friend of mine in Wales, referring to the case of X v. Y, which read: "Goodness gracious! And at such a tender age too". That is the one and only occasion on which I appeared in the Chancery law reports.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will not repeat such an experience because clearly what he has to say to us is something to which we would wish to listen, unlike what I tried to say to Mr. Justice Harman. What he says will be recorded, and we shall certainly read it with great interest. I congratulate him upon the quality of his speech.
I now turn briefly to the gracious Speech. It was somewhat thin and perhaps a little repetitious and even nostalgic in some ways. We have been here before in respect of many of the issues. This is the fifteenth Queen's Speech of this now over-long Conservative era. We are to have what is no less than the seventh education Bill; and the promised Criminal Justice Bill is to be the fifth in no more than eight years. One understands that. It is clearly necessary to have a Criminal Justice Bill every year or so to reverse the policies which were enacted in the previous Bill. We therefore look forward with great interest to seeing precisely what will be contained in this one in order to compare what Ministers now say to justify the policies of today which are a reversal of those they justified as recently as two or three years ago.
Of course there are some measures which we look to support, subject to full debate and some helpful amendments. I have in mind the deregulation Bill. All of us in this House wish to reduce unnecessary burdens on business. However, care has to be exercised and we have to make sure that what we are doing makes sense. I wonder to what extent these Benches will agree with noble Lords opposite in their definition of what is "unnecessary".
We are still looking forward to a successful conclusion to the Uruguay Round of the GATT negotiations, and to the further reform of the common agricultural policy. One measure which we would have 12 welcomed but which seems to be absent is the major environmental protection legislation which has been eagerly awaited for some years now.
There are other Bills which are frankly unhelpful and unwanted. I do not apologise for a note of dissent from these Benches: some things must be said. Attacks on those least able to manage in our society, such as single parents and those unable to work through illness, are not acceptable. "Back to basics" is no substitute for a coherent economic policy. Moreover, if it is meant to be the enunciation of a moral position one has to ask: what morality? Where is the compassion? There seems to be precious little of the Good Samaritan about the moral tone which the Government are now taking.
We also have grave doubts about the education measures which are proposed, about the reorganisation of local government and police authorities, and about some aspects of the Criminal Justice Bill. We are worried that that Bill may lead to more miscarriages of justice without increasing capture and conviction of the guilty. In addition, the manner in which Scottish and Welsh local government reorganisation is being proposed and the decision to proceed with coal privatisation are not welcome on this side of the House.
I regret to say that the gracious Speech gives the impression that this is a government which, after being in power for no fewer than 14 years, is still groping to find some of the answers. I recognise that those are matters for later and more intensive debate. At this stage I merely ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House which of the measures proposed in the gracious Speech are to start in your Lordships' House and which in another place. I am sure that it would be for the convenience of the House to have some indication to that effect.
I conclude by reiterating my congratulations to the noble Viscount and to the noble Lord, the mover and seconder of the Motion. Of all parliamentary occasions those two speeches are perhaps the most difficult for a parliamentarian to make. The best that I can say—and I do so most sincerely—is that both of them lived up to the high expectations as to what they would say and fulfilled their task well and interestingly. They helped to set the scene for a full debate on these matters.
I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)
My Lords, does the noble Lord mean us to convene tomorrow or on Monday?
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I have to tell your Lordships in answer to that question from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that my draft of the speech referred to Monday. When it was vetted by those who are supposed to know more about these matters than I do it came back with "Monday" deleted and "tomorrow" inserted. I assumed that that was some arcane procedure in which one referred to tomorrow as if it were not tomorrow but merely a future date.
I am delighted to beg to move that the debate be adjourned until Monday next rather than until tomorrow.
§ Moved, That this debate be adjourned until Monday next.—(Lord Richard.)
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, the last loyal Address in reply to a gracious Speech now seems almost an age away. However, I recollect clearly the speeches moving and seconding the Motion, which both had what I described then as a Scottish/Cantabrigian flavour, although in the case of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegie, the Scottish element was stronger and in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, the Cantabrigian element predominated.
Today the provenance has shifted somewhat to Hampshire with a certain martial flavour appropriate to that county, which has contained, until recently, so many notable military and naval establishments. The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, may not regard himself as being associated with Hampshire now. However, I well remember being summoned to see his illustrious father in an old mill near Alton. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, may be surprised to be described as having a military flavour. However, I believe that I am right in saying that his last male forbear (his old peerage has gone through a slightly tangled line of succession, having a female entail) was a member of the last Liberal Cabinet to hold office in this country and was also the only ex-Cabinet Minister ever to be killed in action. He ceased to be Asquith's President of the Board of Agriculture in 1915, and was lost at the age of 40, flying over Germany in 1916. I am sure that the noble Lord would emulate his courage. I regret only that he has not so far emulated his liberalism.
The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, made an admirable speech. He began with a note of solemnity suitable to the occasion, but rapidly relaxed into a speech which was both eloquent and witty. Perhaps it symbolises his position in your Lordships' House. We revere him because of his name; but we also admire him and like him for the independence with which he has carved out his own interests and his sometimes irreverent positions. I congratulate him warmly on his speech in moving a humble Address.
As the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, did not make an entirely non-controversial speech—and it was none the worse for that. I thought that it achieved a distinction of diction at an early stage rare even in your Lordships' House. For the remainder, it was a very loyal speech, perhaps more loyal than one frequently hears these days. It was a speech that we greatly enjoyed. I congratulate him too on a notable contribution today.
I said that it seemed an age since the last gracious Speech. We then had a victorious Government. We then had a confident Prime Minister who said that he was determined to put Britain at the heart of Europe. We then had Mr. Lamont who was going to provide the bread and Mr. Mellor who was going to provide the circuses. We had Mr. Clarke at the Home Office, with the suggestion that he might for once stay in a job long enough to live with his own consequences.
We had, we were told, a business community whose confidence had been so restored by the removal of the 14 dreadful threat of a change of government and the prospect of a devaluation of the currency that they were about to invest like dervishes and to carry us forward to uplands sunnier than we had ever seen before. How long ago that now seems. It is difficult to decide where the greatest weakness of this Government lies—whether it is in their singular capacity to have and to deserve bad luck (I do not believe that any Member of the Government would have a chance of being taken on as one of Napoleon's marshalls) or in the sort of weak dogmatism which we saw epitomised in die Railways Bill, which meant that we ended last Session in an unsavoury parliamentary farce, and one or two items in the gracious Speech suggest that that unfortunately may well be repeated later this Session. I had not heard it before but I greatly enjoyed Sir Peter Parker's remark last week mat he had met only nine people who were in favour of rail privatisation—and they were all in die Cabinet. But that of course still left die majority of the Cabinet who were against it.
However, I believe that the most central and characteristic fault of the Government is a lack of any consistent purpose so that an extraordinary part of their statements and activities amounts to trying to get back from uncompleted journeys which need never have been started upon in the first place. The "basic values" excursion is a very good example, presumably launched after considerable internal discussion. Yet by last weekend, barely a couple of weeks later, Ministers were vying with each other in a co-ordinated attempt to back-pedal and to explain exactly what was not meant.
The epitome was what on reflection I decided was one of the most extraordinary little items of political news that I had ever read. Last Monday the Daily Telegraph—that great journal of accurate and detailed reporting—wrote, as though it were a great news item,Mr. Major will avoid any reference to the single mothers' issue in the Guildhall speech".It was as though there had been a great tradition that at Lord Mayors' banquets there was a passage upon that great issue eagerly awaited by the nation; as though Pitt (his statue dominates Guildhall) had given us his thoughts upon the issue in the last years of the 18th century and the early years of the 19th century; and as though the speech of Lord Palmerston (whose views might have held a certain expert interest in die subject) was awaited each year to see whether he would slip in an important new view between dealing with the Risorgimento and die menace of Second Empire France. Yet out of die negative of an issue, entirely raised by Government and then as quickly retreated from, there was made a major issue. If that is not a combination of bathos and inconstant purpose, I do not know what is.
On Europe, the dominant note of the early days of the present premiership was not: only Britain at the heart, but also the repairing of close relations with Chancellor Kohl so as to restore a natural centre-Right partnership in Europe. Where is either the partnership or that friendship today? They are utterly dissipated, I thanks partly to that extraordinarily gratuitous interview in the Economist, the ill effects of which Mr. Clarke and Mr. Heseltine were this week endeavouring to repair in their speeches to the CBI.
15 In conclusion, I turn briefly to the legislative programme. There is a good deal of Home Office legislation envisaged, which provokes me to one or two reflections on that great department of state which appears at present to be experiencing certain strains with its Secretary of State. The Home Office's peculiar challenge is that it requires the holding of a very delicate balance between personal liberty and public order. In my view there have been several Conservative Home Secretaries who in the past generation have endeavoured to discharge, and have discharged, that task with a high sense of public duty. I believe that Lord Butler did so. Certainly the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, did, as did the present Foreign Secretary. It requires a certain non-partisanship. The Home Office is the best department in which to maintain a certain detachment from the small change of party politics. It is the worst department in which to play a demagogic or a narrow party hand.
As the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, in this Session we are to have the fifth criminal justice Bill and the seventh education Bill in eight years. The latter is to contain a particularly foolish approach to the largely non-existent problem of student unions.
I believe that our present Ministers have gone mad on legislation. They flit from department to department like the managers of ailing football clubs who feel that they must leave their spoor on their brief tenure of each by some ill thought-out and quickly repealed legislation. Less and better legislation should be the motto of any sensible government who seriously wish to recover from their present slough of despond.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Wakeham)
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 Monday next. I was prepared to support his Motion in its original form before the tidying up that occurred with the help of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. However, I still support the Motion.
It is fully 18 months since I had the pleasure of supporting a similar Motion moved by the predecessor of the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I was at that stage among the newest of the new boys in your Lordships' House. During the lengthy Session which has just passed—the longest, I am told, for over 20 years—I have, I hope, learnt much about the working of your Lordships' House. There have of course been times of difficulty, not least in the relatively recent past. There have been changes. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, has been succeeded as Leader of the Opposition by the noble Lord, Lord Richard. My noble friend Lord Ullswater has taken the often thankless baton as Government Chief Whip from my noble friend Lord Hesketh. But in the whole of my time here and through the changes which have taken place, I have been most grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, for the often generous co-operation and advice which they have 16 extended to me. I appreciate that there is a certain resonance in my now rising to support a Motion that the debate be adjourned. After the stresses of the last Session, it is perhaps more than appropriate that we should begin the new Session not merely refreshed but on a happy note of agreement.
I should like to support both noble Lords in their expressions of congratulation to my noble friends Lord Montgomery of Alamein and Lord Lucas for the memorable way in which they have proposed and seconded the Motion for the humble Address this afternoon.
My noble friend Lord Montgomery referred to the reform of Sunday trading. I share his interest in this measure, as it was the only major measure that the Government lost while I was Chief Whip in another place. Since I have joined your Lordships' House I have become slightly more used to government defeats, and I am only partly convinced that that is an advantage.
My noble friend Lord Montgomery has established an enviable reputation for his sensitive and knowledgeable approach to this country's relationship with Latin America. His reputation has been burnished by his continuing work, often behind the scenes with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organisation which does much to foster understanding between parliamentarians around the world. My noble friend drew on his experience in mentioning the fate of the Brazilian initiative against bureaucracy. I have to say that I doubt that the deregulation unit which has been established by my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade would find itself able, even if it were inclined, to repeat the Brazilian experience. But the point which my noble friend makes is well taken. I was particularly struck also by the reference which my noble friend made to the necessity for a settlement of the GATT round. If the clock has been ticking on this for a long time, it is the case that it now stands at only a few minutes before midnight. Noble Lords have, on a number of occasions, made plain the strength of their feeling on this issue, which is shared by all of my colleagues in the Government. We shall of course do everything we can to help secure a settlement.
My noble friend Lord Lucas is, like me, a more recent Member of your Lordships' House. Like me, he made his maiden speech last year on the debate on the humble Address; he even found time in his first Session to steer a Bill through this House. My noble friend questioned whether my noble friend the Chief Whip and I had handed him something of a poisoned chalice in inviting him to second the Motion today. I would do no such thing to a fellow Hampshire man! But I think that our justification lies not merely in his own words this afternoon but in the reception which he has received from your Lordships. His speech this afternoon will, I know, make your Lordships anticipate the more his contributions to our proceedings.
The Session which has just ended was certainly a busy one. I have in the past expressed my wish to discuss methods of alleviating the workload on this House. With the support of the noble Lords opposite, and of the Procedure Committee, I am in the process of establishing a small working group to review the way in 17 which we conduct our business. I am under no illusions about the difficulties in the way of improving our procedures. For one who has come from the other place, the flexibilities of the procedures of this House, and the good sense which the House itself applies to its own proceedings, seem to me something which is immensely valuable and which we should do all we can to preserve. The task, as I see it, is to reconcile that objective with the continuing growth in the active membership of this House, and the understandable and commendable wish of your Lordships to participate in our proceedings. It will also of course be desirable to take into account any changes to the procedures of another place which may result from action to implement the Jopling Report.
If last Session was a busy and full one, I think your Lordships will agree that the legislative programme outlined in the gracious Speech for this Session will also provide for stimulating debate in this House on a range of important new measures. I am pleased to say that a number of substantial Bills will be introduced over the next few weeks in this House. My noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate will introduce in the near future a Bill to reform the organisation of local government in Wales, and my noble friend Lord Strathclyde will introduce a Bill to reform the law relating to trade marks. My noble friend Lady Blatch will introduce a Bill to reform teacher training and to establish a new framework for the operation of student unions, and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will introduce a Bill to place the intelligence services on a statutory footing. In due course, my noble friend Lord Ferrers will introduce a Bill to reform the operation of the police force, which will include reforms proposed by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor to improve the administration of magistrates' courts. I think that that programme will ensure that your Lordships' House is able to enjoy a full and varied bill of fare from the very start of the new Session.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I am much obliged to the Leader of the House for giving way. Did I hear him aright? Did he say that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will be introducing a Bill to reform local government in Wales?
§ Lord Wakeham
Yes, my Lords, and I believe that he will do it extremely well.
Finally, it may be helpful for me to outline the arrangements for the remainder of the debate on the humble Address. We will resume the debate next Monday, when the principal topics for debate will be foreign affairs and defence. My noble friend Lady Chalker of Wallasey will open for the Government and my noble friend Lord Cranborne will reply. On Tuesday, the principal subjects for debate will be home and social affairs. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will open the debate and my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate will reply. Perhaps I may add in parenthesis at this moment that my noble 18 friend Lord Ferrers is still recovering from his recent operation and he will not therefore be able to participate as fully in our proceedings as he would wish. The House will, I know, wish him a speedy and full recovery. After talking to him this morning, it seems to me that he is pretty well recovered, from the knees upwards anyway. On Wednesday, we will debate local government, the environment and education. My noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie will open the debate and my noble friend Lady Blatch will reply. Finally, next Thursday we shall debate industrial and economic affairs. My noble friend Lord Strathclyde will open the debate and I shall reply.
I am very pleased to support the Motion of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition that the debate be adjourned until Monday next. I should like to join him and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, in warmly congratulating my noble friends who proposed and seconded the Motion for a humble Address
On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until Monday next.