§ Mr. Speaker
I have to acquaint the House that this House has this day attended Her Majesty in the House of Peers, and Her Majesty was pleased to make a Most Gracious Speech from the Throne to both Houses of Parliament, of which I have, for greater accuracy, obtained a copy, which is as follows:
§ My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:
§ My Husband and I look forward to our coming journey to West Africa.
§ It gives Me much pleasure that My Husband is to visit the countries of Latin America next year and that Princess Alexandra is on her way to South-East Asia and the Far East.
§ I shall be glad to welcome President Sukarno of Indonesia on a State visit to this country.
§ My Government will continue to give resolute support to the United Nations. They believe it to be essential for the future of the world that the authority of this organisation should be sustained, and that it should be enabled to carry out the tasks assigned to it under its Charter.
§ The improvement of relations between East and West remains a primary object of My Government's policy, and they will continue to seek peaceful co-operation with all countries.
§ My Government will seek, in conjunction with their allies, to achieve by negotiation a settlement of the Berlin question which will preserve the security and freedom of the people of West Berlin.
§ The North Atlantic Alliance is now more than ever essential for the continued safety of Europe and the world. My Government will continue to play their part in keeping it and the other regional pacts to which we belong strong and united. The close friendship between this country and the United States will be maintained and, in co-operation with My allies, My armed forces will continue to contribute to the prevention of war. Legislation will be proposed giving power to retain for an additional six months certain National Servicemen who are serving 5 full-time, and to recall for a similar period National Servicemen who have a liability to part-time service. In addition, the reserve organisation of My army will be reviewed.
§ My Government will continue to work for the success of the Geneva Conference on Laos and for the maintenance of peace in South-East Asia.
§ Guided by the principles agreed upon between the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth countries at their last Meeting, My Government will do their utmost to achieve general and complete disarmament under effective inter-national control. In spite of the action of the Soviet Union in continuing to conduct nuclear tests on a massive scale in defiance of world opinion, My Government will persevere in their endeavour to promote an international agreement on the discontinuance of tests of nuclear weapons.
§ A measure will be laid before you to amend the law to accord with the new status of South Africa.
§ Legislation will be introduced to enable Southern Rhodesia to be granted a new Constitution.
§ Bills will be introduced to provide for the independence of Tanganyika and of Uganda and for constitutional changes in the West Indies.
§ My Government will make every effort to bring to a successful conclusion the negotiations which they are undertaking with the European Economic Community and will at all times maintain close consultation with the interests involved in the United Kingdom and with the other members of the Commonwealth and of the European Free Trade Association.
§ Members of the House of Commons:
§ Estimates for the public services will be laid before you in due course.
§ My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:
§ My Ministers will continue to direct their policies towards maintaining the stability of sterling. They will seek to strengthen the balance of payments by the measures already announced, including especially the vigorous promotion of exports. Legislation will 6 be laid before you to raise the limits of the liabilities to be assumed by the Export Credits Guarantee Department.
§ My Ministers will continue to seek the co-operation of both sides of industry in the better co-ordination of the national effort with a view to promoting faster economic growth, while maintaining stability in prices and a high and stable level of employment.
§ They will seek to keep public expenditure within limits justified by the national resources. Continuing efforts will be made to secure a better relationship between increases in incomes and in national productivity.
§ My Government will introduce a Bill to give effect to the proposals already submitted to you for the reorganisation of the undertakings under the control of the British Transport Commission.
§ A Bill will be introduced to ensure the orderly development of privately-owned industrial pipelines.
§ Proposals will be laid before you to amend the law relating to teachers' salaries, school-leaving dates and the award of grants to students.
§ My Government are resolved to maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agricultural industry. They will lay before you a Bill to implement their proposals on the Report by the Committee on the Fishing Industry and on drift netting for salmon.
§ Legislation will be proposed to amend local government financial arrangements in Scotland; to secure better distribution of Scottish housing subsidies and amend the law relating to housing in other respects; and to make certain amendments in the licensing law of Scotland.
§ Proposals will be laid before you for improving the machinery for administering criminal justice with a view to securing greater expedition and efficiency.
§ Legislation will be introduced to control the immigration to the United Kingdom of British subjects from other parts of the Commonwealth, and to give powers for the expulsion of immigrants convicted of criminal offences.7
§ A Bill will be introduced to improve the provision for supplementing workmen's compensation and to make certain alterations in the administration of the schemes for family allowances, national insurance and industrial injuries.
§ Plans will be laid before you for the development of the hospitals over the next decade, within the framework of the National Health Service as a whole.
§ Authority will be sought for the establishment of national training councils for health visitors and social workers.
§ You will be invited to approve a measure designed to promote greater safety on the roads.
§ Other measures will be laid before you in due course.
§ My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:
§ I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
On a point of order. There appears to be some doubt whether all hon. Members of the House of Commons are in possession of the same Gracious Speech. In the Speech which you have just read, Mr. Speaker, near the foot of page 2, there are the words:In spite of the action of the Soviet Union in continuing to conduct nuclear tests on a massive scale in defiance of world opinion",after which the rest of the sentence is printed.
Many of us attended the House of Lords this morning and heard Her Majesty deliver the Gracious Speech. We did what you did, Mr. Speaker; for greater accuracy we obtained a copy immediately afterwards. In the copies that were then handed to hon. Members those words do not appear, and I would like your assurance that Her Majesty did, in fact, include that passage in her Speech. I should also like to know how it came to be omitted from the printed versions of the Speech subsequently handed out.
§ Mr. Speaker
My recollection of the words spoken in another place is no better than that of other hon. Members. That is why I have a copy, for greater accuracy. The copy that I have is evidently a reprint of the original print 8 to which the hon. Member has referred. I have no reason to think that the Speech as I have read it to this House is not precisely as it was delivered in another place.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am obliged to you for what you have said, Mr. Speaker, which clears up the doubt, but in view of the fact that a great many inaccurate copies of the Speech must have been distributed before the correction took place, I should like to know what steps are being taken to correct the error.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am informed that there are correct copies—that is, copies of the reprint—in the Vote Office. No doubt the hon. Member will have performed a valuable service by giving publicity to the matter now, so that no one outside this House will be deceived by the original issue.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
Cannot we have this matter cleared up quickly by the Leader of the House making a statement about what has happened?
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)
The words of the Gracious Speech as delivered by Her Majesty in another place are the same as those which you have just read to the House of Commons, Mr. Speaker, and those in the print that is now in the Vote Office.
What happened was that yesterday an event that the Government thought of tremendous importance to the world took place and we thought it right to take note of this and accordingly to suggest some alteration in the wording of the Speech which would take account of something that has caused anxiety the whole world over. That is the explanation of the change, and the words that were given this morning and this afternoon are the words of the Gracious Speech.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that explanation, which we quite follow and understand, but can he explain how it came about that the wrong copies were handed out?
§ Mr. Macleod
I should like to look into the matter. I understand that the correct copies of the speech were put into the Vote Office.
§ Mr. Macleod
I would have thought that the House as a whole would think it right that some notice should be taken of the event which happened yesterday. I am sure that the House feels this. That being so, it was necessary that advice should be given that an alteration should be made in the Speech as delivered.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I endorse the addition made to the Gracious Speech, but is it not a fact that an erratum slip was printed but was not included in the first edition which was distributed? Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Members of the House of Commons have not been able to obtain from the Vote Office, until a late hour, the correct edition of Her Majesty's Speech?
§ Mr. Macleod
I will gladly look into the point raised in the first part of the hon. Member's question. I note his endorsement of what has been done, which I think is the general sense of the House. As I understand the position, a large number of the copies of the Speech as delivered, and as now read by Mr. Speaker to the House, have for some time been in the Vote Office.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Sir Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)
I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:Most Gracious Sovereign,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of ParliamentThis is the first time that Blackpool has been honoured by having one of its Members move the humble Address to Her Majesty. I need hardly say that the compliment is greatly appreciated both by me and by those I have had the privilege to represent for so long, and whose friendship I have cherished throughout my lifetime. I think it probably fair to say that there are few hon. Members of this House who have not visited Blackpool, which is well known in this House and throughout the world as one of the homes of the big party conferences 10 where decisions of great moment are taken.
Party politics are very controversial and an hon. Member moving this Motion should not enter into controversy. However, I feel certain that in view of recent events I shall carry with me the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when I say, "A little breath of Blackpool air is good for you".
Politics apart, Blackpool, as a great seaside resort, is known to millions throughout the country who have found refreshment from their labours on our golden sands and have renewed their health and vigour in our dustless breezes. Others have spent long and happy hours in our great places of entertainment or have revelled in the light of our autumn illuminations. There will be others, too, many of them in this House, who have cheered a sporting football team which has found its way to Wembley three times since the war and has made its regular contribution to our international sides.
Far fewer people realise the long and arduous hours of toil which fall to the workers in any busy resort throughout the season. I wish to pay my special tribute to those workers. Often their labours of the summer are followed by a lean winter and seasonal unemployment, and so Blackpool, like other resorts, has found it necessary to develop secondary light industries which are nobly playing their part in the export drive which was referred to in the Gracious Speech. Years ago few people would have regarded the provision of holidays as one of the country's main industries. But now tourism is the country's fourth largest earner of overseas currencies. When we include the fares paid to British carriers, about £275 million is brought to this country by nearly 1¾ million visitors.
In view of the importance of the industry, it is perhaps not surprising that the Motion should be seconded by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior). When seaside Members from the East Coast and the West Coast get together surely there is something of a tang of the sea in it, which is a good British characteristic. It is also possible that this community of interest typifies the "double banking" which is 11 so fashionable today in Government circles.
It is hardly necessary for me to declare my faith in the Commonwealth. I have just completed two years in office in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, first as Vice-Chairman and then as Chairman. During that time I have visited nearly every Commonwealth country and have addressed Members of most of their Houses. I can truthfully say that during the last two years I have spoken far more in other Commonwealth Parliaments than I have in our own. When I returned from my last Commonwealth tour I was half afraid that a new Member, on seeing me for the first time, might be tempted to cry, "I spy strangers". With this background in mind, I feel that in choosing me to move this Motion the Government have indicated their staunch support of the Commonwealth cause.
A few weeks ago Her Majesty graciously opened the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Westminster Hall. By her every action she endeared herself to all who saw her, and when our guests left these shores they returned to their homes more firm than ever in their loyalty to the Queen and to the Commonwealth. It is, therefore, appropriate that the first words of Her Majesty's Gracious Speech should refer to the visit which she and the Duke of Edinburgh are making to the Commonwealth countries in West Africa. I am confident that wherever Her Majesty goes, be it the Gambia or the newly independent Sierra Leone, or Ghana, a tumultuous and warm-hearted welcome will await her.
May it be just as magnificent and spontaneous as that which was given to her and to the Duke of Edinburgh earlier in the year by the people of India and Pakistan. When Her Majesty leaves this country she will carry with her not only our feelings of loyalty, but the affection and good will of us all. As always, we wish her a safe journey and a safe return home.
The Gracious Speech wisely foreshadows continued constitutional developments in the Commonwealth. A more liberal and advanced Constitution is to be given to Southern Rhodesia. There are to be changes in the West Indies. The recent referendum in 12 Jamaica has produced new problems which require clear thought and a statesmanlike approach, so that our friends in the West Indies may be assured of the happy future which they so richly deserve. The success of the recent constitutional conference in Uganda has brought that country rapidly towards the achievement of its independence. Let us hope that the example of Uganda may be noted by the political leaders of Kenya.
Tanganyika, too, is becoming a sovereign State before the year is out. Everyone in this House will wish Tanganyika well. We hope that the wise and statesmanlike leadership which has been given in that country may prove to be an example to the rest of the African Continent. For our part, I feel that we should remember that the newly independent countries need our continuing friendship and aid. Timely aid freely given in the early stages after independence means so much more than mere protestations of friendship.
There is one change foreshadowed by the Gracious Speech which may cause heavy feelings in many hearts. For years the Mother Country has conceded freedom of entry to citizens from the Commonwealth, even though some of the Commonwealth nations have not been so generous in their approach to each other in this matter. During the past year or so the tide of immigration to this country has advanced at an unprecedented pace, and it would not be wise to assume that Britain has an unlimited capacity to receive immigrants from overseas. Hence the necessity to control the tide at this time. The position may well correct itself, and if it does the need for the proposed Bill may prove to be temporary. When we are confronted by the Bill it is of the greatest importance that, whatever the law we pass, the resultant administration of that law should be free from any form of colour discrimination.
One of the heaviest tasks facing the Government in the coming year is the Common Market negotiations. This country has important trade links with our partners in the Commonwealth and it is vital in our interests and in theirs that these links should not be destroyed. Far better it is that we should ensure that the Commonwealth countries share in any expansion of trade resulting from a Common Market agreement. Some 13 countries, like New Zealand, have based the whole of their economic life on trade with Britain. In good times and in bad they have remained our closest friends and allies. We cannot let them down. Hence the House will welcome the statement that there will be the closest consultation with the Commonwealth on these matters. We want this consultation to be real and to be close, so that the negotiations may be for the good of all.
Our final thought must be to welcome the Government's determination to do their utmost to achieve general and complete disarmament under effective international control. Events have moved rapidly during the past few days. I think that the whole House must welcome the pledge that, in spite of the action of the Soviet Union in continuing to conduct nuclear tests on a massive scale in defiance of world opinion, the Government will persevere in the endeavour to promote an international agreement on the discontinuance of the tests of nuclear weapons. Recent nuclear explosions, which must fill the air with radioactive fall-out, constitute a wanton and senseless practice which may well endanger the future of people of all nations.
If the Commonwealth can act in unity, our influence in these matters may well be great. The lead given on disarmament by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers at their last meeting was an outstanding contribution to the world's thought. If we stay together with unity of purpose, with courage and with determination to give a lead to the world in these great problems, I believe that the generations to come may face the future with greater confidence.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Mr. J. M. L. Prior (Lowestoft)
I beg to second the Motion.
It is with a due sense of the honour done to me and my constituency that I support the Motion so ably proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson). In political parlance, the Lowestoft constituency is marginal, and I have the honour to be both the Member for the constituency and a constituent. If members of the Opposition should seek at some time to deny me the right to be the Member, I know that they will not deny me the right to vote.
14 During the summer, my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) and I were pleased to welcome the Houses of Parliament Social Club, who came to the East Coast for their annual outing. We were able to thank them on behalf of the House for the wonderful work they do for us in the course of the year. They were able to see, just as they can at Blackpool, some of the wonderful sands and also some of the inland waterways, the Broads, which are typical of East Anglia. They were also able to experience a little invigorating fresh air. Their visit was not without some mishaps, in that the train on the way down unfortunately broke down. The engine had to be changed at Colchester, but, with usual efficiency, the British Transport Commission managed to make the train arrive just on time.
Anyone who represents an East Anglian constituency will welcome changes in the structure of the Transport Commission which could be designed to make Liverpool Street Station a little more attractive, but I have a further interest in the Commission and in proposals relating to it, because a thousand of my constituents work in a large coach works factory run by the Commission. They will be watching keenly the new plan for the British Transport Commission.
About three weeks ago in a Force 9 gale in the North Sea, a Lowestoft skipper, Skipper Hugman of the Lowestoft trawler "Granby Queen", took his vessel alongside a Dutch trawler in very difficult circumstances and enabled the crew of that stricken trawler, Whose lifeboat had been smashed to smithereens, to jump from their trawler on to his trawler. That act of courage and high seamanship is typical of the fishermen and skippers up and down our coasts who serve our country courageously and well in war and peace. It is therefore with pleasure that I note the reference to a new fishing Bill in the Gracious Speech. It will also give hon. Members a chance, once more after last Session, to improve their knowledge of the fishing industry and all that goes with it.
I welcome the efforts to bring to a successful conclusion the negotiations undertaken with the Common Market. I say this advisedly as a farmer. We have in East Anglia some of the most 15 fertile land in the country, managed by excellent farmers and excellent farm workers. In my constituency, there are large food processing factories which have done much to increase the prosperity of the whole area. Agriculture is still the nation's greatest industry. It has expanded enormously in the last few years in the knowledge of secure markets for its products.
I think that those in the agricultural industry realise that they cannot prosper unless politically and economically the country is secure and progressive. No farmer makes changes rapidly; they have so much to put up with in the way of weather. They cannot change their policy quickly and, therefore, they always view as mixed blessings any changes brought upon them, but I believe they will be able to compete well with their European competitors provided the conditions are fair and reasonable and provided they have sufficient time in a transitional period to adjust themselves to the different policies of Europe.
The horticulturist is in a very special case. I hope the Government will look most carefully and considerately at the horticulturist's problems. The biggest fear the British farmer has is undoubtedly the fear of cheap subsidised food being dumped on to his market. Anything that we can do in times of mounting food surpluses in Western Europe to send that food to the underdeveloped countries in Asia and Africa will do much to help this country in its problems abroad.
The small farmer, who is sometimes regarded as being a bit of a Cinderella, can always take courage and hope from the behaviour and success this season of our county football side, Ipswich Town. They drew on Saturday with Blackpool. Ipswich Town is a small club with not a great deal of money behind it, but, by sheer hard work and team spirit and by good management—and I should add straight away that the chairman of the club is the nephew of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—this shows what can be done.
The British people today are in the mood only to accept policies which they can understand and which they consider to be fair and necessary for the well- 16 being of the nation. It is in this sense that I welcome the steps both at home and abroad to strengthen the defences of the free world. In particular, I welcome the economic measures designed to ensure the continued influence of this country abroad. Never was that influence more needed than it is today.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
I rise in accordance with the custom of this House to offer on behalf of all of us our warm congratulations to the mover and seconder of the Motion for an Address on the excellent speeches which they have delivered. The speeches were fluent, competent, interesting and pleasant.
The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) is an old member of this House. I think that he has been here thirty years, but he is still a young man, and he is well known and well liked throughout the House as a whole. I am sure that it was with the enthusiastic support of all of us that he became Chairman of the Council of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He spoke of his constituency, and it is true that we know it well. We have only one grievance. In view of the number of times the Labour Party goes to Blackpool, we think that it is about time it returned a Labour Member.
I would certainly agree that the hon. Gentleman was, for the most part, non-controversial. Although he claimed that Blackpool had a good football team, he did not say that it was better than any other specific team, and although he certainly advertised the virtues of Blackpool as a tourist resort, he was so non-controversial as to couple it with Lowestoft. For the rest of his speech, it was non-controversial or neutral, but on the Government side, which is perhaps hardly surprising.
We certainly look to him, as a man who throughout his whole political life has stood for the Commonwealth, to keep the Government on the straight and narrow path, both as regards the Common Market, where Commonwealth interests are concerned, and also as regards immigration. I must admit that I was a trifle disappointed with the hon. Gentleman's reference to that thorny subject. I know he understands how tremendously important an issue this is 17 for the Commonwealth, and that we must not lose sight of that. It is all very well to say that we wish the West Indies well, as we do, but it is then rather difficult, I think, to take steps which might threaten them economically. To this subject I will return a little later.
The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) also gave us a very good speech. He is young in years and young in service. He succeeded a man—the late Edward Evans—who was very much respected in this House and in his constituency as well. His seat is certainly a marginal one, and I am glad he has had this opportunity, which might not recur, of seconding the Motion for an Address. He delighted us with his account of the annual outing of the Parliamentary staff, and of the way in which the handicaps imposed upon British Railways by the Government's holding up of its investment programme were nevertheless effectively overcome by the efficiency of the railway staff. He also paid a well-deserved tribute to the fisherman of this country, which I know all of us would support.
The hon. Member's remarks about Ipswich were so non-controversial as positively to put him on this side of the House, for, after all, Ipswich is a Labour seat. Indeed, I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot), who represents that constituency, will welcome all the friendly things he said about the football team. He also let some light in on a rather murky situation; it appears that "jobs for the boys" and Tory nepotism can be rife, even in a Labour seat. I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich will want to look into that.
In congratulating these two hon. Members, may I also extend our congratulations to two other Members of this House—the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), whom we are delighted to see with us again at the opening of a new Parliamentary Session, and, secondly, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), on becoming a Privy Councillor.
We are meeting at a time of anxiety in world affairs. Even in the week which has elapsed since prorogation the situation has further deteriorated. First in our minds this afternoon will be the 18 explosion of the 50—or it is 60 or 70?—megaton bomb by the Soviet Union. The explosion of this bomb despite the earnest pleas and the strong protests of the whole non-Communist world can only be regarded, however one looks at it, as a callous, inhuman and repellent act which has rightly been condemned everywhere in the strongest terms.
We ask ourselves the question: why did Mr. Khrushchev do this thing? His own excuses convince nobody here and few people in the world. To talk of threats to the Soviet Union as leading him to take this step is really nonsense, for in the last eighteen months the main influence which has disturbed the status quo and created this crisis has been the new policies of the Soviet Union.
It is said that there are no military reasons, and from such inquiries as I have made, I certainly have not been able to discover any. It is sometimes said that it was done to impress the Russian people with their own power, but the Russian people have not even been informed. It is also said that it was done to impress the Chinese, but I do not know that the Chinese have heard about it yet, and in any case I very much doubt whether it would greatly impress such a vast population so unfortunately accustomed to the accidents of life and death.
It is said that he did it to terrify the rest of the world. It may be so, but if that is the case, in my view he made a terrible mistake. He certainly does not understand us if he thinks that this sort of thing frightens us. After all, one can put it quite rationally and simply: we all know perfectly well that if there is a nuclear war our chances of survival are very slight, and the question whether there is one 50 megaton bomb, or 50 one megaton bombs is not a matter of enormous importance to us.
But the worst feature of all this seems to me to be not just the explosion itself, bad as the effects are, but something that lies behind the whole series and the attitude of the Russian Government in these days. For it registers a contempt for world opinion which really is frightening. They do not seem to mind that those with whom they have been negotiating must regard this breach of faith—for breach of faith it was—as a serious barrier to further successful 19 negotiations. They describe the anger which has been displayed elsewhere in the world as mere hysteria. It seems to them that power and terror now are the things that count. At the very moment that Stalin's body is cast out of the mausoleum, the spirit of his doctrine receives its greatest endorsement.
I must ask the Government about the measures which they are taking to protect us, as far as we pan be protected, from the effects of fall-out. It is clear from the statement of the Minister of Defence last week and from the Report of the Medical Research Council that although there is a later danger from strontium 90, the immediate anxiety relates to the possible presence in excessive quantities of iodine 131 in liquid milk. Can the Prime Minister tell us: is it yet known whether the danger point laid down by the Medical Research Council has been reached? If it has not yet been reached, can he tell us when we shall know? Is it a matter of a few days or weeks or longer?
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it will be reached in some areas rather than others? I noticed in the Report of the Medical Research Council that the figures of iodine 131 in liquid milk were very much higher for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales than they were for the rest of the country. Does this point to special measures for those areas, even if the rest of us are relatively secure?
Finally, whether or not the Government have come to the conclusion that action should be taken now, would the Prime Minister consider announcing now the plans which the Government have made, should it be necessary to put them into operation?
My last thought on this subject is simply that we, at least, axe fortunate in being able to protect our young children, because we have the means to do so, but there must be millions and millions all over the world who have not these means.
I turn to the question of Berlin. We have had a testing time there in the last week, and I wonder whether the Government can give us a statement on what has been happening. Let me say that I think that this kind of trying out to some extent by both sides is to be expected, 20 and I do not think that we should be too worried or concerned about it. We have to live through this kind of thing so long as the crisis goes on. But there is one aspect of this which is disturbing, and that is that the allies do not seem to be wholly in line. On this matter of passes, for instance, and whether they should be produced, I hope that the Prime Minister will tell us why there were these different arrangements and whether any steps are being taken to bring them into line.
More important than that, however, is the question of negotiations. I must confess that I have been a little disappointed during this last week, and indeed in the last fortnight, that, far from any progress being made towards negotiations, if anything we seem to be moving away from them. May we be told what it is that holds up the possibility of talks with the Russians? They have said that they are ready for talks. Is it not possible for the West to put forward specific proposals for specific talks?
I must say, too, that I am somewhat concerned at the statement made yesterday by the American Secretary of State. I do not think that anybody will question my general attitude on Berlin. It is that we must stand firm and resist aggression, but that we should seriously negotiate. We had a debate on this quite recently and a number of ideas were put forward. It is not to be denied that one of the most important of those ideas was that of a zone of controlled disarmament which would include Berlin and parts of East Germany and West Germany as large as we could get them.
The American Secretary of State, in a broadcast yesterday, said something that could be interpreted as throwing out this proposal altogether. I sincerely hope that that is not so. Indeed, if he did say this, it is going contrary to what American policy has hitherto been. If he were concerned solely with dismissing proposals for neutralisation, I would regret it, because I think that the ultimate solution of this problem lies in that direction; but I would freely add that in any case I do not think there is very much chance of reaching agreement on that at the moment anyhow.
On the other hand, I believe that there is a very real possibility of reaching agreement on a zone of controlled disarmament, a special zone. We know 21 that this has been opposed by Dr. Adenauer in the past on the ground that it is in some way discriminatory against Germany. I sincerely hope that the Government will resist that argument as strongly as they can. It is not one that can be accepted and it is not one, I hope, that the Americans would for one moment accept, either.
I conclude my remarks on this subject by simply repeating that nobody should question that we stand by the freedom of West Berlin, but that—and it must be repeated—it is the strong desire of the British people as a whole that there should be serious negotiations. I believe that it is not only the strong desire of the British people, for there is no reason to think that it is not also the strong desire of the French and the German and the American people. In view of this, we ask what is holding up the possibility of talks? Is it still the opposition of the President of France? Is it still the fact that the Germans have not yet formed a Government? Can we be told what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to speed the negotiations?
May I add a word about this morning's news of the Russian Note to Finland? Has the Prime Minister anything to say about that? Certainly it is a somewhat alarming development, and I should be glad if he could tell us whether there has been any contact with the Finnish or Swedish Governments?
I pass to a question which is closely related to our foreign policy problems, and that is the proposals in the Gracious Speech relating to National Service. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) will deal in detail with these and with the whole position of our forces in Germany and defence generally when he opens the debate tomorrow, but I think that we are entitled to hear rather more today from the Prime Minister about the Government's intentions.
What is proposed in the Gracious Speech is in very striking contrast with all those reassuring statements which we have had from the Minister of Defence. Only as recently as 18th October, in reply to Questions from my right hon. Friend and some of my hon. Friends, he made it plain that in his opinion the 22 existing situation was quite satisfactory unless we wanted the British Army of the Rhine to be on a war footing.
When the right hon. Gentleman was speaking of Exercise "Spearpoint", for instance, he said,It has not revealed any major deficiencies in B.A.O.R. The Commander-in-Chief is satisfied that, if the situation should require it, the reinforcement plan for placing British forces on a full war footing is sound and practicable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th October, 1961; Vol. 646, c. 167.]I ask this question: do these measures mean that we are to have our forces placed on a full war footing? If not, what are we to make of the earlier statements of the Minister and what is now being done? He said very much the same thing in other replies a little later, but I will not weary the House with them, and it is all recently in our minds.
Secondly, when is this new plan to operate? Precisely who is to be retained? Is it not a little evasive not to admit that this is, in effect, a form of selective compulsory service? After all, it is a compulsion upon those who happen to be the last to be caught by conscription and who are compelled, having so to speak just had the fortune, if one likes, to be caught in this way, now to have to stay an extra six months. It seems to be a singularly indiscriminate and not particularly fair method of selective service. What is the pay to be and what security of reemployment will be provided, either for those who are retained for the extra six months or for the others who are to be recalled for a similar period? Can we have some further explanation of what the remarks in the Gracious Speech relating tothe reserve organisation of My armyreally mean?
I pass to the home front. The first thing to be said about the Measures set out in the Gracious Speech on the home front is that some important things are left out. I do not know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer has had second thoughts about his so-called capital gains tax, but I notice that there is no reference to it. Can we be assured that he nevertheless intends to go ahead with this piece of legislation? After all, he apparently attaches great importance to it in his talks with the T.U.C. when he tries to persuade the 23 unions to support his ideas, if they are ideas, on planning.
There is another striking omission. We are to have, again, a Road Traffic Bill, but nothing is said about the Weights and Measures Bill—the Weights and Measures (No. 2) Bill, I suppose it should be, or is it No. 3 this time? After all, this was specifically mentioned in the Gracious Speech last year, ten years after the Hodgson Report was published. It received its Third Reading in another place on 13th February, 1961, and yet was never debated in the House of Commons.
We all know why. It was because the Government decided instead to introduce their notorious Health Service charges and contributions legislation. We would like to be reassured that that will not happen again and that there really is to be a Weights and Measures Bill this year. It would be interesting to know whether it is to be introduced in another place again, or whether it is to be introduced here in the first instance.
Thirdly, once again the Government have failed to produce the legislation to implement in full the Gowers Report. This is indeed long promised. I remember referring to it three years ago, in 1958. The Report was many years before that. Since then, my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) has succeeded in getting through, despite all the difficulties in the way of Private Members' Bills, his own Bill for extending at least some security and protection to those who work in offices. However, it was recognised at the time that this was only a partial Measure. Indeed, the Government promised the T.U.C. faithfully that they would extend the whole system of protection to shops, railways, road transport, hotels, places of entertainment, and so on. They even went so far as to publish the outline of a Bill covering all this.
Why is there no reference at all to this in the Gracious Speech? Can we be assured again that the omission arose merely because the Government did not want to put it in because they thought it would occupy space and not because they are doubtful about introducing the legislation? I again remind the Government that they promised to introduce 24 legislation on this subject before January, 1962, when my hon. Friend's Bill comes into operation.
I pass to the remarks made in the Gracious Speech about the economic situation. They are the usual cliches and bromides. They are never very impressive, and after what happened last year these pious aspirations will not convince anybody. More especially is it extraordinary that the Gracious Speech should refer to strengtheningthe balance of payments by the measures already announced, including especially the vigorous promotion of exports.What Measures already announced vigorously promote our export trade? I suppose the Government mean the great incentives given to the £5,000 a year men and over in the relief of Surtax. I suppose the Government mean the arbitrary breaking of agreements in the public services and the imposition in the most unfair and arbitrary fashion of the pay pause. Apparently even the word "planning" has once again become a dirty word. There is no reference at all to it. All that we have is a phrase about seekingthe co-operation of both sides.I see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at Leicester on Saturday, was in a very expansive mood and apparently admitted a few mistakes of judgment, including, astonishingly enough, that he had not realised that the increase in personal incomes mattered. I am going by the report in the Observer. It was the same in other newspapers—the Evening Standard, and, I think, the Sunday Times as well. The phrase he is supposed to have used is all in quotes. I think that he was rather engagingly frank. I do not know why he should be bothered about it. He said this:I think that I would take it as a criticism of myself. For a time, for a year or two, we had stable prices and I thought that the increase in personal incomes did not matter. That is a lesson we have learned. To that extent I must share the blame.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am quite ready to share the blame when it is due, but I did not, in fact, make the remark about personal incomes not mattering. What I said was that during a period of stable prices one would have thought that increases in personal income would not 25 materialise. I made quite a different point.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am bound to say that, if the statement as reported in the newspaper was a frank statement, the statement we have just heard is the most obscure that has ever been made. To say that an increase in personal incomes would not materialise is, for a Conservative Government who have always promised that there would be a sharp rise in personal incomes, most extraordinary. Fortunately, perhaps, the major economic debate is likely to take place rather later on, thus giving the right hon. and learned Gentleman plenty of time to think out another explanation.
I was going to say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we welcome this frank admission. It is a very good thing that he should admit these mistakes of judgment. However, we think that he should go a little further. There are other mistakes which he might as well admit, also. For instance, he might have thought about the increase in personal incomes before the Budget. I do not know when the light suddenly dawned on him that it was a serious issue. Perhaps even more important than that is the fact that he should admit—I very much hope that he will—that his whole approach to the problem of incomes and productivity is fundamentally wrong.
This is what concerns us, and let the right hon. and learned Gentleman not try to pretend that the argument is about whether there is a problem or not. He need not say that to me at any rate, because we recognised the problem years ago and have said so year after year. What we criticise is his attempt to impose a solution of this problem by arbitrary means and his concentration on keeping pay down instead of putting production up. So let us have a few more confessions and the Chancellor of the Exchequer might even become popular.
Finally, I want to say a few words about the proposals in the Gracious Speech for the control ofimmigration to the United Kingdom of British subjects from other parts of the Commonwealth.Naturally, no final judgment should or could be attempted on this issue until we 26 see what is proposed in the Bill. If it is a question of power to deport criminals, which is referred to in this paragraph, that is one thing, and at least it does not raise the issue of principle at all, whether we approve of it or not. However, if the Government have in mind a general restriction on all immigrants from the Commonwealth which de facto closes the door, this is a very serious matter indeed. I do not say that there is no problem. I will come to that in a moment.
I think it extremely odd, to say the least, that at the moment when the Government are negotiating to enter the Common Market—as a result of which, if their negotiations are successful, there will eventually be completely free entry to nationals of countries within the Common Market—they should be closing the door on Commonwealth immigration. Do they really contemplate a position in which Commonwealth citizens will, in this matter, be worse treated than citizens of Europe? The House is entitled to an answer on this question fairly soon.
I should also like to ask about the position in regard to Ireland. Are the restrictions to apply to those coming from Ireland? There is, and always has been, a very big movement of labour from Ireland—they are always coming here, going back, returning here, and so on.
We must make no mistake about it; this is an issue of the highest importance to the Commonwealth, and I should have thought that no step of this kind should be seriously contemplated, without full consultation and discussion, not only with the countries likely to be most affected—though, naturally, one would put them first—but at a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference. As far as I know, this subject was not discussed at last year's Prime Ministers' conference.
Let nobody be in any doubt about another thing, either. Whatever hon. Members opposite may say, whatever the Home Secretary may say, as he did at the Tory Party conference, this will be regarded very largely throughout the world as the imposition of a colour bar over here. We may hope that it will not be so, we may make declarations 27 saying that it is not intended to be discriminatory, but let us have no illusions; in Asia, Africa, the West Indies, that is how it will be interpreted.
The second thing we have to bear in mind is that there is no doubt about the serious economic repercussions this restriction is likely to produce in certain parts of the Commonwealth—and I refer particularly to the West Indies. As a matter of fact, I have had a telegram only today from Mr. Manley begging me to do what I could to try to stop this because of the very grave economic consequences there would be on Jamaica. With all of this, we must at least very carefully consider what the case for this step is.
The Home Secretary said at his party's conference that there was always the possibility of unemployment. He rested the case, it seemed to me, largely on economic grounds. It is, of course, possible that there may be unemployment, but let me say, first, that in present circumstances we depend upon this Commonwealth labour for the maintenance of many of our public services.
British Railways, British Transport, and certain other industries—[HON. MEMBERS: "And hospitals."]—and hospitals, as my hon. Friends say—there is a long list—would find it very difficult to carry on without it. In present circumstances, I do not think that there is the slightest doubt that immigration from the Commonwealth has been of economic benefit to us. We have to get away from the idea that an increase in the working population is a bad thing. After all, the German recovery has largely been based on the refugees coming from East Germany.
Secondly, I am quite certain that if there were to be any economic recession here it would have an immediate effect on the number of persons coming to this country from overseas. Certainly, all the evidence about the movement of migrants from one country to another shows conclusively that the determining factor is the prosperity or otherwise of the receiving country. Therefore, I do not see that we can possibly accept this as an excuse or a justification, or even as an explanation.
Let us be quite frank about this. There is a problem—I certainly do not intend 28 to deny it—of a social kind in certain areas in this country. It is principally a social and, even more, a housing problem. This is the real trouble, and part of the responsibility for it rests on the former Minister of Housing and Local Government, now Chief Secretary to the Treasury, for the ruthless cutting back of municipal housing in the last few years has been one of the major scandals of the Tory Administration.
Leaving that on one side, however, I beg the Government to think very carefully on this subject before they take action which will unquestionably have very serious international repercussions. I beg them to see whether there are not more satisfactory ways of dealing with this problem. I think that it has to be dealt with in the matter of housing—perhaps in the matter of some kind of educational or social treatments of one kind or another—but to close the door, to impose restrictions which we have never had in our history before, is a very grave step indeed, and one that I personally hope the Government will not, when they come to it, actually take.
The new Leader of the House made a speech at the Tory Party conference, and I do not question for one moment his sincerity, in which he spoke about the brotherhood of man. I believe that he does believe in what he said; that is to say, I believe that he is a determined opponent of racial discrimination. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that we shall be watching him very closely on this issue in the coming weeks and months.
This Gracious Speech contains the usual stock of good intentions and pious but unconvincing resolutions but, as to the measures themselves, some are positively bad, some are harmless, and many do not come into the picture at all. It does not seem to me that it really shows a programme that deals with the real problems confronting the country.
What are those problems? They are, to speed up the provision of municipal houses; really to tackle the education system so that we have something of which we can be proud; to reform the social services and get rid of the swindle of superannuation that has been imposed by them; to do for industry what is badly needed, namely, to galvanise it into an expansionist condition by Government action in research, in exports 29 and in investment. Above all, the problem is to reform all our taxation system so that it really does mean that the burden falls where it ought to fall—on those who now get their money too easily, and pay no tax on it—and falls less heavily on those who work hard, and who get their money by the sweat of their brow or their brain.
For those reasons, I do not believe that this Speech will command the support of this side of the House, and I do not think that it will impress the country with the determination of the Government to deal with the real problems that face them.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
My first, and pleasant, duty is to associate myself with the congratulations which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition so generously offered to the mover and seconder of the Motion. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) has really had a remarkable year. He has given long service to the House of Commons, and in that time he has been specially noted for his interest in Commonwealth affairs. This year, it has been his privilege to preside over the fiftieth anniversary meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and the ease and grace with which he carried out those duties have been reproduced in the way in which we have heard today.
I should also like to congratulate the seconder with equal warmth. His speech will have brought pleasure, not only to Lowestoft but also, I think, to all East Anglia. As to the football aspect of it, I understand that there is a thing called transfers which is practised in operating these teams, and no doubt that might attract politicians on either side of the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sideways."]—at any rate, up or down, sideways or whichever way one goes, my hon. Friend is well known for his interest in agriculture, and has real knowledge of it. At the same time, he has never taken a narrow view, and I was interested in the views he expressed about the power of British agriculture to compete under fair conditions should the Common Market clan come into being.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has covered a very wide 30 field, as will the debate during the next eight days. There has, of course, as the right hon. Gentleman said, loomed over our deliberations one great question—a question in relation to which all our other controversies fade into insignificance. Many aspects of the foreign situation were discussed at some length at the end of the last Session a few days ago. There will be a further debate, I understand, on foreign affairs on Thursday and some of the detailed points which the right hon. Gentleman raised I will leave to be dealt with then.
The right hon. Gentleman especially asked me to deal with the matter which we were brought up against at that time—the wanton decision of the Soviet Government to pollute the air for what appeared to be more a political than a military purpose. A week ago the Minister of Defence gave an account of the position as we knew it then and the measures which it might be necessary to take. The Medical Research Council at the time of the assessment a week ago made allowance for explosions up to that day and the Council also made allowance for an additional explosion to the value of 50-megatons being added to the series.
There have, in fact, been two explosions since those calculations, one of the order of 25 megatons and the other of the order of 50 megatons. Nevertheless, I am informed that the broad assessment of the position given by the Minister of Defence is not affected but, naturally, the risk that the acceptable levels of radioactivity may be exceeded is greater because of the additional explosion.
As the House knows, the immediate problem concerns radio iodine which finds its way into milk but which has a very rapid rate of decay. A comprehensive system of sampling milk throughout the country enables the position to be closely watched, day by day, both on a national and a regional basis.
Arrangements have been made for processed milk to be made available for infants under one year old should this prove necessary, but this is not necessary for any other part of the population. If it becomes clear that the acceptable level of iodine 131 in milk is likely to be exceeded, the Government will both get and give timely warning and this will allow measures to be put into effect. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman the 31 Leader of the Opposition that none of us wants any sense of panic.
This matter is being watched very carefully. The warning can be given at very short notice, by radio, television and by other methods, and the methods of distribution are all prepared and ready. The levels of radioactivity from longer-lived materials, such as strontium 90, will come later. The maximum rate of deposition of these materials arising from the present tests is not expected until next spring.
The Medical Research Council believes that it is not probable that the level of strontium 90 in human bone will rise beyond what is regarded as permissible, but we cannot tell. Naturally, the longer-term results will give anxiety in every part of the world. We cannot avoid that.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, it is difficult to understand the purpose of the Soviet Government. I find myself as puzzled as he to get at the real motive. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that if it was to spread panic among our people, then it has signally failed.
Naturally, these massive tests of the Russians have led people to wonder what would be done about the resumption of tests by the West, and I think that it would be right for me to state what is the British Government's point of view on this matter as we see it today. I need not weary the House by trying to find new expressions with which to condemn the cynicism and brutality of what the Russians have done. I believe that even Communists and their sympathisers are just as puzzled and saddened.
On a matter such as this, of such importance, we have kept in very close touch with the Government of the United States and, although what I intend to say represents a statement of policy of the British Government, I feel sure that it would broadly commend itself—in my personal interchanges I know that it would—to the American Government.
First of all, both we and our American friends are very conscious of two duties, both grave and, to some extent, I fear, conflicting. We have a duty, all of us, to think of the dangers to the health 32 of mankind, including children yet unborn, which may arise to a greater or lesser degree from the continuance of any large-scale atmospheric nuclear tests. At the same time, we have a duty to maintain the balance of power in the world, to ensure that the deterrent still deters and that the security of free men is not overthrown because an aggressor suddenly becomes possessed of an overwhelming advantage. Both of these duties place a very heavy moral responsibility on the Heads of Government of the nuclear Powers.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman states that that is what Mr. Khrushchev says. We did not test for three years. We did not start after 1958.
I say, therefore, that these duties are, to some extent, conflicting, but they at least enable us to draw certain definite conclusions. First of all, we have a duty to work for an agreement which will put an end to nuclear tests under proper control. No one can say that we have not honestly and honourably worked for that, as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) knows. Both the American Government and the British Government are ready at any time to resume talks now suspended, for a nuclear test agreement, or to begin talks anywhere else which seem likely to lead to a similar result. That is our first conclusion on which we stand.
Secondly, we are clear that we will not make tests for terroristic or retaliatory purposes. [Interruption.] Ask Mr. Khrushchev for his views. I am giving ours. We will not make tests merely because the Russians have done so—terroristic or retaliatory—which I call a kind of political testing.
Thirdly, if tests must be conducted for good military or scientific reasons, if possible they will be made underground where there is no danger of pollution. I have specifically in mind the possible need to ensure the safety in peace and the effectiveness in operation of weapons either newly in service or under development, or the study of new techniques—most probably of a defensive kind—whose production might revolutionise the nuclear balance.
33 We cannot risk putting the West in a position of permanent military inferiority, but if it proves technically necessary that any such tests should take place in the atmosphere, they will, of course, be on a very minor scale, the smallest possible, pending the conclusion of an effective agreement for the abolition of all tests.
There is a great distinction between underground and atmospheric testing. We have kept off both for three years and underground tests themselves would be regrettable because they would mark, even temporarily, a breakdown of the policy to which so much patient service has been given by our negotiators, to which so much devoted effort has been attached and on which we based such great hope. But they have no ill effects on the health of the world.
Atmospheric tests, however, are in a different category and I hope that it will not prove necessary for the Americans or ourselves to make an atmospheric test, however small. Certainly we have no plans for such tests in the near future. Nevertheless, I must be quite clear and frank with the House. If I were convinced that a particular atmospheric test was necessary in order to maintain the balance of the deterrent and to preserve freedom in the world, Britain would be bound either to co-operate in, or support, its conduct.
§ The Prime Minister
I would ask how this principle would be applied, and I think it must rest upon the sincere judgment of those who are charged with this heavy responsibility, after doing their best to weigh the technical information at their disposal. I can assure the House that it is in this spirit that the British and American Governments intend to work. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman goes on with his accusations, but for three years we observed this moratorium.
§ The Prime Minister
I should like the Leader for the Opposition to say whether he accepts or repudiates these accusations by members of his party who sit below the Gangway. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept this as as fair 34 and moderate a statement as I can give of what the President and I feel to be our duty.
I wish to come to the second point. There are many others with which I cannot deal today, as the right hon. Gentleman will know, but this is a very important one. I want to come to the point of the contribution which our Armed Forces have to make in many parts of the world. The immediate situation in Germany did not in the summer, and does not, in my view, at any rate, justify immediate mobilisation. Our forces are, therefore, on a peace footing.
Mobilisation plans, of course, are ready and can be rapidly made effective by Proclamation, but I am strongly opposed to this step at present. I think it would be very foolish to have taken it in the summer, to have had these reservists all out of their proper work and to have increased the sense of tension during these months. Really, to inflict this additional strain upon ourselves would be playing into the enemy's hands. Then if this tension continues, with long negotiations, at what point should demobilisation take place?—remembering that once having had the Proclamation and having mobilised, to demobilise would have a very great political significance.
Naturally, however, the tension in Berlin has brought up again the problems of the longer term, and I should like to say something of these. We have no intention of returning to National Service if we can possibly avoid it. As the House knows, both the Navy and the Air Force should be able to maintain themselves without difficulty by voluntary recruitment. The point of difficulty is the Army. Here our minimum target is 165,000 men. If we could get more, we would be ready and able to go to, say, 180,000. Can we get the minimum figure? I believe that we have a very good chance, and that even at the worst we shall get so close to it that there would be no advantage in reintroducing National Service even on a selective basis to fill the gap. General conscription, or even selective service in the ordinary sense, is a somewhat wasteful and inefficient method of meeting our military requirements. Everyone who loves the Army must recognise that an all-Regular voluntary service is far better if we can get it.
Apart from the question of actual numbers, there are, of course, two further 35 difficulties. In the first place, whatever the size of the Army next year, it will not, and I admit it, be properly balanced. There will be shortages in certain administrative parts—curiously enough, not in the great fighting part of the Army but in the administrative units. Perhaps I should say, not curiously but naturally enough, not in the teeth but in the tail.
Secondly, the continuance of the Berlin crisis has highlighted some of the temporary difficulties which we knew we would pass through in 1962 and 1963, during the period of transition from conscription to the all-Regular forces, and these two factors together make it necessary for us to take special steps to keep up the strength of the Army. Here again, we are satisfied that conscription would be a wasteful and inefficient method of solving a temporary problem.
We have, therefore, decided that we must have powers now—we may not use them—to retain for an additional six months those National Service men who would otherwise be going out on completion of their service, they of course having the great advantage of being trained men. This will help us both with numbers and with balance. It may be that at the end of the extra six months, tension will still be high. Whether it is or not, we must always be ready for some further crisis. We must, therefore, make a more permanent arrangement to buttress the Regular Army in time of tension.
We therefore propose to take powers to recall for a maximum period of six months those men, or those whom we need out of that category of men, who have completed their full-time National Service and who have, as we all know, a part-time liability under the law. This will put at our disposal a further pool on which to draw of some 140,000 men, of which perhaps one-tenth or a smaller proportion might be required. Those are things which exist and which can easily be done.
At the same time, we are taking in hand the task of reorganising our reserves as a whole, because clearly if we succeed in running all our Services on a voluntary basis, then we have got to reorganise a system of reserves attuned to it because the old National 36 Service men will disappear as time goes on.
As a first step we believe it right and necessary to form a new reserve of trained men who will be voluntary, to accept responsibility to reinforce the Regular Army. This reserve will increase the Army's deterrent effect at any time when international tension makes it necessary to call upon their services. It will be an important addition to our pre-Proclamation reserve strength. There will, of course, be an appropriate annual bounty and a gratuity if the reserve is called upon.
The Territorial Army has a long and famous history. Here is an opportunity to open still another chapter. We have, therefore, decided to build on the existing framework of the Territorial Army which already provides a reservoir of trained men with long traditions of voluntary service. As I have said, the need for these measures has been highlighted by the Berlin situation, but they form part of a general development of our defence policy. They can be debated, and I understand are to be debated, at length and will be explained further by my Tight hon. Friend the Minister of Defence.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
On the financial aspect, can the right hon. Gentleman say what will be the pay of these people when they are recalled?
§ The Prime Minister
There will be a retaining fee and then they will be paid when they are called up. We do not know what it will cost. There is to be a bounty first.
We shall ask men to volunteer—I am talking about the new reserve who are in the Territorial Army—to be called up in a period of tension. This is our difficulty. If we want to call up all the reservists we have to have a Proclamation and all that that involves. It creates a great sense of anxiety and perhaps it might almost be called fear, because those are conditions almost of a war upon us, but with these new conditions we might want to fill up and have a certain number of men available and yet not go through the tremendous issue of calling up the reservists.
§ The Prime Minister
I thought the hon. Gentleman was talking of the new reserve. The National Service men who are retained will get full Regular rates of pay.
§ The Prime Minister
Regular rates of pay, yes.
I have dealt with two of the great issues which the House has mostly in its mind, issues raised by the Russian explosions, the deterioration of the position, and I have tried to explain the policy which Her Majesty's Government will follow and which I think will inspire the American Government.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
May I ask the Prime Minister one question? I am obliged to him for giving way. He is arguing about the balance of power. Is he arguing that, in order to preserve the balance of power, we should be prepared to conduct tests and be prepared to poison and pollute the atmosphere and poison the milk? If so, what is the difference, the broad general difference, between his argument and Mr. Khrushchev's?
§ The Prime Minister
There is a very great difference. These tests have put into the atmosphere, for no military purpose, free-dropping bombs, sometimes at just 10,000 or 12,000 feet, and these tests, not to test a weapon and for no military purpose, have put into the atmosphere as much as has been put there over the whole period since testing began. I am saying that, if there were some new weapon, if there were some anti-missile missile, or if it were a matter of perfecting the safety of a weapon, and it was necessary—it being not possible to get results by an underground test—to make, perhaps, a kiloton test or a test of that category, unwilling as we should be, we should not shrink from it. We should be wrong to shrink from it because if we did we should be handing ourselves and the whole free world which we must defend to be trampled on by the Russians.
§ The Prime Minister
It would not poison any milk, because of the amount of material we should use. The hon.
38 Gentleman and his Friends—I fear that they represent quite a considerable part of the country—are so pro-Russian that they hate the name and thought of England.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman and his Friends poison quite a lot of their own friends. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition did well to throw them out.
Having dealt with those two great issues, I turn now to some of the economic questions which the right hon Gentleman raised.
§ The Prime Minister
I thought I would leave the details until a later occasion. I have nothing really to add to what we discussed at some length last week, and I shall leave the details until Thursday's debate, when the facts of the situation, which is developing rather rapidly all the time, can be gone into.
On the economic questions, about which the right hon. Gentleman rather enjoyed himself, I intend to make only some general remarks, for which I crave the indulgence of the House. Of course, all our defence policy, if it is to be effective, must be based upon a sound economy. Last summer, the external and the domestic economic situation caused concern. The action taken by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had its immediate effect. We all know that. The situation is, therefore, under control: but that is not enough. We have to consolidate and extend the improvement in the balance of visible trade.
There is one feature, to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer because it did not help his argument and his attack upon the Government, which is, of course, a novel feature and a very regrettable one. For many years, certainly for as long as I can remember, we have always been able to rely on a substantial net income from invisible exports, sometimes as much as £300 million or £400 million a year, sometimes slightly less. Three years ago, in 1958, the figure was running at nearly £300 million, but it has now rapidly dwindled. 39 There are reasons for this; heavy overseas expenditure, reduced shipping earnings, lower oil incomes, and many other reasons of that kind. Anyway, that is the fact, and this useful bridge which helped us until 1960 to close the gap has now failed us. Therefore, in order that we may carry the load of necessary expenditure overseas, expenditure on military defence, on investment and on aid, we must continue to earn a substantial surplus of visible exports over imports.
World trade looks like increasing. The opportunity is, therefore, there. I think that we must seize it and grapple with our problems. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The right hon. Gentleman gave his view, and I shall try to give mine. There is the problem of rising costs. We all know that this results from increases in the level of money wages, salaries and profits in excess of increases in productivity. Who among us gains any lasting advantage from this process?—practically no one. It is an illusion on the part of wage and salary earners to imagine that, in conditions of full employment, increases in their money incomes can be wrung out of profits, for in a society devoted to full employment excessive increases in wages and salaries are bound to result in higher prices. By excessive increases I mean increases greater than the expansion of the economy will enable us to shoulder.
A great many people are damaged by this inflationary process, and even the stronger bargainers, even those trade unions or salary earners who may be able to exact particular advantages, lose in the long run. Therefore, the long continuance of this problem, with which the right hon. Gentleman, as he truly said, has been familiar and with which successive Governments have been familiar, is one which we must try to tackle with a new determination. The penalties of failure are very great, and the prizes of success are equally great. Any short-term act such as that taken, quite rightly, by my right hon. and learned Friend can have only a limited value if, at the end of it, we just slide back into all the old difficulties. It is no good having a pause unless we make a fresh start.
I venture to put this to the House. When circumstances change, we should 40 be prepared to change or at least to modify our attitudes on both sides of the House. In international affairs, the doctrine of interdependence is now accepted as governing policies between States which formerly measured their freedom and their influence by purely national interests. A similar change is required in the relations between groups and associations within a single society. I claim that this follows from the evolution in economic conditions.
A hundred years ago, employees were too weak in relation to their employers to secure a reasonable measure of freedom or justice. An enormous advance was made through the organisation of labour. But, up to the Second World War, a high level of unemployment set a limit to the transfer of power from one side to the other. Circumstances have now changed, and full employment is accepted as a fundamental objective of policy. As a result, the restraint on abuses in collective bargaining, a restraint which should affect both employers and workers, has been weakened. Restraint could be restored if we, in our own society, could develop a sense of interdependence between those responsible for fixing wages, salaries and profits, and if this new sense of duty were generally recognised. This is our object. It will take time to achieve. In the meantime, the Government have a duty to give a lead in supplying some part of the restraint required in relation to the increase of incomes.
To put it in another way—here I appeal to some of the older Members of the House—between the wars we were all haunted by unemployment on a massive scale. Everybody felt that, if only this could be cured, we could have a sort of paradise. But, such is the fate of humans on this earth, we find that we have solved one set of problems, at any rate temporarily, only to be confronted by another. Full employment has brought with it a new set of difficulties and a new set of dangers. Although we are grateful and happy that we have not the conditions we had between the wars, we must recognise—the moral is surely clear—that we have a new set of problems and we can preserve what we have won only if no interest presses its case too far or too hard.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
Obviously, we shall want to debate all this philosophy later. The right hon. Gentleman was not able to be with us on Monday, when we debated many of these issues, but, as head of the Government, will he say whether he approves or repudiates the action of his Government in breaking solemnly pledged agreements to which they have set their signature?
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman, as I expected, is unable to rise to any high level of debate. The Government had a duty to bring about a halt, and, as my right hon. and learned Friend explained, in carrying out that duty he was most meticulous to deal only with cases which arose after the statement of 25th July.
The Government's proposals about economic planning will, I hope, give an opportunity to secure a more rapid and sustainable growth in national production. We are also giving urgent thoughts to securing a more sensible relationship in future between the growth of incomes of all sorts and the growth of national production. We hope to issue, after consultation with both sides of industry, guidance to those whose actions determine these issues.
Planning has become rather an emotional word. I do not know why. For myself, I have always rather liked it since the days when, I think, I was one of the original members of P.E.P.—Political and Economic Planning. It was a quite good little organisation. I hope that the word "planning" will not lose us the support of the party opposite. I have often found that the more progressive the Conservatives become, the more reactionary becomes the Labour Party. Although my little book "The Middle Way" is now out of print, I think that its theme is rather in fashion. We are certainly not afraid to use new methods to meet new problems. We intend to set about this task, and we are encouraged by the mood in which both trade unions and associations of employers are meeting our proposals.
Planning in a free society, of course, means closer consultation between both sides of industry and the Government. It means closer consultation between one industry and another and improving the flow of information. Obviously, it is of 42 the utmost importance that great industries should know what is the general pattern pursued by others. In one way, that has been one of the great successes of the French experiment. However, the plain fact is that many of the attitudes and customs of industry and commerce today are working against national efficiency on both sides. They have been sanctified by long existence and many, particularly the restrictive practices on both sides of industry, are a hangover, partly from the waste and frustration of the inter-war years and partly from the too easy period of British industrial supremacy in the 19th century. I am sure that closer co-ordination of the needs and resources will help us to tackle these obstacles. I make a plea, which I believe the House and certainly the country will welcome. It is that we should try to join together in this new approach with the hope of making it as effective as possible.
I have some other questions with which I must deal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will admit that I cannot deal with many matters, but there is one to which I must refer further. The right hon. Gentleman, rather unusually in our procedure—I do not object to it—covered a very wide field, and I think that, in propriety, I ought to answer at least some of the further points which he raised.
I want to make a reference to immigration. A Bill will be introduced to control the immigration of British subjects from other parts of the Commonwealth. It will give powers for the expulsion of immigrants recommended for deportation by the courts. Few hon. Members, I think, would regard it as unreasonable that there should be power to expel immigrants who commit serious offences. However, we hesitated to take that step because even that is a departure from the traditional right of British subjects to enter the United Kingdom and to stay here for as long as they like. This right, of course, is not reciprocal, at any rate in most cases. Nor do Commonwealth countries apply it between each other. Indeed, it is not applied between contiguous Colonial Territories.
§ The Prime Minister
It is quite relevant really. It seems curious that in neighbouring territories of a very similar character it is not applied. However, knowing our difficulties, some Commonwealth Governments have taken steps over the last few years to limit the numbers of people coming here by various methods, and we are very grateful to them. Several of them have used methods to discourage this mass movement, but we estimate that in August and September the rate of immigration was running at about 4,000 a week. An influx of this order can hardly continue uncontrolled, with all the best will in the world, even with all the money spent, if proper housing and social conditions are to be maintained.
We do not contemplate a total ban on immigration or anything like it, but we have a scheme in mind under which there would be a limit placed only on the number of immigrants coming here for work who have not offers of employment in advance or have no special skill.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman says that it is nonsense. I am saying what the Bill is going to do. He may disagree with what it is going to do, but that is what it is going to do. There will be ample opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to use his logical powers of describing what he does not like as nonsense without giving any reason why it is nonsense. That will come when we discuss the Bill.
I want to make it quite clear that there will not be anything like a total ban on immigration. I repeat that there would be a scheme under which a limit is placed, not on those who come here with a job, not on those who come with special talent, but on those who come without any previous job arranged for them. That is the method by which we shall try to operate.
§ The Prime Minister
If the hon. Gentleman puts together the method by which it is to be operated, he will see that it is very far removed from anything like a total ban on immigration. He is applying more widely the kind of conditions which are applied for many other immigrants into this country.
There are many other questions covered in the Queen's Speech and there are many points which we shall no doubt debate as a whole. There are two points which I should like to leave in the minds of hon. Members. First, as the Leader of the Opposition told us, we live in a very uncertain situation. I do not think that we need panic about it. I have obtained only the smallest amount of information about the new pressure which appears to be developing on Finland. We have no formal information about that as yet. If we receive any, we shall, of course, inform the House of it.
The situation has, of course, very much worsened in the last eighteen months, as I expected it would after the breakdown of the Paris Conference and as I warned the House. That does not mean that we must give up the attempt to find some solution of these problems. I am glad that in the Queen's Speech we said that it is our primary purpose to try to get better relations between East and West, because great as are our grievances and great as is the horror of some of the things that are being done, we have got to find a way of living side by side in the world together.
I am not ashamed, either, of the efforts I have made, nor shall I discontinue those efforts in the future. As, however, the right hon. Gentleman knows—I think he and I agree—they must be based upon firmness and not upon the abandonment of our own principles. That will be the immediate great issue of this Parliament. The other is the strengthening of our own economy. I hope it will be felt that what I have ventured to say to the House is said in as impartial a way as I can. We have our disputes, of course, but I believe we all feel that there is really not so much difference of the basic concept that we have.
It is because we hold to these basic concepts, because we believe that planning, if it is to be done, must be free, because we believe in liberty and because we believe in co-operation, that we are 45 side by side in the great international issues. On the question of the bomb, on the question of further tests, on the strengthening of the Army and on the strengthening of the economy, I believe that the work we shall be able to do in the Session which is now opening will be of capital importance and I implore the whole House to join us in it.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
I am as disappointed with the Prime Minister's speech as I am with the speech of Her Majesty the Queen, for which the Prime Minister is responsible. I do not wish to go into the profound issues of international importance which certain aspects of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon have raised, except to implore the Prime Minister, whatever the wicked acts of the Soviet Union in its latest devastating series of bomb explosions, and yesterday's crime against humanity, not to follow suit and not to set this country along the line of polluting the atmosphere by similar terrible measures.
I leave it to my colleagues to deal with some of the broader topics of the Gracious Speech, because I wish to deal with a subject which is dear to my heart. In the first place, however, I regret that the State opening of Parliament was neither televised nor filmed. This ceremony belongs not merely to Parliamentarians and their personal friends, but is a precious part of British tradition and belongs to all citizens. I hope that before next year the Government will consider once more permitting all Britain, and especially the schoolchildren, to see and hear the Queen's speech to her Parliament at the beginning of a new Session. The showing of the prize-winning documentary film of the State opening of 1959 to our Parliamemitary colleagues in Europe, which I witnessed some time ago at Strasbourg, was a most moving experience. I hope that the Government will take serious note of what I have suggested.
I want to deal with that part of the Gracious Speech which proposes legislation for teachers' salaries and other educational matters. Nobody who has the welfare of education at heart can be happy about the present situation, and 46 least of all the Minister of Education. On all educational fronts—intellectual, ethical and spiritual—there is need for a great and united effort in Britain. The key to Britain's future lies in our schools and in the teaching profession.
I had hoped that by now we would be able to lift a great portion at least of educational controversy out of the political arena. I hoped to speak in this debate about the importance of teachers in the battle we wage against a materialist culture which is today eroding steadily all the worthwhile values in Britain. The Government's latest contribution to that battle, however, has been to embitter the teaching profession as never before in history.
During these last weeks every teacher has had to face a crisis of conscience. Each has had to decide how far it was right for him to withdraw his labour, to work to rule—if the teachers worked to rule, they could paralyse education—to join in a one-day protest strike, to withdraw from dinner duties, to support a series of local strikes and, now, whether to accept the compromise which has been arrived at between the Burnham Committee and the Minister.
Many teachers—nearly half of them—were not prepared to take direct action of any kind, however shabbily the Government behaved. One of the fine features of British education is the good will and the co-operation between teachers and local education authorities. I visit many areas apart from my own and I find that this good will exists everywhere. The teacher had to face the fact that any blow which he levelled at the Government in support of his claims would fall, not on the Government, but upon the local education authority, which is his friend, and upon his friends the children. I pay my tribute to the local authorities for their fine part in this sorry story. They stood firm by the Burnham proposals until compelled to give way under threats from the Minister.
Teachers are professional people and professional people take pride in their professions and in the importance of the work they are doing, and are reluctant to take strike action. Thus, for example, the whole of the grammar school teachers decided to do nothing but protest and this was true of many primary and secondary teachers. Nevertheless, about half the 47 teaching profession was willing to strike. Let not the Government and let not the House think that these were all angry young men, Communist agitators and extremists.
Here, I would interpose to dissociate the profession from the extravagant behaviour of some wild young people of the now notorious television programme in which Sir Ronald Gould was so shockingly treated. I understand that prior to being let loose on him, the young teachers were encouraged by the producer of the show to be as angry as they could. Whether that is true or not, it did more harm to the reputation of the teaching profession in ten minutes than thousands of teachers have done good by a lifetime of service to education. If teachers are to achieve a professional scale, they must win public esteem. These foolish young teachers did their best to lose it.
What the Minister and the Government must realise is that most of the 20,000 teachers who were to come up to London last Monday week, and most of the thousand who did come up even after the strike was called off, are simple, loyal, kindly folk serving education single-mindedly, who decided after much heart-searching that the good of the profession demanded something other than mere acquiescence in the wrong that was being done to it. The present Minister can boast that he, alone of all Ministers of Education, has made half a loyal profession willing to go on strike.
Nobody who cares for our children wants to see our schools close for a single day. Nobody wants the dinner system, which is one of the bases of the great advance in health of our children, shattered. Nobody wants to see a profession of this calibre and importance engage in active hostility to the Government.
Therefore, we are all relieved as parents—myself as a grandparent—as local authorities and as a country that the crisis is for the moment over. But it leaves a legacy of bitterness among all teachers and, not least—indeed, the most unpleasant bitterness—levelled by some teachers, not against the Minister responsible, but against other teachers. The Government may consider it fine to have the teachers divided, so that the Government, like the Romans, can con- 48 quer, but if I know the Minister—and over the years I like to think that I have got to know him—he himself can be no more pleased about the prospect of inter-warring factions in the teaching profession and the profoundly disturbing effect of that on education than I am.
Since we debated this question last week, the Minister has recognised a breakaway union, the National Association of Schoolmasters, and given it a place on the Burnham Committee, if, indeed, there is to be a Burnham. All trade unionists know by bitter experience the case against fragmentation of unions. The teachers have not learned it yet, but in both the N.U.T. and the N.A.S. some must have seen from recent experience how disunity weakens a profession and helps the enemy.
At first sight—and this is the danger—the Minister seems to have rewarded and encouraged militancy. He has made a concession to those who actually did strike. On the other hand, the N.A.S., I understand, has paid a price for recognition. It has called off direct action, it has accepted the £42 million, as the N.U.T. has done, and it has undertaken not to fight against equal pay when appointed to the Burnham Committee.
I believe that this could be a turning point in the struggle for professional unity. It is my firm belief that no Government in this country would ever now dare to compromise on the question of equal pay. The battle was fought for fifty years and has been won, at any rate within the professions. Some day, please God, equal pay will extend to all kinds of labour, and I am certain that any setback would rouse the women of Britain and men, like myself, who believe in justice between the sexes, to a campaign which could destroy any Government which tampered with the principle of the rate for the job.
It may be that the Minister, in this at any rate, is wiser than many think, in that recognition of a union, at the price of giving up its raison d'être, may leave the two teachers' unions with only one major difference, and that is how far direct action should be used against the Government, and that this is a battle that could properly be argued out inside one great professional body. I hope that the teachers, at any rate, will learn what the trade unions learnt long ago, 49 that if you fight an enemy you should all face the same way, and that a Government who do not recognise justice may, in the long run, recognise united strength.
I thought, until I heard Her Majesty's Speech in another place today, that the compromise between the Burnham Committee, the teachers and the Minister, gave the teachers three things. First, it gave them the promise to begin new negotiations for new salaries in the middle of next year. Second, the Minister had abandoned his crazy attempt to dictate detailed scales to the Burnham Committee, as he did in July. Those two things seem to be certain. The third is much more doubtful. The Government are engaged in a full-blooded attack on wage negotiating machinery, including Burnham. I believe that they picked on the teachers, because they know that they are weak. The local authorities and the teachers caved in under a threat to impose by law the £42 million agreement and, this week, by the same law, to recast Burnham.
I understood that the third leg of the compromise was that the Government agreed that instead of bringing in a new law this week, specifically levelled at teachers, it would, early in the new year, bring in a more general law affecting all local government and Civil Service negotiating machinery. I understood that assurances were given to both sides, the teachers and the local authorities, that Burnham would not be singled out for the death by a thousand cuts, but all local government and Civil Service negotiations would be included in whatever the Government had in mind.
But the Queen's Speech and the specific paragraph in which a law is referred to seem to indicate that the teachers are, after all, to be singled out for special treatment. We were told by Her Majesty that legislation will be introduced to include among other educational matters the question of teachers' salaries. I hope that at some stage of the debate a Government spokesman will make quite clear that the Government are not engaged in a breach of faith with those with whom the Minister negotiated when the Burnham settlement was made.
50 If I speak of Burnham, it is because I know it best, but much that I have to say applies to all wage negotiating machinery in this country. I remember when the Burnham Committee was set up in 1919, and that in its first report it said:We have many difficulties in front of us and those who labour in the public service of education will have need of all the skill, courage and perseverance that they can command. Their success depends on the unflagging and generous support of the nation.This is even truer of 1961 than it was in 1919. The great Mr. Fisher, whom I thought the present Minister of Education was on the way to emulating until he made this disastrous blunder, said when accepting the first Burnham Report—I quote from Cmd. 443, page 3:I felt sure it was better for the local authorities to whom under our system of public education so great responsibilities are assigned, and for the State, that the problem should be settled by agreement rather than by direct intervention on my part. It is sufficient for me that this picked body of men and women, fully conscious of their responsibility to their constituents and of the public interest, have agreed.Those principles, enunciated at the outset by the Burnham Committee and by Fisher, have been the guiding principles of Burnham for forty years—forty years of good will and of negotiated settlements. Can the Minister wonder, can the Government wonder, that all the teachers in the country, including, for example, the non-striking grammar school teachers, protest against any interference with that freedom of negotiation, and against his attempt to dictate to the Burnham Committee in July not only a global sum, but even detailed scales, and that in spite of the Minister's excellent record on education he was defeated at the Scarborough Conservative Party Conference largely because of dissatisfaction of members of the Conservative Party about the way in which he was treating the teachers?
I believe that the teachers' view on the importance of maintaining this local negotiating machinery is shared by local government men, not only on Burnham committees but on joint councils and on all the complicated set of wage negotiating machinery that we have set up during the last fifty years. Many councillors have devoted their 51 lives to this kind of work. They have built up intimate and detailed knowledge of the work to be done, built up good will between employer and employee, and I believe that we shall not get good men to continue in local government voluntary work if their patient, expert work can be thrust aside at the whim of Whitehall.
Many local government workers in this field and in others since the Government began to tighten the hand of central government on local government believe with us and with the teachers that the power of the Treasury has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.
But the trouble, in my opinion, goes much deeper even than the Minister's recent actions. The teaching profession has laboured for years under a sense of grievance, a sense much more marked since the war, because of oversized classes, bad schools, an inadequate professional salary, especially for those entering the profession after enduring years of financial hardship in their sixth form and college years, and the flat refusal of the Government to provide widows pensions.
All these accumulations of injustice to the teaching profession are the root cause of the bitterness which the Government have now merely brought to a head. Most Members with whom I speak on both sides of this House agree with me that teachers have been underpaid for many years. Lip-service has been given to the teaching profession in abundance—even as late as Scarborough. We face at the moment an enforced settlement. If there is time—and, at any rate, there is no date mentioned in the reference in the Queen's Speech to the new legislation—I believe that it will give both sides a chance to think about the wisdom of tearing up negotiating machinery, and to consider again this grave issue of what is an adequate basic scale for a very important profession.
I hope that both sides, the local authorities and the teachers, on the one hand, and the Government, on the other, will use the time very wisely, before the Government come to the House with any legislation. I hope that the good will which still exists between local authorities and teachers will keep them together in resisting further encroachment from the central Government, and I hope that 52 on this good will we can bridge the gap of ill will which divides the teaching profession from the Minister at present.
Some years ago, at the Labour Party Conference in 1951—I commend that debate to hon. Members opposite; they will find it in the Library—some of us opposed proposals inside our own party for industrial action for political ends. We said that the democratic way to get rid of bad policies was to get rid of the Government through the ballot box. I believe that to be still profoundly true. At present, however, it is the Government who are stepping into the ring. It is Tory politicians who are interfering with wage machinery, and taking political action for industrial ends. I regret that as much as I would have regretted it if my own party had taken what I believe would have been a wrong turn in 1951.
The Government must not be surprised if the trade unions accept the challenge and if the struggle with the trade unions is more protracted than that which has taken place with the teaching profession. Last week some of my constituents in the Post Office Engineering Union came to my "surgery". They are in the sixth week of a ban on overtime imposed by their union in support of claims which they presented long before the Government thought of their wage freeze. What was significant to me was that they were accompanied by members of another union. Both groups of men are employed in cable ships doing important work for Britain, work in which time is a vital factor. These cable ships are held up at present in Southampton and in a number of other ports not only because the members of the Post Office Engineering Union are refusing to do overtime and are working to the clock, working to rule, but because the members of the other union associated with the Post Office Engineering Union are standing loyally by their comrades.
I believe that the Postmaster-General ought to be fighting for the Post Office Engineering Union and standing up against the Treasury, just as I believe that the Minister of Education ought to be fighting on behalf of the teaching profession. This is the kind of trouble which I foresee growing if the Government obstinately persist in their present policy this winter, I believe, however, that behind all this struggle there is a grave 53 moral issue. I believe that all fair-minded citizens resent the fact that this Government, who appeal for wage restraint, who now say, "Let us all be Britons together," are the Government who have just promised £80 million in Surtax to enable rich men to "work harder"; the Government who have not only permitted but actually have made possible the handing over of hundreds of millions of unearned money to property owners, and a scandal in land values which stinks to high heaven.
This month the Government are making Hampshire County Council face a valuation of £100,000 for land on which to build one school, even though we shall have to spend £17,000 pile-driving the land before we can start building the school on it. Today, the site of the new school is costing almost what we could have built a new school for in 1945. Today, the site alone, to rent a piece of land on which to put a house, is costing more than millions and millions of people paid in rent when the Tories took office in 1950.
I believe that a Government who permit this have abdicated the moral right to speak of wage restraint. I would only say that the teachers may be the first victims, but others will not take it so tamely.
I would have been encouraged, at a time when Britain ought more than ever before, since the grim event yesterday, to be united, if there had been some tokens in the Queen's Speech to which we listened this morning of the principles of social justice which some of us have been advocating all our lives. Restraint, the wage pause, the wage freeze may be necessary for Britain, but I believe that those restraints are necessary only if everybody takes part in the sacrifice and only if those who can most easily bear the sacrifice make it, and, even more important than both of those, if those who do no work at all in this community and yet take some of the most extravagant rewards out of the country shoulder most of the burden which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is seeking to impose.
It is regrettable, in my opinion, that the Queen's Speech bears no relation to the moral values which I think are essential if we are to combat the problems which face Britain today.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
Like other hon. Members in this House I have been corresponding with teachers, discussing their case and receiving their deputations, but I do not want to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King), except that I should like to add my tribute, based on my own experience in my own constituency, to the quality and public spirit of the vast majority of that great profession. I should like also to express the hope that the negotiations which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education will be undertaking with the local authorities and the profession about the future of the Burnham Committee will bring forth results which will receive the approval of the House.
I want to turn to another part of the Gracious Speech. Quite early in it were the words:My Government will continue to give resolute support to the United Nations.I should like to ask the question, is this a pious incantation, or does it mean anything? If it means anything I am surprised that those words appear like that, without any qualification. There is no mention in the Gracious Speech of any need for a British initiative to remove the most flagrant abuses of the United Nations organisation, nor is there any suggestion that the Government propose to press for radical economies in the administration of the organisation, which is rapidly going broke.
On the contrary, the Government in recent debates have rather boasted of the amount of British taxpayers' money which they have been spending on the Congo enterprise. I understand, though Ministers may have more accurate figures, that the cost of the United Nations Emergency Forces in the Congo and the Middle East is about £47 million a year, that is, twice the normal budget of the United Nations organisation. I find in my constituency and elsewhere in Britain deep resentment that taxpayers' money should be poured out in support of activities such as the recent tragic affair in Katanga, that British subjects, quite apart from the unfortunate African inhabitants, have been insulted, affronted, arrested and imprisoned without any redress, as far as I know, having 55 been obtained by Her Majesty's Government, and when the results of the United Nations adventure has been to undermine our friends and our interests.
Even whilst we are sitting here it seems that once again the forces of the Leopoldville Government have been set in motion against the State of Katanga and there seems to be no report of any United Nations effort to stop this fresh outbreak of bloodshed. General de Gaulle is often criticised. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition criticised his attitude to Berlin, but I think that General de Gaulle has taken a realistic attitude towards the Congo. He refuses to support the United Nations mission in the Congo morally or with money. At the very beginning he suggested that it would be better if the three Western Powers, the United States, the United Kingdom and France together had taken appropriate action and I notice that last Sunday in the Sunday Times the same point of view was taken by Lord Avon.
I put it to Her Majesty's Government that British interests—and there are great British interests at stake—have been entrusted to the United Nations and the result has been to undermine those interests. The agents of the United Nations organisation appear to be taxed by no one and to be accountable to no one. We have been encompassing with our own taxpayers' money our own destruction. Some of the very forces which took part in the bloody business in Elisabethville had been ferried to Kamina by Royal Air Force Transport Command.
Although the United Nations organisation appears to be morally and financially bankrupt, the motto of Her Majesty's Government seems to be "My United Nations right or wrong". There is always an outcry when there are allegations of excessive military or police action if it happens in South Africa or Angola, but hardly any voice was raised in protest, and certainly not from the Treasury Bench, against what happened in Elisabethville when a peaceful and prosperous city was turned by U.N. aggression into an African Budapest.
On 23rd October the Lord Privy Seal, in answer to a question from me, said 56 that Her Majesty's Government did not intend to ask for an independent inquiry into the allegations against either side. I find that profoundly disappointing. I was very glad to note that one of the leading branches of the United Nations Association in my constituency, the Loughton branch, pressed in the columns of The Times for such an inquiry. Mr. Harold Soref, who is known to some hon. Members, also wrote to The Times a letter which appeared on a rather inconspicuous page and which contained some shocking allegations which, so far as I know, have not been denied.
Mr. Soref was, as he describes, an involuntary observer of events in Elisabethville from the first burst of gunfire to the end of the bloodbath. He found himself in a position opposite the Post Office which the United Nations forces, as he says, had wrecked. He writes:I witnessed two passing Jeeps attacked by U.N. machine-guns. The Katangese occupants, who had not fired a shot, were slaughtered without warning. Shortly afterwards an unarmed police Jeep was machine-gunned from the almost adjacent U.N. Red Cross Hospital. The wounded Katangese were left to die. When a Red Cross Katangese ambulance arrived it was attacked by a U.N. armoured car…On the following morning I witnessed another unarmed Katangese ambulance, carrying an enormous Red Cross flag, attacked and the driver seriously wounded.The whole letter would repay study by hon. Members and by members of the Government. Towards the end of the letter Mr. Soref writes:Individual Swedes, Irish and Canadians serving with the U.N. are known to have protested against the outrages committed in the name of the allegedly high moral principles of U.N. Elisabethville itself developed into a city of terror and hate—hate by the entire population, black and white, resident and visitors, for the United Nations troops.A curious attitude seems to have grown up that it is quite improper to make allegations against the United Nations organisation or against deeds committed in its name, but I should have thought that those hon. Members who were most concerned for the future of this organisation would also be the most concerned for its reputation.
I should like to mention another activity of the United Nations which is based on a report in the Wall Street Journal of allegations which relate not 57 to Elisabethville but to Leopoldville. I do not know how correct is this report but it includes a quoted statement of an official of the United Nations.The Congo and the United Nations launched a 12.9 million dollar American-financed import program that U.S. officials hope will break a long-standing Belgian stranglehold on the supplying of its former colony. U.S. suppliers of mining needs, plantation equipment, pharmaceuticals and some clothing are among those in line to profit Of course, the import program almost certainly will produce complaints from Belgian and other European suppliers.Now comes the quotation from Mr. G. Mancini, an Italian expert provided by the United Nations to handle import licensing:I am quite sure that we will get a big row.This is a curious United Nations activity and a curious use of United Nations machinery. It is true that aid to the Congo was to be channelled through the United Nations but in this case, as the Wall Street Journal says:…unlike other aid, the cash has certain strings attached. The State Department insisted it all be spent in America. The idea: Stimulate U.S. exports, channel some of the Congo aid funds, which come mainly from the U.S., back to America instead of into the hands of Belgian and European businessmen and stimulate other countries to do the same to jack up economic aid for the Congo.If that is the sort of fiddle that goes on in Leopoldville under the auspices of the United Nations, I should have thought that Ministers should be inquiring into it, and I hope that the Foreign Office will have a report on the matter from Her Majesty's Embassy in Leopoldville.
The Gracious Speech contains the words:The North Atlantic Alliance is now more than ever essential for the continued safety of Europe and the world.There is a reference to Berlin and to Laos and it is true, of course, that it is possible for the Atlantic Alliance to be outflanked or to be taken in the rear outside Europe.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
Will my hon. Friend give his conclusion about Her Majesty's Government's present support for the United Nations? Is he advocating that they should not support the United Nations?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
If my hon. Friend had been listening, he would have heard 58 me ask whether this was a pious incantation or whether it meant something. If it means what it says, that we are to give support to the United Nations, then I think it is incumbent upon the Government and the House to insist that the affairs of the United Nations are decently conducted.
The references in the Gracious Speech to N.A.T.O. and Laos recall to our minds how easy it is for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to be outflanked and taken in the rear in other parts of the world. I want to make a few remarks about one member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, namely, Portugal, and say a word about a recent visit of mine to Angola.
I think that what is happening in Angola and what is happening to Anglo-Portuguese relations bears on the whole future of the Atlantic Alliance. It is no use holding the front in Europe if we allow ourselves to be outflanked in Africa. It is no use talking about the solidarity of the Atlantic Alliance if it does not apply to our most ancientially.
I hope hon. Members will bear with me if I share with them a few impressions of my recent tour of Angola. I hasten to say that I do not profess to be able to give very firm conclusions about what has happened. Hon. Members will know how difficult it is to get to the truth of great events when there are allegations and counter-allegations, especially when one is not familiar with the local languages.
One's first impression of the country is that it has returned to relative normality. My headquarters was in the Continental Hotel in the capital, Luanda. When I arrived, it was heavily sand-bagged, and I wondered if street fighting might begin at any moment, but I then discovered that the annual "grand prix" motor race through the city was about to be held.
The rains were beginning and the fighting seemed largely to have come to an end except along one stretch of the strategic road between Carmona and the important military and air centre of Negage, which is subjected to sniping and ambush and where it is necessary to travel in convoy. The only reason why sniping and ambushes are still experienced along that road is that the elephant grass grows so high on either 59 side that a man is invisible at six feet. The Portuguese have been accused of being the most ruthless incendiaries, but their problem in this area has been that they have been unable to set fire to the elephant grass. There was a Danish firm working bulldozers to try to make a clearing on either side of the road.
At the outset the terrorists seemed to have been armed simply with catanas, which is the local name for a machete, and with primitive guns including flintlock muskets—such as used to be called dane guns on the West Coast of Africa. They used a variety of ammunition, including nails and stones, which can inflict horrible wounds even if they do not kill. However, more recently they acquired automatic weapons and grenades. I asked where these weapons came from, and was told that they had come from the former Force Publique across the Belgian-Congo border, when that force mutinied, and that other weapons has been acquired in one way and another from the United Nations troops.
The affected area in Angola was confined to the north. The area is the size of Portugal itself, and it is, in fact, known as Portuguese Congo. It is Bakongo territory on both sides of the common frontier betwen Angola and the former Belgian Congo.
One of the reasons for the outbreak, I was informed, was that many Angolans who had settled north of the Congo border lost their livelihood when the Congo economy collapsed, and then returned to Angola distressed and disaffected. There were no doubt other grievances which those who launched their terrorist attack across the Congo border were able to exploit, but there is no doubt that what happened was a carefully-planned attack on Angola from across the common frontier. Its systematic planning was shown by the simultaneous attacks on widely separated places on the terrible night of 15th March.
We have received many conflicting reports about what happened. Very many of those reports were hearsay, and I would also say that not all Christian catechists have reliable evidence. Indeed, one such catechist was killed 60 taking part in a terrorist attack on the city of Carmona, which I visited.
§ Mr. Robert Edwards (Bilston)
Has the hon. Member read the report of an interview with a Portuguese captain who said "We have killed 30,000 of these animals, and we hope before the rains cease to wipe out 100,000"? That was published in the American magazine Time in April and has never been disputed.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I have not seen that report. I should like to come on to that kind of allegation in a moment.
The Rev. Clifford Parsons and others have told us of atrocities but much of it is hearsay. On the other side, one has the evidence of such a man as the Rev. Emil Pearson of the Swedish Free Church, who has lived in Angola for forty years. Although his mission was not near the area affected, I think he is in a position to say who is telling the truth. Mr. Pearson is reported as having said that the trouble in the territory was due entirely to the actions of infiltrators and Communists. I should, however, repeat that there were undoubtedly grievances which were exploited.
But—here I return to what I said earlier about Her Majesty's Government's support of the United Nations—iit is said that terrorist groups are now being trained not very far from Leopoldville, where the United Nations writ is supposed to run. When I was in Angola there was considerable indignation because Holden Roberto, the leader of the U.P.A.—"Union of the Population of Angola"—went to the Belgrade Conference and was brought back to Leopoldville in a United Nations aircraft.
On that horrible night of 15th March the Portuguese were taken completely by surprise. They were expecting trouble in Portuguese Africa, but none in Angola. I am informed that they were expecting trouble in Portuguese Guinea because that territory is surrounded by M. Sekou Toure's Guinea. The failure of Portuguese intelligence rather recalls the failure of British intelligence in Kenya before Mau Mau.
From the photographs I have been shown, and the evidence I have been given, I would say that the atrocities committed on 15th March were worse than any committed in Kenya by Mau Mau, 61 and the Rev. Emil Pearson says that the Portuguese Army's action—and this, I think, is a reply to the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. R. Edwards)—in the territory was directed only against terrorists. On the other hand, I never found that the Portuguese showed any disposition to conceal the fact that terrible things were done when reprisals were taken on Africans by armed civilians. But who am I to judge? As have said, the initial atrocities were absolutely horrible. Men and women were butchered; children were mangled; the wives of settlers were raped to death, and unspeakably obscene mutilations inflicted.
The Portuguese were insistent on telling me that I must not think that these were the sort of deeds of which Negro people were normally capable. They insisted that the terrorists who committed these deeds were acting under the influence of hashish and witchcraft. One incident, reported by more than one person, was of a settler put to death by being fed to a circular saw.
However things may be exaggerated, there is no doubt that terrible deeds were done and that reprisals were then taken. But it appears to me that the regular forces of Portugal did their best to put an end to reprisals, and have conducted themselves honourably in the necessarily difficult and tough job of restoring law and order.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Did the hon. Member read the report by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) about all this?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I read that report and was once more struck by how much of it was hearsay. One reads many reports, of unfortunate refugees arriving across the Congo frontier wounded, having lost a limb or sustained some other terrible injury. We are not always told how these wounds happen and who inflicted them, or who committed the murders of which we are told. Let us be clear that, horribly though the Portuguese people may have suffered, it is as nothing to the way in which law-abiding black African people have suffered at the hands of the terrorists. The same was true in Kenya.
62 When we are talking about refugees, it is also important to remember that a very large number of them went south and not north. They went south into the area of secure Portuguese authority. I believe that part of the truth of all this is that, when there is a military operation, it is natural to flee from the battle area. I have little doubt also that a number of people were wrongly shot. In that kind of warfare and that sort of country all sorts of mistakes happen. Such, at least, is our British experience.
What happened on 15th March was the biggest massacre of whites that has ever occurred in Africa, and that is something which has largely passed unnoticed in this House and in the Press of this country. But again I say that it was black African people Who suffered much more grievously, because they did not choose to join U.P.A. or obey its orders swiftly enough.
In the first few weeks of disturbance, the Portuguese nearly lost control of the northern area. They had to concentrate their troops for the defence of the capital city of Luanda. The situation is different today. The Governor-General, General Deslandes, told me that the whole territory was now re-occupied. There is no doubt that the morale of U.P.A. has suffered severely from the success of the Portuguese in bringing in 75 per cent. of the coffee crop. Volunteers have worked, almost rifle in hand. Part of the plan of the terrorist attack was to exterminate those running the plantations or to drive them away, thus preventing the coffee crop from being harvested, which would have been a deadly blow to the economy.
Recently, there has been reported from Carmona the surrender of 2,500 terrorists. I found that the authorities were optimistic. I do not know what will happen after the rains—it is possible that something may flare up again. Anything is possible while the Congo is in a state of anarchy. But I found that the Portuguese are now passing to the ideological counter-offensive.
Kenya, Malaya, and Algeria have shown that there is no end to an emergency when the authorities cannot protect or dissuade the population from submitting to the exactions of a subversive movement of proved and merciless fury. Nor is there a real end to an emergency 63 when the grievances which terrorist movements exploit are not removed.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
Can the hon. Member tell us anything of the operation which consisted of the burning of grass so as to destroy large numbers of people—"like African game", as it was described by the Portuguese themselves?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
No. I know nothing of that. I was told that the problem was, as I have already stated, that they could not get the grass to burn. I think it was reasonable that, where there was tall elephant grass on either side of a road, from which ambushes were being laid and innocent people killed, they should clear the grass on either side. But my evidence was that, owing to the lack of wind, they could not get the grass to burn much, and they were working with bulldozers. I have no knowledge of any other kind of burning.
Whatever hon. Members may think of Algeria, the French Army has done fine work through the S.A.S.—the Services Administratives Spéciaux. The Portuguese sent officers to learn from that example. Special companies of the Portuguese Army were formed, called the "Psycho Social Service."
When I heard that term, I thought that it sounded sinister but I went to see a special company at work. The Portuguese now have seven of them, about 14,000 men in all, which are trained at Lemago in Northern Portugal. The company which I saw had been detached from an ancient infantry regiment. It was commanded by a young captain and I wish hon. Members had seen him at work. He described his task as twofold: first, to repress disorder, and secondly, to rehabilitate a disturbed and terrorised population. This company had been in action on 17th March, when it was escorting a civilian convoy to safety, and had one officer and three other ranks killed and five wounded. With the return of more normal conditions, its whole work became that of social welfare, doing the sort of thing which the civil administration had not been able to do for the people—and that is not entirely to blame the Portuguese, for Portugal is a poor country with few financial resources.
64 Company vehicles were being used for bringing sick people and pregnant women to hospital and taking doctors to the villages. Sergeants and graduates and other educated men in the company were teaching in schools. There is, of course, a pitiful shortage of schools in Angola. Milk and food and clothes were being provided for the children. There were weekly meetings with the village headmen, for propaganda and the discussion of common problems. All kinds of social activities and educational work are now being undertaken by the Army and, what is more, the Portuguese are arming the African people for their own defence against terrorism. Two such home guards are now in existence.
The Portuguese are also undertaking far-reaching improvements. A large and complicated land reform is in train. The distinction between the assimilated and the uncivilised, which has been a feature of Portuguese overseas provinces, has been abolished. The vote is being extended to all men and women over 21, provided that he or she is literate, or—not and—a head of a family or pays 200 escudos in taxes. It may be said that it is not so great a boon to have a vote in Portugal, but the franchise now being extended in Angola is at least as liberal as in any comparable British territory.
I found that the Portuguese were very willing to learn from other people's experience and to admit their failings, but I found that there were some things which we could learn from them. I have never been in any African territory as colour blind as Angola. I saw children of all colours together in school, and bathing together in the swimming pools; I saw private soldiers of all colours in the ranks of the same platoons, and that is something from which we could learn.
In any case, it is far better to try to make a success of our own overseas territories than to preach at others when they are in difficulty. Looking back in history, I find that it is an old English custom—
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I would not like to include the Scots in this—to indulge 65 in spinsterish nagging of the Portuguese, so much so that David Livingstone, who had many criticisms of the Portuguese administration, had to protest at the failure of his contemporaries to understand that the Portuguese had virtues as well as vices. In any case, whatever we may think of them, they are quite resolute. I met many who said, "Perhaps we die and perhaps our wives and children die, but we stay here". Perhaps that is half the battle, because, as a great captain said, the moral CO the physical is as three is to one.
After all, they have been there for a long time, more than 400 years. One sees there what one does not see in our territories—16th century churches and forts. The Portuguese were in India before us and have seen us go and are still there. There will be no sell out or scuttle of the settlers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members may not like it, but I am merely describing what I saw and the impression I gained.
They are trying to step up emigration from Portugal to Portuguese Africa. In the Roman style, they are encouraging the soldiers—they now have the equivalent of a division in Angola—to stay and settle. They believe—and this is their philosophy, whether we like it or not—that independence is not just a political question, but also a social and sociological and economic question. They believe that it is no good giving independence if it cannot be sustained, and they believe that rather than highly paid United Nations technicians and technocrats, it is better for uplifting backward African people to have people who are willing to settle down with them side by side and work with their hands and with a stake in the soil. That is their philosophy and it is worth considering.
I found the Portuguese, from their Foreign Minister down, willing to accept criticism of their administrative failings, but they are not prepared to concede that their philosophy—their aim of an African Brazil—is wrong while that of other Powers with overseas possessions is necessarily right. Our policy in Rhodesia is very different, but, with all their faults, there are three non-racial bastions in Southern Africa—Katanga, the Rhodesian Federation and, strangely enough, Portuguese Africa.
66 In view of what is said in the Queen's Speech about the essential nature of the Atlantic Alliance, it is surprising that we should be withholding not merely arms but other kinds of military equipment from Portgual. One example was brought to my notice. The Portuguese wanted to buy some parachutes from a British company, but could not get an export licence from the Board of Trade. However, they have the parachutes. I understand that they got them from the Americans, who voted against them in the United Nations whereas Her Majesty's Government merely abstained. I understand that as a result of our refusal to sell them military stores, the Portuguese are giving the orders to Israel, Italy, Germany, France and the United States.
While we thus give comfort to our enemies and our trade competitors and while other members of N.A.T.O. parade their sense of moral superiority over Portugal, Portgual has held a front line of European defence. Whatever the grievances which it may have exploited, the objective of the U.P.A. attack and of those who support the U.P.A. is the Atlantic coast of Africa, which is vital to the security of the Western Alliance. If the chaos of the Congo is repeated in Angola, the economy and strategy of Europe will be placed in extreme jeopardy.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Woof (Blaydon)
The hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) has, with sincerity in his own right, drawn the attention of the House to some serious matters. I always respect his thoughts on international affairs, with which he is so familiar. I, too, would like to refer to the important references in the Gracious Speech to giving resolute support to the United Nations and to achieving general and complete disarmament under effective international control.
This morning I took the opportunity of witnessing the custom of British monarchs when, in traditional style, Her Majesty arrived at the Palace of Westminster. Standing amongst the vast crowd which was evidently enjoying the pageantry of this ancient custom, I could not help but think, especially in these days of melancholy developments brought about by the stresses and strains of formidable issues, that it would be a hard and difficult task for 67 anyone who tried to hold idealistic beliefs in human progress to be an escapologist. Anyone trying to maintain a grip on sanity in the disquieting features of the present international situation, and endeavouring to look at it in its most menacing terms, realises that the terrible tangle of military ferocity gravely hinders the removal of the shadow of haunting fear.
In these days it is easy to understand public opinion decrying the appalling implications and forebodings of the Russian blasts of major proportions. It is also anything but difficult to understand the present unmistakable moods of anxiety and despair which have been created by military technology. It is only natural that the heat of international tension should occupy our minds in the way that it does. People feel deep and justified alarm at the increasingly massive military preparations and counter preparations in Europe, and the far-reaching consequences of these preparations must be reckoned with.
In some respects, much of the un-happiness which surrounds us reminds me of Matthew Arnold's view of the world in his time, when he said:…for the world, which seemsTo lie before us, like a land of dreams,So various, so beautiful, so new,Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;And we are here as on a darkling plainSwept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,Where ignorant armies clash by night.While fully allowing for that view, it is obvious that the uncertainties of our age are worldwide. The existence of the factors which affect the estimate of the danger brought about by the doctrine of nuclear weapons makes every thinking person reflect on the consequences of nuclear war. The essence of the matter involves a growing realisation of the danger to which we are all exposed, and which makes it imperative for the decisive forces of the world not to drift helplessly towards crisis after crisis, or to embark on a fatal error which could end only in universal suicide. It seems clear that no progress can be made without a profound change in the deep-rooted hostility which surrounds us. Until we consent 68 to consider our problems in more realistic terms, we shall never see our way clear to a more tolerable future.
In the recent debate on foreign affairs many different spheres of the international situation were dealt with with vigorous sincerity. I want to deal with only one aspect which, from the vantage point of responsibility, reflects the highest concern. Several hon. Members referred to President Kennedy's speech to the United Nations on 25th September, when he said:The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.I do not for a moment think that the familiar picture which he gave was overdrawn. There is a terrible element of truth in What he said. It would be a slander on humanity to deny it, because the calculations affect us all, no matter in what strata of society we were born or educated.
Some people try to forget such conclusions, but, fearful as the semblance of this perilous period may be, there is also the obvious semblance in which practically the majority of people's minds control the aspiration for something better. As this universal subject signifies nothing less than having reached the stage when we cannot afford to believe it to be a hypothetical assumption, it behoves us to understand the possibilities Which exist.
However, from the observations of nuclear power groups, it is not always easy for ordinary people to find their way. We know some things, and some things we do not know, but, being condemned to struggle with the facts we know, it is impossible to put them out of reach of public opinion and disclaim any responsibility. Just as we cannot avoid remaining at grips with the march of events, so the reaction that is now reverberating around the world will be accepted as something which keeps us constantly harassed with uncertainties.
This desperate confrontation can be no better illustrated than by referring to the conjecture formed in the well-circulated American magazine Time. In its issue of 20th October, it gave a vivid account of what is occurring in the need for survival in the United States. It stressed that a great majority of deaths in an atomic attack would come from 69 fall-out radiation, and that an adequate national system of fall-out shelters might well cut the death rate from 160 million to 85 million. The same article said that the main duties of civil defence and mobilisation had been transferred to the Department of Defence, and that a vast new blueprint was being drawn up to safeguard the United States public. As a consequence, private enterprise and manufacturers were seizing on the predicament by offering to sell to the public all kinds of fall-out shelters.
I agree that there can be no more serious study. No one belittles the gravity of the havoc that would result from a nuclear blast, but as we no longer believe in miracles the only effective way to prevent the complete destruction of our civilisation is for strong and capable minds to allow their actions to determine and clearly aim for a quick return to the reopening of disarmament negotiations. It seems natural enough for President Kennedy to discount the future on the basis of verified observations about what is happening and is known to us all.
Under the impulse of sensibility, if we are somewhat conscious of what is likely to occur, I believe that we are doing nothing else than pronouncing judgment on our own destiny. In the circumstances—no doubt arduous, but inevitable—we are all obliged to recognise that progress cannot escape difficulties of infinite complexity, and while I acknowledge that progress is all the more difficult to exercise day by day, I submit that events have shown that we have reached the stage when the opposed interests of the United States and the Soviet Union will be prolonged indefinitely.
None the less, we must accept the fact that the depths of these differences are firmly established, and since the recognised forms of differences allow for no rest in the endless labour of seeking an ever-increasing desire for peace in such critical times, this may be a delicate point to pursue, for whatever human disappointment there is in any sense of purpose, there is no guarantee of success in stating everything in any durable form on the ideological card.
With such conspicuous differences there arises the vital challenge of change, and the real question is what the change 70 must be and what can be done to achieve a more direct expression of agreement. Therefore, we can ask what the prospects are of improving this position. As many more matters require careful study, and as information about them is at times very difficult to obtain, we are all constantly involved in a multitude of interests that make it necessary to take up indispensable reading. As a consequence, I found it most interesting to read a recent statement issued by the Disarmament Committee of the United Nations. Examining the possibilities of disarmament, it stressed that, as a result of too many unsuccessful conferences in the past, most people now do not believe in disarmament. This is precisely because hostility between the Western Powers and the Communist world is so intense that a disarmament agreement would either be impossible or worthless.
It may well be that people have been badly disillusioned and discouraged. Such a state of mind reveals that it would be an error to disbelieve that there exists such a thing as the vigorous principle of hope. To hope is to live and to act in accordance with the nature of things, in order to put difficulties out of countenance, but it is useful to learn that the Disarmament Committee does not believe that all hope is yet lost beyond recovery, as it clearly emphasises that the failure of past conferences should not in itself be a reason for doubts about the future.
It is well known that it is not unusual for the United Nations to find itself at a loss in trying to keep abreast of endless wrangling. Grim and serious as deliberations are, one can understand the mental disturbances that persist because of the combination of Soviet thermo-nuclear tests and all the rest and any forthcoming atmospheric tests that will pose major health dangers in the future. There is also evidence of the psychological effects produced by the exhaustion of waiting for some real progress to be made in disarmament.
It is generally recognised that the balance of terror in the world can no longer be tolerated, but for the sake of common interests and common sense it may be a consolation—although not very satisfactory—to know that last month the United States and the Soviet Union deposited with the United 71 Nations an agreed statement of principles on which a disarmament agreement could be based. We are sufficiently enlightened to appreciate this effort, but we know enough to comprehend the critical differences arising out of the question of controlling disarmament. Under the present structure of respective military strengths, the Western Powers want to see the Communist bloc disarmed and the Communist bloc has an equal desire for the West to be disarmed at the same time and to the same extent.
It cannot be expected that either side will agree to eliminate all their military forces—arms reduction with control—except by gradual stages, and as I see it the United States sees little value in controls which would guarantee the abolition of nuclear weapons if, at the same time, the Soviet Union were able secretly to build up conventional strength. On the other hand, the Soviet Union fears that if it throws the whole of its military establishments open to inspection from the first stage in the disarmament process it would provide an opportunity for the United States to collect all the intelligence information that it requires.
Unhappily, in view of this situation, no practical results in any effort to resolve differences can be foreseen. At this anxious moment in our history the influences exerted by the United States and the Soviet Union are very powerful. Nevertheless, for both of them the real enemy, and the thing which causes their real fear, is the nuclear bomb, which threatens to bring them down in ruins—and us along with them. This unexampled impact of such a precarious and dangerous character convinces me that the real stumbling block to disarmament is the lack of trust which exists between the Soviet Union and the United States.
This unchangeable determination to distrust appears to hold out little prospect of an early agreement on disarmament, and as Russia and the United States are likely to use various instruments to accomplish their own ends we ought to insist that any spirit of compromise—which is the only spirit in which the conflicting principles and claims and interests can be harmonised and resolved—should 72 be expressed only through the United Nations.
It would be an unwarranted presumption to disregard the United Nations as the one instrument which the world possesses for international collaboration. We are all too familiar with the way in which it has been called on to discharge certain delicate tasks imposed on it. The character of its activities is evidence of the fact that it has continued to exist over all these troubled years, and also the fact that its membership has increased should be, if nothing else, a good augury for national self-preservation. Sixteen years ago it was accepted that the words of the United Nations Charter implied an expression of good faith. They were supposed to set in motion a pattern for a future which we all wish to see and in which the world struggle of ideas would be carried on peaceably.
After many disillusionments have been experienced the fact is that today millions of people are waiting and watching for negotiations to reach a settlement and to remove the threat of armed conflict that confronts us. The time has certainly come for the United Nations to stop expressing pious hopes and to demand through the pressure of events a much more objective and critical spirit. For over ten years now the United Nations has been discussing the cognate problems of disarmament and security. What has it all come to? We are nowhere near disarmament, as events have brought a substantial increase in danger.
I have read somewhere that there is a virtuous fear which is the effect of faith and that there is a vicious fear which is the product of doubt. But I would add that whatever fears may be well founded there is no reliable way of attempting to predict the future; though what is certainly clear at the present time is that the general world apprehension carries a strong reluctance to engage in any all-obliterating means of mass destruction.
There comes a time when fundamental changes must take place towards a new departure. Sometimes in the conduct of foreign affairs we are compelled to accept that certain matters arise which are kept secret. Indeed, with a great many reservations on looking back over the history of the foreign policy of States no such examination could be undertaken without revealing that statesmen 73 and diplomatists are leaving the common people outside the conference chamber. By the natural logical facts today, without exception there is spoken a language and there exists a fraternity voicing a need of agreement to dispel the menace that hangs over us like an impending plague.
In normal times foreign affairs exercise the attention of a small minority. But these times are not normal, as a large section of the world is taking a much more serious view of the grim prophecies of these unsettled times. I must confess that there is no simple concept. But, underlying the ebb and flow of events, we on this side of the House believe that the United Nations can still be more fully equipped to accomplish its basic purpose.
We believe that the best should be extracted from the United Nations. What is required is that the Government should, by whatever technique is necessary, use their maximum effort, with all the materials at their disposal, to encourage every one of those neutrals that go to make up the majority of the United Nations and enable them to acquire much needed stronger leadership and attain a measure of that passionate desire of us all for the peace we all want.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Sir Hendrie Oakshott (Bebington)
In the few moments that I shall detain the House I wish to confine myself almost entirely to the great issue which is today overshadowing us all. I am, therefore, very pleased to be able to follow a speech of such sincerity as that to which the House has just listened from the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof). I thought that there was profound wisdom in his closing passage and his reference to the neutral opinion in the United Nations, and it is my belief that what he said in that respect would command a great degree of support from many quarters.
Before coming to the theme of my speech, I should like to make one reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King), who is not now present in the Chamber. He referred to the position of the National Association of Schoolmasters. I remember—I think that it was before the Easter Recess last year—that the hon. Member 74 and I took part in a short debate about that body and its possible admission to the Burnham Committee. I remember saying on that occasion that I thought that if it would agree to abandon its opposition to equal pay it would have an extremely powerful case for membership of the Committee.
I think that I detected in what the hon. Member for Itchen said this afternoon a measure of hope that, the Association having dropped its opposition to equal pay and being in the process of becoming a member of the Burn-ham Committee, there would now be greater solidarity among the members of the great teaching profession. I agree absolutely and I hope that his optimism in that respect will be justified.
I do not agree with what seemed to be the wish of the hon. Member, that the teaching profession should unite, as he said, against a common enemy. I cannot visualise that, but I believe that it would be a very good thing for the teaching profession if it could speak in counsel with a united voice.
Following the admirable speeches of my hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Motion, the House listened with solemn attention to the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister and especially to those parts relating to the action of the Soviet Government yesterday. My right hon. Friend expressed in strong terms his condemnation of this action taken, as he said, in defiance of world opinion, and the Leader of the Opposition made quite clear his disgust of what had been done. I hope that it will not be thought presumptious if I say that perhaps it would not be a bad thing if the sentiments expressed from both Front Benches were echoed by an ordinary back bench Member lest the Soviet leaders should fall into the error of supposing that what has been said up to now merely reflects the view of the Government alone, or just the view of the leaders of the official Opposition. I believe that that is far from being the case.
Both right hon. Gentlemen were speaking with the voice of the English people.
§ Sir H. Oakshott
The hon. Lady must know that I include her nation, and also the nation of the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). I meant to say the voice of the British people. They were expressing anger at what Russia has done and indignation at the threat to the health of many millions of innocent people which has been loosed so callously by this test.
I welcome wholeheartedly the passages in the Gracious Speech relating to negotiations over Berlin, to negotiations seeking a ban on nuclear tests and the references to disarmament, to which the hon. Member for Blaydon also referred. He spoke of the disillusionment which has followed some of the failures of conferences. He spoke of the very real difficulties of inspection. All these things point to the extreme complexity of the problem of getting to grips with the situation over disarmament. Therefore, it seems that we may have to move by stages. That is why I welcome the reference to further efforts to ban nuclear tests.
I take it that we are now, as we have always been, ready to sign a treaty which would provide for a cessation of tests, and it certainly was not we who so abruptly brought the negotiations to an end earlier when it looked as if agreement was near and could perhaps be easily reached. Apart altogether from the criminal nature of what has been done, this latest act is deeply discouraging, because it seems to push the possibility of an agreement still further into the future—and who knows what else this action may have started?
It must be a prime responsibility of Her Majesty's Government to safeguard our national security and to see that we are in the position to meet aggression. This afternoon my right hon. Friend, in his review, spoke of the dilemma of conflicting duties. Although it is a hard thing to say, I believe Her Majesty's Government must reserve their rights over the testing of weapons. What Russia has done places upon them this terrible responsibility.
I was much encouraged by what my right hon. Friend said about tests which might prove necessary on the basis of technical advice. They would take place either underground, where they could 76 do no harm to the health of anyone, or, if it became necessary for them to take place in the atmosphere, it would be at a level which, by present standards, would be comparatively insignificant. For myself, I most profoundly hope that the state of scientific advance which we and the United States of America have reached will mean that all this may not be necessary.
In the meantime, the urgent steps which Her Majesty's Government are taking to protect health, particularly the health of the very young, will, I think, do a great deal to reassure our people. Certainly, so far as I can detect, there is no sign of panic, or anything like that, but I believe that the more information that can be put out and widely disseminated the better. If that is done the greater will the feeling of reassurance be. Discouraging though the present position is, I hope that contacts will be maintained so that if any chance offers itself which might lead to the convening of the meetings on the banning of tests it will be seized. I am sure that the Government will command nation-wide support for that; and is it too much to hope that as time goes on Russia will not remain wholly impervious to world opinion which so widely condemns what has been done?
We are a peaceful people. No nation perhaps has made greater sacrifices for peace and freedom than we have, but we do not like being threatened or pushed around. In my view, not only have the Soviet leaders committed a shocking crime by what they have done, but they have also been guilty of a grievous mistake if they think that we are to be threatened into toeing their line by tactics such as these. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech today, condemned them not only for the crime, but for this mistake as well, and I believe that he was right. This is not how we understand negotiations.
Hon. Members may have seen in today's newspapers the terms of the Soviet Note to Finland. When I read the passage in which it spoke of the Soviet "being guided by the interests of preserving peace in Northern Europe, I could not help wondering what the feelings of the people in those territories must be at this latest outrage. There is a Latin saying which I remember from 77 my schooldays: "Ubi solitudinem faciant, pacem appellant"—"they make a wilderness and call it peace". I do not believe that a peace of that kind is tolerable to free people.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I shall come later to what the hon. Member for Bebington (Sir H. Oakshotf) was dealing with, but at the moment, as a member for a Scottish constituency and a Scotsman, I wish to look at the Gracious Speech and see what it holds for Scotland and those of us who are concerned with Scottish affairs.
Perhaps we should congratulate ourselves, because out of 26 paragraphs in the Speech Scotland has a whole paragraph to herself. That is a rapid Tory advance on previous occasions. First, I wish to refer, not to what is in that paragraph, but to what is not in it. For a number of years now we have been promised legislation to deal with the law of succession. A great many bodies in Scotland—Tory women's organisations, in particular—have been pestering Scottish Labour Members to see what the Government propose to do about this subject.
Three years ago I had the opportunity of introducing a Measure to this House. With help from both sides I got it on the Statute Book. It deals with one small aspect of this very big and complex question of the law of succession. At that time I was given the assurance—at least, as much of an assurance as a back bencher of the Opposition can get from the Government—that if I took this little part of the recommendations of the Mackintosh Committee, which had reported on the law of succession, in due course the Government would bring in a major measure covering the rest of the Report.
We are still waiting for that Measure although we have been pressing for this reform continually. The Mackintosh Committee was appointed way back in November, 1949, and reported in 1951. Its Report was issued almost concurrently with a similar one dealing with succession in England. The English recommendations were put into legislative practice within a very short time. It is now eleven years since we had that Report dealing with the law of succession in Scotland—eleven years of Tory Rule—and nothing has been done so far about 78 this very urgent and important matter. It is unfortunate that when we make these references to Scotland in the Queen's Speech, there is not one single Scottish Minister sitting on the Government side to listen to any Scottish issues that may be raised in the most important debate of the whole Session. We have three of them. Where they are I do not know, but I saw one put his nose inside the Chamber for a little while and then disappear immediately.
That paragraph in the Gracious Speech contains a reference to legislation which, in some cases, will be contentious, but I do not want to prospect in that unfruitful soil at the moment. There is also a reference to housing, and I want to draw the attention of the absent Scottish Ministers to the fact that in 1955, when the Tory Government came into power, they built 35,000 flats and houses for accommodation in Scotland in their first year of office. Those were the numbers made available then.
In 1960, the last return we have, the number of flats and houses built for accommodation in Scotland was 29,000 and some hundreds, a diminution of a very serious size indeed, particularly in view of the fact that in the city where I live, the number of people on the waiting list for houses has gone on rising while the Tory contribution to the solution of that problem in Scotland has continued to fall.
Yesterday, when I was leaving Glasgow, I was told that the building societies have now stopped—for how long I do not know—financially accommodating those who want to buy houses in the Tory property-owning democracy. We all remember that when the present Earl of Avon, then Mr. Anthony Eden, was Prime Minister, he said that the aim and purpose of the Tory Party and their Government were to create a property-owning democracy, yet the building societies, if the report I got yesterday is correct—and I am assured that it is—are to terminate that aspect of Tory policy.
Now we have people, not only in the working classes but others, who are unable to get houses in Scotland at present. Some English hon. Members may tell us that it is much better in England under Toryism than it is in Scotland. But the waiting list in Glasgow is so big that the corporation there finds itself in an 79 impossible position. That section of the community in Scotland who think that they might get houses of their own by borrowing the money from the building societies are soon to find themselves in a position not any different from that of those who are in what we call the working classes.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I accept what my hon. Friend says, but what makes him say that it is better in England?
§ Mr. Rankin
I did not say that. I said that perhaps an English Member might get up to tell me that it is different in England.
§ Mr. Rankin
No, not one on this side, and no one on the other side would dare to do it. It reminds me, also, of the fact that even if the building societies were still loaning money, which evidently is temporarily suspended, one would need to have an income of £20 or £25 per week before they would consider providing such a loan. That is a terrible situation for anyone to find himself in today, and yet, in the Queen's Speech, there is practically no reference whatever to the terrible predicament in which thousands of people find themselves at this very moment.
Again, there are no references to jobs, either. On the last occasion, when Scottish Members were pressing the Minister of Labour, or perhaps it was the President of the Board of Trade, about jobs in Scotland, the Minister said that there were plenty. But they were in the pipeline. On Saturday of last week, the Secretary of State for Scotland said that the jobs were coming. There were 31,000 in the pipeline. So the jobs are still in the pipeline. And why is there no Scottish Minister sitting on the Treasury Bench to tell us how long the jobs are to remain in the pipeline, especially when the unemployment figure in Scotland, according to the latest reports, is now 62,000?
Since the General Election of 1955, the number of unemployed in Scotland has never been less than 50,000. It is now 62,000; has been up to 94,000; and, a little while ago, was 104,000. It is little wonder that if Scotland had been governed as a separate unit we would 80 have had a Labour Government in Scotland. The sooner England comes along to help us in that most worthy object, the better it will be for the people generally.
I should like briefly to—
§ Mr. Rankin
That is something which in this House is not always respected, even though the word is often uttered. I have listened to hon. Members on the other side "briefly" dealing with a topic for fifty minutes while I waited here trying to get into the debate.
May I now briefly deal with the next part of my speech, and the quieter the hon. Gentleman is the briefer it will be. On the eve of the last election, which put the Tories in power, the Prime Minister came to Glasgow. He came to Glasgow knowing that Scotland would probably vote fairly strongly against the Government. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has entered the Chamber. Presumably he is the nearest approach to a Scottish Minister that we are to have with us today.
The Prime Minister, making an appeal to the Scottish electorate at Green's Playhouse, used these words—which I have obtained from the library service of the Glasgow Herald—at a meeting which, I am told, was packed with Tories:Then there is the coming new graving dock at Greenock which will be an immense advantage to the Clyde, and, of course, there are the coming replacements of the 'Queens', the pride of British shipping. This is another example of how Government, statutory authority and private enterprise should work together.The Prime Minister used those words in Green's Playhouse on the eve of the Election in 1959.
I want hon. Members to note these words—the coming new graving dock at Greenock.Everybody, naturally, said, "A graving dock is coming to Greenock". It was in the process of coming. Then he used 81 "coming" in reference to the replacements of the "Queens", and thousands of people in Scotland, particularly on Clydeside, and the great mass at that meeting, believed that the word "coming" had the same significance in its second use as in the first.
A widespread belief grew up in Scotland that these vessels were coming to Scotland, naturally to Clydeside. It was a piece of designed deceit, careful trickery, and if there is to be any post mortem in the matter of the Q3, then the chief criminal is the Prime Minister. This has nothing to do with the Tory election address. It has to do with a promise made by a right hon. Gentleman on the Government Front Bench, a man who should be setting the highest political example in Britain. He used words in a climate in which he realised quite well they could easily be misrepresented and misunderstood, and he did so deliberately to win Scottish votes.
We know now that that vessel would have gone to Tyneside. 'We congratulate Tyneside. We on Clydeside have no grudge about it. But I am dealing with the matter from the point of view that the Prime Minister used words which were meant to deceive. He said, "The replacements of the 'Queens'", but that statement was later modified and the singular was substituted for the plural. We are entitled to ask that at some stage the Prime Minister should answer for what he has done and should not seek to shelve his responsibility on to the Departmental Minister, who ought not to bear the burden of what took place instead of the proper person, the Prime Minister.
We are also entitled to ask what is to happen next. It was expected that the building of this vessel would act as an injection to the whole of shipbuilding in this country. Those who have been to Clydebank—some of my hon. Friends will agree—were shown a diagram which indicated how widely the building of the "Queen Mary" and the "Queen Elizabeth" had affected employment not only in Clydeside, but throughout the United Kingdom. Consequently, in every shipbuilding and engineering area in the United Kingdom there was a belief that the fulfilment of this promise would react to the benefit of those who were employed and those who were un- 82 employed throughout all our great industrial centres.
We are entitled to say to the Government, "You have promised £18 million, and if it is not to be used in providing the nation with this vessel, then it should still be used to give the fillip to the shipbuilding industry which the building of that great ship would have given".
May I look briefly at one or two of the comments which have been made today? I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bebington has left his place, because I said that I might have a word to say to him about his comments on the nuclear tests. With one or two of my colleagues, I was in Russia not far from where Mr. Khrushchev was when he made his announcement that he would resume tests. We protested against such a proposal. We had basically two reasons for doing so. We said that if he resumed tests it would play into the hands of reaction in the West. Secondly, that it would disappoint all of us and would do damage to our attempts to abandon tests altogether. We made those things clear, and we asked him to proceed no further.
It is not my business to try to defend him, or to put forward reasons why Mr. Khrushchev believed that these tests had to be carried out. We opposed them, and I still oppose them. On this side of the House we have more right to do so than have hon. Members opposite. A great deal of what the hon. Member for Bebington said was hypocrisy, because if we condemn tests we should condemn them on all sides, and the Government have already been challenged and have shirked the question, "If you oppose testing of nuclear weapons by others so strongly, as you say you do, why do you not say that we shall not resume the testing of nuclear weapons?"
The hon. Member shirked that question altogether. After condemning tests by one side, he virtually admitted that there could be a case for resuming tests on the part of our Government. On this side of the House we have opposed tests, and at our Blackpool conference we went so far as to repudiate altogether independent nuclear weapons. We rejected Polaris. We rejected the training of German troops. All these things are 83 part and parcel of all the preparations that are causing so much distrust in the world today. They are disturbing people's minds and creating fears which we want to see quietened.
It is because we do these things that people are worrying about the future. Last weekend was a testing time in Berlin. On Sunday the Observer contained the caption, "Showing Old Glory in East Berlin". In other words, a reputable newspaper made the point that the action indulged in by the Americans was provocative.
The British Ambassador, when leaving the Foreign Office on the Friday, said that this was a matter which did not concern us at all, that we had nothing to do with it, and that we were having no difficulty. Despite the fact that we had nothing to do with it and were having no difficulty with the East Germans, we were in danger of being rolled into a quarrel where we had no concern. If the dispute had flared up, as it well might, this nation of ours, starting from a point which did not concern us at all, might have been rolled into a war of the most catastrophic nature.
Surely there is reason for the Government to pause and think about the road that they are now traversing. Should we tie ourselves to the tail of another Power over whose actions we evidently have no control whatsoever, as was demonstrated last weekend? The Americans can do things which involve us, even though they do not concern us. That is an issue in the international situation which is of great moment.
There is another aspect of the international situation which, during the next few months, will concern us very closely indeed, namely, the Common Market. The Bonn Declaration of 18th July shows quite clearly that the Common Market has a political objective. I am not concerned at the moment with the economic aspects, but I am with the political aspects, as every hon. Member of the House should be. We should also be concerned with the constitutional aspects, because we are creating here an instrument which will be supranational and will have its own institutions—the Assembly, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice and the administration. Over none of these shall we have the slightest control.
§ Mr. Rankin
My hon. and learned Friend says "Rubbish", which is unsolicited and very provocative. He should listen, and not make off-hand remarks which demand a little further explanation.
Under Article 157—I think it is—the Commission is pledged not to be swayed either by Government or by Parliament. Its members are paid a salary sufficient to list them above the ordinary temptations of life so that they will not be influenced in any way whatsoever. The nine members of the Commission will not be selected by any particular Government. There will be no external control whatsoever over the Commission. We in this Chamber may argue about anything we like affecting Europe. It need not have any effect on the Commission. The same is true of the administration. It is altogether outside our control and purview. In other words, we are handing over to these institutions the sovereign powers which at present reside within this Parliament.
I hope that we shall have opportunities of debating this more closely. I merely want to say that, if this institution is established, it is bound to reduce the standing of Parliament and the power of Ministers. It will integrate us into a common body mainly for political purposes. The Bonn Declaration of 18th July says:The Heads of State…believing that only a United Europe, allied to the United States of America and to other free peoples, is in a position to face the dangers which menace the existence of Europe, resolved to develop their political co-operation with a view to the union of Europe.There is a time for these things. I am not against the union of Europe; but it is important to consider the time element. Union means that we will divide Europe into two great blocs, organised socially, industrially and politically on altogether different bases. Because of that fact, we are bound to accentuate the difficulties and perhaps inflate the bitterness which now exist in Europe and in the world.
That is why I hope that we shall proceed with care when we think of creating a great political entity of this nature—integrated into one political body, integrated economically, and becoming within a relatively small continent the 85 rival of another bloc. We do not want this to happen. In my view, it cannot help to secure the peace of Europe. It cannot create a better feeling of peace in the world at large. I hope that, keeping those things in mind, we as a Parliament will think of peace and international agreement and do our best to further those things by working and co-operating with nations and not by seeking to take actions which, in the long run, are bound to lead to the discord which all of us want to avoid.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) referred to the political aspects of the Common Market and said that we would have no control whatever over the workings of the Commission. Has he not overlooked the fact that the Commission itself can be removed by the action of the Assembly, in which we would be fully represented?
§ Mr. Rankin
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that under the Treaty of Rome the Assembly is only bound to meet once a year and that at the very most we shall have 36 delegates against the 36 delegates from France, the 36 from Germany, the 14 from Belgium, and so on. Therefore, we shall not have a great deal of influence and power with only 36 delegates out of the total number.
§ Mr. Johnson
For my part, I would be alarmed by the political aspects of the Treaty of Rome only if we were standing outside. I think that the sooner we get in the better—but I shall refer to the Common Market in a moment or two.
I must say that, like the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I rather expected to see in the Gracious Speech some allusion to the possibility of a tax on capital gains. I am not sure that I view such a tax with entirely unmixed enthusiasm. It is an extraordinarily complex subject because, surely, if all capital gains are to be taxed there must also be an allowance for losses. Perhaps we will find that it is included in the Measures which in the Gracious Speech says are to be brought before Parliament in due course.
86 The Queen's Speech referred also to keeping"…public expenditure within limits justified by the national resources. Continuing efforts will be made to secure a better relationship between increases in incomes and in national productivity." I agree with the policy pursued by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to a pause in the rise in incomes, but I feel that wage and salary earners would the more willingly accept a standstill in increases of their incomes if they felt quite sure that shareholders and those who make profits out of capital gains were being treated in the same way. Some form of capital gains tax is probably desirable at present.
I wonder whether exhortation is entirely sufficient to prevent increases in dividends. Although most firms are behaving very well and acting fairly in that respect, if I were a wage earner and had been asked not to press for further wages, and were then to find that the firm had increased dividends, I would think, "This is a fine kind of rule to make". I would not like it at all, and it would cause me resentment. I believe that there is much to be said for some of the suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) on 23rd October.
Further on this subject of capital gains, I feel very strongly that if a firm is earning enough to increase dividends, but does not do so, preferring to plough them back into the business, it must be protected against take-over bids. If a capital gains tax is introduced I hope that it will come down very heavily on gains made by that form of activity. I have always believed, although I do not think that that belief is widey shared on this side of the House, that it was most unfortunate when we made the tax on distributed and undistributed profits the same, as it seemed to be doing just the opposite to what the Government were asking industry to do.
As I have said many times—I suppose that it is too simple to be possible—I believe that the right way to deal with the present situation caused by incomes outrunning production is for firms to pass on the benefits derived from modern improved methods and greater efficiency to their customers in the form of lower prices to their customers instead 87 of to their employees m the form of higher wages or to their shareholders in the form of higher dividends. If that were done, everybody would be better off including, especially, the pensioners and those on fixed incomes, who always get left behind when wages, dividends and prices go up. If we could keep prices down, and keep wages and dividends down as well, everybody would be the gainer.
I welcome the references in the Gracious Speech to the Government's intention to press on with negotiations to join the Common Market. My only regret is that we did not do so long ago. Had we joined then, we could have taken the lead in building up a united Europe, and a Common Market in Europe that would, from the very start, have provided for our special position in the Commonwealth.
A great deal has been said naturally—and it is referred to in the Queen's Speech—about the interests of the Commonwealth, of our agriculture and of our partners in the E.F.T.A. It has been suggested that we should be quite wrong to accept the Treaty of Rome as it stood, relying only on those protocols which would embody the results of our negotiations on those three problems. With that view I entirely disagree. I think that the present way is the right way to proceed, and I am sure that anybody who has studied the protocols will agree that it is the right and only way to make substantial progress in these negotiations.
The present members of the Community are well aware of the great advantage of Europe being more closely associated with the Commonwealth. I think, too, that the extent of the opposition in the Commonwealth to our joining the Community is very greatly exaggerated. I do not for a moment believe, that the attitude of Mr. Fleming, the Canadian Finance Minister, reflects the general feeling in Canada.
I can speak with particular knowledge only of one part of Canada—British Columbia. Mr. Bonner, the Minister of Industrial Development, Trade and Commerce there, recently said:I do not think that the United Kingdom can stay out or should try to stay out of the Common Market.88 The spokesman of British Columbia's forest, mining and salmon fishing interests—three very important industries, with a large export trade—concurred in that view. Their feeling is that Britain's first duty to herself and to her kith and kin across the seas is to stay in business. They say that British Columbia's exporters will find it much easier to sell their goods to a prosperous Britain, which, they believe, will come about through our joining the Common Market.
There is no doubt that the growth of the Common Market has been spectacular. It is now the world's largest trading area and, since 1958, trade between the six Common Market countries has risen by more than 50 per cent. This has not been at the expense of trade with countries outside the Community because that, too, has risen by 20 per cent. At the same time, we have been losing our share of exports all over the world. I believe that so far from damaging the Commonwealth by our joining the Community, we will gain increasingly through access to this very large mass market in Europe—which is the world's second largest for manufactured goods, and one that is growing rapidly—and that the growing prosperity that will accrue to us from the Common Market will increase our capacity—and this is extremely important—and that of the European Community, to invest in the Commonwealth, and create an increasing demand for Commonwealth goods.
When we are trying to make up our minds about the wisdom or otherwise of joining the Common Market, we should look not only at the pros and cons of going in, but reflect a little about what will happen if we stay out. That is an alarming prospect. One result of the success of the Common Market in Europe, of which we are not a member, will be not only that it will be more difficult for us to sell in Europe, but that we will have to face competition all over the world from this mass market of six countries in Europe that have joined together in a common trade and tariff policy.
As they will have a home market comparable with the United States with enormous opportunities for large-scale production the Common Market countries will be able to sell more cheaply 89 than we can and we will not only have to face that competition in foreign countries, but we will certainly have to face it in the Commonwealth. Does anyone suppose that the Commonwealth countries will go on buying from us if they have to pay more for our goods than for similar goods of equal quality in Europe? It would be unreasonable to expect them to do so.
Those who are opposed to our joining the Common Market claim that there is no reason why we should because we have a perfectly good alternative in the Commonwealth trading area. We have been told that there are 650 million people in the Commonwealth, but only about 170 million in the Common Market area. But if we look more closely at that figure of 650 million we discover that nearly 500 million of them come from India, Pakistan and Nigeria—all countries short of money and requiring a great deal of monetary help from us which we are not in a position to give while we are faced with balance of payment difficulties.
The population of the older members of the Commonwealth—Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the three members which have what we might call a Western European outlook and with which we have real ties—numbers only 33 million. It is that figure of 33 million that one should compare with the figure of 170 million in Europe and not the total of 650 million. The fact is that even if the Commonwealth were wide open to our manufacturers to sell anywhere, it could not provide adequate purchasing power without a great deal more capital for development. Of course, we cannot provide that capital without a large export surplus.
Last year we sent 44 per cent. of our exports—valued at about £1,450 million—to the Commonwealth as against £520 million worth to the Common Market countries. Ten years ago we sent 50 per cent. to the Commonwealth. Our exports to the Commonwealth are falling and to Europe they are rising. It is, therefore, more than doubtful whether either the British or Commonwealth markets are expanding fast enough to maintain even the present position.
I am afraid that the Commonwealth trading area is impracticable as an 90 alternative to our joining the Common Market. In any case, the older members of the Commonwealth have never shown the least desire to go into anything of the kind or to try to establish a Common Market in the Commonwealth such as that which has been established in Europe.
§ Mr. Rankin
Does the hon. Gentleman recollect the words of the former President of the Board of Trade who, when winding up a debate on the Common Market at the end of July, said that even if we did not go into the Common Market we should not starve. We still had the rest of the world with which to trade if we wanted to, he said.
§ Mr. Johnson
I do not recall those words. I certainly hope that we should not starve. What we would not have would be a surplus to send to develop the Commonwealth, which we want to do, and which, I believe, we can earn in the Common Market.
At present, we get tariff preferences from Commonwealth countries on about only half of what we sell to them and they have never hesitated to protect themselves against imports from us. I do not blame them in the least for that, but if we did not join, would the Commonwealth countries change their policy and abandon tariffs between the Commonwealth countries and agree to a common tariff on goods coming from countries outside? Would they do away with all restrictions on imports of goods from Britain? Of course they would not, and we would not expect them to do so.
Everyone will agree that we must do all we can to provide capital for developing the Commonwealth. Obviously, we cannot do this unless we can achieve a favourable balance of payments position by increasing our exports. And I believe that joining the European Community will help us to do that; both directly by giving us free access to this mass market and indirectly for reasons which are given in paragraphs 17 and 18 of the Fourth Report of the Council on Prices, Productivity and Incomes.
I wish briefly to refer to these paragraphs. The Report points out that in the past our industries have been more protected from foreign competition in the 91 home market than is generally realised. Consequently, they have not had to look overseas to find buyers. Firms that were concerned almost entirely with the home market could afford to meet annual demands for higher wages and, at the same time, to keep profits up by passing on the additional costs to customers in the form of higher prices.
We all know that that has been happening and that tariffs were high enough to prevent competition in most cases from abroad. The effect has been to put up costs. That made things difficult for firms trying to export because they had to pay higher wages and obviously they could not afford to pass on the increased costs to customers abroad.
The abolition of tariffs on goods coming here from other members of the Common Market will make it less easy to sell in the home market and that will have the effect of helping our exporters by keeping costs down. It may be that competition from Continental firms will be severe in some cases when British industry is no longer protected by high tariffs. But I do not believe that there is any need to be unduly alarmed at this prospect. There may have to be some readjustments, but the efficient firms will more than hold their own and it may well be that the stimulus of competition is all that is needed to improve the performance of those who are less efficient and less enterprising.
Of course, the abolition of tariffs works both ways. The Common Market will undoubtedly provide better opportunities for our most efficient industries. Actually, many of them are already competing successfully on the Continent in face of the existing tariffs against them. I have great faith in the ability of British industry, and to say that we cannot face competition from the Continent is to adopt a defeatist attitude.
In the majority of cases the leaders of our industries are confident that they can more than hold their own in the Common Market if they can compete on really equal terms. The competitive power of our industries does not depend on their efforts alone. They cannot succeed unless they get as favourable treatment from our Government as their competitors in the Common Market countries do from theirs in regard to such matters as taxation, depreciation allowances and credit facilities 92 I welcome, therefore, the proposal in the Gracious Speech to raise the limit of the liabilities to be assumed by the Export Credits Guarantee Department. That will be welcomed generally and it will be helpful. If other countries find ways of helping their export industries we must do the same. Legislation must be extended to deal with restrictive practices imposed by organised labour, just as it does with arrangements made by trade associations.
The Restrictive Trade Practices Act is preventing co-operation between different firms in the same industry on such matters as standardisation. To give an example, in some of our industries, at any rate, it would be advantageous to quote in terms of the 2,000 lb. ton, the short ton. Yet if firms in a trade association were to decide to quote in short tons, they would probably fall foul of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act as it stands today. Because of that Act no consultation is taking place between firms in the same industry at a time when we are likely to join the Common Market and when, I would have thought, that consultation was a matter of considerable importance.
I am not saying that joining the European Economic Community is of itself a complete cure for our present difficulties. We must put our own house in order, irrespective of whether we join the Common Market or not. But I believe that the Common Market provides a great opportunity for Britain—possibly the last that we shall have—to maintain our place in the forefront of the great nations, and I hope that we shall seize it with eagerness and determination.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
I listened very carefully to what the hon. Member for Manchester, Black-ley (Mr. E. Johnson) has said about the Common Market. I wish to make only one comment on that subject, namely, that if it were merely an economic and not a political problem the question would perhaps be very easy to solve.
Today the Prime Minister talked about evolution, about the need to change and to bring ourselves up to a condition in which we could face modern requirements. The hon. Member for Blackley said almost exactly the same thing. But when hon. Members opposite make that kind of statement they want a one-sided 93 change, whereby the workers will not make demands and whereby private enterprise and big business will have all the privileges.
The hon. Gentleman said that he could understand the workers demanding a better share and not agreeing to the pay pause, so long as there was no restriction on dividends. Private business has already had a very good deal and, in fact, dividends have increased. Private business can afford to have a standstill because it is already getting some very good returns from dividends. If the hon. Gentleman studies the latest annual reports of many large firms he will see that many of them have increased their dividends, in spite of the appeals which have been made to them by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. [Interruption.] An hon. Member has just interrupted, but I would point out that there are firms with which he is connected which could give a better lead than they have done in the past. I should have much more faith in our ability to make progress if we had a different outlook from the Government benches.
Today we have heard a lot about bombs being exploded in Russia, and I as a woman cannot condone the testing of bombs whether by Russia or by de Gaulle. I believe that it is fundamentally and morally wrong to have these tests not only because of the present danger to health but because of the future danger to children yet unborn. I should be very disappointed if the Government felt that they had any excuse for adding to the present difficult situation.
I now want to refer to our present situation at home. I feel strongly about the international situation, but I also feel strongly about some of the problems at home, because, while we think of the future internationally, we must also think of the present as it affects our people here.
In the Gracious Speech there are several omissions. The hon. Member for Blackley referred to stabilising prices, but the present Government do very little about that. They tell us that prices have not risen considerably. The fact remains that nothing is said in the Gracious Speech about the protection of the consumer. Nothing is said about a Weights and Measures Bill which would affect the problem considerably. If we join the 94 Common Market prices may go up as a result. There should have been some mention in the Gracious Speech of consumer protection, in the light of the colossal amounts which are spent in advertising and which could be used in keeping down the costs of the commodities instead of adding to the large profits made by the advertising firms.
Every housewife is humbugged every day by little bits of paper promising 2d. off this and 3d. off that, which are pushed through the letter box by high pressure salesmen getting very good salaries, and by advertisements on I.T.A. and in the Press all of which add to the cost of the final article. If that kind of thing were abolished, prices could be kept stable.
Another subject which is not mentioned in the Gracious Speech is the situation of the old people. Yet in the Prime Minister's speech and in other speeches we have been told about the desire for greater sharing out and the raising of the standard of living. If anybody has any doubts about the position of old people, let him read the latest reports of the inquiry into family expenditure. Let him look carefully at the list relating to pensioners' households, then at the list dealing with those receiving incomes under £25 per week and then at those with incomes over £25 a week.
Consider the items relating to their kind of expenditure. Even on bread alone—and nobody lives without any bread—old-age pensioners spend less than a half the amount which is spent by those in the other two groups. On butter they spend about one-third less; they spend a little more on margarine. Taking the complete expenditure on food, those in the old-age pensioner group spend 37s. 3d., those in the under £25 group 99s. 1d. and those in the over £25 group 131s. That shows the difference.
The tables in regard to clothing, particularly outer clothing and boots—I will not go into the details—show that people in the pension group spend exactly a quarter of the national average, but they spend only one-eighth of the amount spent by people in the £25-and-over group. There is no equality there. Are old people being given the square deal that they should have, and about which 95 we should have heard in a Gracious Speech in 1961?
I turn to another aspect of public spending. I have absolutely no confidence at all that we shall have any fair dealing or equality in public expenditure control now that the ex-Minister of Housing and Local Government has gone to the Treasury. Just as he brought his axe down on housing by reducing subsidies and adopting a one-sided attitude to housing problems, so he will apply the same attitude to all the social services over which he has any control. That was one reason why he was moved from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. With his intimate knowledge of local government, he has gone to the place where the local authorities can really be controlled and are being controlled, the Treasury itself.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) was much more optimistic than I am about the deal which the teachers will have. In an interjection last week, the Minister of Education said that he had not given any guarantee to the teachers. I wonder what was said about the deal the teachers thought they were going to get when they did capitulate.
During the holidays, Circular 13/61 was sent out calling upon every local authority to cut down its expenditure on minor capital works programmes. The effect of the circular was that not only was the amount to be spent on minor capital works programmes by every local authority cut, but the period for completing the programmes is to be eighteen months instead of twelve. My own local authority put forward an estimated expenditure of £100,000 in this category. About a month ago, we received a circular from the Ministry saying that the amount which we hoped to spend in twelve months will now be cut to £66,000 for eighteen months. That is a very large reduction.
Where must our cuts come?—First, in sanitary improvements in our old Schools. We wanted to spend £50,000 during this next year. What will happen to that? At the Tory Party conference, the Minister of Education made a very passionate plea to his supporters that they should send their children to State primary schools. The Minister should 96 know that many of the schools which need money spent on improvements are the primary schools. We shall have to make cuts also in the provision of laboratories in our grammar schools—£15,000 in our boys' schools—and in sixth form provision in our girls' grammar school. These are the schools for the cream, for the selected children. How much will be left for spending on improvements at our ordinary secondary modern schools?
The Minister of Education will say that local authorities will not now need permission to spend up to £2,000, but what can be built for £2,000? With today's high costs, not even one extra classroom can be provided for £2,000. It is this kind of thing, which the general public nevers hears about, which represents the real cut in education because it cuts at the services for the majority of children.
My local authority had a survey made of the size of classes. According to the 1944 Education Act, primary schools may still have forty children in their classes. In my local authority, we still have 150 classes of forty or more pupils and five classes of fifty or more pupils. That is where the working-class children have to go. How can any teacher do her job with forty or fifty school-children in a class? One reason why, in some cases, children are huddled together in oversize classes is that there is just not the physical provision of the necessary classrooms.
It is no good our being jealous of the technical progress being made in America or Russia if we deny to our children the right to have a properly founded education. We should have heard more about education in the Gracious Speech today than just a reference to a Bill relating to teachers, good and necessary though that may be.
Something is said in the Gracious Speech about awards and grants to students. Many young folk today who are able to pass in two or three subjects at Advanced level and who want to go to university find that there simply are not enough places for them. My own local authority had a report that twenty-two awards which we had been prepared to make had to be cancelled because those twenty-two students had failed to obtain places in a university. There are twenty-two lots of brains and ability which, possibly, will be wasted. 97 Boys and girls from working-class homes cannot afford to wait, perhaps, two or three years until they find a place in a university. We must do a great deal more thinking about education and its place in our society than we have done, and we must find the money for it.
§ Mr, James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
The financial situation is so bad in the County of Lanark that that great county has now stopped all new schools and, as a result, we have in some cases as many as eighty children in a classroom today.
§ Mrs. Slater
If that is so, all I can say to my hon. Friend who comes from Scotland—and Scotland has given a great lead in education—is that a public protest is required to draw attention to the problem. Eighty children in a class—we did not have that when I taught, never mind about 1961.
I now wish to refer to other social services. In the Queen's Speech, reference is made to the hospital programme for the next decade. We are paying for that by the increased contributions which we have been called upon to make. Again, I have very little faith that we shall see much progress in the hospital programme by this Government. I read with great horror the report about the Health Service which was published last week. I have also read some of the publications of the young folk on the Tory side. We have a Minister of Health who used to be a member of the Bow Group. We talk glibly of the affluent society in which we are living, but, unless the people of this country wake up very quickly, we shall walk smartly and quickly into Government legislation based on the means test idea in our social services.
Yesterday, I listened to a lunchtime programme on the B.B.C. A very well-known Conservative put forward the idea that people should be able to pay for the National Health Service, that they should take out insurance. That is another section of private business that we do not want to see boosted any more than it is. When I heard him speaking, I wondered what would happen if, even in his quite well-off condition, there was a series of serious illnesses in his family and if he had to meet very extensive bills. I wondered whether he had ever 98 understood that before the National Health Service came into operation women of my group of people, my mother and her group of people, did not dare to go to the doctor because they had not the money. Children suffered because they did not get medical attention. If we are a Christian country, it is a disgrace to talk about introducing the means test into the National Health Service.
Knowing how much the Treasury is in control now, realising what has happened about the prescription charges, knowing the kind of talk which is taking place on Tory platforms, even by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Leicester the other day, when he spoke about the need to change some of our social services. I hope that those services, of which we are proud and for which we fought very bitterly in the past, will not be undermined. Not only are they part of our standard of living, but they are the foundations on which we build some measure of greater equality among people and, I hope, good health, because the people are given the opportunity to obtain the best possible medical advice.
I hope that we shall begin to think of education as something for which we ought to fight. I hope that we shall raise our standard of education without fear of it affecting one class of people if extended to another class. That is the kind of society about which I should have liked to hear in the Queen's Speech today. I hoped that we should hear, not platitudes, but talk of practical application, of sharing equally what there was to be shared, of dealing with the aged, sick and young as fairly as possible and of giving to all the people the chance to live in peace so that they could bring out the highest and best that was in them.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)
I know that the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) will not expect me to follow her views or fears on the cataclysmic disasters which seem to affect Stoke-on-Trent, in particular, and the country in general. I hope that she will acquit me of being even second to her in my care and anxiety for the social services, particularly education, about which she 99 spoke at some length. I should like her to believe that, if I stand here unabashed and not crushed by the fire and scorn of her oratory, it is not because of any callousness on my part, but because, if I might use her phrase, I have very little faith that the terrible disasters which she constantly predicted will happen.
I should like to deal for a few moments with a number of the economic matters referred to in and affected by the Queen's Speech. Frankly, I should have liked to speak for a few moments on the tremendous problem of the hydrogen bomb and the tests, but now that "the three graces" who sit below the Gangway on the opposite side of the House have left us, a lot of the amusement of such an argument—it seems to me that it needs a little light touch—would have gone. I am sorry that they are not here, because I cannot help saying that they reminded me this afternoon of the ancient caricature of the children's three monkeys, except that in this case the old tag should have been changed to read, "Hear no sense, see no sense and speak no sense." Nothing that anyone said—either their own leader the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) or the Prime Minister—seemed to have the slightest effect on them.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) gave us a dissertation on the problems of the breakdown of the subsidy for the Q.3 I am delighted to see that there are no references in this Queen's Speech, and I hope that I shall never see a Queen's Speech from this Government again in which there are references, to subsidies for private industry. This is the second example we have had in the last few years. We had it in Lancashire only a couple of years ago. We got it in the neck and were thoroughly laughed at for having fallen for this terrible state of affairs, and it backfired. As one of those who have a very old-fashioned belief in private enterprise, I believe that it should take its own risks and not go squealing to the Government for help when it gets into trouble.
I am sorry that there is no reference in the Queen's Speech to company law and to the question of share transfer, which is so essential to trying to encourage the ordinary person to invest in 100 the industry of the country, a process which is going at such a rate that I am told that the two most popularly read City columns in the country today are in the Daily Mirror and Daily Herald. This process is still artificially slowed down by the cumbersomeness of our law. The Stock Exchange Council has reached the stage of making recommendations. I hope that the Government will not hold us off much longer.
I wish to confine my remarks to the first paragraph in the domestic section, if that is the right phrase, of the Queen's Speech, where it says that the Governmentwill seek to strengthen the balance of payments by the measures already announced, including especially the vigorous promotion of exports.In so far as certain Government measures and actions have already contributed to"the vigorous promotion of exports", I am all in favour of them and think that there are tributes to be paid.
Over the last two or three years, our almost permanently itinerant President of the Board of Trade has made a unique personal contribution to good will in the development of British trade all over the world. It is only right that a tribute from industry should be paid to him, because he has had to take a few tough knocks from time to time. Most of us who are concerned in the export field are delighted with the appointment of the new Minister of State. We wish him every success in his job and feel that he is just the kind of man who understands our problems.
It is customary in these debates when these subjects arise to pay a justified and sincere tribute to the Board of Trade's exports promotion branch and particularly to our trade officers overseas. Despite the occasional lurid stories in the Press, the great majority of these people are first-class. That, however, is as far as it goes. There are no specific proposals in the Gracious Speech which appear to be taking us any further.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) referred to the sentence relating to the Exports Credits Guarantee Department and I am sorry to have to differ from him. I do not talk arrogantly, however, but I think I know something about this 101 subject. I hope that nobody from the Treasury Bench will tell us that the proposed Bill will do anything to assist the country to export one pound more of anything, because it will not. It will be a purely technical Bill and an academic accounting matter to keep the so-called liabilities that the Department is allowed by law to underwrite in line with what it is underwriting. That is purely technical and it will contribute nothing whatever to the export drive.
That is not in any way to discount the efforts of the Export Credits Guarantee Department, to which over many years I have frequently paid tribute in this House. The Department is doing just about everything that could possibly be asked of it and on balance it is doing it very well. Having said all this, however, again we are given just the same old stuff. There is nothing new. Time and time again, we have found that these measures have not been vigorous enough to give us the increase in our exports that we badly want.
Is there nothing else that could be done? The one subject which we are constantly talking about is the question of tax incentives for exports. I find it depressing that every British Minister and expert committees of the Tax Council and the Federation of British Industries all seem to come to the conclusion that nothing can be done about tax incentives in Britain. Other countries can provide them all the time very successfully, but we cannot. Must we accept that we are the only major industrial country that cannot find a solution to this problem? This is a most depressing thought and I do not believe it to be true.
Only the other day, my hon. Friend the new Minister of State, Board of Trade, when making his first public speech as the holder of that office—obviously, somebody had given him the brief—said that we could not do anything about it. We had the example of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary when formerly he was President of the Board of Trade. I would not question either his competence for his office or his experience, but when we debated this matter on the Finance Bill last year, he not only said that nothing could be done, but he even trotted out at us the old tag that we do just as much as other people because we do not charge Purchase Tax on people's exports.
102 It must be my fault or somebody else's that we cannot get it through Ministers' heads that the goods to which Purchase Tax applies do not come into the problem. We are constantly being told by Ministers and by great authorities that the British Purchase Tax and the German turnover tax are simply two different ways of doing the same thing. It simply is not true. With the sole exception of motor cars, the bulk of the goods on which we charge Purchase Tax—and, therefore, on which we have the power to remit it on exports—are consumer goods, which represent only a tiny part of the national picture.
Where we suffer at the hands of foreign competition, where our competitors are constantly putting it over us with direct Government aid, is in the direction of capital projects such as steel mills, power stations, railway installations, oil refineries, ships and aircraft. That is where the problem is and those things do not carry Purchase Tax. Therefore, when so able a Minister as the former President of the Board of Trade uses this argument, one bangs one's head against the wall and says that there must be none so blind as those who simply will not see. It clearly shows that somewhere inside the Government machine, people do not want to understand this problem.
We are told that there are many things we cannot do because we would infringe international agreements, such as, for example, the G.A.T.T. Eight specific practices were outlawed by the old O.E.E.C. I am not suggesting that we must break any of those sacred international treaties. All I am pointing out is that other countries, particularly Germany, France and Italy, have all signed those treaties and have still found a way to solve the problem. To any Minister who happens tomorrow to read what I am saying I say that I find it impossible to accept that we are the only people who are so stupid that we cannot find an answer to the problem.
There is really no mystery about this. The solution is quite simple. The secret lies in the turnover tax. I accept the conclusion of the Minister of State, Board of Trade and of successive experts that under our existing tax principles, we can do nothing. If we say that the principles of the Inland Revenue on which we assess our tax are sacred and cannot be adjusted, we must admit that 103 We are stuck; we can do nothing to put a kick behind the export drive and we must come in sackcloth and ashes and admit that we are the only industrial nation which cannot do it.
The principles of the Inland Revenue, however, were built up by men and are changeable by men. I can understand that Somerset House says that the principles of the Inland Revenue must never be altered, but I cannot conceive why the House of Commons should admit it. As Harold Wincott wrote some time ago in the Financial Times, must we really say that we are all going to sit down and starve, chins up, like perfect little gentlemen, so that the principles of the Inland Revenue must remain sacred? That is what the problem boils down to.
Are the principles of our tax structure so sacred that whatever the economic need of the country, however grave our economic position may be, they can never be touched? Must we say that regardless of the need of the country, the scientist and the bookmaker must always be treated exactly the same, or that the export director and the spiv must be taxed on exactly the same basis? Is this really essential for all time? Unless we are prepared to tackle our fundamental tax principles, we will be beaten and we will be in a grave state when we are up against tougher competition in the Common Market.
The private Member is always in a difficulty on these matters, because the moment one gets into hypothetical bases of tax which require sums to be worked out, one has no means of doing it. I should like, however, to put up a cockshy to the Government and perhaps somebody will consider it. Perhaps I am wrong, but as I cannot work out the sums there may be no way of knowing. On the other hand, there may be something in what I say.
Industry contributes to the total revenue something like £1,000 million a year. One cannot check even this specific figure, because every book of statistics gives a rather different opinion. In the National Income and Expenditure Blue Book of 1960, however, at table 25, the appropriation accounts show that for the last four years, the sum paid by industry in tax appeared to be between £900 million and £1,000 million.
104 Under our present system we take the whole of that £1,000 million as a tax on earnings. Whether we call it Income Tax or Profits Tax, or anything else, it is a tax on the surplus of earnings. We have to earn it before we pay it. I should like to suggest to the Treasury this: suppose that the Treasury say that they want £1,000 million from industry and suppose that they say, "We are not going to cut industry's taxes—I am not arguing whether we should or should not—and next year we shall want £1,000 million again, but we do not propose to take it in quite the same way. We shall work the sums back. We shall take £600 million, or three-fifths, as a tax on earnings, we shall take £200 million as a tax on turnover, excluding exports, and we shall take £200 million as a tax on payroll."
If this is practicable, from that day on the Treasury has not given away—to use that awful phrase which means allowing one to keep something which one has earned in the first place—any revenue at all, but it has adjusted the tax structure, so that from that day on every company in the country, large or small, has a positive incentive to export more and to try to use its labour more efficiently. I should like to know whether this can be done. I wonder whether someone can give it a little serious study.
From the debate that we had on 14th June last on an Amendment on this subject by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), it is perfectly clear that the boys in the Treasury had not even stopped to read the darned thing, let alone study it, from the answers that we were given by the Financial Secretary. The old tag is: how does one differentiate between the direct exporter and the indirect? That is easy. Industry used to say that that was difficult, but no one does today. The direct exporter is the man who makes the extra effort and takes the extra risk. The component manufacturer even in the case of motor cars, for which practically everything is bought out, takes no export risk. He has no problems, no export sales costs. He delivers his goods to Coventry or wherever it may be and is paid by cheque at the end of the month. There is a clear difference here. It is the direct exporter who goes out, who takes the risk, who has high 105 sales costs overheads and who may have many tricky and dicey credit and financial problems abroad. He is the man who does the exports.
The idea that we would cause ill-will in industry, as the Financial Secretary said last June, simply is not true. I am quite certain of that. We also had the extraordinary statement from the Financial Secretary at that time that it would be impossible for all but the biggest firms and the most expert accountants to differentiate. I do not know any accountant in the country who agrees with that. I should like some Minister at some stage either to tell us that the brief in the Treasury has now been brought up to date or to give some authority for a statement which is a complete contradiction of what everybody who has to do the job says.
One other aspect of this relates to something which the Prime Minister said in his speech today. He talked directly about the fall in our invisible earnings. Over the last year or two, people have suddenly awoken to the odd fact that the so-called "invisibles", which are primarily earned in the City of London, seemed to have dropped almost to nil and lost us £150 million to £200 million. For some reason that I cannot understand, everyone is very surprised. I do not find it surprising at all.
I think that there are two simple explanations, and they have been apparent to many of us concerned in this type of business for a long time. The first is that we encourage British industries to invest abroad particularly in the overseas countries. We then tell them that it is good, progressive, liberal and nice to plough back their profits and bring nothing home, and at the end of five years they are terribly surprised that no one has brought anything home. They have not brought it home (a) because they were told that this was the right, progressive modern way to play the game and (b,) if they brought anything home it was promptly confiscated in taxes.
That is why our earnings in dividends and interests abroad are going down and down. We are making them go down, and we cannot have it both ways. If we want industries to bring more money back then (a) we have to say that, instead of leaving it in India, Pakistan 106 or Timbuktu, it is now a patriotic thing to bring it back and (b,) if they do, we must not hit them over the head and call them dirty capitalists. We cannot have it both ways.
Another thing which goes more to the root of our problem is the Bank Rate policy. We have gone to a 7 per cent. Bank Rate twice in the last three years, and I hope that at long last there is a change of heart of the so-called authorities who deal with these matters. I should like to refer to an article in the Financial Times only a few days ago on this very subject. The writer was referring to this fact. He said that we are all in this together. The Labour Government made the mistake of constantly thinking that we could run the thing at 2 per cent. Bank Rate and that was responsible for a lot of their troubles. In true party political fashion the Tories rushed in and went to the opposite extreme and got the opposite troubles by pushing the Bank Rate up far too high and trying to make the Bank Rate do things which in modern economy it is no more equipped to do than a horse and buggy is able to drive a jet aeroplane. I think that this is terribly important. Again, it is fundamental to our export policy. One of the difficulties in exporting capital goods where we have to give five years credit is that we have to pay 7 per cent. or 8 per cent. on financial charges instead of 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. On a £1 million contract over five years this can easily make a difference of £120,000 on the price of the job. It gives ample scope for our competitors to undersell us, and they often do. It is notable, too, that in the normally high Bank Rate countries under the old-fashioned terms—not by our 7 per cent. Bank Rate—countries like Germany, with their remission of turnover tax, still manage to get away with it more often than not.
By this artificial disincentive that we have built up ourselves we penalise our own trade and make it difficult for ourselves. I am pleading with the Government, if they mean what they say in the Queen's Speech about encouraging a vigorous export drive, to stop and look at this.
I think that this is relevant.The modest expression that the new policy has been given at the start"—107 that is the new Bank Rate policy introduced in 1952—and it is interesting to remember that the initial rise in the bank rate from the old cheap money era of 2 per cent. was limited to ½per cent.—soon gave place to a more vigorous one. And—when success continued to show itself illusive—to a more aggressive one still. Eventually, interest rates in the U.K. rose to unprecedented levels. And the credit squeeze was carried to such lengths that, by the end of the decade the money supply was equivalent to only about a quarter of the national income as against 40 per cent. at the start. This single-mindedness, this persistent refusal to draw the appropriate conclusions from the initial outcome of the new approach has inevitably proved a costly business. For not only has the new policy signally failed to eliminate some of the major sources of economic disequilibrium.…By adding something like £150 million per annum"—to the cost of servicing short-term debts, it—has wiped out at one stroke the whole of the benefit the invisible side of the balance of payments would otherwise have derived from…new investment abroad. Thereby it"—Bank Rate policy alone—has played a major part in keeping the reserves at dangerously low levels.I am sure that is true. I am sure that by these two things, of our own invention, our rigid tax policy, which takes no regard of the problems of the modern economy at all, and our rigid, high Bank Rate policy and our depending upon Bank Rate to solve economic problems which it is now conclusively proved it cannot solve, we are—by our own action—not only not doing what the Government want us to do and we all want to do, encourage vigorous promotion of exports, but positively putting artificial difficulties and stumbling blocks in its path. I submit to the Government that this is something we can no longer afford to do.
We are not living in the nice gentle Victorian time when we could sit back for ten years to study the present. I hope very much that the Government's economic policy for the next few months will be such as to give vigorous assistance and promotion to the national exports. If we can do that, then most of our other economic problems and difficulties will begin to fall into place and become much simpler, but I do not believe it can be done, even by my right hon. Friends, in whom I have great faith, 108 unless they are prepared to look long, hard and radically at these two problems of Bank Rate and tax policy.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The criticisms which I propose to make of the Gracious Speech are supported by high authority. They are supported in principle by the entire bench of judges of the Court of Justiciary in Scotland who sat specially together for the purpose of considering a very important matter in the case of Mortensen against Peters, which is now a leading authority and has been a leading authority for fifty-five years.
The reform which I advocate now is a reform which has been waiting for fifty-five years to be made, and yet it has no mention in the Gracious Speech today. Indeed, the Government today seem to be under the impression that there is no such reform waiting to be attended to. In academics, this reform is supported by Sir Thomas Taylor, who is Principal of Aberdeen University and who takes a patriotic part in the life and thought of Scotland. In journalism, it is supported by that distinguished newspaper, the Scotsman; and in the shipping world and shipbuilding world and fisheries world it is supported by the leading authorities.
When I rely upon those authorities I do so in principle; and when I express my own opinion I shall say so. I am expressing my own opinion now when I say in general terms that this Gracious Speech is invidious and myopic in relation to the fishing industry, the shipbuilding industry, and the ship-repairing industry. This Gracious Speech is characterised by lack of statesmanship in relation to those great industries and also the subsidiary and auxiliary industries associated with them.
I turn, first, to the fishing industry. It is referred to in the Gracious Speech proroguing Parliament in such a way as to give the impression that the Government think that no problem exists. Indeed, that Speech said, untruly:My Government have continued to support the fishing industryBut I say that they did not adequately support the fishing industry. Their attempts to support the fishing industry were invidious and ineffective.
109 The Gracious Speech proroguing Parliament said:My Government have continued…to seek a settlement of problems of fishery limits".But I say, and it is well known, that these problems with regard to fishing limits still remain acute. Scots fishermen are still deprived of large, traditional fishing grounds, and still suffer great financial loss. The Speech makes really no contribution to those problems.
The fact is that the Government down the years have not supported the British fishing industry as against the foreigner. They have only tinkered with the problems of territorial waters, and that unsuccessfully. They have been mean in the funds which they have made available to the fishing industry. They have been shockingly invidious in their administration of such little Bills as they have introduced from time to time, and they have favoured the foreigner as against the indigenous fisherman, especially in the Moray Firth, as I shall show.
In my submission, these criticisms should have been anticipated in the Gracious Speech. The Speech should have adumbrated legislation intended to be brought in to solve the relevant problems; but it has failed to do so. These criticisms gain added force in view of Britain's application for membership of the Common Market. The reason I say that is obvious. Up to now Britain is her own mistress; she has full sovereignty to solve the relevant problems; but that will be so no longer in the Common Market. If she joins the Common Market she will be only one of a community of nations with shared sovereignty, shared controls—and shared with whom? Shared with her trade rivals, shared with the very nations who have deprived British fishers of part of their fishing rights.
Let me say at once that I am not against the Common Market, but what I say about the Common Market in relation to fisheries and shipbuilding and ship-repairing and everything else is that the Government have to prove their case before we enter the Common Market If British fishermen are not protected now when we are not in the Common Market, it is extremely unlikely that British fisher-men will be protected when we are in the community of nations partly controlled 110 by our trade rivals. The matter has been bad enough up to the present, when Britain is bound, and will continue to be bound, by conventions relating to fisheries and other matters over which she will have less control than she has at present.
On 13th July I asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food—that ambiguous, tripartite Minister—this question:what study he has made of the effect which Great Britain's entry into the Common Market would have upon the existing international agreements, the conflict of interests relating to fishing grounds and territorial waters and the catching and sale of fish by British fishing vessels.The Minister's answer was vague He said:British entry into the Common Market would not affect these Conventions.By way of supplementary question, I asked:Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the fishing industry has been thrown into chaos and disaster by the Government's uncertainty on such matters as the Common Market, the conflict over territorial waters and farcical and insultingly inadequate subsidies? Will he state in detail whether he expects that entry into the Common Market will affect the fortunes of the fishing industry beneficially?What does the House think the Minister said? He reply was:I am afraid that I cannot answer that.That question should have been answered in the Gracious Speech and that is my criticism of it now.
I am sure that the House will agree that the Minister has had time since I put that supplementary question to him to have attended to and dealt with this matter in the Gracious Speech, but there is no word about it in that Speech. Will entry into the Common Market benefit the fishing industry? That is the 64,000-dollar question. That is the question which the Government ought to be able to answer and should have answered in the Queen's Speech. Yet there is not a word about it.
The fishermen of the whole of this island will look to the Government and ask them what they mean by entering the Common Market blindfold in that way and by applying for membership of the Common Market without letting the great fishing industry, the shipping, shipbuilding and ship-repairing industry and 111 the auxiliary industries know what it means for their future. In fairness, these things should have been considered and should have been stated expressly in the Gracious Speech.
On that same day, 13th July, I also asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food this question:if he will make a statement on the effect and consequences to the British fishing industry of the denunciation by the Soviet Government of the Anglo-Soviet Fisheries Agreement of 1956.The Minister replied:The effect of the denunciation is that after 12th March, 1962, British vessels would lose their right under the Agreement to fish up to three miles from the shore in two areas of the North Russian coast. This would involve their exclusion from a small but useful plaice fishery.I thereupon asked:Does the Minister realise that this is another body blow at the British fishing industry? Will he state what plans he has to substitute some benefits to the fishing industry for the losses incurred by the denunciation of this Agreement?The Minister's answer was:We are in touch with the Soviet Government…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1961; Vol. 644, c. 578–9.]A fat lot of good it would do the fishing industry to be in touch with the Soviet Government. The Minister has had since 13th July to consider this problem and to put forward some solution in the Gracious Speech and yet there is not one word about it in the Speech. The House will realise that to be "in touch" after the denunciation by the Soviet Government of this valuable fishing agreement was locking the door after the horse had gone, if I may mix my metaphors.
§ Mr. Hughes
The position was so unsatisfactory that four days later I asked the Prime Minister to issue a White Paper on this very important matter. I asked himif he will direct the appropriate Minister to prepare a White Paper containing all the official records and information within the possession or procurement of Her Majesty's Government relating to restrictions placed during the last ten years by the Governments of the maritime nations of Northern Europe on fishing in the territorial waters adjacent and contiguous to their coasts, with special reference to the bearing of these restrictions on the British fishing industry.112 The Prime Minister refused to do so and I then put this supplementary question to him:Does not the Prime Minister realise that the plans and manoeuvres of other maritime nations to outwit and damage the British fishing industry have been remarkably successful? Does he not agree that the best way to counter these moves would be to make a full disclosure of all the facts in a White Paper so that the British fishing industry can protect itself if the Government will not protect it?The Prime Minister refused to issue a White Paper and up to this moment he has refused to issue one. The Prime Minister and his Government are treating the country and, in particular, the fishing industry with great disrespect in not making the facts of the situation available to them and to the country at large.
The bitter and unpalatable fact is that four agreements have been thrown away and given to foreigners the interests of British fishermen, as I shall show by a concrete case. The case is the case of Mortensen to which I referred earlier. In one last attempt to clarify the situation I asked the Prime Minister:if he will direct the appropriate Ministers to prepare a White Paper containing all the official records and information within the possession or procurement of Her Majesty's Government indicating how many international and other conferences abroad and within Great Britain relating to the fishing industry involved the attendance there of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. …" [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1961; Vol. 644, c. 1460.]The Prime Minister refused to do even that. He maintains his screen of secrecy about the effect that entry into the Common Market may have on the fishing industry, the shipbuilding industry, the ship-repairing industry and all relevant industries.
This matter is of so great importance that Sir Thomas Taylor, Principal of Aberdeen University, wrote a letter last June to the Scotsman on that subject and the newspaper thought so highly of it that it gave it pride of place. I shall not weary the House with the whole of that long letter but in it, writing on 5th June, he wrote:The shelling of the Aberdeen trawler 'Red Crusader' provides the Government with an opportunity to do something"—
§ Mr. Brace Millan (Glasgow, Craig-ton)
On a point of order. May I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to 113 the fact that there do not seem to be a sufficient number of hon. Members in the Chamber?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
No, the hon. Member is not on good ground. We are between the hours of 7.30 and 8.30 p.m. and the Count does not apply.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
If my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craig-ton (Mr. Millan) is an enemy of the fishing industry, I can understand his doing that sort of thing.
As I was saying, Sir Thomas Taylor wrote:The shelling of the Aberdeen trawler 'Red Crusader' provides the Government with an opportunity to do something for the preservation of our inshore fisheries which ought to have been done long ago.He also wrote:Notwithstanding the decision of the highest authority"—That is the Mortensen case, to which I have referred—
the law of Scotland, so laid down, has never been enforced against foreigners trawling in the Moray Firth outside the three-mile limit and thereby destroying the spawning beds, though it has been applied often enough against our own fishermen.Sir Thomas Taylor adds:Great areas of the Icelandic seas have thus been closed to our fishing fleets. A similar threat is now made in the Faroes. But all the time the Moray Firth (outside the three-mile limit), though closed to our own countrymen, lies wide open to every foreign fisherman. Is it too much to ask that for once Scottish Members of Parliament of all parties should speak with one voice in defence of a Scottish interest, and compel the Government (for, united, they have the power to do so) at long last to enforce, in the Moray Firth and other coastal waters, the decision which has been part of the law of Scotland for 55 years, and which, by the irony of history, has now been successfully invoked by the Government of Iceland to exclude British fishermen from their accustomed fishing grounds in the Northern seas?I submit that that is a matter of the utmost importance to Scotland. The law is being invidiously administered by the present Government. Foreigners are being given advantages in British waters which British fishermen have not got. Yet there is not a word about it in the Queen's Speech. I submit that this is a matter which should have been mentioned in the Gracious Speech and that it should be dealt with now, and I am very glad that I have had this oppor- 114 tunity to draw the attention of the Government to it so that they can do something about it.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. David James (Brighton, Kemp-town)
I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) will forgive me if I do not follow him far in what he has said about Scotland. I should merely like to make the one observation that we must judge our entry into the Common Market on the basis not of one industry alone, but of the whole impact on our national life.
I have not hitherto attempted to take part in debates such as this on the ground that new boys should be seen and not heard, but I very much want to speak for a few minutes now to deplore the lack of any reference to housing in the Gracious Speech, unless, of course, housing is covered by the usual blanket phrase:Other measures will be laid before you in due course.I am aware that the Kemptown Division of Brighton—this applies to Brighton as a whole—is by no means the worst hit constituency in the country in respect of housing, but I must make it quite plain that in the two years that I have represented my constituency the housing position has gone steadily from bad to worse. Only a few days ago I had a letter from the manager of the housing department saying:There is practically no accommodation now becoming available to housing applicants. Consequently, there are a number of urgent applications awaiting three-bedroom accommodation having thirty points and over to which it has not been possible to give consideration in the normal way.That means that a constituent of mine upon whom I called last summer in his existing premises is awaiting a third child but has no chance of a second bedroom.
This deplorable situation is manifesting itself in two ways. First, from my own personal observations, there are plenty of young couples in multi-occupation of elderly tenement buildings—including young wives attempting to bring up children—who have to share toilet, washing and even cooking facilities. On the other hand, there are elderly people living in basement flats which are frequently damp and have 115 water running down the walls, and at present they have no prospect of living in anything better whatsoever.
I can assure hon. Members that I do not have sybaritic views on these matters—no one has who has been a prisoner-of-war—but the only time that I have been literally sick after going into a house was after I visited a constituent where fungus was growing on the wall of the dwelling—through no fault of his own—and that gave rise to a smell which I simply could not stomach.
The social consequences that flow from this are very serious. I know a number of young couples who are deferring having children until such time as they can get proper accommodation. Nature has a way of taking its own revenge in these matters, and people who put off having children for a long time frequently find that when they want to start a family later on they are unable to do so.
Another great difficulty is that, particularly with young wives sharing kitchens, and so on—this is even more so when they are sharing them with their in-laws—marriages are apt to break up, and from these inadequate housing conditions and the broken marriages which flow from them I believe a great deal of juvenile delinquency derives directly.
It is very easy for us to say—I have frequently said it myself—when hammered at by our constituents on the subject of juvenile crime, that it is not only a problem for politicians, for the police and the law courts, but a matter of giving a child a decent Christian upbringing in a decent Christian home. But I do not believe that is possible unless the decent homes are there for them to be Christian in.
Another problem which worries me considerably—I have a number of these cases on my files—is that of young couples, both of whom are working, whose combined income is so great that they cannot qualify for the housing list but for the purpose of obtaining a mortgage only the husband's earnings are taken into account. Therefore, they lose both on the swings and on the roundabouts.
I am not trying to raise this question in any spirit of party controversy, because 116 I believe that, certainly at the local level, party rivalries tend, if anything, to impede rather than to assist housing. As an earnest of that, I propose to be unconventional enough to pay tribute to my Socialist opponent in Brighton, Councillor Lewis Cohen, who, in his capacity as Chairman and Managing Director of the Alliance Building Society, has recently issued an admirable pamphlet on housing and land needs.
It is not a political document but is purely a statement of fact which I do not believe that any human being could reasonably controvert. I am quite happy to do this because I was raising my voice in my constituency in this matter some months before he was doing so. The facts emerge with clarity. All the housing calculations entered into, in good faith, by Ministers of Housing and Local Government from both sides of the House since the war were based on censuses which have been completely out-dated by the 1960 census.
The census of 1950 suggested that the trend of population would rise until about 1975 and would then level off and, if anything, slightly fall. In fact, owing to people marrying younger, to their having rather larger families, and to their living longer, the population will now increase constantly until the year 2,000, when it is estimated there will be approximately 10 million people more in the country, excluding any question of immigration, than could reasonably have been assumed on the basis of the 1950 census. Despite that different break-up of families—more old people and more children—the occupancy of houses will tend to fall, and it is calculated, not unreasonably, that on this basis we will need 4 million new houses by 1981.
During the same period, it will be essential to clear away about 800,000 houses which are beyond praying for—houses like the one I have referred to, where water runs down the walls in basements, and which no human being can do anything about. Over and above that, there will be between 3 million and 3¼ million houses which will need replacement because they will have run their natural life during the next twenty years, and then there will be the houses which must be removed to make way for public works like roads and schools.
117 By a process of simple mathematics, it is evident that, if we are to fulfil what I believe is the most important social commitment of the day, we must envisage building 8 million houses in the next twenty years, or 400,000 a year. Unless we achieve this figure neither I nor any other hon. Member will be able to give any help, in all honesty, to our constituents. When people come to see me in my "surgery" I can always take refuge in the fact that housing is a local authority responsibility and refer them to a councillor. But, if one is honest, one must admit that the physical facts are such that there is no hope whatever of their having decent houses in their lifetime. I cannot tolerate that as a prospect.
There is a further difficulty attached to this problem, and that is the continued drift to the South. The provisional figures suggest that the increase of population in Sussex alone has been about 138,000 over the last decade, and meanwhile the Western Highlands, where I live in private life, have become correspondingly and tragically depopulated. I come reluctantly to the conclusion—reluctantly, because land prices are frightening things these days—that the only way to prevent the whole of the South of England, from Birmingham to Brighton from becoming one mass suburbia, and of preventing the Highlands and large parts of Wales from becoming totally depopulated, is to allow the free market price in land to survive.
When people point out that £48,000 an acre was recently paid for building land in Worthing, I reply that, in my native Argyll, one can get unlimited building land for £2 an acre. The tendency of people to settle where land is cheap should be maintained unless we want the population concentrated in one corner of England.
Admittedly, many old people, naturally, want to live where they were born and where their children and grandchildren are living—but others are not so committed and at present tend to drift to the South. Would it not be a good idea to try to build some model villages for elderly people, with close access to shops, cinemas and everything else in community life, in under-developed parts of the country where they could enjoy houses much cheaper than those on the South Coast? If we could get a flow of people 118 to these areas for that purpose, then the ancillary trades would inevitably follow.
I want to revert now to the 400,000 houses a year target which I postulated, and to ask two questions in connection with it. I would like to know how much of the country's building force is locked up in building what house agents, with extraordinary vulgarity, call prestige office accommodation. This thing of keeping up with the Joneses—I regret that; perhaps it should be keeping up with the Jameses—in the size of one's office and the thickness of the office carpet is deplorable beyond belief. I regret that in every large city one sees large office buildings, which may be Victorian and a bit old-fashioned, but which are at least sanitary and hygienic and in which people spend only 44 hours a week, being pulled down and replaced by ferro-concrete monstrosities while slums are allowed to go on for ever.
This is simply a matter of social priorities. It does not need the control's which hon. Members opposite have at heart. It can be tackled under existing planning regulations, but it is a blot that we should be building these offices in preference to replacing slum buildings. Incidentally, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government explained that he could not be here this evening but that he would read what I have to say, and I hope that he will be able to answer this question.
My right hon. Friend may tell me that different types of labour are employed on building these skyscrapers and ferro-concrete buildings and on ordinary housing, and that brings me to my second question. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) asked this question during the Recess, when speaking to the building industry. Why do we stick so much to traditional methods of building houses? Why do we still solemnly spend hour after hour piling brick on brick as Elizabethans used to do, and indeed as the Romans did before that, instead of taking advantage of modern prefabrication, line-production techniques?
A great deal of this may be to do with local byelaws, and, if so, they should be scrapped. All other countries build a great number of their houses in wood 119 and find that they prove to be weatherproof and warm and extremely comfortable. As a naval officer in the Antarctic, I knocked up a "comfy" little hut for six people in four days, simply because it was prefabricated and even fools like me could put it together. It is an extraordinary thing that one can knock up an insulated house for 5,000 broiler chickens at the drop of a hat and still leave elderly people living in squalid conditions. There should be a thorough investigation into various rapid methods of building houses.
Not long ago, at a party conference near my constituency in Brighton, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, in an extra-mural lecture, posed the question, "What facet of our national life would be looked back on in a couple of hundred years in much the same way as we now look back on trial by ordeal, or the burning of witches?" He suggested that it was this country's penal system and the fact that this very night 7,660 people would be sleeping three to a cell in our major prisons.
I do not deny that that is a serious indictment of the society in which we Live, but, knowing the size of the housing list in my own town of Brighton and how much of it refers to my constituency and how much to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling), I reckon that there are least as many people sleeping three and four and even five to a room in my constituency, many of them growing children still sleeping with their parents.
I have no wish whatever to castigate any previous occupant of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Within their limits and within the knowledge they had at the time—and none of us can claim the benefit of hind-sight in these things until the census figures have been published—they have all had great achievements. Neither do I wish to criticise my own local authority, which is one of the most progressive in the country and which has built 12,000 council houses since the war, a remarkable achievement. But when all that is said and done, we have to look at this matter completely a new, and nothing less than 400,000 houses a year will satisfy our social conscience and see that people are decently housed.
120 It is a fact—thank goodness—that, due to modern drugs, many of the pains and pangs of illness can be assuaged, but I know of no drug which can assuage the sheer misery of multi-occupation houses, living with people one does not like, four and five to a room. We have in this House an hon. Member who once distinguished himself by running a mile in four minutes. I believe that the Government could "cough up" a Minister who would achieve the distinction of building 400,000 houses in a year. This should not be difficult. As long ago as 1937 we built 347,000 houses a year, and I cannot believe that this target is by any means impossible. Moreover, as my right hon. Friend is a doctor, he would have the satisfaction of knowing that he was tackling the greatest job of social health which has had to be tackled this century.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
I do not remember an occasion of the first day's debate on the Gracious Speech when the Government had such a bad time as they have had today. We had the speech on exports from the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather), in which he showed that the Government were doing virtually nothing to increase our export trade; we had the body blows on the fishing industry from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes); and now we have had a fine speech on housing from the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James).
§ Mr. David James
I do not want to be ungracious, but I made it plain that I was not criticising the former Minister of Housing and Local Government.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman was not being partisan, but that does not make the least difference to what I was saying, namely, that he made a fine speech on this subject. It was a strong criticism of the Government who have been in power for ten years. It is no good the hon. Gentleman trying to get away from that by some such gentlemanly remark as that he was not trying to make this a party matter.
We are here to criticise the Government if they do things wrongly, and, my goodness, they have had some criticism this afternoon, and not by any means only from this side of the House. I 121 should like to follow up the hon. Gentleman's feelings on this matter by saying that it is very much to the credit of hon. Gentlemen opposite that they have been so frank in their criticisms.
I believe that the people of this country have a real grievance against the Government. The Government have been in power with large majorities for ten years. They might easily have built the paradise to which they refer in their election speeches and at their party conferences. They might have made the just society which I believe many of the party opposite want to establish. But what have they done? They have made the country a paradise not for ordinary decent hard-working people, but for speculators and people who deal in land values, and so on. They have lauded the philosophy of get-rich-quick. Up to this moment at any rate they have completely refused to tax capital gains, which would have helped materially.
They have undermined the moral values of the country with all the stuff they used to talk about "never had it so good" and so on. I know that there have been explanations from the Prime Minister—explanations which are not altogether convincing—but the whole Government machine has been used to propagate this idea that we have never had it so good and that there was not very much left to do anything about seeing that the Conservatives had made such a wonderful show of running the country. They have debased the electoral coinage by bribery on an unprecedented scale before each election which they have recently won, and they have shaken confidence in the negotiating machinery for industrial disputes which was properly established by law.
What is the result of all this?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
That is true. They have stubbornly refused to use their power intelligently to plan the country's resources. The result is that so far as increasing our productivity is concerned we are lagging behind almost every other industrial nation. We heard about our exports from the hon. Member for Somerset, North. I will not go into them in detail, but Heaven knows that we are winning a decreasing proportion of the world's export trade almost every year. 122 The £ is in jeopardy from time to time. As the hon. Member for Kemptown suggested, the only thing in which we can claim to lead the world is in the building of immense office blocks in places where they have no right to be. What is the point of bringing people into cities and cluttering up all the means of transport, quite apart from the human problem involved in putting the burden upon them of having to travel in awkward rush-hour services every day? What is the point of all that when they might be elsewhere if the Government would use intelligent planning purposefully?
It is true that such is the pass into which the Government's action and inaction has led them that they are beginning to talk a little about planning now. If the Government want their talk to be taken seriously, they will just have to begin to show people that they intend to control. Of course that does not mean putting on controls for controls' sake. There is not a soul on this side of the House who wants controls for controls' sake. What we want and always have wanted is for controls to be used by a Government to ensure that our resources are intelligently used in the interests of the nation as a whole. I do not believe that there are more than a handful of Members on this side of the House who are dead against private enterprise. What we have always said about private enterprise is that, if it is enterprising and if it is not against the national interest, we are for it. When it ceases to be either of those things it is necessary for the Government to step in and control it and channel its activities into something rather better from the point of view of the national interest than it is at present.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) made some references to what the Government are doing in her area, including her constituency, in regard to expenditure on minor capital projects. It is exactly the same in my constituency, which is situated in the Parts of Lindsey in Lincolnshire. It was hoped that £380,000 were to be spent on minor capital projects on education alone in the next two years, but the Government have now said that the authorities can have only £70,000 in eighteen months and that that £70,000 must be spent on 123 these educational matters only if they are for extra accommodation. We certainly need the extra accommodation, but there are other things which are needed too. Far more than that is needed if the extra accommodation which is needed is to be provided. However, it is not to be provided. The chairman of the education committee has said that this is a very serious cut. The result of postponements like this is that by the time the Government give the go-ahead prices have risen still further, and the taxpayer and the ratepayer have to pay more and more, just as the £ is worth less and less. The £ is now worth only 13s. compared with the £ when the Tories first took office. A rather alarming state of affairs exists as a result of the Government's mismanagement.
While allowing the £ to slip in this manner it would not be so bad if the Government were being fair about things, but are they being fair? Can they pretend to have been fair in the way in which they gave Surtax relief in the last Budget? Can they really pretend that that is fair, having regard to the way in which they are trying now to impose the pause in wages? It just does not make sense. In spite of the extremely responsible attitude of the trade unions as a whole, I do not think that anyone has any real doubt that if this sort of unfairness goes on much longer the Government are asking for, and will certainly get, some very serious trouble.
I submit to the Government that they have to do some really drastic thinking about these matters. In particular, they have to withdraw from the very doctrinaire attitude they have been adopting, for instance, to the control of industry. One example of this doctrinaire attitude I want to refer to particularly, because its affects my constituency more, perhaps, than many others, although it affects many others also.
I refer to the Government's attitude to the handing to private owners the capital in the remaining nationally-owned steel concerns. I am rather shocked that in this Gracious Speech there is no suggestion at all that there will be legislation to free the Government from their present obligation to get rid of the capital of the 124 steel concern of Richard Thomas and Baldwins.
I know that according to the rules of the electoral game the Government were entitled to pass their denationalisation Measure; and I concede at once that, having passed that Act, they are obliged to do their best to dispose of the capital to private owners, but if there is one thing more than another that has emerged from the present regime in the steel industry it is that the question of who owns the capital in any big steel concern is completely irrelevant to the question of whether it is efficiently run.
Here, we have Richard Thomas and Baldwins, which has an extremely well-run branch—the Redbourn Works, Scunthorpe—in my constituency. The capital has been nationally owned for ten years. Incidentally, of course, the nation has had the profit that has been made on that capital, which is by no means a bad thing. The company is extremely efficient; no one would deny that, least of all the Government. How can they deny it, when they have just entrusted to it millions of money in order to produce new developments? The Government must, therefore, think that this combine is extremely efficiently run, yet here they are, when they know that they have quite a nasty bit of industrial tightrope walking to do in the next few months, seriously suggesting, at this juncture, that it is right to upset this concern—and upset not only its workers but the management, too.
There will be a very strong temptation to hive off some of the choice morsels of that concern. I have no doubt that the disposals agency would long since have disposed of Richard Thomas and Baldwins had it been possible to find a consortium financially strong enough to take over. The agency has not, of course, succeeded in doing that—all the more reason for there being temptation to hive off some of the choice morsels, let them go to someone who thinks he can make a very good thing out of them, and then throw away the rest at a knock-down price.
That is not the way in which the Government at present should set about trying to create this better attitude in industry, which they will certainly need if they are to overcome the difficult time that lies 125 ahead. Therefore, in spite of the fact that there is no mention of it in the Gracious Speech, I very much hope that the Government will rise above this purely doctrinaire and rather vulgar clamour that comes from below the Gangway now and again for the complete denationalisation of the steel industry, and will show, in this matter, at least, that they can put country before party.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, West)
I hope that the House will bear with me while I make reference to a subject which, I believe, has not been touched upon in the debate so far and about which a paragraph in the Gracious Speech states:My Government will introduce a Bill to give effect to the proposals already submitted to you for the reorganisation of the undertakings under the control of the British Transport Commission.Hon. Members on both sides have referred to the Common Market and I, as one who farms—admittedly, on some of the best land in the country—am not concerned particularly about the ability of the British farmer to compete in the European Common Market. But for him or for any industry in Scotland to do so successfully there is one essential that must be provided, namely, a good transport system.
Therefore, it is not being at all immoderate to say that there has been considerable disquiet in Scotland during the last two months by headlines in the newspapers, one of which read:310 trains to be taken off.Another paper printed a map of the whole country along with the headline:Where the axe is poised.One thing that we should admit from the start is that the function of British Railways should be entirely an economic one. Their job should be to run the railways system economically and, if possible, profitably. They should not be hampered in their task by what can broadly be described as social considerations. That should not be a matter for British Railways but for the Government of the day.
On the other hand, before the taxpayer is invited to contribute money with a view to keeping open a line or service that is uneconomic, he is entitled 126 to be convinced that the management has been thoroughly good. The two lines so far out of the many services over which the axe is poised which are immediately threatened with closure are those running through suburban Edinburgh from Princes Street Station to Leith—on which the loss per year is said to be £19,000—and the line which runs from Edinburgh to Peebles, where the loss is stated to have been £30,000.
I must confess that although I have not personally visited all the stations on the line to Peebles I have taken the trouble to drive all the way along the route of the line through suburban Edinburgh. I do not think that it is being unfair to say that remarkably little effort appears to be made to attract passengers to travel on these lines.
The absence of any kind of invitation to travel—any sort of publicity to the effect that it is quicker to go across country, from one part of the city to another, to use an Irishism, rather than to go by one bus into the centre of the city and another out to the suburbs again—or any publicity of this kind is noticeable by its absence.
Having said that, and having made this criticism of the Scottish Region of British Railways for its lack of effort to attract passengers—and it is, frankly, the only thing about which I would criticise the Scottish Region, for its efforts in other fields and its costs of maintaining the track over extremely difficult country compare very favourably with regions elsewhere—I would say that the difficulty under which I believe the Scottish Region is labouring at present is that, according to the most recent accounts of the British Transport Commission, the modernised equipment with which the region has been provided falls a good deal short of what has been given to other parts of the country. The proportion of the rather elderly steam equipment is very much higher in Scotland than it is in most other regions, and, therefore, its costs are bound to be higher.
I should like to put two considerations to the Government—
§ Mr. Manuel
Before the hon. Gentleman goes any further with this theme, may I put this point to him? He seems to be devoting his criticism, such as it is, 127 to the Scottish Region and its operation. Surely he will have some regard for the fact that when Dr. Beeching was appointed the Prime Minister made it definite from the Dispatch Box that in the future Dr. Beeching's job would be to make the railways much smaller and employ fewer staff. Should not his criticism be directed more to the political policy behind what is happening in the Scottish and other regions?
§ Mr. Stodart
Although I would not claim that my memory is infallible, I do not recollect my right hon. Friend saying more than that Dr. Beeching's job was to make the railways pay. I do not recollect him saying that Dr. Beeching had to make them into a smaller system.
I should like to return to the social considerations that I wish to put to the Government. What arguments could be advanced for keeping open a city suburban line that is losing £19,000 a year?
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Has the hon. Gentleman worked out what this £19,000 a year means? It sounds a very big figure, but has he worked out what it means per day or for one journey on a suburban line? It means about £5 a journey, so far as I can calculate. Does the hon. Gentleman not think that it is ridiculous that a social service should be destroyed for the sake of £5? Surely the economies can be found for that?
§ Mr. Stodart
If I gave the impression that I thought this was a very large sum out of the £11 million total Scottish region loss, I apologise. But it appears to me that consideration must be given to the results of putting passengers off the railways on to the roads. Each day 7,000 people are carried on the Edinburgh suburban lines. City of Edinburgh buses carry 600,000 passengers a day. The extra 7,000 does not sound a very big increase, and, without doubt, I think, the city corporation could cope with that extra number. However, I was satisfied when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland went so far as to say in a letter to me that any additional rush-hour traffic on the already overloaded streets of the city would be most unwelcome. I hope that the Government will take note of that authoritative opinion.
128 Consideration of the line to Peebles raises the whole question of depopulation. Depopulation is far more acute in Scotland than in any of what are described the remote counties of England. I confess that it has amused me when hon. Members have talked to me about the "deep countryside" of Buckinghamshire. I have gone to the trouble to work out the population per square mile in what is, I suppose, one of the less populated English counties, Devon. Even Devon has three times the number of people per square mile that the first county across the Border, Berwickshire, has.
I suggest that the closures with which Scotland's railway system has been threatened should be delayed for a year, during which time strenuous efforts should be made to attract more traffic, both passenger and goods, and during which time more modernisation should be introduced and the new diesel equipment given a fair chance. If that is found to be impossible, then, at least, the closures should be deferred until the new Bill referred to in the Gracious Speech is introduced, because that Bill, for all we know, may bring about important changes.
We do not even know whether the Scottish Region as such is to continue as a single unit. It is not impossible that there might be what could, perhaps, be described as "vertical integration" between the present North and North-West Regions. Incidentally, I wonder whether it was ever intended that the Scottish Region, with all the natural difficulties of terrain and of wide areas of under-populated country between its towns, should be a profitable unit on its own.
Whatever is planned on reorganisation, I say without any hesitation that the Government must look sympathetically at the social considerations of the Scottish transport problem, which is one of very peculiar difficulties.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
Before the hon. Gentleman concludes, will he answer this question? He knows Where I stand in the matter. Let us suppose that all this has been done and the railways still do not pay. Is he willing to argue, with some of us, that they should be kept going as part of a social service and that a subsidy, if subsidy there has to be, should 129 be paid by the Government and not put upon the back of British Railways?
§ Mr. Stodart
I thought that I had made quite clear that I think it is for the Government to step in with any subsidy on social grounds.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
It is obvious from one or two speeches that we have heard today that there are some lamentable omissions from the Gracious Speech. If I refer to two briefly, that does not mean that I have any disrespect for other speeches, some of which have been excellent. My hon. Friend the Member from Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) began by saying that there was no reference in the Gracious Speech to pensions for the elderly. I deeply resent that omission. She went on to make what I thought was a most admirable speech. The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James) made one of the best speeches that we have heard from the Government side of the House. I hope that he will not mind my saying that it would have been fitter if he had made it from this side. He referred to another lamentable exclusion from the Gracious Speech, namely, any reference to housing.
I should have liked to deal with those two subjects, but I wish to speak briefly about another exclusion from the Gracious Speech to which we in Wales expected there would be reference. I feel sure that I express the feeling of my hon. Friends, particularly those who represent Welsh constituencies, when I say that I am bitterly disappointed that there is no reference in the Gracious Speech to leasehold enfranchisement. I confess that this problem is one which besets my constituency, but it also besets the whole of South Wales. I was reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) that it also affects his constituency.
Some months ago we discussed this matter in the debate on Welsh affairs. If I had one criticism of that debate, it would be that one could infer from the Press reports that Cardiff was the only area in Wales affected by this problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who has conducted such a vigorous campaign in this matter in Wales, in which I gave him 130 100 per cent. support, went out of his way to say that, although he represented a constituency in Cardiff where this problem was severe, it was also severe in the rest of South Wales, particularly in the valleys.
It is a fact that the English law on leasehold is unique. There are very important historical reasons for this. But, to put it crudely, as one of my colleagues in another place said some time ago:Private landowners soon saw the advantage of a system whereby they could not only eat their cake and have it, but also have it returned to them with full possession, together with all the embellishments made and paid for by others.That puts the situation very concisely.
It is no accident that a situation has been created in the industrial valleys of South Wales in which there is at present one of the highest degrees of owner-occupation in the whole of the United Kingdom. For example, in the Rhondda and Aberdare Valleys, excluding council-owned properties, there is a degree of owner-occupation far in excess of 50 per cent. There are very important reasons for this. This high degree of owner-occupation is attributable to the thrift of my constituents and of the people of those valleys. Many of their houses were acquired in days of intense economic hardship, when to have a roof over one's head was the only degree of security that one had. No end of added sacrifice was made in getting bricks and mortar and making houses.
These poor people, who had few resources, were able to construct their own houses on little plots of ground. Most of them were made during a period of very rapid industrialisation. At that time, the land belonged to a few. Land meant something to people in those days, as it does today. I realise that land values are far in excess of what they were in those days. Freeholds were rarely sold. Most of the land was let on long leases of 99 years or less, mostly 99 years. As I say, on these plots of ground houses were built by the sweat and toil of humble people. Now, in the recent past and for some years to come, these leases are lapsing in their hundreds. Many of my constituents face the legal position either of having to purchase the house which they or their fathers built and improved or of having 131 to hand it over to a landowner virtually on a platter—to a landowner, indeed, who has not contributed one cent to the construction of the house.
I know that the 1954 Act gives security of tenure to these people but one has to experience the lives of these people and to live among them, as I have done, to appreciate the tragedy which faces them, and particularly old people, when they see their houses taken away from them. However much we may embellish the leasehold system with questions of legal rights, sanctity of contract and so on, the position to these people is that their homes are being stolen from them.
Sanctity of contract is a favourite case which is put up by the opponents of leasehold enfranchisement. Let us be clear about the position when a contract or lease was entered into many years ago. In some respects, it is true today. It is argued by most of the opponents of leasehold enfranchisement that the people were free to accept or to reject a contract or lease. Of course, that was not the case. If 50, 60 or 70 years ago the people had not accepted a plot of ground for 99 years on which to build a house, they simply would not have had a house in which to live. It was virtually Hob-son's choice. These were the people who emigrated from the rest of the United Kingdom to these valleys to produce the black diamonds from the coalfields on which the prosperity of the country has rested for so many years.
The terms, therefore, were dictated by the landowners, however harsh or ungenerous they may have been. In many respects, speaking of my constituency in particular, the terms were in some degree generous for the people. Nevertheless, it was Hobson's choice. To me, therefore, the question of sanctity of contract does not hold good.
Some months ago, there was a Motion on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Members for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) asking for a committee of investigation to look into the question of leasehold law and enfanchisement. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West will agree with me that the motives of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North are of the highest; he is as anxious as we are to Bee an end to this iniquitous system. I 132 would say to the hon. Member, however, that to ask for another committee is merely to ask for further delay. Indeed, as he is probably aware, there have been committees on this matter already and one of them, I am informed, sat for no less than eight years before submitting its report to the Government. The problems which arise from this question are intransigent when we have a Government which regards these matters entirely differently from us on this side of the House.
Let us consider the position of reversion of a lease as and when it confronts some of my constituents, often aged couples. When the lease expires, the old couple are faced with certain alternatives. They can buy the freehold at a very high figure, which to them seems like buying their house again. They can continue in the house under the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954, and become tenants in what they consider to be their own house. If, because of the high cost, they cannot purchase the freehold, they must restore the property to a state of repair that is agreeable to the landlord. In other words, they must hand over to him their own house and he makes sure that the house, for which he has not paid one cent, comes to him in a good state of repair.
What a position for old people to be in. I have case after case in my files on this problem. I have come across people of 80 years or more having to face this problem. Indeed, if there is a system which says that home belongs to someone who has not contributed one cent or one nail to the construction of the house, but there has been received, perhaps over a period of 99 years, an amount of rent from it, I think that is immoral, unjust and ill-befitting the present-day society we call Christian. Any owner of land, whether by accident of birth or by other means, who lends himself to the continuance of this system is one who deserves opprobrium among his fellow-citizens. And no amount of legal jargon can disguise the simple facts.
The picture that I have presented is one that prevails in many parts of South Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom. This is happening every day. The Government should face this iniquitous system at once, and 133 I deeply resent the fact that this has not been dealt with in the Gracious Speech. I appeal to hon. Members, and particularly to those hon. Members opposite who represent Welsh constituencies, to support us in our plea to the Government at least to submit legislation on this matter at an early date. The facts are known. All that the Government need do at the present time is to freeze existing leases and to bring in legislation to end this iniquitous system at once.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)
I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) will forgive me if I do not follow on his argument about leasehold enfranchisement.
I share with the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt), a situation in which housing conditions are very bad indeed. I think, however, that it is only right for me to say that during the last Session Parliament passed the Housing Act, 1961, which, if implemented in all its provisions, will provide an extremely valuable easement. It falls on the local authorities to see that the provisions are enforced.
I agree with hon. Members that, when it comes to the question of office building, such projects should be deferred until the housing requirements of the people in the localities have been satisfied. It is psychologically wrong to put up office buildings when it is absolutely essential that people should be brought into conditions of decent living.
I think that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) brought out an interesting point when he made reference to interest rates. We know, of course, that his argument was in connection with Scotland. Provision has been made in the Gracious Speech in that connection. The Customs union between England and Scotland has been working well for many years, and I think that it is one of the arguments for our going into the Common Market, too, that this may have some application. For example, if interest rates are high in the United Kingdom and low in Western Germany and Switzerland it might be possible, if people cannot obtain money at the right interest here, to go to the capital markets of the Continent and 134 raise it less expensively. That may be one of the arguments we can look at as an added reason or an added incentive why we should enter the Common Market on suitable terms.
I want to refer to a very important provision in Her Majesty's speech which says:My Ministers will continue to direct their policies towards maintaining the stability of sterling.I think that that touches the problem of the day. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been faced with "hot" money moving extremely rapidly over the exchanges of Western Europe and New York. If speculators could be kept in control internationally speaking, perhaps these recurrent crises would not occur.
Very fortunately, we were able to appeal to the central banks of Europe under the Basle arrangement whereby they stockpiled £325 million, but that was only a short-term arrangement and on the understanding, of course, that they would be reimbursed out of the moneys which we receive from the International Monetary Fund. The purpose of the arrangement was to safeguard sterling itself, but it is a remarkable world if, in one case, we have a drain on sterling and, at the very next moment, the dollar is faced with disequilibrium.
Do we have to go along with this system, or is it not possible to devise something much more satisfactory for the day and age in which we live? Various arrangements have been put forward. We have got the Bernstein Plan, and the plan of Professor Triffin and we have got other schemes as well. Some of them are rather radical and revolutionary in their intention in relation to the international key currencies—in other words, they depart fairly substantially from the existing machinery which we have at international levels like the International Monetary Fund.
I think that the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund made a proposal recently at Vienna which is probably the right one. His desire was to make use of the machinery of the Fund. Thus, particularly when a crisis looms, it would borrow from a country with a substantial surplus sufficient moneys which could then be lent back to a country which is short of foreign exchange.
135 But I do say this in all sincerity to hon. Members. We are faced with a problem. It is a problem of whether the key currencies can survive. The immediate arrangement in Europe was, of course, the Basle arrangement, which lasted for a short period, rather on the understanding that the financing of the agreement would be taken over by the International Monetary Fund itself. What will be the next stage? Are we to have just a minor revision of the Fund? Are we to have increasing disturbances internationally? Or are we eventually to check the speculation; "hot" moneys passing over the money exchanges of Zurich, Frankfurt, Paris, London, New York? In other words, I think that the brains of this country and elsewhere should be applied to this international problem which does affect us all. It is a very important point in the Gracious Speech today that it is the policy of the Government to see that sterling is maintained.
I think that another argument which we must very carefully consider—and I am glad to find that we are considering it, and I hope that it will be carried to a successful conclusion—is our entry into the Common Market. If the Americans decide that we are to remain on the periphery of Europe for many years to come, then their investment income here would, in fact, become "hot" money and move to Europe. Until fairly recently, for every dollar which was invested in Europe, 47 cents came to the United Kingdom. The rest went to Western Europe. If we are not to be part of the larger enterprise and structure, the Americans may decide to move that money, and it would cease to be investment; it would become "hot" money and extremely damaging to our future. Therefore, that perhaps may be one of the ideas motivating the Government in the course which they have undertaken, and which, I hope, they will bring to a satisfactory conclusion.
There is one important omission from the Queen's Speech, and that is about assisting under-developed territories abroad. It is a feature of the Conservative Party that we can and do not fear to point out what is good in the Gracious Speech and also where omissions lie. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David 136 James) indicated certain ones and my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) mentioned several about the way we could assist the export trade. The hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) was talking about looking after the Welfare State. We should also consider the extremely distressing conditions abroad where conditions are very much worse than either she or I have seen here.
This country contributes about £180 million a year, but it is a very small amount against the requirements of those nations and what the situation actually demands. The question is how this money can be mobilised and whether it has to come partly from the United Kingdom, West Germany and France and partly also from the United States or whether we are prepared to forfeit some of our high standards to aid the more impoverished states abroad. If £180 million is the limit laid down by the Chancellor, could not a little more be added to it without running down the essential services of the United Kingdom?
There are many points which I could cover, but I appreciate that other hon. Members wish to speak. I should like, however, to say something about our major defence problem and the nuclear deterrent. There has been fall-out following the explosion of a 50 megaton nuclear bomb. It is an appalling action by a totalitarian State which endeavours to persuade the world that it must accept the Communist philosophy. As the Prime Minister rightly indicated, what other reason could there be for this action? I support my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) when he says that one part of morality is worth three parts of physical strength. Morality provides us with the hope which leads us on to try to secure a better settlement. It is courage and determination which gets us there.
The Soviet Union may try to persuade us by terror that its policy is correct, but we are unmoved and we stand firm and unflagging even in the face of the storm. I do not think that we have noticed any "stampede" in the United Kingdom because a 50 megaton bomb has been exploded a day after another bomb of major dimensions. What we say is that the unilateral approach is 137 entirely wrong and is not in keeping with the times.
The first of our national services is our own defence. Like many hon. Members, I am old enough to recall what it was like in 1939 when we had to prepare for a major catastrophe. Let us hope that we do not have to do that again. I agree with many hon. Members that provided we can keep the door open we can keep war at bay, because I believe that Khrushchev has at last persuaded himself, after seeing his immense explosion, that perhaps these bombs do not pay. If he can destroy our civilisation, we can deliver on his territories, if need be, in defence many Hiroshimas, and perhaps terror on both sides will maintain the peace.
§ Mr. Skeet
It will be in the sense that there is no war. In the past we used to say that peace was a punctuation between wars, but let us say that we have got rid of wars and that we shall have perpetual peace through an agency of terror which we have now come to appreciate. Perhaps the 50 megaton bomb will have its lesson for us and will persuade many people in the United Kingdom, and I hope even the Soviet Union, of the error of their ways and the necessity for maintaining here the deterrent which is essential to our cause.
There are many other points to which I should like to refer in the Gracious Speech, but I do not think that it would be fair to deal with them at this late hour. I will merely refer to the fact that a Bill is to be introduced for the orderly development of privately-owned industrial pipelines. The Minister of Power promised to introduce this last Session. I am very glad to see that it will be coming along now, and I hope that it will do so at a fairly early date.
The Bill will make provision for the carrying of various substances. It may even include the transmission of coal in a granulated form. This has many applications. We hope that the Minister of Power will not adopt a system of common ownership of the lines but will enable companies to operate pipelines for the public good under certain stipulated conditions.
138 Perhaps I might also mention another omission from the Gracious Speech. We have no constructive fuel policy which will enable industrialists to operate on the cheapest fuels available. If the Minister of Power finds it essential in the national interest to import coal, then, in certain conditions, that should be allowed. There is also a matter which I mentioned fairly recently: it may be highly desirable for the nationalised gas industry to import methane. If that could lead to a very large reduction in costs, it would be a good thing and it should be done.
All these matters cannot be canvassed in one Gracious Speech, but the points in the Queen's Speech admirably cover many of the matters which I have in mind.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
I have to resist temptation when following the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet), who represents the other half of my borough. Unlike so many hon. Members who start by making the excuse of not following the comments of the previous speaker, I am tempted to make this a local debate.
In this instance I differ very much from him on the subject of defence. Throughout this wide-ranging debate, there is one thing which has been preeminent in the thoughts of hon. Members from both sides. If we reach the stage of a nuclear war, all the other things that we are talking about become no longer relevant. I differ very much from the hon. Member in his approach to this matter, although I share with him the condemnation of any testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and the condemnation of the recent 50 megaton explosion. I feel that I have more right to condemn these things because I have been condemning all such explosions all the way along. I was fortunate enough to be able to address this House when I condemned the French nuclear explosions in the Sahara eighteen months ago. I said then that once we permit explosions anywhere, this sort of thing is likely to increase.
I listened with interest to the hon. Member's comments about the stability of sterling and the financial mechanisms which he wished to employ in order 139 to preserve the rate of sterling. As other hon. Members have said, we have watched the £ decrease in value during the last ten years of Conservative government to 13s. I would remind the hon. Member that all the financial arrangements that one is able to make through the Monetary Fund and the other plans that he suggested are relevant only if they are backed here with an economy which is sound and expanding and has behind it the wherewithal to back sterling.
I also differ from the hon. Gentleman in his conclusions when he weighs up the pros and cons with regard to the Common Market. He comes down firmly on the economic side of going in, whereas at the present moment, on the present Treaty of Rome, I come down on the political side of staying out.
I want to address myself mainly to one point in the Gracious Speech which I hope will be resisted, at least by this side of the House, when it comes to legislation, and that is the part which deals with the control of immigration into this country.
I speak as one who comes from a constituency where this problem is before me every day of every week. If a ship arrives at Southampton on Thursday with 900 people from the West Indies aboard then on the following Monday 100 of them will register for a job in my constituency at the Ministry of Labour. I face the problem, in my weekly "surgery", of the friction that occurs between people with different cultures and differing backgrounds, of people trying to find their way to living in the community of Willesden.
I am aware that the Gracious Speech, in mentioning this point, is dealing with a real problem, but I am opposed to denying the principle that has sustained this Commonwealth for year after year—almost for many decades—in order to deal with a problem which, though real, is not of the migrants themselves but of the social conditions which exist in our constituencies. That is where we have to tackle them.
I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James). He touched on housing—a matter in which, apparently, Willes- 140 den and Brighton are coincidental. We, too, have the heart-break of couples facing the break-up of their marriages because of lack of living space. We watch friction developing with in-laws because of the Jack of a bathroom for each family. But when this is added to the problem of a controlled house which a coloured landlord has purchased on the understanding that he may be able to get the tenants from the upper storey out, we begin to get into an extremely difficult situation. That is the problem which faces us in Willesden far too often.
I do not know where one is to put the blame. The coloured man arrives and finds in the local paper advertisement after advertisement saying "no coloureds". He is faced with the problem of finding a house and, therefore, with the problem of getting a mortgage. He goes to a white estate agent who sells him for £2,650 a house which before the war was worth about £300—a house built 70 or 80 years ago. It may have a controlled tenancy in part of it and he is, therefore, in the situation where, unless he can get the controlled tenant out, he cannot meet the very heavy commitments into which he has entered. Thus, all kinds of frictions develop.
For the first time for a long time, we in Willesden have had the problem of unemployment, or rather the difficulty of placing immigrants, in the last few months. We are having difficulty in absorbing, in an area of high employment, a good number of immigrants coming into the town. All this is bound to show that I am aware of the real problems. In spite of that, however, I believe that it is fundamentally wrong for us to slam the door in the faces of these people, prevent the integration of the world, and indeed add to the problems in their own countries.
We want a more constructive proposal than that of merely trying to dodge the issue. The real problem is housing. It is that which must be tackled. I support the hon. Member for Kemptown in this, although I did not share with him the failure to attack the previous Minister of Housing, because it was by the 1957 Rent Act, the subsequent actions of the Government and—as is pointed out in the excellent 141 booklet of which he spoke, issued by the Alliance Building Society—the absolute racket in land values which have aggravated the housing problem in constituencies like mine.
It is these problems which I should like to have seen the Gracious Speech tackle, rather than its taking this negative view and pretending that the social problem does not exist if only numbers are limited. In my constituency we have the Willesden International Friendship Committee—50 per cent. white and 50 per cent. coloured. It meets each week to try to tackle problems that arise. In a case of friction in one house two people, one coloured and one white, go to try to bring the residents concerned together. Then there is family casework to deal with other problems. We issue literature to immigrants coming into the town, giving them a welcome and telling them the kind of snags they are likely to run into.
When I go to a school prize-giving in my constituency, I look down on a sea of faces, some white and some coloured. As a member of the Central Middlesex Group Hospital Management Committee, I know that our hospitals could not run for five minutes without the work done by the coloured ward orderlies, the coloured nurses and the junior medical staff from Pakistan and elsewhere.
The problem should be tackled by assessing the things we have in common and by action in the localities and, where points of friction occur, trying to eliminate them, rather than having a situation whereby, for the first time in centuries, we close the door on something which has been the proud privilege of this country and the Commonwealth.
I can go to various factories in my constituency and see coloured people working side by side and in the trade unions side by side. I have previously said in this Chamber that Radiation, one of the best builders of gas stoves and refrigerators, has a cricket team of whom the captain is a Jamaican while the ten players following him are white. That sort of thing can be done if the difficulties are recognised and dealt with locally, instead of attempts being made 142 to smooth them over by restriction. I very much regret that this passage occurs in the Gracious Speech, and I hope that the legislation will be strongly resisted when it is presented to the House.
I want next to refer to a grievous omission. Two years ago, at the International Labour Organisation conference at Geneva, with representatives from the Government, employers and employees, this country and others passed a recommendation for the institution of an occupational health service in all countries. This country has failed to implement that recommendation, and in the Gracious Speech there is no mention of the possibility of such a service being introduced.
On the average working day last year, two or three people were killed in industrial accidents, while 750 were injured sufficiently seriously for them to be away from work for at least three days. Both Slides of the House have been animated in this debate by questions of the economy, the country's standing abroad, and our need to expand exports. In 1959, 5,270,000 working days were lost through strikes, but 282,490,000 working days were lost through ill-health, days when people were failing to produce necessary exports. For every day lost through strikes, 56 days were lost through ill-health.
Apart from any other reason, in a country like ours, with its need for exports and production, and for an economy which is firm and strong, an occupational health service is not a luxury but a necessity. Of course there are snags. Last year the British Medical Association produced a first-class pamphlet on the subject and last month the Medical World produced a first-class article on such a scheme.
However, like all schemes of this kind, it is discussed and given lip service while nothing is done about it. One of the snags is the division of responsibility between Ministers. A kind of Parkinson's Law operates which says that if responsibility is divided between two Ministries, nothing need be done about it. There are the factory inspectors on the one hand and the Ministry of Health on the other, and responsibility falls between the two.
143 The Government should consider the kind of expedient which they adopted when they set up the Department of Technical Co-operation. That was done because the same kind of problem was arising about giving technical assistance to under-developed countries—and on that I join with the hon. Member for Willesden, East in demanding more technical assistance for under-developed countries. In that case, responsibility fell between the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office and so the Government set up a separate department specially to deal with the problem. Why could not the Gracious Speech have foreshadowed a special department to provide an occupational health service which would combine the best experience of the Ministry of Labour with the best experience of the Ministry of Health?
We need to do something about the intake of doctors trained specially for the needs of an industrial health service. There is a need to co-ordinate groups of factories in the way that has been done by the Occupational Health Unit of the Central Middlesex Hospital, a scheme to which I am glad that the Government have given support. There is a need to tackle the new hazards arising due to radiation from luminous paints used in places like Smith's Motor Accessories in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. Above all, there is a need to deal with the terrific breakdown in health arising from the mental stress and strain due to the way in which we live, the speed at which we travel, and the way in which we chase backwards and forwards in places like London, where we spend an hour and a half getting into London to do a day's work and then face the stresses and pressures which give executives ulcers and cause coronary thrombosis in others.
We should be tackling these problems in a constructive way. I regret that the Gracious Speech did not foreshadow that in the coming Session there would be this important addition to the National Health Service. It is time that the Gov- 144 ernment got away from the attitude they have that it is sufficient to wait for people to get ill and then cure them. In the last ten years we have shown that we can do a considerable job of work through the splendid hospital service, through the general medical service, and through local health authorities, but if we are to get rid of this huge burden of 282 million days lost through sickness, we must start preventing illness occurring, and this can be done only by an extension of the Health Service to include an occupational health service.
My last point follows the obvious anxiety running through the country about international affairs. I suppose that inevitably the Gracious Speech must cover a lot of things. The programme of legislation outlined by the Government is a very mixed bag, and at this stage we cannot derive a great deal of comfort from the major issues referred to in the Gracious Speech.
The major anxiety which faces us is whether 52 million people on this island will be incinerated or exterminated. We all share the anxiety that we might be caught with this outmoded thinking of the old fogeys in the Kremlin who are prisoners of their own dogma, or the outdated thinking of the gentlemen in Washington who are prisoners of their own rhetoric, so that we will be unable to have any effect on this issue. I hope that the Gracious Speech, when it deals with this in a purely defensive, old-world kind of attitude, does not mean that in the coming months we are to be condemned to this kind of approach.
There is a need for a new initiative. As hon. Members on both sides have said, there is a need for a fresh opening of negotiations to be conducted in real terms and not just in terms of cold war ideologies. If that emerges as a result of the Gracious Speech, we may perhaps have some hope of getting all the other things which hon. Members on both sides of the House have been stressing during the debate.
Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Whitelaw.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.