§ 2.28 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Tuesday, 31st October, by Lord Cooper of Stockton Heath—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, this is the last day of our prolonged debate on the Address in reply to the gracious Speech, and it has been agreed that we should concentrate on home affairs, presumably outside those topics we have discussed on previous days. It will have been observed that we on this side have not sought to return to the proposal in the gracious Speech for reform of this House since my noble friend Lord Carrington spoke about it and the noble Earl the Leader of the House replied on Tuesday of last week. Some people outside this House support the theory that the reform of the House of Lords was announced by the Government last week as a vote-winner to convince the many people who are not otherwise wholly convinced that the Prime Minister's policy will lead to a good life for all. I can only say that it was not absolutely obvious from the by-elections last Thursday that as a vote-winner it had been an immediate and pre-eminent success.
What I prefer to believe is that the Government are genuinely anxious to improve the institution of Parliament of which this House is an integral part. On that assumption, my noble friends have not dwelt further upon the subject in debate; nor do I intend to say any more about it to-day, for a clear and simple reason. Consultations are, I understand, about to start, and the noble Earl the Leader of the House has given his word that they will be genuine consultations. He said on the first day of this debate on the Address that the Government did 384 not intend to come forward with a set of detailed proposals and try to thrust them down anybody's throat, but would vastly prefer to see reform come by agreement. So, my Lords, would we, and my noble friend Lord Carrington has authorised me to repeat that we on this side of the House are ready to enter into consultations on the assumption of a genuine desire on all sides to reach agreement. It is because the chances of agreement are seldom furthered if definite positions are publicly taken up in advance by any of the parties to consultations, that we have deliberately refrained from reverting to this part of the gracious Speech in our debates.
My Lords, to-day we are to discuss home affairs generally, not confining ourselves of course to Home Office affairs. But with such a vast range of possible topics one must be selective, and with the debate being opened and wound up by war-horses from the Home Office stable it will perhaps be understood if I concentrate largely on those. I know that I speak for the whole House in saying that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham has, in our opinion, amply earned his promotion to be Minister of State. It is excellent to see him so well recovered from the illness which kept him out of action for a time last winter, and I would submit that it is fortunate, not only for the Government but for the House, that Home Office affairs this Session will again be in his capable and helpful hands.
To keep my speech reasonably short I shall deliberately pass over proposals in the gracious Speech which are embodied in Bills that have already been published. Before long, whether they have been introduced here or in another place, we shall be debating them on Second Reading. Meanwhile, their details are already available for us to study if we wish. The Bill on Race Relations, however, has not yet appeared, and I must make some preliminary reference to that. To solve the problems created by large-scale Commonwealth immigration unrestricted for many years up to 1962 is, in my view, by far the hardest social task which lies ahead for this country of ours. I only wish that those who favoured continued unrestricted immigration had given more thought to these social problems when they were maintaining their opposition to any control.
385 There must be no colour bar in this country, and opportunities for advancement must be open to all who are lawfully resident here, and to their children and grandchildren. Those are essential principles. But, speaking for myself, I am more than doubtful whether the virtue of tolerance, on which we all surely must rely in the long run, is likely to be strengthened by extending the criminal law in this field. Where there are difficulties or tensions I would wish to see the finest possible procedures for conciliation brought to bear; but the idea that it is possible to cure selfish action on the part of individuals by treating it as a crime seems to me a superficial assumption, and a perilous one.
There will be opportunities for your Lordships to discuss immigration policy as such when the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill reaches us, no doubt in a few weeks time. Meanwhile, I have noticed no mention in the gracious Speech of any legislation this Session based on the Report of the Wilson Committee on Immigration Appeals. May we be told whether the Government have yet reached any decision on that report? But, much more important, are the Government yet agreed that everybody admitted from overseas to take up work in this country should be admitted in the first instance on a limited-term permit which can in appropriate circumstances be extended? This has been for many years the rule for French people or Italians or Americans or any other foreigners coming to work here, and it has proved itself a very sound, sensible and smooth-working system. Unlike 19th century America, for example, ours is already a heavily populated country. It still has serious housing problems, and for people from other countries to come here to earn their living is not an unquestioned right: it is a privilege; and we have the right and duty to judge in the national interest who can be granted admittance, and in what numbers, and for what length of time.
My Lords, I am glad to see that a Bill on gaming is included in the gracious Speech. When I was Home Secretary it was already clear to me that this was going to be necessary so far as gaming for big money was concerned. But the 1960 Act had been in force then for so short a time, and its detailed effect awaited, in 386 those days, various decisions in the courts, so that it was too early to see just what form amending legislation ought to take if it was to be effective. We hope that the Government's proposals will be such that we can support them.
There is a somewhat mysterious reference in the gracious Speech to reforming the law in the field of family law. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack may be able to explain further what is intended here, for I believe that this is not a reference to divorce law, but to other matters.
In these days of permissive morality and journalistic sneers at those who believe that life should be regulated by objective moral principles, one cannot possibly discuss home affairs without thinking of crime and its terrible frequency in this country, in comparison with days gone by. But I see that the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, is hoping to initiate a debate next month on the problems created by organised crime in the community, so I will not dwell, as I should otherwise have done, on that subject today, in the hope that a few weeks hence we may get the opportunity of a full day's debate on crime and how we can strengthen the hands of the police to fight it. For let us never forget that the greatest deterrent to the criminal is not the fearsomeness of the penalties if he is caught, but the likelihood that he will be caught; and if any noble Lord doubts that, I would invite him to look back to his schooldays and recall his attitude to the school rules. It is only by strengthening the hands of the police that we can work to turn that likelihood of being caught into a certainty.
I would, however, ask the Government to tell us something up to date on the state of the prisons, about which there is much anxiety at the present time. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will resent it if I invite him to say something on this subject which is, I know, very near to his heart. When I was Home Secretary the number of prisoners sleeping three to a cell was reduced from around 8,000 to around 5,000. Now, I know, the number is again much higher. I do not blame that on the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, nor on the Government, but I would ask the noble Lord whether he is satisfied with the state of the prisons to-day; for I am not.
387 The Report of the noble Earl, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, on prison security was, I thought, an admirable document; but the insistence on strict security arrangements, combined with to-day's overcrowding in prisons, cannot make the régime in prisons as positive or as constructive towards each individual as I, at any rate, should like to see it. It does not seem to me enough to wait quietly until such time as the Criminal Justice Act reduces the numbers in prison. How are the Government tackling the immediate need? Is the Prison Service attracting enough recruits and of the right quality? Is the Home Secretary implementing all that the Mountbatten Report said about the structure, pay and conditions of the Service?
Has the target that I set, of ensuring that every able-bodied prisoner would do at least a 30-hour week's work in prison, been yet attained? It shocked me when, shortly after I became Home Secretary, I was visiting Wandsworth Prison and found that most of the prisoners there were working no more than an 18-hour week, because there was neither the workshop space nor the staff to make a longer week possible; and I laid down that 30 hours a week must be taken as an immediate target in all prisons and that that, of course, would be only a stage on the way. I accepted, four years ago, a very valuable Report from the Advisory Committee on the Employment of Prisoners. Has that Report been fully implemented yet? I am sure that satisfactory availability of work of the right hardness and the right length is an absolute essential in an effective Prison Service.
I will not refer at length to the problems in women's prisons, except to ask whether the women can soon be got out of Holloway, which in my view is a thoroughly unsuitable prison, rendered tolerable only by wise governors and excellent staff. Nor will I raise the subject of borstals and detention centres. I am glad to see, in this morning's paper, that the Government are setting up a special inquiry into detention centres, and that one of the members of this Committee will be the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, who, if I may respectfully say so, has already in a short time made 388 most valuable contributions to your Lordships' debates.
What about the Probation and Aftercare Service? By common consent, your Lordships did an outstanding job last Session in revising and improving the Criminal Justice Bill. If I were asked to give an example of how this House can contribute to the legislative work of Parliament, my mind would straight away go to that Bill, to which we made over 300 Amendments, most of which were accepted by another place. While we were debating that Bill, in our hearts we all knew that much of its success would turn on the adequacy in numbers of the Probation and After-care Service to bear the ever-growing load which Parliament and the courts are casting on to it. I am not in the least pessimistic about the quality of the Probation and After-care Service, but there is a grave danger of its being called upon to carry much more work than its numbers will allow. May I say that if we had our priorities right, I believe that this and certain similar services would have their importance to the nation recognised by much higher pay. When there are forms of trained work for which people would hardly be suitable applicants unless they are imbued with a strong sense of service to their fellow men and women, we as a nation are too inclined to accept their sense of service as a substitute for giving them salary levels worthy of what they do.
I must make some reference to other matters of a wider character. The gracious Speech promises, in I should have thought noticeably vague terms, that the Government will continue to develop policies to secure better housing conditions for the people. I should be inclined to regard the comprehensive failure of the Government's housing campaign up to now as deserving a day's debate to itself, for I believe that so much money can be wasted on other social services if the house to which members of the family come home every night is a disgrace.
Local government is under study by a Royal Commission sitting under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, whose task I must say I do not envy. It will need genius to preserve genuine local government with a real tie between the elected councillors 389 and those whom they represent, which is the essence of democracy, and combine with that a local government system which can play its proper part in the drive to secure balanced regional development throughout the country.
We are promised in the gracious Speech a Bill to modernise the town and country planning system. Presumably that will be on the lines of the White Paper, Cmnd. 3333. We on this side shall approach the Government's legislative plans with every desire to see planning decisions speeded up, provided that strict impartiality of decision is safeguarded by the machinery. Another item in the gracious Speech is a Bill to enable improvements to be made in the country's public health and welfare services. Perhaps in the course of the debate the Government could enlarge on this and tell Parliament exactly what those words mean.
The debate on the Address is the time to comment not only on what is in the Government's programme for the Session but also on what is not in it—and to ask, sometimes peremptorily, why not. My predecessor at the Home Office set up a Committee on Sunday Observance whose Report was published just on three years ago. That covered Sunday entertainment and Sunday trading. I will not ask about Sunday trading, because I see that my noble friend Lord Derwent has a question down on that subject a week or two hence, and I will leave it in his capable hands. Last Session, however, a Sunday Entertainments Bill passed this House and was sent to another place, where nothing more was heard of it. It was not, in my opinion, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, a very good Bill. But if private Members try and fail to reform admittedly unsatisfactory and obsolete laws, surely that puts the onus on the Government then to do something and not to turn a blind eye to it.
Again, when I was Home Secretary, I set up a Committee under Sir Sydney Littlewood, a man distinguished in public service, whose recent death we all lament, to examine the working of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. That Committee's Report, which was published in April, 1965, was unanimous, and I calculate that about 50 out of its 80 recommendations 390 called for legislation. After two and a half years, have not the Government been able to make up their minds yet? If they regard this subject of cruelty to animals as one of no great importance or urgency, I must say that shows how far out of touch they are with the British public, to whom the welfare of animals matters a great deal.
Finally, I want to refer to the arrangements for jury service. At my request the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, presided over an important Committee on this subject, which sat for two years, and its Report, like the other to which I have just referred, was published in April, 1965. It recommended extensive changes in the existing arrangements for the selection of jurors, which largely date from an Act of 1825–142 years ago—and which, incidentally, result in all juries being overwhelmingly male. Its recommendations, as one would expect from a body presided over by the noble and learned Lord, were straightforward, sensible and unanimous. Why is implementation so long delayed? Concerned so closely with the securing of justice, are those recommendations not at least as important as some of the measures that have been given priority in the gracious Speech?
Throughout the coming Session the Government can count on it that my noble friends will give them support in all legislation genuinely aiming at public welfare and likely to make this country more happy, more law abiding and more just. We will co-operate to the full in seeking to further, and in the cause of furtherance to improve, Bills that do not undermine that individual responsibility which we, not being Socialists, so strongly believe in. We will stand up for public feeling when the Government seem to be ignoring it. When it seems right, we will go a step ahead of public opinion, which is easier for this House to do than an elected Assembly which cannot avoid looking over its shoulder at constituents. I say that having been a Member of both Houses.
Frankly, we are not much impressed by the Government's programme for the Session as set out in the gracious Speech. It is not imaginative; it does not inspire enthusiasm; it does not seem to match the hour. Perhaps, after all, that is what the electors were thinking when they went 391 to the polls last week. The whole justification of democratic government is to further the happiness of the governed. This Labour Government has been in power now for three years, and the governed are not happy. That is not just a subjective view of mine. Every member of the Cabinet, looking at how the governed are voting, must realise that it is true. I know many personal friends of mine, old and young, who at various times have joined the Labour Party because they sincerly believed it was the Party which would lead to a happier life for all in Britain. Others, like myself, equally sincerely believed that the social aims on which they had set their hearts could not be obtained through a Labour Party allied with Socialism. And as the happiness of the people is the ultimate test for all who aspire to carry responsibility, it looks as if we were right and they were wrong.
§ 2.53 p.m.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD GARDINFR)
My Lords, whether one agrees or disagrees with the proposals for legislation contained in the gracious Speech, it is a programme of considerable substance which will obviously occupy at least the whole of this Session. Of the programme as a whole, home affairs, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has said, covers a vast field, and, of course, a much bigger field than overseas affairs. At home, the primary measures are naturally economic. But we have already spent a day discussing those. Of the remainder, perhaps the principal legislation in home affairs for the Session, and more particularly perhaps in length, is in the field of transport. But there again, the House has already spent a day discussing transport.
Coming to matters which are not exclusively Home Office, but rather more Home Office matters, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, speaking with the great authority of one who has held the office of Home Secretary, has asked me a number of questions—on some of which I am certainly not an authority in any way—and I will do my best to reply to them. He referred, first of all, to immigration and race relations. As to the past, I doubt whether any useful purpose will be served by going through past 392 history. I do not think that either Party is free from blame in this matter. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, as the Government do, that the primary question is that of conciliation and integration. I do not believe that can be achieved by a process of law, and particularly not, I think, by the criminal law. Primarily what we must do is to conciliate and integrate, although, judging from the experience of other countries, and of our own Act so far as it has gone, the conciliators may be in a difficult position unless they have some recourse to law behind them. But I do not disagree with what the noble Lord said about the unsuitability of the criminal law in this field.
Then the noble Lord asked me about the Wilson Committee. This is a Committee which has reported relatively recently. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is considering the Report and hopes to be able to announce the decision of the Government shortly. Whether it will be possible to incorporate the necessary legislation in other legislation in this Session I am unable to say. I do not say that it will not be possible, but I am afraid I am not in a position to say that it will. The noble Lord also asked me whether we should not, in effect, admit all immigrants on conditions. I know that legislation of that kind is very much in the mind of my right honourable friend, and no doubt his conclusions about that will be announced at the same time as his conclusions on the Report of the Wilson Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, then asked about gaming and crime generally. Gaming is a very technical subject. Your Lordships will be able to see and consider what I think will prove to be a rather detailed Bill on this subject. But as gaming and prisons are so particularly Home Office matters, I think the noble Lord would receive more accurate answers if he allowed me to leave this to my noble friend Lord Stonham to deal with. I cannot resist saying how much I welcome the noble Lord's expression of opinion that the greatest deterrent to crime is not severity of punishment, but certainty of conviction. I have been saying that for twenty years. That opinion is gradually making headway. The Lord Chief Justice is the first Chief Justice in England to say 393 that certainty of conviction is at least as important a deterrent as severity of punishment.
The extent of crime in this country to-day is, I am sure, primarily our fault for never having sought to increase the police force to deal with the increase in crime. That is the view which I gather the noble Lord takes, and I am sure it is right. However, I should like to leave it to my noble friend Lord Stonham to say precisely what steps my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has taken to increase the police force, and the success he has so far achieved.
The noble Lord then mentioned the difficult question of local government and the difficult task the Royal Commission has, and I entirely agree with what he said. On town and country planning, the Bill will follow the lines of the White Paper. Here I am sure the Government will welcome the assistance of all Members in all parts of the House in trying to achieve the difficult balance between, on the one hand, having a procedure which is so administratively complicated that it results in an enormous amount of time being taken before you can get a decision, and, on the other hand, at the same time preserving every proper right which the affected individual citizens ought to have.
Then the noble Lord drew attention to a passage in the gracious Speech which referred to another Bill to enable improvements to be made in the country's public health and welfare service. The noble Lord asked what that meant. It would be denigrating the Bill to describe it as a tidying-up Bill, but it is a measure intended to put right a number of anomalies found to exist in the law in this field to date. Its main purpose is to enable further improvements to be made in the health and welfare service and in the public health services, and it will amend and supplement existing legislation in order to remedy deficiencies which have become apparent in practice, and promote the progressive development of these services. I believe that much of the Bill will be taken up with community care services. Local welfare authorities will, for example, be given general powers to promote the welfare of the elderly. They have, of course, certain powers now—"meals on wheels," home helps, centres for old people—but no general powers to look after old people as a whole.
394 Other provisions relating to local authority nursing and midwifery staff should lead to improved co-operation with hospitals and general practitioners in carrying out maternity and allied services. Public health requirements in respect of infectious diseases are to be rationalised and brought up to date. In the family practitioner field, the Bill will establish what is now called the supplementary ophthalmic service on a permanent basis. The Bill also provides statutory authority for the provision of motor cars for the severely disabled as an alternative to powered invalid carriages, and this will enable more to be done for the disabled driver as resources allow.
The noble Lord then turned to things which he described as omissions from the gracious Speech, and he referred first to Sunday observance. I personally would venture not wholly to agree with the terms in which he described the Bill of my noble friend Lord Willis. This is not a subject on which I have any particularly strong views, but I listened to the debates on that Bill. A great many Amendments were put down. I remember one by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. All those Amendments were discussed on a completely non-Party basis and, if I remember rightly, in the result the Bill let us exactly as it arrived. After all, these Amendments had been discussed completely on their merit. But it is the Government's view that this is not really a matter for Government. Sunday observance, after all, is one of those social questions on which there are strong views, and also regional views, and certainly religious views; and the Government accordingly take the view that this is a matter for a Private Member's Bill.
Then the noble Lord referred to the Littlewood Committee. I am not a great expert on animal experiments. If I remember rightly, the Committee reported on April 29, 1965. I agree that this seems a very long time ago. I think the history of the matter is that after about six weeks the Home Secretary announced that he was going to send the Report to the various bodies interested and ask for their comments, and he did that in August. That still seems a very long time ago. I think he approached about forty different bodies which were obviously interested. I believe that even now he has heard from only 34, and that 395 one he has not heard from is the British Medical Association, which I think rather important. If this sounds very dilatory on the part of the bodies concerned, the truth is—and I think that all of us concerned in this field have found this—that everybody is so extremely busy.
I know that in the field of law a journalist came to see me the other day because he wanted to write an article saying that everyone was disappointed because so little law reform was being done. As I told him, in point of fact the lawyers do not know whether they are standing on their heads or their feet because there is so much law reform being done. The Law Society last year spent between £10,000 and £20,000 of solicitors' money simply on law reform—on staffing committees, on printing reports, on getting ready the evidence for the Winn Committee on personal injury cases, and for the Payne Committee on the law of execution, and for the Royal Commission on Assizes and quarter sessions, and various pieces of information which I asked for, and working papers for the Law Commission. This, I think, obtains generally in many fields; and I believe we all find that if we are going to get bodies of this size to think about a Report of this kind and to let us know their detailed views about it, it takes a considerable time to get the answers.
The noble Lord knows that this was a Report of about 500 paragraphs with 83 recommendations. The Committee did not suggest they were matters of urgency. They said the Government could get on with increasing the inspectorate and with forming the Advisory Committee, but they thought that all the other recommendations ought not to be dealt with piecemeal but ought to be dealt with together. I hope it will not be long before my right honourable friend is able to come to a conclusion. He is meanwhile getting on with appointing additional inspectors; and so far as the Advisory Committee is concerned the chairman, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, and the members, I understand, take the view that the present Committee would not form a suitable nucleus for the new advisory body, and proposals for action about the new advisory body are being formulated. I think the Committee recommended that there should be 12 members with various 396 scientific and other qualifications. But this is in train.
Then the noble Lord also asked about the Morris Committee on juries. The Government have already announced that they propose to legislate on the lines proposed by the Committee as soon as possible. I should have wished, and I am sure my right honourable friend would have wished, that I had been able to say to-day that a Bill would be introduced in this Session. All I can say is that we still live in hopes and that legislation will be introduced as soon as may be. Of course, one or two of the recommendations have already been implemented—such as that, for example, with regard to disqualification of jurors—in the Criminal Justice Bill.
The noble Lord also referred to the expression "family law" in the gracious Speech; and I need no encouragement to say anything about law reform. We shall, I hope, be proceeding at a good pace again with consolidation of the Statute Book. Last Session we had in all, I think, 15 Consolidation Bills, and I hope shortly to be able to introduce others, having already introduced two Consolidation Bills this Session, one of which, on capital allowances, is partial consolidation of Finance Acts. One Bill I hope to introduce is a Bill for consolidation of all the Rent Acts. I remember that when I mentioned this a long time ago, when it was in the first programme of the Law Commission, it was suggested by one or two noble Lords that it would take five to ten years, and I thought it looked something like that myself. I am most agreeably surprised to find that the Law Commission have already been able to produce a Bill consolidating all the Rent Acts.
I hope, too, that we shall have a Statute Law Revision Bill. Your Lordships will remember that, on a report of the Law Commission, in the course of dealing with the Criminal Justice Bill we repealed a very large number of obsolete criminal Statutes. But this would be a Bill starting at about the year 1235 and proceeding steadily through the Statute Book, to weed out all the obsolescent Statutes. The Law Commission reached an impediment because they had just come up to the Reformation, and there are a good many Acts of about that time on which they will no doubt need help 397 from the right reverend Prelates. The relevant passage in the gracious Speech says:My Government will carry forward their comprehensive programe of reforming the law particularly in the fields of family law, and the position of Justices of the Peace. They will also submit for consideration proposals on the law of property, of evidence and of theft".It may be asked: What is the difference between the things which you say you are going to do and these proposals which you say you are going to submit for consideration? This is a new formula, I think, in the gracious Speech and it is intended to continue it in other years, so it is desirable that I should explain it, because I do not think it has been explained before. It is intended to distinguish between, first, those Bills which will in any case be introduced and, secondly, those Bills which will be introduced if the Opposition agree that they are, suitable for the Second Reading Committee; that is to say, Bills which of their nature are not Party political and are what is sometimes called "lawyers' law reform". In another place, if a Bill can go to a Second Reading Committee that saves a good deal of time on the Floor of the House, and there are occasions when a Bill can be taken if it goes to a Second Reading Committee but otherwise cannot be taken, owing to lack of time. The Opposition, of course, will be asked whether they agree that those Bills proposed for a Second Reading Committee are of that nature.
May I deal first with such Bills? They include the law of theft. Our law of theft has been in a mess for a long time, and I defy anyone who has not the wisdom of Solomon to distinguish between obtaining goods by false pretences and larceny by a trick; and there are a number of things of this kind. The Criminal Law Revision Committee have done an excellent job and a beautiful piece of drafting. I feel entitled to say this because it is nothing to do with me at all but with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and his Criminal Law Revision Committee.
Then there is the law of evidence; this is the implementation of Reports of the Law Reform Committee overhauling our civil law of evidence. Then the gracious Speech refers to "proposals on the law of property". This Bill would be a 398 package Bill consisting of the implementation of the Report of a Committee on positive covenants of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, was Chairman; a report of the Law Commission on negative covenants; probably the report of the Law Reform Committee on easements, and a report of the Law Commission on root of title. I said "probably easements" because all the consultations are not yet complete in regard to that. It is right to get everybody with technical knowledge agreed about reforms of this kind. That may or may not have to wait until next Session, but even so the other measures will be a substantial reform of our property law though not of a kind to cause any excitement anywhere.
I come back to those Bills to be introduced in any event. Justices of the Peace: that is a Bill to abolish ex-officio justices of the peace, gradually to reduce the retiring age from 75 to 70, to introduce financial loss allowances so as to make matters easier for less well-to-do justices of the peace, and to make some minor amendments as to the functions of magistrates' clerks.
That leaves family law. This does not mean divorce. The view the Government have taken is that divorce has never been thought to be properly a subject for Government legislation. It is a subject on which views—religious views included—differ, and is therefore suitable only for a Private Member's Bill. The Government have been under a good deal of pressure to do something themselves, and this is because the situation is, in a way, unusual. Your Lordships will remember the interesting debate we Lad on the Report of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Committee, called, Putting Asunder. That was a Committee of which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter was Chairman. They suggested that we should sweep away all existing grounds of divorce and substitute as the sole ground the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. I think this has been since accepted by a large majority in the Church Assembly; it is accepted by the Marriage Law Reform Union; and it is accepted by the Methodist Conference. I do not think that in the history of divorce law reform there has ever been a time when there has been so great a content of agreement.
399 Your Lordships may remember that the Law Commission had said that in the form in which the Committee proposed implementing that law they thought, for reasons which they gave, that it was impracticable; and that debate, I remember, concluded with the most reverend Primate and I, and other noble Lords, expressing the hope that some via media might be found. I understand that consultations have taken place and, with some amendments proposed by the Archbishop's Committee, the Law Commission are now satisfied that this would be practicable.
It looks, therefore, as though there is a good prospect of a Private Member's Bill on this subject in this Session of Parliament. Of course, it is just the sort of subject, the present law being highly technical and complicated, on which Private Members' legislation may end up in a mess unless the Bill is first properly drafted. In the light of that, if a Private Member wishes to introduce such a Bill the Government are prepared to provide the services of a Parliamentary draftsman. Further than that they have not said that they will go.
What family law means is, first, the implementation of the Committee of which Lord Justice Russell was Chairman, on the property rights of illegitimate children; and, secondly, such (if any) of the recommendations of the Latey Committee as the Government may decide to put before Parliament. As your Lordships may know, 44 out of the 50 recommendations of the Latey Committee were unanimous. There are some recommendations which I imagine everybody would like to see implemented, and the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is introducing a debate in your Lordships' House on the 22nd of this month, calling attention to the Latey Report, and there is to be a similar debate at an early date in the other House. The Government propose, therefore, to listen to these two debates in order to see what the general opinion of both Houses is before finally deciding which of the recommendations of the Committee they will seek to implement.
Finally, I suppose your Lordships would wish me to say something about House of Lords reform. I was a little surprised, if I may say so, that the noble Lord seemed to wonder whether this has been 400 put forward as a vote winner. I have no doubt at all that over the last three years many perfectly valid criticisms have been made of things which this Government have done—I have some myself, as a matter of fact—but I should have thought that if there was one thing of which this Government cannot be accused it is doing things in order to get votes. If any Government had sat down and thought: "What are the most unpopular things we can possibly do? What is likely to lose us most votes?", I should have thought that the programme would have pretty well accorded with what the Government have actually done.
Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that the Parliament Act 1911 was introduced and passed after a discussion between some of the political Parties, but the then Liberal Government did not think fit to include any Labour Members in those discussions. That is a course which we are not proposing to pursue with regard to the Liberals! The Preamble, if I may remind your Lordships, said:Whereas it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation;And whereas provision will require hereafter to be made by Parliament in a measure effecting such substitution for limiting and defining the powers of the new Second Chamber, but it is expedient to make such provision as in this Act appears for restricting the existing powers of the House of Lords.In spite of that declaration of intention, no further step was taken, either before or, naturally, during the First World War; nor did successive Conservative Governments take any step to carry out any such intention during the inter-war years. The Act of 1949, making a minor reduction in the powers of the House, was paned after consultations that resulted in a considerable measure of agreement on, certainly composition, and partly powers. In the debates in this Howe on the Life Peerages Act 1958, the then Leader of the Opposition, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said on November 5, 1957:So far as the proposals of the Government are concerned with regard to the appointment of Life Peers and the admission into that category of women into the House, that will certainly not be opposed from this side of the House. However, we must make 401 it clear that we think that this particular démarche of the question of House of Lords reform by the Government is really quite small—it is like tinkering with a much bigger problem that still remains to be resolved—and if we come down to discussions of the wider question later on, then, I must reiterate, as I indicated last week, that we shall be opposed at all times to a maintenance of the hereditary principle."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5/11/57, col. 20.]He repeated that view in the debates on the Peerage Act 1963.
In 1966 the Manifesto on which this Government was elected said:Legislation will be introduced to safeguard measures approved by the House of Commons from frustration by delay or defeat in the House of Lords.As your Lordships will remember, on April 12 last my noble friend, Lord Mitchison, opened a debate in this House on a Motion to call attention to the need for reform of this House and its powers. In the course of his speech he said:this Chamber, fundamentally unrepresentative and with its built-in Tory majority, ought not to be allowed to wait for a convenient occasion on which to provoke a clash with the Commons. If the occasion ever comes, the convenience will be that of the Tory Party under a Labour Government. … The longer the occasion is delayed, the longer your Lordships will be hampered by obsolete and indefensible powers, the continued existence of which seems to hamper your Lordships' work and to divert the Chamber from its proper function of discussion, consultation and revision to the entrancing game of teasing the Commons and the Government of the day."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12/4/67, col. 1289.]The noble Lord, Lord Harlech, referred to the anomalous position with regard to Statutory Orders—that is to say, subordinate legislation—and he then referred to—and I quote:the Agreed Statement which was issued at the end of the All-Party conference held on House of Lords reform in the early part of 1948. This seems to me to be an important document because it shows that at that time the three Parties reached agreement on composition, broadly speaking, although, as is well known, they failed to reach agreement about powers. It strikes me that what the Party Leaders then concluded would, with certain minor modificasions, find pretty general acceptance in your Lordships' House to-day."—[col. 1298.]He then reminded us of the first proposition agreed to by that Conference, namely:The Second Chamber should be complementary to and not a rival to the Lower House, and, with this end in view, the reform of the House of Lords should be based on a modification of its existing constitution as 402 opposed to the establishment of a Second Chamber of a completely new type based on some system of election.And the noble Lord said:I believe that to be right.He then referred to the second proposition, and I quote it, as he did:The revised constitution of the House of Lords should be such as to secure as far as practicable that a permanent majority is not assured for any one political Party.And the noble Lord said:I think this remains a desirable objective, and the chief criticism which could be levelled against your Lordships' House at the present time is that there is a built-in majority for the Conservative Party. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, that in this present day and age it is not really a rational basis on which to run a Second Chamber in a democracy." [col. 1299.]He then referred to the third proposition, namely:The present right to attend and vote based solely on heredity should not by itself constitute a qualification for admission to a reformed Second Chamber.And later he said:… we have not really grappled with the problem of the hereditary Peers, and perhaps I could say something about that. If we are to achieve a fair balance between the Parties in this House, and if there is to be no permanent majority for any one Party, then clearly this particular nettle will have to be grasped, and I suppose there are a number of ways in which it could be done." [col 1299.]After referring to, but discarding, the suggestion that it could be done by the hereditary Peerage electing some of their number to sit and vote in the House, he said:It seems to me that a more promising method, which I have heard suggested, might be to limit the numbers by reference to the record of attendance of your Lordships in the previous Session. You could confine the right to vote, although perhaps not the right to speak, to those Peers who had attended a specified number of Sitting of the House in the previous Session, and obviously you could set this limit at a level which would exclude all but, say, 50 or 75 members of the hereditary Peerage." [Col. 1300.]Then, after discussing certain other questions, he turned to the question of powers, and said:As was recognised at that time—and I am convinced that the arguments apply with equal force to-day—it would not be right to divorce the question of powers from that of composition. If the Government were now to say that they wish to alter the constitutional powers of the House of Lords, then we on these Benches would demand that we should also 403 have a discussion about the composition of this House." [col. 1301.]Later he said that he conceded that Lord Mitchison had a point with regard to what he called Statutory Orders, and he concluded by saying:We, for our part, believe that all previous experience has shown that the question of powers and the question of composition are inextricably bound together, and we would wish to discuss them together." [col. 1303.]The noble Lord, Lord Byers, in the course of an interesting speech, said:In the Liberal Party there is a strong feeling that further changes in the powers and composition of the Lords are needed." [col. 1303.]And he said:I do not think that in future membership can possibly be based on the hereditary principle." [col. 1306.]The noble Lord, Lord Rowley, said:I think it is very difficult to argue the question of powers divorced from the question of composition." [col. 1337.]The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said:The first and most obvious fact about the subject that we are considering is that the composition and powers of this House are indissolubly connected. You cannot separate, if you are to make any useful contribution to our discussion, the question of composition and the question of powers." [col. 1370.]In reply my noble friend, Lord Longford, dealt with all these points and expressed his own views upon them. I will not now reiterate them, on the ground of time. The Government are pledged to introduce legislation on the powers of the House of Lords; but they agree that if a reformed House is to play its full part in a reformed Parliament, any such legislation should also provide for a reform of the composition of the House. On the one hand I have heard it said: "If we get the powers right, what does the composition matter?" On the other hand I have also heard it said: "If we get the composition right, what do the powers matter?" I agree with all those, in all parts of the House, who have said that both ought really to be dealt with together.
There is a third factor: functions. What do you want a reformed House of Lords to do? A reformed House ought, I think, to be able to play a much more useful part in relation to its two basic functions, legislation and general scrutiny of the work of Government. We hope 404 to deal with these matters after full and free discussion with the Leaders of the Opposition and of the Liberal Party. We seek to achieve two objects; namely, that where there is a conflict between the two Houses, whether in relation to legislation or in relation to subsidiary legislation, the will of the elected Chamber should prevail within a reasonable time, and secondly, the elimination of the hereditary principle and the consequent built-in permanent majority of one political Party. We do not, however, intend to put forward a detailed series of provisions as to how these objects are to be achieved. There are many possible alternatives and many possible combinations and permutations. It is because we intend to have wide and genuine discussions, in the hope that we may be able to reach agreement, that I do not propose to discuss any matters of detail to-day.
I have not referred to the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Alport. It would be my hope that he would not proceed with his Bill while these discussions are taking place. I think it has been customary on this the last day of the debate on the gracious Speech for a Government Minister to speak early and for the Lord Chancellor to wind up. The reason why, I hope with your Lordships' approval, that order is being varied to-day is because the first joint all-Party meeting to start these discussions takes place later this afternoon. I would hope, accordingly, that your Lordships will excuse me if I am unable to remain until the end of the debate to-day, and will continue to excuse me if there are other occasions on which, for the same reason, I cannot be in the House. Let us all hope that these discussions may result in an agreement which the whole House can accept.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I had originally put my name down to speak on foreign affairs, but I should find that difficult to do, because I find it difficult to speak on something that we do not have. So far as I can see, under the present Government we do not appear to have had a foreign policy. Finding it difficult to speak on something that we do not have, I have switched to home affairs.
Although one might, I suppose, say that the matter is sub judice, I should 405 like for a moment to follow the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in his closing remarks on House of Lords reform. I personally think—as I am sure do quite a few of your Lordships—that if the idea is to reform the composition of the House and at the same time reduce its powers, the whole procedure appears rather pointless. If this House is to be filled with just "lobby fodder" of the Government in power at the moment—in this case the Socialist Government—it will serve but little purpose. I personally would think that reform of the composition was necessary if you were going to increase the powers. But, as I have already said, if you are going to reduce the already quite limited powers, reform of the composition seems pointless.
I have always been interested in this question of composition, and perhaps I may say a few words about a plan I have often thought of, but which would operate only if the powers were to be increased, which I understand is very unlikely. If the powers were to be increased, I should have thought that you ought to divide the House into three thirds. One third could comprise Peers chosen by the Government of the day for the life of that Government. A second third could be chosen by, elected by, such organisations in the country as the trade unions, the Confederation of British Industry, the medical profession, all denominations of the Church—every such organisation representing the main activities of this country. This other third could be of hereditary Peers chosen by a committee of all Parties of the House. With a reform like that, with increased powers, I am sure that the House of Lords would be a tremendous stabilising influence in the country. But I do not suppose that another place will ever agree to this House having any increased powers.
May I go back for a moment to an old hobby horse of mine. To-day's debate concerns home affairs. Perhaps this point was mentioned yesterlay, but unfortunately I was unable to be here. What has happened with regard to the Report of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations? Surely it is a long time in coming along. I have always regarded industrial relations between management and unions as the most important thing in this country, because the whole 406 strength of our economy depends upon good relations, and the strength of our foreign policy depends upon the strength of our economy. I hope that this Report comes to hand soon, because the state of the economy at the present time seems to be getting worse and worse.
The other day I was brushing up on Karl Marx. I always keep the works of Karl Marx and Gibbons' Decline and Fall in my rooms or by my bed. You may think that they are strange bedfellows, but in some ways they are complementary regarding the bread and circuses of the Roman Empire, although they are at least 1.500 years apart. We in this country now have all the points that Karl Marx mentioned regarding benefits. We have free education, social security and all such things, but we have them in a far more liberal form than Karl Marx ever imagined possible.
The point I wish to make is that we have these benefits only because we are still largely a capitalist society. It is this point which worries me, because as the Government appear to be going at the moment we are overloading the private sector of industry which produces all the wealth. We are overloading it with taxation. If we do not free the economy we shall find that in the private sector the economy will be so submerged by the vast level of taxation that we may lose a great deal of our social benefits. The gracious Speech speaks of the Government workingwith management and unions to promote an effective policy for productivity, prices and incomes.By far the best thing the Government can do to increase productivity is to give incentives and free the economy. I cannot see them doing this, but I feel that if they could give more incentives there would be very little trouble in regard to productivity. As your Lordships know, the German Government give great taxation incentives in the field of exports, and I feel that there are all sorts of other incentives which we could give. I do not believe that we shall get increased productivity unless we give more incentives.
I have never had any real quarrel with union leaders. The only point I would make is that for years they have not told the British worker the facts of life—and 407 now the chickens have come home to roost. It would be a very good thing if the trade union leaders could control their own people, but for so long the British workman has had false theories pumped into him that one cannot blame the workman for his attitude, and it will take a long time to eradicate it. As I have said on other occasions, years ago in this House I called for the setting up of a Royal Commission on Trade Unions—before this was ever asked for by my Party. I also some years ago drew the attention of this House to a rather unsavoury gentleman called Mr. Jack Dash, who is causing a great deal of trouble at the moment.
When the Report on the trade unions is published, I hope that the Government, whatever its complexion, will take up and carefully examine the question of victimisation. It is monstrous that men can be terrorised and prevented from going to work. I remember that in the time of the Government of which Sir Anthony Eden (now the noble Earl, Lord Avon) was Prime Minister, there was a strike of footplate men, some of whom decided to disobey their leaders and drove trains. They were so victimised that they had to emigrate, and I think I am right in saying that two of them committed suicide. It is quite appalling that this should happen in a democracy. It would be laughable, if it were not so serious, that one finds the Communists calling for unofficial strikes against the wage freeze, when one knows that the first thing a Communist State does in coming to power is to impose a perpetual wage freeze. I cannot understand how people can be so foolish as to follow these unofficial strike leaders. Perhaps I ought to keep off such controversial ground and go on to home affairs, though, in my opinion, the Royal Commission on Trade Unions is inexplicably bound up with home affairs.
I should like to mention the legislation which is envisaged to pay more compensation to tenant farmers where land is needed for development. I greatly welcome this move. It is an economic fact that more and more land will be required for development, and when a tenant farmer's whole livelihood is being taken from him it is very necessary that he should be adequately recompensed.
408 Another point which I am very glad to see set out in the gracious Speech is that relating to the safeguarding of the welfare of farm animals, especially those reared under intensive methods. It is heartening to read this in the gracious Speech, and presumably there will have to be regular veterinary inspection of these rearing units. I feel that so far as possible the British farmer must be protected from unfair competition from foreign agricultural produce produced under intensive rearing methods, if such rearing methods are cruel. It would be rather unfair on the British farmer that he should be prevented from using such methods and yet should be undersold by farmers in other countries using those methods. I quite agree that, from a moral point of view, just because one country uses cruel methods it is no excuse for Great Britain to use them in livestock rearing. But if the farmers in this country could be protected from foreign produce created under those methods it would be satisfactory. It might be possible to find out whether such produce is being produced abroad by cruel methods, and if it is proved, a ban could then be placed upon such import into this country. I do not know whether this is possible, but anything which could be done towards that end would be a healthy step.
I would also welcome the proposed Government action in regard to the antidumping laws, as I was once chairman of a Committee which was set up to examine dumping. The trouble has always been that the present anti-dumping laws take so long to put into operation that by the time one has invoked them the damage has been done. If the whole procedure could be speeded up, the existing laws would probably be adequate to deal with the situation.
I will now turn to the proposed Bill to increase the level of family allowances. I agree with that, but of course they must be spent on the children. Some people say that to-day it is anti-social to bring a large family into the world, but the point is that the children cannot be blamed for being there, and, of course, we cannot have neglected children.
How are we to ensure that increased family allowances are spent on the children? We read all the time in the papers 409 of individuals who are receiving social benefits, family allowances, but whose children are in a terrible state and are unwanted. I have known one or two cases myself.
Therefore, I wondered whether it would be possible to pay family allowances, and in some cases social benefits, to the wife. No doubt the husband might take them from her, but perhaps the family allowances could be paid in the form of clothing coupons or food coupons. But then, I suppose, a bad husband might sell them on a black market. But some effort must be made in the Bill to see that the family allowances are spent on the children, and do not go to the pub and the bookmaker.
I would also welcome the legislation which is to be introduced on gaming. Of course, there is far too much gaming in this country now. I myself enjoy gambling, and I do gamble; but it has really gone beyond all bounds. I remember reading a report which was made two or three years ago by some Americans who came over here. They surveyed all the betting shops, and it appeared that in the areas where unemployment was highest the betting shops took the most money. That is really dreadful. So I should welcome any laws to try to control gaming, because this country has gone absolutely gaming mad.
The other matter in which I have always been interested is race relations, and I see in the gracious Speech that further legislation is to be introduced on this subject. I have always said that you are on very tricky, dangerous ground here, because it is very difficult to legislate for man's personal likes and dislikes. You might as well legislate to say that all men must prefer blondes and not brunettes.
One difficulty here is that there may be two applicants for a job, one white and the other black, and it may be that the coloured applicant is not quite so suitable as the white applicant. It could happen the other way round, but I am using that as an example. If we have these laws on race relations, a prospective employer might be unjustly accused of showing racial discrimination if he chose the white person who he thought had better qualifications for the job. I hope that that aspect will be taken into account in any legislation on this matter, as otherwise there could be injustice. 410 But I entirely agree that if people have the same qualifications it is iniquitous if they are refused any job because of their colour, or are refused access to a hotel or restaurant, solely on grounds of colour.
I do not want to say anything more on the gracious Speech, but I should like to refer to the question of agricultural wages, which does not appear there. I have always felt it very unfair that the agricultural worker cannot really keep pace with the wages paid to the industrial worker, although it is true enough that he has certain perquisites. From my experience of the agricultural worker, I would say that, on the whole, he has a harder job than an industrial worker, especially an industrial worker in a factory which is automated. To bring the agricultural worker up to the wage of the industrial worker is very difficult, because although you can have a machine doing the work of a thousand men in a factory, you cannot have a machine doing the work of a thousand men on a farm. For instance, you cannot have a mechanical shepherd.
So I hope that, for social reasons, it will be possible in future to bring the wages of the agricultural workers up to the standard of industrial workers. But at the present prices of agricultural produce in this country, they cannot be brought up to that standard by the farmer. Either the Government will have to have increased prices for agricultural produce, or it may be possible to subsidise agricultural workers' wages. I agree that it is a bad system to subsidise anything, but that might be possible. I have always felt that there is social injustice there. I have nothing else to say on the gracious Speech; but I only wonder how many of us will be here for the next gracious Speech.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ LORD McLEAVY
My Lords, I beg the indulgence of the House in addressing your Lordships for the first time. In my opinion a debate on home affairs would not be complete without some reference to the special position of the aged and infirm. There is always the danger that their particular difficulties may be overshadowed by the consideration of matters which affect the greater number of the population. One of the 411 greatest shocks on retiring from the industrial field is the sudden drop in the total income. A man, in particular, has to readjust himself to a new financial situation which is often very difficult.
The further increases in pensions will go some way towards offsetting the present cost of living, but the real value of these increases largely depends upon stability of prices. I believe this is the key to preventing the cycle of wages and pensions chasing increased prices. The rate rebate scheme applied by local authorities from April 1 last year is perhaps the most progressive change ever made in our rating laws. It gives relief from a substantial part of the rates to those with low incomes. It will enable many thousands of old people to retain their homes who otherwise would have been forced to leave them.
Over the past years Parliament has done much to relieve the financial difficulties of those in need, but much more must be done on the social service side. I believe, my Lords, that one of the most difficult problems yet to be solved is that of loneliness and malnutrition, particularly among the old-aged. We learn of the increasing number of hospital beds being occupied by old persons arising from illnesses due to loneliness and malnutrition—beds which are urgently required for surgical and other cases. I believe that the number of these cases could be considerably reduced if the persons concerned were better cared for in their homes.
My Lords, local government authorities have been empowered by Parliament to provide schemes for the provision of meals and recreational facilities for the aged and infirm. As this was permissive legislation, there appears to be no power of control by Parliament and no compulsion upon local authorities to act upon it. The best we could hope for was that all the local authorities concerned would apply this legislation both in the spirit and in the letter. What Parliament had in mind was that in any scheme produced the local authorities would take full advantage of all the voluntary services available and would co-ordinate them into one big effort to provide a worth while service. There is no information available to show how many local authorities have taken advantage of 412 these provisions. It would be most helpful in assessing the size of this problem if the Government were to collect information from local authorities and issue a White Paper setting out the number of authorities which have produced a scheme, and the extent to which they have been able to cover all in need of such services. The provision of meals and recreational facilities is an essential part of our social services. The Government should look again at the Act to see whether it requires further strengthening.
The Women's Royal Voluntary Service, under the inspiring leadership of the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, have for many years been doing great social work among the aged and infirm. The provision of meals and comforts to thousands of old people in their homes is indeed a remarkable achievement. Their kindly approach and smiling faces mean so much to the sick and needy. This personal contact, which also affords the opportunity of giving help and advice on other matters, is all-important. Above all, it shows that someone does really care for their wellbeing. I have a particular regard for the W.R.V.S. because during the period of the last war I came in close contact with their many activities. It is pleasing to know that the membership of this organisation is growing, and that their meals-on-wheels service has reached over the 9 million mark—a truly splendid achievement. In our cities, towns and villages there are also local organisations which in various ways are rendering service to those in need. We are entitled to feel proud of all these bodies for their work in this field.
Looking at the whole field of social service one feels that what is urgently needed is some form of co-ordination among the Government, local authorities and the voluntary bodies to provide the best possible service. Pensions are not the sole solution to the problems of old age. The old people want to keep in contact with society around them. They wish still to keep in touch with events and friends; and, above all, they wish to feel that they are wanted. I trust the House will forgive me for raising matters which seem important to me and upon which I feel very strongly indeed. My Lords, I believe that the real greatness of a nation is in its love and compassion for those in the greatest need.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ LORD MOYNIHAN
My Lords, it has fallen on my unworthy shoulders to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McLeavy, on his excellent maiden speech. It seems in fact presumptive on my part, such a junior Member of your Lordships' House, to offer congratulations to someone of such wide experience in another place. However, it is perhaps worth pointing out that it is one of the strengths of the present system, as opposed to past systems in your Lordships' House, that we can have the benefit of the judgment and experience of such noble Lords as Lord McLeavy. I am a Yorkshireman myself, and it is with great pleasure that I welcome to your Lordships' House a fellow Yorkshireman, especially one who has done such very great service to Yorkshire.
My Lords, I am afraid that I must join with those noble Lords who feel that the most important things in the gracious Speech are those which have been left out. It is surely an interesting thought that in years to come people will probably look back on these two Labour Governments and think how very enlightened they were. "It is true", one can imagine some students saying in a hundred years' time, "they did put the country into a pretty frightful economic mess, and one has to admit that their foreign policy was not so hot. But just look at the great social reforms which they passed during their tenure of office".
They will no doubt talk of hanging, of legalised abortion and of the freedom of homosexuals from the perpetual fear of an unjust law; and they will feel that this Government have made England a freer and more humane place in which to live. The tragedy is that the Government did not really do any of these things. Surely there is nothing more shocking than that what should be, and is claimed to be, a great reforming Party should sit on the sidelines of neutrality while the greatest social reforms of the decade fight their perilous passage through Parliament sponsored by private Members. Admittedly, the Government have found time for these measures, something for which I, for one—and I am sure that here I am speaking for all Members of my Party—thank them most profusely.
414 Far be it from me (and this is surely a case of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread) to dispute something which the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack has said. But I would draw his attention to the fact that when Peel moved the Catholic Emancipation Bill in 1829 there was, at that time, if I am not wrong, no suggestion that it should be left to a free vote of the House. This surely is a precedent for not leaving social reforms—and, in fact, religious reforms—to private Members. It seems that this attitude of the Government still persists. Divorce reform is the one reform that alone can cut out more unhappiness and wretchedness in this country than all the other three reforms that I have just mentioned put together. Yet the Government seem to have slid out of this, too, and wish to push it on to yet another private Member. I am sure that it will again fall to the Liberal Party in both Houses of Parliament to push as hard on this subject as they have done on the others.
The Liberal Party welcome what the gracious Speech says concerning the reform of the law. But of all the law reform, divorce is surely the most urgent. Who can measure the unhappiness caused, especially to the children of such marriages, by the present delays in the divorce courts? After all, the children are the really innocent parties. It is the job of the courts to be not only just but swift. We on these Benches are unhappy with the present proposals, as we consider the safeguards for some women to be inadequate. To a woman, divorce can mean the loss of a widow's pension rights, eviction from her home, if it is in her husband's name, or from a council house, and loss of protection under the Rent Act. A divorced woman is taxed under the present system as a single person. No consideration is given to whether she has children to look after or not. If a married woman is separated from her husband she pays no National Insurance contribution at all, unless she is working, when she pays 6d.; divorced, she pays 11s. 7d. The law can never remove the human suffering which goes with the break-up of a marriage but it can at least cure such financial anomalies as those I have mentioned. A large number of pitiful cases come before the magistrates of women with children whose husbands disappear after divorce. 415 These women are unable to collect alimony and are in a very bad position. The law should do more to protect them.
My Lords, I welcome what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has announced about the attendance of magistrates being reduced to about 19 a year. This will enable a far larger number of ordinary people, who have in addition to work hard at their jobs and earn a living, to sit on the bench part time. We have on the bench too many trade unionists and crotchety old Conservative gentlemen, and not enough ordinary people. Particularly useful as magistrates are women in the age group, 35 to 40. They are especially useful for juvenile work. These women often have families of their own and cannot possibly afford to give up one day a week from their very full lives. One day a month, however, is a very different proposition. It must be remembered that almost 90 per cent. of the crimes committed in this country are dealt with by lay magistrates. It is essential to have more young magistrates to deal with young offenders. Too often the barrier of age leads to misunderstanding of the problems. It is possible to get young magistrates only if they do not have to go too often to sit on the bench.
We are particularly happy at the references in the gracious Speech to the laws of evidence. We feel that one of the primary causes of injustice in this country is derived from our archaic law of evidence, and progress in most European countries has far outstripped ours, especially on such things as hearsay evidence and the admission of documents.
My Lords, we hear regularly from the Prime Minister all about technology. It would seem to be one of his favourite words. It is very surprising to me that in this age of technology urgent technical matters are still being dealt with so ponderously in the archaic procedures of the High Court. The Government should consider setting up special tribunals to enable industrialists to have those problems relating to inventions, designs and trade marks and so on to be dealt with by them, instead of by the High Court.
There is one thing which has been happening recently to which I cannot possibly subscribe. This is the idea that 416 seems to be prevalent that one must be punished because one is famous. I think this dates back to a case, shortly after the war, when Mr. Ivor Novello was very heavily penalised and sent to prison for having the wrong coloured petrol in his tank, at a time when I believe everybody had the wrong coloured petrol in his tank but did not go to prison for it. I am not now defending, and never will defend, the taking of drugs in any form. I think it is a social menace and it should be stamped on as hard as possible. But can we accept that because somebody has rather long hair and makes records which sell all over the world, is well known to people and will make front page headlines, he can be sent to prison for nine month, whereas somebody who has never been heard of by anybody will get a £25 fine for the same thing? This seems to me to be a totally unsatisfactory precedent and one which should not be allowed to be repeated.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD STONHAM)
My Lords, if the noble Lord is making allegations on the conduct of the courts, they seem to be totally unsatisfactory allegations, completely unsupported, as they are, by any kind of evidence.
§ LORD MOYNIHAN
My Lords, I think I should be correct in saying that a similar situation arose with another member of the Rolling Stones and that the courts themselves quashed the original sentence.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, the courts were dealing with the matters in their entirety and were carrying out their functions according to the law.
§ LORD MOYNIHAN
My Lords, I am pleased to hear the noble Lord reassure me on that. I hope that there will not be any cases in which what I have said would be applicable.
My Lords, yesterday my noble Leader, Lord Byers, said that the Liberal Party felt that nationalisation is a thing of the past and should be buried. I agree entirely with this view, though I feel that possibly an exception could be made when it comes to the laws concerning gaming. It seems to me that there is a perfectly good case to be made out for the nationalisation of gambling in this country. It is at best a social evil, 417 and at worst a disease. It would seem to be an extremely good thing to have an extra source of income from the nationalisation of gaming, if in fact it is to continue to be legal at all.
I come next, my Lords, to the question of the new laws which have been passed against speeding on the roads, and the breathalyser law. We on these Benches certainly subscribe to anything which will cut out the loss of life, and I feel that as such both these laws are to be praised. However, the Government must realise that there is a very real danger in passing legislation which is unenforceable, or even virtually unenforceable. If that legislation is generally unpopular, the danger is intensified. The public will not take the legislation seriously and will become habitual lawbreakers. I need hardly point out what a dangerous precedent would be set, for if one always breaks one law, why not another? It is a short step from that to antipathy to the police force which sometimes enforces a law which is in general disuse.
Three days ago, I drove clown the M.1 from Derby to London. As close as was physically possible I held to the exact speed of 70 miles an hour the whole way. I moved whenever possible, and as quickly as possible, into the middle lane. I did this as a form of experiment, and between Derby and London I was passed by 73 cars. Four of them were police cars. I am sure the police were about their business and had to go at that speed to do what they were doing. But it seems to me quite incredible that anybody should be able to drive down the M.1 and be passed by 73 law breakers, because I cannot believe that all 73 of them were doctors rushing to patients or engaged on some other such errand. If this law is going to be left on the Statute Book, for heaven's sake let us have it upheld and let us have the people who break it brought into the courts. Either that, or let us do away with the law. A law which is not being enforced brings the entire laws of the country into disrepute.
Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, stole my thunder a bit because, as your Lordships may have noticed, I have a Motion down drawing attention to the currency restrictions at present prevailing in this country. Having had most of my thunder stolen by the noble Lord, I do not wish to use any 418 more of it now, but I would point out that this seems to be another law which is totally unenforceable. A Treasury spokesman (I do not know whether he was speaking in an official capacity or whether it was "off the record", or "unattributable") was reported recently in a newspaper as saying that there are 200 ways of evading the currency regulations of which the Treasury is aware. I am tire that if the Treasury knows of 200 ways, there must be a good many more. If this was a vast exaggeration on the part of the newspaper—as I am perfectly happy to accept—may I say that I know of some 30 ways to which I hope to draw the attention of your Lordships shortly. I will not deal with that further at this stage, or I might just as well withdraw my Motion altogether.
I come now to the general relationship existing in this country between the police and the public, and if I tend to use the word "public" instead of the word "motorist" I hope your Lordships will forgive me, because a large proportion of the population of this country have been motorists at some time or another. Noble Lords may have become familiar with the sight of advertisements in the rear windows of cars on subjects ranging from demanding a just peace for Israel to exhorting one to put a tiger in one's tank. A recent Liberal Party advertisement simply said. "Keep Duncan Sandys white", but this backfired and tan into trouble, because a group of Africans in Birmingham thought that "Duncan Sandys" was the name of a place, and so it was withdrawn. Basically, however, I am sure that your Lordships would agree that these stickers are limited in this country to advertising and/or good clean fun.
While in the United States recently I was interested to see in the rear window of a car which I was following the words, in heavy black type, "Support your local police force". It was not until I got closer to the vehicle that I was able to observe the words in smaller letters underneath: "Bribe a cop to-day". Surely we cart learn a good lesson from the Americans. They have made a very bad mistake in allowing the relationship between the public and the police to descend to a level where that sort of thing can be shown in car windows all over the country 419 and be thought to be a joke. I personally find it absolutely disgusting and I certainly hope that we shall never reach that level in this country.
Unfortunately, my Lords, the image of a "Jack Warner", a friendly, helpful and respectful "copper", has, it seems, been replaced, however wrongly, by an overall impression on the part of the motorist (and I say again, however incorrect it may be, because I do not wish this description to be attributed to me) of a man who is rather too pleased with himself; rather aggressive; who believes that speed limits were made for all but himself and who stops leering at people over breathalysers only long enough to pursue an unidentified flying object with almost as great a relish as an inebriated motorist.
In my opinion, my Lords, the only way in which mutual respect can be reestablished between the public and the police is by totally removing all, and I repeat "all", traffic duties from the police—and I include point duty, parking offences, speed-limit enforcement and breathalyser tests—and placing them in the hands either of a new corps of people or a corps of traffic wardens enlarged in numbers and powers. In this way we can return to the excellent relationship between public and police which used to exist in this country and which, frankly, we are "kidding ourselves if we think is still there. This would serve the dual purpose of returning the police to their rightful and desirable place as friends of the public and releasing them to carry out their more serious and necessary duties with a higher degree of efficiency and success than that which they at present enjoy. In order further to simplify the position, I think there is a good argument to be made out for making the new corps answerable to the Minister of Transport and not to the Home Office at all.
My Lords, I come now to the question of the reform of your Lordships' House, something which the Liberal Party, and myself in particular, have always highly favoured. The reform of your Lordships' House is, obviously, a necessary thing at this time in our history. I think it was Mr. A. P. Herbert (it may well have been somebody else but I do not think it really matters who it was) who once said that 420 there were only two true types of eccentrics in this country: churchmen and Members of your Lordships' House. There are, of course, some who qualify on both counts. I think there is an argument to be made out for having a certain amount of eccentricity in Government provided that it is not in a seat of power. Certainly, I think it is a good thing to have people of an independent mind, and any reform that tended to take the Second Chamber further towards Party politics would be a mistake. A Second Chamber should be comprised of people rather apart from Party politics who would look at what had already been achieved in another place.
There is only one point about which I am frightened when it comes to reforming the House of Lords. I would hate to see a Second Chamber with no representation of youth in it. The present system has only one thing to be said for it, that is, that it is possible for young men to sit in your Lordships' House. I hope that there will be as many—indeed, I hope that there will be considerably more—young men in any newly-devised Chamber. I would point out that there is no mandate from the people for what the Government intend to do. Eighteen months ago, Mr. Harold Wilson said:I said that there was no desire for a reform of the composition of the House of Lords. The promise in the Labour Party Manifesto referred to powers not composition.I bring this matter up because I feel that it is extremely important to worry much more about the composition than about the powers of your Lordships' House. The only reason it is necessary to worry about powers is that presumably in theory it would be possible for the Commons to vote themselves into continual being, and the only power that constitutionally could stop them doing that, if we were not here, would be Her Majesty the Queen. I am sure that it will never happen, but it would be an extremely bad thing to place the Queen in that position.
We on these Benches will support the reform of the House of Lords through thick and thin, but I hope that the Government will bear in mind the importance of representation of youth. There is no way in which a man of thirty can achieve so much for his country that he can earn himself a rightful place in your 421 Lordships' House. That is very nearly impossible—there may be one case in twenty years. I hope that the Government will seriously consider this, and when the noble Lord comes to sum up I hope that he will give me some form of assurance that there will be consideration of the representation of youth in a newly-constructed Chamber.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, may I join with the noble Lord opposite in congratulating my noble friend Lord McLeavy on his maiden speech and on the moving contribution which he has made to our debate. Having heard him on many occasions in another place, I felt confident that he would make a plea for those in the community who are inarticulate and have no effective pressure groups, and I was not disappointed. I hope that we shall hear him on many other occasions when he feels that he has a contribution to make.
I should like to address myself to that part of the gracious Speech which relates to reforming the law, particularly family law. I want to say to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor how pleased I am, though I know that he has an appointment shortly, that he is still on the Woolsack, so that he may again hear somehing I have already said on this subject. I am going to make a plea to him to-day to interpret family law with regard to divorce in a certain way, because I understand that a new Bill is in process of being drafted, and I want clauses incorporated in it which will humanise our divorce laws. I beg the Government not to be precipitate on this subject, but to give the most careful consideration to the proposition that matrimonial offences should be replaced by the breakdown of marriage as the ground for divorce, and that an innocent spouse should be compelled to accept divorce after a few years of separation.
My noble and learned friend has told us to-day that he feels that the time has come when he can proceed with this Bill, because there is a consensus of opinion. He mentioned the Church of England, the Methodist Church (I am pleased to see my noble friend Lord Soper in his place) and the Law Reform Committee. But these are organisations composed almost entirely of men, and surely marriage is a 422 union between the two sexes. Marriage means much more to a woman than to a man. Marriage means to a woman an arrangement whereby a man and a woman live together in order that they may have children, an arrangement which will protect those children as long as possible. To tell the House that because three big organisations—including the Church of England, which, like the Stock Exchange, refuses to accept women—have agreed that there is therefore a consensus of opinion, is absolute nonsense. We should be told whether one big authoritative committee of women in this country have accepted this monstrous proposition.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, would my noble friend allow me to point out the difference between what she said about the Church of England and the Methodist Church, where there is a preponderance of seven women to three in the membership and a relation of 40 per cent. in the Annual Convocation which organises the affairs of the Church.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I have made inquiries, and I understand that the Administrative Committee of my noble friend's Church is about 93 per cent. male. I am well aware that in every religious organisation there are thousands of women doing the subordinate work, but unfortunately they are not the people who determine the policy.
I would remind the House—because in my opinion this is one of the most important matters to be decided in the ensuing year—that the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce, which reported in 1956, sat for many years examining these matters and taking evidence from organisations and individuals. They took evidence from nearly all the powerful women's organisations in the country. They recommended that divorce should continue to be granted on the ground of the commission of a matriminial offence, and were against making the breakdown of marriage the ground for divorce. They also voted against divorce by consent and the compelling of an innocent spouse to accept divorce after some years of separation. The men and women who served on this Royal Commission were carefully chosen and came to their conclusions after most 423 detailed consideration. Are we now to ignore their advice?
I want to put on record what the Royal Commission said four years ago. They said:To vest in a husband or wife the right to divorce a spouse who ex hypothesi had committed no recognised matrimonial offence and who did not want a divorce would result in grave injustice. It would, for example, allow a man who had committed adultery or had been cruel to his wife to leave her and subsequently divorce her against her will. This would violate a principle which has been long established in the law—namely, that a man shall not be allowed to take advantage of his own wrong.Those who claim that an innocent wife or husband should be compelled to submit to divorce claim (and this is the purpose of the Bill) that this would enable more parents who have a second family outside marriage to marry and legitimise their children. But what of the children of the first marriage: are they to be sacrificed? Furthermore, would not this policy encourage extramarital union and, consequently, more illegitimate children?
No doubt your Lordships will recall that this matter was debated during the discussions on the Matrimonial Causes and Reconciliation Bill and the clause which incorporated these principles was removed from that Bill. It was removed in another place, and your Lordships supported it. Almost immediately after that defeat—and this seems to me a curious thing—a group consisting of 11 men and only 2 women, one married and one single, was appointed by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1964, and they produced the Report called Putting Asunder, which the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor recalled was debated here. To the astonishment of many churchgoers, and others (and I am afraid that I do not put myself forward as a churchgoer; I put myself forward as a woman who has the honour to sit here and can put the point of view of the women who are concerned in this legislation), they support the breakdown of marriage without a matrimonial offence as ground for divorce.
Your Lordships will recall that we were asked to consider whether seven years' separation should entitle a guilty spouse to get a divorce against an innocent 424 spouse. Somebody in the other place wanted the period to be five years. I was at a local conference during the weekend, and quite an intelligent lawyer said that the best thing to do was to put it at three years. If marriage need last for only five, seven or three years, and can then be automatically resolved, irrespective of the impeccable behaviour of one spouse, then a married man will be able to make a proposal to a second woman with a definite date for marriage and legitimation of any children of the union. I can see the parents of a girl saying: "This is different. You can certainly live with your employer, because he can put a definite date when he can get rid of his wife."
We all know of hard cases. Everybody knows of some bitter wife or selfish husband who has for years refused a spouse a longed-for divorce. But, as Parliamentarians, do let us remember that hard cases make bad laws. Surely few men can keep two families. I remember that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hodson, made his maiden speech on this subject, and he said:The woman who is going to get paid for her family is the woman who is there on Friday night and takes the money from the man.It is the fact, as I say, that few men can keep two families. So, inevitably, the first wife and her children will be supported by the community through supplementary benefits. We in this country, quite rightly, do not let children starve, and if the first wife says: "My former husband has not given me any maintenance", then she will get it through supplementary benefits.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to interrupt. I thought I had explained that the Government do not intend to do anything. There is nothing in the gracious Speech about divorce law reform. I thought I had made it clear that the Government—who were blamed by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for not doing so—do not intend to take any action in this field, except that if a Private Member brings in a Private Member's Bill, in view of the complexity of the subject they will give the assistance of a draftsman. They have not even said—and this was made clear—that they are prepared to find any Government time for such a Bill.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
I am sorry if I have wrongly interpreted what I have seen in the Press and heard in this House. I understood that there was to be a ballot among Private Members. I was at a luncheon in another place yesterday, and I was told by two or three private Members that they were looking forward to the ballot. They were all under the impression that if they decided to introduce a Divorce Bill, the Bill which they would introduce would be one drafted and approved by the Government. If I am totally wrong, then they are, too, because they were under the impression that these were matters which would be incorporated in the Bill. My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack will remember that in the speech he has made to the House to-day on the subject of law reform he reminded your Lordships of the whole history of this, whereby the House rejected certain ideas.
The Law Commission, for whom I have the greatest admiration, could not agree with Putting Asunder, for the reason I have given: they said that it was impracticable. Then it was agreed that the Church of England should get together with the Law Commission; and now to-day we have been told that the Law Commission feel that perhaps they could go forward with something. I am sure I am right in interpreting that what they were going forward with were the propositions contained in Putting Asunder, which I have been describing to the House to-day. If that is not so, I shall welcome a Bill which does not contain what I consider is inequitable treatment of the married women of this country.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? There is a great difference between a Government's agreeing to give drafting assistance in respect of a Bill and giving Government support for any of its provisions. This was exactly the position of the Government on the Abortion Bill and the Sexual Offences Bill, where the Government did not give support for the provisions, but did give drafting assistance.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
Having successfully initiated and piloted Bills through this House, I fully appreciate how important drafting assistance is. But surely, from what we have heard about 426 the Law Commission and the document Putting Asunder, I am right in interpreting that we were going to have these propositions incorporated in a new Divorce Bill. I am uttering a warning. I do not want to be told, when the year goes on and I get up to make this kind of speech: "Here is the Bill already drafted. You are a little late. You should have thought of these things before." I am saying this now, before the Bill is drafted.
If our Parliament is so utterly shortsighted as to Americanise our marriage laws, then at least the innocent wife, who is cast off compulsorily after many years' service with the family, must be able to count on her share of the goods accumulated throughout the marriage. Apparently, this has occurred to the Church of England, because on page 20 of Putting Asunder we read:We further suggest that the possibility of Introducing some form of community of property should be explored.My Lords, why not explore this before taking any serious step? The Law Commission, which had Putting Asunder referred to them, report in The Field of Choice; and may I quote to the House what they say, because it has been said that now the Law Commission and the Church of England more or less see eye to eye. The Law Commission say:Until the rules relating to family property and financial relief are reformed in a way which will protect the wife against additional hardship resulting from a divorce, it may be necessary to go even further by providing an additional safeguard whereby a divorce cannot be forced on the wife if it is impossible for the husband to make provisions which protect her from disproportionate hardship".I would say that very few husbands can keep two wives. Therefore, if this means anything, this law could not be implemented in those cases.
If a law is not enforceable it is a bad law, and if a law is so framed that only wealthy men can take advantage of it it is a bad law. There is a tendency in many quarters to disregard the fact that men can earn their incomes and accumulate capital only by virtue of the division of labour between themselves and their wives.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
I thank the noble Lord. It is not often I get support from that quarter. The wife spends 427 her youth and early middle age in bearing and rearing children and in tending the home. The husband is thus free for his economic activities. Sir Jocelyn Simon, President of the Divorce Court, a man I claim as one of my greatest friends, who feels very strongly on these subjects, in his famous address to the Holdsworth Club, which he called "All my Worldly Goods", said:The cock bird can feather his nest precisely because he is not required to spend most of his time sitting on it".This being so, a separation of goods between married people cannot be said to do justice to the wife.
The daughters of your Lordships are entirely different, let me say, from your Lordships' wives and grandmothers when they were girls. To-day an intelligent girl regards a university education as a right, and all girls are capable of earning an income which gives them independence. It is not surprising, therefore, that a wife of a family to-day is even more resentful of her dependent financial position; and I believe that our first duty to the family is to create conditions to make the marriage work, and not to seek ways to make divorce easier. We are told repeatedly by marriage counsellors that some trivial quarrel over money is generally the initial cause of trouble in the home. Therefore I should like to express my view very strongly that changes in our divorce laws must not be made in vacuo. An innocent, middle-aged wife, divorced against her will, with years of service to the family to her credit, must not be sacrificed. At the very least—at the very least, I say—she should be afforded community of goods.
As the circumstances of married people vary widely they should, if they wish, make their own arrangements regarding their property. I have no doubt that what I say applies to the arrangements made by many of your Lordships in this House. But, of course, we are talking about the hundreds and thousands of families who live in our great urban populations. Therefore the law should always have regard to the fundamental division of labour between husband and wife which frees the husband for the acquisition of goods.
It is not surprising to find that the matrimonial property law system in Denmark, 428 which has existed since 1925, for over forty years, is in its main principles the same as that in Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, where people, looking like ourselves, very often with the same roots, regard matrimonial property law as the equitable way of treating a woman who works in the home. Whereas Holland has a system based fundamentally on the same principles as the Nordic system, Federal Germany finally decided on a system that is in principle a separation of property régime, but with a right for each spouse to share equally at the dissolution of marriage the value of goods accumulated during marraige.
There are other systems operating in many other countries—for example, in the United States—but it is not my intention to canvass any particular régime to-day. My purpose to-day is simply to try to persuade the Government, before they embark—or before a Private Member embarks—on legislation calculated to undermine the institution of marriage as we understand it in Britain, to change the policy. However, if they find that a Private Member is persuaded to draft a Casanova's Charter, then they must incorporate—this is where I come back to family law—a matrimonial property law which includes community of goods, in order to protect the discarded wife.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, the gracious Speech from the Throne produces always, I suppose, the most comprehensive debates with which Parliament is concerned during the whole year; for it covers the whole policy of the Government during the past year and the whole field of Government policy during the coming year. It is, if I may use such a phrase in this context, the grand inquest of the nation. There are always—and this week has been no exception—innumerable topics to which one could devote one's attention. But on this occasion, of course (if the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, will forgive me for not following up her very interesting speech), there is one which I think will be generally accepted as of prime importance to us who sit in this Chamber. It is the question of the reform of your Lordships' House, with regard to which we understand measures are to be introduced in the forthcoming year, and to which the Lord Chancellor has already 429 devoted special attention in his speech this afternoon.
It is to this question that I should like, if I may, to devote also my own attention. I would emphasise that I am not in any sense speaking for the Party to which I belong, but only for myself. This is a question, of course, that is not by any means new to many of us who sit in this House. We have lived with it, on and off, for a large part of our lives. We have seen innumerable schemes canvassed, examined, rejected. I have myself been in the past an ardent advocate of some of those schemes. But one thing, the thing I find deeply interesting and even fascinating in spite of what the Lord Chancellor said to us this afternoon, is the timing of these particular proposals.
Constitutional changes such as these are usually the aftermath of some great political crisis. That was certainly true of the Parliament Act 1911. It followed on the decision of the Lords—a rash decision, as we should now think—to throw out the Budget. And the same thing might be said to be true of the Parliament Act 1947. That followed on the entirely new situation created, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will remember, by the victory of the Labour Party in the General Election of 1945, which gave them for the first time a clear majority in the House of Commons, while the Conservative Party had an equally large majority in your Lordships' House. The Labour Government were, I think perhaps naturally, apprehensive that the Tories in the House of Lords would use their majority to delay the passage of measures which had been passed by a Government majority in another place. The Tories did not, in fact, justify those fears. They passed the Second Reading of all the measures which had been on the Government programme at the General Election and they did their best to improve them on the Committee stage; but perhaps the Labour Party's apprehensions were not unnatural.
On this occasion, however, no such explanation seems to me to apply. There has been no clash between the two Houses. No doubt there have been one or two occasions when there have been apprehensions in certain quarters that there was going to be a clash; but this 430 in fact never materialised. Indeed, the main criticism of your Lordships, even in such great organs of the Press as The Times, was that the House of Lords had, on the whole, been too supine.
What, then, has made the Government decide to raise this issue at this particular moment? It may be that they have come to realise, as happens to so many other Governments, that they are likely to be defeated at the next General Election and that this may be the last chance they will have of making these particular changes. Or it may be that they wish to divert the attention of the British people from other topics more embarrassing to the Government. I can conceive of no other reasons for introducing these particular proposals now; for since the advent of the present Government I should think that the House of Lords, from the point of view of the Government, has behaved in an eminently correct manner.
But, be that as it may, my Lords, we have these proposals in the gracious Speech and, as I see it, we must try to consider them, not in a spirit of mere obstruction, but seriously and constructively. And the first observation I will make—and this, I am afraid, is very bromidical—is that any scheme for reform of your Lordships' House has to concern itself with one, or possibly two, aspects. I refer, of course, to the composition and the powers of the House. The present proposals of the Government, as I understand them—we know very little about them yet—will cover both these aspects. I propose briefly to deal with them separately, if I may, though they are no doubt complementary to each other: and first, I will deal with composition.
The main proposal in this field, if I understand it aright, is to do away with the system of hereditary membership of this House. Fifty years ago I imagine that such a proposal would have been received, at any rate by nearly all Conservatives, with feelings of severe shock. It would have been regarded as something nearly akin to revolution. But I must say, looking at a proposal of this kind from the angle of 1967, that, personally, it certainly does not break my heart. That is not to say that I have not always had, as most of us have on this side of the House, a deep affection 431 for the hereditary system. I have never found in it those grave defects attributed to it by some of its critics. Indeed, noble Lords even on the other side of the House who attend our Sittings will, I am sure, agree that the great majority of hereditary Peers, in practice, are just as amiable, sensible and public-spirited, and at least as independent-minded, as other members of the community.
And if anyone says to me, "What about the Backwoodsmen? my answer would be, after 27 years in this House, that I believe this theory of a sudden surge of Backwoodsmen to flood the House to be a complete myth, and the proof, I suggest, is this. It was my fortune to be the Leader of the Opposition at the time of the passage of both the last Parliament Bills, the main purpose of which was to limit the powers of hereditary Peers, and on neither occasion did this great invasion of Backwoodsmen occur. There were unusually big Lobbies; and that, I think, was very natural. But all those who voted were attenders—if not always constant attenders—at your Lordships' discussions.
I feel bound to say this in defence of hereditary Peers at what may be almost their last appearance—as hereditary Peers—on this particular stage. But having said that, I would repeat that I believe we should not break our hearts over the ending of the hereditary system as the sole basis for membership of this House: and I say this for a very different reason from that which is usually advanced. It is that, in practice, the hereditary system, in its original sense, has already come to an end. As one looks round the House when it is in session, as I frequently do—for instance, if one had looked round at the beginning of our discussions this afternoon—one could not help but be struck by the fact that the vast majority of those present were either Life Peers or Peers of first creation. The Act which legalised Life Peers in effect, although one did not quite realise it at the time, killed the hereditary system, in the form we had known it before, stone dead.
What the Government intend to set up in its place I do not, of course, know. We shall no doubt be given that information in due course. But perhaps I may say this now to your Lordships—and here I agree 432 strongly with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, earlier in the debate: it would be a greaty pity if the House became merely a receptacle for the senile, a kind of ante-chamber to death. One needs, even in a Second Chamber, some young minds and voices, and up to now these have practically entirely been supplied by hereditary Peers.
There are, no doubt, other questions of the same kind which we shall need to face during the coming months. However, this is the type of problem which I understand the Government have it in mind to discuss with the representatives of other Parties before the introduction of any Bill; so I will say no more about it to-day.
I should, however, now like to turn for a few moments to the other aspect of these proposals for the reform of your Lordships' House. I refer, of course, to those relating to the powers of the House. Here, I must confess that I feel extremely unhappy about any proposal to reduce still further the powers of the Second Chamber. If I may be forgiven for saying so, it would seem that such an idea would be not only extremely dangerous but utterly illogical. One could understand a policy of strengthening the composition of the House, by cutting out the dead wood and so on, so as to make it more capable of doing its job, and then retaining, or even increasing, the powers of this improved House. Or alternately, one could understand (even if one did not agree with it) a policy of leaving the composition of the House exactly as it is, with all its defects, and reducing its powers, on the grounds that the House, with its existing composition, was not adequately equipped to exercise its existing powers. But what does seem devoid of all reason is to make a great parade of rationalising and modernising the House so as to make it altogether amore efficient place and then, almost in the same breath, to accompany that with proposals for reducing its powers. If the purpose of the Government is to weaken the House, why, in Heaven's name, go to all this trouble about strengthening the personnel?
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, in his speech at the beginning of this debate, talked of new functions which were to be given to this body and referred me to his speech in April (when I was away) for further information. I read that 433 speech. It was a very long and complete one, and I read it with the greatest care. But I must say that I remained completely unenlightened as to the nature of these new functions which are to be offered to your Lordships' House. And yet, my Lords, there must be some method in this madness to which the Government seem to have committed themselves: and I am afraid that the real explanation is this. I offer it with all deference to your Lordships; but it is what really worries me and I feel ought also to worry your Lordships, on both sides of the House. I do not believe that the proposals with regard to the composition of the House have ever really been regarded by the Government as of any real importance one way or the other, or at any rate by those who drafted the proposals. They are merely a façade which will please their supporters of the Left and probably will do no great harm.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF LONGFORD)
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Marquess? I must ask him to take my word for it that what he has just said is quite untrue.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, that is the conclusion I drew, and I am quite entitled to draw it. What they really care about, in my view—and I believe that a great many people in this country will think the same—what I may vulgarly call the "guts" of the proposals, is a reduction of the powers of the House. What they are really aiming at is something the effect of which will be, in fact, indistinguishable from single-Chamber government. That is what I think they mean by sybilline phrases like "the modernisation of Parliament"; and that, my Lords is, I believe, what this country will get, if these proposals for a further reduction of the powers of the House go through.
And in case your Lordships think I am merely trying to make your flesh creep, I should like to explain very briefly what I mean and why I mean it. In my experience of Parliament, which is beginning to be a fairly long one, it takes upwards of six to nine months for a hotly contested Bill to go through both Houses of Parliament. Unless, therefore, the Lords throw out a Bill on the Second Reading—and this is, I think, likely to be a very rare event indeed—it is only 434 at the end of that period of six to nine months That a clash between the two Houses, caused by a decision of the House of Lords finally to dig in its toes and refuse to agree with the Commons, will really occur.
In this connection there is one other fact that I believe to be very relevant to the point I am trying to put to your Lordships. Under the law as it exists to-day, the period of delay allowed to this House under the Parliament Act 1949 is not one year from the time the clash occurs, but one year from the date when the Second Reading of the Bill in question was first debated in the House of Commons. As soon as that year has passed, and if there is no agreement between the two Houses, the same Bill, under the Parliament Act, can be introduced again in another place, and it can be passed automatically under the Act in exactly its original form without further amendment by the Lords. It has indeed to be in a new Session of Parliament but normally a new Session would begin before the year was up.
There are apparently (I have looked at the Act with great care) some possible small modifications of the general rule which I have stated: but, broadly speaking, I understand that that is the position. Even to-day, therefore, under the existing law, unless a Bill is thrown out by the Lords on the Second Reading, the real period of delay allowed to this House after the clash between the two Houses has occurred is likely to be, at most, six months, and it may be less. Those are in fact the "vast powers" of which the Prime Minister has spoken with such horror. This may come as a surprise to some of your Lordships, though not, I air sure, to those who have studied this subject. But I have tried to verify it, and I believe that what I have said is constitutionally accurate.
To reinforce my point, I should like to give your Lordships two examples from very recent legislation which might well have led to a clash, though in fact they did not; that is, the Leasehold Reform Bill and the Abortion Bill. First, I will take the Leasehold Reform Bill. That had its Second Reading in the House of Commons on March 7, 1967, and it passed into law on October 27, 1967 that is, just over six months later. If a clash had come over the refusal of 435 another place to accept the Lords Amendments, as it nearly did in October, and the period of Lords' suspensory veto had been reduced to six months instead of the present one year, as I understand is the possibility under the Government's new proposals, there would have been no period of delay at all. The much-vaunted six months power of delay which I read in the Press has been forecast—or so they say—in the Government's proposals, would have been passed and over before the clash between the two Houses even occurred, while the Bill was still being bandied to and fro between the two Houses. I would commend that thought to your Lordships. And your Lordships will find exactly the same thing with regard to the "social grounds" Amendment of the Abortion Bill—in fact to a greater degree; for the Bill had been before Parliament for a longer period before the clash would have arisen.
My Lords, I will only say this, in conclusion, to your Lordships. My present feelings about these proposals for a Reform of this House—and I express with them all diffidence—are these, and they are, I repeat, not the views of my Party but only my own. So far as the composition of the House is concerned, I hope very much that the leaders of my own Party will enter into the discussions suggested by the Government, with a view to getting, so far as possible, an agreed solution on this aspect. But so far as powers are concerned, I can at present see no hope of such agreement, if the Government stand by their present proposals for reducing further the period of delay. For that would mean, I believe, laying the country open to dangers which we, who are, after all, trustees for the nation, should have no justification in allowing it to run. I hope, therefore, that if the Government refuse to budge—and I hope they will not—we shall equally stand firm against these particular proposals, which would, I think, be disastrous for the future of this country.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, just as the noble Marquess did not follow the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, on the question of divorce, so I do not intend to follow the noble Marquess on the question of the reform of the House 436 of Lords. The main topic for debate on the gracious Speech to-day is given as home affairs. I want to talk a little about Scotland, and I hope it will be accepted, even after the astounding victory of the Scottish National Party last week, that Scotland still qualifies as a topic of home affairs. If we are not careful perhaps in a few years it may come under the title of foreign affairs, but I for one would be sorry if that should happen. It is because of that that I wish to say something this afternoon.
Much of what I shall say is inevitably on the economic side. I was unable to be here yesterday to take part in the economic debate because I was in Scotland; indeed I have been up in Scotland for the last few days. What is the news that I should bring you from Scotland? I think it is that all Scottish hearts are a little hit lighter, and their heads a little bit higher as a result of the victory of the Scottish National Party. This does not mean that they all necessarily agree with what the Scottish National Party stands for. But it does mean that all the people of Scotland hope that Parliament and Whitehall will at last realise that Scotland is a nation with its own education, its own laws, and a degree of its own government, and that as such Scotland must be treated in a special category. At the present time we resent the continual and unfair actions, as we see them, of the central Government and of Whitehall, their advisers.
The rest of my speech must necessarily be justifying or giving examples of this resentment, and I want to start on a somewhat wider example than concerns Scotland alone, in the hope that I may carry with me many others of your Lordships who are not based on London or the Home Counties. What I have in mind, for example, is that when any major work such as a bridge or a tunnel is undertaken—for example, in Scotland the Forth or the Tay Bridges, or, going down to Wales, the Severn Tunnel—what happens? The first thing that happens is that a toll is imposed on the bridge or the tunnel. I am not against tolls as such, but I am against them being levied only in those parts of the country which are far away from London and the Home Counties. I cannot think of one example of such a thing happening in this vicinity. This is ridiculous. This is the rich part of the 437 country, and we all feel that it is unfair. I am sure I speak equally for Wales or for the northern parts of England when I raise this point.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
And the South-West. Now I go back to Scotland in particular. Eighteen months ago Scotland was in a state of hope. At long last the great change in her economy from heavy industry, from shipbuilding and from mining was taking place, and we were seeing ahead of us the success of light engineering and generally a feeling that we were going to "go places". For the first time for many decades unemployment was around 2 per cent., and generally the economy was on the move. This was largely due to the effort of the Scots themselves. If I had to pay particular tribute, it would be to the Scottish Council (Development and Industry). They went around, and to North America in particular, and cajoled, begged, or at any rate succeeded in attracting many of the industries of North America to come to Scotland and to set up there. As I have said, the sequel was that we were really going pretty well.
At that moment there was overheating in the Home Counties and in the great industrial Midlands. So the Government in their wisdom decided, perhaps rightly, that they had to take measures to check the economy, and what was known as the "credit squeeze", or any other name you like to call it, was enforced. It was enforced for the whole country, and Scotland suffered with everybody else.
If the reason for these measures was a balance of payments crisis, the one thing that they should not have done was to apply them to Scotland. Scotland was on the move. Of Scottish production over 18 per cent. was being exported, whereas for England the figure was 15 per cent. So if one wanted to get the balance of payments solved, one thing that had to be done was to let Scotland go forward. If only England could export 1 or 2 per cent. more of its total production there would be no trouble at all. But no! What do the Government do? They apply these rules to Scotland, with the sequel that we go back again to 4 per cent. unemployment and 438 the momentum which I mentioned just now is lost. Remember, my Lords, these figures of unemployment relate to a nation which for many years has been static in its numbers, because so many of the skilled and of youth have been forced to go, or at any rate have gone, elsewhere, either to this country or abroad to seek their living. So we come to the overall measures. Other Governments have done this; the Conservative Government did it, and I blame them as much.
The next folly that arose was something for which I cannot forgive the present Government. I have in mind the selective employment tax. To apply the selective employment tax to Scotland was something akin to criminal folly. In the Highlands over 50 per cent. of the people necessarily work on service matters. To raise money from the people of Scotland and of the Highlands in order to subsidise the rich industries of the Midlands is surely something which we are right to regard as unfair and absurd.
The Government are great handers out of patronage in one way or another. What the Government may decide in the way of placing a particular research department in one part of the country or another has a great effect on the employment in that part of the country. Again and again, we in Scotland have asked that we should be given some research and scientific departments which are so necessary in this modern age. But we do not get them. If one looks at the numbers of those which go to Scotland as opposed to being placed around London, the proportion is all wrong. Then you get the absurdity in regard to forestry, which is esentially a matter of Scottish production. The Forestry Commission is situated in Basingstoke. This is unfair, and we resent it.
For a moment I want to switch from the question of Whitehall and central Government to another great London based institution which in some respects is; meant to be independent. I refer to the B.B.C. Last week there was an event which all in Scotland followed with the greatest excitement and interest. Perhaps some people in this country cannot appreciate what it means to know that Celtic are playing in the final of the World Club Cup. All Scotland, even the Rangers, 439 were for them. But what happened? We asked that the match might be televised. The B.B.C. said, "Oh no, it is too expensive." But we in Scotland believe that if it had been, let us say, Chelsea or Tottenham Hotspur who were playing in the match, such an answer would not have been given.
Now I turn to the story, as I see it, of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Recently we were successful in having it decided that the Commonwealth Games should be held in Edinburgh in 1970. This reflects great credit on the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and others who, if I may put it in this way, brought off this coup. Naturally, it was most important that the stadium and facilities for the Games should be adequate. A scheme was brought out which was going to cost some £2½ million. The Government said, "If you do this scheme, we will make a contribution of some £500,000 towards it." Some of the people in Edinburgh, who are well-known as a "canny" people, said, "This is rather a lot of money. Let us see whether we cannot devise a scheme which will be less costly to us in Edinburgh, and less costly to the country". And what was the reply from Whitehall?—" Oh no, certainly not. It has got to be this scheme, or we do not give you any grant at all." Is that the way to treat the capital of Scotland? The sequel is that we are virtually driven to accept this scheme costing over £2 million, and as a result Edinburgh will not be able to afford—though I hope I am wrong on this—the National Theatre or the National Opera House, for which there is a crying need, to enable the Festival at Edinburgh to be properly carried out. That is something which was almost within our grasp.
Lastly, I should like to touch on a hardy annual, if I may so put it—though I hope that it will not be so for very much longer—Turnhouse Airport. Sometimes dry statistics are produced to show that it is not really inconvenient that there is only one runway, but we were told only a few months ago when I asked a Question on the subject that, even after it had been decided to go ahead, it was going to take at least four years to complete the runway. I remember at that time all your Lordships jeered or, if that 440 is not the right word, laughed at the reply of the Government. In the meantime, while we are waiting—knowing that in a short time Turnhouse will go downhill in its services since it will be more and more difficult to get into Edinburgh with the new aircraft—we read about a third or fourth new airport for London. Why?—because the traffic is all going to London. Of course it is, if it is not allowed to go anywhere else. That is my complaint, and the complaint of many in Scotland: that we are not being fairly treated.
I should like to tell your Lordships what happened to me some six weeks ago when I was in Paris and was talking with a high official of the Quai d'Orsay about the Common Market and our chances of going into it. I myself am very keen that we should achieve this and he knew it. We talked for fully an hour, and as the talk went on he saw that I was becoming more and more depressed, because it was not only the General's arguments he was advancing, but also the arguments of many French civil servants. At the end, to cheer me up, he said: "You know, if Scotland were on its own and if Scotland and England were to apply separately but at the same time, even the General could not refuse you."
I do not want to go that far to help bring England into the Common Market, but I know that if the two great Parties do not show greater understanding of Scottish problems—and I suspect that what I say applies equally to Wales—then at the next Election the Scottish National Party will sweep the country. I say this with absolute conviction. This is no "flash in the pan" such as we saw once before, and I say to both Conservatives and Labour that they must pay attention to what we are saying and try to find a way of treating us as we deserve to be treated, and, in particular, to allow us a large measure of the running of our own affairs so that we do not suffer from the dead hand of Whitehall which, once it decides that something is necessary in this country, feels that it must be applied, without good reason, to one and all on the basis of fairness. It is not fair; it is just stupid. I shall not be able to vote at the next Election unless, of course, the reform of the House changes all these things, but there are other ways of throwing one's bonnet into the ring.
§ 5.35 p.m.
My Lords, I should like first of all to take the opportunity from these Benches of saying with what pleasure I heard the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord McLeavy, this afternoon, and I express the hope that we shall hear him on many other occasions in the future. I listened also with very great interest to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, on the marriage laws. I think it is one of those interesting speeches which arise from what is not in the Royal and gracious Speech.
There are only two comments that I should like to make upon the subject. When one is dealing with the subject of marriage, there is always the difficulty that nobody who enjoys the benefit of a really successful marriage will ever communicate the secret, and this is one of the ways in which men—and very often women, too—are very wise. The other difficulty, which seems to me to affect your Lordships House, is that, if I rightly understand all the laws which have been passed in the last twenty or thirty years, people will very soon cease to marry. I think that if were a young man I should hesitate very long before I married. The burdens of marriage are so enormous, in the way of taxation and other troubles, and then there is the difficulty of divorce, if one is not getting on with one's partner, that a great many people will make quiet arrangements with each other and fail to marry. If that should happen, as the burden of marriage bears more heavily on your Lordships House than on most people, one may find that hereditary peerages will very largely disappear, since they can be transmitted only by legal marriage. However, that is a hope, perhaps, for the future.
I should like now to turn to the reference in the gracious Speech to the desire to eliminate the present hereditary basis. It is a very old quarrel of mine with the Socialist Party, because on the last occasion I said that, taking everything into account, it was my firm belief, and had been for a very long time, that your Lordships' House should be abolished as a legislative body; and I still hold that view. My Socialist friends attacked me about this. They said, "We thought you were a Tory", and so I replied, "Well I suppose if there are any Tories left, I am one". But, they said, "You want to 442 abolish the House of Lords". "Yes, I do", I said—"Don't you, as Socialists? "They replied" No. We want to reform it." I said, "But you have reformed it—several times". They replied, "Oh, but we want to go on reforming it." And that, I think, is the situation at the moment. Therefore, I want now to discuss the question of this House and its reform.
One thing one reads in the Press is that the one defect of your Lordships' House is that membership is based on a hereditary system, and it is this system that I want to examine. It is owing to the hereditary system that the pure-bred Arab horse is probably the most beautiful animal of all created beings, certainly much more beautiful than anything in this Palace. It is due to the hereditary system that tremendous prices are paid for pure, pedigree black cattle—mark the hated word "pedigree", my Lords—to go to the Argentine, although the Argentine has herds just as good as anything we can produce here.
I do not need to multiply instances, because the hereditary system is the weapon of Nature herself in her efforts to improve the world, as the hereditary system is the basis of evolution. When I go to my biologist friends and suggest to them that there are other factors at work which ought to be taken into account, they firmly bring me back to their chromosomes and genes. So that the hereditary system in itself is nothing to complain of. What is complained of, I imagine, is the sires. I have pointed out to your Lordships before that in every Government the sires that are used are mostly politicians, and if you stop doing that you will probably get a more satisfactory House based on the hereditary system.
I do not want to go on about that, but one thing has occurred to me since the last war. I wonder what Germany spent on that war. I have always wondered why Hitler did not take a little more time—except that he was a German—and did not use some of that money, which he was going to lose, in trying to create a political Party in this country favourable to himself. I do not mean Fascism, but I mean something much more delicate and clever. It could very easily have 443 been done, and it could be done by anybody, even to-day, with all our precautions about immigration. I know it could be done, because Hitler had done very much the same thing in trade, and there was living not very far from my home a man who knew, and was on friendly terms with, all the burgh councillors and most of the big manufacturers, in the whole district, and he knew every road and every communication. I am sorry to say that he got away before I got after him. But if Hitler could do that in trade he could do it in politics, too. And so could other Hitlers.
The only defence against that that I can see is a Second Chamber, with some power, based on the hereditary system. But now, apparently, it is to go, and the young cuckoos are humping their backs and straining their wings to turn out those to whom the nests properly belong to fall to their destruction; and that will be that.
I now turn away from the composition of your Lordships' House to its function, because I think that is far more important. I do not think the composition of your Lordships' House is so vital to the country as its function. I know a good many Peers who are Peers under the hereditary system—and I am sure that others of your Lordships know a great many more—and are supremely able men. They are at the head of whatever their interest is. A friend of mine, himself a scientist of no mean order and a Fellow of the Royal Society, tells me that there is one of your Lordships who is probably the ablest man in Britain in almost every respect, and possibly even in Europe—a sort of second Henri Poincaré. You never see such people in this House, or only very occasionally, if they want to say something; and the reason is that they have something worth while to do. Every man who rises and gets a great position in life hopes to do something that will leave the world a little better, and hopes to engrave perhaps a small scratch on the adamant obelisk of time. You cannot do that in this House, and I will show your Lordships why.
Take almost any Bill, but as the noble Marquess has taken the Leasehold Reform Bill, let us take that. The Leasehold Reform Bill was discussed in this House, and discussed very ably by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, 444 and his colleagues. I was present at a good many of the debates and it was discussed in a most reasonable way; not so as to spoil a Socialist measure, but to make a Statute at Large more like normal Statutes at Large, and to prevent it being used as a violent instrument of oppression. Anyway, that was the intention, and it was not anti-Socialist legislation; it was to improve the Bill.
Now let us consider for one moment what went into that discussion. There was the whole of that noble Lord's life and his experience in the past. There were all the hours that he spent reading the Bill and mastering its purport. There were all the long hours of discussion in your Lordships' House, and at the end of that time there were a few Amendments, which seemed to be of the utmost importance, which were put to that Bill. They went down to the House of Commons and then came back, and I am bound to say that I was rather horrified at the triviality of the Commons' Reasons for disagreement and the necessity of accepting them.
Take that history, take that story, and narrate it honestly to any great man. Take it to Sir Bernard Lovell, and offer him a Dukedom to come and do the same sort of thing and be frustrated in the same sort of way in your Lordships' House, and see what reply you get. A man who spends his weekends with Andromeda is not going to come and succumb to the blandishments of a demirep Mother of Parliaments, and that is the vital trouble.
This has been foreseen from the very beginning. I was not a Member of your Lordships' House then, but I was present at all the debates on the 1911 Bill. I remember the late Lord Rosebery taking this House up to the attack, and then counselling their Lordships to run away again, and I remember the discussions. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack this afternoon, because he has saved me a great deal of trouble in explaining to your Lordships how the 1911 Act was looked on only as an interim Act until something else was done, and everybody thought that a better Statute would be put in its place shortly.
But it had two immediate results. One was that Lord Stuart of Wortley, who was a man who had the most immense Parliamentary experience—I do not know how 445 long he had been a Whip in the Commons, but I think he had been a Member of your Lordships' House for about five years—said when he saw the Parliament Act: "There is one absolutely certain result of this Act. This means that there will be a built-in Conservative majority in the House of Lords from now on. That will never vary." I say that that is when the built-in majority really started. I know that the noble Earl the Leader of the House does not quite agree with me there, but that is what Lord Stuart of Wortley, with his great experience, said. He also said, "This is going to be a national disaster"—just as your Lordships are all saying it now—and added, "I must do something to remedy this."
Lord Stuart of Wortley started an Association of Independent Unionist Peers, which was to provide a really powerful opposition to the Government in the House of Lords when a Conservative Government was in office, and that was the case when I first came into your Lordships' House. We were taken, and we were taught and we were told how things worked and Bills were examined with meticulous attention. I quite agree that it would not have satisfied a Socialist, but, in my recollection, we provided a better and more powerful Opposition to a Conservative Government in the 'thirties than was ever made to any Socialist Government since the war. We were far more difficult to deal with, and far more insistent on our point of view in those days. That was one thing.
The other thing was that the heat of the battle was over, hatreds had begun to subside and people looked at the wreck they had made of the Constitution and began to wonder what they should do. It was really rather like being the murderer in the presence of his corpse. I expect Cain did much the same with Abel. The first thing they did was to make it sit up and try to pretend that it was not really dead. What they did in those days was to make a pronouncement. I do not know if it is in Erskine May—I have never looked—but this is what was said. It was agreed by all Parties that there was nothing in the Parliament Act to alter or change the absolute power of both Houses of Parliament to treat every measure before them with the same full freedom as that which 446 they had had in the past. The only difference was that if the House of Lords interfered in some financial matter which was covered by the Parliament Act, then when that went back it went to the Speaker, who examined it and made his decision upon it. The Speaker was given a sort of authority over this House as well as over the Commons. That is what I call sitting the corpse up and pretending that it is not quite dead.
But that did not work very well because, as your Lordships know, our principal recruitment is from the House of Commons, and we had many people—and there are quite a number of noble Lords here to-day who have probably done the same thing—who, having come from the Commons, and sitting on the Front Bench, got up and told your Lordships with authority that you could not do this or you could not do that because of the Parliament Act. The House accepted that from them, although that was not really the case; and so, for all practical purposes, the situation then was practically what it remains to-day.
My Lords, the reason why I said then—and I still say it—that the abolition of this House altogether would not be a bad thing for the country is this. When I first came into this House and we were making opposition to the Conservative Government one still had the feeling that it was not really worth while; that one was not doing a real man's work in the world; that one was not earning one's own self-respect by doing a good job and doing it well. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, will entirely sympathise with what I am saying, I am sure, because he must have felt that when he got his Bill back from the Commons. That situation has been going on and going on, and I say that in this House it is very difficult to do any work honestly and thoroughly, and to feel that you have done a good day's work and can stand on it. Sometimes we have a little camouflage and we see people producing some ponderous political maxim to justify something; but as a matter of fact every noble Lord on my right who does that reckons without the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, hates the last veil, and he tears away the last veil from your Lordships and we see ourselves as we really are—very little more than Carlyle's man, very little more than that forked raddish.
447 I say (and in this I think I differ from the noble Marquess who spoke on the matter before me) that this country has had single-Chamber government for over fifty years to all intents and purposes, and that is a sham. It is a sham, because people do not realise it. People come to me and say, "Oh, that will not happen; your Lordships will not allow that to happen". But, of course, we have no power.
If there is going to be any change in the Constitution to make it worth the while of an honest man of ability to come here and work properly, your Lordships will have to have some arrangement which frees the House from the impending shadow, which is always there, of the House of Commons. There is no way out of it. If you can devise some process of legislation that enables this House to act and to stand on its ground and say, "No, this is our opinion", so that it finishes with a real compromise between the two Houses, as it did in the past, then this House can do that task which is given to it, and can do it thoroughly and do it honourably, and be filled with self-respecting people. But do not let us make any mistake: if we have a House which ultimately can do all sorts of very pretty things and then find them torn up and thrown in its face, then we shall always get this House as a sort of home for superannuated politicians, but we shall never get people of independent mind and great capacity to come and work here.
I came to work here because my life was such that I thought this was the best and most useful thing that I could do, but I have never deceived myself into thinking that it really was great and useful work. Of course, when I had to deal with Bills I did not deal with them with the great ability shown by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor; but I did my best. But I never thought it was really great and useful work. If this House is going to be reformed in any way, if there be a statesman who is above Party and who can see the whole thing, it is an opportunity, if you like, but, unless that is done, then I say, "Take the thing away and let us have honest single-Chamber government, and do not let us try to deceive the people any more". That is what I have always felt and I hope that your Lordships will think 448 about it, even though every one of you disagrees with me, because it is not nonsense. If your Lordships think it out, it is facts that I have been giving the House.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, I intend to follow the precedent set by other noble Lords in not attempting to speak sequentially, though if I confine myself to what is contained in the gracious Speech about gaming I must confess a strong temptation to embark upon a discussion upon the pre-Darwinian conception of primo-geniture to which the last noble Lord has addressed himself. I find it difficult to reconcile it with the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest; but this is another topic and the hour is getting late. I want to speak about the proposed alterations, or the alterations which should be proposed, with regard to gaming because I believe that this belongs to an issue which itself is of consummate value and importance.
I speak with a certain diffidence because, as a Methodist parson, I was brought up in the evangelical tradition, which tended to assume that if you did not drink and did not gamble, and that if you looked askance at the cinema, there were very few other moral matters with which you had to concern yourself with any great assiduity. I hope I have widened the lens since then, but I regard gambling as a major evil in its own right, or its own wrong. Professionally—that is, as a theologian or would-be theologian—I believe it is the epitome of selfishness, and, what is more, is calculated to stimulate those particular contents of the average person which were best repressed or, at any rate, controlled. I think it is essentially individualistic and a bad thing in itself. I have drawn the inferences from the evidence that comes my way of the sort of thing that gambling, in itself, does.
Then, politically, I was grateful to the noble Lord who has just sat down for mentioning the word "Socialism " at least twice. I am a Socialist, and not ashamed of it. I think the difference between the indeterminate accumulation of lumps of money in large sums or in small sums and the distribution of those sums by chance has to be compared with the determinate accumulation of lumps of money to be distributed according to 449 need; and in the world to-day any Socialist who indulges in gambling is, per se, a hypocrite. I am sorry to have to say that, but I believe it to be true. I do not like gambling, and particularly as a would-be Socialist. I am further concerned because the incidence of gambling is tending to increase. I am often disturbed, as many noble Lords may be, when I watch football to see not only the antics of the players—their cuddling and kissing after scoring, which I find embarrassing—but also the behaviour on the stands, which I am sure has something to do with the fact that many of the people are concerned as little with sportsmanship as possible and as much with the fulfilment of their hopes on a football coupon. I think that the deterioration in sportsmanship may be associated with the intrusion of gambling into many forms of sport.
As a social worker I believe that there is a vast increase in pilfering, and particularly the pilfering of money; and although it would be impossible, I think, to give any clinical assessment, it would surprise me if this increase had nothing to do with the constant demands that gamblers have for ready cash with which to gamble. I am informed by the Christian Council on Gambling that this country now provides vaster opportunities for gambling than practically any other country in the world, save for the State of Nevada in the U.S.A.—which is a dubious distinction, if ever there was one.
I saw in the newspapers yesterday that Professor Hoyle, with whom I was a student at Cambridge, announced as a proposition that he thinks the human race is doomed. And this, strangely enough, is not an astronomical prediction; it is a moral one. One of the reasons why he was regarding this prospect so fully and so unfortunately is the vast incidence of the gambling spirit. I believe that those of us who have weighed the evidence, so far as is possible, will subscribe to the propositions which have already been advanced in this House, that there is the appearance at least of vastly more gambling than is good for us and, indeed, that it has gone beyond all reasonable measure. I hold this to be true. Therefore, looking at the gaming laws I am not surprised to find in them the same processes in particular to which I have 450 adverted in general. What has happened is that the Gaming Act 1960 implemented the general conclusions of the Royal Commission of 1949–51 and in this House my noble friend the Leader of the House, quoting the Royal Commission Report on May 19, 1966, said that in reference to gambling:'the main object of the criminal law should be to prevent persons being induced to play for high stakes for the profits of the promoter.' "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 1112.]This was the principle incorporated in the Gaming Act, and this is the principle which has been traduced, avoided and largely averted.
The ways in which it has been done are simple to state though complicated to explain. The original idea, as your Lordships know, is that there should be a fixed charge by the promoter in a casino and this charge should not be repeated, and that there should be no gain from the actual gaming which the promoter may expect to receive. What has happened is this: first, the Casino Association published loudly and tearfully their incompetence to make ends meet unless they were allowed to make such continuous charges. They started with Chemin de fer; and every shoe required an additional entrance fee—and the quantity of footwear lying around after four hours was very considerable. Secondly, in roulette and baccarat the promoters entered as bankers, and profited thereby.
My Lords, may I break off to say that the two reasons why I do not intend to go into any great detail are, first, that I have no stomach to invite your Lordships' interest in these maleficent practices and in the second place I am rot absolutely sure about the position Thyself. It is very complicated. I am persuaded that if I am a child of light there is an appropriate text that in this regard, as in many others, the children of darkness in their generation are wiser than the children of light. And some of the wisest rascals are those who have evaded the law in this respect, and continue to evade it; and they tell us—and as it is in their interest I am sure they are telling the truth—that this particular way of entering the game of baccarat involves an interest in the game so that it is prolonged and therefore increases the gain for those who, in any case, receive a certain remuneration from the stakes.
451 In 1961 the question of the recurring charge with each shoe was put to the courts; and the courts decided that this was legal. I think no one would disagree with the proposition that, if it is legal according to the letter of the law, it was certainly an infringement of the spirit of the law, which is that the promoter should not himself act as one who gains from the prolongation of the gambling activities; and it is in the interests of the casino proprietor continuously to extend the hours of gaming because thereby he receives greater and greater remuneration. In other words—or, in the same words—what is happening is that this attempt to domesticate the tiger is proving fallacious—and no one knows this better than my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. He has therefore offered—and it is included in the gracious Speech—certain remedial processes. I will delay your Lordships to mention some of them.
First, he proposes a board of control which can match in competence and understanding of these particular practices the expertise of the promoters; secondly, a corps of inspectors who will be involved in the very difficult task of seeing that the law as it now stands (and as it will further be exemplified in Acts and regulations) is observed; thirdly, the attempt which he is apparently—and I hope this is true—intending to make of reintroducing, or insisting upon, the proposition that it is wrong and illegal for more than one cover charge to be imposed at the beginning of a session.
Will these things work? It is the opinion of those who have gone into it with care, and it is the evidence which shines, or looms, through the casino proprietors' organisation itself, that these things will not work. Therefore, other and more drastic measures will be involved. Briefly, they are as follows. First, there is the attempt—which I think ought to be made—to distinguish between the registration of various societies and clubs which occasionally engage in gambling and the licensing of casinos. Even in this time of day there are only 150 of these in France, whereas there are already many more in this country; and those in France are on the periphery, on the coast; and most of them are not in the great urban conurbations.
452 The second proposition is that this licensing should be accompanied by the licensing by local authorities of similar casinos, that out of this mutual interplay of interest and competition good may result. I should regard this as gaining the worst of both worlds, and it is already, I believe, repudiated by the Council on Gambling. Thirdly—and this is a much more ticklish problem, a much more difficult one to evaluate—is it possible to take out of the gambling enterprises the bad spirit and dangerous spirit of self-interest by requiring the community to make itself responsible for casinos so that that self-interest would not prevail? One of the objections to this is that there are whole areas of the country where the local authority would not do it anyhow.
Having looked at the matter and tried to make sense of it, I have come, not reluctantly, to the conclusion that the Council of the Churches were right in the first instance in saying that it was a wrong and a dangerous measure to licence casinos for profit anyhow. Though I would cordially support the Government in any of the measures they enter upon to curtail this evil, I am bound to say—not from a narrow and "prissy" point of view, and certain not from what is so often incorrectly called a puritanical standpoint—that I regard the casino as a bad thing in itself, incapable of improvement, certainly incapable of any kind of purity of action with regard to the law, and one of the residual fortresses of a kind of unbridled self-interest. I believe that they have corrupted, and are continuing to corrupt, and one of the final arguments which impresses me is that I am very resentful that this spirit of gambling, which is now so prevalent, should have largely obfuscated a very much finer principle, the principle of adventure. I know that in one sense life is a risk. We are told that life insurance is a gamble—as of course it is. But there you do not want to win. But in this regard there is a world of difference between creative adventure and the selfish indulgence in an interest which is nothing more than the personal gain of the person taking part.
I suppose, my Lords, that it would be foolish to think of legislation prohibiting gambling altogether. I think it 453 would be impossible, and there is certainly an argument for individual liberty which I should not want to infringe. But I can see no reason for the perpetuation of the casino. There is already enough gambling for those who want it. The casino is a hot-bed of vice and is an invitation to crime. These things are beyond dispute, and therefore I welcome most heartily the intention of the Home Secretary to bring in regulations which will attempt to abate this evil. I would say, finally, that I hope the casino will be finished off; and good riddance to it!
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ LORD MONK BRETTON
My Lords, I am glad, whether I agree or not with the details and methods of the Government's proposed legislation on the countryside, that the gracious Speech kept amenities in the foreground, as I am sure that these are going to occupy our time more over the next twenty or thirty years, or longer. Time was found in the last Session for the Civic Amenities Act, and I am glad also that a further reform of town and country planning is likely to come, as we heard this afternoon from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I hope that paragraph 4 of the White Paper Town and Country Planning, Cmnd. 3333, will come nearer to a suitable form of implementation. The White Paper says that there are three major defects now appearing in the present system. First, it has become overloaded and subject to delays and cumbersome procedures; secondly, there has been inadequate participation by the individual citizen, and thirdly, the system has tended to be negative. I intend as President of my local Civil Society in Lewes in Sussex to mention briefly a few problems which we have experienced and which seem to us to have national implications. I shall do this only very briefly and sketchily, to bring out the points I wish to make.
For many years foreign visitors approaching Lewes from the port of Newhaven have proceeded up the Ouse Valley through the South Downs, a very fine valley as it has always been considered to be and an exceptionally good introduction to this country. It is a marvellous way in. At the head of the valley there is the town of Lewes, dominated by its Norman castle, which is surrounded by houses built of local 454 material and a plentiful supply of trees. Somehow, the appearance has remained wonderfully the same for a very long time. I feel also in the back of my mind that this approach, if we can keep it as it is, will be a good foreign currency earner.
Lewes is on the list of fifty towns compiled by the Council of British Archaeology which are regarded as being specially worthy of preservation. It is one of the three towns in the South-East corner of Sussex, Surrey and Kent, and of course it is also one of the nearest towns to Europe. I am very glad to say that, so far as I can gather, the attitude of the Ministry to the Council of British Archaeology's list has been very good. I think the Ministry approved the idea in principle. I hope that as time goes on we shall be able to see deeds as well as hear words in support of that list, if it meets with general approval.
In Lewes we have had one tragedy, in that new county council offices had to be built. The building must have been one of the largest ever to have been erected in Lewes. It dominates the skyline and will tend to overshadow the castle. The point I wish to make is that when it became public knowledge that this scheme was going ahead, it was virtually a fait accompli. To be fair, probably there was no other real solution in this case, but it is pretty generally known that when local authorities have to do some fell deed (and this was one which was bound to be disapproved of by somebody) they are often rather successful in keeping matters quiet. That is what happened in this case. By the time anyone wanted to criticise, certainly any organisation like the Civic Society, there was little time left. It seems to me an unhappy way of approaching contentious problems, particularly if more discussion might produce better ideas.
I do not know whether the new conservation areas under the Civic Amenities Act will help meet our problems over much—it is possible. But the Act has delegated more power in the matter of amenities to the local planning authorities, and it must be remembered that they become judges in their own court. I understand that of the last 50 listed buildings which have been demolished, 455 48 were demolished by local planning authorities. It seems very important that lines of communication to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government should be sufficiently available and strong, supposing a local planning authority does, as one might say, begin to look as though it were running amok.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, who mentioned 48 houses which were demolished, whether any of them, or all of them, were listed as houses of architectural or historic interest, and does he say in that event that the local authority ignore the proper procedures in such cases?
§ LORD MONK BRETTON
May I explain to the noble Lord that these houses were not listed; the principal reason for their coming down was roads. At any rate, I feel that if a speeding-up could be achieved, as suggested in the White Paper, this would be a great thing, and I hope that it will not be too long before this is done.
My next point is about the A.27 road, which runs from Dover to Honiton in Devon. I am aware of the petitions and requests for deputations from all parts on such questions as internal relief roads. The problem of these roads impinges on the sphere of housing and local government because of the disruption of housing and amenities. I have discovered that virtually the same situation arises in Emsworth in Hampshire and in Bland-ford in Dorset, on this same road. The one question that comes out of it is: why is it that we apply the remedy of a bypass so late in this country, when other countries seem to manage to do it at a much earlier stage? One possibility that crosses my mind is this: does the road grant system tend to encourage an upheaval in the centre of towns? That seems to be the trouble in the three towns mentioned. The policy seems to be to have an internal upheaval for a 75 per cent. grant, before taking a 100 per cent. grant on a by-pass, because after doing so internal traffic flow projects may become a local matter and attract a lower rate of grant. I do not know whether this view is a correct one, but I have heard it stated.
There must be some way out of this difficulty. I am sure that this is something 456 which Professor Buchanan would not think was right. As a taxpayer as well as a ratepayer, when I see a local authority getting more money from the Government I do not feel that it is going to make a great deal of difference to me. Perhaps the attraction of these internal relief roads is the possibility of a piecemeal approach rather than economy. Once an authority starts to build a bypass, they have to finish the whole of it before it is any use; but with the relief road, one section completed will help for a time. It is difficult to generalise, but I believe that in some cases it will be found that in the end, before the whole of a relief road project is finished it will cost considerably more than a by-pass would have done.
I would put in a plea for some special dispensation in respect of the 50 towns on the list of the Council of British Archaeology, or maybe of some very similar revised list. I wonder whether there is a possibility of grouping together the money granted for relief roads in several of these towns in order to do a proper job in one of them. If it could be arranged to get one job done better, with less loss to amenity and to our heritage, that would be an achievement. I am sure that this would help meet the difficulties of county councils, who have had to struggle long with the complaints about an inadequate road system, as have the central Government. They have suffered much from the play on words over their official position as "statutory undertakers".
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, in the short time that I have been participating in the debates in your Lordships' House there have been two questions which have particularly occupied my attention. It is therefore very agreeable to me to see that both those questions have found a place in this year's gracious Speech.
The first, as your Lordships will perhaps not be surprised to hear, is the intention of the Government to eliminate the hereditary basis of your Lordships' House. About two years ago, I said that I should be happy when the day came when I voted myself out of this Chamber, and I am pleased to know that this moment will come, I trust during this Session. No doubt this will also be a relief to many noble Lords present. Apart 457 from improving the respect which will be accorded to this House in future and improving the role which it can play in Parliament, I think that this proposal will also help to eliminate the traces of snobbery and of class-consciousness which are all too prevalent in our society to-day, because if aristocracy is associated in people's minds with the power of the House of Lords, that aristocracy has far too much respect accorded to it. I congratulate the Government and particularly my noble friend the Leader of the House upon having the courage to grasp the nettle of composition as well as reducing powers.
The second proposal in the gracious Speech which I want to refer to and to praise is the proposal to amend and extend the scope of the Race Relations Act 1965. The last debate which we had on this topic was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, on the P.E.P. Report. In that debate I criticised and challenged my noble friend Lord Stonham, because I felt that he was disputing some of the conclusions arrived at in the Report. I am now all the more pleased because the apprehensions which I then felt were completely unjustified and the Government have decided to go ahead with this legislation. Although this may not seem to be a vote-gaining measure, I think that the Government should be praised—and I believe that they will be praised—for having the courage to tackle this serious evil.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, criticised the Government for not introducing any great social reforms. I think it was churlish of him not to refer to this one, because I believe it to be a great measure and one which will make this country a more humane place in which to live.
§ LORD MOYNIHAN
I agree with the noble Lord, and I apologise for not mentioning it. I would point out that this is a measure which has always been firmly supported from these Benches, and which noble Lords on these Benches have done as much as any noble Lords to bring about.
§ LORD GIFFORD
I am aware of the concern that the Liberal Party have shown on the subject, and I am glad to provoke the noble Lord into repeating that concern. The first P.E.P. Report 458 which we debated then showed beyond any doubt the extent and prevalence of racial discrimination. But now there has been another P.E.P. Report, the Street Report. This shows with equal authority that legislation is an effective and, indeed, an essential weapon in the fight against racial discrimination. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to refer to two examples from American experience quoted in that Report.
The first one, in paragraph 78, refers to cases of discrimination in employment which were found by the New York Human Rights Commission, where discrimination was proved, and where a year later the Commission followed up by inquiring into the practices then obtaining. The Commission found that:In 85 per cent. of these cases studied there was a definite improvement in the employment pattern, as compared with the conditions which existed at the time the original complaints against those firms were filed.They went on:These changes were reflected in the substantial increases in the number of members of different racial, religious and nationality groups employed in professional, technical, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled job categories. In the other 15 per cent. of the cases analysed, although there was no evidence of continued job-discrimination, no significant changes in employment patterns were found.The second example is in paragraph 82 of the Report, where a leading property developer in the United States is quoted as saying, quite frankly, that before any laws against discrimination in the sale of houses were introduced his firm operated and sold houses on a discriminatory basis. There was only one State in which he discriminated in the sale of houses, and that was the State of Maryland, where there were no laws at the, time he spoke, because where there were no laws his competitors discriminated, and in order to keep up with them he had to discriminate, as well. These are two examples quoted in the Street Report which show the direct effect of legislation in combating discrimination. There are, of course, all sorts of other indirect effects, because I believe that a law-abiding society can be moulded by laws, and their attitudes can be changed.
It has been said many times, by me and by many others, that legislation in this field must be effective. It must be effective in its scope and effective in the way in which it is enforced. Perhaps I may 459 refer to two matters which cause me some concern, and on which the Government may—I sincerely hope that they will not—be tempted to compromise. The first concerns the scope of the law. The Home Secretary said in July that the law would be extended to cover housing, employment and credit facilities. But within that broad scope there is much room for argument.
I want to refer to the one topic in the Street Report where the Committee are not unanimous, and that is on the sale of owner-occupied houses. One member of the Committee thought that where an owner-occupier wished to sell his house he should not be prevented in any way from discriminating and selling it to a white man rather than a coloured man. I do not understand the argument that is used to support this idea. I quote from paragraph 133.4 of the Report:On the other hand, it is argued that the home is so fundamental an aspect of the citizen's financial and domestic arrangements that it should not be the subject of legal regulation.No doubt whom a man chooses to invite into his home is the subject of private and domestic concern, but I cannot see how the choice of a buyer for the house can be a matter of such deep domestic concern. This would respectively exclude from the provisions of the Bill, I believe, about 47 per cent. of housing in the country. It would do nothing about the case of Mr. Shepherd, which your Lordships may have read about in the newspapers, who was prevented from buying a house in a desirable neighbourhood because the neighbours ganged up and stopped him. I ask the Government not to follow that minority view.
The second point concerns the enforceability of the proposed Act. Here I can only refer to rumours, which I trust are not true, that have been circulating about the intentions of the Government: that in their new Bill the Government will retain the requirement that proceedings against a discriminating company or landlord will have to be instituted by the Attorney General after the conciliation process has failed. I cannot imagine a more cumbersome and unsatisfactory method of enforcing this law.
In the Street Report it is said that the machinery implementing anti-discrimination 460 laws must satisfy three criteria. It must be fair; it must be speedy; and it must be effective. I believe that the present law, whereby the Attorney General must institute the proceedings, is not fair; and certainly it cannot be seen to be fair, because the Attorney General is a politician, and inevitably in these matters he may be influenced by political considerations; and when Government Departments are involved he may be involved in a conflict of interests.
The present law is not speedy. There has been only one case which the Attorney General has considered, and in fact he rejected the case of discrimination referred to. It took several months before he even gave the answer, "No; I will not take proceedings." Nor is there an effective way of enforcing the law. It provides no remedy for the victim, and it leaves embittered and dissatisfied the man whose complaint the Attorney General thinks is not fit to follow up.
What is required is a flexible administrative machinery—whether it is the machinery suggested in the Street Report, whereby the Race Relations Board decide on the remedy and an independent panel decides on whether or not there has been discrimination, or as in the Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Brockway (which I still believe to be a very good Bill), which proposed that the Race Relations Board itself should hold hearings and make the decision as to whether or not discrimination had been practised. If the Government are thinking of retaining the role of the Attorney General in this legislation, they must realise that this new legislation will, in fact, be worse than no legislation: because there is a growing bitterness, particularly among young coloured Englishmen emerging from schools, that by reason of the discrimination and prejudice in this society they are being consigned to some kind of under-privileged status.
I congratulate the Government on giving these people hope, and I ask the Government not to take away that hope, but to give them a law which they can use. Then, my Lords, this country will be able to prove once again that it is a country where human rights have been fought for and upheld, and where the canker of racial prejudice can be overcome.
§ 6.40 p.m.
LORD ST. JUST
My Lords, a debate on Home Affairs is, I feel, the best opportunity to bring up the subject of the problem of loneliness and loss of identity in the young and old. The noble Lord, Lord McLeavy, in a maiden speech this afternoon covered the question of the old, but I am going to enlarge upon it slightly and bring in also the young. This is not a subject easy to cover in a short speech. It is a vast social problem of the present day, and I can only skim the surface.
To go back to the war years when I was in the Army, certainly none of us then could complain of loss of identity or any such thing. We were very much part of a unit, and part of a cause. I know that on those occasions when one came on leave to London one got this very strong impression, with the blitz at its height and so on, that there was great unity of feeling within this vast metropolis, and of everybody fighting for one cause, and therefore of everybody being very close and united. This is a feeling which has now perhaps rather lapsed.
Since the war we have been through a bewildering social revolution. I think none of us has any doubt about that. We are protected by the Welfare State from birth to the grave. But we have the plight of the aged, which can be seen by all present forces to have grown; and we have the drug problem of the young. And our hospitals, so we are told by the papers—and I know this for myself to be a fact, as I have been round psychiatric hospitals—are full of psychiatric patients. These patients are not by any means all old or middle aged. In fact, a great many are young. This may be a rather jaundiced outlook on the present-day situation, but we must face facts, and what I have said is true.
I remember when I was in South Africa after the war talking one day to an old Zulu—and a very wise old man he was, too. I always had the greatest respect for Zulus. They struck me as being the most remarkable people, with a great fighting tradition behind them, and they always had a supreme clarity of wisdom regarding their tribal laws. I was talking to this Zulu about this problem, and he seemed quite pleased with the various things I was saying. He asked, "Have 462 you, by chance, been to Johannesburg?". I said that I had not yet, but I was going. He said: "There you will see, when the tribal spirit is lost and the home background has gone, and the family background has gone, what happens to our Zulus". And, sure enough, I saw very much what he meant—complete disintegration of the human being.
This can happen, I think, to some degree in this country—in fact, to a rather strong degree. Very often it comes down to the basic fact of loneliness and the feeling of not properly being wanted, especially among the old, or, as a psychiatrist would say, loss of identity. This comes about, as we know, from the break-up of the family unit. I think, too, that it is connected with the speed of life generally. People cannot be bothered: they have not time to worry about old people and the family. There is the problem of the young person in the family who is being difficult. They cannot get down to discussing the problem, and in the end they lose interest. Very often various domestic problems concerning the family are not thought out and discussed in enough detail. I think this is all connected with the speed of life. I think it also comes about through our national undertakings, groups of businesses becoming larger and larger, and the individual meaning less and less. I think one can see this so often. For instance, on the railways in the old days there was the L.N.E.R., and a man who worked for the L.N.E.R. would feel a part of the organisation. I do not think that "British Railways, Eastern Region", gives quite the same feeling to one of being part of an organisation. This is a problem that has to be faced with amalgamations going on, and dealt with in the best way possible.
So far as the young are concerned, I am certain they feel that the older generation do not understand them. The young get this feeling. I do not think they are always correct about it, but this is what they feel. The remedy is the youth club organisations, such as Outward Bound societies, and sailing and sports of all kinds. This kind of activity, we know, goes on, but as more and more leisure comes our way (there have been many debates in this House on this question of leisure) the problem grows bigger.
I was interested in reading a book just published, Drug Addiction in the Young, 463 to learn that after hospital treatment for drug addiction the hospital offers nothing at all. The most important thing, then, is the group formation of some kind, and this must continue until the patients have fully recovered and been rehabilitated in every way. Exactly the same thing happens in the case of the discharge of patients from mental hospitals. It was found that it was not enough for people just to go back to visit the doctors and psychiatrists in mental hospitals. It was felt that when people came out of these hospitals they had to go to hostels, where they could have a strong feeling of belonging and group organisation, for many weeks before being able to face full outside life.
I am certain that the problem of the old is without any doubt even more acute. People live longer, and therefore after they retire they have a longer time to feel discarded, especially if their family does not take any trouble with them. If only the community centres, which are now being provided, and the social clubs, where they can go once or twice a week and meet friends and feel they belong to the community still, are kept active all may be well. Otherwise old people go into decline and lose all interest in life generally. There is no doubt about it: no society, however prosperous, with more and more leisure, can survive if this loss of identity of the individual takes place. I am certain that this is where private organisations must, as they do, play a large part in helping to fill the void that has been left.
This is not a Government problem; no Government can deal with this. This is a social problem. But if the Government—they cannot produce a great deal of finance; one knows that the Government are hard pressed from the financial angle—can support these private organisations, whether clubs or societies, to deal with drug addiction and old peoples' societies, which will enable the old people to be amused, I believe this will produce a great boost and will provide a moral backing for all these organisations.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, we are nearing the end of a five-day debate, and to-day's has been one of exceptional breadth and great interest. We have 464 dealt with divorce, Scotland, gaming, town and country planning, racial discrimination, old people and young people. I should like in particular, if I may, to refer to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord McLeavy, whom I am delighted to see on the Benches opposite. He and I sat opposite each other for a long time, and his benign presence has always given me some encouragement. To-day, if I may say so, he excelled himself. He bared his breast and showed his heart in a way we had come to recognise in another place. His was a speech of which he can be proud and which we are glad to have heard.
The recurring theme of this debate, not so much to-day as on the other days, has been the relevance of the Government's proposals for this Session's legislation at a time when the main problems before the country are the balance-of-payments position and the task of adapting ourselves for entry into the Common Market. It is not just a question of looking forward to "the early opening of negotiations" for entry to the Common Market. If the Government are as determined as they make out that those negotiations should succeed then, as the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, said yesterday in his powerful speech, in every piece of legislation that is brought before Parliament they should be considering how it will help or hinder our entry, and how it will help or hinder us once we are in. There is very little in the legislative programme to suggest that the dominating purpose in every department of Government is, first, to get into the Common Market and then to feel at home and to flourish when once we are in.
Of course I accept that the Government have stated that their principal aim is the achievement of a strong economy, but to succeed in this aim the Government must ensure that they do not themselves spend more than the country can afford, and that as a country we do not go on paying ourselves each year more for the same amount of work or for less. They must so arrange our affairs that greater skill and greater productivity at all levels, from the lowest to the highest, receives its fair reward.
The only two measures of much economic consequence in the gracious Speech are to deal with so-called transport integration and to enable the 465 Government to put equity capital into private undertakings. The first is likely to result in higher charges for road transport, coupled with reduced services and increased taxation, while the second seems to mean that the taxpayer's money will be put into enterprises that are not considered by private enterprise likely to be economic. Neither seems likely to contribute much, if anything, to national recovery.
I readily acknowledge the efforts that the Government have been making to bring home to the country the need for higher productivity. We should also, I think, be grateful to the Prices and Incomes Board for the work they have been doing and to the National Economic Development Council, to which the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, referred in his excellent maiden speech. The noble Lord also mentioned that industrial productivity, expressed in terms of output per person, rose by 2½ per cent. between mid-1966 and mid-1967. That is very encouraging. What he did not say is that total industrial production during that period fell by 1 per cent., according to the Prices and Incomes Board, the difference being due to the rise in unemployment.
One would like to think that the gain in productivity is permanent, as the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, suggested, and will with certainty continue. But, as the Prices and Incomes Board pointed out, that cannot be assumed, since productivity tends to rise when unemployment rises—for reasons that are obvious enough. Nor is that an argument for having a larger pool of unemployment, but it is an argument for having improved wage negotiating machinery.
There are two facts which seem to me to be by no means unrelated. The first is that productivity has risen less in this country over the past two decades than in most other industrial countries. The second is, to quote the words of Professor H. A. Turner:Our system of wage determination is almost unique in its freedom from legal regulation.It is tempting, whenever legal regulation is mentioned, to conjure up visions of 9,000 Liverpool dockers being hauled before the courts, as the noble Lord, Lord Cooper of Stockton Heath, did in an 466 Otherwise admirable speech. But this is not what happens in other countries, and it would not happen here. Actions may be made unlawful without being made criminal.
In a civilised country people conduct their affairs within a legal framework, with the law always in the background, to serve as a general guide as to rights and duties, and to ensure that when there is a conflict of interest the parties concerned will resolve their differences without causing each other, or third parties, or the nation, physical or material harm. It is difficult to see why the same should not apply in the case of trade unions, whether of wage-earners or employers.
Your Lordships will have noticed that Professor Turner used the word "freedom"—" freedom from legal regulation". In a free and just society the various freedoms of different sections have to be compatible; in other words, one section should not enjoy a freedom, or a privilege, which can without check be exercised to the detriment of the interests of third parties and of the nation at large. Is it really too much to ask that, in the present predicament of the nation, a system of settling industrial disputes should be worked out that will not cause loss to innocent third parties, and above all will not cost the nation so dear in trade and in reputation? It is no answer to count up the days lost in strikes and compare them with the experience of other countries. The test is the damage to the national interest in the particular circumstances of each country. At this juncture in our affairs it is with real regret that we find no hope held out in the gracious Speech that this defect will be remedied in the current Session. I only hope that it will be remedied in the following Session.
Before I leave this subject of wage agreements, may I refer to one admirable piece of sound sense in the Report of the Prices and Incomes Board. They say in paragraph 50:There is one clear lesson which emerges from the Board's Report on productivity agreements. It is that, while an increase in pay can legitimately take place concurrently with an increase in output, it cannot consistently with stability in the economy precede an increase in output.467 It is all the more disturbing that the Government have allowed the backdating of agreements, so that increases, which the Board holds up precisely because they precede increases in productivity, will none the less be backdated when the period of delay is over. The Government have here lost a good opportunity of driving home a very necessary lesson in a practical way. The Government have estimated that the increase in hourly rates in 1967 will be some 6 to 6½ per cent. With very little, if any, increase in production, this represents a resumption of the inflationary spiral, and it is a bad augury for 1968.
A good deal has been said in the debate about arbitrary discrimination between one company and another. Equally, it is one of the main duties of government to ensure fairness between one citizen and another. I am glad that the Government have found time for legislation to implement the Molony Committee recommendations on misleading trade descriptions, and indeed have already introduced the Bill into this House. We welcome the Bill back, but we shall need to examine it closely again. In fact, we did not quite get through it last time. I am only sorry that the Government have seen fit to call it the Consumer Protection Bill, since that is only one part of its objective. In reality it is a Fair Trading Bill. Surely that is what it should be called. Its object is, as I understand it—or at least I hope its effect will be—not only to secure fair play for the consumer, but fair play for the trade competitor also. I should also like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply when the Bill to implement the White Paper on the Safety, Quality and Purity of Medicines will be available. This is one in which the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, has a particular interest, after all his careful work. May I ask whether that Bill will be introduced in this House also?
There is no area in which fairness is more important on the part of the Government than in the bestowal of subsidies, grants and so forth on individuals. There are also few areas which can give rise to more waste of resources. I still regard as one of the greatest sources of unfairness the fact that those who are fortunate enough to live in council houses 468 are so often subsidised by those who are not, whether they need the subsidy or not and whether those who subsidise them are better off than they are or not. I recognise that increases in rent can lead to increases in wages and this is a time when we should do everything possible to keep down our costs of production. But should there not now be a programme for gradually eliminating this unfairness? Of course those who have special privileges do not readily give them up; we all know that. But if we are to pay our way in the world and if we are to have a just society we must progressively stop subsidising those who can well provide for themselves. I noticed with interest that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that the Rent Acts were going to be consolidated. That would make them all the easier to amend, and we welcome that.
There is so much on the home front that needs a really radical reappraisal. The Minister of Health has said that he is reviewing the organisation of the health services. What about their financing, which runs to, I believe, something like £1,300 million a year? Unless the Minister keeps an open mind on this subject, can the services really be reorganised, except at considerably increased cost, in such a way as to provide a greatly improved service to the nation and to encourage our doctors to stay here and give the best service they can to all?
I find only one mention of Scotland in the gracious Speech. We look forward to considering the reorganisation of the social services in Scotland, though we shall have to look very carefully at the enforcement proposals. Here is an example, if I may say so to my noble friend Lord St. Just, of bringing together a number of related local authority services which, as the White Paper Cmnd. 3065 said, have been developed piecemeal, for the care of the children, the old, the sick, mentally and otherwise, and the handicapped. This also poses questions not only of extra and growing burdens on the rates but of tests of need. I see from the White Paper—I am sure the noble Lord, Lord McLeavy, will be glad to know this—that emphasis is to be laid on care in the old and sick person's own home, and I am sure the whole House will welcome that. There is also the 469 question of further education grants. I must ask, can we really afford an indiscriminate outpouring of money unrelated to national needs?
The fact is that we have too many bodies handing out subsidies based on different tests of need. I wonder whether we have not now reached the stage when we should have a thorough review of all such payments in relation to individual income and national purpose. At one time we had different bodies dealing with the Poor Law, unemployment benefit, supplementary assistance, sickness benefit, old age pensions and so on. The Beveridge Committee was set up to review the whole field. Should we not now do the same in the wider field of subsidy, grant and supplementation to individuals? Of course, I realise that such a review would have to look at personal taxation at the same time, and that such a review would have to cover both the level of taxation and the way in which it is paid. But if we are both to restore fairness as between one taxpayer and another and at the same time give adequate rewards for extra effort at all levels, surely it is high time this was done.
My last point concerns those who no longer earn or are rendered unable to earn. We have not yet had a statement, so far as I know, from Miss Herbison of her reasons for resigning last July. To judge from the gracious Speech, it looks very much as if it was because no place was to be found for the measure which was promised in the 1964 Election to provide half pay for all on retirement. That was the way in which it was described. Certainly no place has been found for it. I wonder if the noble Lord can tell us whether Miss Herbison's plans have been cast aside, and whether a fresh start is to be made on other plans.
We, for our part on this side of the House, believe that there is a prior charge on the nation's resources, and that is to meet the needs of those who are stricken down with incurable illness or disability in their prime, whether they are breadwinners or wives of breadwinners. Help for these people would be welcomed by all Parties. It would not be a contentious issue. Why not a Bill in this present Session? Certainly it need not wait for comprehensive legislation covering retirement pensions. Perhaps I could remind 470 the noble Lord of what was said in New Frontiers for Social Security:No one should underestimate the widespread poverty that still exists. It is chiefly concentrated among those who through infirmity, ill fortune or old age have been forced to rely for extended periods on the benefits of our so-called Welfare State. It is this defenceless minority who need our immediate aid.Of course they got some aid; they got an increase in the general level of pension. This Report went further than that. It sought to cover those people that we regard as being in particular need, those who are stricken in their prime, and very often it is not the breadwinner but the wife who is stricken.
There is also the question of the transferability of existing pensions in private superannuation schemes. The way I understand Canada dealt with this was to say that from the date of the legislation all contributions would have to be towards schemes which provided for transferability on change of employment. Surely this, at least, could be done. We could go further and provide that whatever is due under present contractual arrangements on termination of employment before 60—that is, other than redundancy payments—should normally be frozen until retirement whether through old age or ill health. Those who changed their jobs would then at least have their own and their employers' contributions preserved for them and made available when, and only when, they ceased to work.
Finally the gracious Speech refers to legislation to increase the level of family allowances, and a Bill has already been laid before another place to do so. The Ministry of Social Security's Report on The Circumstances of Families showed that the number of families whose income could not be made up to the basic level provided by the supplementary benefits scheme, either because the father was working and paid a low wage or because his supplementary benefits were subject to the wage-stop, was estimated at about 160,000, comprising some half-million children. This was roughly the measure of the families which fell below the poverty line. The further increase of supplementary benefit this month will have increased the number. This is the main problem that the new Bill has to meet, and when it comes to us we shall 471 have to see how far it does meet it and whether it does so not only completely but in the most economical way, that is, with the least subsidy to those who do not really need assistance.
The one thing in the gracious Speech on which we can all agree is the need to achieve a strong economy. The trouble is that there is nothing in either the gracious Speech or in the Government's conduct of our national affairs in the past three years that offers any hope at all of their achieving it.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, on having covered more subjects and addressed more questions to me than I thought was possible in such a short space of time. Also he has made a great many sweeping observations with which I do not agree—and none more sweeping than the last, when he said there was nothing in the gracious Speech which had any relevance to improvements in the economy. I cannot tell the noble Lord when we shall have legislation on the safety and quality of medicines; nor indeed whether it will be introduced here. I should have thought it was something to bear in mind, and that we might possibly have a debate on the White Paper. I am sorry that I cannot give any more explicit answer than that.
The debate itself has ranged far and wide, territorially and otherwise. At one end of the country the noble Earl, Lord Perth, raised the Scottish question, when he said that Scotland could still be regarded as coming within home affairs and not as a foreign country. I am glad to note that the noble Earl has not yet thought it necessary to depart North to defend the frontier. At the other end of the country the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton, urged us to consider civic amenities in Lewes, and of course we have made many stops on the road in between.
For me, one of the most notable moments in the debate was the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord McLeavy, who, as the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said, excelled himself. I can remember many speeches of my noble friend in another place when I was sitting alongside him on the same Benches, and I 472 agree that in those days he certainly did not do better than he did to-day. We shall look forward to many more informed and compassionate contributions from him.
To-day he drew attention to the loneliness suffered by old people, and to the need for more to be done on the social side. I think that perhaps he (certainly this applied to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn) was less than just in regard to what has been done and the intentions of the Government for the future. My noble friend—and I was glad to hear it—paid generous tribute to the efforts of the W.R.V.S. It is interesting to note that since 1962 there has been a rapid increase in the meals-on-wheels service. In 1962, in England and Wales the total delivery was 3½ million meals in a year. So far this year, 1967, as my noble friend said, the total is 9 million. In fact, the grand total this year will be of the order of some 12 million—that is a fourfold increase in five years.
Then again, in regard to recreation, we have 1,500 old people's welfare committees; 7,000 social clubs are provided, and there has been an enormous increase in home helps and in all the amenities, if one can call them that the things that have to be done to relieve the tragic problem of loneliness to which my noble friend referred. But we are dealing with a gracious Speech which mentions the Bill the Government propose to introduce to remedy what is a real deficiency in this field; namely, a Bill to empower local authorities to provide a general welfare service for old people, rather than particular services for all who are permanently incapacitated, in exactly the same way as they have a general power to provide services for the permanently handicapped. I am sure that this will do a great deal to meet the point which my noble friend made.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, opened the debate with a most interesting speech, in which he almost began by saying some extraordinarily kind things to me. Although they are undeserved, I am extremely grateful to him for them. Many of the questions which the noble Lord asked were dealt with by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, and there is no need for 473 me to add to those that were so ably dealt with. But I was most grateful to the noble Lord for the wide range of questions which he put to me on the Prison Service and related services, when he asked me to tell your Lordships something up to date about prisons.
The first thing with regard to prisons is the population. As the noble Lord is well aware, there has been a remorselessly rising tide of prison population which has never been more acute in its incidence than within the last twelve months. Indeed, it has continued for the greater part of this year, and we reached a peak of some 35,600 two or three months ago. That compares with 33,776 at the beginning of the year. But, fortunately, we appear to have reached a plateau which is descending slightly, because the last two returns that I have are both some three or four hundred below the 35,000 mark; and it is gratifying, when we have been anticipating a still further rise, that the number has started to go down.
This rising tide is the major problem in the Prison Service. It is sobering to reflect that in 1945 we had 13,180 men and boys in Prison Service establishments. This year that number was 34,272, more than two and a half times as many. By contrast, there is one bright spot: whereas in 1945 we had 1,502 women and girls in prison establishments, this year the number is 968—a drop of nearly 40 per cent. Because of the tremendous increase in the number of men and boys, there is still, despite the provision of many new prisons, borstals and detention centres, grave overcrowding. There are nearly 9,000 men sleeping two or three to a cell designed for one man.
I do not want to weary your Lordships with details of the prison building programme, which is substantial. I will only say that this month we have the second unit of a detention centre for 100 boys being opened. Also this month we are making a start on the Haverigg Camp Prison in Cumberland, where the prisoners will really build themselves in, and where we shall build to a population of some 400. We shall have the detention centre at Eastwood Park for 100 junior boys, another self-built establishment, ready in March. Coldingley prison for 300 men will be ready about the middle of next year, and Onley borstal, North- 474 amptonshire, for 300 boys later on next year. But our plans to convert three other military camps into "C" or "D" prisons have been held up because of local opposition and the consequent need for public inquiries. Everybody always says, "We understand your need. We sympathise with this. It is dreadful that you have all these men sleeping three to a cell. We agree that you must have more prisons. But not here." Until we can persuade the community as a whole that this is really their business it will be always like that.
We are looking forward to some at least temporary relief when the relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice Act come into operation next January. Every year there are nearly 70,000 receptions into prison of people serving short sentences, remands in custody or as fine defaulters; and the new provisions for suspended sentences, the collection of fines and mandatory bail should substantially reduce this number and, generally speaking, relieve overcrowding where it is most acute; that is, in local prisons.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is taking any account of the possibility of being able to catch more of the criminals, since I take it that this overcrowding figure is based on the present percentage of "catch". If it goes up, it will still be as overcrowded as ever.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am fully aware of that. I was going to say that, when it comes to congratulating ourselves on some improvement in the detection rate, this is a problem we have to look at in regard to our prisons. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, is so much ahead of me on this matter.
I was saying that the provisions in the Act for suspended sentences, collection of fines, and mandatory bail should substantially reduce the figure of 70,000 to which I referred, and will help us most in local prisons. Brixton Prison, for example, with a population of some 800 men, comprised almost exclusively of the categories I have mentioned, sends 100 of them out on an ordinary working day. One gets intolerable staff and other problems when, on average, virtually the whole prison population is changed every 475 two weeks. That is the kind of thing which we are up against and which is not generally appreciated.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, asked me whether the Prison Service was attracting enough recruits of the right quality. I think we can claim that it is attracting enough, and certainly the quality is there. There is sometimes a tendency to overlook the great expansion of the Prison Service. At the end of 1947 we had only 2,680 officers of all grades in post. At the end of last year we had 7,991—a three-fold increase in 19 years, and we are still going on quite rapidly. During the whole of this year we expect not only to have brought into training but to have trained some 1,040 men-officers and 68 women—that is over 1,100, one of our best years yet, and in all the years from now on we expect a trained intake of about 1,200 men and women and a net increase of about 800 a year. Your Lordships I am sure will agree that this is quite a good effort.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, will be aware that the Mountbatten Report mentioned the great need for providing houses for new recruits, and here again we are making good progress. This year £1¼ million has been allocated for staff houses, which represents some 280 staff quarters, in addition to those to be provided at new establishments. I am satisfied that the gap will be filled fairly soon.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, asked me whether every able-bodied prisoner is doing at least a 30-hour week, and he mentioned his visit to Wandsworth Prison at a time when they were doing only 18 hours a week. I am glad to say that though the position is not perhaps as I should like to see it, it is very much better than it might have been. It is true that the sudden increase of concentration on security prisons, in regard not only to money but to men and buildings, has affected things in this respect, because it reduces the discipline staff available for supervision of this work. But certainly that state of affairs has passed in the majority of prisons and only lingers on to a lesser extent in some.
I should like to tell your Lordships about the overall picture in this matter, 476 which is something that is very close to my heart. Your Lordships know that I attach the greatest importance to work in prisons as a major element of training and rehabilitation. I also attach importance to fair competition with outside industry and to an insistence on efficient prison industries, which will one day enable prisoners to earn as much as they could for comparable work outside. For the last two years we have been making special efforts in this field, and, despite handicaps, we have made some progress. The first handicap will always be with us: a 400 per cent. per year labour turnover. Fancy running a business when your staff changes on average every three months! That is what we have to do and expect to continue to do. Furthermore, one is running the business with a staff that is mainly unskilled and which includes among it many who have never worked before regularly, and not a few who are, by ordinary standards, unemployable.
The other obstacles are, I hope, only temporary: lack of space in cramped obsolete buildings which this year obliged us in some cases to suspend work with machines because there was not room to employ men or work which required more space than a chair to sit on; shortage of supervisory staff, which precludes a full working day, let alone shift work. And we suffered more in prisons from the July, 1966, freeze than did industry outside. But, despite that, the hours worked have actually improved overall from the bad period. Although things have been slower than I hoped, they have been moving. We now have 15,000 inmates—that is, half of all the men and boys in prison and in borstal—engaged in manufacturing industry. That is a quite large number.
We made a start last year on rationalising our industries and concentrating them into six main ones. We are having a better deployment of industry in each establishment, and we have been introducing as quickly as we possibly can new methods based on the advice of outside consultants who have spent months in prisons engaged on work study. We find that in many cases it means we have to train the trainers, and we are in many cases now training our prisoners before they go into the workshops, which is immensely beneficial. But the result 477 of these efforts is that we are now producing goods and services to the value of £5,200,000 a year, compared with £3,200,000 in 1964; that is, an increase of rather more than 60 per cent. in three years, and I am hopeful of reaching £10 million a year in the lifetime of this Parliament. That will be a fair-sized business. Better management and training have enabled orders to be obtained for higher quality products of the same broad type as before—better standards of furniture—and also for new products like road signs which are as good as anything which can possibly be made outside.
We are increasing prisoners' earnings in relation to productivity and are providing earnings incentives which enable them to earn double the amount they did previously. It is still only a pound a week, but if one's maximum was eleven shillings, a pound is a rise. At one prison, Kirkham, practically all the prisoners engaged in manufacturing industry, about 200 men, have been placed on the new maximum of one pound a week, and although individual productivity has varied at Kirkham it has gone up by around 26 per cent. in less than a year. At that one prison, for a full year, the Exchequer is benefiting to the extent of £14,000. Similar schemes are being introduced in other prisons, and we have six going so far. Perhaps only the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and his noble friend Lord Derwent will really understand just what the problems arc. I make no extravagant claims and I make no excuses. I have waited two years to be able to report some little progress. But I think that when real progress of this kind can be reported it is worth doing. I only wish that people could see more of it.
Yesterday in the cinema in Westminster Hall there was a film shown of prisoners building a detention centre at Eastwood Park. I think that two members of the Commons Select Committee, myself and three Home Office officials were there to see it. It was a most inspiring film; the kind of thing that should be shown far and wide for the lesson it teaches. It is an absolutely first-class job. The contract price was £400,000. We shall complete it weeks ahead of time at a saving to the Exchequer of £90,000.
478 But that is not the most important thing; the most important thing is that the trade unions are co-operating. They are offering the men the jobs to come out to, because they have been on production work. We are starting another, bigger one to-day and another production job next week, and we hope to have about 5,000 men being trained in this way in the building industry. As noble Lords will appreciate, in most of the six industries we have to concentrate on the need of the prisons because we are large-scale consumers of certain goods.
But I have long rebelled against the low standards, as I regard them, of prison clothing. I see no reason why a man must wear a shirt with a collar which, inevitably, must chafe his neck almost raw in no time. How stupid it is to make shirts like that, which require a high degree of skilled labour, when, if you had a shirt such as we wear, which buttons down the front, it would use much less material and much less labour! All we need to do is to provide ourselves with outside markets other Government Departments and commerce—for our surplus; and that is precisely what we are doing. The prison blouse takes 34 different pieces of cloth and a high skilled labour content, so we are making a jacket with 14 pieces of cloth and we are starting "master tailors" prisons, "master cutters" prisons, which alone will save us £25,000 a year on our cloth bill. This is the kind of thing we are now doing in prison.
Also, I find it offensive that women should be in prison at all, and I find it offensive and stupid that women should wear prison clothing. They wear quite attractive prison clothing, in five colours, but we are now going to have all women and girls in prison, except those with very short sentences or those in detention centres, wearing their own clothing. Most of the very few women who go to prison are disturbed, upset, and wearing their own clothing is, in my view, a morale booster and a help. We shall send them along with a prison officer to select what they want in the shop and have their own clothing. As I have said, this is the kind of thing we are doing, and I think it indicates that our prisons, though they leave much to be desired, and always will, are in many ways in good heart and moving. So far as the Probation Service is concerned, we now have some 2,700 officers, and the numbers who will be 479 trained next year and enter through training are a record. There will be over 300; so there again I do not think we have a great deal to worry about.
I must not spend any more time on my favourite subject, and I will now go on to deal with the other subjects that have been dealt with by your Lordships; in particular, House of Lords reform. I was going to speak about the "dear departed", but I must not do that. A number of noble Lords have spoken and made great speeches on this subject, but they have now left us. On this subject I would only say to the noble Marquess; to the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun (with his 36 years in your Lordships' House); to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, who pleaded for young men, if they can be found to stay in the House; and to my noble friend Lord Gifford, with whom I disagree entirely—I hope rightly—in his belief that we should welcome his departure from the House, that we have listened with very great interest to all the views expressed, and all of them will be taken most careful note of.
Nothing will be overlooked in the inter-Party discussion which started this very evening. But, equally, your Lordships would not expect me, while these discussions are going on, to offer any detailed comments on the various suggestions that have been put forward or to prejudge the outcome of those discussions or in any way to hamper them. I am not part of those discussions, but my own feelings about your Lordships' House are too public and too well known to need emphasis from me. I am very proud of this House, and proud to be a Member of it, and I am quite certain that we are not, as some uninformed commentators have alleged, proposing a reform of the House of Lords "just for the hell of it". I feel sure we all hope that from the talks there will emerge an all-Party agreement on proposals for reform which will preserve the many excellent features of this House while ridding it of its acknowledged anomalies.
I am sure that even those of your Lordships who did not agree with my noble friend Lady Summerskill and there could not have been many—must have been very moved by the speech which she made on the question of the Divorce Bill. But as my noble and learned friend 480 the Lord Chancellor emphasised—indeed, he intervened in my noble friend's speech to emphasise—the Government are not committed to introducing any legislation. My noble friend urged the Government not to be precipitate about introducing it, and I must again say that we are not introducing any legislation. We are not committed to supporting it or to opposing it.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, reproached us for not introducing a Government Bill, and I think he has had his answer from my noble friend as to the rightness of that decision. He mentioned the fact that Peel brought in a Government Bill on a very controversial measure, but, so far as my recollection and reading serve me, Peel never had a Government majority on which he could count; so that any measure which he introduced was the equivalent of an open vote and an open measure, which is a kind of comparison.
But, to return to my noble friend Lady Summerskill, it is impossible, for me at least, to speak impartially on this subject, because I personally so much agree with what she said. I know that if such a Bill comes about at all it must be a Private Member's Bill. I feel that the arguments which she has presented are so strong, so convincing and so right that the Private Member or Members who introduce such a Bill would be ill-advised not to take full account of what my noble friend has said.
Another subject which was dealt with by a number of noble Lords was that of gaming. The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, said he loved it but that it had now gone beyond all bounds. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, advocated either the abolition or the nationalisation of gambling. I had an entrancing vision just at that moment of "Bill Bloggs, civil servant, bookmaker extraordinary in the nationalised gambling racket". My noble friend Lord Soper spoke about the incidence of gambling, which he said was on the increase, and dealt with its effects on sport, pilfering and violence. He also said that he would regard the casino as a bad thing in itself, incapable of improvement, one of the fortresses of self-interest and an invitation to crime. My Lords, I have had a grim reminder that I have 481 already been speaking too long, and certainly my noble friend will not expect me at this stage to disclose the content of the Bill on gaming which the Government hope shortly to introduce. But I can assure your Lordships that the Government share the concern over the manifold abuses which have arisen from the unexpected and largely uncontrolled proliferation of commercial gaming which has taken place during the past seven years.
We shall not repeat the mistake which was made in 1960. This is a highly intricate subject. We have had major consultations with all sorts of people on this matter, and I am confident that although, when our Bill is produced, your Lordships may not agree with all our proposals—because it will be an intricate Bill—it will be realised that this time our measure is based upon knowledge, and we have spared no pains to produce a Bill which we hope will prevent the national predilection for gambling from becoming a national handicap and scandal.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, was kind enough to suggest that we might defer long discussions on immigration matters until, in a few weeks' time, we shall be debating the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and I would leave it at that apart from expressing my grateful thanks to my noble friend Lord Gifford for his welcome of the Government measures. Until the Bill is produced, he will not expect me to deal with his point about the Attorney General, but notice will certainly be taken of it.
I come now to the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton, who reminded me of the entrancing drive from Newhaven to Lewes, along which I have travelled many times. I know the prospect, and I know the town. I was there with him, as it were, when he was talking about it. I thought he was talking about it a little unfairly, or perhaps without full understanding. I shall reply to him as quickly as I can. He asked about the 75 per cent. grant. He asked: Does not the 75 per cent. rate grant encourage internal upheaval in the town? That was the way he put it. I do not think that that is possible, because for trunk roads the Minister herself is the highway authority and there are no grants payable to local 482 authorities. The Minister bears the whole cost of construction, improvement and maintenance, and local authorities are employed only as agents. They get art agency fee, and in each case the whole of the costs are reimbursed by the Minister. This is sometimes wrongly referred to as the 100 per cent. grant, in contrast to the 75 per cent. grant payable for principal road improvement. The point is that you either have a trunk road, which is entirely paid for centrally, or a 75 per cent. grant. The choice—and it must be the Minister's choice—is between a principal road and a trunk road; and there is no other difference.
The other point raised by the noble Lord was with regard to the Civic Amenities Act, and he will remember that I interrupted him on the point of people keeping things dark. They cannot do that; it is virtually a criminal act. The Civic Amenities Act is designed to strengthen, and certainly not weaken, the statutory safeguards for local amenities, and for this purpose it places new duties on the planning authorities. It requires them to designate areas of special architectural or historic interest as conservation areas; and, when exercising any of their powers in these areas, they must pay special attention to their character. The planning authority is also required to advertise any proposals for development which will affect the character of a conservation area, and to take account of any objections which may be received. I think the noble Lord is correct, but if he finds that anything I have said is not borne out by events then he has his remedy by coming to me about it.
My Lords, I have already spoken longer than I should have done, and it may well be said that I have not answered every single point of the hundred or more questions that were addressed to me. But I have at least done my best in the time available, and I can only say that if, on re-reading the debate, I find that there are other points that I have not covered, I will most certainly write to noble Lords and deal with them as best I may. This is the end of a long and valuable debate which has now spread over four full working days. The gracious Speech has been very carefully considered and debated in your Lordships' House. Some criticism of the Government has been made. I have not heard any that 483 I myself would have objected to, although some has been inaccurate, and there has been a tendency to write down the prospects for this country. I think it is true to say, first, that at least during this century, there has been no period to compare with the last three years in respect of the great volume of improvements in social legislation. Secondly, I think that the economic prophets of doom are going to be confounded; that the recovery for which we all hope has indeed begun, 484 though slowly, and I hope on firmer foundation than in the past, when we have seemed to recover, only to fail. These are my views, my Lords, and I hope to be a Member of your Lordships' House long enough to prove that I was right.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
§ House adjourned at twelve minutes before eight o'clock.