§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD JACKSON OF BURNLEY
My Lords, may I begin by apologising to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for my inability to remain to hear his reply because I have, I am afraid, to leave for abroad this evening. I also should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Soper, for introducing this very important debate and for what was, for me, the very helpful way in which he did so.
Since I am an engineer or technologist my approach to this subject has, of course, followed a very different path from that of Lord Soper and I cannot claim to have reached a comparable degree of insight into what I believe many people are searching for beyond the material benefits which flow from the advance of science and technology. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if initially what I have to say has a strong 670 personal flavour. I want to go back to the year 1925, in December, when I was a student at Manchester University of electrical engineering and I attended a lecture there by a Mr. Thomas Carter under the title "The engineer, his due and his duty in life". This lecture made a profound impression on me as a youngster and I remember particularly two sentences, which were:There are, then, two sides to a man's life; the one his right to live, the other his duty to the community. There is no right without its corresponding duty.And yet, so far as I can recollect, I virtually forgot about this lecture for something like twenty years. The reason was that my interests and activities were circumscribed by scientific and technological considerations. My whole attention was focused on gaining a better understanding and knowledge of the appropriate science and technology, and hopefully of adding to them through my contributions in teaching and research. I found this a quite fascinating and absorbing activity and I not infrequently felt a sense of gratitude for the purely fortuitous circumstance which caused me to decide to be an electrical engineer.
My Lords, I have been privileged to be involved in varying degrees in the development of world-wide telecommunications; in sound and vision broadcasting; in the development of radar; the computer and automation, and also in nuclear reactors for major electrical generating stations; so your Lordships will understand when I say that I could not conceivably have lived through a more fascinating and exciting phase of technological development. Nevertheless, if I may make an admission, I began some 15 years ago to find myself only partially satisfied by this activity and passed through a period of considerable frustration, if not unhappiness. On the one hand, I wanted to remain something of an expert in my own subject in circumstances where its scientific foundations were broadening and deepening at a fantastic pace and when new technological specialities were emerging with great rapidity. On the other hand, I was becoming increasingly conscious of the sociological impact of technological advance not only within employment but within the clay to day life of the community; and not least, since I have had many opportunities to travel abroad, of 671 the changes generated in the developing countries of Africa, Asia and South America. I became conscious of the fact—at least it seemed to me to be a fact—that, difficult as are the scientific and technological problems which engineers like myself have to face and to resolve, the ability to resolve them was not being matched by corresponding ability elsewhere within the community to resolve the consequential social, economic, political and moral questions.
I experienced, going back 15 to 20 years, an increasing urge to become involved in the consideration of and participation in these wider issues and I had two considerations particularly in mind. One was, how might we educate engineers—how might we prepare them and help them to prepare themselves for participation in this wider role? And, possibly even more important, how might we educate the rest of the community, a community which is not going to be involved vocationally in science and technology but which nevertheless has to adapt itself to the changes which arise within society? I hope, my Lords, that you will forgive this rather personal synopsis of what lies behind my presumption in speaking in this debate. It also accounted for my participation in the debate on technological collaboration with Europe a few weeks ago. On that occasion I referred to a new intellectual exercise now in progress known as technological forecasting and I gave some examples of the kind of possibilities within science and technology which are being predicted by the scientists and technologists concerned. I said that, so far at any rate as I was concerned, the uncertainty associated with these predictions had less to do with their scientific and technological difficulty than with whether some of them would be worth achieving in humanitarian terms.
We in this country are at present spending about £1,000 million per year on scientific research and technological development. This amounts to something like 2.6 per cent. of our gross national product. Notwithstanding my anxieties—and they are of the same nature as those expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Soper—I have no wish to argue against a continuance of expenditure of this order because I believe it to be a national 672 necessity and for several reasons, at least as we are at present motivated.
One of these reasons is the need to afford gifted individuals within science and technology opportunities to exercise their intellectual curiosity and their originality and creativity, in much the same way as it is legitimate to afford this to an artist or a musician; and not least because there must be associated with it the preparation of the next generation of scientists and engineers. The second need arises from our national defence. The third is the economic pressure which demands the realisation of increasing diversity and efficiency of industrial production and of the increased national wealth which flows from it. Then there is the belief, my Lords, implicit rather than explicit, that new scientific discovery and its technological application is the most likely source of help in resolving the social problems which have been created by previous progress in science and technology.
It is the third of these on which I should like to comment specifically, that of economic pressure. This commands much the largest proportion of the £1,000 million a year, and I think understandably and correctly so. Because, again notwithstanding our anxieties, let us be in no doubt of the necessity for this country to remain in the forefront of technological initiative within productive industry if we are to remain internationally competitive, and therefore economically sound and stable; for on this depends the possibility of the pursuit of the other objectives that I mentioned. If I may re-emphasise, anxious though we may be of strong economic motivation, let us be in no doubt that all else is dependent, as we now stand, on the success of this particular operation.
What I want now to say is that in my opinion our concentration on this economic objective is distorting our interpretation and our assessment of the potentialities of science and technology. We tend to think of the progress in these fields and the benefits which are consequential upon this progress in terms of gross national product, income per capita and standard of living. We are only just beginning, as I see it, to look at science and technology in terms of their contributions to the quality of life. And I take it that this is really the 673 purpose of the noble Lord's Motion this afternoon. Most people, and no doubt most of us in this House, accept without question the material benefits of science and technology: in fact, we keep on demanding more. At the same time, we tend to criticise scientists and technologists for undesirable consequences which fall outside, or at least have been thought to fall outside, the professional responsibility of these professions.
May I pose a number of questions which I keep asking myself and to which, by myself, I cannot find answers? They revolve around the basic question: what can scientists and technologists do—what can I do—within the exercise of our professional expertise to correct the dangers to which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, has referred? Should scientists, for example, refuse to be identified with research and development which seems likely to have undesirable social consequences or to raise moral issues? If so, by what means are we going to recognise at an early enough stage what are the aspects of science and technology that may have these consequences. How could one have assessed, and what would one have done about, Faraday, the pioneer of electricity; about Marconi, the father of radiocommunication; about Rutherford and Cockcroft, the fathers of nuclear power; and about Babbage, who in the middle of last century created the first computer?
Suppose that we as a country devised a means of making these early assessments, could we conceivably apply them by ourselves and the rest of the world not do so? If not, by what means are we to achieve international acceptance of this conception and this practice? More realistically, when the nature of a scientific and technological investigation begins to reveal dangers should the scientists and engineers concerned take steps to ensure that parallel with this development there occurs a study of how the likely social consequences are to be dealt with? If so, who is to carry the responsibility for the initiative and for the organisation of this parallel effort?
Or, again, should scientists and technologists, or some of them, begin as it were their investigations in reverse? Instead of starling with a scientific and 674 technological idea, should they start with a social problem and, working backwards from it, consider what contribution science and technology may have—in fact, will need to have—to make in the resolution of this problem? Supposing we made some progress with all these questions, am I not right that there is interwoven with them a set of other questions as to what kind of community we are seeking to achieve with the aid of the immense potentialities of science and technology, suitably organised? Or, to put it another way, what in fact are we searching for beyond considerations of material wellbeing and physical convenience?
No doubt every individual, including myself, ought to be thinking about, and trying to find answers to, these questions. If I am at all representative, I am bound to say that many of us are not progressing very well. Either we are unreceptive to help that is already available or this help is not yet forthcoming in a form which we can interpret and understand. I have no wish to be critical of those, particularly the Churches, who have the extremely difficult task of peeking to understand and to influence beneficially the way in which people behave, individually and collectively. But am I not right in saying that it is a matter of great urgency that they should look at their fields, at their disciplines, as people like myself have had to look at our disciplines over the last twenty or thirty years, and seek for a reinterpretation which is communicable and understandable to people like myself who are in difficulty?
In conclusion, my Lords, may I say that, much as I have appreciated the honour and privilege of being a Member of your Lordships' House, I have been greatly disappointed that the present arrangements have not appeared to me to afford the opportunity for Members like myself to become involved. May I appeal to the Government to set up a committee representative of the varied interests and experiences expressed in the list of speakers to-day, to study in depth the subject we are discussing and advise on the means by which we may safeguard and enhance the quality of life in circumstances where, regrettably, to me, as a scientist and technologist, the continuing advance of these subjects 675 would seem to be placing it in increasing jeopardy?
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ LORD CAMPBELL OF ESKAN
My Lords, I would join in congratulating my noble friend Lord Soper upon the moving way in which he introduced this debate. I must apologise to your Lordships for the fact that I am forced to leave before the end of the debate to keep an inextricable engagement. I decided to speak simply because throughout my working life I have found myself precariously perched upon the horns of the dilemma reflected in my noble friend's Motion. For twenty years, as chairman of a company, I felt torn between human and economic imperatives; and also for the last couple of years as chairman of a New Town. Of course, the difficulty is that you can measure economic success or failure. A company makes a profit or a loss; it makes a good or a bad return on the capital employed. A New Town is economically successful or it is not. As my noble friend's Motion implies, it is far harder, if not impossible, to judge whether one's actions are doing more good than harm to mankind. Moreover, good is not only a matter of economic prosperity, and the goods of economic prosperity too often represent appalling social cost, especially over time and in the future.
What sort of social inheritance are we creating at present? I remember once, years ago in what was then British Guiana, being asked by a reporter at a Press interview what plans the company had for human relations. I replied off the cuff: "Human relations are not something you can plan for just like that. I simply take as my starting point that people are more important than ships and shops and sugar estates." This rather corny truism appeared as a front page headline in the Guianese papers the next day, and, so far as I know, in Jamaica. Barbados and Trinidad, as well. My fellow businessmen were apparently shocked that one of their colleagues should say something so revolutionary, and the politicians and Press felt that it must be the embodiment of hypocrisy. People simply could not believe that a businessman could say and actually mean that human considerations should come first. But, my Lords, of course they 676 should. Everything is quite senseless if they do not. As I never tire of saying (however much I may have tired others), growing sugar or running ships or shops—and even governing the country—is done by people for people; and even politicians, directors and shareholders are people.
Of course businesses must be run efficiently and productively, and profitably managed. An inefficient, unproductive, unprofitable business cheats society by frittering away resources. Economic efficiency, good housekeeping and wise stewardship, whether in the public or in the private sector, are essential means of fulfilling human responsibilities. Inefficiency not only wastes money but wastes time and frustrates people. If we refuse to plan we abrogate intelligence and rely on chance. But I simply do not believe that in order to be efficient and in order to plan it is necessary to be inhuman. I have come to the conclusion from my own experience that the apparent conflict can largely and often be resolved by mental attitude and civilised behaviour. I think that a modern definition of a barbarian (apart from people obsessed by racial prejudice) would be a person who puts things and money before people; and of a civilised man, a person who puts people before things and money.
Reverting to my shops, ships and sugar estates (which the then Governor of British Guiana always referred to afterwards as "Campbell's cabbages and kings"), I may say that it was quite remarkable how after that statement, whatever the company did or failed to do, the newspapers and the public were inclined to press us to justify in terms of doing or failing to do such and such: "Have you really put people before shops and ships and sugar estates?". Is there, my Lords, a lesson in that for Governments?
Of course, our managers reacted to this kind of public pressure; and although there was always an appalling gap between our intentions and their fulfilment, I think that many people would agree that the company had rather a different style from other businesses and from its own past. And this primacy of human considerations was the difference in style. As it happens, the business became more efficient and profitable into the bargain 677 —but I hasten to disclaim personal credit for that, because, as Beachcomber once wrote, I simply happened to be in the right place at the right time and pointing in the right direction.
It goes without saying that the dilemma between economic and human imperatives continually cropped up, especially in the inescapable process of modernisation and the application of modern scientific and industrial techniques, but we tried to ensure that in implementing economic decisions full, thought must always be given to minimising individual human hardship, and that in all significant respects, of plans, policies and decisions, there must always be the fullest effective possible consultation between all the parties concerned. We insisted that objectives be defined primarily in human terms, above all avoiding inhuman and impersonal jargon. The abominable prevalence of jargon—describing means and never ends—seems to me to represent a heedless way of contracting out of the responsibility of considering problems in terms of human beings, either as groups or as individuals.
We came to the conclusion that the company's affairs must be organised in such a way that men and women (and I think this has relevance for Government) work in groups of a size in which they could identify themselves with each other and with their achievements and failures; that centres of responsibility should be as clearly defined as objectives; that all working groups should have some clearly defined responsibility, otherwise they would be irresponsible; and that men and women must be encouraged and enabled to use the same standards of behaviour in business as they do in their private lives. The company's policies and plans had to respond to the hopes and fears of the community, and those hopes and fears had to be precipitated by public discussion. So our public relations put more emphasis on understanding than on putting the company across. I am not sure whether there is not another lesson for Governments in this.
I have subjected your Lordships to this didactic little lecture on organisation to try to make the point that humanity will be achieved as an end product only if it is equally achieved in organisation and management methods and be 678 haviour. And there is a cumulative benefit in this, because, on the whole, people treated with imaginative humanity in their organisation are more likely to treat other people with imaginative humanity. Perhaps the most important thing that I learned was that it is not really more expensive in money to do things with humanity and human purposes paramount; but it is much more expensive in time and trouble. Things and money are really so much easier to deal with and so much less exasperating and unpredictable than people.
Another difficulty is that in this modern world not only do the jargon and the stylised behaviour tend to be slanted towards materialism and inhumanity—barbarism, as I would call it—but the general rules which pay lip service to abstract justice result in monstrous injustices and incredible stupidities. I keep on being struck by the hazards of this as chairman of a new New Town. The whole concept of a New Town—the whole purpose—is intensely imaginative, human and civilised; or it should be. The present Government and Ministers, and I believe the Parties opposite, have the greatest good will and honourable intentions towards New Towns and the people who will live in them. Yet, my Lords, vital social, environmental and aesthetic factors, such as the quality of housing, social services, school and hospital building, public transport, fair compensation for farmers, the protection of trees and woodlands, are continually threatened by impersonal rules, fragmented authority (perhaps the Redcliffe-Maud Report will help over this), and the dead hand of Treasury restrictions—restrictions unimaginatively applied, for however understandable short-term reasons, without considering their future social cost or often their immediate human implications. And, my Lords, there is a further danger of this leading to unbalanced development and so to lack of economic success.
I believe that much of what I was saying earlier about business applies not only to the relatively small concerns that I have had to manage but to the whole range of Government activities, and, indeed, to Government itself, including the style of Government. I sit on these Benches rather than opposite, not because I thought that the present Government would necessarily be better at 679 economic growthmanship than the Party opposite but because I believed that they minded more about people; that they would put people before things and money and would consistently make it abundantly clear that they did.
My Lords, as I have said in your Lordships' House before, with any practicable and foreseeable rate of growth any Government is going to have to make hard choices between various forms of socially desirable expenditure—housing, education, transport, health, old age, and the attack on poverty, national and international, with its tragic effects on individual human beings. We should be told which plans, and to what extent, are to be put first, and why. We must be told what we must do, what we must be prepared to give up and how much we must be taxed to meet the demands of social and human priorities. Only then, I believe, will the British people as a whole—especially the young—feel that they understand and can share their Government's objectives and so be prepared to co-operate in the means of achieving them.
The present confusing of economic means and social ends, as the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said, leads to a split society. In this split society the trade unions are changing their role. From being defenders of the poor: they, too, are becoming exploiters of power. But how can trade unions be expected to consider the public interest if businessmen maintain that social responsibility is none of their business? The Government alone can heal this disastrous split, but only if they never fail to make it clear that social responsibility and humanity are the true ends of Government.
My Lords, a particularly glaring example of what seems to me to represent lack of vision and the wrong style was the recent speech by the Governor of the Bank of England seeking to blame our present economic troubles on "the huge increase" in Government spending abroad, mainly on aid to less developed countries, and for defence. In the first place, it is thoughtless to speak of aid and defence as though they had the same human quality and implications. In the second place, as the Director of the Overseas Development Institute pointed out, in an admirable letter to The Times (hidden away in the Business Supplement), the 680 Governor is wrong. In fact the level of annual net aid by Britain has fallen by some £3 million since 1960, a period during which our gross national product has grown by 60 per cent. Aid, and Britain's economic troubles (which in world terms are only marginal when compared, for instance, with Mauritius, where out of 14,000 school-leavers a year under 1,000 get jobs) are profoundly and intensely human subjects. They should be presented to us in human terms.
My Lords, I have spoken for long enough. What I am simply trying to say—if failing to say simply—is that people are more important than shops and ships and sugar estates; and more important than the balance of payments, and economic growth, all of which are, or should be, treated as material means to human ends. Much of the apparent conflict will disappear, and priorities will tend to fall into their right place, if only men and women in authority will remember this, and men and women not in authority will never let them forget it. It is intelligible and justifiable to encourage efficiency in order to achieve humanity, but never to permit inhumanity for the sake of disembodied efficiency. It is far more important to be able to reach the right judgment about what economic sacrifices to make in the interests of humanity than to be able to make a statistical judgment about what it seems necessary to fail to do on economic grounds. Emphasis on economic analysis of social problems usually over-simplifies and so distorts.
A week or so ago, during a thoroughly stimulating discussion at the London Graduate School of Business Studies, an earnest student argued that profit must be the prime consideration of business, and that humanity should be regarded as a constraint upon profit. I replied, somewhat heatedly, that, on the contrary, the only rational and socially acceptable ends for any economic undertaking were human ends, and that economic considerations were at best a constraint upon humanity. Surely, my Lords, the first and shining duty of a Labour Government—and this is the essence of my noble friend's Motion—should be to learn to recognise and to count the social costs of economic constraints.
§ 4.43 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF NORWICH
My Lords, I should like to thank and 681 congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Soper, for his Motion, and for the eloquent way in which he introduced it without the aid of sheets of paper such as I am holding, which I hope I may have the indulgence of the House for using. I should also apologise to the House, and more particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, whose speech I would much have wished to hear, if I leave directly after the end of my speech to attend a meeting to which I have long pledged myself. I shall hope to return for the later part of this debate.
I welcome the claim of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, that productivity is not enough. I suspect that that rings a bell in a good many people's minds at the present time. It does not in any way make light of the necessity of industrial growth and greater productivity, but it does require us to ask whether these are absolute ends in themselves. I think an answer to that particular question has already been given in the most interesting and helpful contribution which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, has just made. We are not required to belittle the material progress which has lightened the unpleasant chores of life in the kitchen, in the factory, or in the office, but it will not do to judge the merits of a society, for instance, in the number of washing machines per head of population. At the end of that road lies the broiler house society. It is against this prospect that there is a strong feeling of dissatisfaction.
Whatever else the student world is protesting about, alongside the cruder motives of self-interest, self-advertisement, violence for its own sake, it is the collapse in consensus of the objectives of society that makes the more thoughtful of them puzzledm, deeply concerned, and, over certain issues, sincerely and justifiably angry. Like many other people in big organisations, they find it hard to do much about it. The very feeling of powerlessness is one of the principal causes of their unrest, and this unrest undoubtedly exists even although it is often wildly exaggerated. It seems strange that so many young people should be so deeply dissatisfied when they have opportunities which their elders of thirty or forty years ago would have given their right hands to obtain; but so it is. No one wants to go back to the 1930s with its poverty, unemployment and bad 682 housing. We have not altogether left these grim reminders behind, and the first point that I should like to stress for this and any future Government is that any person in this land has the right to proper housing and enough food to maintain health. We are nowhere near that target yet.
We must make it clear that some conditions which still exist are not part of a society that is tolerable. The conditions which that impressive movement "Shelter" is seeking to redress by voluntary means, and which they have done much to bring before the public mind, are conditions which stand as an indictment of the public conscience, and of Governments in the last decades. To secure that an adequate basic minimum is achieved in itself is not enough—although it is a matter of urgency. People need to feel that they are needed, that their job is a useful one, that they receive a fair reward for their work and that they have a real stake in society. In recent years, Governments have put increasing emphasis on material objectives, industrial growth and greater productivity as being necessary to keep the country solvent; and they generate a fascination for people because of the scientific discovery and practical ingenuity involved. The mass media of Press and broadcasting have not been slow to seize on these advances and invest them with electronic halos. But mechanical advances mean that people can work less hard, and on every side we are bombarded with demands to spend more on consumer goods, so that Government injunctions to work harder and spend less tend to fall on deaf ears.
There is also still great inequality in the distribution of the gross national product. Why should we work harder and spend less it' in any case others are going to reap the benefit? In this situation many thoughtful men and women are becoming cynical about their own motives and the motives of their fellow men. They see the possibility of corruption arising from the opportunities of large corporate profits, and greater personal gains with less effort. Yet they are aware that they and their fellows are capable of heroic endeavour and self-sacrifice. They are waiting for a clarification of social and individual purpose which will have regard to quality of life as well as quantity of possessions. They 683 look for clear, honest and righteous leadership, political and moral. The noble Lord, Lord Jackson, referred to this in his speech. He referred to the Church's part and responsibility in this, and said that it was the duty of the Church to reinterpret its disciplines and beliefs in a manner relevant to the present issues. I can only say that this clearly is an essential requirement for all Churches. It is one of which I believe the Churches are becoming increasingly aware, and of which one can only profoundly hope that the fruits may become increasingly evident.
The world we live in is one world bound closely together by trade, travel and television. Fifty years ago the political struggle in this country was principally between rich and poor classes. Some people now see the main struggle as between rich and poor nations. Here, too, they are deeply dissatisfied by the behaviour of powerful Governments and powerful economic interests, often working in collusion. The Haslemere Declaration has gathered impressive evidence that the rules of international economic gain, having been drawn up by the rich nations, not unnaturally work for the advantage of rich nations. Exports from the poor world may have risen, but the prices paid for them have declined. Repayments and loans amount to two-thirds of the aid going to developing countries, and several countries pay out more than they receive. When machinery is set up to conduct international negotiations with the avowed purpose of changing the economic system to favour the poor countries, as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has done, nothing significant seems to happen. This is the second urgent issue, which is one of deep consequence for the future and for future governmental policy.
So the protest movement grows; and it is not surprising that Christians are to be found in the ranks. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, who initiated this debate, has a long and honourable personal history of protest, much of it carried out within a stone's throw of that execution block where other protestors in years past met a grimmer fate than his. He properly calls our attention todeeper social objectives, including responsible and effective participation within society".684 About this part of the Motion I agree wholly, and I will not say more than he has already said so eloquently, with the noble Lord, in relating this to matters of faith. But I would add two further points. First, the "deeper social objectives" will be found within, and not apart from, the industrial, commercial and cultural framework of our national life—and with this I would judge that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, would agree. Second, participation is a limited end, important and desirable so far as it goes, and difficult to achieve in the world of mass production and increasing specialisation.
But responsible participation involves considerations of the underlying and more ultimate social purposes and human ends. To whom are people responsible? Are they responsible to God? Are they responsible to their fellow men? Are they responsible to both; and, if so, in what ways can this responsibility be expressed? And for what? The noble Lord, Lord Soper, asked for an evaluation of this problem. This means asking questions about what we mean by "a good society", and what individuals should be striving after in terms of the quality of life. There are several signs in national life that these questions cry aloud for an answer; where our national life is the poorer in default not only of an answer but of a clear explication of the problem.
Take, for example, the matter of education. May it not be that our educational system, bringing to bear what would appear to be too isolated an emphasis on examination results as the main or only criterion of merit, is to some extent unwittingly a preparation for the rat-race of a competitive society? Is our educational system preparing people for socially responsible attitudes to life? In many of our schools, thank goodness! this is in fact the case. But it is the sanction of what one achieves at the end of it that seems to have, naturally, a very strong influence over young people. Is it also preparing people for a satisfying and creative use of leisure, of which there will be more and more as automation advances? The number of people who are finding themselves a second job to occupy their spare time argues that it is not. According to Professor Niblett, 685 a person not given to alarmist exaggeration, quite a number of university students are beginning to ask, "What is all this progress for?" and to say that "You can learn to be so open-minded that your brains fall out." What if our national technological society succeeds at last in abolishing man himself, with all his desires to be spontaneous, free and creative? This may not be a far-off threat. Perhaps those who think like this had better protest while there is time.
Young people are deeply interested in the real business of community and want to be practically involved. One effective and practical reform which might be introduced to stimulate and channel this interest in ways that would contribute to society, and provide a better balance to the competitive element in education, is a reform in our educational system whereby involvement in and service to the community become an essential and integral part of the education of all young people before they enter employment or go on to further education. I hope that there may be an opportunity of considering this proposition, which I believe to be feasible, in greater detail on another occasion, for I believe that there lies within such a concept a real prospect to help to contribute that kind of social objective to which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, is calling our attention.
Allied to this matter of education is that of town planning. How has it come about that "amenity" is a loaded word in some planning circles, as if beauty, graciousness, peace and creative leisure were optional extras to be tagged on to a planning scheme which is seriously concerned only with how people produce things and how people make money? If our major towns and cities were designed to be attractive places to live in, as well as to work in, we might experience less pressure on our inadequate road system arising from the compulsion of tens of thousands to leave their cities at the first opportunity.
Or, again, the shape of industry. The present Government have done something to introduce more responsible participation by workers, but there are deep and long-standing hostilities here. The trade unions themselves seek new social objectives inherent in the best of the origins and traditions of their movement, 686 for many of their old campaigns are won and the fight has shifted from the old battlegrounds. Why have some factories a long strike-free record? Why is the weight of absence through sickness notably less in some enterprises than in others? There are important human factors to be evaluated here. It is all too easy to suppose that productivity refers only to goods. Industry also produces people; and it produces communities. I should like to ask the house whether the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, for some means of evaluation could be met by the setting up of an advisory body to the Government, some sort of bureau of human evaluation, with a view to analysing and making public the main factors involved and establishing some system of priorities in the political and social decisions referred to it. Whether or not such a body coup be set up to achieve such an objective in a manner which commanded sufficient acceptability, I am convinced that certainly greater efforts need to be made to evaluate in human terms the main political and social propositions which arise both in respect to our nation's life and in respect to our relationship with other nations.
Politics have often been described as "the art of the possible". To-day, innumerably more courses of action are possible because of man's control of Nature and his inventiveness. What matters vitally is man's shaping of a national and universal community and also ensuring the preservation or creation of an adequate natural environment which any community requires, and which the noble Lord, Lord Byers, eloquently advocated when he initiated a recent debate on the threats to man's environment and the quality of life.
All the matters upon which I have touched come to a head in a General Election. It is here, I would suggest, that the need for a rejection of the political system, to which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, referred, can indeed find specific expression. Perhaps it is in the nature of a General Election that it should be a kind of occasion, but if the occasion concentrates too largely on the material benefits which each Party offers under its particular banner, at less cost in rates and taxes and at more gains in profits and wages to the highest proportion of 687 its constituents, the auction then becomes heavily overweighted on the material side of self-interest. If this is the basis, every Government knows, irrespective of Party, that it gets by as a result of what is known as a confidence trick. It gives way to the pressures on the industrial fronts and other fronts for wages increases because it knows that at the end of the day the present pound will still be called a pound but it will be worth 15s. or ten "bob".
Marx and Lenin were well aware of this predicament, and for this very reason had no faith in what we now call "Western democracy". They were convinced that the different Parties, in order to gain power, would act irresponsibly. They knew that whatever unpopular measures had to be taken, the Opposition of the day would be tempted to use these as an opportunity to bring about the downfall of the Government. For this reason they said there could be no cure for social and economic ills without a dictatorship. My Lords, can we prove them wrong? One earnestly hopes so, but the question is one which we should seriously ask ourselves.
In part, the appeal made at a General Election reflects on the electorate, but it is the duty of the country's leaders to create in their electorate a real concern for the true needs of the community and the development of an adequate life in this country and abroad. It is quite evident that all the political Parties have such concerns deeply at heart. The point I should wish to make is the manner in which these are represented to the community at election time. The motives to which the appeal is made, and the moral leadership and purpose needed to sustain integrity in carrying out an election manifesto, and where this has to be altered, as must inevitably be the case, by outside factors which could not have been predicted at the time, should be made explicitly clear. This debate will have served a useful purpose even if it is only able to influence in some small degree the character of the next General Election, so that there is some re-establishment of the political process as it ought to be understood and practised in a democratic society, which is the kind of society which we all want, and thus enhance the dignity of our national life and re-estab 688 lish greater purposes, greater confidence and greater morale among our people.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD BALOGH
My Lords, the Motion which my noble and reverend friend Lord Soper moved with such patent sincerity brings to my mind a favourite quotation of my late master, teacher and friend, the late Lord Lindsay, also from a Wordsworth but of the steelier sex:If all the good people were clever, And all clever people were good, The world would be nicer than ever We thought that it possibly could. But somehow, 'tis seldom or never The two hit it off as they should; The good are so harsh to the clever, The clever so rude to the good!I have always suffered, of course, a great deal from rudeness.
This debate is about ends and means, and their relation to one another, and I wish to congratulate my noble friend Lord Beswick and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, on the contributions they have made. They have motivated certain aspects with greater authority and greater ability than I ever could. I have no special authority to speak about ends, though I have very strong views about them. I have thought about their relation to the choice of means, and I want to discuss this in the light of the situation here and abroad now. I fear this may bring down the level of the debate from the conceptual and spiritual to the material and political, but that is one of the penalties I pay for my profession.
Until recently economists—and, for that matter, politicians—did not question the nature of the relationship between production and welfare or satisfaction towards which socio-economic organisation and policy is supposed to be directed. Explicitly or implicitly, increased production was taken as a certain proof of increasing welfare. It sounded common sense. It was recognised, of course, that in these basic questions of human existence the relation of means to ends was far from precise or simple. In the Western or Free World the final dignity and happiness of the individual as such is acclaimed as the basic principle. We are prone to proclaim it with some fervour. But I fear that men do not live on their dignity. They are members of society and as such they are 689 also the means of their own sustenance. Between the consumer, the recipient of aesthetic and material pleasures, and the same person as a member of the organisation which produces these pleasures, there is a chasm.
There might be, there are, contradictions. "Growthmanship" as such does not provide the ultimate happiness, and the increase in output measured by some conventional standard does not give one the ultimate proof of success. An acceleration of the expansion of the national income will not bring an unquestioned satisfaction if it is stimulated mainly by the artificial creation of new needs rather than a balanced advance on a broad social front. Psychological obsolescence might create a sense of increasing frustration. A tendency towards greater inequality, towards a relative reduction in collective consumption, and an increase in conspicuous waste creates its own undoing. The increase in productive power, instead of being allocated to increased leisure, increased education and increased general amenity, without which leisure cannot be enjoyed, is concentrating on creating new individual material needs, creating discontent in order that the supply of these needs should provide outlets for new enterprises. Collective needs, because they demand collective resources, are discouraged, and intense propaganda is waged against "mollycoddling" through better schools, hospitals and libraries, whose support demands high tax-revenue.
Professor Galbraith has analysed this tendency with unsurpassed wit and I do not intend to follow him in detail. The first point is that the richer and the more successful the system, as we see it in America, the greater the psychological malaise. When we are exasperated by the antics of students of the new Left we should take into account the complex character of the problems they face and which we did not have to face. There is the reverse of the coin, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said, of the main advances which we make and which are new. Purposive education towards a less competitive, less materialistically conditioned state of existence, and more compassion, could bring real fulfilment. Equality of opportunity would bring about a more equal distribution of command over resources. 690 Stability and progress could be reconciled by a more conscious distribution of income. An increase in the rate of investment and economic growth in most parts of the non-Soviet orbit would seem to be a further precondition, but it should not be taken as an end in itself.
Thus the dialogue between the negative personal rights of the individual and the needs of the community could at last be resolved in a general economic ease of living which no longer depends on uncertainty and dissatisfaction for its dynamism. Such a system would attain undisputed superiority over the totalitarian systems, which fail in their lack of regard for the dignity and integrity of the individual.
The price mechanism in this respect is equally defective on the side of consumption as on the side of production. If consumer demand does not really express the side effects of consumption in terms of pollution, monopolistic practices have impaired the automatic working of the price system from the other side. Some noble Lords opposite, as exemplified by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, think it will be best to return to the free play of market forces, disguised as free choice; to redistribute income towards the rich on the plea of giving incentive, and hope for the best. Historical research does not bear out that this policy would be very successful. It has been tried and it has failed; and the failure has been most characteristically, if tacitly, acknowledged by the right honourable gentleman the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd. He made the rupture complete with the rush towards freedom and adopted instead planning.
In British politics I think it has always been considered especially clever to do what nowadays (when even politics is considered a science) is called occupying the middle ground and what was described in more robust days of British politics as "stealing the Whigs' clothes". I do not think historical evidence, if there is such a thing as historical evidence, really bears out the cleverness of the operation. The British public usually adopts the common sense view that policies should be carried out by people who believe in them and whose basic philosophy accords with them. Nevertheless, the feeling that it is very 691 clever persists. As I said, the most recent example was the effort of the Conservative Party to plan through the National Development Council. It was not a success. It would not have been a success even if some special and accidental little local difficulties had not arisen, postponing the Election in 1963. I do not believe that it will be a success now, when my right honourable friend and pupil, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seems to have accepted, under grievous foreign pressure, monetary policy as one of his main weapons to influence the economy. This would not work in a way compatible with the philosophy which has been expressed here. It will either therefore not work or cause real consternation. I would not myself take the risk of either. I sincerely hope that this debate will fortify him in his struggle against monetary troglodytes.
What is essential to note here is that the choice of policy is essentially a political act, because the means in this sphere of human wellbeing can and must be sometimes the ends. There is no doubt, for instance, that one might want to sacrifice some material advantage for a certain amount of freedom, either individual or collective. If I am puzzled by some of the noble Lords and their friends in another place and in the City, I must say that I am absolutely amazed at some of the critics of the Government on the Left. And I must at this stage, in accordance with my Question yesterday, declare my interest as a consultant on prices and incomes.
What is one to make of Mr. Michael Foot's idea of Socialism as it evolves in weekly instalments in Tribune? It looks to me as if it consists of a mixture of an indoor cash relief and the law of the jungle. What comes out of that is best illustrated by the activities of Mr. Clive Jenkins, who by organising the Lumpèrebourgeoisie has actually succeeded in worsening the relative income distribution, not indeed between profits and wages but between the high and the low wages. That way is not Socialism but national bankruptcy compounded by inequality. I cannot conceive how it is thought that stable progress and social equity can be achieved by jungle warfare which favours the more privileged against the less privileged and the privileged 692 against the unprivileged. It is the lowest-paid workers, the most in need of help, who suffer most. What is more important, however, is that there is no evidence, in this country or anywhere else in the world, that industrial action can improve the distribution of income between profits and wages. Wages are always jacking up prices and thus the rat race prevails.
I now turn to the problem of the wherewithal. If unquestionably the national income, measured in some conventional way, cannot be the ultimate criterion by which to judge policy, there is no doubt that the availability of material products is an essential precondition of satisfaction. If the product is insufficient, the best distribution does not satisfy. In this respect again I must confess that I am puzzled. I do not see that the Opposition has learned anything at all from our tribulations since 1945. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that an unbroken expansionary process engenders an optimism that one might hope that one is wanted; and this very hope, this very satisfaction, is more precious than almost anything else.
If we look at the crisis Britain faces from this angle, one must say, first of all, that it is exasperating to see how marginal it is overall—less than 3 per cent. of the national income or two bad years' increase in production—and at the same time how complex and multiple in its origins, and how intractable in its nature. It represents the end of a long history of industrial and imperial decline. While it is mainly economic in its open manifestations, that economic weakness itself has devastating consequences in the political field, and in turn has been caused, or at least deeply influenced, by the decline of our political influence. While Germany and Japan, and even France, have found a new role, Britain is still without firm replacement of its two-century-old imperial destiny. Our specifically British problem could not have come at a less propitious moment, when the world monetary problem approaches flashpoint.
Essentially this world problem has been caused by a divergent economic development in the major industrial countries. This has led to a growing unbalance between the costs and thus to the increasingly yawning gap in the balance of payments. Germany, Japan and Italy 693 became cumulatively creditors. The two Anglo-Saxon countries are the main debtors. Their awkward special difficulties reduce their strength in pressing for international monetary reform and thus the maintenance of a good life, however important that is from everybody's point of view, because they can be suspected, and rightly so, of generalising from their own particular sins of omission and commission and trying to ease their problems by international monetary reform. It is equally obvious to everybody that such reform is now overdue, unless the world wishes to have a repetition of the pre-Second War type of economic crisis in its efforts to control the steady rise of prices. The readjustment has been made much more difficult by the resistance in all main countries against a conscious deliberate planning of the increase in incomes. In the debtor countries the efforts to use fiscal policy was unsuccessful. At best, it reduced investment and the increase in productivity, and thus aggravated the basic problem of keeping money costs down. At worst, it was totally ineffectual. The relentless increase in prices which has been incessant since 1938 continued. Most Governments have come under heavy attack on this score.
The disappointment with modern remedies, the attempt at a direct control and influence on spending and income through Budget policies, has led to a recrudescence of the crudest type of the "quantity" theory. We must judge this debate from that point of view. Beyond this point we are retrogressing towards a good life, not progressing towards it. There is a view that there is some solid relationship between the quantity of money and consumption, income and prices, which is usable because it is reversible for policy-making purposes. But historical evidence shows clearly that when monetary measures worked, they worked by causing the optimism of boom periods to turn into pessimism and unemployment. Prices fell. It was at the cost of a change in psychology, and changes in psychology do not work subtly, slowly and painlessly by changing costs and incomes. They work explosively, destructively and at immense cost in lost output. No one has ever solved the problem of rising prices except by causing a crisis. The Communist countries suffer equally. The prosperity of the post-Second World War period has 694 been caused not by the fact that economists have been particularly clever. Keynesian economics worked because national expenditure rose precipitously, especially on war in the United States. It worked, and I am sure that a crisis was avoided, because monetary policy was eschewed by people who still remembered the aftermath of the monetary experiments of Mr. Montagu Norman and Governor Strong in 1931.
The resemblance of the present conjuncture, the explosive increase of uncontrolled international lending through the Eurodollar market, and the horrific rise in interest rates, is shockingly close to the notorious brokers' loans in 1929, which also escaped Federal Reserve regulation only to lead to an enormous increase in interests and causing the foundering of credit and banking, thus turning what was normal into the great depression. The crisis that gripped the work was turned into a catastrophe, responsible for Hitler and the War, by the resistance of the then chief international creditor, France, to help. Flandin, like Strauss today, preached the merits of deflation.
Monetary policy necessarily works through an over-kill because it has to rely on the instability of psychology. The old masters of English economics, Marshall and Pijou, knew this while we have forgotten it. And the growing affluence and the increase in taxation has reduced the non-violent effect of monetary policy. The interest rates are offset by business taxation, and the existence of vast stocks of durables, on the other hand., might make a slump far more destructive than it ever was before. The creditors, unfortunately, are ambivalent. They have advantage in their creditor position, and they are refusing to help They have also vast advantages internally. It is in this context that the specific British problem must be regarded and British strategy evolved if we are to implement what we want to implement, and what we are trying to implement by this debate.
In many respects we are now paying the forfeit for the failure, in the eighty years or so before the Second World War, to use labour efficiently. Britain remained a low wage economy, exporting vast amounts of capital all over the world instead of developing new industries at home. This failure also led to 695 restrictive practices in the way of progress, and at the same time has made for leapfrogging in wage increases. Before 1914, the vast accumulation of foreign assets hid from us this inherent weakness. In the inter-war period we could have relied on Imperial Preference and on our influence politically, but now there is no more of this.
The British way of life and community is one of the pleasantest in the world and the most pleasant among largish countries. There is, on the whole, tolerance, relaxed living, less aggressiveness and more community spirit than elsewhere in the highly industrialised competing countries. On the darker side of the coin is our inability to get the right sized production units, to free ourselves from the dependence on obsolete plant and practices and on the wrong industries.
The consequence has been a recurring malaise which left us, especially in the public sector, with deficent housing and worsening amenity especially in the cities; insufficiently expanding roads, schools and hospitals. We are in grave danger of losing the heritage of the past, the better balance between private and public spending than was ever achieved elsewhere. The present Government have recognised these weaknesses and tried to initiate a policy of industrial reorganisation. The introduction of investment grants and the differential tax concessions are the means of a good life and should be judged from that point of view and not on their immediate selfish context. Above all, the establishment of I.R.C. and the powers given to the Ministry of Technology has enabled a quickened pace of industrial reorganisation.
All this, however, is slow in working, not the least because of the wrong traditions. The reorganisation of bureaucracy has not yet got off the ground. In consequence, the policies pursued are not always consistent with one another. The newly acquired enthusiasm for monetary policy, the failure to deal with mounting exports of capital, the strange abandonment of incomes policy, the failure to achieve voluntary co-operation in controlling costs—all this has weakened the coherence of the Government's policy. There is grave danger that the self-defeating cumulation of monetary and fiscal restriction in which the creditor 696 countries participate with gusto will cause a monetary crisis resembling 1931. We must not forget that there were in existence then the same sort of institutions. The B.I.S. was in existence. It did not save the world. Britain ought not, and cannot now, exert influence to reverse the international trend. What we need is more not less discriminating measures. direct influence on costs, direct measures against mounting exports of capital.
May I repeat my last sentence in the first debate in which I had the privilege of participating last year:But this freedom of action, this freedom to lift one's eyes above the day-to-day task of trying to fend off crises, and of anxiously waiting for the monthly trade figures, can be attained only if the restraint of incomes and the necessary institutional arrangements are accepted freely; if the individual temptation to snatch advantage, which can only be transient, is successfully resisted. In the end, the success of economic policy depends on, and will come only through, a deep sense of individual and group responsibility."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17/7/68, col. 348.]This debate has been about group responsibility, individual and otherwise; but unless we can bind these noble sentiments which have been expressed, and will, I hope, be expressed further in this debate, to back factual policy measures, we shall not arrive at that better life.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, we have just heard a most weighty speech—indeed, an erudite speech—which I must confess that I should like to study in more detail before commenting upon it to-night. With the concluding observations of the noble Lord I would certainly agree; and I think that every speaker who has spoken to-day has also felt that what is needed is a proper sense of individual and group responsibility, without which we shall not get through our troubles. As the noble Lord said, this debate is about ends and means, and I would join with all who have spoken earlier in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Soper, not only on introducing the Motion but on the splendidly fluent and lucid manner in which he did it, and in the very human approach that he showed to it. I cannot say I agreed with everything he said, but I do not think he would have expected that.
As has also been said, industrial growth and higher productivity are not 697 ends in themselves, and to that extent of course these objectives are not really in the same category as the deeper social objectives which are ends in themselves. But these industrial growths and higher productivity are means to ends. The principal ends to which they are, or suppose should be, directed are, first of all, to earn for ourselves as a nation, by our own efforts and skill, a high and ever-rising standard of living; secondly, to build up the economic strength of the nation in order that we may play our full part in the maintenance of world peace on the basis of freedom and justice; and thirdly, to enable Great Britain to help other peoples less fortunate than ourselves towards a higher standard of living. I venture to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan (whose speech I tremendously enjoyed), and I do not hesitate to join together these two items; the need to preserve peace through defence, and the need to help others. I think they are conjoint, and I hope he will agree with me that these are proper ends to which industrial growth and higher productivity should be directed.
We live, of course, in an age of very great technological advance, and upon that are based the rising expectations not only of the peoples who are the major contributors to these advances but of all peoples. Yet nations, and groups of nations, vie with one another in their efforts to achieve more material progress than their rivals. We all recognise—imperfectly perhaps, spasmodically perhaps—that if nations, or groups of nations, pursue their material objectives on their own, and seek to enhance their own status and standard of living in isolation from one another, or at the expense of others, the result is constant friction, fear and frustration. I cannot help feeling that at the present time we are perhaps noticing this in a marked degree in our near neighbours in the European Economic Community. It seems to me that this is one of the dangers, and one of the areas in which our participation in the Economic Corn. munity might correct the direction in which they are going. Perhaps it is unduly complacent to say that, but nevertheless I feel it.
The Motion refers to participation within society, but surely, unless we take "society" to mean all mankind, partici- 698 pation on a much wider basis is needed. And this, of course, although it was not implicit in the Motion, the noble Lord. Lord Soper, made clear was his intention. The techniques of such participation, and the machinery for it, are gradually Being devised through trial and error, and substantial progress has been achieved this century, and especially since the last war—even if the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, may find that the economic machinery is little better than it WAS in days gone by.
Participation has many facets. Vie in the Western democracies believe in participation in the sense of choosing and changing our rulers from time to time, or at set intervals of time. In such forms of participation, we believe, lies the best guarantee of individual freedom. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, said that our political system is in need of redemption. Admittedly, there is a good deal of dissatisfaction with its working, and. of course there are criticisms—to one of which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, quite properly referred. All societies have their disadvantages, and perhaps the greatest of these in the eyes of the clitics of our present system is that the groups who aspire to rule are constantly bid ling against one another.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich also mentioned this, describing it as an "auction" with groups constantly bidding against one another for the favour of the electors in terms of providing greater material benefits for them; and he said that, in consequence, we are becoming more and more materialistic. There is indeed a risk that the electors may become encouraged to rely more and more on the bounty of Governments than on their own efforts, and that they may in consequence lose more and more of their independence and self-reliance I do not take—certainly from my own experience of elections—the view of the right reverend Prelate, that at elections there is only appeal to materialism. My own view is that it is very significant to find that the response at elections is generally very much greater—certainly the response from those one actually meets and happens to see—if the deeper social objectives are put to them.
One would expect—and of course one receives—approaches from individual 699 constituents saying that their own material interests, either as groups or as individuals, are being neglected; but I am quite confident that we underestimate the capacity of the country to respond to appeals to the deeper social objectives. I would say that one of our great—I will not say "defects", but our characteristics as a nation, is that we are very much ashamed, or at any rate very reluctant, to show our deeper objectives. I often think that, so far as the young are concerned these days, it is simply because of this characteristic of ours—those of an older generation—that they do not believe we have any ideals at all. Yet I am sure that we in this House, for example, are well aware that in everything we discuss, behind every idea that we put forward, there is an idealism. I believe that this is true also of the vast majority of people in this country, and that it requires only the right kind of appeal, the right kind of approach, to bring it out.
It is, of course, true that those who are anxious to improve their own standard of living are not always aware that higher standards do depend on increased productivity—not necessarily increasing production, but higher productivity in relation to the numbers of people employed. But the effort to raise productivity can involve serious loss in terms of family life and in the sense of fulfilment in one's daily work. Nationalisation and mergers alike concentrate power more and more in the hands of the few, and leave the individual feeling more and more helpless and remote from the point of decision. The economic utilisation of machinery imposes higher and higher demands, in terms of shift working and job monotony, which are felt all the more because education, in the broader sense, is making our people less ready to accept monotony. They now understand things better, and they are therefore less ready to accept monotony.
Rapid progress and technological change mean that methods and skills become more quickly outdated, and men and women then have to find new employment. This, of course, is only one side of the coin. On the other, and brighter, side, conditions of work have immeasurably improved. Factories and offices need no longer be the gloomy, 700 shabby places they used to be. In this respect the contribution which the development areas have made is very great. Hours of work can be reduced as a result of technological progress, and much of the sweat and strain, and dirt, taken out of work—sometimes perhaps at the expense of some loss in the sense of personal, or at any rate muscular, achievement.
Yet if decisions affecting the lives and livelihoods of individuals, whether for the better or for the worse, are taken without reference to them, there is bound to be resentment and there may be real trouble. It is here, above all, that participation is necessary. The decisions have to be regarded as reasonable and right even if they affect some individuals adversely, and the detriment to those who lose by them has to be mitigated as far as possible. I think it is the sense of participating, rather than the actual sharing in decision-making, that needs to be fostered. Participation is perhaps becoming something of a catchword—almost a shibboleth. It is not a panacea it really is the continuing condition of social and industrial life. But participation does not, and should not, mean interference or doing somebody else's job. Decision-making must be left to those with the necessary gifts, training and experience—in short, to the leaders. It is true that leaders, to be successful, must win and hold the support and confidence of those whom they lead, whether the leader is a General in the field, a managing director of a company, or even a Principal or Vice-Chancellor of a university. No leader can succeed if he does not put first those whom he has powers to lead, and I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, said about the difference between the civilised man and the barbarian. The civilised man is the man who puts people first.
Free men will not often or for long follow their leaders blindly. They will want to know what is happening, and what is to happen. But that does not mean that they have a right to information of particular kinds. The idea that the law can confer rights to specified forms of information is appropriate where money which is made available, for example, to a joint stock company, has 701 to be accounted for in particular forms and at particular intervals. It is as wholly inappropriate to a work force as to a fighting force. It must be for the leader to judge what information it is right and safe in the circumstances to give. The wise leader will give as much information as it is possible and prudent to give, in the interests of the force or company which he leads.
For the employee, what matters is not that he should do someone else's job or participate' in doing it, whether that someone else is a managing director or any other employee, but that his work—as I think the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said—should be appreciated. It is the duty of the leader to show appreciation where it is due, and to give friendly encouragement. It is not his duty to share his functions and responsibilities with his employees, or any small minority purporting to represent his employees. Such participation cannot be effective and is unlikely to be responsible. It would, I think, be thoroughly inefficient, and efficiency must be the underlying object in production.
I believe that true participation lies in playing your part properly in your own group, and in doing your job efficiently and cheerfully. True leadership involves consulting the interests and welfare of all you lead, seeing that they know and understand how their job fits into the joint effort, why they have to do it, and that they are capable of doing it efficiently. I venture to question the assumption in the Motion that greater productivity has to be reconciled with participation. Is it not rather through participation that men and women can be reconciled to the consequences of greater productivity, whether they be welcome or unwelcome? Without participation I do not believe there will be increased productivity.
What the exact form of participation should be in all circumstances cannot be laid down in a manner universally applicable. I believe that it would be folly for a Government to try to prescribe a standard form of participation, or the precise information which should be made available to employees at any given moment. In some cases, a sense of participation may be given by the appointment of one or more workers' represen 702 tatives to the board, or by the creative of particular machinery for consultation, or even for general supervision as they have in Germany in others, profit-sharing may add to the sense of participation. It is often said that those who have incomes which are scarcely more than are necessary to provide the bare essentials of life, cannot be expected to accept the fluctuations of incomes arising from the prosperity or adversity that befall an industry. That may be, but then why should nottheir remuneration be divided into two parts—one part to cover the essentials of life, the other to fluctuate with the fortunes of their firm? That would be participation in a very real sense.
That brings me to another point, which is that what matters is not so much the machinery of government; it is the attitudes of individuals. Throughout this debate emphasis has been laid upon individuals and the treatment of individuals, and it is upon individuals' attitudes that the whole of our future depends. Progress is moving very quickly; attitudes, alas! are changing all too slowly. One sees it, of course, international politics. It takes a generation at least before wrongs are forgotten. It may take centuries if you belong to certain peoples. How are we going to succeed in changing attitudes to match with the rapidly changing progress in technology? I think this is the basic and underlying question that we have to solve. It is a very great challenge to all who are concerned with education and communications.
I do not propose to offer solutions today; I merely state the problem. But the true social objective is surely that every individual should have the opportunity to make the most of his life, and to achieve happiness in peace and in good fellowship. It is not in the power of Governments to confer happiness, though they can, by their folly or their perversity or their ineptitude, take it away. What they can do is to see that opportunity is I here. Some will fail to take their opportunity, and it is for Governments to see that fresh opportunities arc then made available. Some will be deprived of happiness by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. You cannot make everybody happy.
It remains true in my belief—and here, if I may say so, I differ in slight degree 703 from my noble friend—that, as Francis Hutcheson said over two centuries ago, when writing of the function of Governments:That action is best which procures the greatest happiness to the greatest numbers.There are, of course, levels of happiness, and by good laws and good administration Government can raise the level of the national life and the level of happiness of the people. But within the framework set by Government it is for the individual to achieve happiness in the good life and in respect for the happiness of others. It is only if happiness is not pursued as an aim for the individual, and if the happiness of others is sought, that happiness will be achieved.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has just made a thoughtful speech. I agree with many of the points he made, including his statement that the young tend to be hard on us and not to believe that we have the ideals that we do have, in which respect they are probably not very different from what we were like when we were their age. But if there were many young people here, and they heard him say that behind everything said or done in this House there was always to be found an ideal, I think they would feel, as I do, that he was stating only one aspect of truth. In other words, I think there is a great danger of undue mutual admiration among those of us who practise the political arts and are not as young as we were.
We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, for initiating this debate, for speaking so finely and for prompting such excellent speeches. I find myself in agreement in many respects, but, in particular, with something said by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, to the effect that you cannot draw up a balance sheet of the moral condition of the nation. But even making such comparisons as we can, I myself am vehemently opposed to the idea that there was some golden age in this country when we were better people, or when our ancestors were better people than we are. I think one can point to features which give us great encouragement to-day.
704 If we cast our minds back, for example, to the life of someone like Lord Attlee and think of him beginning his work in Toynbee Hall well before the First World War, one cannot help being convinced that the whole life of the East End is healthier in almost every possible respect than when he started his labours. That does not mean that there are not features which cause great disquiet: there is the heavy crime rate, illegitimacy and other things we could point to. On the debit side I would personally place this extraordinary degree of national self-criticism. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, referred to it, I think, as "a malaise of excessive protest". May I say in passing that I wish that in all the years I spoke from one Front Bench or he other I had made a speech which was as independent as the speech which the noble Lord made, and which made such a deep impression on the House.
My Lords, one can of course regard this extreme national self-belittlement as a form of growth, as an advance in knowledge of ourselves. It can be regarded as the fruit of our greater maturity or sophistication—and there may be an element of truth in that. But I am afraid I do not feel that that is the whole truth or even the main explanation. The failure of our country to put forth its maximum effort in so many directions—and I am afraid most dispassionate observers take this view of our people at the present time—is, in my opinion at least, quite substantially due to the very low opinion, I am afraid, that so many people in the country have taken for some years now of the political leadership that they consider they have been receiving. When I refer to the low view taken of our political leadership, I hasten to say that I am not trying to exonerate myself. I saw Lord Stow Hill a moment ago, and this could be true of him; but I am at any rate one of a very small band who served for six years in Lord Attlee's Government and for quite a while in Mr. Wilson's Cabinet. So that when this kind of issue comes up I cannot hope to escape from the dock by turning Queen's evidence: I must share the responsibilities with everybody else.
Of course, Ministers, whatever their Party, are seldom ready to explain their own unpopularity in terms of their own failings. I suppose they would hardly 705 be human if they did. They are much more inclined to blame the Press or television, or the idiocy of the public; and the greatest failing they will usually admit to is some slight weakness in presentation. My Lords, I do not take this view of our situation, by any means. Instead, I would submit to the House these two propositions: first, we shall never obtain from our people the sacrifices which our situation demands unless our leaders, of whatever Party, can command farmorepublic confidence; and, secondly, they will never command that confidence until the public is satisfied that their moral purpose is much more elevated than has appeared to be the case in recent years. I should say, in passing, that I am not referring to the private conduct of our political leaders. In this country we take that for granted as being virtuous, and long may it remain so. I think we are very lucky to be able to do that, compared with some other peoples.
What I am referring to is a widespread cynicism (to use a word which) was brought into the debate from the beginning by Lord Soper) about the collective intentions of our political leaders, whatever their Party. This cynicism, which is debilitating and frustrating, threatens at times to undo the spectacular achievements of quite a large number of our people, and to spoil the unrewarded labours of the vast majority. For me, this cynicism first showed itself when I was working in the City in the 1950s. I was horrified, in those days, to find it taken for granted, and increasingly taken for granted, that economic policy would be adjusted to electoral requirements. To put it crudely, it was assumed that we should have several years of restriction followed by a year of electoral boom. When I first heard this propounded I was able to assure them from my knowledge of politics that that was not at all the way that politicians worked. But I am afraid the cynics were proved right, and that is exactly what was done over a long or considerable period of years.
I was equally astonished and horrified when Sir Alec Douglas-Home, whom I respect as highly as any man in public life, announced on becoming Prime Minister that the winning of the next Election—what the right reverend Prelate has called "the auction"—would take priority over everything else. That, I think, is a 706 fair summary, although I have the full quotation if required. Certainly that policy was followed by the Conservative Government in their last year of office and they very nearly pulled off a sensational victory. In other words, a tradition of giving politics far too high a priority in relation to principles was built up during the period of our Conservative friends, and I cannot pretend it has been departed from since that time. It is, of course, easy to rationalise this scale of priorities from the point of view of a Government. No Government can achieve anything at all, and in that sense they cannot give effect to their principles, unless they are returned to power, and therefore this conception of winning the votes of millions acquires a kind of moral component. But to explain this untoward development in recent years—and I am not saying that any other country the world is any better; I am not going into that now—is not to excuse it.
Nobody can hold the present Prime Minister, Mr. Wilson, wholly responsible for all that has gone right and all that has gone wrong in the present Government, but he has certainly given them a special flavour of his own, and history will distinguish that flavour easily enough, as is usual with a strong Prime Minister. I cannot therefore avoid one or two words about him. He is a man whose abilities probably exceed those of nine Prime Ministers out of ten; and, taking an historical view, I would say his character is at least up to the average to be found among them. He is certainly possessed of many outstanding qualities, of which courage is in my eyes the most impressive of all His total dedication to the job is beyond question and beyond praise. He is, moreover, still young as Prime Ministers go, and should represent what in City terms is called "a considerable growth potential". But what is often attributed to him, or used to be attributed to him, as a supreme virtue is in my eyes a grave handicap. He is often described—rightly, I think—as the most professional politician who ever went to No. 10 Downing Street, and it is just there, I consider, that the trouble lies. Many of the public have got round to this, or at any rate think they have got round to it.
I shall be saying a word or two later on about the attitude of the present Government to the trade unions, but I 707 would tell one short story about that now. I cannot help mentioning a conversation that I had a week or two ago with a group of fairly average citizens. They were all loud in their praise of the Prime Minister's actions in what they called "standing up to the trade unions", but they refused to give him any moral credit for this kind of courage. They assumed that he was doing it because it was likely to be popular and not for any reason of principle. That is certainly unfair, and in this particular case completely unfair. But the public, once it forms this impression of a Government, does not change it very easily. I do not believe that any Government of any complexion will win back the sort of confidence which really activates and inspires the nation until it changes its whole scale of priorities and forgets, and is seen to forget, for a short while every day the everlasting search for votes; until, that is to say, it puts principle first.
I admit that as soon as we begin to talk of principle we enter a very difficult field. What is a political principle? I myself resigned rather more than a year ago on what I called a principle and what was regarded as such by quite a lot of people; but a gentleman, a friend of mine of exceptional sagacity, asked me at that time whether I would call it a principle if the school-leaving age had been postponed for only one year instead of two years. And, of course, as soon as one asserts a principle, one always finds somebody who can whittle it down like that. I therefore recognise that there are great ambiguities in this part of the discussion. Even if we agree that in some particular matter a principle is involved, we do not find always—perhaps we do not find usually—that this promotes harmony or unity of outlook.
Let us take some of the great and most controversial issues of to-day. Let us take nuclear disarmament, for example, or Biafra; or let us go back further to Munich. Let us take these great issues. A principle is asserted. I may hold a strong principle which leads me in one direction and somebody holds an equally strong one that leads him in another. So the Government can be forgiven if they are chary of enunciating principles which seem to divide rather than to unite. But I would urge strongly that this is a risk 708 which must be taken. At present, the public are not critical of the top politicians of all sides because they disagree with their principles but because, like the young people mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, so many of the public do not believe that the top politicians have any principles left.
Quite a few of us joined the Labour Party a good many years ago and embarked on a life of commitment because we thought that there were deep principles which that Party represented. We certainly did not make any calculation as to whether it was going to come to power in the near future or in the distant future or at all. That was not, I think, a calculation that entered into the mind of anyone who joined the Party at that time. Win or lose at the Elections in prospect, we were prepared to stand by the Party because it represented a moral ideal. Those who did that a good many years ago, or more recently, are not likely to desert the Party now at a time when it is being attacked from so many quarters. But I am bound to ask, in all seriousness—and I hope that a few of these words will reach the various members of the Government—how many young people to-day arc making that kind of life's decision. I am bound to ask that question. I should not like to give too firm an answer.
The Prime Minister has said, rightly, that the Labour Party is a crusade or it is nothing. Lord Soper also referred to the crusade that it represented in the past. I would certainly not say that the crusade had been abandoned or betrayed. I certainly would not use any language of that kind. But I would say that it had been put into cold storage, and I would say that until it re-emerges the Labour Party will seem to many people, to far too many people in this country, just another gang of politicians who happen to possess less money and have less access to business confidence than quite a few of their rivals.
My Lords, I do not wish to end on a negative note. Many good things have been said in this debate and others will be said. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I know, will put this in good perspective when he winds up. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, spoke about the need for closer links between the Government and the 709 people. I should like to endorse everything he said about that. This, as he brought out, cannot be just a public relations exercise by the Government in which a monopoly of wisdom is imparted rather more cunningly to the public than hitherto. It must be an affair of talking and listening; and quite as much listening by the Government as talking. It is, unfortunately, impossible to take a dose of moral principle, or, for that matter, religious belief, or, as they now say, to "get a fix". This is, I am afraid, a deeper exercise than that. There is much travail to be gone through and much self-awareness to be encountered before a new spirit is acquired or an old one recovered. But at least a moment comes every now and again when a Government are given a supreme opportunity of demonstrating their capacity to stand by a principle or to run away from it.
I believe that at this moment they are seeking, with immense courage, to distinguish the right principle—and it is not easy at the present time—and to stand by it in their discussions with the trade unions. Certainly, as so often, to follow a principle is no easy course. There is no desire in this matter, I know, to seek a victory over the trade unions or anybody else. The desire is for peace and reconciliation. But a stand must be made on essentials; and, personally, I have great confidence in the capacity of the Government at this moment to say where the essentials lie. In these circumstances, at a moment when they are under attack from many quarters, when they are striving desperately hard to do right, I, having had the temerity to preach principle (which is a relatively easy thing to do) would like to salute those who are trying to practise it. Therefore I give to them once again my support, firm and undeviating, in loyalty not only to the leadership and the Party but, as I see it, to the nation and the truth.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, I, too, should like to express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, for having initiated this debate. It has proved to be a debate which has given an extraordinary wide range to noble Lords. It has given opportunity for your Lordships to hear a very learned, well-reasoned, academic address on economics, and equally a glowing tri 710 bute from a former member of the Cabinet to the present Prime Minister. At least we cannot say that we have been in any sense inhibited in the scope of what we have had to say this afternoon. I do not myself want to have quite such a wide range. I should like to return to the Motion which Lord Soper moved, and in particular I would point out that there are two halves to it. One relates to the relationship between material objectives and deeper social issues and the other relates to participation.
I propose to address myself to only the first of those two halves, not because the second is not important but because they are both of such great importance that it would be quite impossible to do justice to both of them within the limits of a restricted speech. I should like also to apologise to my noble friend for the fact that I may not be able to remain to the end of this debate unless your Lordships are exceptionally controlled in the length of the speeches that follow. I hope that on this occasion this offence will be slightly less heinous than it usually is; although I am conscious of guilt in committing it because I think that while many profound and interesting questions will be raised, and have been raised, in the debate, it is unlikely that either the Government spokesman or my noble friend himself will feel any serious obligation to answer them at the end.
§ A NOBLE LORD: Why
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
Because, my Lords, they are of a rather different nature from those usually raised in political debate in this House.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt my noble friend, but thought it was made very clear at the beginning that this is not necessarily a conventional style of political debate and that we are all making the best contribution we can.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, I think that perhaps my noble friend misunderstands me. It is just because it is not a coventional-style political debate—that was indeed my point: and that was the reason why I thought that perhaps the conventional-style political response would not be forthcoming. However, the point is not, perhaps, of great 711 importance since is relates only to whether I can be present or not, and how serious is my offence if I am not. But I make my apologies.
My Lords, it is surely abundantly clear that in our society—indeed, in the whole of Western society—economic values, money values, are predominant; that we think predominantly in terms of economic and monetary welfare. The economic calculus is widely applied, and, indeed, it has its convenient aspects. If a man has a house the value of which is, let us say, £10,000, but it is too expensive, with his present income, to keep up it is convenient for him to know that he could sell it for £10,000 and perhaps buy another for £7,000, spending the balance on the upkeep of a smaller institution. We are all making economic calculations of that kind all the time; they are necessary, and, as I would say, definitely one of the conveniences of contemporary civilisation. Nevertheless, I think it is odd that we lay such emphasis upon the value of objects. We esteem very greatly objects that command a high price, and we are often very proud when, by clever bargaining, we have obtained an object at a comparatively low price. Conversations on this topic occupy a very large part of social intercourse in modern society.
The curious thing about this is that, after all, the money value of an object tells you nothing whatever about that object, except what you could have had in place of it; and that seems to be a rather irrelevant piece of information in relation to the object itself. But we encounter greater difficulties when we apply the same economic calculus to human beings, because, unlike objects, human beings have motives. May I illustrate this by a piece of recent history? Not long ago the salaries of the chairmen and members of the Boards of nationalised industries were raised to what I think may fairly be called fantastically high levels—at least fantastically high in view of the fact that this step was taken, if not by a Socialist Government, at any rate by a Government which has a Socialist ancestry.
The explanation of this is a very familiar one. It is necessary to pay a very good salary in order to get the best man, and the implication is that if you 712 pay £25,000 you will get a better man than if you pay £20,000; that if you pay £20,000 you will get a better man than if you pay £15,000. It is a very interesting hypothesis, but I do not know that it has even been checked. The best man is, presumably, the man who has the greatest ability, and the greatest devotion, to bring to his job, and who performs it with the greatest effectiveness. But the implication of this argument is that there is only one human motive, acquisitiveness; and the one certain fact about raising salaries is not that you will get necessarily the best man though you will certainly get the man with whom acquisitiveness is most dominant. That, my Lords, is one of the difficulties, I think, that arises in a society which is so predominantly governed by economic considerations in regard to the economic calculus.
I should like now to turn to another aspect of our present (shall I say?) discontent, or our present difficulties. There are two areas, two very different areas, to which the economic calculus is not applied. The first of those areas is that of technological progress. In our society technological progress is held to have a great virtue in its own right, and if an object is sufficiently technologically skilful and marvellous then it must be imposed upon us. Obviously, there is one outstanding example of this principle at the present time and that is the object to which I shall unblushingly refer as the abomination of desolation—the Concorde aeroplane.
§ A NOBLE LORD: The moon.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
The noble Lord says, "The moon". The moon might stand in a slightly different category, because I think there are elements of human adventure there which perhaps give it a slightly different value. But I am not going to pursue the moon; I think the Concorde is a more striking example.
My Lords, what shall we get out of the Concorde? We shall be able to travel round the world a few hours faster than we previously could. The price that we shall pay for this may be the risk of incurring radiation sickness—though that, I grant, may well be overcome—and that we shall be exposed to yet one more form of noise, in the shape of loud bangs at intervals as the sound barrier is broken. I think it illustrates very well the attitude 713 of our society, or indeed, I regret to say, the attitude of the Government, to the overwhelming credit that is given to technological progress.
This is well illustrated by the procedure of the Government at a much earlier stage when they took pains to inquire what the effect of these bangs might be upon the public, and made a number of specimen bangs in London and in other places in order to test our reactions. We were all asked to write and say whether we found them offensive; whether they frightened us, or our children, or our animals; and how much of them, if anything, we thought we could tolerate. A number of us did so, and the Minister of Technology then appeared on television to summarise the replies he had received. But what he said, in effect, if my memory serves me rightly, was not so much that the public is either predominantly horrified or is not horrified by these bangs; what he said in effect—so my memory tells me—was that the Americans and the Russians will have supersonic aeroplanes and therefore we must have supersonic aeroplanes, too. That, I agree, is a greatly abbreviated version of what the Minister said, but certainly that is the impression that was left on the mind of one listener—in other words, why bother about the bangs, because we are obviously going to have the beastly thing anyway?
This, I think, is a very striking and distressing example of what I have called the predominance of technological values; and it is perfectly clear that these are distinct from economic values because this object is enormously expensive—the calculation of the expense rises dramatically every year—and it is more than a little doubtful whether it will ever be economically viable. But it is technically marvellous and therefore we must have it. Having said that, please let me say at once that I intend no denigration of the skill of the hands and the brains which fashioned this object. I am simply wishing that they could have been put to a more fruitful use.
My Lords, the second area to which the economic calculus is not applied escapes that calculus for a very different reason: not because we have decided to forget it but because it is in the nature of things impossible that it should be there applied. Notwithstanding the attempts 714 that are now made to delude ourselves with talk about cost-benefit analyses, it is quite impossible to estimate amenities and the values of our natural environment in economic terms and to bring these within the economic calculus. It is therefore quite impossible that we should relate them to the other values of our society—namely, technological progress and economic progress. My noble friend Lord Soper, the right reverend Prelate and the noble and reverend Lord, Lord Sandford, were disposed, as was appropriate to their callings, to approach this subject in religious terms. Many of your Lordships will not be surprised to learn that this is not an attitude which I personally share. I do not hold the view that the earth is God's, and the fulness thereof. I think that the earth is man's, to be shared with the other living creatures who inhabit it, let us hope, on mutually convenient terms.
But whether one approaches this from a religious or from a purely secular and humanistic standpoint, I am sure we can join in feeling that the values of our natural environment, of the wild life which peoples this earth (I am referring to wild life other than human), the beauties of our scenery and all the beauties of the world, are values which are to be destroyed only at our utmost peril. But they cannot be put into economic terms. Therefore, these values of amenity—the forests, the wild life, the rivers, the sea shores—are at the mercy partly of economic consideration I and partly of the insistence of technological progress. If gas is discovered in the North Sea, it is thought, rightly or wrongly, that it will be cheaper than artificially made gas and must therefore be brought to our shores; and there it has to be processed in a large and very ugly processing plant, which must be placed on the shores of Bacton beach—one of the few remaining beautiful parts of our East Anglian coast—because it is cheaper to put it there than it would be to take it a little farther away and hide it behind a screen of trees or a rise in the land. The economic value must prevail, even in an area which is legally scheduled as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
This pattern is repeated over and over again. On another beach, farther south, again one of the few remaining unspoiled 715 bits of the South-Eastern coast, we are to have a hoverport, because the hovercraft, though very noisy, is a marvellous technological invention, and the only place where it could be easily brought to port is on this particular bit of beach, the surroundings of which give shelter to a number of unusual birds which will now be driven away.
So, my Lords, what is really happening is that we are in danger of losing what I am sure many of us feel to be the really profound values of civilised life to these two enemies—economic greed and technological domination. If I were to give my own opinion, I would say that I am inclined to think we have more to fear from the unbridled predominance of technology than from insatiable economic greed. I would like to say with what pleasure I listened to the observations in this debate of the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, who is an outstanding but exceptional example of the technologist who is aware of, and sensitive to, these issues. These are very grave issues, and what I should like to leave with your Lordships is the thought that, unless we are prepared to battle tirelessly and resolutely for the civilised values which are threatened by these enemies, we shall certainly not prevail.
§ 6.25 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to be allowed to speak a little earlier than would otherwise have been arranged, because I have to give a talk elsewhere at 7.30, but I shall try to come back for the end of the debate. I find the wording of this Motion somewhat curious. It ends by asking the Government to evaluate this problem—that is to say, the problem of moral as opposed to material aims. I would submit that it is not for the Government but for the people to do the evaluation—for the sociologist, for the psychologist, for the teacher, for the writer, for the moralist of every faith, for every one of us, as the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said.
We have to deal with the ills that face us, and I should like to select two points only—the first is materialism and the second, which has not so far been mentioned, is the curious symptom of vandalism. I do not want to generalise, but I think that one can argue that materialism 716 is not the result of the Industrial Revolution. There were materialists in the Middle Ages, in Rome and in Greece, and they are to be met with in the Bible. By materialism we mean the accumulation of worldly goods as one of the major aims of life. Perhaps materialism is more prevalent to-day in this country than in the 19th century because of the higher level of earnings. Many more people indulge themselves in buying like mad, if they can afford it, and on hire purchase, if they cannot. What I can say is that this problem is much worse in the United States, where there is a new philosophy that it is the duty of the citizen to buy in order to keep the economic machine running; one should not lay by for the future but mortgage the future as a patriotic act. In Britain, perhaps the wave of expenditure is due partly to the fear of depreciation of the currency, to the fear of rising costs, and we meet that by investment in goods.
The United States is a very generous country, especially so far as children are concerned. There has grown up in the United States a permissive spirit which has led in some cases to children being spoiled by having too many good things too young. I remember some years ago being invited for Christmas to a doctor's house in Virginia. He had some children and I brought a present for each child. I found that the other guests, who were American, had brought half-a-dozen toys for each child on the theory that they could not possibly be so mean as to produce one. It seems to me that with that kind of attitude things tend to lose their value. Nothing is precious and children grow up to expect the same thing later in life. Even in New Zealand, the Welfare State par excellence, with a very high standard of living, with few millionaires and few down-and-outs, the country tends to become not only conservative but dull, and there has been rather an alarming rise there of juvenile delinquency.
Coming back to this country, everybody is buying and few people are saving. In fact, National Savings in the first quarter of this year were less than the withdrawals; imports go up, however dangerous it may be to the stability of the pound; machines turn out more and more 717 goods; and, has already been mentioned, every artifice is used to package, display and advertise them, and make it easier for their purchase through self-service and credit cards.
There is one drastic remedy for this, and that is to go into a monastery or convent, abandon all wordly goods, to take vows of poverty and abstinence and devote one's life to prayer and good works. Of course, the price that is paid for that remedy is rejection of marriage and the joys of children. But in return one has contemplation, prayer and self-discipline. This is for the few, because many no longer believe in a personal God or in the sanctions of hell fire. I do not want to engage in a theological argument, but theologians to-day are even arguing about the death of God—or "God is dead". In Philadelphia recently I saw a private car being driven with a sticker on the back—obviously some sincere believer—which said: "My God is not dead; so sorry about yours".
My second point is vandalism, and I find it a very curious phenomenon in this country. Trains with football supporters are broken up to an extent that I find quite incredible. At first I thought it was due to people drinking too much, to high spirits or mass hysteria. But I have come to the conclusion that it is really a lack of any feeling of personal responsibility for public property. People do not admire, but are positively hostile to, the public school values of self-discipline, many of which are inculcated by playing team games: they do not play football, they watch football; they laugh at the training for leadership that is given in the old-fashioned English public schools, and patriotism has become a dirty word.
There are now two sub-cultures in this country. One is the Hell's Angels on motor cycles, who argue with flailing bicycle chains and engage in gang warfare; and the other is the "hippies", most of whom are pacifists, who are opposed to middle-class values: if their father's hair is short theirs is long; if their parents clothes are sober, theirs are highly coloured. Again, I can only say that in the United States, from which I have just returned, it is much more prevalent. I suspect that their children—that is, if they can procreate at all—will be the very opposite of the present parents, the "hippies" who wear these extremely 718 colourful clothes. Their children will have pressed suits; they will wear button down collars, and they will have crew-cut hair. In other words, it is really a reaction against parents, one more example of the generation gap.
It seems to me that in this country one of the troubles is that it is hard to find new worlds to conquer. Perhaps that is the reason for the popularity of yachtsmen who go round the world single-handed. Here is somebody doing something adventurous. The new frontiers, of course, are in science and technology, in which it is very hard to participate. Even computer technicians do not really involve the masses. But I have the feeling that, if Britain were suddenly attacked, all these longhaired men, with their girls and their floppy trousers, with long chains round their necks and owl-like spectacles, would be as patriotic as their fathers and grandfathers if they were convinced that the country was really in danger. All the old-fashioned patriotism would surge to the front. Of course, there will always be a minority of active dissenters, professional revolutionaries who are opposed to nationalism in all circumstances. They to-day have followers in peace time, because so many people do not know what they want or where they are going.
I should like to end by referring to one other country where I have lived most of my life—in fact, for over fifty years—and that is Palestine, now Israel. There I have watched the growth of that modern miracle, the kibbutz, the communal village. There are to-day 233 of these strange villages, which are part monastery, part army camp, part an Oxford college and part a farm. The oldest is something like sixty years old, which has allowed for three generations. They have no money economy; everything is free; the shop is not locked up at night; there is no village policeman; there is no juvenile delinquency, and drug-taking is unknown. There are only 80,000 people in these villages, men, women and children, which is 4 per cent. of the population, a tiny minority. But they exercise enormous influence, the same kind of influence that is exercised by another tiny minority, the Quakers, the Society of Friends, and I think for the same reasons; namely, their integrity.
719 The kibbutz, of course, is not dedicated to pacifism. It provides leaders in war and peace, and although they are only 4 per cent. of the population, a quarter of all the casualties in the six-day war came from the kibbutzim. They provide a remarkably high percentage of Israel's Cabinet Ministers. The late Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol was a member of a kibbutz; the Deputy Prime Minister, Yigal Allon, was a member of a kibbutz, and even General Dayan was born in a kibbutz. The pity of it is that the kibbutz is not yet for export; but it attracts thousands of young people from all over the world. Last year 6,000 Danish Christian students came to work there, and I think they were attracted because it is a hard life.
Israel, of course, is in a perpetual state of war, and patriotism is very high. Of course, I do not recommend war in order to provide patriotism. It is the other way round: it is when you have a war that patriotism comes to the front. But Israel devotes only part of its energies to defence: it is very busy with immigration and development. But it gives the impression that it knows where it is going. I have been teaching at the university there, and there are no student riots. The students, of course, are older; the men have spent three years in the Army, and the women two years. But they are all working their way through college; they are in a hurry to make up for their lost years, and they show a very commendable attitude of responsibility.
Israel is a very young country where enthusiasm is natural. Britain is something else again. It is going through the painful process of ceasing to be an imperial Power. The Empire has gone, the garrisons have been brought home from East of Suez, proud regiments are laying up their banners and battleships are scrapped. There is little opportunity to-day for overseas service, except for the men and women who are going as experts on loan to Africa and Asia—especially as teachers—or the excellent and imaginative scheme for overseas volunteers, whose dedication I think is admirable.
World War II was a watershed. Until then the Empire was expanding. I have always maintained that the British 720 Empire was really little more than a lot of Englishmen trying to get warm, and that now there is no more Empire, central heating has had to be introduced into this country. Perhaps it was the other way round—the central heating came first, and the decline of the Empire followed—but that is a subject for a doctoral dissertation: "The Influence of Central Heating on the Collapse of the British Empire". At least, under all our present discomforts in Britain—and I will end on this note—there are new forces at work. I do not share the views of my noble friend, Lady Wootton, on inventiveness. I think British inventiveness is extraordinary. I only wish our capacity to develop British inventions matched the inventiveness. There is one other quality which is perhaps underestimated, and that is the old virtue of stolidity. There is no panic in face of the enormous difficulties, and Britain is prepared to sweat it out. At the moment the cold and stormy economic weather mounts, but I have complete faith in the British people—from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and all immigrants within our gates.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ BARONESS SWANBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to start by paying the most sincere tribute which it is possible to make to Lord Soper on the Motion he has put down, and especially on the way he introduced it. I should be a very happy woman indeed if I thought I could follow to a slight degree in the steps he traced out. I think our debt to him for to-day's debate is colossal.
Time is passing on, and I will restrain myself to the two main things which he mentioned: the materialism of to-day, and participation in its manifold aspects. I suppose all of us condemn the wave of materialism which has swept over our country, but many of us, nevertheless, must acknowledge in a small way—hopefully a very small way—that we have ourselves indulged in this materialism. The danger of that personal indulgence can quickly develop into a national trend. That is a thing which each one of us must face for ourselves, and we must recognise the responsibility we bear in this direction. It is not Governments, nor statesmen, nor the politicians, alone, who can lead us in this particular struggle 721 against materialism; it is the right-minded and strong-principled members of the community. I feel very strongly that each one of these people must be made aware of, and must themselves recognise, their own value in this field, for the benefit of the community itself.
I venture to address your Lordships because I believe that many responsible people will visualise their own participation as in the manifest aspects of voluntary service. I believe that materialism should be fought by individuals, each one shouldering his share of his own true responsibility within the community and, by his actions, providing an example to others. But I would caution that if the fulfilment of this responsibility is to be defrayed by a voluntary contribution to the life of the community, very serious thought indeed should first be given to voluntary service as a weapon with which to fight materialism. True voluntary service must be based on a sound philosophic way of thinking, on a faith, on a religion. The canalising and stimulation of all such effort is a terrific task, and without the basis of a sound belief it cannot survive.
I could speak on the voluntary aspect of this debate for a length of time which would weary your Lordships, and so I will restrict myself to just two points: first, that undoubtedly a voluntary contribution to the life of the nation is an essential, both to the community and to the nation itself, whether it be in the form of work as a magistrate, in hospital management, or as a member of one of the many national organisations. But each one of these contributions must be made by an individual, and must be recognised as such. Materialism, as we are seeing it to-day, cannot be overcome by an order from above; it must be wrestled with by hundreds of thousands of right-minded people, and the weapon involved must be the character of the individual. This sometimes gets overlaid by the dross and dilemma of sudden fashion, but ultimately it must be the strength of thinking people in a strong and wholesome land.
I believe that anyone who has studied this question of voluntary service really seriously would agree with me that the gift of time, skill and energy is motivated by the basic outlook of the particular person concerned. The faith one holds 722 is undoubtedly the real foundation on which one builds. A philosophy that aims towards service to others is activated by a belief held. Therefore I would urge that no one overlook the strengths that lie in fostering the true principles of behaviour which are latent in our nationals and need to be awakened in order that they can play their part in the whole. The philosophy of voluntary service is recognised, realised and examined by too few people, and it should be more widely thought of to be truly understood and appreciated. I hold that the most valuable raw material we have in this country is the character of our people, and I deeply welcome this debate because of the searchlight it provides to help examine it.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Swanborough has mentioned our greatest asset as the character of our people, and your Lordships showed by your reaction that you agreed with her. I certainly do. I also agreed with my noble friend Lord Longford when he suggested that people to-day in this country—and I think by implication elsewhere also—have not deteriorated, as some of those who are praisers of the acts of our forbears would have us believe. Even if they have not improved, their characters are no worse than they were. I do not believe that human nature has changed over the centuries. In the context of this particular symposium—I will not call it a debate, but will follow my noble friend Lord Soper in calling it a symposium or a discussion—I will pursue in a little more detail the motivations which we have now in our everyday actions, and which I believe we have always had for at least very many generations.
I would suggest, my Lords, that one can name at least seven motives. First, there is the desire for improved material conditions for oneself and for one's immediate family. Secondly, there is the desire to get ahead of one's neighbours—the competitive urge. Thirdly, there is the desire for power over others—to assert oneself at their expense. Fourthly, there is the desire for improved material conditions, not simply for oneself and for one's family, but for the whole community in which one lives. Fifthly, there 723 is the desire for the esteem of others, to be well regarded by your neighbours; sixthly, the desire to do a good job whatever that job may happen to be; and, finally, the desire to serve God, whether that be the Christian God or any other god. Those, I believe, are the basic motives which operate, to a greater or a smaller extent, in all of us.
In the past, when the social and economic order was relatively rigid, I suggest that the last four motives that I have mentioned, which on the whole most of us would consider to be higher motives, were more important, although undoubtedly the first three motives had some effect. Now that we have a far more fluid society it is possible for us to change our material conditions, our conditions relative to those of our neighbours, far more easily than was possible in the old days. So those first three motives, I believe, are now somewhat more important. And, for one reason or another, there can be no doubt at all that the desire to serve God is now very low on the list.
The increase in the modern types of industry, technology and machinery, has to some extent weakened the desire to do a good job. It is far harder to have pride in your job if that job consists of pressing buttons and watching dials than if the job involves handling a saw or a scythe, or some of the simpler tools of the old craftsmen. The rise of a Welfare State and of a responsibility which successive Governments, quite rightly, have taken upon themselves for the welfare of the least fortunate members of the community has to some extent weakened the desire, possibly even the incentive, to work for the good of the community as a whole.
As a result of this, I believe that the first of the motives that I have mentioned—the desire for improved material conditions for oneself—has now become paramount. In other words, the profit motive has taken over. Most of us would agree that our own personal standards would place the profit motive—the desire to improve one's own material standards—at the lower end of the moral scale. To that extent, at least, we must agree that the profit motive as such is bad. Many of your Lordships will have watched the series on B.B.C. Television of Sir 724 Kenneth Clark's personal view of "Civilisation"—a most impressive series. In his last programme he compared the Gothic cathedrals, which were the subject of one of his earlier talks, with the architecture of New York. He told us that both of them took approximately the same length of time to build, but he reminded us that the Gothic cathedrals were built to the glory of God and the New York skyscrapers were built to the glory of Mammon.
Whether this change was inevitable or not—this change that I have described in our relative values of the incentives which all of us have now and always have had—it has, I believe, been accelerated by two things. First of all, it has been accelerated by not only the acceptance but even the exaltation of the profit motive as something that is noble, something that is desirable, rather than as something which may he necessary but is undoubtedly evil in itself.
Let me give your Lordships one example—perhaps an over-simple example. Think of the case of a member of a simple or primitive community who owns a piece of land that he himself is not using and does not expect to use in the foreseeable future. This land is needed by one of his neighbours, or perhaps by the community as a whole. In such circumstances he will hand over his land to the community or to his neighbour for him to use. If he fails to do that in this primitive, backward community, he will lose the esteem of his neighbours and of his fellow men. That will be the result if he hangs on to the land and says, "This is mine; you may not have it." But now let us look at the same situation in our modern, advanced (as we call it) Western civilisation. If such a man owned a piece of land which his neighbour or the community wanted for some purpose, and he did not exact the highest price the market would bear, he would lose the respect of all his neighbours; he would be considered a "crackpot". If, on the other hand, he was able to sell it for £1 million he would be universally respected. He might even be ennobled and find himself sitting with your Lordships here. That, my Lords, is a change which has taken place over the years in this country, and I think it has taken place far more rapidly within the last hundred years than in previous generations.
725 Also, a change has taken place and been accelerated by what I may call, I hope without giving offence, the hypocrisy of religious teaching, especially among the young. I will quote here a very pertinent remark by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, in a debate in your Lordships' House on November 15, 1967, on religious education. He said:The modern child does not have to be very old before he sees that what the Bible says about such subjects as money and usury makes no sense in his own world. How can he square a contempt for riches with his parents' passion to win on the pools, his teachers' campaign to raise their salaries?"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 15/11/67, col. 743.]That is what I mean when I talk about "the hypocrisy of religious teaching". It is a dilemma which anybody who has responsibility in this matter must feel very acutely; hut it is a dilemma that must be faced and cannot be glossed over if we are to retain, or perhaps regain, the respect of younger people, and if we are to ensure that moral values, whether they be the direct values of a Christian Church or what one more loosely calls the Christian ethic, are to have any real meaning for the, coming generations. It may be impossible as the world is to-day to run it without usury, without private riches, without private property, without the profit motive. It may be impossible to run our present world purely in the service of God and good neighbourliness. But if this is so (and I personally am not convinced it is) do not let us mask these basically selfish acts with the cloak of spurious Christianity.
Our second great problem is the impersonality of modern life; and my noble friend Lord Campbell of Eskan dealt with this matter in an admirable and exemplary manner. As I see it, we are now evolving two sets of morals: the public moral and the private moral. In the old days people were accused of having two sets of morals: the public moral, which was the good one—where they put on their top hat and their best suit and went to church on Sundays—and their private moral, where they came back home and in the privacy of their homes practised all forms of un-Christian activities. But to-day the opposite is true. I believe that we have still at least as high a standard of private morality as we have ever had—indeed, I think it may well be higher—but our 726 public standards are very different. Because decision-makers, whether i hose decision-makers be Ministers of the Crown, civil servants, local authorities, boards of directors, or whoever they may be, are so remote from those who are affected by their decisions, one man's humanity towards his fellow man fails, and instead we find impersonal and therefore dehumanised decisions.
Such decisions are liable to be decisions based on precedent; on safety-first; on the average reaction as shown by Gallup Polls; on the protection of the taxpayer; on the interests of the shareholder, and so on. This, my Lords, leads to a situation in which unjust and inhuman decisions are taken by individuals who, in their individual capacity, would never contemplate being parties to such decisions.
I do not think any of us need search our memories very far to think of events taking place in this House, events taking place which the public know about, e vents taking place which we as individuals know about in our own capacities, which bear that out.
I will give only one example, and that is foreign aid. How many people in this country have a guilty conscience that we, a rich nation, give less than one per cent. of our joint income to help those who are literally dying of starvation in other countries? We in this country have an average income of something over £600 per head per year, and there are other countries with an average annual income per head of the population of less than £20—and, as I have said, we give less than one per cent. to help those countries. Now translate this; remove this from a country of over 50 million people to a family of four people. Consider a husband and wife and two children, living in their comfortable home with £600 a year each to spend—that is, £2,400 for the entire family, or nearly £50 a week. Comfortable. At the gates of their house there is another family consisting of a husband, wife, and two children living on £20 a year each, making £80 for the family, or 30s. a week. I do not believe that the rich family would feel happy if they gave no more than one per cent. of their wealth—that is to say, 10s. a week—to help their starving neighbours. Yet, my Lords, when we do this collectively we have no feeling 727 of guilt whatsoever. We are still, I believe, at heart as human and as generous as ever, but scale and distance lower our capacity, offering a useful, and I believe sometimes even a welcome, cloak for avoiding our true responsibilities that our moral views dictate.
I believe that here both Government and business can take action. Ministers and company chairmen (and here I am to some extent repeating the words and certainly underlining what my noble friend Lord Campbell of Eskan has said) should make it clear that no decisions or actions affecting others should be less generous and less just than they would be if taken in similar circumstances by an individual rather than by organisational man. With any decision or action the question must be: "Is this something that I, as an individual, would feel proud of or ashamed of?" And that goes for Cabinet Ministers, for the directors in the board room, for the managers in offices and factories, and for all of us who are in any way on behalf of others delegated responsibility, just as much as for ourselves. We must not have two moral standards. Every decision maker must be prepared to stand by his decision, whether he makes it as a private individual or as a public servant.
With regard to my first point, which can be loosely called the conflict between the service to the community and service to oneself, a Government in a democracy must do more than simply reflect the existing standard of the country: it must give a lead by its own words; and, more important, by its own actions. It must make it incontrovertibly clear that in its view service to the community is a more worthwhile and nobler motive than is private profit.
Here may I put in a word for the Prices and Incomes Board, and the prices and incomes policy, as such? I believe that the prices and incomes policy of this Government is a measure somewhat in the right direction. For far too long prices and incomes have been dependent solely on supply and demand. In other words, the stronger the seller, whether he be a seller of goods or of labour, the higher the price he can exact. The Prices and Incomes Board attempts to bring an element of social justice into 728 the economic jungle. This is good. But do not let us be apologetic about this aim. Do not let us pretend that it has been brought in merely to stem inflation, or merely to help exports; in other words that it is no more than enlightened self-interest. Let us proudly proclaim that it is a step towards those higher ideals from which the struggle for private profit has diverted us.
The peoples and Governments of the Western World all pay lip service to these ideals, but their policies are not based on them. In some other parts of the world there are such Governments, though oddly enough, in none of those countries would the Government assert that it is in fact a Christian Government. Some of them are the opposite. I am thinking, for instance, not only of Israel (and we have heard from my noble friend Lord Samuel of the kibbutz there), but of Yugoslavia, particularly in the early days after the war; of Cuba, and of Tanzania. These countries, my Lords, make many mistakes, and some of them commit gross cruelties of a type that we would never countenance here; but they are sincere in their attempts to replace material motives by something that is higher. Perhaps we can learn a little from them. But we can learn most from our practical acceptance of the moral values to which, in theory at least, we still adhere.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ LORD HUNT
My Lords, every speaker so far has recognised the considerable service rendered by the reverend and noble Lord, Lord Soper, in putting down this Motion, which goes to the roots of our society's problems and raises the question of the future viability of our society. I should like to add my name to the list of those who have paid tribute to him.
I have no wish at this stage of the debate to repeat or amplify the diagnosis of the problem which has been so amply covered and on which books have been written, but I should like to make a brief reference to two books, one of which was written quite recently by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles—and I regret that the noble Lord is not here because he would have made a notable contribution to this debate. In this book, Life and Politics, he posed the question as to which comes first, the character of the people or 729 technological advance? I would say that to be realistic both must run in parallel, but whereas the advance of technology is inevitable, the preservation of the best human qualities is not. This brings me to the second book, with which many of your Lordships will be familiar—a book written many years ago by H. G. Wells, The Time Machine, in which he painted a picture of the jelly-bellied lotus eaters of the future in the year 8000 AD., which, except in regard to the date, I would say is not entirely fanciful. Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Walston, may have felt about the present in relation to the past, I think we want to be entirely uncomplacent about the developments in the future.
I want to confine my remarks to the sphere of education, as the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Norwich, has done, and to narrow my focus to some of its social aspects. I am told that Aristotle in the great fifth century B.C.—2,500 years ago—made the point that the true aim of education is the wise use of leisure. I am not a classical scholar and I have no idea whether he really did say this, but I am strongly persuaded that Aristotle must have been a Liberal, and I am sorry that there is no one on the Liberal Benches to reinforce and repeat those wise words to-day, because I think they are equally relevant.
I believe that a good part of the answer is to be found in that part of human life which is not spent in serving machines or in earning money in any other way: in the uses of leisure, its relevance to work, and in making a synthesis of the whole business of living. But the trouble is that in material and economic terms for some it still retains its cachet of frivolity, and others would accept that it is important but only in terms of profit. As a top American business executive said, with great and deliberate emphasis, to a friend of mine who was working for him and who was discussing his holiday plans and dates, "Your leisure schedule is purposed to maximise your personal productivity". That is a point of view. In fact I would say that leisure is the time and the opportunity to develop those very qualities which in worktime are in danger of being submerged.
730 There is a stoutly held view that what a person does in his free time is no business of anybody else, and in the sense that everyone must freely choose I hold that view as strongly as anyone. But it does contain the germ of a heresy, because there is an implication that a man has no responsibility towards his neighbour. That is a heresy. That is why I question whether the choice of a great many people is in fact as free as they like to think: it is. Both choice and outlook are conditioned to the "admen's" culture, projected with great skill, to induce people to spend time and earnings on a depressingly narrow range of goods and activities. I would say that it is not to encroach on freedom of choice; it is to provide, as the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said, a framework of choice, to introduce people, preferably through actual experience, to a much wider range of activities, including those which are social in character, which contribute to other people's pleasure and which are co-operative rather than competitive—goodness knows !, there is enough competition in our working lives to do without it in leisure—in fact, those things which, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said, are creative in character. That, to my mind, is the way to encourage people to think and choose for themselves.
Education in the uses of leisure it only a part, but I think it is a vital part, of a wider social education about contemporary society and its needs which s still so much to be desired in all our secondary schools. The same opportunities, of which many already exist, in adult education need to be more widely and attractively advertised. Why should not local authorities use commercial advertising on television screens for this purpose, if it is accepted that social welfare matters, such as health and accident prevention, should be dealt with in this way, in order to compete with other influences which endanger health and safety? Why is moral health deemed less appropriate and important? The alternative is to accept that some commercial leisure industries will play down to public taste unchallenged, fill the moral vacuum and produce a cultural mediocrity which is uncritical, aspiring to nothing, creating nothing, and failing to provide enjoyment of life to the full.
731 My second point is the continuing need for good personal leadership. Leadership has been referred to by several noble Lords, and I am referring to it again now only because I am thinking of leadership at a much more humble and lowly level. It can mean personal example, as well as a readiness to take responsibility in one form or another, and by either of those definitions it is to be found in some degree in almost everyone. Whatever may be said to the contrary, how ever egalitarian we may be becoming, nothing will persuade me that most people are not looking for someone else to look up to. Most people still respect and admire courage and kindness; most people still recognise honesty, even if it is only a relative honesty. Pride and bombast are still detected and despised for what they reveal in the person.
For one proof of this you have only to look at the response to recent deeds of daring and endurance, but more especially those carried out with a becoming modesty—and I am referring to all sorts of events that have happened of late: sea journeys solo round the world, the transatlantic air race and all the enterprise and endurance that that evoked, the current trans-polar crossing, to say nothing of the incredible courage and endurance of those who dare to go into outer space. The inspiration of these things, what really lit people up, was not the technology, not the machines, so much as the men and women who dared to use those machines or do without machines to carry out their exploits. It was not so much the deeds themselves as the manner of their doing. I would pay a warm tribute to the Press—having at times had some hard things to say about the Press—which so rightly sensed the true spirit of our people and which gave them a boost. To cultivate such activities is to cultivate, for everybody, the qualities of leadership, not only on the level of physical adventure. It is not enough to cheer the heroes and enjoy the vicarious kicks from their exploits. It is true that not many of us can aspire to circumnavigate the globe in any way, still less reach the moon, but there are many lesser adventures which anyone can try, and we need to spread the qualities of leadership right through the social structure.
732 I would pay tribute, as have others, to the fact that within the last fifteen years or so a great deal has been achieved in the desired direction, but nothing like enough has been achieved, or rather nothing like enough has been made of what has been achieved. Attitudes and tastes and habits which are acquired in school dissipate and disappear remarkably rapidly on leaving. The Youth Service has not succeeded in providing a continuing link for more than a few between leaving school and the spare time they find in adolescence, between adolescence and adulthood; and the gap between generations seems to be widening rather than the desired reverse. Like many other noble Lords, I pose the question, "What can be done?", or rather, to use an impressive double negative used by Lord,Eccles in his book, "We cannot do nothing". And I have a few simple suggestions.
First of all, I would say that we should have the humility to learn from what others are doing. This seems to me basically—and I am talking with this bias—an educational problem. But we do not appear to be producing an adequate answer through education. Is it possible that despite our great educational traditions and achievements some changes are needed? It is an ugly fact that it is visit-tors to these shores who, presumably from the more satisfactory background in their own countries, have drawn atention, with sorrow, to the signs of Britain's decadence. So I suggest that the Government should make an urgent study of measures taken or being considered elsewhere to tackle the problem. The problem is a global one and it calls for global study and consultation and collaboration. We know that all other methods will not apply to us, but we are not all that different from anybody else.
Secondly, we must recognise that the problem embraces all aspects of our national life. Despite the very creditable efforts of Ministers of Education under the present Administration, it should not be confined to that Department of State. In any case, the subject calls for the highest priority. In other countries it is so treated. There are variously Ministers of Youth, Ministers of Culture and Sport, of Youth and Welfare and so on. None of these seems to me to be wide enough. The first, 733 even though it is given greater status in France, wrongly separates youth's needs from those of the other generations. I feel we need something as widely embracing as, but quite different in its social objectives from, a Minister for Social Services, something which amounts to the highlighting of social responsibilities. I do not think it right to create a new Department of State, for the responsibilities in this field must rest in the various existing Departments. But a Minister should be appointed with Cabinet rank, his job being to draw together all the strands, bring them into a single focus and give greater emphasis to those "deeper social objectives" which Lord Soper has mentioned in his Motion.
In secondary education, we need to look again at ways and means of giving status to, and providing incentives in, all aspects of social education, including education for leisure. Though I believe that this has been looked at and frowned upon. I again suggest that a diploma course should be devised, including participation in a wide choice of leisure activities and in training for social service, which might be required, and would certainly be recognised, by employers and by the trade unions, and for which there would be continuing opportunities in industrial training. As such, this and other comparable courses would be recognised for rebate of levy by the industrial training boards.
I think that the Government should even now reconsider their decision on the deferment of the Bill to raise the school leaving age, expressly with a view to pointing to the urgency of making social education the main theme for that extra year. I would not presume to suggest what should be included in the curricula—that, of course, is a matter for local decision—but I hope that they will be as wide as possible. I venture to hope that a rightful pride in our country will he one guideline, and that this will be tempered by an appreciation of the wider community of peoples beyond these shores, and especially of those from overseas who have come to this country to settle. One thing I would implacably oppose would be to instil a sense of patriotism based on fear, dislike, contempt or prejudice regarding others of different colour, race or creed.
734 I have already made the point, which I now repeat in summarising, about the advertisement of adult education courses in leisure activities on commercial lines. I have no specific recommendations to make about the Youth Service as it is, because there are, I believe, two Reports which are to be published shortly and we shall see what changes are proposed. Only one of your Lordships who is "on the inside", or "in the know", is a member of the Youth Service Development Council—I refer to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. But, of course, if she were here tier lips would have to be sealed.
I am concerned about the extent to which the Service proposes to revise its policy towards meeting the needs of young adults and to link these up with people in the adult world. I am also anxious about the degree of permissiveness inherent in the doctrine of giving young people only what they want, which is largely what they have been conditioned to want by "pop" culture, rather than also encouraging them to discover what else they are capable of enjoying and becoming.
This Motion is directed at the Government by a great and widely respected churchman. I hope that Lord Soper and the right reverend Prelates who may read the Report of the debate will forgive me if I now return the question to the leaders of the Churches. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, suggested that we are suffering from a sickness of the spirit. I am sure that we all agree with the truth of that. This is something that the Churches simply cannot turn to the Government alone to solve. I ask the question: can the clergy be content to preach to three-quarters empty churches, and to congregations composed mainly of elderly people who need no persuasion about the spiritual basis of life? Is it not more important to get out among ordinary people where they are, and to talk to them not from pulpits and, if I may say so, not only from soap boxes but meeting them in their homes, acquiring their trade skills and working alongside them at the work bench, in the docks, and in the laboratories and anywhere else where people dwell? Is not this what the early Apostles did? And was it not true that St. Peter was a fisherman at the same time as he was a 735 fisher of men? Have worker-priests been tried in this country, without the restriction of celibacy which placed such an intolerable strain on their operations in France? No wonder the Christian ethic is in disarray, when the missionary spirit which has been active among people abroad who have other religions has been absent here among people who have not.
My last word is for us all. I think it behoves anyone who presumes to speak on this tremendous theme, as Lord Soper himself has, to speak with some diffidence. I believe, as I said at the start of my speech, that the viability of our type of society is at stake, and every one of us has some responsibility for arresting the decadence in Britain. It is done by personal example, and by seeking out the best in others around us, those in great public offices or wherever they happen to be, and helping those people to develop what is good in them. It is not done by running down our country, by running down the Government of the day, particularly abroad. It is not done by destructive criticism in any form at any time. Nor is it done by expressing disapproval, however deeply felt, in violence. Not only do the ends, however lofty and urgent they may be, not justify such means; such means merely defeat those ends.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ LORD SORENSEN
My Lords, I join with others in expressing appreciation of Lord Soper's initiative in arranging today what is not a debate but a kind of meditative forum. I have great compassion for the Front Benches on both sides of the House, who I understand have to be here until the conclusion of the discussion, for it means that they will be here until about half past ten or eleven tonight if the speeches are relatively brief, though if they are as lengthy as some of them have been they will be here until about two o'clock in the morning. I therefore assure them that I am doing my best to abbreviate my remarks to within about ten minutes, so that their discipline shall not be quite so severe as otherwise it might be.
At the same time, I would say that the core and heart of the discussion which has involved so many speakers up to the | present time concerns this side of the 736 House even more than the other side. I say that because, naturally, I do not know exactly what were the full motives that prompted the noble Lord to put down this Motion. I rather assume that it is somewhat akin to my own concern; namely, a sense of disparity between, on the one hand, the hopes and aspirations that many of us on this side of the House have had and, on the other, the actuality of the present time. I am sure that Lord Soper pondered for many minutes, perhaps longer, in considering exactly what should be the actual wording of the Motion he put down on the Order Paper. But, in spite of all the other language he employed, I think there are two key words on which I should like for a few moments to concentrate my attention. These key words are "responsible participation".
There are various kinds of participation, various kinds of responsible participation. The other House and ourselves have Members who participate in Parliamentary life, but on a totally different basis. In the other House there is the representation of democratic responsible participation, whereas of this House, of course, one can hardly say that, because here we represent nobody but ourselves; for good or ill, we are not responsible to any constituency. This indeed brings home to us the fact that when we are thinking of responsible participation we have to define what we mean by it. I assume that in this particular context we are thinking of democratic, responsible participation. Inevitably, therefore, those who sit on this side of the House think of this as an extension of what already has been established in the so-called Lower House. There at last everyone in this country politically has the opportunity to engage in responsible political participation and representation. Obviously the extension of that in our economic affairs means that in some way we seek that the same principle shall be embodied in our economic life.
Here, of course, our interpretation of the incentives that should dominate mankind differ in this House. On the whole, I presume, noble Lords on the other side of the House rather criticise the emphasis that we on this side place on the incentive of service, of egalitarian co-operation and the like. I can well understand this, because we are all creatures of multiple motives. The instinct, or the impulse, of 737 self-preservation and self-interest is very strong. Reward and profit are very powerful factors in all our lives, and have been in the past. Therefore, I recognise that we who sit on this side of the House are striving to encourage elements which are as yet very weak. One can understand, therefore, why there should be a certain amount of rejoicing on the part of our political opponents when, as at the present time, the Labour Party seems to be in the doldrums and not as popular as once it was. Indeed, I share, not depression but regret that there is still so little indication on the part of large numbers of our community of the sense of responsibility they should exercise for their future.
When one thinks of the fact that in municipal elections only from 15 to 40 per cent, of the electorate vote, and in Parliamentary elections some 70 to 80 per cent.—and even then, in many cases, only after they have been cajoled and pressed by all sorts of means; when one thinks of the fact that in the Co-operative Movement, when given an opportunity to vote at the quarterly meetings, only about one in a thousand of the members care to do so; when one thinks that trade unions, when members are called upon to elect their chief officers, again, in many unions, only about 10 to 15 per cent, trouble to exercise their responsibility—when one thinks of all these factors, one realises that there is strength in the assertion of many critics of the Labour Movement that by our own inward weakness we are bound in the end to fail.
Moreover, when we look at the world as a whole we see that many of the hopes and anticipations of the united world, which many people had at one time, are being falsified. Communists, for instance, at one time used to sing a certain song, the chorus of which, I think, went something like this:Then comrades come rally, the last fight let us face,The Internationale unites the human race".I wonder whether the Russian Communists and Chinese Communists, glaring at each other on a distant frontier, ever echo in their hearts that refrain. Therefore one can understand the cynicism that is bred in the minds of many people at the disparity between what is hoped for and what has been realised. 738 This is only part of the story, but I would just add that one can understand so many of our own people in this country, and elsewhere, at the present time becoming confused and bewildered at what seems to be the increasing complexity of Government.
When I heard, for instance, that fascinating speech by my noble friend Lord Balogh earlier on I wondered what effect it would have if it were read to an average board meeting of the Labour Party in my district. I am sure that many of the members would be absolutely paralysed by bewilderment. That is not to say there was not great value in it: there was, and I shall read it in Hansard to-morrow with very great interest and, I am sure, profit. But the stress laid by the noble Lord on the complexities of our modern economic and financial mechanism, the fact that distantly there are these economic and financial forces that help to control our lives, I am sure induces many people to feel that they become next to nothing; they become determinist in the sense that they feel themselves creatures of unseen figures who are manipulating their lives behind the scenes. One puts alongside that the hidden persuaders of the Press and other agencies, and one can well understand the many who feel that the purposes for which the Labour Party once stood—and indeed, still stands—are hardly worth troubling about.
I do not feel that materialism is the real danger of the present day. I think that the real danger is what I might call a complacent hedonism. Materialism, in the old sense or the new sense, has been a tremendous boon to mankind. I know that my wife, and many other wives in my district, because of the material benefits of washing machines and the like, are living infinitely easier lives than in the case of my mother or grandparents. This materialism has been of substantial benefit to people throughout the world, and that is why it behoves those of us who have comfortable lives to be a little hesitant about criticising the mass of people because they want some of the good things which have been denied to them for so long.
At the same time, one recognises that the accumulation of these necessities for modern life may carry with it a certain complacency: a certain indifference; a 739 certain insensitivity. For in the long run we have to ask ourselves: where do we go from here? What is it all about? What is the purpose of it all? If we are going to make life happier in the deeper sense; if we are going to re-house our people in modern towns, such as exist already, and in which some million people now happily live; if we are going to bring about greater leisure; if we are going to erase some of the gross inequalities that have cursed the lives of multitudes of bygone days; if life is going to be released from some of the tyrannies of poverty and ignorance and superstition, what then? How will it expand? In what direction will it go? What are its values? Therefore I would say in conclusion that there rests upon us to-day a tremendous obligation to try to give to the coming generation some indication of the direction along which we should travel, so that whatever may be our economy, and however it may expand or contract, we at least use it for a good purpose.
The distinction drawn by John Ruskin years ago still holds good: the distinction between wealth and illth. Then he emphasised the fact that merely making a number of goods or things does not necessarily mean that you have greater wealth in the real sense of the word. He distinguished, if I remember rightly, between those things that serve the common weal and those that do not. The latter he describes as "illth". Surely that is what we have to do: to try to emphasise that whether our economy expands or contracts, whether modern technology gives us abundance or does not, we nevertheless have to decide to what end it shall be used, what are the things we are going to make. It seems to me that this depends upon our outlook on life. To-day the churches are two-thirds or more empty because the old standards of values and the old criteria have passed away, for masses of the people have no particular moral, ethical or spiritual influence in their lives.
We have to recognise that our modern schools are the places in and through which we should endeavour to give some inspiration to the coining generation. I am thinking not in doctrinal terms, but in the deeper sense, the moral and ethical terms; again not didactically, but in 740 terpreted emotionally. It is not enough merely to teach people, including children, what they should think and what they should do, but rather to inspire them so that they shall be able to cherish these things and make them part of their lives. Therefore I plead that we should find some opportunity in the near future to return to this subject of education so that we shall think of it as a place and a sphere in which the people of to-morrow can be inspired by the right values and thus use all the clever things that modern science can employ, not for our own destruction or detriment but for our own true fulfilment.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ LORD HIRSHFIELD
My Lords, it is important, I believe, in the context of this Motion that we consider technology and its effects on society just a little longer. I want to discuss two aspects of this issue, not only in order to stress where I think there are areas requiring some fundamental research, but also to explain some of the reasons why I accord such a very high place to technology in such a debate as this. On the technical side of computerisation, for example, it appears probable that the big switch in objective has come; namely, from trying to keep pace with paper to the new idea of eliminating paper, because paper is an inefficient means of communication. Looking ahead, I am told that approximate dates can be put on some of the changes which will take place. For example, cards and paper tape in the computer will be obsolete by about 1975. The spoken word, or what is called oral in-put in the computers, will be general by about 1980. By the beginning of the 1980s, we shall experience 1 million word desk-size or possibly even briefcase-size computors using Laser memories. Books and libraries, as sources of factual material, will be superseded by computer files by the mid-1980s.
Around the same time, we can also expect that doctors, and perhaps other professionals, will have terminals as part of their equipment, so that the doctor can plug into a computer network for diagnosis and similar information. By the 1990s we shall be building houses with electronic walls, which will allow people to receive information from computer networks in their homes and offices. 741 Technicians can see chemical memories and chemical storage in computers within twenty years. Perhaps it is relieving to be told that the cost of all this is coming down, and that by the 1990s the cost of computing will probably be halved.
The kind of challenge confronting us is that one can foresee, by the last decade of this century, considerable control through technology over our environment. The release that the machine provides to man, the released capacity which it gives him, is the capacity to think about what he should be doing when the drudgery of the work, unfit for human consumption, is removed from him. This means that we have to train him to do other things, and even to benefit from greater leisure in sensible forms. We are confronted with the problems of a divided world, largely caused by technology, but which could be solved by it. A single world was once morally desirable; to-day, it is politically and socially vital.
The five largest companies in the United Kingdom now have a combined annual turnover of over £6,000 million, and the combined budget of the top thirty firms considerably exceeds that of the national Exchequer. This represents a new economic fact, a new kind of corporate power, and one which cannot be regarded as merely an extension of the traditional laissez-faire competitive market structure. However, one of the major aspects of industrial power in the 1960s, which we must face, is the growth of the multi-national corporation. Just as in our domestic economy the trend is towards new concentrations of power which are less and less subject to any form of democratic control and scrutiny, so also in the international economy the same kind of broad development is taking place. Indeed, such scant research as there has been so far on this subject is very alarming.
According to one estimate, one quarter of the total United Kingdom manufacturing output will be under the control of international corporations, mostly American, by 1981. Another estimate is that in twenty years' time the world economy will be dominated by 300 enormous multi-national corporations. International capital already has a powerful grip on our economy, in its employment 742 levels, its investment levels and its expansions, as we saw in the case of the Ford Motor Company only a short while ago. It would appear that, unless something is done, an ever-increasing proportion of our economy is going to pass right out of our hands and into the international sphere, where there are new controls and constraints on its operation, and almost no semblance of democratic control over its operations.
I do not wish to sound alarmist or pessimistic where these developments are concerned. Large multi-national industrial corporations, employing the latest technological processes—and constantly improving on them, as they are able to do, because they have the resources—can bring greater economic growth, higher living standards and a better life for everyone. They are the instruments of technology and we must use them to gain the full benefits for mankind of technology. But we must also be aware that they are changing the face of our societies. They raise wholly new issues about the character of our development in the years ahead. Our patterns of production and consumption—indeed, the whole scale of economic values which we have—are bound to be shaped by them, and shaped ever more completely, unless we create new forms of democratic control to influence their operations. Yet to do this we must have much fuller information about the character and development of multi-national corporations than we have at present. How do we regulate such centres of power? What kind of new international codes are needed? I do not know the answers, but I am convinced that this whole subject should receive serious attention from the Government.
Technology will also have a profound influence on the measure of equality in our society. During the 1960s there has been very little change in the highly unequal distribution of personal income and wealth, which has long characterised British society. More than one third of the personal wealth in Great Britain— £28,500 million out of £85,500 million—is owned by the richest 1 per cent, of all adults while the top 9 per cent, owns 71 per cent. And various independent estimates suggest that even this considerably underestimates the concentration of personal wealth. What this means 743 in terms of unequal opportunities—in education, in employment and in other directions—should not need to be stressed.
Undoubtedly, one of the principal reasons for this pattern has been the growth in share values. Since the beginning of the incomes policy, over £19,000 million has been added to the market value of United Kingdom registered and managed companies. When we remember that, according to 1965 figures, only 1.8 million adults directly owned these shares, we can understand how the inequalities in private wealth are perpetuated. And, of course, behind this growth in share values has been the continuous growth in corporate wealth of the large corporations.
Now technology is bound to accelerate the growth. But as this spectacle continues, how do we avert the development of increasing inequalities in wealth and the emergence of an ever more powerful and wealthy minority in society, with increasingly sharp divisions between the poor and the rich? One of the central effects of technology, and one which is only dimly comprehended at present, is the way in which, with the spread of automation, the efficiency and profitability of capital in industrial processes will increase. And capital will be substituted for manpower at an ever-increasing rate. This means, in turn, that the share of labour in the national income will fall. It will be a share in a rising national income, but unless employees acquire claims on the increased property income which will result from the process, there will be a growing gap between those living on earned income and those deriving the bulk of their income from property.
The theme of fairer shares in national wealth was the subject of a paper by Professor Rodney Crossley, presented at a recent Conference on Technological Change and Human Development. He was breaking new ground, as Sir Trevor Evans writes in a book, Challenge of Change, based on that Conference, which is shortly being published by the Foundation on Automation and Employment:The time has come to consider how workers should have a greater share in the ownership of capital. There has been too 744 much concentration in the past on how to increase wealth, and not enough attention on how to share it more equitably. The neglect of the problem of distribution of wealth has gone too far.If the Western democracies believe that ownership should imply effective control, and if we are right in thinking that property ownership will become relatively more important in the next few decades, there is need for a new kind of institution in the capital market, which will promote the ownership of assets by employees, and be strong enough, in terms of the control of investible funds and company voting rights, to ensure that they are administered in the interests of employees.Automation may well turn out to be labour-saving in the strict sense of the economist, as compared with popular usage, which means that it may be so much more profitable to use capital in place of labour that the input of capital into production will actually rise. The share of labour in a rising national income will fall, and unless employees acquire claims on the increased property income, there is clearly a grave risk of alienation and aggravated conflict between the propertied and employed classes in advanced capitalist societies".In two areas, therefore—the character and structure of public agencies responsible for reviewing the advantages of corporate management, and the scope for developing industrial democracy—I should like to see Government research.
So far as international corporations are concerned, I think it is important to notice the different policies which are usually pursued by British-owned and American-owned corporations in controlling their overseas subsidiaries. In most instances, big American business has what I can only feel is the unfortunate habit of retaining the whole of the equity interest in subsidiary companies outside the United States. It rarely offers any portion of the equity in an overseas company to local interests in the territory where the subsidiary company operates. On the other hand, it is much more frequently the custom with British-controlled multi-national companies to offer equity participation in subsidiary overseas companies to local people. This seems to be not only a very prudent approach but one which is surely right so far as individual countries are concerned. Why should American or other foreign business expect us to tolerate a situation in which, in just over a decade, they may control a quarter of our industrial output? They cannot and they should not.
745 I believe that we should generalise the approach which was adopted in the case of the acquisition of Rootes by Chrysler of America. Here, through Government watchfulness over the negotiations, fair conditions were built into the agreement. The Government should aim through such means to retain at least an element of control over those parts of the British economy which pass into American or other overseas hands. These measures would be important within the context of Britain. They would help to warrant some form of democratic control over those parts of our economy which may otherwise pass completely beyond our control. Such measures do not answer the much wider question of how some element of democratic control is to be exercised on the multi-national corporations operating outside Britain and other countries but having a powerful impact on the world economy and, therefore, on the economics and livelihoods of all of them. The solution can be found only in some form of international agreement. But I have yet to see any viable suggestions or research work in this field. Here, in fact, is an area which requires extensive consideration.
I would urge the need for fresh thought on ways in which the growth in corporate wealth can be shared out more widely than simply among the very small proportion of the population who are shareholders. On the Continent, various studies are under way to examine the feasibility of introducing investment pay schemes into industry—schemes which might offer a way of reducing the intense inequalities which the process of industrial capital accumulation will create. I hope that there will be similar studies here, and perhaps on some early future occasion we may have an opportunity of debating this particular subject more fully. Recent years have seen in Britain the growth of the unit trust movement, which is designed to cater for the small saver; and, of course, there are company pension funds and some company arrangements whereby employees can obtain shares in their own company. But as Professor Crossley contended recently, proposals under consideration in Germany, Holland and Italy have a much wider scope. It is a common element in them that some part of the employee's 746 pay is set aside contractually and used for the accumulation of industrial assets on his behalf.
My Lords, I have sought to argue that we must be concerned with the impact of technology on the pattern of power in our society, and what kind of democratic response may be needed to this pattern. There is much that we do not know at the moment about technology's future effects. At the same time, what we cannot doubt is that technology has a dynamic of its own which is changing societies, and changing them in a profound way. If we are to control the change and harness technology to our democratic purpose, we must have a far greater under-standing of at least some of the issues which I have outlined. I hope, therefore, that the Government will consider today's debate in this light, and initiate what could be one of the most important research programmes ever undertaken by any Government.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, something like a year ago I remember talking to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, about what seemed to me to be one of the most unexpected flaws I had found in your Lordships' House—an omission, anyway. Here was opportunity, day after day, in which the underlying philosophies of our society could be brought out, examined, changed or justified. Here were chances when, by the arguments an individual could attach to political beliefs, a listener could modify his own, with only his own conscience to still. Free from the pressures of total Party loyalty, the profound issues, the moral absolutes, should have been the tides on which argument flowed within the Chamber—and this simply was not so. Of course, the work of the House was largely the detailed processes of the lawmaker—and rightly. But even when a more general debate was our business, the participants seemed almost reluctant to air their convictions, relying rather on direct experience—things like the conclusions reached by official committees or Commissions. My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Soper, has certainly made up for it. And no wonder I had felt that people avoided the profundities! After only a few minutes of examining the elegant but cautious wording of the Motion, I saw how uncomfortable it would be for these disturbing abstractions 747 to be always interfering with the ordered progress of our Parliamentary business.
Implicit in the Motion is that there is a problem. The word "problem" is mentioned twice. The Government are asked to do something about it: and I am almost alone here if I dare to question that there is a problem. I share with almost everyone, I suppose, the sensation of being troubled by a lack of "depth" in life, along with all those other fashionable tags describing communal restlessness—"lack of direction", "sense of futility", "What's the good of it all?", and even, "Is God dead?". There is nothing new in these, being, as they are, simply the cry of, "Why are we here?" made by thinking man since he stood upright. What is new is that so many people can hear and see these questions going unanswered. The cynicism of the front-line soldier can now be shared by any and all, thanks to the vivid new technologies of mass communication. The wretchedly poor see that almost everyone else apparently live lives of harmonious luxury. At no other time in history have people been shown so much truth so forcibly or so much half-truth so persuasively.
It seems to me that the result is the opposite to what we might expect; that, in fact, the involvement of the individual is less as his awareness of national or global problems is more, less even though the opportunities for involvement are genuinely greater. I think I can sum it up in the familiar enough words: "I can't do anything about it, so why should I try?". As people come to grasp the scale of events relative to themselves, so their own individual welfare becomes paradoxically more important, because it would seem that only in one's personal material well-being can any effort show any result.
Of course this reasoning is shaken by the existence of every group active for only idealistic motives—shaken, but not disproved. That remains my opinion. I must add that I would have no curbing or interference with the supply of fact. To be told as much as possible is the right of every citizen, however he might react. Linked to that right is, surely, what we understand as freedom, a word that has been bandied about here this afternoon many times: freedom of 748 choice, freedom to buy or reject, freedom to join in or stay out. And wherever men are free, there they are full of "material objectives". No surprise! I would not be rash enough to put a cause and effect on this; I would rather leave it as an empirical result.
My Lords, does a re-direction of material objectives imply any loss of freedom? Frankly, yes. It must. Our democratically-elected Parliament is there to balance freedom and control as best it can. I do not think that one need predominate at the expense of the other. As children, our duties and our pleasures are far apart. As we grow older they grow closer. Perhaps a mature society finds that the gap narrows, too, between freedom and control. But in all this I find I am still skirting round the issue in the noble Lord's Motion; namely, the reconciling of the two categories of objective, material and social. I have offered an opinion why they seem to be in conflict. But on reflection there is nothing necessarily ignoble about material objectives. Poverty is brutalising. A prosperous place tends to be a much more attractive environment than a slum, wherever the blame for the inequity can be put.
I suppose there is cause in those last two statements to label myself as being corrupted by material values. But why not? For most people the sum of participation is the vote. The absolutes in material objectives are personal comfort, freedom from fear and a fair share of the good things of life. Should it come about that one was more constantly aware of the inter-dependence of every individual on every other, we could all look forward to a better life. But it is hardly up to us here to broadcast the second great Commandment as some kind of wonder drug for social malaise. So where are we left? I think with more than just "evaluating" the problem (and I still doubt that it exists); more than a kind of super Scout's oath as a directive to all our selfish selves. I believe, along with many other noble Lords, that we can educate so that each individual can draw more from life than just existing. Right at the beginning of the debate the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, remarked that there was considerable effort along these lines. I believe, too, that we can change the parameters of how we value a man. I have sometimes wondered what Faust's 749 bargain would be to-day: much the same probably. I join with those people who are not satisfied any longer with the accepted definitions of work and reward.
My Lords, I should like to end with a quotation from a book called The Gift by the French social-anthropologist Marcel Mauss. Referring to the Arthurian legend he says:And this to-day is the way of the nations that are strong, rich, good and happy. Peoples, classes, families and individuals may become rich, but they will not achieve happiness until they can sit down like the knights around their common riches. There is no need to seek far for goodness and happiness. It is to be found in the imposed peace, in the rhythm of communal and private labour, in wealth amassed and redistributed, in the mutual respect and reciprocal generosity that education can impart.My Lords, I can think of no better hope for us all than that one man, just on his observations of men, could give us such a vision.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, this debate has gone on for a long time. I shall be brief, but I cannot refrain from calling attention to what I might call, not the direction of our national expenditure but the misdirection of our national expenditure which so perfectly reflects the wry standard of values indicted by my noble friend Lord Soper. We have two humane and vital social services, both of which are notoriously starved of resources. One is the primary schools, which are at present bedevilled by impossibly large classes and in many cases unsuitable premises; the other is our mental hospitals, which are a matter of grave concern to those connected with the Health Service and where accusations of callousness, sometimes even of cruelty, generally boil down to insufficient, under-paid staffs doing an impossible job under impossible conditions in unsuitable premises.
Look upon that picture and then upon the picture vividly described by my noble friend Lady Wootton of the public expenditure on the Concorde, a project which has already, I believe, cost something over £350 million and which will, if it is persisted in, probably cost several hundred million pounds more. I sometimes wonder whether Her Majesty's Government are aware of the growing feeling of doubt on the part of the citizens 750 of this country concerning the future usefulness and solvency of this misbegotten, pestiferous, outsize, noisy, mechanical insect which is presented to us as a British status symbol, although it cannot even spell its name in English.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, there has been rather a collapse in the programme. I am sorry that I was taken by surprise. I am a little embarrassed at speaking at all tonight, because really I am out of sympathy with the general line of debate. I enormously enjoyed the most interesting lecture on economics from my noble friend Lord Balogh, which left me absolutely petrified with terror as to what was going to happen next; it was a most frightening performance. I enormously enjoyed Lord Longford's confessions of an ex-Minister and his unsolicited tribute to his old headmaster. I enormously enjoyed Lady Wootton's defence of the amenities against technology. I had some difficulty in relating these three outstanding speeches to the subject under discussion; but that really is the whole spirit of the afternoon.
Lord Soper is a friend of mine wham I admire and with whom I have had the privilege of working. I find his approach to practical affairs impeccable, wise and generous. I do not think that I have ever differed from him over a practical issue; yet, curiously, when it comes to the theory behind the practice we always seem to be at odds. This may be because his theory is supported by a robust faith, while mine is propped up only by a halting scepticism.
In any case, I find myself very slightly hostile to his Motion. I feel that behind the Motion there is a suggestion that there ought to be a greater moral content in political decisions, and I am very suspicious of this idea. I think it is partly because I object very strongly to having my better nature appealed to. If you want me to do something, my Lords, I will do it; but for cash. The act of generosity which exceeds the norm of ordinary decent behaviour is private, something which one can give or withhold but which should not be asked for. I think that some of the speeches to-day have suggested that people ought to behave better. Of course they ought to, my Lords; but they will not do so just because they are told to. Here 751 I would make one verbal point. I think the term "people" is too wide an abstraction for discussion, except perhaps among anthropologists, so I shall confine my remarks to the question not of people but of Governments.
My Lords, I believe this world to be a vale of tears, and the chances of an improvement of true happiness, as opposed to material conditions, to be extremely low. I do not believe that "All things work together for good". In the last hundred years we have seen a transformation of material conditions that our ancestors, living, as some of them did, on the proceeds of child labour or the sumptuous profits of the slave trade, would find hard to believe if they could see it. The terrible, brutalising conditions under which a large part of the people lived have been swept away, and the misery has been swept away with it. But, just as certainly, there is more discontent. I believe that Government can do a good deal to relieve misery but little to remove discontent, and exactly nothing to increase happiness. So I should like Governments, while conforming necessarily to some extent with the moral background of the society they are trying to govern, to confine themselves to the material objectives mentioned in my noble friend's Motion and to leave the deeper social objectives to look after themselves.
This is not because I believe that a solution to the economic problems brings with it automatically a solution to the deeper problems—this would be a very half-baked utilitarian view. No; it is rather because I am inclined to believe that there is no lasting solution to either economic or social problems that I deplore trying to tackle both tasks at once, on the rather questionable philosophic assumption that it is more difficult to deal with two impossible tasks than with one. The line between material objectives and deeper social objectives cannot be clearly drawn, and I do not want it to be thought that I am objecting to State interference in such matters as housing standards or factory conditions.
Perhaps I can explain myself by saying that I favour some degree of dirigisme on the material side of the line, but an attitude very much nearer to laissez faire where the moral issues arise on the other 752 side of the line. I believe that economic conditions, which are the raw material of the first side, are like the weather, or plagues or tempests: no one knows how to control them, and the essence of government seems to me to consist in riding the crises and minimising the storm damage. For a few years it seemed that Keynes had solved everything; but not for long, as my noble friend pointed out earlier this afternoon, and there is no sign of a new Keynes on the horizon. I do not think that my noble friend would dispute that suggestion. To ask the captain of a ship in such stormy waters to concern himself with the spiritual condition of his crew seems to me to be asking too much. Someone else must look after the quality of life aboard, the type of ship's biscuit and the number of bingo sessions or whatever it may be.
My Lords, the deeper social objectives to which my noble friend refers in his Motion seem to me to be the concern of the community, not of Government. And by "the community" I do not mean the whole electoral roll; I do not mean the half-baked, modern conception of community involvement, which in my opinion has no meaning at all; I mean that very small section of our population, drawn in fact from all classes, which concerns itself at all with problems other than those of itself, its families and its immediate environment. There is a sufficient variety of such people to allow for very varied views to find expression. But gradually, through curiosity, in-quisitiveness, an enlarged sense of justice and a natural stubborness, they change the climate of opinion, as Wilberforce and Shaftesbury did, so that to-day's attitude towards slavery or factory conditions is utterly different from the attitude which persisted when they first began to change it.
I would not say that Government should never lead on moral questions, but I should not like to see it lead except in response to a good slice of informed opinion. On the whole, nothing is so obnoxious to free men as other people's morality. The Nazi regime was based on moral beliefs, and so are the Communist regimes to-day, though on systems of morality with which we profoundly disagree and which conflict violently among themselves. Most of the evils of history flow from other 753 people's wrong moral judgments. It is just because it is second nature to politicians to moralise that it is so important to keep their fingers out of the moral development of society.
My noble friend in his Motion calls on the Government to try to evaluate the problem within a democratic society. I do not think that this is Government's business. The strength of democracy is that it deals with people, not with ideas; and to some extent people are predictable. If you know something about the man you elect, you can predict to some extent where he will stand in the conflicts ahead. But if you elect him because he believes in some idea or other, the idea itself will probably twist and turn like the path in Alice through the Looking Glass, and you will not know what to expect. The development of ideas is wholly unpredictable. Who would have believed that the idea of the Love of God could be transformed into the Holy Inquisition or into the black hatreds of the Reverend Ian Paisley? Or that the inspiring slogan,To each according to his needs, from each according to his ability",could have led to the appalling cruelties of Stalin's labour camps?
My Lords, this would be a very long speech if I were to do more than sound a warning note. To fill in my case I should have to tackle the age-old puzzle of free will and determinism; of hard determinism and soft determinism; of liberty, positive and negative; of order and anarchy; of Bentham and Mill and the hedonist calculus; of the difficult writings of Nietsche and Le Maistre. But your Lordships must look to better brains than mine for this sort of exposition. Let me suggest a look at Sir Isaiah Berlin's recently-published collection of essays, called Four Essays on Liberty, if only to show how far from simple these great issues are.
I shall content myself with a reference to another puzzle—a parable from 2,000 years ago and from the words of Our Lord himself—the parable of the unjust steward. Each of us has his own particular interpretation of this extraordinary story. Mine is that it shows that living a good life and making a good living are not functions of the same morality. They can coincide, by chance, in the same person; but it is quite possible to make 754 a living shamefully and lead a good personal life, like Shaw's Mrs. Warren, or be an upright and blameless politician and lead a shameful personal life—and I leave your Lordships to supply your own instances.
My Lords, it is a polite custom in this House to thank noble Lords who initiate debates on general subjects for the opportunity given us to express our views. I am glad to thank my noble friend for his initiative and for his most thoughtful opening remarks. I am sorry to seem unresponsive to his message, though my views are contrary, I think, rather than contradictory; and I hope that in backpedalling a little I have shown no disrespect to him or to those who think as he does.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, I will not follow my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, who is a fellow sceptic. In this instance I would prefer to follow my noble friend Lord Soper who belongs to "another party" in the sense of religion. This seems to me to be an opportunity which we have all indulged in at great length, and with, I think, a great deal of illumination, to reassess what in fact has been the manifest truth of to-day: that we are in a state of confusion.
It is not a confusion which derives from a failure of absolute values. It is because we have got ourselves involved, very considerably and very largely, with forces which we ourselves have stimulated and which we can no longer control. I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge that we should simply contract out of forces or storms which we ourselves have created. I come from a tradition of Socialism which is in fact the street-corner and "soapbox" Socialism that somebody was trying to denigrate, backed up, I hope, by a great deal of substantial thinking in various shapes and forms. Nevertheless, it was the flesh and blood Socialism, the Socialism of the resentment at abuses and at the great depression years. We came out of that with a belief that everyone would recognise that this would be intolerable. We fought a war against the abuses and iniquities, but did we come out of it again with the conviction that Socialism was what human beings must have? We lost our way, even at that 755 stage, because we did not recognise the strength of the forces which we ourselves had released in a purely mechanical and scientific sense.
I listened with a great deal of interest but with profound misgiving to my noble friend Lord Hirshfield. I agree with his analysis of the multi-national companies which are germinating. This is something which even noble Lords opposite, or anyone else who believes the capitalist system can be respectable if it is British, ought to recognise. We are now being swallowed up by another force—these great multi-national corporations and cartels. Within ten years or less we could have a factory in the middle of the Scottish Highlands, or in the middle of wild Wales, run entirely with no human beings and automation-controlled from Omaha. That is the logic of the whole system of modern development. Anyone who thinks he can negotiate with this, does not know what he is talking about, because there is nothing to negotiate with. It is a compete and absolute takeover. I would remind your Lordships of what Walter Reuther, President of the American Automobile Workers' Association, said to Charlie Wilson, of General Motors. They were having a row over a union agreement. Charlie Wilson said: "Listen Walter; if you do not bring your workers into line I will automate the whole plant, and electrons don't pay union dues". Walter Reuther replied, "Yes, but can your machines buy your motor cars?"
We have to find something much more meaningful than what we are skirting round now. My noble friend Lord Hirsh-field, in his technological analysis, said that, whether we know it or not, we are being taken over. This is not something we can sit and ignore. As my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger said, we are being caught between two forces, one we call "economic", and the other "technological", which apparently has a viability and dynamic of its own. It seems that technology is good for its own sake. Do not believe it. Technology is bad for us if it is good for its own sake. It is simply a self-propagating, self-defeating mechanism, and unless we can understand it and control it, we shall be taken over. We are being taken over now, simply by default.
756 To-day, for example, we are suffering from the anæsthesia of statistics. Man is disappearing in statistics, in anonymous numbers in bank accounts. This may be efficient but it is the process of the disappearance of the human being. As I have mentioned before, I have a great deal of sympathy with the student at Berkeley campus who was walking around with a large notice, saying, "I am a computer card. Do not fold, crumple or mutilate me". My Lords, we are becoming computer cards. This is not something to which we should submit; we should do something. This is the meaningfulness of what we are talking about to-day: how can we escape from the traps which man's own ingenuity has set for us? This is not beyond the imagination of man and certainly not beyond the capacity of politicians, unless they are simply being caught and trapped by the forces which they themselves have released. Sometimes, I am afraid that this is true.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, my reason for delaying my decision to speak at all in this debate was due to some doubts as to the interpretation of the noble Lord's Motion, and if in some way I put on it a different interpretation from that given by others, I apologise for doing so at this late hour. But I shall do so briefly. I share the noble Lord's concern, and the concern of other noble Lords who have spoken, over the cynicism which seems to creep into every part of society. I have noticed it growing in the medical profession in the last forty years; and if it can grow in the medical profession, it can grow anywhere surely. But as to exactly what the deeper social objectives are, I am still not clear at twenty-five minutes past eight this evening.
I note that Her Majesty's Government are invited to evaluate the problem within a democratic society, and this at least gives me an opportunity of saying something which is in my mind on this subject. More than one speaker has referred to the fact that our particular interpretation of a democracy, with its Party electoral system, is really conducive to this very concentration on material objectives. But I should have thought that deeper social objectives would include 757 those products of all great civilizations—great literature, art and music—and I am surprised that so little has been said on these subjects. Most of the great music of the past was written in times when Government was in the hands of a privileged minority, many of whom, of course, were notable patrons of the Arts. The great music of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart would not have been written without them.
We give lip service to democracy because we believe—and I think we have a right to believe—that in the long run it is safer than other types of government. But we must realise its limitations. If everything were to be put to a majority vote, there would be no good music, no great art and no literature. Football and circuses would always triumph over chamber music. If we are to do anything about the matters we have been debating this afternoon we must respect the importance of minorities in any civilised society. If we are no longer governed by an aristocracy, which at its best was enlightened in its approach to cultural values and civilisation, our political system must take every opportunity of building in safeguards against the worst excesses of democracy.
Apart from the fact that this is the best of all arguments for preserving your Lordships' House, I should like to call attention to the present state of the B.B.C., which can at its best be a medium through which what I would call some of the deep social objectives can be realised. It is a service that is the envy of the world. All the United States visitors who are thoughtful people envy us our B.B.C. Now we hear rumours of substantial cuts in those very parts of its programmes which are of the greatest cultural value. It will be tragic indeed if financial considerations and popular vote are allowed to influence this at a moment when, for the first time, a whole generation of young people have had the opportunity of being brought up to appreciate art, music and literature. I am sorry that the noble Lord. Lord Hill of Luton, is not here, because he is in a position of great power in this very area where some of the aspirations expressed in this debate could immediately be realised.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ LORD VIVIAN
My Lords, I have to apologise for speaking at this late hour in the important debate which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, has so rightly initiated in your Lordships' House this afternoon. Like other noble Lords, I should like to congratulate him. In an excellent speech, the Government Chief Whip, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said—and here I think I quote him correctly: "The aristocracy is on the way gut". When the noble Lord made that remark I felt that I should ask him to give way, but I contained myself until this late hour. Does the noble Lord, w the Government Chief Whip, label only those who sit on these Benches as the "aristocracy", or does he include those who rightly sit on the Government Benches?
I have great respect for the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and I would ask him to think again on this unfortunate reference to so many Members of your Lordships' House. No matter where we sit in the Chamber, we are, like the noble Lord himself, fully conscious of our duly to Queen and country through our present privilege to speak and vote in your Lordships' House. It is true that there are some of us on these Benches who have inherited great and historical estates which make up that great heritage which we know as England. Surely a good text for this interesting debate would be: "Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself". I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to "recap" on his thinking about what he termed the "aristocracy". The noble Lord has for a long time shown great tact, expertise and responsibility in his important position as Her Majesty's Government's Chief Whip in this House, I feel sure that the few words to which I have taken exception were spoken on the spur of the moment. Having said that, I hall resume my seat, and retain my respect for the noble Lord.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, may I just intervene to say that I am sorry if I offended the noble Lord, but if he reads to-morrow what I said I think he will find that he has misunderstood me. What I in fact said was intended to compare the aristocracy rather more favourably with those who purport to supplant them in the future.
§ LORD VIVIAN
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for what he has said, and I will certainly read his speech to-morrow.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Well, my Lords, that is fine: there is some agreement in a debate which seems to have covered almost every subject under the sun, including participation. I notice that some noble Lords most interested in participation have failed to participate to the end of the debate. I must say that I think the time must come when we shall have to look more firmly at the undoubted custom of this House, that noble Lords who intend to speak, and do so, stay to listen, not just to the winding up speech but to their colleagues. There are certainly noble Lords who have sat firmly through most of it. An occasional slip-out to the Bishops' bar or downstairs we expect, but I find it rather surprising, in a debate in which the tone started off, and indeed has been sustained, at such a high moral level, that the standard of manners has reached such a low level. I find this almost unique, except for the one occasion when I found myself winding-up for the Opposition, when we were in Opposition, when I was the only person on my side of the House. But there were far fewer of us then. I appreciate the fact that some noble Lords who have not taken part in the debate have sat here throughout.
Clearly it would be inappropriate for me to make a lengthy speech, and indeed it is not my intention (I think this was made clear) to wind up specifically on behalf of the Government. Even if my noble friend Baroness Wootton thinks that this provides her with an ample reason not to be here, I should still like to make my humble contribution and pick up some of the points that have been dealt with in the debate. I must say straight away to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, that one of the things that has struck me most is that there has been in this debate an atmosphere of pessimism, and indeed cynicism, to which noble Lords have referred. Though it may not have made them cynical themselves, it has certainly made them pessimistic. I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Soper (I say this with great humility, because I believe that no one is more in touch than he is; no one 760 goes down and talks to the people more freely; no one has a larger and, if I may say so, wiser heart than he), that I do not believe there is a general decline in social objectives.
It is clearly not easy—indeed, it is impossible—to prove this proposition. To some extent, it may spring from our own temperaments. I have always regarded the noble Lord, Lord Soper, as someone who combines an understanding of the wickedness of the world, and a determination to stand up and resist it, with a cheerful and sanguine temperament. I can only say to him (and I do not believe anything will deter him from the course that he wishes to follow) that I do not share his pessimism. Indeed, I do not share the views of other noble Lords who have put so much emphasis on the profit motive. It is arguable that some of the people who are seeking material ends are merely seeking to improve their living standards to a level which is considerably lower than that of most of your Lordships who are complaining about this pursuit of materialism.
Whereas I believe that the importance of property was a much more fundamental faith in the 19th century, I do not believe property has enjoyed in the long-term the significance which has been attributed to it in more recent times. I should have thought that this was to some extent being modified by a recognition of the obligation of the community to require the individual property owner to conform to the needs of the community, just as much (and this is where my noble friend Lord Walston was absolutely right) as the primitive peasant, Eskimo, or whoever it may be, would regard it as a duty to provide certain things for the community. Indeed, in ancient Athens, if my classical memory is right, there was an obligation on the farmer to pursue good husbandry if he was to continue to assert his property rights.
I suspect that we are confronted with a whole complex of different forms of materialism. I find it striking that certain people will pick on a particular aspect and say that it is evil. It is always striking to me that those who do not believe in God often find a personal devil on earth. This was true particularly of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, 761 and the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks (though I would not suggest that she does not believe in God), in respect of the Concorde. One may, if one wishes, regard Concorde as a most striking example of an aberration.
Let me say that I am not here speaking as a member of Government; I am merely participating in the debate on this Motion. One can look at the circumstances as to how it was ordered, but to personalise technology as somehow a necessarily evil force, is wrong. It may be an inevitable force, it may be a force for good or evil. The noble Lord, Lord Hirshfield, in a very notable speech, indicated the developments that are likely to take place in forms of international business organisations. I really think we are wrong to pick on something like technology, and say that it is a bad thing. There is an excitement about it. There must be a tremendous satisfaction. I do not believe that something which gives as much pride and satisfaction to people who work in is evil. Many of them are not working purely for profit motives but are fascinated, and believe that they are advancing the course of knowledge and, above all, believe that they are contributing to the raising of living standards. I think we would be very mistaken to start off by assuming that somehow this is yet another evil like the terrible evils of ignorance and disease in the past.
Therefore, perhaps my first reaction to this debate is a regret at the feeling of pessimism. We touched on a number of aspects of moral behaviour, the difference between personal and public behaviour, and was struck here by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell (no; he is not participating at the moment), on the subject of ends and means. I share with him the view that although I would not suggest it was pure jargon to concentrate on the danger of wrong means—as I think he did—there is an overwhelming tendency to concentrate on means in order to avoid thinking about ends. This is a point I would make to my noble friend Lord Beswick. He made a most notable speech, and it was part of the very high standard of opening speeches.
There is a danger of Governments and Ministers—indeed, heads of families, trade union leaders and industrialists— 762 getting out of touch with certain factors. None the less, they are frequently pursuing what they conceive to be their duty, and they regard their duties as including facing up to the consequences of their own actions. This is the great problem that confronts Governments of all kinds. It is the dilemma that confronted my noble friend Lord Longford, who decided to resign on a matter of principle. He honestly and clearly indicated that even in matters of principle you find degrees coming in; that what might be acceptable in one time scale might not be acceptable in another. The obligation to recognise that what you do may have good or bad consequences must have some effect on the way in which you proceed, and the way in which you decide on these matters.
There is a danger which was particularly pointed to by my noble friend Lord Donaldson—the danger of the virtuous Government. It is that the ethos of a Government cannot in practice be too far out of touch with that of the community. On the one hand Governments are required to set a lead; on the other hand they must take decisions, and the decisions must in some ways be tolerable, even if not popular, to the community. This is not just a question of winning elections. I believe Governments of all political Parties will have regard to political consequences and will on occasion—as the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, suggested—time, so far as is possible, certain economic trends to suit elections. But there is a limit to what any Government in this country will do in pursuit of its own political advantage. No one could accuse the present Government of pursuing their political advantage—at least, if they have, they have not done so very successfully up to date.
One of the matters on which there was some discussion was the problem; of alienation. I am surprised we have not had a little more discussion of this particular phenomenon, but we have recently had a debate on the problem of student unrest. There was a reference to the so-called "new Left". It may well be that when the followers of Marcuse and the "new Left" read this debate they will say that this was a typical example of bourgeois liberal democracy. I think in some respects they would be right in so saying. If they look at society, and the 763 society to which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, has drawn our particular attention, and at the astonishing fact that we have atom bombs and biological warfare—and let me admit that I support the policies of Government in this matter—they are bound to say, as Marcuse argues, that we are being driven along this one dimensional path and that there is little hope. Here, too, I would say that this is a form of pessimism I do not accept, although I would not for one moment say we should be wise to dismiss Marcuse, any more than we should have been wise to dismiss Marx. Indeed, there is much of Marx in modern political terms, if not in modern economic terms, which is to-day having a rather greater meaningfulness to me than it did some years past.
There is a disenchantment with society—there are good reasons for that disenchantment. On the other side, I believe that so far as this country is concerned we have a great deal for which to be thankful. Our people have to be thankful for living in this country to-day as opposed to living in this country 50 or a hundred years ago. I believe there is an unparalleled degree of personal freedom, when we set aside political cries of various kinds, particularly from the other side. And here I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and other noble Lords on that side for the freedom with which we have talked—without political disagreements of an unnecessary kind, although there are real ones, of course. The fact is that one of the great qualities of life is freedom, and I happen to believe that a certain stability in society is a necessity for the happiness of that basic unit, the family, which is the one in which most people live their lives.
Whereas I would agree with Monsieur Poher in his compliments to this country, none the less there are aspects of it that still are disturbing. Although the Government have to be particularly careful—and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson—in the extent to which they preach or try to enforce moral needs, there is scope for the leaders (and I mean by that people who are in a position to influence or set an example; this does not necessarily mean Members of the House of Lords, it means member of all sections of the community) 764 to develop those particular qualities which most of us here would agree are desirable for the happiness of our fellow men. I think that is something on which we are agreed as a main objective.
At the same time, we also wish to encourage the preservation of certain aspects of life which we regard as having a value. The noble Lord, Lord Platt, referred with anxiety to B.B.C. programmes. Here again, I would say this to the noble Lord, Lord Walston. He compared the cathedrals built for the glory of God with the skyscrapers built to the glory of Mammon; but when one looks at the number of different kinds of institutions designed for the sort of activities one approves of, whether they be huts in the Cairngorms or the noble Lord's adventure centre or the large number of universities and other centres, then I would say there is very considerable progress in this area also.
This debate therefore raises enormously wide questions and it would be difficult for any committee or subcommittee or indeed group to do more than continue to explore the question. It would be necessary to digest an enormous amount of reading material. Indeed, if anybody wants booklets which are relevant to this debate, I have many here; I cannot say I have read them all. But I doubt whether this matter is something which is suitable either for a Committee of this House or for a Committee of the Cabinet. None the less, it is a matter which it would be right for political Parties to have regard to, and certainly I hope that some of the things that have been said will be noted pretty widely by those who wish to think about the progress of our society.
I fully agree that our society is menaced by technological progress. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, that the Government—or at least my part of the Government, because I have a certain responsibility in this area—are singularly aware of the significance of the computer. The computer is something that either we have to master or it will master us, not in terms of some robot giving us orders but inasmuch as the development of computer systems is bound to affect systems of life and systems of Government. It is necessary for there to be harmony and 765 an understanding of this, and this is something to which we are giving a great deal of thought in my Department, where we have certain development groups thinking precisely in these terms. In fact, we have (if one dare use the word) the equivalent of a " think-tank " doing nothing but considering the sort of problems which are also being properly raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder.
The point that has bothered me most about this debate is that we have all tended to pursue particular areas of concern and interest to ourselves, whereas the matter which we ought to be most concerned about in terms of the quality of life is the two-thirds of the people who live in the underdeveloped world. Here let me stress that I am not making any undertaking on behalf of the Government, because there is much that can be done by universities and other bodies who are interested, like the World Bank, which is growing even more active in this field; but there is much we can do in the way of research to decide how far what the developed countries are doing is actually helping or hindering the development of the new countries. The one thing we do not want to see, and they certainly do not want to see, is the mistakes of the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century repeated again in the developing countries. Therefore there is a need for very much more study of this matter.
But here we come back to the public. One may say that the Government ought to do more in the field of overseas aid, but are the people of the country prepared to do more? I believe they have generous instincts until the moment comes when they have to pay a tax. It is much more difficult to change public attitudes in this matter than one realises. An agricultural revolution is going on in the developing parts of the world. There are encouraging signs that the situation is getting better rather than worse. There is the introduction of new strains of wheat and rice producing vastly higher yields. It may be possible to ensure that at least the living standards of the developing countries do not drop, but it is going to take thirty years or more before they begin remotely to approach the lowest living standards in this country. One must therefore think in terms of the 766 quality of life for the people in those countries who will continue to live a rural existence, unless they are all to be tumbled together into the Calcuttas of the world. My Lords, I believe that this is fundamental to the quality of life. I do not believe that we can talk about quality of life if we do not talk about quality of life in relation to the world as a whole.
There is much I should like to go on and say, but we have had a long debate. We should all do well to ponder what each of us has said, including those matters on which there may be disagreement. I think the dangers of obsession with particular economic objectives can distract us from our main purposes. We have had some very thoughtful contributions on this subject. I would commend my noble friend Lord Balogh—who is participating, although from so far away—for his most interesting speech. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, will perhaps be a little more encouraged. I should not like to think that the enthusiasm that he brings to his work was diminished. Goodness knows!, h story could teach us otherwise, but I think we have reached the point in civilisation where, even though we still go on doing barmy things like making atom bombs, there is enough understanding among enough people to ensure that this time progress will not be destroyed.
§ 8.57 p.m.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask only one question arising Out of that speech? It is one question about technology. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that technology in itself is not something either good or bad, but is good or bad only according to the way in which it is used. I think the noble Lord said that he could not believe in one instance technology could be bad, on the grounds that it was so exciting and gave so much pleasure to everyone. I was wondering whether that is a criterion which really can be applied, and, if so, how far it can be applied to things like cannabis, the Nazi system, or even debates in your Lordships' House.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I congratulate the Liberal Party for at last intervening in this debate. I must say 767 that I should not have thought that cannabis was a particularly new technological development. I do not think I will attempt to redefine. I was speaking in general terms. Clearly, practically every proposition that has been uttered to-day can be examined and reinterpreted, and I hope that any of us who do so will do it with generosity to those who made the remarks.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, apart from one or two excursions, I have listened to the whole of this debate, and I should like, quickly but sincerely, to thank those who have taken part in it for the kindliness of the references which have been made to me but, more important, for the sense of responsibility for the particular Motion which stands in my name. I am particularly sensible, of course, of the solicitude of my noble Leader for my own spiritual condition, but I would beg to say to him that I am not passing through the dark night of the soul and I am no pessimist. I was describing a pessimism which I believe exists; but (if I may remind myself of one thing I said this was a problem to be solved, not a calamity to be recognised.
I shall not attempt to do more than refer, and very briefly, to one aspect of this debate. It affects me professionally, and I naturally declare an interest. If I may say so, I was much impressed by what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said about the responsibilities of the Church. I bridled a little as he began, but as he continued I felt myself in such total agreement with him that I have no more to say than this: it would not surprise me if, when such animadversions come from the laity, they have a good deal more impact than if they come from one wearing the particular collar that I am wearing now.
I notice from time to time that when noble Lords endeavour to deck out the arguments they deploy with quotations from "the Old Book" they do so at their peril. I find this has happened again to-day. My noble and ecclesiastical friend Lord Sandford quoted the words:'Judgment k mine', saith the Lord".That is perfectly true, but I think it must be somewhat of an embarrassment to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for the quotation goes on. 768'I will repay', saith the Lord".There was a more serious mistake which my noble friend Lord Donaldson made in asserting that there is a statement in the Bible to the effect that all things work together for good. There is no such statement there. The statement is, of course, that all things work together for good to them that love God. That modifies the whole matter very considerably, and if the noble Lord would like me to explain to him the meaning of the Parable of the unjust steward I shall be very glad to do so, but I will not detain the rest of the House now.
I am deeply grateful for the debate. I venture to hope, with my noble Leader, that it will produce some kind of solution of problems which hitherto have remained inchoate and unresolved. And in that mood and expressing my gratitude, my Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.