§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, when he speaks with such great knowledge about these large matters of industrial development. I am not in the least competent to follow him, but I should like to say that I warmly agree with what he says, that these big projects involving enormous resources to which the Government are at least provisionally committed ought to be looked at again, and I suspect will be looked at again, in the light of the circumstances that have changed so radically since these matters were last examined and discussed.
Leaving that aspect of our problem, I should like to turn, first, to the proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, at the end of his speech yesterday—a proposal which, following what we have heard to-day from the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, may perhaps be regarded as no longer on the agenda. But I want to say that the proposal appealed to me personally, as did Lord Diamond's whole approach to the problem, which helped to set the tone for this debate yesterday and to-day. I have not had long experience in politics—and perhaps that is why I am rash enough to talk about this—but it does mean that 350 I think I can still look at Parliament through the eyes of the man in the street; and I do not need to tell your Lordships that people in the street and in the homes are dismayed (I almost said disgusted) at what looks like petty wrangling at a time when the country itself is in grave peril. And I do not think this is a time to mince words: I believe that the country is in grave peril, although I am quite sure that, with the necessary effort, we can escape that peril.
One often hears it said that it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose. I am going to be bold enough to say to that proposition: No; it is the duty of Her Majesty's Opposition—both Parties—to examine carefully and critically proposals that are put forward by the Government, and themselves to put before Parliament alternative proposals which they consider better. There are, of course, some strongly and sincerely held differences of opinion between the Parties, but these can surely be expressed objectively, and discussed in a reasonable way. Some of these differences may be irreconcilable, but does not experience tell us that differences between opposite points of view are sometimes not so great as appears from polemic speeches that are made about them?
If it is the duty of the Opposition to consider the Government's proposals critically and carefully, what is the Government's duty? The Government's duty, my Lords, is to listen. Let us never forget that democracy is not and must not become dictatorship of a transient majority over the minority. Individual Members of another place represent all their constituents, not only those who vote for them. In the same way the Government, who are put in office by the majority of voters—sometimes not even by the majority of voters—have a responsibility to all the people of the country; and they must, if democracy is to survive, give proper weight to minority views. Like the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, I do not want a Coalition Government, but I do want an understanding Government.
The political Parties draw their inspiration from different sources. I suppose that when the Conservative Party want to get the feeling of the country they ask Conservative associations all over the country. The Liberal Party do the same, 351 except that they ask Liberal associations; and I suspect that the Labour Party do the same. Surely it would help the Government to understand if they could have some opportunity, such as the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, suggested, for discussion with people who are fed from these different sources; discussion, not in the form of accusation and counteraccusation across the Floor of the House, but in a quiet place. I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said, that we have a fear of privacy in these matters, but surely there are occasions when in an informal way—and I think that was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond—representatives of the different Parties could sit down and agree, if not on policy at least on the facts, because nothing is more sterile than accusations and counter-accusations about facts across the Floor of the House. I do not know whether at the end of the day the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor is going to give us some idea of the Government's view on that proposal; but I hope that he will, because, I think this would be one method of improving communication between the people and the Government.
And what about communication from the Government to the people? The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, referred to this subject yesterday, and other noble Lords took up the point. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, in expressing pleasure that the duty of looking after the Government's information services to the public is in the hands of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, the Leader of the House whom we all regard with so much admiration and affection. My Lords, it seems to me that successive Governments have up to now failed to put across to the people the economic facts of life. I remember that some years ago the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, made this point in one of her short and convincing speeches. I cannot remember whether at that time she was speaking of the Government of her own Party or of a previous Conservative Administration. Why is it that the Government cannot get the economic facts over to the people? Well, my Lords, in the first place I think that economics is a very difficult subject and is understood by all too few people. I might add also that many of those few differ in the advice 352 they offer when dealing with a particular problem. As with other esoteric sciences—I suppose that economics is a science—the economists have developed a jargon of their own which is used by, and to, people who very often do not really understand what the words mean.
Let me say a word about growth. The use of this term in economic arguments seems to me particularly dangerous because the word has an ordinary meaning. "Growth" means getting bigger, getting stronger and, I suppose, getting richer. The word is emotive and we must all favour growth in that sense. But what does growth really mean? Here I think I shall disclose my ignorance of economics. I think—and I expect that I shall be corrected by the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, if I am wrong—growth is a measure of the rate of increase in the gross national product. What is the gross national product? It is a figure established from a fairly elaborate formula; and clearly the man in the street is already out of his depth—as I am. It is a concept which ordinary people cannot really grasp. I feel pretty certain that the man in the street believes that the growth that the present Government have been aiming at—and which now seems to have been missed—will mean a higher standard of living for him, his family and his friends. But does it? I suggest that if, as I am afraid has been the case in this country for many years, we live beyond our means, the growth aimed at would have done no more than pay for the standard of living we already enjoy, although unfortunately we are not paying for it.
Then, my Lords, consider the question of the balance of payments to which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has referred already this afternoon. This is an easier concept. An adverse balance of payments means that we are buying more than we can afford to pay for: it is as simple as that, and I think that the man in the street can understand that. But when he is told of these enormous adverse balances of payments running into hundreds of millions of pounds—
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
—the man in the street says to himself, "We have heard that before. It does not seem to have reduced the volume of expensive imported goods in the shop windows, so what is it 353 all about?". I shall come back to that point a little later, but I want to say something else about communication from the Government to the people because communication does not consist only of announcements. It also is conveyed by the policies which the Government follow, and if the policies are not coherent, inevitably confusion arises in the public mind.
I should like to refer to one example from recent history. About three weeks ago one of the Secretaries of State made a public announcement that people who were going away on holiday by charter flights during this Christmas and New Year period need not be worried, because there would be plenty of petrol to take them and bring them back. In passing, I wonder whether, in our present situation, it is the moment to recommend or to encourage people to go on foreign holidays. Having regard to the balance-of payments position I should have thought it might well be better at least to leave them wondering whether they would get back, and then perhaps they might decide to have a holiday at home. But this was the encouragement given, in a very formal way, if I remember rightly. Yet, three weeks later, we find that British Airways are having to cancel half their flights. I do not know what the public is going to make of that. Is it that the private charter companies have been given a better deal over oil than British Airways? I hope not. Is it that it is thought that people having their holidays abroad are more entitled to an adequate share of the available oil than people going on business; or, for that matter, foreign visitors to this country who usually travel by a regular airline and not in charter planes? I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, will be able to say something about that and perhaps relieve the public's mind on that issue.
I will leave the question of communication and have a word about Government action. I do not intend to speak at all about the current industrial troubles except to raise one query. I was astonished when, in the early stages of the engine drivers' work to rule, I read that trains were being held up because the engines were not equipped with speedometers. If it is in the rule book I should have thought it absolutely vital for the Board of British Rail to see that engines 354 did have speedometers. I do not see the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, in the Chamber, but I am sure that he would agree. Surely grave dangers arise from driving an engine without a speedometer. I seem to remember that not so long ago there was a disastrous accident which occurred through a train being driven at an excessive speed over a section of the railroad where there was a speed limit. Flow can the drivers observe the speed limit without a speedometer? I am quite sure that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, will correctly say in reply that this is a matter for the Railways Board, but I should like to ask whether he will request his right honourable friend, or whoever is concerned, to put this question to the Railways Board: why is it that there are engines running which are not equipped with speedometers?
Now may I turn to the action tile Government propose to take. I shall mention one or two points that were taken up yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. My noble friend Lady Seear had raised two points. One was about increasing the development of opencast coal mining and the other was with regard to increasing family allowances. In regard to opencast coal mining, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said that there were all sorts of problems involved and it took a long time to obtain the necessary planning permissions and for the Coat Board to develop their plans. Of course I accept all that, and my noble friend Lady Seear also accepts it. But what my noble friend is suggesting—and this is in line a little with the thoughts of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas—is that when we are in a position of crisis, it really is desirable to try to cut some of the corners and get things done rather more quickly than they would be if we left the processes to be carried through in the ordinary way.
The subject of family allowances, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said it would be difficult quickly to deal with, and it would be better to rely on the family incomes supplement. I do not think that is a complete answer. If we are going to have a number of people on short time, as seems likely, we shall have increasing demands for family incomes supplement. I think they will very soon flood the offices. I speak subject to correction, but I think the 355 actual family allowances can be increased by Order. It seems to me that it would be far better to do that, and it would, I believe, save an enormous amount of money in the cost of the administration of increased family incomes supplements.
My Lords, I do not want to say very much on Mr. Barber's other proposals. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that all round the proposals seem to be quite insufficient to meet the seriousness of the position and, above all, to alert people to the seriousness of the position. It is not always a question of how much money is involved, but one of whether people are brought up sharply and made to realise that this is the situation in which we are and we have to do something fairly drastic about it.
There is only one other aspect that I want to deal with; that is the question of credit control. I believe that the Chancellor was absolutely right to impose additional credit controls, but here again I do not think what is proposed goes nearly far enough. I said earlier that we are, and have been, living beyond our means. The old-fashioned virtue of thrift seems to have been discarded. I believe that an extension of credit through hire-purchase, bank overdrafts and credit cards has become a very serious menace, not only to our economy, but to the character of our people. I have at home a family Bible, and I opened it the other day to refresh my memory about something that my grandfather had written, in the page reserved for marriages, about his marriage with my grandmother something over 100 years ago. He wrote of their being married, and then he said that they waited until a debt-free home could be prepared. How many people wait for a debt-free home to-day?
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
I recognise that a house in those days cost a great deal less than it does to-day. But it did not have a garage; it did not have a washing machine or many other things that we have to-day; and the income of a young Congregational minister in his first church was not really large.
I feel that this facility of easy credit is a dangerous thing for this country, and it is largely because of this that we 356 find ourselves in the economic circumstances in which we are to-day. The Government are just as bad. I think there is a case—and I should be prepared to argue it—for expanding the social services before we can afford to pay them; but there are many other projects which should not be undertaken by the Government until we have the money to pay for them. One of my friends suggests the Channel Tunnel as an example. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, talked about this and other projects, and I agree with him. In the end, I am so much afraid that to continue to live on credit, on the "never, never", which has already done so much damage, will do even further damage by causing a decline in the value of money. Noble Lords who know more about it than I do may be able to confirm (or perhaps they will correct me) that the American slump in the 'thirties was largely triggered off by the excessive growth of hire-purchase in America. It is a practice that we have caught from America. In those days there was very little hire-purchase in this country.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
We had the slump, as the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, says. But we seem to have caught it from the Americans, and we seem to have caught the cause as well. I hope the Government will consider whether we must not have a further tightening up on credit restriction. Of course it cannot be done at a stroke. When one is living under certain conditions, to alter the situation immediately would bring all the evils of deflation. I agree with my noble friend Lady Seear, that if it came to a choice between inflation and deflation, we might have to choose the former. But, still, I cannot help thinking that over the years efforts should be made to reduce the dependence of the people of this country on cheap, or as it now happens to be, very expensive credit.
THE EARL of ARRAN
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask him, what does it really matter which Government are in power, or elected, when seemingly the country is prepared to obey none of them? I await hopefully the indignant reply from noble Lords.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, I am not sure whether that observation was addressed to me, but it is not a question I should care to answer.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, I hope the noble Viscount who has preceded me will forgive me if I do not share in his moral homily about debt. First of all, I think that what is appropriate to personal conduct can be totally inappropriate to the conduct of the great companies and great nations. When I was young there were people who used to be horrified about the size of the National Debt: indeed, sometimes they used to send money to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the hope of extinguishing it. But surely we have gone beyond this stage, and we must regard getting into debt as a useful way of increasing the size of the business. As for the individual to-day, what the noble Lord said about not getting a home until it is debt-free, if my daughter had had to wait for so long she would have waited for ever, because it would have taken her seventeen years of her salary free of tax in order to acquire a very modest three-bedroom house in a London suburb.
My Lords, in a crisis of this kind the clichés are flying thick and fast. I think they need careful scrutiny, because clichés can be so easily confused with truths. It is being said that never has the nation been so bitterly divided. I wonder whether this is true. I myself doubt it. People who are saying this must either have access to evidence that I have not seen, and which they certainly have not produced, or they must be lacking in any historical sense. The fear of the mob, as the people were unflatteringly called, was in the 19th century very common. Feelings between the classes were bitter in the 'twenties and 'thirties, and, indeed, they were extremely bitter during the period of the first Labour Government in the post-war years, when the middle classes thought that they had lost their advantage for ever.
But this cliché could become true if we go to a 3-day week and the situation is not quickly resolved. I think there could be nothing more explosive than that kind of mixture of impoverishment and compulsory idleness. Let us hope that it can yet be avoided.
358 There is another cliché, which I believe was mentioned by the noble Lord who is no longer in his place, to the effect that we are becoming "an ungovernable nation". So far as I can see, people are still paying their taxes; they are still registering the births of their children and the deaths of their parents; they are stopping their cars at red lights; and, so far as I can see, the people in the public gallery here are behaving themselves with exemplary good manners.
Of course, it is a different matter when Parliamentary government tries to go beyond the capacity of Parliamentary government. It has always been recognised in political science—I do not know about legal studies—that no Parliament can hope to demand respect for a law which a large minority of citizens consider to be an infringement or their liberty. We should not, for example, expect Roman Catholics to respect a law which tried to abolish Catholic schools and Catholic education. We hive to recognise that an active minority of trade unionists feel the same way about the Industrial Relations Act, and they have persuaded the less active majority—and we are talking here of 10 million people and their families—that they are right. I believe these trade unionists ought to respect the law and ought to insist politically on its being changed, but, as they see it, the lack of respect for the law comes from both sides: from the trade unions and from the Government.
I give the Government credit for this at least—they would never, I believe, have gone ahead with this Bill had they known the power of the antagonism they would meet, and they would have taken that decision, I believe, not because of the embarrassment they might suffer, and which they are suffering now, but out of respect for the processes of law. I must confess that when this Bill was going through (and I voted against it mast of the time) I, and indeed several Labour correspondents working for newspapers, believed that if the Bill became law the unions would come to accept the Act and would grudgingly co-operate; they would register, and so on. But my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield, with profound knowledge of the militant sprit of miners and other trade unionists, never ceased to tell us as we walked through the Lobbies, "It will never work". I 359 thought this was just wishful thinking on his part, but the noble Lord proved to be a truer prophet than many of my friends who are said to be experts on the moods and minds of trade unions.
Obviously, this Act has to be radically reformed, and no doubt this will be attempted by the new Minister—indeed, I understand that Government undertakings have been given to this effect—if he has time before the General Election, which at this moment appears to be a defiant gleam in the eye of the Prime Minister. I do not see how anything but a most fragile peace can be patched up between the Government and the trade unions unless there is this change in the Act. I believe that the Government have to go back to the 1970 industrial frontiers—and the quicker they do so, the better it will be for them, and indeed for all of us.
The third cliché which I think we ought to scrutinise is that this is the worst crisis since the war, or since 1929, or 1910. or whatever date one chooses. When the Chancellor says that this is the worst crisis since the war, it makes me reflect how comparatively benevolent all our crises have been. We seem to have been living in constant crisis, yet even at the worst moments (apart from the winter of 1947) we have kept unemployment pretty well below 4 per cent. and the standard of living in the country has never gone down. Indeed, it has gone up every year, except perhaps for two or three, ever since the end of the war. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research in its November bulletin gave the Government credit for some of the successes which they were, until recently, so earnestly claiming. They gave the Government credit for success in real terms, pointing out that unemployment had been reduced by over half a million, there had been a real growth in production and an increase in the volume of exports. But this success, one must acknowledge, has been illusory, because it has been accompanied by the most alarming reduction in the value of the pound at home and abroad, and a balance-of-payments deficit so great that even those who have sat at the feet of my right honourable friend Mr. Lever and no longer believe it to be the sacred cow it was in the days of the Labour Government, are unable to shrug it off.
360 No, to-day we cannot shrug off our anxieties. I do not believe that this crisis is, yet, the greatest crisis since the war: nor need it become that. But it is certainly capable of becoming much more horrible than anything we have known for many years, and it is the industrial disruption that I see as the greatest danger. Even now, I cannot believe that industry, the Government and the unions are not wiser, more far-sighted and more sophisticated than were their equivalents in the 1920s—or that the gap between what is offered and what is acceptable is impossibly, or even dangerously, wide. Even now, we must hope that common sense will prevail. I believe that there is the further danger that the oil crisis will lead the industrial nations into competitive devaluation and competitive deflation. If there is one good thing to be said about this Budget, it is that it respects, as the Chancellor said, the need to avoid this form of destructive and mutually impoverishing competitiveness. Yet when one looks at the disarray of the Economic Community of Western Europe over oil and the Regional Fund, and when one considers Europe's relationships with the United States, in spite of the recent effort made by Dr. Kissinger, it is only too easy to feel despair before the problem of international co-operation which is now thrust upon us all.
Finally, I was most interested in the speech made by my noble friend Lord Diamond yesterday, in which he proposed a gathering of Privy Counsellors to discuss some concrete problems of immediate urgency. I was interested, because it was one proposed solution to a problem which is on all our minds. We know we cannot have a National Government, and that if by a miracle we were to achieve one it could not work. Yet we need a Government that looks more like the nation's Government and less like the Tory Party's Government. We need not only a consensus but a Government which is conspicuously "consensual"—if that is the right adjective derived from the noun "consensus". The Government's economic policy is something like a social democratic one, or at least it has been for the last 18 months, after the first 18 disastrous months of deflation. Some of us on this side have given the Government credit for their attempt to cope with unemployment and to cope with growth. But 361 their social policy has been pathetically true to the Tory tradition and remains true to it to this day and, after this last Budget, to the disappointment of a great many well-intentioned, moderate people in this country. It was hoped that at last some kind of social redress would be produced. The social policy of the Tory Party remains, and there is this unacceptable hiatus between what has been an enlightened economic policy in recent months and an unenlightened social policy.
I have been wondering whether I have hit upon what might be some kind of solution, one quite different from that suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond; whether something might be achieved by bringing the National Economic Development organisation more into the centre of the picture with its representation of Government, of industry, of finance and the unions. Could there be—and I simply throw out this question—some kind of role for NEDO parallel with that of the Economic Committee of the Cabinet? Its decisions could not commit any of the bodies represented on it, yet any set of measures which had survived its veto, which had gone through this net, must surely have a high probability of universal acceptance. Perhaps we are too far from the spirit which would make such a procedure possible. Sometimes I think that this Government delight in confrontation and seek not peace but victory. If they do, it is a false aim. The victory, if it is won, will be hollow, and the triumph brief.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ LORD SHAWCROSS
My Lords, having been silent in your Lordships' House for a number of years, I rise now to address your Lordships a little unhappily and with a great deal of diffidence. My silence was self-imposed; it was not caused by indifference or preoccupation with other matters, but by personal reasons to which, if your Lordships will bear with me, I should like to refer because they have a relevance to something I want to say in the course of this debate. When I joined your Lordships' House nearly 14 years ago I elected to sit on the Cross-Benches although I had belonged to the Labour Party for over forty years and had been a member of Mr. Attlee's Administrations throughout.
362 I will not bore your Lordships with the reasons why I felt out of sympathy with some aspects of Labour Party policy then—indeed, I also felt out of sympathy with many aspects of Conservative policy. What I found I could not stand was a matter which has already been referred to in your Lordships' House: the Labour Party's (and, for that matter, the Tory Party's, too) strict adherence to the so-called doctrine that it was the duty of the Opposition to oppose, which seemed for a moment to be endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, in the earlier part of his most thoughtful and statesmanlike speech with the final plea in which I so much agree. I was glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, referred to this so-called doctrine. It is a doctrine which never had any respectable origin and which is totally unsuited to the complexities of modern Parliament and democracy. I believe that adherence to it, by both Parties, has done more to disillusion the public with the working of our Parliamentary system than perhaps anything else. It is the duty of the Opposition to support policies which are right, to consider what is right and not who is right, to discriminate and support those things which are correct, and courageously to oppose those which are wrong. We tend to approach that spirit perhaps rather more in this House than they seem to succeed in doing in another place.
When I came to your Lordships' House I sat on the Cross-Benches from where I could speak with independence and without regard to Party Whips. I spoke from time to time on industrial and economic matters, sometimes—by no means always, but often—in terms which were critical of Mr. Harold Wilson's then Administration. The time came when an old colleague and friend of mine pointed out to me in the nicest way how disagreeable it was to them that I, a one-time associate in Government, should be found to be criticising my old political friends. I agreed with him; it was extremely disagreeable to me too. And so I took what was perhaps the course of least resistance and dropped out of your Lordships' deliberations.
But I have never been so unhappy, even in the worst and darkest days of the war, about the state of our country as now. I think the time has come when ordinary citizens have to respond to the 363 call courageously made by another old colleague, Mr. Reg Prentice, the other day when he said that we must stand up and be counted. I am well aware that when we stand up and are counted each of us may be standing with the utmost sincerity on opposite sides. We must answer for that to our consciences, rather, I hope, than to our Parties. But, to use the language that Mr. Harold Wilson used when he was moving for a State of Emergency declaration on a not dissimilar occasion to this,Some of us … have the job of governing. We must have a prices and incomes policy, or we know this nation be plunged again into unemployment. Therefore, we"—the Government—have to take the decisions.'It may well be that on one side or another, in one aspect or another, we do not agree entirely with the provisions of Phase 3, but it is the responsibility of the Government to take decisions in matters of this kind. There remain many matters in the policy of the Conservative Party with which I should find it hard to agree, but at this grave period in our country's life I simply have to stand up and be counted as one who will support the Government of the day, Her Majesty's Government, the Government which rests upon the support of a majority in a freely elected Parliament, on the first issue—I do not say the only issue—which seems to confront our people to-day; namely, is the will of Parliament, the policy of the Government, Phase 3 and the rule of law, to prevail in this country, or are they to be set aside by powerful minorities, some of whom are bent on destroying them?
I am no longer a Director of the Royal Dutch Shell group of companies and I have now no special knowledge about this subject, but I have no doubt that if the cut in oil supplies had stood alone we could have lived with it. No doubt the price increases would have caused us, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said, the most grave problems in connection with our balance of payments. But, allowing for initial dislocations through reprogramming in the refineries and in distribution, allowing for some hardships and inconvenience—we might even have had to reduce the 364 lighting in this Chamber—we could have accommodated ourselves to a loss of 20 per cent. of crude supplies without seriously reducing industrial production. The crisis to-day arises from the fact that the cut in oil supplies coincides with industrial action in mining, in the power industries, and in the railways.
My Lords, there is no doubt—it has been repeatedly said in the course of this debate; it has been said every day in the country and in the newspapers—that at infinitely less cost than is being inflicted on us now it would be possible to give a little more to the railmen here, a little more to the miners there, a little more to the power engineers somewhere else. But, my Lords, 1 per cent. here means 2 per cent. there and means that not only should we be unleashing an inflationary torrent of claims for still more than 1 per cent., 2 per cent. or 3 per cent., but that we should be betraying many millions of trade unionists who, however unwillingly, have loyally accepted the incomes policy laid down by Government and by Parliament. It would show that the British Government and Parliament had had to capitulate to a comparatively small minority exercising and abusing monopoly power in vital industries. My Lords, it seems to me that this Government are just as right in saying that they will not go beyond the provisions of Phase 3, as Mr. Harold Wilson was right, six or seven years ago, when he said in effect that he would not add a penny to the Pearson Award in connection with the seamen's strike. As another old friend of mine, Mr. Tom Jackson, the leader of the Post Office workers, said the other day,Those who are successful in breaking Phase 3 will have a lot to answer for, not only from the nation but from their own comrades".He might have added that that is the way totalitarian forces, Fascists or Communists, destroy the system of freely elected democratic Parliaments.
My Lords, have I a moment to say a word about the authorship of the current disputes? Of course none of them is caused by Communist plots. In their origins they are the result of natural frustrations, long built up, perhaps badly handled and exacerbated on the one hand by excesses of luxury (such as 365 those to which the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, referred to in his also thoughtful speech), and on the other hand exacerbated by the excesses of militant action elsewhere. But we should be mealy-mouthed and complacent if we did not realise how situations of this kind are exploited by Communists, Trotskyites, International Socialists and the like, whose avowed aim is to destroy our democratic way of life.
Some of the trade union leaders involved in this dispute I know well: they are my friends. Since I was in the Labour Government I have kept in contact with a great many trade union friends. Some have passed on. Great men like Sam Watson must be turning in their graves at this time. I have kept touch with some of those who have survived and with some of their successors; others I happen to know a good deal about. When a delegation of three of them go from the miners' union to see the Secretary of State, Mr. Whitelaw—they go to-morrow, as I understand—one of them, the vice-president, will be openly a member of the Communist Party. One must look at Mr. Harold Wilson's speech of six years ago to see how they operate. The other, Mr. Daly, was a member of the Party and is now, I suppose, a Trotskyite; and the third, Mr. Gormley, is a man who has perhaps become the prisoner of the success of his own militant actions a year or two ago, if indeed he is not the prisoner of his colleagues. My Lords, of the executive of the miners' union, 13 out of 28 members are Communist or people who consistently vote with their Communist colleagues. The rest, a bare majority, are moderates, but they are in a state of disarray and confusion, at sixes and sevens with each other. The Communists know where they are going, and how they think they are going to get there.
My Lords, here I must carefully measure my words. Let me put it in this way: it is difficult for us to appreciate the pressures which are put upon men whom I know to be realistic and reasonable by this tightly knit group of politically motivated men who at the last Election utterly failed to secure acceptance of their views by the British electorate. The Communists are engaged in a struggle for power in the unions. The objective of the Communist Party is, first, to influence the day-to-day 366 policies of the executive and, subsequently, to expand the area of sabotage; thirdly, they would use the industrial action not only to improve the conditions of the workers but also to secure the main political objectives of the Communist Party, one of which is the destruction of the Government's Prices and Incomes policy.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, may I ask of my noble and learned friend whether he gives any weight at all to this problem of the rundown of the mining industry? Would he say the Communists are responsible at all for the rundown of the mining industry? Does he think we had any chance of getting through our economic problems if the mines had continued to be run down?
§ LORD SHAWCROSS
My Lords, the noble Lord will not divert me from addressing myself to the House on what I think is the primary question. I am coming almost immediately to what I think is the practical and important problem which will arise after the primary question has been resolved of who is to govern the country. I am glad to think that the noble Lord and I have been friends for a very long time. I remember, with nostalgia, it must have been in. 1946, walking around the streets of New York with him, when we were both attending the United Nations and were starry-eyed in those days about what the United Nations might do. I value the friendship that I have retained with him since then. But does he think what I have just said about the aims and objects of the Communist Party to destroy the Government's Incomes Policy is an exaggeration? The noble Lord does not answer.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I repeat what I said in my speech: the problem we now face is not a Communist-inspired problem; it is a direct result of the Government's economic policy. I do not believe the Communists have had any influence in running down the fining industry, and none of the people I know in the mining areas are leaving the pits because of Communist instigation.
§ LORD SHAWCROSS
My Lords, the noble Lord is really evading the point that I have been seeking to make. It is not a question of who was originally at fault, or whether the unrest in the mining industry, the departure of many people 367 from it, the claims that the miners' union are now making, were originally the fault of Government policies. The point I have been seeking to make is that once these disputes arise, the Communist Party seizes on them, exploits them and exercises enormous pressures on those who are engaged in them to ensure, not a justifiable industrial result, but a political result. The object, the expressed object of the Communist Party, is now to secure the destruction of the Government's Prices and Incomes Policy. If anybody thinks that the language I have just used when I said I was going to use measured language does not sound like my own language, he is right. This is almost exactly the language which Mr. Harold Wilson used (and I entirely agreed with him) when he addressed himself to a very similar situation which arose in connection with the seamen's strike six or seven years ago.
My Lords, now may finally, and I have taken up too much of your Lordships' time, just say that once this initial and basic issue of who governs the country has been resolved, much constructive work requires to be done. Of course we must study—I have been saying for a long time that we should have studied it a long time ago—the question of an energy policy in this country. The shortage of oil was bound to face us sooner or later, and anyone connected with the oil industry knew that in 25 years there would be no oil left in the world. But I wonder whether one could now say this. I concede at once that it may well be that the miners are underpaid in comparison with the earnings in other industries; it may well be that those in other industries are overpaid in comparison with the earnings in the mining industry. But is it too much to hope—and this is something which could be discussed perhaps between the Government and the T.U.C. or in the "Neddy" organisation—that we might try now to realise what was Ernie Bevin's dream so long ago, although he thought that it was unattainable; namely to establish a national incomes policy covering all sections of industry here? This would be a policy which discarded the old "differentials", the traditional differentials, which have so bedevilled industrial relations since the war and, indeed, before it, so as to build up a 368 national system under which earnings in one industry would not be related to earnings in another but would be based rather on the skills and on the difficulties, on the dangers and on the value of the particular job to the nation.
This will be very difficult to attain in this country. It may be possible to do it in other countries where they are fortunate enough to have only 12 trade unions; here, with over a hundred unions, each pursuing parochial aims, it is difficult; but it would be worth while trying for. The result could secure a better measure of justice between workers in one industry and another and a more equitable distribution of whatever global sum it is possible, in conditions of inflation, to allow for increases in national earnings. I should not be unwilling myself, but the responsibility does not lie with me, to trade in, for an agreement on those lines, a great deal of our present industrial relations legislation, insisting only, I think, on postal ballots paid for by the State on important matters of policy and in the election to senior positions. On that basis I stand up to be counted at this grave time on the side of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD BALOGH
My Lords, I rise first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Beswick on an extremely good speech which I think expressed the Party view much more than any other speech which we have heard up till now and which was one of the best performances I have heard in this House. I am not going to follow the noble Lord who has just spoken because I want to keep my equanimity and my usual pacific demeanour and therefore I will go straight into the matter. As your Lordships perhaps will know—those of you, at any rate, who could endure listening to me—I have been preaching constantly since 1968 (when I had the pleasure of entering this House) social sensitivity, compassion, and consensus and have sought to outline the policies which in my opinion are necessary in order to attain them and to attain social peace, accommodation and co-operation between the various interests in the country.
I must say that I have been very disappointed that at this juncture which I (unlike my noble friend Lord Ardwick) 369 consider to be a very serious crisis, we have not had greater willingness, greater flexibility, on the part of the Government, and especially on the part of the Prime Minister, to face up to these issues. I admit that for much of the time the disagreement, the balance, the clash of opinion and the recommendations on coping with our crisis cannot be attributed either to class hatred or to partisanship. It is the complexity of our crisis (and especially the complexity of the interaction on one another of the different causes of that crisis) which has caused a large part of the disagreement. It is very easy to exaggerate in one way or another and to come to opposite conclusions on the facts before us if we had only the facts that we have already, and with extreme difficulty, obtained.
If I address myself once more on my old line to these problems, it is because the meeting of the National Economic Development Council the day after to-morrow will be the last occasion on which the two sides of industry, the Government and some outside experts hold a meeting together and because I wish to entreat all these parties to look at one another with a new light in their eyes because we are in great danger and there is no question but that we have to do things which usually we should not do. Beyond that, if that fails, there is clash and hardship.
It is quite impossible for me to accept the Government view expressed in Parliament—particularly the view expressed by Mr. Secretary Walker—that all was well a week or so ago and that our problems were the consequence of success. I think that he used these words, words that can of course be attributed to and are part of the usual language of the City; for when selling stocks and shares, one obviously exaggerates the advantages of the wares that one wants to sell. It was not true that we were set on a path of steady and untroubled expansion only to be blown off suddenly (as the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, said) by a communist conspiracy or union obstinacy. I must say that this spectre of a communist conspiracy is one which is very dangerous because it obscures the truth and obscures the great social relationships and therefore is impeding the step needed for our recovery. On the other hand, it is 370 also impossible to accept the Government view that the whole thing is caused by the miners, their stubbornness and their unreasoned and unreasonable demands.
It is equally impossible to accept the view of those labour leaders who hold that their whole and exclusive duty is to their members and that it is legitimate in present circumstances to use their bargaining power—a power which has enormously increased partly because of fuller employment and partly because of change in the structure of industry—to exact the highest possible price. Had the coal industry been in private hands, I should hate been interested to have heard Mr. Gormley say that the association of coalmine owners was really entitled to demand in present circumstances the highest possible, price for coal. By this I do not say that the miners' case is not very good. I am not saying that Phase 3 ought not to be reconsidered. I only say that this is not the way to argue. Free collective bargaining cannot be restored without grave difficulties and probably a collapse of any sort of stability.
On the other hand, of course, the economists were also much to blame, and I would not repudiate my share in this. There were those who believed that the Government could have established equilibrium and kept the whole thing going without a hitch by taking £3,000 million out of the economy. I do not believe that this is true. Nor do I believe it is true that by credit management you could have kept the economy going. Ours is a very complex situation in which credit management, monetary restrictions, budgetary policy, all have to do their bit but they cannot do the work alone. If too much weight is placed on any one of those links in the armoury of our weapons, well then, the weakest link will break. At the moment of course the weakest link is the foreign exchange value of the pound, and we shall see a continuation of a downward slide, about which will speak in a minute. The truth is, as my right honourable friend said in the other place, that we suffer from a multiple crisis. He named three; I would take four. It is the summation of these crises and their interaction which make it so difficult to deal with the problem. I have full sympathy with the Government's difficulties—I repeat, full sympathy. But I do not think that my view and their view coincide, because I feel that certain social 371 factors, sociological factors, class factors, are more important and ought to be taken much more into account than mere economic management, which in its own turn of course has not been very good.
There has been, apart from demand inflation, a cost inflationary process. This cost inflationary process at first mainly originated in wage demands which were higher than productivity increases; but lately it has been dominated by the increase in prices of foreign raw materials and food, which then, through the anticipation of further depreciation of the pound and further price increases, has given a very sharp stimulus to the wage inflationary process. The demand inflation in its turn originated in the desperate efforts of the Government to bring down the unemployment which they created, in the hope of getting a balance through unemployment. There is no question that in 1970–71 the Selsdon programme was in full operation and that caused the difficulties. Since then this has changed.
Nor can the deficit be blamed on the rise in prices of raw materials alone. Great trouble in the balance of payments is shown by the fact that it is not only raw materials and food which came in. There were durable consumer goods too; and I must say that when Mr. Secretary Walker in another place declares that we have to have higher imports in order to refurbish and restock our industry, that is a very poor view of those industries in this country which manufacture machines. That we should have to go to America, not only for atomic plant but also for machines for factories, is a scandal in itself.
I would not even say that the strategy of the Government, in spite of these things, was a hopeless one. Had import prices suddenly fallen without imperilling exports; had the consumer boom initiated by the Budget petered out, so to speak, by itself through saturation; had our relative competitive power been regained through wage restraint, the strategy might have worked. To expect all these, however, and expect them simultaneously was, as I said in two debates on Her Majesty's Speech, a gamble which was unreasonable. In fact, none of these things worked in our favour; they all worked against us. And, 372 on top of that, entry into the Common Market of course has caused additional very heavy burden, which is further being increased on January 1.
On top of all this comes then the Arab trouble, which is partly price trouble—about £1,000 million to £1,100 million up till now. It might go up to £1,500 million to £2,000 million if the Persian auction prices are accepted by the Arab Governments as the basis for posted prices—15 dollars and 16 dollars per barrel, against 2.40 dollars before the war. But I do not think that if the restrictions can be lifted this is really too troublesome a matter because this part could be handled by the West acting together. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kahn, yesterday, confirms me; he also thinks that, inasmuch as our own special difficulties have been dealt with, we could rely on a loan operation, on distributing the Arab balances around the world, in order to be able to carry this until the Arabs are able to increase their imports or give aid to other countries to increase theirs. In that case, of course, there would be an export-led boom. This is then the situation that we find ourselves in.
The Government and especially the Prime Minister have insisted on one thing several times. Even the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, himself—though his urbanity was perhaps better kept in comparison with the scenes in the other place—said that it was the considered judgment of Government that they have come in with this programme. I must confess very humbly (I hope the noble Lord does not mind this) that I do not think the Government have very much right at this juncture to claims for considered judgments. I fear that not a single one of their policies has come right. Not a single one of their predictions turned out to be true. I think I once used the simile of hen coops, not extinct volcanoes but hen coops in which there laid the rotting corpses of the chickens which have come back. It must have been a whole holocaust of chickens, almost like a hen battery of dead chickens.
The Prime Minister may be a sadder man but he is certainly not a wiser man now, and it seems to me that to lay down the rule Roma locum cause finita is a hit hybritic, if I may use that expression. There is a breathtaking arrogance in the attitude of the Government, and more 373 especially of the Prime Minister, whose absurd naïveté in economics and unfeeling ruthlessness in social matters has largely brought us where we are. How dare he arrogate to himself the right of finally judging what is right and wrong? I do not think the record allows him to do that.
It is against this background that we must judge the financial and manpower policy and thus very largely the industrial policy of the Government. It is clear that the measures dealing with one crisis must not be framed in such a way as to aggravate another crisis, and there are four of them altogether. Increase in taxation in particular must be judged on the one hand by the success in avoiding increase in price—in which the present Government were successful as they have imposed no penalties on purchases—and on the other hand in inducing a feeling that fairness is being attained. In this certainly they have had no success whatever. Noble Lords have spoken about the failure to induce a feeling that property speculation has been dealt with. The £300 million given away in the last Budget ought to have been and was clawed back, except for £30 million—an absolutely absurdly low amount. I do not believe that the measures are sufficient. I asked the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, what these cuts meant. I went through this exercise called "P.E.S.C."—this was not a Budget, it was a P.E.S.C. exercise. P.E.S.C., the Public Expenditure Survey Committee, is a Treasury Committee which looks after public expenditure. I went through three of these P.E.S.C. exercises and I know very well what one can and cannot do. Obviously, what the Government have done is to order people not to sign contracts for next year, and in the next six months it will not do very much positively, except for minor school repairs being suspended, so that we shall get unsavoury "loos". Apart from that, I do not think very much will be done.
If the pound is not to pursue its relentless downward path, annihilating money assets in its slide and setting class against class, union against union and individuals against society as a whole, we must come to some agreement on incomes and prices. A failure in that field will otherwise end in a desperate effort to solve the seemingly insoluble through authoritarian 374 measures. I think the basic policies which need to be pursued in order to get that sort of dialogue between the Government and the two sides of industry are pretty clear. We must have some sort of mechanism by which key prices, especially food and rent, can be controlled, and if not the rise suppressed, at any rate much slowed down. That situation must be faced far more than it has been in the recently announced measures, and tax concessions given to the better off must be clawed back. All this is understood but on our side I must say (what is not admitted) that wage bargains will have to be brought under a new régime, which although more flexible than the Government's Phase 3, must be far more stringent than trade union leaders would contemplate. That Phase 3 is now a Maginot Line in which the Government might dig their grave is admitted, but then they have not even got the concessions that Sir Stafford Cripps gave in 1947 (I think it was) that in essential industries which lose manpower they could give special increases, and these special increases were accepted as special by the trade unions. I mist confess that I am absolutely astounded that this was not pointed out in a friendly way to the trade union leaders negotiating with the Government and that this clause has not been used.
We cannot regain our vitality and secure an increased standard of when any special wage concessions lead to further bloody-minded demands for more special exceptions. The structure of industry and of labour has changed. The concentration of power has destroyed the classical balancing mechanism of a mixed economy. It was in any case based on periodic crises and unemployment. A rational arbitration both on relativities and on absolute increases must be accepted; it must be realised that a fall in the standard of life for all of us, except for the poorest, is inevitable next year; quite inevitable. It is for this reason that the restraint in wage demands must be matched by tax measures and a carefully-made-out scheme for social services to help the poorest over this catastrophe. The complexity of the crises demands a complex package. I hope to God that in the meeting of the N.E.C.D. on Friday we shall see a constructive spirit and some progress before Christmas. 375 I cannot wish the country and ourselves a better Christmas present than that.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, I think this House has risen to the occasion of the problems which we have been discussing with very great credit to itself. Yesterday I listened to the noble Lord the Leader of the House opening the debate in his usual excellent manner, and then, with several other noble Lords, I went to another place, just in time to hear the Prime Minister appealing for national unity—against such a barrage of noise that nobody could hear what he was saying. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, in his excellent speech this afternoon quoted what Mr. Tom Jackson, the leader of the Post Office workers, said the other day. Mr. Heath yesterday kept on repeating that it was just a quotation, but he could not be heard against the hubbub.
As I say, I think this House has risen to the occasion, and if ever there was a good reason why this House should continue to exist, the way we have conducted ourselves is it. We have not been entirely uncontentious. Only just now I was looking at Hansard and I noticed that the noble Lord the Leader of the House was interrupted no fewer than four time in his opening speech, but that was done with due decorum. We can express our views in perhaps a more sensible manner. For my own part, I am delighted to think that "Selsdon man" has now retreated into the inner recesses of his cave and I hope we shall not see him again. But at the same time we need not have a row about it.
A year ago, wisely or unwisely, at a time of industrial trouble I suggested the possibility of considering whether we ought to have a National Government. It is quite plain to-day that in a much more serious crisis the country is not ready for, and does not wish to have, a National Government. At the same time, I should like to join in the general praise that has been given to the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, yesterday. It was most statesmanlike, though perhaps not possible a realisation in its details, but nevertheless well worthy of consideration in a time of crisis like the present. I join with some other noble Lorks in making 376 a plea that the Prime Minister should give serious consideration to the appointment of a Minister of Fuel and Power, who, in my view, should be a member of the Cabinet. I stem to remember that the noble Lord who is making a speech after mine was at one time Minister of Fuel and Power. We are in a great crisis to-day with regard to fuel and power, and a special Ministry and a special Minister should be looking into these matters.
My Lords, I have confessed in the House before that I am a rather reluctant European. It seems to me that Europe to-day is meeting one of its first big crises, the oil crisis. In my humble view, Europe is not standing up to this crisis very well. Let us remember that it was that gallant little country, Holland, who, more than any other, loyally insisted that Britain must join Europe; yet look what has happened to Holland to-day. On Monday I visited Brussels on business and was staggered to see neon signs illuminating the centre of that city. On the way back to the airport in the evening we drove under Christmas decorations of Regent Street proportions. The people there told me that they felt that their ban on Sunday driving made it possible for them to continue their other life unaltered. But would it not be better for Europe to move in concert, to show a united front on these affairs, rather than that we should all perhaps think too much of the national interest?
I had occasion a year and a half ago to welcome the appointment of Mr. Whitelaw to Northern Ireland. I should like now to welcome him to his new job, for if ever there were need of a man who had a warmth of personality and the ability to get on with people, we are in need of such a man now. We have now got him, and I wish him, with all sincerity, the best of luck in the terribly difficult task which he has so gallantly undertaken. I was delighted to see on the ticker-tape just now that the trade unions are going to "No. 10" to-night. That is the kind of thing that should have happened in the earlier period when I was so unhappy about Government policy. I agree with my neighbour, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, in some of the things which he has said. I agree with him that Maplin 377 should now be reconsidered. I agree with him that Concorde should not be dropped. Where I disagree with him is that I personally think the Channel Tunnel should be proceeded with because Government money is not directly involved. This is something which has been discussed for a hundred years. Now that we have grasped the nettle, and if we are good Europeans, it is something which should be continued.
My Lords, may I, for a moment, become regional?—it is rather fashionable to be regional these days. Speaking entirely from memory, I seem to recall that a far greater percentage of electricity in Northern Ireland is produced from oil than the percentage in the rest of Great Britain. We heard yesterday that only 20 per cent. of our electricity in Great Britain is produced from oil. If that is the case, and I believe it to be so, I hope the Government will make sufficient oil supplies available in order that electricity can be generated in Northern Ireland, so that unnecessary unemployment shall not be created in that difficult Province where divisions are so plentiful. I make that plea because it seems to me to be an important matter. My Lords, once again I would congratulate the House, if I may do such a thing, on the way we have conducted this debate. I would thank the Leader of the House for the way in which he introduced the debate, and I hope it will prove useful to this divided country at this time.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, if it will afford any satisfaction to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, it is not my intention to ask him any questions. Several have been asked of him already. I do not regard the noble and learned Lord as an encyclopaedia, so I shall refrain from asking him questions for that reason and for another perhaps more relevant and substantial reason, namely, that many of the questions that have been asked by Members of your Lordships' House, to which the noble and learned Lord is expected to answer at the close of the debate, seemed to me to be quite remote from the crisis with which we are now confronted: for example, what is to happen five years hence, or maybe seven years hence, or it could be ten years hence, about North 378 Sea gas and the number of barrels of oil that are to be produced; whit is to happen about the Middle East; whether that complex diplomatic, military and political problem is to be resolved, and how soon, and if it is resolved, will the oil begin to flow. Those are questions quite remote from the subject that concerns us, namely, the present crisis, to which I propose to address myself.
I begin by asking a quite appropriate question. Is there a crisis? Some say "Yes"; some are sceptical I ask another question: is it the most serious crisis that has faced this country since the end of the last war? I could go further still: is it the most grave and perilous crisis that has faced our country since the beginning of this century? If I have any qualification for intervening in this debate, it is because I have been more involved in crises than any other Member of your Lordships' House. I can recall before the First World War a series of industrial disputes which completely disrupted industry in our country, beginning in 1911 with the seaman's dispute, the transport workers' dispute and the dockers' dispute, which lasted from 1911 until almost the beginning of the First World War. Indeed, if it had not been that the country was faced with an external enemy, in 1914 we should have been concerning ourselves with the internal disputes and disruptions that existed. Then we had other crises at the end of the First World War as a result of speedy demobilisation, vast unemployment, disruption of industry, and bankruptcy. Then there was the crisis of 1931.
What distinguishes this crisis from that of 1931? It was purely financial in character, arising from the American recession, from the slump, and from a variety of other financial incidents and the blunders of some of the financial pundits and the incorrect and inaccurate advice proferred by men like Montagu Norman. Search the pages of history; you will discover what I say is unchallengeable.
This is a quite different crisis. It is industrial, economic, financial, and, what is perhaps worst of all, political. We have to correct it. What is the appropriate road to travel to reach some conclusion as to what should be done in order to place our country on its feet again? One is tempted, particularly a political partisan 379 like myself, to indulge in recriminations against Her Majesty's Government. That would be expected of me. I refrain, for the simple reason that it would not help in the slightest degree—not at all. You can damn the Government, condemn the Government, be furious about the Government, as we have often been furious and angry about previous Governments: but it would not lead to a solution of our problems—not in the least. Not because the Prime Minister is obdurate, even perverse, sometimes (I hope that will not be regarded as offensive; it is not meant to be), but because we have to deal with facts and not fiction, and must not indulge in crystal gazing. We are confronted by facts which have never been known in this country before—indeed, these facts, and the troubles that arise from them, are world symptomatic; hardly any country in the world is capable of escaping from them. They have troubles even in countries like the Soviet Union, though they try to conceal it. The very fact that they wanted to indulge in discussions about trade and commerce is an indication that they themselves have troubles. Good luck to them! The more they have, the better I like it. Should I have said that? I am not sure. It is not very diplomatic, but there it is.
What is to be done about it? Let us not trouble about North Sea gas nor trouble about the three-day working week, or the two and half day working week, because we are not quite certain whether that is going to happen. How can we tell? There may be a complete transformation over Christmas. Who can tell? The Government may decide to change their minds, to retreat from what they have declared. We cannot tell. That is not the problem. What are we going to do? What is the appropriate gesture? What is the right action to be taken? It is very difficult for a person like myself to give the answer. Noble Lords may have observed the contrast between the speech of my noble friend Lord Diamond yesterday and the speech of my noble friend Lord Beswick to-day. I am stranded between both of them, a kind of non-aligned person—not confused, not in the least, as I shall venture to demonstrate to your Lordships in a moment or two, but between the devil and the deep blue sea.
380 I listened yesterday with intensity of feeling to the speeches that were made by several Members of your Lordships' House; by my noble friend Lord Diamond, my noble friend Lord Chalfont, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, and a number of others, all indicating their desire that we should get together, co-operate, forget about our political differences and see whether we can find a way through. It was very interesting to listen to those speeches because I had anticipated them last week. I happened to have been asked to speak on the radio on the subject of Coalitions, and in the course of my observations, in reply to questions, I suggested that in this situation, on the understanding that there was a crisis—it may be there was not, and I thought yesterday, having indulged in a bit of research on the Chancellor's speech in the other place, that perhaps he did not think it was a serious crisis—the obvious way to tackle it was to get together and discuss it.
I was not suggesting a Coalition, my Lords, although I want to make it quite clear beyond peradventure that there are occasions when Coalitions are desirable, I do not regard Coalitions as repugnant. We have had them before in this country. We had them in two great wars, and without them, God help us! We should have "had it". We had a Coalition, it is true, from 1931 onwards and it was not so satisfactory; nevertheless, I would not rule out Coalitions. But that is not what I was asking for. What I was suggesting, and I repeat it, was that the Prime Minister should say to the Leader of the Opposition, to the Leader of the Liberal Party, the leaders of the employers' Confederation and the leaders of the T.U.C., "Come along and talk this over, not a reconstruction of the Government, but so that we may avail ourselves of your knowledge and understanding and listen to your suggestions."
There is nothing very revolutionary in that. I should regard that as a quite appropriate gesture on the part of the Prime Minister, leaving aside political considerations. Indeed, I venture to go so far as to say that in this situation he should put political differences into cold storage. I may be in trouble about this; I may even be expelled from the Labour Party. I am not worried about being expelled anyhow, because they tried that 381 some time ago. I warned them then that if they did I might even become the Archbishop of Canterbury, and they were not going to take the risk. But what I say I mean: here is an opportunity. Why should the Prime Minister be so rigid and inflexible about it; why sit on his perch as if nothing is happening? It is a kind of tyranny, a kind of democratic dictatorship. I do not like it. Why does he not say to Mr. Harold Wilson, "I don't like you very much, but come and talk it over", as plainly as that? That is the kind of sentiment that pervades this Assembly; it- did so yesterday and has done to a large extent again to-day. It was to some extent disturbed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross. I am sorry that he is not present to listen to me because I know him very well indeed. He was in the same Government as myself, the Attlee Government. I happened to be a Cabinet Minister; he was not a Cabinet Minister because we do not make Attorney Generals Cabinet Ministers. But he was very anxious to become the Foreign Secretary and asked me what I could do about it.
§ LORD SHINWELL
It has never been challenged. I went to the then Prime Minister and said to him, "Shawcross would like to be Foreign Secretary". You should have heard what he said. I will leave it there.
What I am concerned about was Lord Shawcross's diatribe about the miners and the Communists. I want to mention a piece of political and industrial history. Go back as far as you like, to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution—back, for example, to the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The magistrates in the area regarded them as revolutionaries. These six poor peasants were regarded as revolutionary, and they were transported to Botany Bay, when all they wanted was a small increase in their wages. Ever since I can remember, whenever there was a dispute it was always, "the militants wanting revolution." In the 40-hour strike in the West of Scotland in 1919 those of us who were associated with it were regarded as revolutionaries. It happened to be a couple of years after the 1917 Revolution in Russia, and they thought we were following their lead. It was nothing of 382 the sort. We wanted to absorb the unemployed by reducing the hours of labour.
The noble Lord, Lord Shawcross tells us about the Communists dominating the miners' union. The Communists would have no authority whatever, however militant and anxious they are to disrupt the country, to bring down the Government and destroy capitalism, unless there was a case. If it were otherwise they would rule the roost; and they do not. What about the miners' case? If I had my way I would do something they might not accept. I would say to the trade unions, "When you get an offer of an increase of £2, or whatever it may be, say it is not enough, and negotiate, and talk it over. But after a while you say, All right, Parliament has decided, the Government have decided, we will accept it, and come back for more 12 months hence, or even 6 months hence, and go on doing that.'" What is wrong with that? Meanwhile, they would carry on and get their wages, and there would be no trouble about overtime, and the rest of it. That is what I would do.
Moreover, this ought to be said. We may dislike legal enforcement or legal action in relation to industrial matters, but we have to accept it. I am in favour of a prices and incomes policy. I go further: I had the opportunity, when I was a Minister in the Attlee Government, to produce a Cabinet Paper asking for a national wages policy which provided for a minimum wage with differentia's that had to be negotiated. I still stand by that, although what I proposed is somewhat out-moded by now. I would just add this; I may dislike the Government and would do all I can to remove it at Election time. But a Government has to govern, no matter which Government it is. When the Labour Government was in office I said the same; and I say it now about a Tory Government. Let us get it out as soon as we can, with the consent of the people. We need the consent of the people whatever we propose to do by legislation, or by adumbration of policy, or whatever it may be. That is the essence of democracy. If anybody tries to disrupt it, to break it down, then we have to deal with them.
How are we to deal with them? Not by diatribes, or recriminations, or by damning them in saying that they are asking for too much, but by getting them 383 together and talking it over. I would have discussions on a complete restructuring of industry. It is required in the railway service. We have this extraordinary situation on the railways that there are two unions which are moderate in their demands and are ready to accept what they regard as reasonable, and one refusing. That is not new. When I was President of the Glasgow Trades Council before the First World War, we had delegations from both organisations almost indulging in fisticuffs, and they have been doing the same ever since. How are we to deal with this situation? Not by condemning them and indulging in recriminations, but by seeking to restructure the industry. This is particularly desirable in connection with the mining industry.
I want to finalise what I have said by referring to the mining industry. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, referred to the fact that I was at one time Minister of Fuel and Power. I was faced with a crisis. The full facts have never been recorded. They cannot be disclosed until thirty years after the event—that will be in 1976—when the Cabinet papers can be produced and the facts made known to the public. I am not worrying about that. But there was one thing I tried to do, and that was to integrate the fuel and power industries. I went to the Prime Minister on one occasion and said, "Why shouldn't we integrate gas with electricity, and with the production of oil?" We were producing oil from shale and from coal in limited quantities, and there were ideas about the failure of oil coming from foreign sources. But no; it could not be done. Ever since then we have been talking about this energy crisis. When it comes to a matter of recriminations and blame, let us not condemn this Government unduly. However unpalatable it is, let it not be forgotten that it was our own Labour Government that allowed the industry to run down. I can recall some of my colleagues in the House at the time who, when the Coal Board said they wanted a target of 200 million tons, which they thought was reasonable, the Minister responsible said. "No, the Cabinet have decided that 120 million tons is enough." Then they lifted it to 140 million tons, but would never agree to a target of 200 million tons. I notice 384 that the noble Lord, Lord, Robens of Woldingham, in a speech the other day, referred to the fact that he wanted the target of 200 million tons.
Why did we fail to do this, and let the pits go'? It was said, "Coal is out of date and outmoded". Why did so many men leave the pits? Why are so many leaving now? It really has very little to do with conditions in the pits. The miners have become accustomed—just as many working-class people have become accustomed to their poverty—to conditions underground. It is not because of this that they leave the pits; it is because there is more money available outside. If the industry had a future—and I say that advisedly—and the Labour Government during its six years of office had regarded the mining industry as having a future, we would never have been faced with this situation.
What is to be done about it? I agree that it is not easy to find a solution. If we are to deal with this crisis, the best means of approach—and I do not regard this as a complete solution of the problems that confront us—is for the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Leader of the Liberal Opposition, to get together with employers and trade union leaders and thresh this out. Nothing would instil more confidence into the minds of the people of our country, and promote confidence abroad, than that. One noble Lord this afternoon suggested that something has to be done to wake up the people. Nothing would wake them up more than the knowledge that the Prime Minister was ready, in the hope of reaching a solution, to meet those I have mentioned. Let us try that out.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, your Lordships have just listened to a remarkable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I agree with almost every word he said. At this moment we are facing a triple crisis: first of all, industrial strife on an almost unprecedented scale; secondly, a crisis in the balance of payments; and, thirdly, the shortage of oil. I am bound to say that Mr. Barber's so-called mini-budget—it was not in fact a budget at all—has little or no relevance to any of these problems.
Take the first crisis, industrial strife. I began my political career as a Private 385 Secretary to Mr. Baldwin in 1923 and I remember travelling with him on duty to Edinburgh. He looked out upon the smokeless towns—we were undergoing heavy unemployment at this time—and he said. "The greatest ambition of my life is to prevent the class war becoming a reality". And that was followed up. Lord Monckton was a great Minister of Labour; he was a conciliator; he made agreements, and got them. He was considered to be" wet "but in fact he was not. And then we had the advent to power of the present Administration and they brought in at once, as a result of the "Selsdon man", the Industrial Relations Bill. My Lords, I voted for the Second Reading of that Bill with the gravest misgivings. I now regret having done so, because it led directly not to conciliation but to what has become known as "confrontation"—in other words, a war between the Government and the trade unions.
My Lords, we have gone on from there from one disastrous step to another. It is like Lord Haig in the First World War, and the comparison between the character and outlook of Lord Haig and the present Prime Minister is startling—the same enormous professional competence, great administrative ability, not much imagination, and a tendency to concentrate on one target at a time. You do not, in fact, when you have a confrontation, attack the enemy on his strongest front. That is exactly what Lord Haig did; that is exactly what the Prime Minister is doing. He has gone for the miners, the strongest element in the whole of the trade union complex. And he has now embarked upon what I would describe as the battle of the Somme. Pray God! that it does not end up in the battle of Paschaendale, because then we shall all be in disaster. That is very bad.
I say to the Government, "Get rid of the judges." Judges are no good in industrial arbitration. I am not blaming any particular judge; certainly not complaining, in the presence of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, against the present judge who is in charge of affairs; but I say that judges are no good when it comes to industrial arbitration. Give Whitelaw a free hand; give him a chance. That is what I beg for. And I think there was a lot to be said for what the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, 386 said yesterday about setting up an independent tribunal under an authoritative chief to discuss the whole future of the coal industry—its structure and its position in the industrial hierarchy of this land—with a view to bringing it well up from halfway down the list to the top of the list of priorities, because it is absolutely vital.
The country was prepared in this Budget for taxation right across the board—for taxation on incomes above a certain level; for indirect taxation, especially on petrol, on whisky, which would have hit me very hard; and on cigarettes, which would have hit me a little less hard—and to see taxes, increased revenue, devoted to increased pensions—old age pensions above all—which is the easiest and most direct way of tackling the problem of inflation. We were also prepared for selective food subsidies. None of these was included. My Lords, I am not advocating total surrender to the militant element in the trade unions; I am advocating peace. It is ludicrous to compare this situation with our situation 1940. This is a civil war. In 1940 it was an open war against a foreign country. The nearest comparison is to be found in 1640, when Charles I confronted Cromwell. Now I feel that we are on the brink of a kind of seige warfare within this country between the Government and the trade unions which can only end in disaster. My plea is for peace, and nothing but peace.
I turn to the balance of payments. Again it is a matter of taxation, and a matter of getting foreign confidence in this country again. The restrictions on hire purchase proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer are a small start, but we shall have to live with a heavy deficit in the balance of payments for a long time. At the same time, there are limits, and we cannot go much beyond the £2,000 million mark.
My Lords, I turn to my last point, oil. When Mr. Eden, then Prime Minister, proposed action against Egypt, I made an impassioned speech in another place in support of him, and he rang me up the next morning to thank me. He was basically right. We could have sopped Nasser in his tracks then, and saved our lifeline to the Middle East and to the oil, It did not happen—why? Because we never informed the United States—did 387 not even inform them—what we were going to do, and the operation itself was botched. It took six days to reach Port Said from Malta, and that was too long, "Moderation in war", Lord Fisher once said, "is imbecility"; and if we meant to go to war we should have gone to war and on no small scale. As a matter of fact, we had won the battle when we were forced to evacuate. As an American friend said to me, "It was that psalm-singing old hypocrite, John Foster Dulles, who thought he had God in his pocket and knew he had Eisenhower, who forced us out of that", and I think that is true. When it came to the crunch, we were not able to defend, either by diplomacy or by force, what we then considered to be our vital interests in the Middle East without the co-operation of the United States—which we never sought.
My Lords, the other day I had a letter from a merchant banker in New York, a very intelligent man who has been a friend of mine for over forty years, and I am going to inflict on your Lordships a quotation from a letter which I received from him the day before yesterday. He says:The final act of folly has just occurred. To be sure, as I said in the previous paragraph, the initial step in breaking the unity of the freeworld was that taken by Dulles at the time of Suez, but two wrongs don't make a right. The refusal of Europe to co-ordinate their Middle Eastern policy with ours is a supreme folly. If at this time Europe had stood firm in its alliance with us, we could have given the Arabs an ultimatum to the effect that any cut-off in the oil supplies to Europe and the United States would be looked upon as an act of war, and appropriate measures would be taken. We had the moral right to give such an ultimatum, in view of the fact that the development of the oilfields in the Middle East was undertaken as the result of solemn agreements entered into by the various Middle Eastern nations, and that these commitments had been flagrantly broken time and again. It must not be forgotten that we not only found the oil, but also brought it to the surface, transported and sold it, and in so doing created a potential of Arab prosperity that would never have occurred without our assistance. This in itself gives us the moral right to take even military action if need should arise to protect our own economic lifeline. Certainly, if Western Europe had acted in unison with us, the mere threat of military action, I feel sure, would have averted any cutting off of our essential supplies.…The result of what has happened in the last few weeks has been a feeling in this country "—the United States— 388that our alliance with Europe is not worth-while; that in our hour of need they deserted us. The game the French have played especially with Libya, aimed at cutting our throat so that they could get the benefit of being the Number One influence in Libya, is the most short-sighted, stupid and selfish piece of diplomacy I have ever witnessed. It has created a feeling of resentment against France here which is very deep and very real.As for England and Germany, we have wondered where their courage and their character has gone. To have acted like trembling leaves in the fall wind has not encouraged us to believe in the strength or the validity of our alliance. The hue and cry for the removal of American troops from Europe and the return to a policy of isolation has sharply increased in the past few weeks. This would be a disaster for the whole free world, but it is up to Europe this time to mend the fence they have so stupidly destroyed. Furthermore, leaving Holland in the lurch is likely to unpin the whole concept of a United Europe"—and that is what is happening at the present time.What I am trying to say above all is that the only hope of maintaining the Western world's freedom in the face of the Soviet threat and Arab blackmail is unity, and without unity the balance of world power will turn against all of us and we must either hang together or hang separately.My Lords, there is much truth in that; and the man who wrote that letter to me is a very intelligent man. I agree with him that Dulles was a Psalm-singing old hypocrite who let us down—it was sheer treachery—and also that he thought he had God in his pocket, and knew he had Eisenhower. But I must say to your Lordships before I sit down that on two occasions I have addressed your Lordships and warned you of the dangers of a withdrawal of the British military presence from the Persian Gulf. That was done by the Labour Government. I believe Mr. Wilson was instinctively opposed to it himself—so I have been led to suppose—but the fact remains that it was done. It did not cost us very much to keep a presence in the Persian Gulf. Now we have lost Kuwait. I visited Kuwait ten years ago. I would not have thought it was possible. Here is the richest oilfield in the world, and we have chucked it away! I think our attitude towards the Arab States on this oil business has been contemptible through two Administrations. In my opinion, two men emerge from this crisis vindicated. One 389 is Lord Avon and the other is Lord Rothschild, who warned us in time that the euphoria that the Government were living in about rapid economic strength was quite unjustified in view of our situation.
Well, there you are. It is a rough situation. Some of the newspapers have said that the word "flexibility "can mean anything or nothing. That is not true. Flexibility is the exact opposite of rigidity, and what we are suffering from in this country to-day is rigidity—rigidity at the top level and right through; through the trade unions, through the Government. I think, for example, that The Times leader this morning was extremely interesting. It called for an expenditure of £20,000 million to renovate British industry. It was bold, it was imaginative, it was hopeful. But what are we getting from the Government at the present time? We are not getting anything of imagination or hope or help. I think, for example, that the Prime Minister should appoint at once a Minister of Fuel and Power and give him a free hand, together with Mr. Whitelaw, the Secretary of State for Employment, to negotiate flexibly with the trade unions. I do not believe, with Lord Shawcross, that the trade unions are yet completely in the hands of the militant Communists. I do not think that is true; I think they would like to reach a settlement. I believe that can be done and should be done—and if it is not done, God help us all!
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether we are right in assuming that his policy now would amount to the military occupation of the entire Middle East in alliance with the Israelis and the United States?
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, I did not quite hear what the noble Lord said, but I think he said something about an alliance with the Israelis. I am not proposing the occupation of the Middle East, but I am proposing—and I feel this is absolutely essential—that Europe, as Europe, must co-ordinate its Middle Eastern policy with that of the United States. If that does not happen, if we do not co-ordinate our own policy but go on fighting each other in Europe—the French, the Germans, ourselves—and do not co-ordinate with the United States, 390 we shall get nowhere in the Middle East at all.
§ THE EARL of ONSLOW
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down again, could he explain how British garrisons on the Suez Canal, under siege and costing an awful lot of money, could protect super-tankers coming from Saudi Arabia round the Cape? Because most of the super-tankers cannot get through the Canal.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, I do not want to stop super-tankers coming round the Cape. I am delighted that they should. But I think that if we had done the right thing at the time of Suez and seen it through—and I made a speech at the time of Suez strongly supporting Eden's policy to beg n with, until it was all botched and foiled up by our delay, by our incompetence, and by our failure to consult the United States—we could have held on to a position there which would have been impregnable.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ LORD CLIFFORD of CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, I shall be the shortest speaker to inflict myself on your Lordships' House this evening, but I wanted to make use of this occasion just to reiterate four of the 25-odd questions that I asked in the previous debate and that have not been answered—not that I expect them to be answered this evening. Some, of course, have been mentioned already in this debate.
The first is: why have we not already, and some time ago, set up some sort of a Commission for alternative fuels? Why, for example, have we not encouraged the use of methane as a vehicle propellant? Have not the Government heard of the newer and cheaper way of making hydrogen by the use of lithium and iodine? Why is it that we have allowed the French to come out, as they did only yesterday, with a hydrogen-propelled car, produced by Renault? Is it not a fact (I asked this question before because I read an article about it several years ago) that the Coal Board already have, under wraps, a system whereby they could produce coal in this country with a quarter of the number of people at present employed underground? One would like to know whether these things that have been written on the subject are true. One 391 would like to know whether, as was suggested some time ago, the unions opposed the introduction of these machines. If that is so, why do we not now introduce the machines and then, with a reduced manpower force in the pits, we should be able to afford to pay the miners practically what they liked.
I should like to mention two things which arise out of the "mini-budget", as it was called. The noble Lords, Lord Beswick and Lord Boothby, referred to what I think we used to call "gunboat diplomacy". During Lord Beswick's speech and again during the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, I was reminded that when I was in Muscat, at the time when the Labour Government of the day announced our withdrawal from the Gulf, there was an Iraqi businessman in the same place as I was. I thought very little of the announcement, but he said to me, "Your friends will regret your leaving this part of the world."
§ LORD CLIFFORD of CHUDLEIGH
He prophesied to me at that time exactly what would happen to our oil, and it has happened in the last couple of months.
There is one point I should like to make, which has nothing to do with what I have said so far, but which struck me about the mini-Budget. It is that now, when we have an all-time low in recruiting, is no time to cut down on replacing our out-of-date barracks. Surely, with all the lessons of the recent Yom Kippur war before us, this is no time to deny our greatly reduced forces the means to defend themselves, and us. It seems to me that here the Government have fallen for the Labour Party propaganda, that we can always save money on defence. I submit that this is the very worst time in our history to contemplate such a thing.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, it falls to me to wind up, on behalf of my noble friends, a notable debate, which has gone on over two days, on the economic situation and the various crises that confront us. Before replying to the debate, I should like to say how delighted we on this side of the House were to see my noble friend 392 Lord Beswick at the Dispatch Box this afternoon for the first time after having given up the very onerous post of Chief Whip; and to see him endowed with so much vigour and to hear him express sentiments which were not only the sentiments of noble Lords on this side of the House, but also sentiments which could be broadly shared by noble Lords on the other side of the House. After listening to the speech of my noble friend Lord Shinwell I consider that I shall be lucky if, at the age to which he claims, I can speak with the same vigour. But the ability to speak with his vast experience and past record will be beyond me.
My Lords, there are a series of crises with which this nation is confronted. First, there is the general economic malaise of which we are all well aware. As The Times said to-day in a leading article, we have been through a series of crises each one being worse than the last. I think that in recent days the Government have sought to play this down. It was played down in the earlier part of our debate. But when the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, spoke from the Benches opposite he drew attention to the falling value of the pound. He said that the pound is now worth only one-third of what it was worth against European currency at the time when the Government decided to float it. And also, when one considers the fall—
§ LORD SELSDON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I think I said that the pound fell by one-third and therefore it would be worth about two-thirds of what it was.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon. It had fallen by one-third. The noble Lord drew attention to the fall of the share markets and, as was said by my noble friend Lord Beswick, this will affect particularly the small savers who will see one-third of the value of their money disappear in a few months. One could go on to develop the general economic difficulties of the State. Mr. Barber has himself acknowledged that the proposals he made on Monday were broadly directed to it. But if one looked at the Press one would come to the view that what he proposed did not receive the acclamation of the newspapers or command their confidence. No doubt in the New Year we shall be able to return to this matter.
393 Then, my Lords, we have a crisis as a consequence of the oil situation. I fear that it will be with us for at least 12 months. Even if there is a peaceful solution of the trouble in the Middle East, I cannot foresee any relaxation in the consequences to the United Kingdom, to Europe and to the United States. And particularly will there be consequences to countries like India and those countries of the developing world, on whom not only the shortage of oil but also the cost will have such a crippling effect that it is difficult to foresee their future, unless the wealthier part of the world—in which I include the Arabs—is able to find some way to give aid.
There is the crisis caused by industrial action in this country. Like my noble friend Lord Shinwell, I fully accept that when there is industrial action and other consequences, such as those caused by the shortage of oil, clearly the Government have a responsibility to take action. My concern is about the way in which action has been taken by Her Majesty's Government and the motivation for it. An announcement was made last week of severe cuts which would affect industry and the work people, and that they were to come into effect within two or three days of their announcement. There had been no consultation whatever with the C.B.I. or the T.U.C. Therefore I must ask the noble and learned Lord why this decision was taken. Why was it announced without consultation with the C.B.I. and the T.U.C.? The cuts clearly create great difficulty for industry. If industry had been given time, it could well have avoided many of the panic decisions that have clearly been taken within industry. No doubt those hard pressed departments of the Department of Trade and Industry would have been able more readily to respond to the applications that were made by industry.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, was asked a number of questions yesterday about generators—and I use this only as an example of the way the machinery has appeared to work because of the precipitate decision, as I believe it was, to put these curbs on. When he was replying, the noble Lord was unable to give a firm answer to the problem of the generators. Yet within a matter of half an hour his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 394 in another place was giving one of the most reassuring statements on this matter. I do not believe that it was any failure of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, to study his brief. But it seems to me extraordinary that on an important matter like this it was possible for the other place to have the news, whereas in your Lordships' House we had to be—and I say it in the gentlest way—"fobbed off".
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I think he is perhaps a little unfair in saying "fobbed off". He knows that it is normal for announcements of that kind to be made in the other place. I am sorry that the time schedule worked out in that way.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I accept that from the noble Lord But he could perhaps have said that he expected a Statement to be made that evening. I do not retract the words that I lave just used. There has been considerable difficulty within industry. The noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, spoke yesterday of his own experience. I could do so myself. Much of the difficulty could have been overcome if there had been proper consultation with the C.B.I. and the T.U.C. So one needs to ask the Government why they acted so quickly without consultaton.
The information one has is that the coal stocks are not so low that a week or two weeks could not have been allowed for consultation and adjustment by industry. Therefore, as has been suggested in another place, but I do not think in your Lordships' House, one cannot help feeling that the action taken by the Government was of a political nature to deal with the mining community. I think with a degree of flexibility within the Department of Trade and Industry, if these curbs have to come into being, it will be possible to overcome much of the concern that has been expressed, both in terms of production and in labour disputes.
The debate has also dealt with what one might call the credibility of Government and Parliament. My noble friend Lord Diamond put before your Lordships yesterday an interesting suggestion by which Parliament could play a more significant role in this narrow field, and perhaps from that one may be able to promote a greater understanding throughout the country. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, also addressed himself to 395 this point, as did the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross. I am all for co-operation. I thought that noble Lords who spoke did less than justice to the high degree of co-operation that exists not only in the House of Lords, but also in the other place. There is a high degree of understanding between the two Front Benches on matters which may be delicate and important, and no doubt on occasions there should be discussion. But I would hesitate very much indeed in the interests of Parliament and democracy to suggest that the Opposition and the Government should be too close. I think the Opposition have a duty to oppose, for their part of the Parliamentary system is in itself a check upon the Executive. To that extent, therefore, they have a duty to oppose. Certainly since the war there has been a great deal of understanding in both Houses on great critical issues.
My noble friend Lord Diamond referred to the Northern Ireland problem and the support that both Houses gave to the Secretary of State, Mr. Whitelaw, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. When my noble friend was referring to this as an example, I am bound to say that I wondered whether such co-operation could so readily have been given if a Labour Government had been taking identical actions, in the light of the Conservative Party connection with the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. I do not say this in any critical way of judgment or sense of responsibility, but clearly in political terms this problem would be very difficult indeed. If there is anything wrong with the way in which our Parliament works, how it affects Ministers or public opinion, I do not think it will be resolved by co-operation on the part of the two Front Benches, but more from the reform of procedure, and perhaps the adoption to a greater extent of the Select Committee procedure which exists in another place. I believe it is in that way that we are more likely to be able to reach an understanding. Certainly one reads reports from the other place which give one the impression that the two sides consider matters not on a Party political basis, but as Members of Parliament seeking to find the truth and to make the best recommendations. I would only say to my noble friend Lord Diamond— 396 and I accept what he has said in terms of the problem—that I would much prefer to see this done within the procedure of Parliament than emerging from some secret negotiations between the two Front Benches.
In terms of the immediate issue there may well be something in what my noble friend Lord Shinwell suggested: we may have reached such a pass that a meeting might usefully be arranged between the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and representatives of the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. Certainly this is a novel idea, but in our present circumstances anything is worth trying. I hope that the Government will consider this suggestion, though they need not necessarily agree to it to-day—and of course I could not commit my right honourable friend in the House of Commons in any way. I believe, however, that it is something worth considering by the political Leaders.
A debate then emerged as to who governs the country, and references were made to the consequences of militants acting within the trade unions. Clearly, noble Lords who spoke yesterday had in mind the National Union of Mineworkers, and this became quite clear as a consequence of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross. I am glad to see that the noble Lord has broken the silence he has kept since 1969. I would agree with the noble Lord on one element, and one element only, of this issue: that is, the political philosophy of the Communist Party. We do not need to go into it: it is well known and has never been disguised. The Communist I have always been frightened of is the Communist I do not know, and the Communists who are members of trade unions I am prepared to accept within our democratic system. I would not criticise them for pursuing their political purposes within the political field, though I should think it utterly repugnant if they were to use those purposes in an industrial sense. But why are the Communists so strong in the National Union of Mineworkers? Is it not a consequence of the dark and evil days within the mining community 30 or 40 years ago in South Wales and Scotland? I believe one must understand this in order to understand why to-day there are members of the 397 Communist Party on the national executive of the National Union of Mineworkers.
§ LORD SHAWCROSS
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would agree with me—and so far I agree with everything he has said—that one of the reasons for the strength of Communism in the trade unions is the unhappy fact that when officers of unions are elected perhaps 90 per cent. of the members do not vote, whereas all the Communist members do?
§ LORD TAYLOR of MANSFIELD
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive my interruption. I nearly interrupted the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, when he was referring to certain persons in the trade union movement, and particularly miners. May I say to him that the national officials and the area officials are elected by a coalfield ballot, and the local committees and the branch secretaries are elected by a ballot at the pits.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Taylor, for many years a miner and a respected Member of your Lordships' House, who can clearly speak with far greater authority than I or perhaps also the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross. The case has been made that here we have the Communist members of the executive, dominating the moderates for the purposes, some speakers said, of bringing the Government down and continuing the strike. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, will agree with me when I say that, following the strike last year—one that was vindicated by the Inquiry chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Wilberforce—when the miners went back productivity and production rose at a rate previously unknown within the mining industry. So if the Communists had been seeking to use their political power within the National Union of Mineworkers, it seems strange that they did not try to exert their influence during that period of industrial operation.
I believe it is wrong, and it is certainly not helpful, to look on the problem of the miners' industrial claim to-day as being politically motivated. The miners feel very passionately that they have a cause for complaint and a case for 398 increased sums over and above what the National Coal Board are prepared to award. I must confess that I do not know what is the difference between the amount the National Coal Board are prepared to pay and the amount for which the miners are prepared to settle. I believe this is a moment for an initiative to be taken and that it could be taken by the Secretary of State for Employment, if only to ascertain what the gap is. After that, the conciliatory powers of the Department of Employment could be utilised to see whether there is some way of bringing these men back to work.
I should like to ask the House to consider two factors in relation to this particular strike. First of all, if the men do not go back to work for many weeks—and they are a very stubborn people—the economic consequences for this country will be grave. I will only say this to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor: if you drive these men back you will humiliate them, and therefore production and co-operation, in a field in which co-operation is of vital importance, could well be lacking Again, it is the nation as a whole which could suffer. I hope that the Selsdon Man is well and truly buried—I am sorry to use the name, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, should change his name by Deed Poll—but nothing would prove his burial more than if we could bring back into the Department of Employment all the facilities and the knowledge that were once there so that we could conciliate, talk, argue and negotiate.
My noble friend Lord Diamond spoke of Northern Ireland. What was the factor, of success in Northern Ireland? I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, would agree that it was because Mr. Whitelaw and his Ministers were prepared to sit and talk, talk and talk again. They sought to create an atmosphere in which a political solution would be possible. What they were seeking was consensus and conciliation, as opposed to confrontation. Whatever noble Lords opposite may say, the policy during the first two years of this Government appeared to many members of the trade union movement as confrontation. With Mr. Whitelaw at the Department of Employment I think there is an opportunity to bring the lessons of Northern Ireland into our industrial field: that is, to talk and talk and talk until a settlement 399 is reached. Unless you are prepared to do that, I do not believe that any of the social and psychological problems with which one is confronted in industry will be solved.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, in the fascinating and racy speech with which he interested us a little time ago, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, disclosed the fact that I was not an encyclopædia. My Lords, I have always regarded this as highly classified information and I do not think a Privy Counsellor should disclose State secrets. But for many reasons I do not wish to take up too much of your Lordships' time in replying to this debate. The House has heard a series of very interesting, very well considered and extremely important speeches, and I wish they could have been more widely reported than they have been. The House will wish to reflect upon those speeches and digest them thoroughly. It would be wrong for me to attempt a detailed commentary upon them, especially as we have still coming upon us a debate on Northern Ireland which is a subject which would ordinarily have taken up a whole day's discussion in this House.
What has impressed me most, and has certainly impressed my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine and maybe other noble Lords who have sat through these past two days, has been the extremely moderate and serious tone of the speeches, a tone which was set by the two opening speeches by my noble friend Lord Windlesham and the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and maintained throughout to-day, including the two speeches which we heard from the Opposition Front Bench speakers, one this afternoon and the other a moment ago. I shall comment later upon the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond. In the meantime, I will attempt, so far as I am able, to emulate the moderation, and I can only endorse the gravity which reflects to my mind the extreme seriousness of the situation. Despite the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, I can say candidly that in my view this is potentially by far the most serious situation that I have confronted, whether in Opposition or in Government, since I attained Cabinet rank.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, I was trying to say that it is potentially the 400 most serious, but not yet the most serious, situation, and the potential terrible seriousness can be avoided by wise government.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I hope that I can go along with the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, in this. Indeed, I would go further and say that at least potentially it is the most serious internal situation which the country has faced since 1926 and it needs to be treated as such. I agree wholeheartedly with the speech yesterday of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe. I thought his was a brave and notable speech. The seriousness of the situation goes far beyond the purely economic consequences of what is occurring and what we have been discussing. It is, as he said, and as I think the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, implied, a situation capable of developing into a constitutional situation. It could affect profoundly the way in which the country desires to be governed. If we fail to get through it with our constitutional and democratic institutions unimpaired the consequences might prove to be irreversible. I can say this without passion because I have seen this crisis approaching a long way off and have long stated my misgivings about it, both before I became Lord Chancellor and returned to your Lordships' House, and throughout this Parliament. Failure of nerve now, either on the part of the Government or the public, might easily lead to an anarchic situation, and that could easily give rise to a form of government highly distasteful to most peaceful people in this country.
The second point I noticed about this debate was, despite tile differences of view—and, after all, differences of view are to be expected and not to be deplored in a Parliamentary House—there was a surprising and almost universal feeling after national unity. The feeling was expressed to-day in strong terms by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, with whose general approach I wholly agree—and I agree particularly with what he said about the relative functions of Government and Opposition. In this I believe the House was not merely right in its instinct, but also reflected the desire and opinion of the people of this country perhaps more 401 accurately, if the Press reports of yesterday's proceedings are to be believed, than did the atmosphere of the debate on the same subject in another place. Indeed, reading some of the Press comments, and being the frequent target of Motions of privilege in the other place, I wondered what was going to happen to some of the reporters, but I will not quote the particular passage from the Daily Telegraph that I had in mind.
Whatever else can be said about the atmosphere there, and whatever else can be said against the present House of Lords, no one could have legitimately commented adversely about the tone of the debate here. One of the first, and perhaps the most notable, demands for national unity came from the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, when he spoke, as he said, only for himself but, none the less, speaking from his position on the Opposition Front Bench. He made a constructive suggestion to which I shall return later. It was a demand which has been echoed on both days and from every quarter in the House—by the Baroness Seear, for instance, speaking for the Liberal Party earlier on; by my noble friend Lord Amory (who made a characteristically helpful and constructive contribution; by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, from the Cross-Benches, and equally from the Cross-Benches by the noble Lord, Lord Roberthall, and, from below the gangway, from my noble friend Lord Watkinson, and others. Whatever one may say or think about the present crisis, or Government policy, or our reactions to either, or about the particular suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, this is the voice of the British people at the present time. I beg all those who can influence events, whether in industry or politics, to heed that voice rather than the babel of dissension which sometimes distracts us from taking fundamental attitudes.
There has been a third theme about which, although there may not have been such universal consensus, there was almost an overwhelming majority opinion. Let me assure the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, there is absolutely no question of the Government having "gone for the miners". May I assure the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that there is no desire on the part of the Government nor, I believe, of anybody 402 else in this country to humiliate them. That was his phrase. But although all of us in this House, I think absolutely without exception, have immense respect for those of our fellow countrymen who work in our pits—nobody expressed that respect more eloquently than did my noble friend Lord Gridley, last night—particularly for those who work underground, and for those who drive our trains, and for those who operate the sophisticated machinery in our power stations referred to, I am sure, light-heartedly, by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard as "turning the knobs", there is something I think which we would all like to say by way of comment. We all recognise their worth, we all acknowledge that in relation to other occupations, some of them less skilled, some of them at least have lost ground in recent years.
To the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, I would say not merely are we looking back upon the events of 40 years ago, but we are remembering, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, reminded us, events more recent than that. They have lost ground. May I say at once that we desire to see them prosperous and happy. But it is, I would have thought, open to them with honour to themselves, to accept offers which have been made in good faith and which we believe not to have been altogether ungenerous. The prospects, I would add, for their several occupations, have become brighter and more secure and are now, as a result of recent irreversible changes in the world energy situation, brighter and more secure than they have been for years. I believe they can do themselves nothing but good by taking a course which I believe to be an honourable course, and not to plunge their fellow countrymen into coldness and gloom and discomfort, and many of their fellow workers into unemployment. If they called off their action now, they could, I believe, be certain of a secure future. They could acquire a wage, as we have learned, possibly amounting to £50, and they would earn an immense debt of gratitude—I repeat, an immense debt of gratitude—from their fellow countrymen which this generous population will know how to repay in time.
My Lords, on the other hand the immense consensus of this debate, and coming from every quarter, including the 403 Liberal and Cross Benches, has been that it is simply not acceptable to demand that which would destroy still further the stability of our currency, lead to a stampede through a gap created in the Government's Prices and Incomes Policy, and therefore destroy the very differentials which it has sought to restore and which, as a matter of fact, the current offers would improve. Worse still might be to establish a constitutional anarchy which could only end by taking power from Parliament and establishing something which we should all detest. That is why the attitude of this House as it has been expressed in this debate has been for unity, without surrender to the unreasonable on either side but unity without failure of nerve.
Now, my Lords, I come to the Government's measures which are, of course, the immediate occasion for this debate. The measures are of two kinds. The first consist of the physical restrictions on the use of energy, and the second are the financial measures proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I must say I agree with other noble Lords, in particular the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, that the first set of measures, the physical restrictions, are almost entirely due to the industrial actions which are taking place. I do not seek at all to allot blame because I do not think that blame or criticism forms part of the desirable atmosphere of this discussion. I only say that they are consequences of it. The second set of measures, the financial measures, are due possibly more directly to the shortfall of the actual supply of energy; and secondly, to the effect on our balance of payments to which the increased price of oil and the shortfall of energy itself will inevitably give rise.
There has been, from both sides of the House, relatively little criticism of the first set of measures, except on matters of detail like the demand for flexibility put forward by my noble friends Lord Dudley, Lord Orr-Ewing and Lord Hewlett yesterday, and I think by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to-day, of which, on behalf of the Government, I have taken very careful note. I hope that the statement by my right honourable friend Mr. Peter Walker yesterday will have given some sense of the importance 404 we attach to matters of this kind. It is, of course, true that, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has just said, there was no prior consultation but there has been every kind of discussion and consultation after we felt bound to act.
My Lords, may I say in passing that I have also seen to it that the answers to the particular questions of which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, gave me prior notice, have been given to him in the best form which I could procure for him this afternoon. It is only because I do not wish to burden this speech with too much detail that I do not spell them out now.
My Lords, what I think it is important to realise—
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I take it that the noble Lord is moving on to another point. He has explained that there have been consultations since the announcement. The question I put was, taking into account the coal strike and the power stations, why were the Government unable to enter into consultations with the T.U.C. and C.B.I. prior to making the announcement?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the Government thought it absolutely necessary to act decisively in the light of the developing situation. These are measures of judgment. I think I can say quite honestly, as I said in the debate some weeks ago—that the present Government have shown a propensity to consult with both sides of industry more developed, I think, than any previous Administration. There are times, however, when the Government would be failing in their duty if, faced with the kind of situation which I was just about to describe, we had not in fact thought it right to act decisively.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for his letter, which I have received. But may I point out that he has not answered the question which I put to him about the legal position of those contracts which guarantee some workers a five-day week.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I do not think I can answer questions about the law of contract without a great deal of further research than I have been able to give it this afternoon. I had 405 thought that in the second paragraph of my letter to him I had spelled out as much detail as it was safe and proper for me to do. Certainly, if there are any specific questions which it is proper for me to answer, the noble Lord may be assured that I shall give attention to them. But I do not think I should, either from the point of view of time or from the point of view of accuracy, attempt a dissertation on the effects of those critical measures upon the laws of contract as they affect individual cases of employment.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, this is no mere academic point; it is a point of the greatest importance to industry. I will certainly not press the noble and learned Lord further now; but it is one which is extremely important. There are trade unions and company boards meeting throughout the country yet not knowing what to do. If the Government could make a statement as soon as possible, possibly to-morrow, it would be of real value.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it is not because I doubt in the least the importance, or the relevance, of what the noble Lord has put to me that I hesitate to give an opinion. It is that the law of contract is not something which lends itself very easily to popular discussion. Individual contracts differ a great deal and the relationship between contracts and social security benefits is also a matter of immense complexity. It is also something which might have to be decided in the courts but on which it is not proper for me to express an opinion. I will convey this point to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment and to the Secretary of State for Social Services. Although I am sure that my colleagues would wish to give whatever enlightenment they can, I do not wish to express a legal opinion on a matter of this kind in a winding-up speech.
What I think is important to realise about these physical measures is that although they will undoubtedly cause physical suffering and unemployment will obviously follow their applications, they are designed to minimise the physical suffering and unemployment which would flow from the industrial action if they were not imposed. This is because if they were not imposed there would be 406 widespread disconnections of an unpredictable, far more damaging and even perhaps physically dangerous kind.
The reception of the Chancellor's measures has been more mixed and the criticisms have consisted of two main points. The first is that the cuts in the Government programme of capital expenditure will be slow acting, damaging, expensive and difficult to reverse. All of these criticisms have recurred during the course of this debate, notably in the speech of my noble friend Lord Amory who supported some of them. The second criticism is that the Government have done too little, notably in the field of taxation. With the first of these criticisms I very largely agree; but it overlooks three vital and, I should have thought, conclusive counter arguments. The first is that the quick acting effects which the Chancellor expects to achieve are through the hire purchase and credit restrictions and the higher energy prices of which he spoke. It is also to be expected, I am sorry to say, that a certain, although wholly undesired, effect must be produced in the short and the medium term by the short-fall in energy supplies itself and the part-time working of industry. The third factor which critics in this field underestimate is that the effects produced by these quick-acting causes will not be enough in themselves and that the effects of Government capital expenditure reductions are the only things that we can operate which will reduce directly the demand on energy without affecting industrial investment, investment in energy programmes or creating a massive unemployment by affecting current demand. I agree that measures of this kind sometimes produce less than it is planned they should produce. We have all in Government had experience of that. But on the other side of the account is the probable short-fall in steel production which would make part of the programme ineffective in any case.
The other criticism, that we have not done enough in the field of taxation, fails to give adequate weight to the amount of financial hardship which will in any case be suffered by all sections of the population and the effect on the cost of living of any increase in taxation in the light of falling incomes due to part-time working and increased prices and the increased 407 difficulty this would bring in negotiating reasonable wage settlements.
Only recently, before these measures, we learned that the average male weekly wage in this country was between £35 and £40. That means, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, reminded us, that many working-class homes are receiving a great deal more and well over £2,000 a year. It does not seem very long since I was defending the Government's raising of the surtax limit from £2,000 to a higher figure. Only this afternoon I was recommending, or rather instituting, a clergyman to a living when his total income from an important industrial living was only £1,800 a year. I do not know how many of these incomes will now have been drastically reduced. The reduction in demand which will be caused by these falls should not be underestimated. To put taxes on in addition, whether they are indirect taxes or direct taxes, might be cruel.
The same is true, as my noble friend Lord Selsdon said—I think it was he, but certainly it was somebody from the Benches which support the Government—of people who have put their savings in investment. I understand that the index has already fallen over the months from a figure of 550 to just over 300 yesterday. That means a much bigger fall than that mentioned by my noble friend. It means that the capital value of a man's savings invested in stocks and shares has about halved in six months—not quite halved, but has been reduced by that figure. Of course, one must expect in the light of coming events that the income from those investments will be greatly reduced as well. It is, I think, important to ask those critics who have accused us of not pulling up people sharply enough and not doing enough in the field of taxation, to realise what it is they are asking us to do. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, previously said that he was expecting and desiring taxes right across the board. I do not believe he has given sufficient attention to the factors I have enumerated.
Of course, when we talk about land speculators—and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, challenged me specifically about this—I am entirely on the side of the critics. No one defends and few want—at any rate few that I know—the enormous paper profits which possession of 408 land has involved; but it remains true and I must ask the House to remember this, that from 1906 onwards Government after Government have devised schemes for dealing with the problem which either have not worked at all or, when they have worked, have caused injustice. My right honourable friend's plans have at least the merit of being both more ingenious, more sophisticated and more likely to work than any scheme introduced by any previous Government. So far as Centre Point and the like are concerned, it may be that we have not heard the end of that story; for the resources of civilisation may not yet have been exhausted. As regards those who would have liked to see an increase in taxation, I lastly have to say that they really ought to wait until the proper Budget, which of course comes very shortly in the ordinary course. We shall then know a great deal more about the size of the problem we have to face and the degree of unavoidable suffering which will have been caused than we know now. It is also the case that the preparation of changes of a respectable kind in the taxation rates requires a good deal of time.
I come back finally to the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, which has been much commented upon from different quarters in the House. He said he was speaking only for himself. Well, so, I must tell him, am I. As regards this House, he knows, or at least I hope he knows—and I hope that his noble friends upon the Front Opposition Bench know—that my door and that of my noble friend the Leader of the House are just down the corridor from here and, at least figuratively speaking, our doors are never shut. But what the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, meant—and I think it is necessary for me to remind the House of this—could only be operated officially, and it could be only operated officially by the Leaders of Parties in another place. That is the object of the exercise and it would not work unless that happens.
Like other Members of this House who have commented upon the noble Lord's suggestion, I can only applaud the motives which led him to speak as he did. I must say that I should like to think that something might come of it. But ! would say just this—and I say it with the candour to which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, laid claim: it 409 would have been more helpful towards such a consensus being achieved if the Shadow Chancellor had not gone on television and radio to describe my right honourable friend's carefully presented and sincerely meant plans as "crazy" and to give the totally ridiculous impression, which no one has sought to give in this House, that the necessary investment in railways and steel, which we should all like to see, could be made up by taxes on "furs, brandy and wine". Such behaviour can only give an impression of frivolity and irresponsibility in the face of a menacing situation which I feel must have been as distasteful to the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, as it was to me.
My Lords, it would also be helpful, if they desire some sort of consensus, if the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons and his friends would use their endeavours, both in public and in private, with those whom they can influence to achieve settlements within Phase 3 at a time when the only valid criticism of Phase 3 which has been made in this debate is that it may now, in the light of the supervening situation, be too generous rather than not generous enough. As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, said in the course of his own speech, moderates must stand up and be counted, whether they come from the Cross-Benches or are speaking for the Government or the Opposition. And if they are to count for anything they must make it possible for moderate men on the opposite side of the political fence, or the opposite side of the negotiating table, to adopt a moderate attitude. Only so, my Lords, in the absence of a genuine Coalition or a genuinely national Government, which the noble Lord wisely said he did not think possible at the present time, can, I think, some kind of consensus emerge, if I may use the phrase, in place of strife.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, may I ask him a question? Will he in future answer debates that take place in this House and not remarks made outside or in another place?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I was answering the debate which had taken place in this House. I was answering the precise point which I thought had been constructively made by 410 the noble Lord, Lord Diamond; and I was saying that, if it was to operate successfully, as it is no doubt intended, it would have to be operated by the Leaders in another place. And I pointed out what I thought to be a genuine difficulty—the way in which my right honourable friend's sincerely meant and carefully prepared measures had been treated by those who would have to operate it. I thought I was doing exactly what the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition suggested.
On Question, Motion agreed to.