HL Deb 07 November 1978 vol 396 cc175-295

2.58 p.m.

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by Baroness Bacon—namely, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, I propose this afternoon to discuss one central issue—the threat posed to our society by crime—and I propose to discuss those areas in which we appear to be making progress and those where we are not. I hope to indicate where I believe our most urgent priorities should lie in the years immediately ahead.

In doing this, I in no way want to suggest that I minimise the importance of some of the other matters raised in the gracious Speech—legislation to reform and enhance the system of grants to deal with the special needs of ethnic minorities; on Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act; or on our proposals on broadcasting—but today it seems right to concentrate exclusively on the problem of crime.

Crime is now a major preoccupation of our fellow citizens. It has risen sharply, both crimes against property and crimes involving violence against individuals. I think there is far more public anxiety about crime than has ever been the position before. Indeed, the only true minority in this country are those who have not been touched by crime at all. But, of course, this problem is not unique to this country. Precisely the same could be said in every significant country in the industrialised West.

I want to spell out in the clearest terms the situation as I see it. We must recognise that the pressure on our entire criminal justice system is now intense. The police are under heavy pressure, so are the courts, and so, inevitably, are the prisons. Facing a situation of this character, it is not altogether surprising that there is a hunt for panaceas, but, unhappily, there are no simple solutions. Crime would not be eradicated even if we thought it sensible, which I do not, to double the length of sentences available to the courts, to double the number of prisons, or to double the size of the police force. Even in a country as wealthy as the United States, where huge sums of money have been poured into lavish, federally-financed law enforcement programmes, the rise in crime has not been checked.

Nevertheless, having said that, there is not the slightest reason to accept with weary resignation a constantly rising level of serious crime. There is certainly much that we can do. The professional criminal works on the assumption—fortunately often misplaced—that he will not be caught. The higher the likelihood of detection, the greater will be the deterrent; and the likelihood of detection is very largely a judgment on the efficiency of a police force, on its men, on its equipment, and, above all, on its leadership; and, I must add, on the criminal law under which it has to work.

So first I want to examine the position of the police. I believe that in most respects morale in the Police Service is good. After a difficult period, so far as recruiting was concerned, it is now picking up substantially. There are now 7,313 more police officers in England and Wales than when the Government came into office, and there are 919 more in the Metropolitan Police.

Since the announcement of the Government's acceptance of the recommendations of the committee presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, there has been a marked improvement in recruitment and a drop in the wastage of experienced officers, which is just as important. In September, which was the first full month in which the Edmund-Davies recommendations had some effect on the level of recruitment, there was a net rise of 386 in the size of the police force, and a further rise of approximately 400 was experienced in October. As a result of this, we are making special arrangements to ensure that we are able to absorb this rising flow of recruits into our initial training establishments.

So far as manpower is concerned, I believe that I can report to the House a generally improving situation, but I should be the first to admit that certainly a number of problem areas remain. By far the most serious is in London where the Metropolitan Police is still 4,823 men and women below its establishment. While that situation remains, clearly there are not the slightest grounds for any form of complacency. But here, too, thanks to the special arrangements proposed by the Edmund-Davies inquiry, there is already a clear indication that the recruitment position is improving markedly, and I should add that the future prospects are fairly encouraging, too. For instance, there has been a quite significant improvement in the flow of police cadets; and in many cases today's police cadets will be the police officers of 12 or 18 months hence.

Having said all that about manpower, I think it right to set out some of the difficulties in this area that still confront us. One of these involves a matter of some importance which is very rarely stated in either House; namely, the concern that there is in the police force—and which there has been for a quite substantial period—that their views carry far too little weight in Parliament and often in the media, particularly when amendments to the criminal law are being discussed.

I must say at the outset that I do not believe that there is any truth in the suggestion made by Mr. Howell in a debate in another place yesterday that some chief constables did not believe that they were getting support at what he described as the top. I have for four and a half years been responsible to two Home Secretaries for the police force in England and Wales and I believe that I can fairly say that in that time I have met a very large number of police officers. Certainly they have from time to time expressed their views in clear and unmistakable terms, but I do not believe that what Mr. Howell said yesterday is an accurate account of the attitude of the Police Service in this country. However, I repeat that the problem to which I have just referred is a matter of some importance, and that Members of both Houses of Parliament should take it very seriously. There has been this concern in the Police Service during Parliaments of different political persuasions, and we must recognise that there is often considerable frustration when the police consider that their opinions have been swept aside as being of no account whatever.

Having said that—and that is to repeat an attitude which has certainly been expressed to me on many occasions by police officers of different ranks—it is right to say that there are many outside the Police Service who would challenge that view. They would argue that in some respects the powers available to the police force in this country are excessive and should be more strictly defined and, in some respects, limited.

This debate between the police and many people who will adopt a much more critical attitude towards them is now taking place before the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure. The police have put forward their views and so have some of their critics. I think that this is highly desirable, and it is very welcome that they should argue out these matters before the Royal Commission, so that we can have a far more informed debate on these issues than we have sometimes had in the past.

I should like to say only two things about this particular matter. First, I find it a little odd that, when a Royal Commission has been established to investigate these matters, some people should appear to regard it as rather shocking that Sir David McNee, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, should set out his views to it in a clear and emphatic manner, and that the Association of Chief Police Officers should do the same. It will be for the Royal Commission—and ultimately for Parliament—to decide whether to accept the views which have been put forward. Nothing could be more absurd than to set up a Royal Commission and then to deny, or limit, the opportunity to the police to put forward their proposals for amendments to the criminal law.

My second point is a rather different one. I hope that all those concerned in this debate will use slightly more restrained language than has sometimes been used in the past when discussing matters of this kind. I recall, as I suspect will many others in this House, the debates on majority verdicts that took place during the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill of 1966. I recall that there was a mighty row. It was said that to move away from the principle of unanimity in a criminal trial would be a very grave matter. A former President of the Law Society said that the Government's proposal was based on the insufficiently considered hunches of a few eminent men and arose from "a state of near hysteria". A civil liberties organisation said that public confidence in the administration of criminal justice would be badly shaken if the principle of unanimity … were abandoned". And then there was The Times. It declared in an editorial Confidence in the justice of criminal proceedings can only be impaired by the abandonment of a principle of unanimity in a society which has known no other for 600 years". Well, the amendment was carried through. What has been the result? There has been virtually no argument or debate about the proposition since that amendment of the law was carried through.

It is perfectly understandable that when proposals to change the law in a substantial respect are put forward, from whatever quarter, there should be free and vigorous debate. But really nothing can be more embarrassing, I suspect, to some of those who may have made some of these remarkably extreme statements only 12 years ago than to recognise that, despite their views, the change was made—and it has saved substantial sums of public money, I may say, in avoiding the necessity to have retrials because of a single incorrigible juror—and, as I repeat, I can recall no instance in the last few years where it has been seriously suggested that any of the fears that were held out in 1966 have been experienced in reality. So I say again that I think it is reasonable, when having this debate, to ask that people use slightly less cataclysmic language than is sometimes employed in debates of this kind.

I think it right to say this today because the question of police powers is a matter of great importance in our society. There will, almost certainly, be a report within the next Parliament from the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, and there will then be a Bill which will come before this House and another place which will almost certainly make a number of substantial recommendations for changes in our criminal procedure. I therefore think it right to define this issue today, because certainly we are going to spend a great deal of time on this matter in the next Parliament.

Having said that about the police, and having referred to the question of police powers, I turn now to the situation in the prisons. It is, to be blunt, a disturbing one. Inevitably, at a time when crime has been rising the condition of life in many of our prisons has deteriorated sharply. My Lords, 5,000 prisoners are still living three to a cell, and 11,000 others are living two to a cell. But those statistics have little meaning until one has entered a small cell in one of our ancient Victorian fortress gaols and seen, and often smelled, the effect on these men living together in an oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere. But I must tell the House that, although it is very easy to define the problem and describe it, there are, I repeat, no easy solutions. The problems caused by the pressure of numbers in our obsolescent prisons cannot be swept aside by some easy administrative formula.

Of course, it is right to extend the range of non-custodial alternatives to imprisonment, and we have done a great deal. Let me give, if I may, a few examples. By next March community service will have been extended to the area of every magistrates' court in England and Wales. As the House knows, community service was conceived by a committee presided over by my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger, and was introduced and then implemented by two Conservative Home Secretaries, first Mr. Maudling and then the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, on an exprimental basis in six probation and after-care areas. Later, when we came into office, we decided that because of its remarkable success it should be extended to the rest of the country, and we provided the resources to do this despite the fact that at the time the country was passing through a period of intense national economic difficulties and therefore it was a time when it was particularly difficult to get the resources necessary to extend the scheme.

I think the result has been dramatic. We believe that this year somewhere around 15,000 community service orders will be made. Even assuming that only 50 per cent. of those people would otherwise have gone to prison, that means that community service will this year divert somewhere in the region of 7,500 people from a custodial sentence. I regard that, and I am sure the House does, as a remarkable achievement. Let me take another example. In the past, many people have been remanded in custody largely because of the fact that they have had no fixed address. It was clear that we required a number of bail hostels if people were not going to be sent to prison quite unnecessarily. In 1974 we had just one hostel in the whole of England and Wales to deal with bail cases. It provided just nine places. As the result of a major diversion of resources within the Home Office, we launched a substantial programme to provide these hostels. There are now, not one but 19 hostels and they provide, not nine places but 286; and a further five hostels, which will provide another 78 places, will be open in the fairly near future. I repeat that these are people who almost certainly would have gone to prison if these hostels had not been provided.

Our critics would say that there are many other ways in which we should be reducing the prison population. It is sometimes argued that if we were to increase the rate of remission for shorter sentences to somewhere in the region of 50 per cent., many of the troubles which I have mentioned this afternoon would be swept away. I do not in fact accept that view. An extension of remission—I must make this absolutely clear—would not be welcomed by the police or the courts, increasing, as it would, the difference between the effective sentence and the sentence as pronounced by the court; and many petty recidivists, on being released earlier, would be sucked back into the prisons even earlier than they would otherwise be. There is another problem. If the effect of the measure was that the courts began to increase the length of the shorter sentences which attracted the higher remission figure, much of the gain would be lost.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, may I put a point to my noble friend?


Indeed, my Lords.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, I wonder whether the attention of my noble friend has been drawn to a letter by Mr. Darlington in The Times of today in which he explains that a proposal along these lines was brought forward by Mr. Roy Jenkins, then Home Secretary, and turned down by the Cabinet.


Yes, my Lords, I do indeed have the good fortune to know something about the events to which my noble friend has referred. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Jenkins—and I know that I would have his authority to say this today—came to the conclusion ultimately that he did not favour a proposal of this character.

Having dealt with that question, I should like to take another example of the particular question which faces us of how to deal with some of the problem classes within the prison community. Let me take an obvious example—the alcoholics. As the House may be aware, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has opened two detoxification centres, one in Manchester and the other in Leeds, and a third is to be opened in London. As a result of the introduction of schemes of this kind, alcoholics can be taken directly to these centres by the police, and they are therefore diverted from the criminal justice system altogether. I think it is an admirable idea. During the Recess I had the opportunity to visit the centre in Manchester, which is attached to the Withington Hospital. I also had the opportunity to discuss the work of the centre both with the staff and with officers of the Greater Manchester police who are involved in bringing the alcoholics to the centre when they arrest them. There was clearly, I think, a good relationship between the police and the medical staff.

I have no doubt that the medical staff are providing great help to their patients, but even allowing for the fact that the centre was involved in a major research project, I had to recognise that the cost of providing these facilities was extremely high and that, as a result of that, the idea of dotting these centres throughout the country was, to put it as politely as possible, pretty fanciful. The cost would be immense, and on present evidence the numbers involved would be small. The new facility at Manchester, for instance, provides just 15 places when, as I have indicated, we are talking about over-crowding, two or three to a cell, of 16,000 people.

I say this not to attempt to undermine the case for developing non-custodial alternatives because, as I have already indicated, we are determined to press ahead with our work in this particular respect. But I think it is necessary to try to point out the problem which is faced by policy makers when trying to divert people away from the prisons. Some noncustodial alternatives to imprisonment are extremely expensive and their real cost can approach that of imprisonment itself. And at a time when there is a continuing need for a harsh restraint on public expenditure, the cost implications of our policies have to be examined with the utmost care.

I recognise that some of our critics accept at least part of this analysis. They make the simple demand that there should be a cutback in the prison building programme and an increase in the programme for non-custodial alternatives. This case was put forward with some vigour in the debate we had in this House in March this year. I explained then, and I must repeat now, that we cannot accept this policy. The hideous overcrowding and rotting buildings which make up so much of our prison system simply do not permit us to indulge ourselves in such a policy. As a society, we have simply got to spend more on prison building. And we are doing so. This year we are spending £23 million on new construction and £8 million on the repair and maintenance of existing premises.

At present, 20 separate schemes are now under way which will provide 3,200 additional places in our prisons by early 1982. A new dispersal prison is now under construction at Low Newton in County Durham, and a new Category 'C' medium- to long-term prison will be started in 1981/82. But even when all these prisons are completed, we will still have Dartmoor, constructed as it was, by French prisoners from the Napoleonic war in 1807, and Lancaster, first used as a prison in Norman times; and a host of central city local prisons, where the squalid process of slopping out will be continuing well into the 1980s.

I must tell the House that in a situation of this character no humane Home Secretary could for a moment at this time agree to cut his prison building programme. The conditions I have described are offensive to inmates and staff alike. We must make it one of our central objectives to improve them as rapidly as we can. I have little doubt that some of the present conditions in our prisons provide at least part of the explanation for the present industrial unrest in the Prison Service. It is not for me to give a detailed explanation for this unrest today; that will be the job of the Committee of Inquiry which, as I reported to the House last Thursday, my right honourable friends the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, are setting up. Discussion took place this morning in the Home Office on the terms of reference for the inquiry with some representatives from some of the staff associations; and they are continuing, I understand, later today.

As my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has already made clear, we very much hope that those now taking industrial action will return to the ordinary pattern of work as speedily as possible. Any legitimate grievances can be examined by the Committee of Inquiry. I am sure that we can count on the tolerance and understanding of the courts in coping with any difficulties that are forced upon us in the immediate future as a result of this very unhappy dispute. I hope that conditions will soon return to normal in the 28 or so prison department establishments where industrial action is now taking place. In the meantime, all I can say to the House is that we will take every possible action to ensure that the work of the courts is affected as little as possible. But, as I pointed out last Thursday, it would be absurd for me to suggest that the courts will not be affected in any way. I fear that they will be; all the more so as it is the clear objective of some of those concerned that their work should be disrupted. All I can say today is that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I will do our best to keep Parliament as informed as possible about the developing situation.

My Lords, let me sum up. The situation I have described today is a disturbing one, just as it is (as I said at the outset of my speech) in every other country in Western Europe. It is a matter which calls out for informed debate, and certainly not partisan polemics. I do not propose to enter this foolish argument about how much crime rose during one period of government compared with another. On a matter on which many people are worried about their security, this sort of stuff hardly enhances the reputations of politicians.

As I have endeavoured to indicate, we have made some substantial progress; but a great deal remains to be done, and it is a problem for all of us. We cannot simply stand aside and leave it all to the police. We have a responsibility to attempt to mobilise the resources of the entire community in the struggle to ensure its own protection. We live in an age when it is fashionable to mock authority; and, certainly, sometimes this is all too justified. In any event, we are unlikely to move back to the austere standards of the Victorian or the Edwardian era. But we now have in some respects in this country a rather unattractive situation—not simply a questioning of authority, a determination to make those in positions of responsibility and power answer for their decisions. There is sometimes, I fear, in our society a serious lack of either responsibility or self-discipline.

My Lords, I think that everyone in public life has a duty to speak out firmly and consistently against these trends which I think are profoundly dangerous unless they are faced up to by people in positions of responsibility. I think it is a matter of duty. That is, I think, the appropriate word. At the end of four years of bloody civil war, Robert E. Lee, facing the bitter hours before the surrender of his army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, wrote: Duty—it is the noblest word in the English language. Many who have gone before us in this country would have echoed these words. It is, I believe, of the most direct relevance to the situation now facing this country; and of everything that I have endeavoured to say this afternoon.

3.28 p.m.


My Lords, I propose to follow the noble Lord by devoting my speech exclusively to the matter to which he exclusively devoted his speech; although I appreciate that many noble Lords who follow may deal with many of the other matters which come under the umbrella of home affairs. I leave to my noble friend Lord Mansfield in winding up the unenviable task of dealing with all those comments.

All I seek to do is to concentrate on that sentence in the gracious Speech which says: My Government will seek to ensure that respect for the law is maintained … That is a very proper and very worthy sentiment. It would be strange if any Government did not so seek. After all, it is the main duty of any Government to see that the law which Parliament has enacted is enforced; and Ministers are given the executive power to ensure that the law is enforced. However, I cannot help but be concerned that, on occasions and in certain quarters, there seems to be some resentment expressed if the subject of law and order and the measures taken or said not to be taken are ever brought up for public discussion—as though the activities of the Government of the day were some holy matter in which it was not right for rude people to intervene.

In The Times today there is an article which is headed "Halting the political auction of law and order". I stress that it is the duty of an Opposition—and it is certainly the duty of any person in public life—to bring into the public arena matters concerning the enforcement of the law, its administration or its improvement. Some must be forgiven if they find it difficult to forget the scar left by one senior Minister standing not far from where I am standing now who a few days ago made an attack upon the Judiciary which caused very grave resentment indeed; or the recollection of other Ministers in a picket line which later erupted into vicious street fighting; or what is now called the Clay Cross affair.

Respect for the law is best promoted by example. Last year, the Government derided the Opposition's expression of concern over the situation concerning law and order—a very different position from that adopted in the welcome and robust speech by the noble Lord, the Minister. The attitude was that it was somehow unfair for an Opposition to criticise the Government in the exercise of their responsibility for the protection of the people. The Opposition then called for a serious and in-depth review of police conditions of service and pay and that, in certain quarters—not Ministers in your Lordships' House—was branded as irresponsible. However, shortly thereafter there was appointed the Committee of Inquiry under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies.

We must accept that there are elements whose whole political, sociological and even philosophical attitude to law enforcement inevitably arouses suspicion that government may not be firm and courageous enough in tackling this intractable problem. Only a month ago, at the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool the Criminal Law Act, which deals with trespass and the position of squatters, came under attack from one of the trade union leaders, Mr. Alan Sapper. He said that there was an inevitable link between the criminal trespass laws and the special patrol group—two instruments of government created in the past two years in order to attack the rights that we have built up over many years. The motion was defeated by a member of the National Executive Committee whose argument was that the law had only been recently passed and it would be ridiculous to consider repealing it after only 12 months.

Then came the debate on law and order. The Guardian said that the Labour Conference had turned its attention to law and order with no marked enthusiasm. We saw on television the noble Lord's Minister, the Secretary of State, vigorously, bravely and courageously facing up to what The Times described as noisy and at times acrimonious interruptions. We cannot avoid the suspicion and the anxiety that there are elements in the political life of this country in which there is no great respect for the maintenance of the law. This is shown by their attitude to the judges and their status, by their questioning of prosecutions and by their continuous calls for public inquiries after conviction. They are openly critical of the police and support those who harass the police. We cannot but be anxious that they may not have undue influence over the Government of the day. One delegate at the Labour Party Conference—a delegate from Honiton—said that in her view people are forced to commit crimes. All of us who have been at Party conferences know that certain "dotty" views are expressed by inexperienced delegates—not restricted of course to the West Country. But to suggest that people nowadays are forced to commit crimes! However, it reflects an attitude of many activists in politics today.

I believe that for 30 years the general public have been lectured, sometimes hectored and often I am afraid condescended to about crime, its causes and treatment, by self-styled experts. I ack-knowledge the sincerity of those experts; it is their judgment which I personally deplore. I do not think that anything has irritated the public so intensely as this superior attitude which is adopted by those persons who lecture and hector the public about crime. The argument becomes bedevilled by sociological and quasi-psychological jargon. The public actually feel, experience and see the consequences of, in my view, evil people who are often driven by lust, greed and cruelty to commit crime.

The anger of the public is compounded by the utter lack of success of all these methods and new ideas which they have been persuaded must be followed in order to conquer in this battle against crime. If such experts had to produce results in other fields, having looked at the record of achievements, that would totally destroy the credibility and authority of such experts. People are held up to ridicule in sections of the media as hangers and floggers, even though they may believe in one and not the other. They are held to be insensitive and harsh, without any compassion. If one starts to question those who say these things, they say that it is not a matter of evilness, wickedness and greed but a matter of environment or upbringing. What possible justification, after 30 years, can these experts have to adopt a line of superiority or sneer at those who are very anxious about the situation which the Minister has described?

There has been a lamentable record of failure. Of course the statistics are only hiccups in the middle of particular periods, but they show massive increases in indictable crime, a figure over the past four years of something like 48 per cent. Noble Lords and others have heard over the years Home Office briefs read out which have not been so robust as the Minister gave to the House this afternoon; but they have attended lectures at institutes and in their debates they have probably been labelled harsh and wicked because they do not accept a lot of the attitudes and ideas of the experts.

I referred to the article in The Times today by Mr. Moonman. He referred to the brutal murder of a boy on his paper round. He went on: … but in terms of human misery, pain and family distress, the death of a child in a road accident can scarcely be distinguished from the death of a child by crime …". No, my Lords, Even if the death in an accident is due to somebody driving under the influence of drink, if greed, lust, calculated violence, deliberate cruelty, causes the death of a child, they increase the pain, heighten the shock and swell the anger: "My child was killed in an accident". "My child was murdered". That is an example of the well-intentioned misunderstanding of the problem as it is today.

We see that the Central Policy Review Staff—the Think Tank of the Cabinet Office—reported not long ago that vandalism was not a matter which affected many people and in many cases was some form of play. That, in my view, illustrated clever young people totally out of touch with the realities of existence. That was a serious embarrassment to the Government, and the Prime Minister shortly thereafter rightly emphasised the concern over the incidence of vandalism.

That view has now become outdated. It has become yesterday's fashion. In the past when penal conditions were fearful and were rightly condemned, and when people robbed and stole out of hunger and abject poverty, it was right to call for reform and sympathy—and how noble were those people who did it! But the balance has shifted and so often it is the poor, and especially the weak and the old, who are the victims of healthy, young and probably affluent young thugs. So law and order, which is so mocked by the trendy—who are usually young enough and well-to-do enough to look after themselves—is the prime duty of any Government and Ministers to accept, as the noble Lord so fully accepted here this afternoon.

There are in my view three elements for the prevention of crime: the certainty of detection, which is a matter for the police; the certainty of protection, which is a matter for the prosecuting authority and the courts; and the certainty of proper punishment, which is a matter for the prison. On those three matters, of course, we have our criticisms. We think that the Government's record with regard to the handling of the police, police conditions and police pay, has not been very clever. To maintain the liberties of anydemocratic State it is essential to have an efficient and well-equipped police force. That is the first essential. It was not good sense, even with economic difficulties, to cut the number of police cadets or to cut back the civilian back-up staff. I am glad to say that that was reversed in 1978; but with regard to the pay award, the 40 per cent., why was that not implemented totally and wholly? Would that have been such a bad example? Is there not the completely unique character of the police force, without which you would not be able to sustain the ordinary democratic life of the whole of this country?

Then there is the need for public and particular, not general, support of the police. They are in danger from robbers, who are mostly armed nowadays, from the terrorist threat and from demonstrators. These are tasks we give to the police. They have to bring to justice people who stage hold-ups in Knights-bridge and who are armed. We give the police the task of trying to keep the lines clear, for example, at the Grunwick factory. There is horrified public reaction to the scenes which everybody sees on television. Too often the assumption in another place is that the police are wrong. Sir Robert Mark, a very distinguished police officer—perhaps the most distinguished officer of his generation—does a great service in pointing to this position of the police and those in public life whose duty it is to support them. I think he disperses his effect by peppering all and sundry, including the courts and lawyers, but perhaps the Birmingham University study may put that record right. But it calls for more than lip-service for the police.

Secondly, there is the certainty of conviction. The clarity of the law is a matter which concerns this House and the other place. In 1977–78 60 public Acts were put upon the Statute book. I have expressed before during the short time I have been in your Lordships' House my concern over the Parliamentary law-making machine which, in my view, leaves very much to be desired—and if we eliminated a whole House, Heaven help the citizen! Basically it is a matter for the courts, and the courts need support just as the police need support. They need to be given flexibility and discretion because no two cases are ever the same and a judge must have discretion in order to impose the penalty appropriate to that particular case. The noble Lord referred to the pressure on the courts and said that in the last 10 years the amount of work had increased by two and a half times in the Crown Court. I believe that steps should be taken to rationalise the position on the Director of Public Prosecutions and to extend his authority throughout the country.

With regard to legislation, we have proposed that the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, of which there has been so much complaint by the magistrates, should be amended to restore to the justices the power to make secure case orders. We believe that the 1969 Act should be amended. As your Lordships know, Section 3 restricts sentences for young offenders who have not hitherto served a sentence to either less than six months or more than three years. Long sentences in certain cases do have importance. They serve as the mark which is imposed by the court on behalf of the public to demonstrate abhorrence of that particular crime; and the success which has been achieved certainly with regard to terrorists, who may renew the attack, has been largely due to the very severe sentences which the courts have imposed. For other crimes, with lower category prisoners and not involving violence, then certainly I support lesser sentences and I myself also support earlier parole.

The certainty of proper punishment is the third element in the war against crime. Of course, prison has to be the main weapon and all your Lordships will have been impressed with what the noble Lord the Minister said with regard to the conditions of these ancient Victorian prisons. There is a crisis. A warning was given to the Government in 1977—and how! We have reached a sad pass now, but I heard with satisfaction what the Minister had to say about the prison position, and trust that it will be resolved.

The Opposition have suggested that there is a place for short, sharp sentences: less than six weeks—perhaps about three weeks—with privileges to be earned and with the persons who are sentenced to those short sentences being the thugs, the football hooligans and those who terrorise the old and the weak. The idea is that they should be given a little of their own medicine in the proper form; that is, in the form of short, sharp sentences. But if that is rejected, as it appears to be, what do the critics suggest? How do they suggest those young people should be dealt with, who one sees coming into court laughing, who could not care less about the court or about what they have done and who show no feeling of regret? What should be done about them? Are they to be fined—the fine probably either not being paid or being paid out of some fund or social service money which they receive? I should like to hear the suggestions of the Government if they think that the short, sharp sentence might not be tried as an experiment.

The public shake their heads in bewilderment when they are told that this experiment would not do any good. They witness, read about or hear about robberies and violence, and they do not accept that the cruelty is caused by the environment and certainly they do not think it is caused by poverty. Therefore, a massive switch in resources is called for. It will take a massive switch, as the noble Lord has pointed out; but it must be a conscious act of will by the Government of the day. The public will no longer accept the anodyne explanations. They are entitled to ask: What are the Government going to do? Why not implement now the second instalment of Edmund-Davies and thereby increase recruitment to the police force? Why not short, sharp sentences for thugs? Why not a major programme of building prisons and of juvenile and adult attendance centres, and a switch from other social services? Yes, why not? And why not a vigorous campaign in every school to instil a better sense of responsibility and a better respect for other people's liberties and rights? Why not a better example from leading figures in authority?

I believe there is a deep and urgent desire on the part of the public for a promotion of increased resources to prevent and treat crime. That should take, I believe, the first place among social services and I believe that the public would be prepared to accept less in other spheres. The two traditional and prime responsibilities of Government have always been defence of the Realm and maintenance of the Queen's peace, and the public has a deep sense of misgiving that the latter, certainly, is not receiving due attention. I believe, my Lords, that, not for the last time, the public are right.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, it had not been my intention to say anything about what has, up to now, been the subject matter of this debate. I should like to say something in a minute or two about two other features of the Queen's Speech, but in view of the way in which the debate has gone I cannot refrain from making a few observations from these Benches on the speech of the Minister, and the speech to which we have just listened.

The Minister, very rightly, painted a gloomy, dark picture of the problem that confronts us. It was Mr. Roy Jenkins who, some years ago, said that if the prison population of this country rose to the figure of 42,000, the penal system would have reached breaking point. What added to the darkness of the picture which the Minister drew was the fact that he drew our attention to the fact that, had it not been for the provision of community service orders, and had it not been for the provision of bail hostels, the situation today would be even graver than it is and, indeed, it would possibly be beyond all control. When people talk about the trendy people, it ought to be borne in mind that those people who, like the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, have applied themselves over the years to the problem of finding alternatives to prison have made a major contribution in regard to the problem with which we are concerned.

The second observation which I should like to make is this. I agree entirely with the noble Lord who sits on the Front Bench that nothing could be more disastrous than that we should get into an argument about what Government are responsible for the present situation. I have no doubt that if we had had a debate—and possibly we did—back in the era of the Conservative Government of 1970 to 1974, it would have been perfectly possible to mobilise statistics to try to show that the Government were not doing all they could to deal with the problem. It is the easiest thing in the world to try to blame the Government of the day for a problem which not only perplexes us, but perplexes the whole civilised world. What I was particularly grateful for in what the Minister had to say was the reminder that this problem of vandalism and violence, and crimes of robbery and burglary, in the modern industrial so-called developed countries is a problem on a world-wide scale and we have been managing it very much better than some of the others.

In the speech to which we have just listened I could not detect any attempt to diagnose why it is that modern civilised societies, so-called, find themselves with this endemic problem. Until you start to diagnose the cause of this extraordinary phenomenon—because it is extraordinary—until you try to find out the causes for it, you are not in any position to recommend any remedy. To talk about short, sharp sentences and the like contributes nothing to the argument, because if you introduce your short, sharp sentences it may well be, and probably will be, that in a couple of years' time the problem is as grave as it was before. There is no evidence whatever to show that you are going to cure the problems of violence, hooliganism or vandalism simply by putting up the penalties. Those are the observations which I thought I ought to make on that aspect of the matter, and now may I turn to what I intended to say.

I do not expect that the Government will dissent from the view that the gracious Speech has been received in most quarters with something less than enthusiasm, not to say rapture, and I should like if I may—and I hope that I do not embarrass the Government by doing it, or indeed embarrass my noble friends—to say about the gracious Speech a word of modest approval. One criticism that has been made, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on the first day of the debate, is that the measures which are proposed in the Queen's Speech constitute rather dull fare. I think he called it an unappetising menu. Others have complained that the measures which are proposed are nothing but a ragbag of fairly innocuous proposals cobbled together, apparently, for the purpose of keeping Parliament employed, while the Government, the CBI and the trade unions are governing the country. My own view is that if that is the state of the matter, and if this is rather dull fare, it is none the worse for that. In fact, from the moment when Mr. Callaghan made it clear that he was going to move into another Session and was not going to have a General Election, I never expected that we would receive anything more fattening than the menu that has been put before us.

It is always my anxiety, of course, to put the best possible construction that I can upon anything which is done by Her Majesty's Government, and in pursuit of that objective I should like to offer to the Government my free advice as to how they might defend themselves. The Government, as I see it, are proceeding into the new Session on two premises. The first premise—and I do not dissent from either of them—is that the trans-cendant issue which confronts this country, not only during the next 12 months but during the foreseeable future, is the problem of the curbing of inflation. The second premise upon which the Government appear to be acting—and I think quite rightly acting—is their belief that, in pursuit of that struggle to curb inflation, it is not only desirable but inescapable that the Government should have some kind of income and pay policy. As I say, I think that those are two perfectly legitimate propositions and, indeed, they go a long way to justifying the decision of the Government to move into this last Session of Parliament.

It seems to me that, acting upon those two premises, two conclusions follow. The first is that in this fight against inflation, unhappily, it will not matter very much what is done in the Houses of Parliament. The battle against inflation is to be fought in other arenas. That may be a desolate thought, but nevertheless I believe it to be a reality. The second conclusion is that it would be very silly for the Government to imperil their counter-inflationary strategy by introducing in this Session a lot of highly controversial matters which might very well lead to their own demise. Therefore, I think that the Government are justified in the situation which they have taken.

Their situation reminds me of a story which my father used to tell of an old Irishman who was on his death bed. He was visited by his parish priest, and the priest said to him: "My son, do you renounce the devil and all his works?" to which the old man, after a pause for thought, said: "Well, father, situated as I am, I am not sure that I am in a position to make an enemy of anybody." That appears to me to be the position in which the Government find themselves today. So, in summary on this matter, I would say that while it may be that these measures which are contained in the gracious Speech will not do much good, equally I do not think that they will do very much harm, and that represents and constitutes a marked and welcome improvement upon some of the stuff that we have had to digest in the past. Therefore, I wish the Government well.

I should now like to turn very briefly to two particular matters contained in the Speech. The first of them is the reference to the Official Secrets Act. As your Lordships will remember, the way in which the matter is put in the gracious Speech is this: Further proposals will be brought forward to achieve more open Government. It remains My Government's intention to replace Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 with a measure better suited to present day conditions. My Government will continue to make information on public policy more readily available. Your Lordships will remember that we had a debate in this House in the summer on the subject of the Official Secrets Act. That debate took place in June. Since that time we have had the Government's White Paper, with their provisional conclusions and declaration of intent.

On the occasion of the debate in this House, I took the opportunity to commend to the House a report which had only then been very recently issued, a report by Justice called Freedom of Information. Perhaps I may very briefly say what was the theme of that report. It suggested that, without any legislation, except possibly the total repeal of Section 2 of the 1911 Act, you could, by purely administrative measures, produce what the report called a code of practice by Government Departments and Government agencies on the subject of the provision of information and open government. It went on to suggest that if you were to set up that code of practice—and the code was written out in the report—you could then invite and, indeed, get the Parliamentary Commissioner to monitor the carrying out of the code.

That was what was there proposed, and perhaps I may read to your Lordships only two extracts from the report which I think make the objective clearer. It said, first of all, that: Successive Parliamentary Commissioners have already acquired considerable experience in investigating complaints, and the office is respected by Parliament and the Civil Service as well as by the public. We therefore lay upon the Commissioner the crucial function of determining whether in any given instance insufficient information has been disclosed. A body of precedent will be developed. Guide-lines will emerge. In this way, instead of a rigid system seeking to provide an answer for a multiplicity of circumstances, we should have a flexible Code which leaves room for development by an independent figure in the light of experience". The report went on to say that this proposal, of an administrative kind, by no means precluded the possibility of future legislation, but that after we had had some experience of the working of the code it might be very much easier to frame the appropriate legislation later on.

The other quotation from the report is this: For these reasons we have reached conclusions which can, we think, be put into effect without legislation. If their implementation proves to be a success, whatever Government is in power will be the more ready to extend the ambit of their operation by detailed legislation, and it is our hope that there will eventually be such legislation. A small but immediate success, however un-dramatic, in facilitating access to official information, even on a modest scale, is much to be preferred to a prolonged and indefinite controversy over a statutory right on a larger scale, a controversy which may well produce no practical results. May I take the opportunity on this occasion once again to commend to the Government the study of that report, because I think it offers a way forward which would probably command almost universal approval and respect. When the Government come to reply, perhaps I could ask the Minister to tell us when we may expect some disclosure of the Government's intention in this field.

The last matter to which I want to make a brief reference is the reference in the gracious Speech to legal aid. It said cryptically—indeed, almost Delphically— A Bill will be introduced to improve the arrangements for legal aid. That is not particularly informative, but the fact that the mention is there is encouraging. I do not want to involve the House in a technical discussion—and this is a highly technical matter in some of its aspects—but may I remind the House that the provision of civil legal aid came into effect under the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1948, a long time ago. At that time it was heralded as a major reform—as indeed it was. The job of presenting that Bill to the other place fell to the lot of the Attorney General at that time, who was Sir Hartley Shawcross, now Lord Shawcross. May I quote to your Lordships what he had to say in presenting the Bill at its Second Reading as indicating the importance which was attached to it: It is the charter of the little man to the British Courts of Justice … It is a Bill which will open the doors of the Courts freely to all persons who may wish to avail themselves of British justice without regard to the question of their wealth or ability to pay. Those were the high expectations and hopes which were raised for that measure at that time.


My Lords, that was what they believed.


My Lords, the noble Lord says that that was what they believed. Unhappily, over succeeding years the scheme of legal aid in civil matters has fallen tragically and shamefully short of what were the expectations and hopes at that time. I do not want to enter into technical matters—the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack will be wholly familiar with what I am speaking about—but since the Act was introduced, despite the fact that the financial provisions for legal aid have been continuously revised, and because of two particular factors, one of them inflation and the other the general rise in earnings over that time, over the years, as one year followed another, fewer and fewer people qualified for legal aid in the British courts of justice. May I quote to your Lordships just one statistic which illustrates the situation. In 1954, 58 per cent. of households with children were eligible for legal aid on income grounds—that is, when their income was assessed. By 1974, 20 years later, this figure had fallen to 23 per cent; it had been cut by more than half.

If I may make one further quotation of something which took place in the other House in April of last year to illustrate the desperate condition in which the legal aid system stands, Mr. John Ovenden asked the Solicitor General about the cost of legal aid in the past five years. After the Solicitor General had given the information upon that score, Mr. Ovenden asked whether the Solicitor General would accept that those figures reflected the failure of the incomes scale to keep pace with inflation, resulting in a smaller proportion of the population being eligible for legal aid, and whether he was satisfied with a situation where the only people who qualify for maximum legal aid are those living on incomes just above the supplementary benefit level, and that, to qualify for legal aid at all, people must have incomes well below the average industrial earnings. When the Solicitor General rose to reply, he said that he would not dispute what Mr. Ovenden had said.

Because it always seems to me that practical examples are more effective than the provision of a lot of statistics, I should like to quote two cases in the memorandum that was presented by the Law Society some time ago, illustrating the way in which the high hopes which were held out originally for the legal aid scheme have in fact foundered. The first illustration is this. A husband had a claim for personal injuries. He had a wife and three children aged 5, 4 and 3. Despite the children, the wife went out to work, earning about £52 a week. The husband was at home and received sickness benefit of £36 a week. The couple paid a rent of £9 and that and other allowances for tax, National Insurance, children et cetera, provided a total deduction of £2,324 from their gross income of £4,850. On assessment their disposable income was above the upper limit, which meant that the husband was therefore wholly ineligible for any assistance under the legal aid scheme and, unless he had had some organisation behind him, he was quite unable to pursue his claim for personal injury.

I will give one more example. A man was injured at work in 1974 and wished to continue a claim against his former employers. He received invalidity benefit of £2.50 per week and industrial injury disablement benefit of £15 per week. His wife went out to work and earned £29.50 per week. They had no children, but paid rent and rates totalling £7 per week. Again, because of the State benefits paid to him, his means, assessed with those of his wife, took him over the maximum limit, with the result that he was wholly unqualified for any assistance under the legal aid scheme.

The brutal and plain fact of the matter for the majority of people in this country today is that unless they are fortunate enough to have behind them the assistance of some organisation such as a trade union, the doors of British justice are closed and locked. The fact of the matter is that over the last 20 to 25 years the legal aid scheme has been bleeding to death. There may be some argument as to what it would cost the country to repair that situation. All the calculations which have been made by people who ought to be in a position to know, and in particular by the Law Society, have indicated that the cost of putting this right in the present circumstances would be quite minimal—something perhaps in the region of £3 million or £4 million per annum. Is it not time that this disgraceful state of affairs was put right? I will ask the Government again if they will be so good as to tell us when we may expect to hear what the Government's new proposals are for the redress of this evil.

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, not only is it a great privilege to me to have this opportunity to speak in your Lordships' House, but as I rise to speak here for the first time I am very conscious of the traditions of this House and of the vast experience and depth of knowledge of all aspects of life represented here. Following on the debate on the gracious Speech concerning law and order I feel that any remarks I may express here today may be rather pedestrian. However, to me the gracious Speech is an earnest of the Government's intention to have a programme of effective measures to meet the present needs of the United Kingdom. The programme deals in practical terms with the social change and measures to increase general prosperity and community wellbeing. There are two such matters of social and political change in the Queen's Speech to which I address my remarks.

Naturally, coming from Northern Ireland as I do, and with a background in the Irish trade union movement as a full-time official, I was interested in the references in the gracious Speech to Northern Ireland. In her reply to the gracious Speech my noble friend Lady Bacon rightly stressed that only the people of Northern Ireland can resolve their own problems. She also insisted that the leaders of public opinion in Northern Ireland could do more to bring reason to bear on the total situation. I warmly welcome and support the sympathetic way in which my noble friend Lady Bacon spoke about these difficult issues.

I realise that this genuine concern for the Irish people is shared widely here at Westminster. There are noble Lords in this House, some sitting here today, who have sacrificed much in terms of time and of human effort, and indeed in terms of personal health, in order to try to bring reason, human dignity and honest standards of political democracy to count for something meaningful in the resolution of Irish problems and Irish conflicts. In this connection I should like to say that there are also many in another place, including the Prime Minister and successive Conservative and Labour Ministers, who have striven long, earnestly and sincerely to find lasting practical and acceptable solutions. I think it is important to say that it appears to many that the people of Northern Ireland may be more willing—and indeed more able—to solve their own problems within the context of a larger democratic entity. For within the confines of our own Province the political leaders we have tend to be prisoners of their most intractable supporters. Leaders of all sections of the Northern Ireland community—political, religious and industrial—have utterly condemned the men of violence. Yet by their actions some of these leaders continue to make life more difficult—certainly not any easier—for the men and women of the security forces who risk their lives to protect the innocent and to carry out their peaceful role in our sadly divided community.

However, there is a brighter side to the position in Northern Ireland and I should like to mention some matters in the field of economic and social developments where significant progress is now being made. This progress is largely the result of the strenuous efforts of Government Ministers, departmental heads and both sides of Northern Ireland industry. In case I may be misunderstood, it is not my purpose to gloss over ugly features of life in the Province. There is still chronic unemployment, with figures in some area as high as 30 per cent. of males being unemployed. There are still areas of serious social deprivation, with poor housing and few or no social amenities. Let us make no mistake, the troubles and the terrorism have increased the difficulties of overcoming these longstanding and deep-seated economic and social problems.

Notwithstanding the past 10 years of social upheaval and the sectarian and terrorist crimes against the community, it must be stated that there are indeed encouraging and very real signs of fear being dispelled and of confidence being restored among the ordinary working people. The sterling work and the exemplary leadership of management and trade unions during these difficult years in holding industry together and in maintaining production are now bearing fruit. The mutual respect for common-sense attitudes has broadened confidence and is enabling all concerned to tackle vigorously the desirable economic objectives.

Government measures, together with this dynamic and positive relationship betweentrade unions and management, are helping the manufacturing and service industries to be more keenly competitive in production and in world trade. The inquiries from overseas investors and the inflow of capital from outside Northern Ireland have been stimulating. The new-found initiatives and the installation of capital equipment by Ulster-based entrepreneurs and enterprises have been heartening. Public and private capital are both finding new ways in Northern Ireland of working together to help to build new hopes and a better horizon for the people.

May I mention a few of the organisations which I believe are showing more hopeful signs of productive enterprise. The Belfast shipyard, with all its difficult problems, Dupont in Londonderry, Goodyear at Craigavon, General Motors at Dundonald, AVX Electronics at Coleraine, De Loren Motors and Strathearn Audio in West Belfast, Grundig, Sirocco Engineering, Mackie Engineering and Short and Harland Aeronautical Engineers are all industrial organisations showing encouraging signs of improved production, increased orders, additional employment and new developments.

There are very many other positive indicators that forms of community, civic and industrial life are taking on normality. Tourism is on the increase; greater numbers of visitors are returning to the Province. Three drama theatres are now open in Belfast, and throughout the towns and the villages there is a resurgence of interest in local art and cultural events. The Belfast Queen's University Festival, which is currently taking place with internationally famous artists and celebrities, is now claimed to be the second largest event of this kind in these Islands, second only to the Edinburgh Festival. New leisure centres are being built in many areas and sports events are attracting considerable numbers of all sections and age groups in healthy recreation and competitive games. In expansion of housing development, some 120 new housing associations have been formed during the past four years. There is a completely new and dramatic approach to self-help schemes and locally generated community enterprises. I am glad to say that the European Economic Community has helped considerably to stimulate major local environmental developments.

Following a recent cross-border study of transportation and communications, plans and work are now proceeding on the building af new telephone links, a network of roads between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and a new bridge over the River Foyle at Londonderry. The main feature I see in these developments is a new form of strong local leadership. A new form of strong local leadership is emerging and this new leadership has no time and no place for the old myths, the outworn shibboleths, the mindless hatreds and the bigotry which has sadly blighted our beautiful land. Unfortunately, some of this leadership is young and requires strengthening and supporting.

Unfortunately, it is in the field of constitutional matters that there is still stalemate. Therefore I welcome the proposal in the Queen's Speech that the Government are to maintain efforts to establish a form of devolved government acceptable to all sections of the community. We know the strenuous efforts that have already been made by Government Ministers. The Government have tried to create conditions where, free from coercion, people can decide such matters for themselves. For responsible Ministers and others recognise that Governments cannot succeed in imposing constitutional change. Whatever may be the criticism, whatever may be the disadvantages of direct rule, among all sections of the Northern Ireland people it is recognised that this form of government has taken great strides by exemplary political leadership to provide honest, impartial, diligent and above all, fair government.

Briefly, I want to make some remarks about the second matter which I consider important in the gracious Speech. The Speech states that special encouragement will be given to the education and training of young people and others to safeguard and increase the supply of skilled manpower. In my view, this reference pinpoints one of the gravest and one of the most challenging and difficult problems today facing not only the United kingdom Government but also many governments throughout the world—the problem of youth unemployment. The growing international concern about unemployment among young people under 25 years of age has been the subject of a number of special reports and conferences in recent months. Among the representative bodies which have carried out intensive research and given in-depth consideration to the relevant factors of youth unemployment are the International Labour Organisation, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the American Federation of Labour and the British Trade Union Congress.

The reports reveal alarming figures for the upward trend in unemployment among young people. In some industrialised countries, 40 per cent. of the total unemployed are under 25 years of age, although the people in this age group account for only 22 per cent. of the total active manpower. Of the 7 million unemployed in the United States of America, half are under 25 years of age. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions claims that youth unemployment is now reaching crisis level in many countries. They state that in the last ten years youth unemployment increased nine-fold in France, six-fold in Germany and five-fold in Belgium and the United Kingdom. Even in countries with relatively low levels of unemployment such as Sweden and Norway youth unemployment is three times higher than for other age groups. I welcome and support the action already taken by our Government to rid ourselves of this scourge of unemployment. Whatever measures may be necessary or desirable to deal with the pressing problems of youth, these can effectively be dealt with only in the context of an overall and well-balanced strategy for full employment.

I am pleased to note the support that the British TUC has given to the Manpower Services Commission Youth Opportunities Programme, support which has been widely publicised in the statement of intent. The Department of Manpower Services in Northern Ireland has similar types of youth opportunity schemes. They have the support of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. I know there arc many arguments, and that many people look upon the Youth Opportunities Programme as being cosmetic; they allege that it is hiding the true facts about unemployment. I know that the schemes are not an alternative to productive employment, but I have seen the results of some of these schemes and of the new approach to young persons who were cast aside, and I feel that they meet some of the needs of our young people at this present time. What we must realise is that there is a growing mass of young job-seekers who feel increasingly alienated from society. Many find themselves in dead-end situations as soon a they start their adult life. I warmly welcome and support the statement made by the Prime Minister at Blackpool on 3rd October, when he said: By next Easter every young person leaving school this year, including the physically and mentally handicapped, will either have a job or have been offered a training place or work experience. My Lords, I am grateful to your Lord-ships for hearing me today. These are two important matters which I consider relevant in Her Majesty's gracious Speech. They concern the future for Northern Ireland and they concern the future of our young people—your children and my children and our children's children. In both these matters, we must create in the minds and hearts of our fellow citizens a feeling of hope and of trust based on dignity and self-respect.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, it falls to me to have the pleasure of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Blease, on his speech. He comes to us with a background of lifelong devotion to industrial relations and to the Co-operative Movement, and his voice is a valuable addition to us in terms of our contacts with Northern Ireland. He speaks with manifest sincerity and compassion. In Who's Who, he gives his recreations as walking and talking. I think your Lordships will agree with me when I express the hope that he will keep on talking and that we shall hear from him often again. I am grateful to him also for breaking the spell which seemed to have descended on the debate during the first three speeches, which were so intensely important and dealt with such weighty matters and very much from a legal angle. He has introduced some of what my noble friend Lord Rawlinson described as the many matters, the wide spectrum of matters, which come under the umbrella of Home Affairs.

The matters to which I too propose to refer are quite different to what has gone before. However, before I leave the previous speeches, I should like to refer to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, who asked in effect "Can anybody say where this decline began?" My mind goes back to something that I quoted in your Lordships' House on a previous occasion, namely, the book of my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, in which he referred to the answer which Mr. Harold Macmillan gave to a similar question. He said: "It stems from the day that people stopped going to church on Sundays." However, it is not my job to quote such matters. On the other hand, while the matters to which I wish to refer may not carry the weight of what has gone before, they are matters of the utmost importance to a large number of people in this country who could be described as almost poor, who are overtaken by inflation and who find it difficult to make both ends meet. As a noble Lord said to me the other day, one advantage of a debate on Her Majesty's gracious Speech is that it provides an opportunity to trot out one's hobbyhorses. That is what I propose to do. I have three of them in this particular race and the first concerns the Post Office, which does not receive a mention in the gracious Speech.

The absence of any reference to the important social and economic service which the Post Office provides is a disappointment to me. For instance, when are we likely to get back our Sunday collections? The fact that the last post for the weekend closes in my local post office at 11.45 on Saturday morning is a grave inconvenience to many people and throws a serious burden on the telephone service which I include under this heading. If one lives in a rural area where nearly all one's contacts are more than 35 miles away, the telephone service, even using the lowest tariff, is a heavy expense. Moreover, oddly enough it is very difficult to get through to the telegram service. Telegrams are out of the range of the pockets of most people. However the over-night letter telegram is a very useful service, but it is very difficult to get through on Saturdays. The supervisor says: "They are all very busy today". Of course they are busy, and the reason is that there is no letter collection on Sunday. I urge the Government to consider pointing out to the Post Office that as a social matter it is important that proper facilities are given to the public to make use of the over-night letter telegram service which is available up to 10 p.m. on Saturday for delivery by the first post on Monday morning.

One must also remember that with public transport disappearing from rural areas the telephone has become increasingly a lifeline especially to the old and to those handicapped by heavy domestic responsibilities or physical frailty. The difficulty is that this problem is one for the social services—and that is why I am raising it under this umbrella—and it is not one for the Post Office. That may be so, but I am sure that it could be overcome if the Government had the will to ensure that a social angle is brought to bear and some arrangement were made to provide for improved telephone facilities. For instance, what about travel tokens which are provided by many local authorities? Why cannot they be used towards the expenditure on telephone services as they can be used for, shall we say, television licences?

Turning to page 5 of the gracious Speech, the penultimate passage fore- shadows a reorganisation of the electricity supply industry in England and Wales. Only last Thursday the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor introduced a Bill about electricity in Scotland. I wonder what the plan is to be. The Bill is not available in the Printed Paper Office, but more of that later.

So, my next hobby-horse is a highly topical one—if a horse can be topical—and it is called "Night store heaters". I say that it is "topical" because of the reports in today's papers of protests by the Consumer Council. This matter is very important to a large number of people and it is coming to the surface. I have in my hand one of the advertisements which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 1st November. Your Lordships will see by the horrible scribbles that I have made on it that I do not agree with very much of it. It was sent to me by a well-informed correspondent of mine who points out that, as reported in the Daily Telegraph's print, the large, new night store heaters, which are recommended as the solution, are extremely expensive. What about the people who already have the old, smaller night store heaters? Those heaters are unsuitable for the new tariffs as they rely upon a boost in the middle of the day, but that is not available under the current arrangement which is called in this country "Economy 7". It is not so called in Scotland because, oddly enough, there is a different basis in Scotland for off-peak power. I think that it is a bit of a trick.

The beginning of the off-peak period has been moved from 2300 hours to midnight. That is a very serious blow to a large number of people who take advantage of off-peak tariffs to use power at the end of the day. Nobody wants to take away the old heaters. Indeed, one cannot get people to take them away even if one paid them. Would it be possible for the Government to encourage, from the social angle, the use of this power and to offer to buy back any of these articles which are no longer of any material use—not because they are faulty, but because the tariff has been changed? My correspondent says that his clock was changed to 2300 hours only on 1st November. However, this is not the occasion to indulge in technical matters, which we can bring up again when we see what the Bills set out and if somebody—perhaps myself—puts down a Motion.

Circumstances and tariffs differ not I only between England and Scotland but between the various authorities. Various gadgets are offered by various Boards and thereby hangs a tale, but this is not the place to tell it. To my mind the problem is: does the Electricity Council want to sell off-peak energy or not? What is the load pattern? I should have liked to see a load pattern instead of an advertisement like the one to which I have just been referring. Does the Council want to ensure that consumers have to take power at full tariff, in order to make, up its deficiencies? Does it realise that in hundreds of houses night store heaters lie idle from year's end to year's end? The buildings deteriorate, and that involves another social angle. Many of the houses designed for these heaters are not used and the result is that the buildings are deteriorating manifestly and will cost money to put right.

In areas where North Sea gas is available the situation is quite different—it is quite the best power available for space heating. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, pointed out in a debate some time ago, although the gas industry is making large profits it is not possible, under the Acts, for the State to put its hand into that pocket and use the profits to subsidise the off-peak supply so that people will use it. It is for the Government to consider this, taking the very broadest approach to this problem of space heating for old people in buildings existing today. The nationalisation scheme of years ago has in one respect proved a nonsense. It could be remedied, but is the will there to do it? If only the right honourable gentleman the Minister for Energy would apply his mind more to the needs of people of limited means rather than to crippling schemes for the oil industry and so on, I think that we should all be better off. I appeal to the Government to use this opportunity to adopt a Socialist approach to the whole subject.

My third and final hobby-horse is not of a social nature or intended to deal with those who are not so well off. I ask noble Lords to turn again to page 5 of the gracious Speech. The last paragraph begins with the words: Fresh support will be given to enable the National Health Service to fulfil and extend its services to the public. perhaps we could read that with the last sentence of paragraph 3 on the same pages: My Government will continue to make information on public policy more readily available. This is a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, referred in his speech seconding the Motion which we are debating today.

My story is as follows. Noble Lords know that for some time I have urged that the Department of Health and Social Security should recognise the services of the chiropractic profession and should accept it as it is accepted in most of the civilised world today, including the EEC, which has a bearing on what I am saying. The subject was debated in your Lordship's House in May 1976, and shortly after—and now I reach my point—the Department of Health and Social Security appointed a working party on back pain under Professor Cochrane whose report has lain too long on the Minister's table. Again, this is not the occasion to go into detail, so I shall not continue along those lines. However, my information is that the report was signed yesterday but is not available because the Stationery Office is on strike. Here we are with the trade unions, having sucked the blood of Fleet Street, now appearing to be at the throat of Parliament.

When the report is available we can have a debate, but meanwhile I ask noble Lords to listen to this. Can you believe it? The profession, rightly or wrongly, applied for registration under the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act in June 1975. After various exchanges the application was rejected in February 1976. The profession forthwith asked for advice on the Council's reasons for its non-acceptance. The Council replied that it was not under any obligation to give its reasons. In May that year in this House the Government suggested a reference to the Privy Council. The Privy Council immediately replied that under the Act it had no power to direct the Council for the Professions Supple- mentary to Medicine, to disclose its reasons. In July of the same year the Government said that they did not wish to intervene any further.

The matter is still under consideration. But to me it is a most extraordinary situation that a professional body, refused acceptance under a Government Act, is unable to obtain any indication of what is wrong. I believe that at this juncture it is fair to quote what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, said in his speech. He said: There is, I believe, a greater power, and that is the power of persuasion; and that is why I am so glad to see in the gracious Speech a reference to the fact that Her Majesty's Government will continue to make information on public policy more readily available. Quite clearly, Parliament must take the lead in this but, in order to do this, Parliament must be seen to be supreme".—[Official Report, 1/11/78; col.15.] As soon as the Cochrane Report appears—if it ever does—it is my intention to table a Motion. In one sense it is a financial question. I shall conclude by pointing out that this is not simply a matter of registering an association. To get the association accepted by the Department of Health will greatly affect the cost of the outgoings in respect of the health of the country. I beg to support the Motion.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, today I shall eschew the broad canvas and concentrate for a few minutes on one particular field of Government responsibility—a field where I believe that a little further action can produce enormous benefits for a few thousand of our people. If that is so, it is well worth a little of your Lordships' time. I refer to the human transplants system of this country, in which some improvements are urgently needed. It is quite appropriate because in a sense I am myself a transplant here today, having recently been transplanted into your Lordships' body politic. Just as an organ transplant depends on tolerance from the host body while it is settling in, I am dependent on your Lordships' tolerance while I am learning the methods and procedures of this new environment. In due course I hope to become a useful contributor.

I have two small suggestions to make which I believe will be helpful and, to some of our people, of vital importance. One of them concerns the kidney transplant system. Of course, kidney transplants constitute by far the largest section of our transplant service and depend on the existence of a vast pool of volunteers holding the kidney donor cards. The greatest credit is due to these people, and I am sure that the Government will continue to use their best efforts to expand that pool because not only do we need greater numbers for more operations, but the larger the numbers, the better the tissue matching which can be achieved and the greater the certainty of success.

However, there is some reason to think that the noble offers of the holders of transplant cards are not in every case being taken up. If that is so, it is a tragedy—a tragedy which we must try to overcome. Last year there were in this country some 2,000 people requiring kidney transplant operations. Eight hundred received them. Several hundred had to do without, and for many, of course, this was a death sentence. So anything that we can do to improve this situation will be well worth while. It seems certain that in some cases—in a significant number of cases—the wishes of the transplant card holder, when he comes to pass away, are being either overlooked or even ignored. This is a situation which we cannot allow to continue. When a surgeon has a transplant card holder under his care and that patient is plainly going to die, he has a terrible task which he must face. The surgeon has to approach the next of kin and obtain their agreement to go ahead with the removal of the organs. Our hearts must go out to the surgeons as well as the next of kin in these terrible circumstances. It is a dreadful task. But it is a task that cannot be ignored because the penalty for ignoring it is literally a death sentence for two people for every one who is ignored.

As I say, last year there were some 800 recipients, which meant 400 donors, each giving two kidneys. Four hundred donors from Britain's 200 hospitals; an average of two per hospital. Now there was not an even distribution. The top scorer, one hospital, sent 15 donors forward, saving 30 lives; three or four was pretty common, but one-third of our hospitals sent none. The mathematics of random distribution simply do not indicate that hospitals are putting in an equal effort. It seems a virtual certainty that in some hospitals the surgeons concerned have not gone ahead to approach the next of kin when the card holder was dying. Again I repeat the tremendous sympathy that one must feel when these terrible decisions have to be made, but the penalty for failing to do so is just unthinkable.

My first suggestion is to call on Her Majesty's Government to look at the pattern of contribution from the different hospitals, and to use their good offices, with the greatest sympathy and care, to approach surgeons who are likely to encounter this situation to urge them to grasp the bull by the horns and approach the next of kin because the need is so urgent. It has been found by surgeons to whom I have spoken that when they have undertaken this terrible task they have found that the next of kin, far from being distressed more than they otherwise would have been, have found solace and consolation in the realisation that their own loss will turn into a great benefit of saving two more lives.

My second suggestion is with regard to a reform of the kidney transplant card itself, which we all know. I trust that your Lordships here all hold one of these cards. The card of course is excellent, and the expansion of the card holding pool will no doubt be continued. But the card refers to kidneys. There are other organs which are sometimes of literally vital interest to patients. One requirement, which has been drawn to my attention very forcefully by some of my surgeon friends, is the need for livers. There are some 200 patients a year who would benefit from liver transplants, and last year 20 received them. The bottleneck here is the fact that there is no pool of donor card holders for livers as there is for kidneys. It would seem a very simple matter for the Government to change this card into a multi-organ donor card. I am sure it only needs asking. Only this morning I was speaking to a surgeon who said, in his own words, that he was desperately scratching round to find a liver for a young lad who would otherwise die. If we have the pool of card holders as with kidneys it will be of inestimable help to a few hundred—to them it is vital. I therefore call on the Government to institute, without delay, a change in the card to make it a multi-organ donor card. There is no difficulty. Those who are good enough to offer their kidneys are certainly not going to refuse their livers. If you give your kidneys what is the point of holding on to your liver? It will only need asking for.

I call on the Government to do this. They will save a few lives by this small administrative change. It needs no new legislation; it needs no public expenditure; just a little administrative action. Even that will take a few months of course, these things always do, and the turning over of large numbers to the new card will take even more months. In the meantime your Lordships may care to note that even a small change in the wording with one's own pen can help in this particular case. Where it requests that "my kidneys be used after my death", if one simply writes in 'and liver" underneath, it is sufficient for the cause. If the Government will use their good offices for a little publicity through yourselves and the media to make this situation known to the public, again a few lives will be saved.

I am grateful for your Lordships' patience. It seemed worth taking a few minutes of your time on a subject which is literally of vital importance to a few thousand of our people each year. I have no doubt that your Lordships, and indeed the Government, are desperately anxious to hear my solutions to all the country's economic and social problems, which of course I have! But, alas, they must wait for another occasion. I shall be totally satisfied today if I can achieve a little action on these two small points I have suggested.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I am really delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Whaddon, and to be privileged to congratulate him on his short, pithy, and sensible maiden speech on this vitally important subject of donor cards. Is have had one for a long while, but I frequently forget to transfer it from one pocket to another. I believe that it should be widened in the sense that he described. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, when he comes to reply to this debate, will be found to be quite sympathetic to the proposal put forward by the noble Lord, because I seem to remember that he responded to a rather similar suggestion a few months ago by promising that it would be examined. I hope that the Government will take up the suggestion of the noble Lord and widen the card so that it can include not only kidneys but the liver, perhaps the cornea, and that a general purpose card will be designed that would include any organs whatsoever. As for the noble Lord's concluding remarks, if all the other proposals that he makes are as sensible and down to earth as this one I hope that we shall hear from him frequently in this House, and that the Government will pay careful attention to what he says.

May I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Blease, on what was a thoughtful and practical maiden speech. He displayed a sympathetic attitude towards the difficulties of young people and the severe problem we face now, and if everyone in Northern Ireland followed the non-sectarian and humane approach that he was advocating then the problems of that unhappy Province would be solved much sooner. Like my noble friend Lord Foot, I also do not wish to follow the two Front Bench speakers in discussing the important problem of law and order. I accept that it is a vital problem but it is not the only aspect of home affairs which is dealt with in the Queen's Speech.

I should like to make some reference to the undertaking that the Government have entered into to improve race relations, and in particular the promise of legislation to widen the terms of Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966. The Home Secretary, when he was speaking at a dinner, last Wednesday, of the Standing Conference of Pakistani Organisations, said: The defects of the present system advanced under the 1966 Act are such that urgent action needs to be taken to replace it. The gracious Speech indicates that the Government would be introducing a Bill to improve the funding of schemes designed to help ethnic minority groups, and the Consultative Document which the Home Secretary promised last Wednesday was issued yesterday.

The point that needs to be underlined about Section 11 is that ever since it was instituted in 1966 it has been literally the only way by which central Government money could be channelled to meet the needs of ethnic minorities. It is true that the urban programme has assisted minoriities, but that is as an indirect effect of the attempt to tackle wider social needs. In the absence of any comprehensive strategy for dealing with racial disadvantage, in spite of the commitment made in the 1975 White Paper on Racial Discrimination, I think noble Lords would agree that it is absolutely vital that the comparatively small amount of money which is available should be carefully and wisely spent. But Section 11 applies to local authorities in whose areas there are: substantial numbers of immigrants from the Commonwealth whose language or customs differ from those of the community …". The definition of "Commonwealth immigrant" which is used for the purpose of grant was: A person born in another country of the Commonwealth who has been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom for less than 10 years, or the child of such a person. Bearing in mind that two out of every five of the United Kingdom population of ethnic minorities was born here, this criterion is obviously out of date and excludes not only the immigrants who have been here for longer than 10 years but of course the second and subsequent generations born to former immigrants who may still suffer from deprivation.

I am afraid it is necessary to accept, as the Government obviously do, that deprivation and special need do not arise solely from the fact of recent arrival in the United Kingdom. As the Consultative Document issued yesterday explains, there are long-term difficulties which fall into two broad categories. These are: problems which are to a substantial extent unique, for example language problems and insufficient knowledge of British society, and problems which are shared with the indigenous community but which are even more serious or are on a proportionately larger scale, for example difficulties of getting the best out of the schools system and differences in family structures which require differential responses from the social services". It seems to me that legislation to deal with these aspects of disadvantage must be framed in very general terms. This is underlined by the variety of the examples of the kind of use to which a new ethnic minority grant might be put which are given as an annexe to the Consultative Document. The Secretary of State would have to be given discretion to approve expenditure on staff and facilities to meet any of the particular needs mentioned in the annexe and, as suggested, to stimulate local authorities into working out comprehensive strategies for dealing with racial disadvantage within their areas.

There are a few comments I should like to make on this scheme. First, I do not think local authorities can tackle disadvantage by themselves, and it is interesting to note in this context that Health Service participation in the scheme is proposed; it would be interesting to know how that will work and perhaps the Minister will comment on that when he replies to the debate. In any event, why stop at the Health Service? We know, for example, that ethnic minorities do not get their fair share of training opportunities and that was why the Liberal Party in its document, A Programme for Racial Equality, which we submitted to the Home Secretary last summer and discussed with him, emphasised the need for expenditure on training to bring ethnic minorities up to a common starting point in the competition for jobs. We still think that is of vital importance.

Secondly, how can one expect local authorities to work out a comprehensive strategy within the limits of their responsibilities when the Government have no such strategy of their own which will provide them with a framework? I am sure many local authorities will do their best, but I think they could have done even better if they had been given a lead from the top. Thirdly, the Consultative Document says there will be what it calls— … a significant increase in the money available for these programmes". Why is not even a rough indication given of the size of the increase?—because that is of vital importance in judging whether this will be effective.

Local authorities varied widely in the use they made of Section 11 and they also responded very differently to the challenge of the Race Relations Act 1976, and in particular to Section 71 of that Act, which required them— to make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that their various functions are carried out with due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups". Last April, I wrote to nearly 100 local authorities asking what action they had taken to give effect to these provisions and, in general, the replies did not indicate a very enthusiastic attitude. Quite a few authorities said they were aware of the Act and considered they had always behaved in conformity with it. Some had gone a little further and had drawn the attention of officers and members to the provisions of the Act and to the Department of the Environment Circular 54/77 explaining it in further detail. But very few of the authorities, I am sorry to say, said they had undertaken a systematic review of their policies in the light of the Act and, similarly, only a handful had taken any positive steps such as the appointment of staff with a particular responsibility to meet the requirements of the Act. Leicester pointed out: The Commission for Racial Equality has a duty to keep under review the working of the Act and this could no doubt include a review of the relevant activities of local authorities in the context of Section 71 of the Act. I certainly believe the Commission should follow that up and perhaps also seek the assistance of the local community relations councils, as Leicester suggested.

In regard to the important and controversial question of keeping ethnic records which is associated with the application of the 1976 Act, many authorities felt that such a move was unnecessary or undesirable. But, increasingly, there is a realisation that to ensure that no discrimination arises as a result of housing allocations or letting procedures, the ethnic origins of applicants and tenants need to be recorded. To a lesser extent, we find that the education and social services departments are seen as needing similar records so that their particular requirements can be met, and can be seen to be met, and some authorities are getting around to monitoring their own employment policies through ethnic records. It is not easy to see how any large employer could otherwise be sure he was providing equal opportunity between people of different races in practice as well as in theory.

What are the Government's intentions in regard to the non-discriminatory contracts which were announced by the Home Secretary recently? I think he said it was not intended to impose any further burdens on employers but, again, it is hard to see how it can be established that an employer is applying non-discriminatory practices if he does not keep any records. How indeed will the Government assess the effectiveness of the enlarged programme which is laid down in the Consultative Document for attacking disadvantage unless records are kept? One of the criteria for the approval of grants might be that in appropriate cases the keeping of records would be mandatory. If one takes an example given in the appendix, there is: the provision of advice on services available including housing, education, social and welfare". Unless we know the extent of the take-up before and after this advice has been channelled to the ethnic minorities, we would not be able to judge whether that money spent on the staff who will provide the advice has been well spent.

On a national scale, the way to measure the effectiveness of policies for achieving equality of opportunity and for eliminating racial disadvantage over the long term is through the census, but that can be done only if people are prepared to answer a question about their ethnic origins. When this matter was considered before the 1971 Census in another place I argued against the inclusion of the question on parental birthplace, which was intended to characterise the population by ethnic origin, largely on the grounds that the ethnic minorities themselves felt the information might be misused at some time in the future.

For the 1981 Census it is proposed to ask a question about race which I suggest needs to be considered very carefully, first to see whether it is likely to be acceptable to the minorities and secondly from the point of view of whether it will yield the right sort of analysis. The question needs to be readily accepted, otherwise people will refuse to answer, and the statistics that would be derived from the census would then be inaccurate. For the same reason the question needs to be easily understood. I understand there have been pilot studies to test draft questions and it would be interesting to know what the results have been so far. In view of the need to get this right, with the enormous cost of the census, there should obviously be much more public discussion of the proposals before we get to the stage of the Government tabling a draft order.

The next point I wish to raise—and it connects with what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, was saying—is the alarming loss of confidence in the police by the ethnic minorities. The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Sir David McNee, has suggested in evidence to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure that the police should be given what the legal correspondent of The Times describes as a "vast range of new powers." Let me make it absolutely clear that I am not disputing the right of the Commissioner to give his personal views to the Royal Commission. I welcome that, and I do not dispute in any way his absolute right to give his personal views in public; but I think that, equally, we should be free to criticise anything that he says and, if we have the temerity to make these criticisms, we should not be accused of wanting to undermine law and order.

I wish to maintain law and order, but I wish to do so by means which will preserve the civil liberties which we have always enjoyed in the past, and I am not altogether sure that some of the proposals put forward by Sir David McNee would satisfy that criterion. Looking at the way in which the police use some of their existing powers, and the way in which they fail to use other powers, does not lead me, at any rate, to suppose that granting the demands made by Sir David would improve relationships between the police and the minorities.

The noble Lord knows that for some time now there have been serious complaints about attacks on the Asian minorities in the East End and that these complaints have extended to the inactivity of the police in being able to bring people to justice for the offences that have been committed. When we asked about this before the Recess we were told that the police in the East End had been strengthened and that redoubled efforts would be made to bring those criminals to justice, but, unfortunately, in several cases where fights have occurred between the Asians and the white racists, it is the Asians who have been arrested in the end. In the particular case of the Virk brothers, which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Harris, knows about, severe sentences were meted out to those brothers while the white youths who were involved in the affray went scot free. This has caused severe anxiety among the Asian community in the East End.


My Lords, I take note of what the noble Lord is saying, but I must say to him with, I hope, considerable firmness, that the Commissioner takes the most serious view of this matter. He has devoted an enormous amount of personal time to dealing with this which he, like the noble Lord, regards as a matter of great seriousness. However, I must say to the noble Lord that police can arrest a person, no matter what his colour, only if they see him committing a criminal offence. It may be that when the police come upon a scene they see a person of a particular racial group committing an offence. That person is then arrested. I must say to the noble Lord that, if there is any inference that there is any prejudice on the part of a senior officer of the Metropolitan Police in this area, or indeed in the Metropolitan Police as a whole, I must firmly reject that. The police have done this job with their customary efficiency, and I can assure the noble Lord that the Commissioner regards this matter as one which has major priority upon his time and resources. Therefore it would be most unjust—as I hope the noble Lord will accept—if any criticism of any kind is read into Sir David's conduct of this difficult operation.


My Lords, I had certainly moved away from Sir David McNee in my remarks about the police in the East End, but I think that with respect, the Minister is living in Cloud Cuckoo-land if he thinks that there is no prejudice in the police. Obviously the police, like any other large number of people, must reflect the standards of the community in which they live. As I think the noble Lord will remember Mr. Reg Gale saying a few years ago, it is not surprising that some people within the police force should have racial prejudice, deplorable as that may be. It is a fact of life that we must face, and we must take every precaution that we can to ensure that these racial prejudices do not result in harm to members of the ethnic minorities who may be victimised by them.

However, I am afraid that on occasion that seems to happen—and it is not only with the Asian community in the East End. As the noble Lord is aware, in the West Indian community as well there are persistent allegations of harassment which were supported by the Select Committee in its report on the West Indian community in 1976. In some areas, as the noble Lord is aware, the use of the offence of "sus"—under Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824—against young black people is causing very serious concern. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, said that we were not receptive to the views of the police. I wrote to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis asking him whether he would be good enough to let me have his views on the proposal which has been made by the Runnymede Trust and by the "sus" campaign of the West Indian community to abolish this offence. The Commissioner replied that he did not wish to add anything to the views expressed on this matter in the Home Office Working Party on Vagrancy and Street Offences and that he did not think that it would be proper for him to do so. The Minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that we refuse to listen to the views of the police, while at the same time the Chief Officer of Police is refusing to answer what seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable query as to his views on a particular aspect of the law, particularly when he has just sent a 167 page memorandum to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure. I should have thought that a few pages on the question of "sus" might have been legitimate, and—


My Lords, I feel that the noble Lord is making very heavy weather of this point. The fact is that the Royal Commission went into the whole question of criminal procedure, the Commissioner was invited to give evidence, and he did so. The Association of Chief Police Officers was also invited, and it did so. If the noble Lord is suggesting that any member of your Lordships' House can write to a Chief Officer of Police on any question of law asking that officer whether he agrees or disagrees with it, then I feel that he is making a rather false point. I was not aware of the correspondence to which the noble Lord has referred, but I think it is perfectly reasonable for the Commissioner simply to draw attention to the Home Office position on the matter; otherwise he would be getting himself involved in a lengthy correspondence regarding his views upon a whole series of statutes, which would not seem to me to be a very rewarding exercise so far as he was concerned.


My Lords, I certainly would not suggest in abstracto that the Commissioner should be asked to express an opinion on every single piece of the criminal law which is on the Statute Book. I was asking him to express an opinion about a change in the law which is under proximate consideration. However, as we shall have an opportunity of discussing this in more detail later, perhaps I should leave this point, and I look forward to hearing the views of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, when we discuss a Bill for the abolition of "sus", which I intend to present shortly.

Finally, I want to mention the Government's response to the last report of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration, which dealt with immigration. The White Paper which the Government published in response to that document, says that Immigration is a part, but only a part, of the wider question of race relations. But it becomes so only as a result of the discrimination which operates at our ports of entry in favour of white, as opposed to black, immigration. We allow 6 million patrials to walk into this country whenever they please, and that is in stark contrast to the position of the black people with a right to enter who must wait in queues for up to four years.

In this connection I want to refer in particular to the only disappointing part of the Home Office reply to the Select Committee which I thought in other ways was an admirable document. I thought that the tone of it was first class and, generally speaking, the detail was good as well. However, I was extremely disappointed that the Home Office did not find itself able to accept the recommendation of the Select Committee that the quota vouchers—which had hitherto been available for our citizens in East African countries, where they had been subject to restrictions on employment and trading and other minor harassments, and which were no longer required in large numbers since most of those who wished to come here from East Africa had already done so—should be reallocated to the United Kingdom passport-holders who are still living in India, many of whom had gone there after the expulsion from Uganda in 1972, as a temporary measure. The Government did not find themselves able to accept that recommendation.

Last January I went to Bombay and Delhi to examine the problems of applicants for entry certificates at those posts, and particularly the difficulties of the United Kingdom passport-holders; and on my return I sent a detailed report to both Dr. Shirley Summerskill, who was then the Minister reponsible for immigration, and Mr. Evan Luard, in the Foreign Office, and I had the opportunity to discuss it with both of them.

In that report I drew attention to the fact that many of these United Kingdom passport-holders in India were suffering difficulties of a similar (although not as severe) kind to those that their compatriots had suffered in East Africa. They were not able to engage in business, not for legal reasons but for financial ones; and in that report I said that if the Government were not prepared to increase the number of quota vouchers available to those people then at the very least they ought to undertake an investigation of the difficulties that they face, preferably employing Indian social scientists. Now that the Government have responded to the Select Committee's Report by saying that they cannot accede to the request for re-allocation of the vouchers, I would be grateful if they would be good enough to reconsider the minor recommendations that I made in that report, and, in particular, if they would investigate the difficulties that those people are facing.

In conclusion, my Lords, I think the Queen's speech contains some proposals which will assist the drive towards racial equality and improve relations between people of different ethnic origins, and to that extent I very much welcome it. Far more still needs to be done, and I think the subject needs to be seen as deserving the kind of priority which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said should be given to the fight against crime. Racism and racial deprivation are evils which are certainly comparable in the magnitude of their effect with that of crime, and it is because they have so far been accorded a much lower importance in the minds of successive Governments that so much still needs to be done today.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for commencing his speech by suggesting that, on the donor card, cornea should be added to the kidneys and the livers referred to by my noble friend Lord Whaddon in his most vital speech, as indeed it was. I am sure all Members of your Lordships' House would wish to support this suggestion.

I rise to say a few words about the partnership arrangements that have been initiated by the Secretary of State for the Environment to help to deal with the problems of the inner areas of our cities. No doubt all noble Lords have noted the statement in the Queen's speech that: The partnership between the Government and the local authorities in Inner City areas will be pressed forward. That is a statement which I think we would all wish to welcome, because, in my view, the Secretary of State has initiated a very imaginative step in setting up these partnerships between the Government and local government to help coordinate the regeneration of these blighted and decaying areas. It is essential that this initiative succeeds. I say that not merely because the problems in these areas are really very serious indeed—housing problems, social problems, and the very difficult problem of bringing employment into areas of high unemployment. In East London, for instance, in pockets, there is unemployment as high as in the North of England. These problems have to be dealt with; and the partnership arrangements have raised the expectations and the aspirations of the people living in these areas. That is a very good thing.

There are many community groups (their number runs into many hundreds) working in these partnership areas which are looking for more help to lift up and increase the help that they themselves are giving to various projects in the community. These people must not be disappointed. If they are disappointed they could turn sour, and that would be a very serious matter indeed. There is more than just Government and local government on trial: it is the democratic process itself, I think, that is on trial in these areas. We must remember that these areas—I speak from my knowledge of London because that is my background—are those in which the blackshirts have their major strengths, and where they look for every opportunity to increase their strength. That is why I say that the democratic process is on trial—and it must not fail.

The remarks or suggestions that I am going to make arise from conversations I have had with my local government friends in the partnership areas in London. My remarks are intended entirely to be helpful, in order to make the partnerships more effective. I would guess, although I do not know, that what I am going to say would apply equally well to the partnerships in the other major cities, but I speak only from my knowledge of London. The local authorities in these partnership areas are, of course, delighted with the Secretary of State's initiative. They welcome greatly the close collaboration and relationship it gives them directly with Ministers of the Department of the Environment; and they more than welcome the extra money that they are having channelled to them to help them deal with their problems. It is not a terrible lot of money, but, nevertheless, it is exceedingly welcome. The money they get, it appears, is earmarked under certain separate headings. It is put, as it were, in separate pockets—for construction work, for urban aid, for environmental improvements, et cetera. It is in separate pockets. My friends the councillors in these areas think that if all the money could be in one pocket, if there could be one global sum, they could make more effective use of it and they really could produce better value for money. Perhaps that is something the Government might like to think about.

Then, the grant that is given comes at different levels. Some of it comes in the form of a 100 per cent. grant—wonderfully welcome—but other grants come as 75 per cent. grants, with the local authority needing to complement them with 25 per cent. out of their own pocket. This presents problems. I know that that is the usual pattern of grants: that it is usually expected, and quite properly so, that the local authority receiving the grant should have a stake in whatever project it is that is being helped. That is quite proper, but it presents great problems for these partnership areas. There are only two sources from which the 25 per cent. can come. It can come out of expenditure that they have already earmarked for other projects in their boroughs, very often social projects.

Are they to deny those projects? Are they to turn to the community and say, "We know we promised you this or that, but you cannot have it now, after all, because we have got to add that money to the Government's money to do something a little larger and a bit more important than we could do before we had the Government's money"? That is not the way to give confidence to an electorate or to the social groups who are there working and striving; they will be bitterly disappointed. Therefore, no local authority would wish to follow that course. If they do not follow that course and deny something that has been already promised, from where are they to get the money? It can come only by raising the rates. That will not please the electorate either. That will not help anybody there. They could raise the rates when it comes to the next rate-making, but that might just be the one nail in the coffin that stops some industrialist who is looking at this area from coming and investing his money in it and putting up a new factory and so on. It is not easy to get industrialists to come to Inner London at all. There are many factors which do not make it easy: high land costs, high rents, high wages (which are higher than those outside London in the green fields) and there is a lack of skilled labour in London. When an industrialist is adding up his figures and deciding whether he will come into one of these areas it is essential that he does not then find that the rates are going up again. That might send him away.

On the question of grants, perhaps an exception could be made for these partnerships. It could all be 100 per cent.—even if it meant the Government not channelling more money; because, after all, the size of the cake is limited. If it meant that they gave a little less, but nevertheless, it was 100 per cent., would the local authority did not have to say: "Sorry. We promised you something but you cannot now have it because the money must go to something else."

There is a great deal more that I should like to say. I see that I have been speaking for ten minutes. I should like to talk about the factors that make the attraction of industry very difficult. I have just mentioned one or two. I did not mention communications in London; that is very relevant. I should like to talk about London's declining population. They still go out at the rate of 100,000 a year and, in my view, will continue to do so. I should like to talk about why they go; I should like to talk about whether opportunities for the less-well-off to leave should be being curtailed. I think that they should not. I should like to talk about the need for new houses and gardens in these inner areas—houses and gardens, not flats—in order to attract back some of the skilled workers who are so woefully lacking. In this way, we could create more balanced communities; and that is a crying need in the inner areas. I should like to talk about the need for lower densities and flats for special needs only and for more open spaces.

I think it might not be a bad thing to have a nice 18-hole golf course in the docklands. There is a lot of space for it. I am not a golfer; but it might be attractive for a lot of people. There is a need to improve the total environment of our inner cities. Lambeth councillors tell me that the public and the employers regard environmental decay as the greatest evil. I have here a paper tendering me advice on my speech today and saying I should be short, about ten minutes. I see that I have gone on for 12 minutes. I would not offend against any of the delightful customs of your Lordships' House and so I will resume my seat.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to those who arranged this list of speakers, that I, a woman Peer, should be the first privileged to congratulate a fellow woman Peer on her most able speech. We knew before she made it that it would be an able speech because we know her history. We know that she has been chairman of the Stevenage Development Corporation. In fact, she has been connected with so many housing corporations that Is will not list them because I am sure that everybody knows of them. As a social worker I would only say this. When one is dealing with a case, if there is poor housing or no housing at all that case is almost lost before one starts. Therefore we are deeply grateful to the noble Baroness for the excellent speech which she has made and we look forward to many more such contributions in this House.

My Lords, I seek to speak on three statements in the gracious Speech. The first is this: Every effort will be made to recruit the aid of the whole community to defeat crime and vandalism. An earlier statement stated: Special encouragement will be given to the education and training of young people …". The noble Lord, Lord Blease, in his maiden speech referred to this. The third statement is this: My Government are resolved to strengthen our democracy by providing new opportunities for citizens to take part in the decisions that affect their lives". I seek to relate these statements not only by the prevention of juvenile delinquency but to the positive policy affecting the happiness, training and home and community relationships of children and young, perhaps up to the age of 17. Our prisons might not be so full nor vandalism so rife today if with regard to our children we adopted attitudes and policies which were effective and which showed a positive return. We in this House have debated the emotional and material needs of children under five, which are the years when trouble or happiness all begin. I do not propose to dwell on this fundamentally important stage today, except to admit sadly that even now in this country we have not agreed overall policy.

I seek to confine myself to children and young persons who either have appeared before juvenile courts or who show signs of potential delinquency, disturbance and disruption. There is a rise in the juvenile crime rate. From some members of the public there is understandably an outcry against young delinquents who commit crimes, particularly vicious and unfeeling crimes against the person; because of this situation there is a polarisation of views. On the one hand, there are those who in panic reaction and revulsion cry for punishment, retribution and custodial care; on the other hand, there are those who view the young offender as one whose development has gone wrong and for whom an individual and imaginative remedy must be found. I believe that it is possible and wise to give knowledgeable, compassionate individual care to each delinquent child, establishing a relationship with them and at the same time providing discipline, structure and training. The two polarised views are surely not incompatible in respect of our children.

The traditional methods of dealing with delinquent children do not show a sound economic return. In 1977 the criminal statistics for England and Wales showed that there were 195,000 juveniles found guilty of, or cautioned for, indictable offences. This was a rise of 11 per cent. over the previous year. The country is spending £50 million per annum on the young offender. How is the money being spent? And is it showing a profit, or is it showing a loss? Take borstals, my Lords. In 1969 there were 818 juveniles in borstals. In 1977 the figure had risen to 1,935. The cost per head per week is £94. Eighty-one per cent. of juveniles leaving borstal offend within two years. This is surely a poor return on the high cost despite the hard and dedicated work of the staff—and they are outstanding. Take our detention centres, my Lords. There were 2,225 people in detention centres in 1969. This had risen to 5,757 in 1977. The cost per head per week is £96. Seventy-three per cent. of those leaving detention centres offend again within two years. The cost of a children's home is £70 per head per week outside London and £100 per head per week inside London. It has been shown by a survey carried out in 12 London boroughs that some children committed on a care order commit a further offence; but more children commit an offence from an institution than those who go home. Which one of us buying a car—always supposing that was possible—would tolerate a breakdown within two years of purchase?

May we look at what alternatives there are? I seek in your Lordships' House to support and encourage those local authorities and voluntary organisations which under the heading of intermediate treatment, are developing imaginative alternative methods of treatment, care and discipline, leaving the children in their own homes and yet counterbalancing the social, family and educational gaps. Other Members of your Lordships' House—particularly the last notable speaker—have talked about partnership. There is, for instance, a partnership in Birmingham between a voluntary organisation and the local education and social services department which runs a small, inexpensive unit of 40 children, either delinquents, disruptives or non-school attenders. This is run by a multi-disciplinary team. It is open all day and weekends and has one or two beds for emergencies. However, the children return home.

This unit has been running for four years. The children remain at home, in touch with their parents and in touch with the community. At the end of two years they return to their school and so far after two years there have been very few recommittals to court. I just happen to know that in the local authority in Pontefract organisations have developed their intermediate treatment, leaving children at home to such an extent that they have been able to cancel a number of places that might have been taken up in homes and community schools for education.

My Lords, I am not so naive as to think that we do not need, secure accommodation for a small proportion of children; we do. Also, we need residential accommodation for children. If we were to adopt a constructive policy throughout the country of keeping the majority of our children at home, the money that we would have available could be spent on good, secure accommodation and residential care which showed a return. Of those who work in children's homes only 4 per cent. are qualified. Perhaps we should be looking—and I hope the Ministers concerned will be doing this—at the best ways of training staff.

Two more points, my Lords: regarding the role of parents, unless we involve them we shall never really help our children. It must be a two-pronged affair. From August until October one reads of endless conferences held in Brighton, Blackpool, Scarborough and so on. However, does one ever read of a conference held for the parents of delinquent children? We might learn a great deal. May I just touch on the question of juvenile courts. The magistrates in our country have a very difficult time because very often they do not know what happens to the children they deal with. Nor do many of the benches have reports back of the children they have committed to care. I wonder whether the Government would look again at and consider the recommendations for family courts.

With regard to the community, so often they should be doing something. I wonder whether we could not help the community to help the children who are so badly in need of care and control. Those who help perhaps more than any others are the foster parents. We have developed professional foster parents for the most difficult children. This is proving to be a success. It is expensive. Foster parents who are willing to take other children into their homes are paid so little that they are becoming a diminishing number. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will look at this issue. It costs £70 a week for a child to be in a children's home. With some local authorities paying only £8 a week per child to foster parents, there seems to be a discrepancy.

The relationships, training and education of children lies with adults and the inner authority which adults possess and the quality of their love for children. Perhaps in this day and age we each lack a personal philosophy in life. The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abingcr, has written in her latest book: Children's behaviour and ideas of what is right and wrong are picked up from the climate in which they spend their daily lives. That is, from the home, the school and other adults to whom they become attached. Perhaps I may be allowed to end by quoting a statement made by Cardinal Hume in which he said: Regardless of their denomination or allegiance, the world needed men and women who had the vision to point to things that were higher and beyond the concerns of everyday life.

5.49 p.m.


My Lords, may I begin by joining those who have already offered congratulations to the two noble Lords and the noble Baroness who have spoken for the first time in your Lordships' House. It will not be a matter for surprise to your Lordships that I want to talk about education. I was encouraged by the final sentence or two of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, when he expressed the opinion that in matters of law and order an over-emphasis on Party politics could be unhelpful. I want to say with great sincerity that in the last decade, or rather more than the last decade, the over-emphasis on party politics has, in my judgment, been utterly detrimental to the development of the education service with, on the one hand, a Government which seems to be most reluctant to accept the fact of individual differences in children and, on the other hand, an Opposition which is so concerned with the minority of children of high academic ability that they seem to be little interested in the rest.

Let me take your Lordships through some of the things that have happened and let me start with comprehensive schools, which became a matter of Party political argument. What are the facts? The first fact is that, as the grammar schools increased their recruitment from 15 per cent. to 20 per cent., 25 per cent. and up to 30 per cent., selection at that level could not be defended on educational grounds or on any other. Selection at a point in the distribution of ability which offered so many opportunities for error was indefensible. In my judgment, the adoption of a policy of organising schools on a comprehensive basis became inevitable at that point. The problem now is not to argue about whether we should or should not have comprehensive schools: it is to discuss how to organise comprehensive schools so as to ensure that every child, whether of a high or a low level of ability, whether in academic fields, in technical fields or in practical fields, is educated to the limit of his or her capacity. That is the problem.

The Government, again in my judgment, with its over-concern to avoid recognising individual differences, seem to be approaching the problem by all-ability grouping. I speak as a teacher who, quite a long time ago, taught an all-ability group. There are two requirements for all-ability grouping. The first is a teacher with a very high degree of skill in teaching over the whole range of human ability. The second is a group of very limited size, to enable the teacher to cope. In other words, it necessarily involves individual tuition, which is of course one method of educating children. The alternative is homogeneous grouping. These are the only two options.

In my judgment, there is no prospect of recruiting the half a million teachers with the degree of skill it would require for all-ability grouping. As regards the other requirement, I would very greatly doubt whether in the present economic position of the country the size of groups which would be necessary could be sustained on economic grounds. Therefore, as a matter of general policy, all-ability grouping must, in my opinion, be rejected. The need, therefore, is to seek to provide homogeneous grouping—and by that I do not mean merely streaming. The need is to provide a setting for the children in each subject so that you have a homogeneous group for that subject. A child may well be in a top group for one subject and in a different group for another, because, while there is undoubtedly a tendency for general ability to operate, our talents do in fact vary very considerably.

We recognise, in organising comprehensive schools, that there are those with whom such a school cannot cope. We recognise, I believe, at least 11 different forms of handicapped children, and we provide for those in special schools. We provide for some 1½ per cent. of children whose ability is so far below the average that we accept that they would be better provided for in special schools. It is not an illogical argument that there may be 1 per cent. or 1½ or 2 per cent. who are just as much above the average as the other children are below it and for whom it may prove necessary to provide special schools. After all, Russia made that discovery after trying the comprehensive principle for some 25 years.

Let me turn now to another subject where I do not think the Party political dispute is relevant. What is needed is for the Parties to combine to provide the right answer. I refer to the proposal for a common examination at the age of 16. This is not a Party political issue. The spokesman for the Opposition in another place said recently, I gather, that we must insist on the retention of O- and A-Levels and issue a school report for the others. My Lords, I was a member of the committee, 30 years ago, that instituted O- and A-Levels; and that is precisely what we recommended. We recommended the institution of O- and A-Levels and a school report for the others; and it did not work. It did not work because industry, commerce and the schools themselves would not accept a school report as satisfying their requirements. That was in an atmosphere in which we were seeking virtually to remove the impact of examinations on the schools. We failed because it was not acceptable, and inevitably the point was reached where another committee, of which again I was privileged to be a member, had to face the need to establish another examination covering a band of ability from roughly the 20th percentile to perhaps the 50th or 60th—the so-called Certificate of Secondary Education.

There was nothing wrong with having two examinations. That does not constitute a problem. What constitutes a problem is having a different syllabus for the two examinations. As a result, a school has to make a decision at the age of 12 or 13 at the latest as to whether or not the pupil should pursue the syllabus for the CSE or should take a different syllabus for O-Level. This is a very difficult decision to make and in any event it is not a practical proposition to organise different groups in this form in some schools of limited size. Therefore, the need is to establish a common syllabus, not necessarily a common examination. We need a common syllabus so that children can pursue that syllabus and those who are very successful in their studies will obviously emerge with better results than those who are more limited in their success.

A common examination presents problems. It is very difficult to devise an examination which would cover the whole range of ability, but a common system of examinations presents no problem. You can have three papers. Those seeking top grades would take papers 1 and 2, and those seeking less success would take papers 2 and 3. My theme is that this is an educational problem and not one for Party politics.

Finally, let me refer to something which has already been referred to. It is not in the gracious Speech, and I wish it had been. I refer to the problem of the education and training of the 16–19 age groups. The unemployment problem of youngsters of 16 leaving school is not, in my judgment, temporary. It is not transient and it is not merely the result of recession. It is structural and therefore it is permanent, not only in this country but throughout the whole of Europe and in America. We have therefore to face a new problem, the problem for the very great majority, if not for all—and I believe that within a short period it must be for all—of education and training up to the age of something like 18 that the development of a technological society will force upon us.

I then come back to the structure of our comprehensive schools and I ask myself whether it can be done without facing a major change of structure—because I do not think it can. I think we are all agreed that we do not want very large schools. I believe that this is a matter on which there is general agreement. I think we all know that there are rapidly falling school rolls. In a comprehensive school of limited size it is, in my judgment, impossible and neither economically nor educationally viable, to maintain the full range of opportunity necessary for the 16 to 19 year-olds. Nor would I wish to see sixth-form colleges develop, offering a purely academic course in contrast to technical colleges offering alternative courses. Apart from maintaining the comprehensive principle, it is of the greatest importance that young people should be able to be flexible and not be committed at 16, inevitably and utterly, to one course from then on.

Therefore, it seems to me that we need a new Education Act which would redefine the stages in education—the primary stage at nursery schools, the secondary stage from 11 to 16 and the tertiary stage from 16 to 19. I should hope to see emerging tertiary colleges offering full-time education both academic and technical, leading, if we retain them, to A-Levels or the qualifications of the Council of Technical Education or the Council of Business Studies; offering sandwich courses combining study with practical experience in industry or commerce; offering also in the range of activities of the college the necessary provision which would replace our concept of youth service, because this would be the place where all their needs—social, physical and every other need—could be met so that they would be entering into industry at the age of 18 equipped to work and to maintain standards of work in what, inevitably, will be a rapidly developing technological society.

Finally, my Lords, I wonder whether the time has come when we should stop denigrating the education service, when we should stop finding all that is wrong with it and rather let the country and the world know what has been achieved in the last 30 years—the increase in the number of graduates that we produce; the increase in the number of people who qualify professionally and the standards that are being achieved over the whole range of human activity. The next generation, in everything that is measurable, is better than we were. Every record that we established has been beaten. Those of us engaged in education are charged with making young people fit to live in society. I charge this House and another place with the much greater problem of making society fit for young people to live in.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, may I first congratulate my noble friend Lady Denington and the two noble Lords on their speeches, which were of considerable interest to us all. I hope that we may have the privilege and pleasure of hearing them again in the fairly near future. May I also say that I listened with very great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill. What he said was of very considerable importance, and I think, and hope, that my noble friend the Secretary of State will consider his speech with much interest.

I welcome the proposal to give maintenance grants to young people who remain at school beyond 16. It is greatly to the credit of the Inner London Education Authority that these grants, at the maximum rate of £122 per term, have already been made available to young people, and I am glad to know that some of the pupils in the school of which I am chairman of the governors have already drawn these grants. It will be of considerable interest to know in a few years' time whether these grants have led to an increase in the proportion of young people staying on at school beyond 16.

I am looking forward to an Education Bill which, although I realise that it cannot meet all the ever-growing educational needs of the young people of today, nevertheless can raise standards. But having said that, we should bear in mind that the standards of education have undoubtedly risen significantly in recent years. Over four-fifths of young people who leave school today have some qualification, compared with barely half 10 years ago. It is reassuring to know that the standard of exam results has improved and that the proportion of pupils obtaining the higher grades—that is, grades 1 to 4 in O-Level results—has risen from 17 to 27 per cent. It is also good to know that, compared with 15 years ago under the selective system, almost twice as many young people obtain one or two A-Level passes.

I am glad to know, too, that the Education Bill, when it comes, will give parents as well as teachers a greater role in the governing of schools and that there will be a statutory requirement for a minimum number of parents and teachers on each governing body. But while supporting this proposal, I hope that it will also ensure that the number of local authority representatives on governing bodies is not less than that of the parents and teachers. The members of both local education authorities and minor authorities need to have first-hand knowledge of educational problems and to discuss them with the parents, teachers and pupils concerned.

The information which school governors obtain by regular visits to the schools, and from discussions with their colleagues on the governing body, is of particular value not only to the members of local education authorities, but to the members of the lesser authorities who have been democratically elected in order to represent the needs of their communities. Pupils should also be represented at some, if not at all, governors' meetings. I do not think that they should be full members of the governing body, but they should have ready access to it and the governors should have the opportunity of hearing their viewpoint.

I warmly support the proposal to replace the existing O-Level and CSE exams by a new single examination. The great deficit of the present system is that those who take the CSE examinations tend to be regarded by employers and parents—and, indeed, by the pupils themselves—as innately inferior to those who sit for O-Levels. Since in this world nothing succeeds like success, the abilities of young people who are led to believe that they are not bright enough to take O-Levels are often not extended to the full. There is no good reason to believe that the new examination will lead to a lowering of standards, or make it more difficult for employers and higher education authorities to judge the ability and potential of young people. In fact, the grading system which it is proposed to introduce into the new examination should produce a far more accurate assessment of young people's abilities than it is possible to obtain today. I would urge that the new examination should be made available as soon as possible, and certainly not later than 1984.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, I will start by congratulating the noble Lord who is a fellow Northern Irelander, Lord Blease, on his maiden speech. I should also like to congratulate the other noble Lord and the noble Baroness who made their maiden speeches. I will take as my theme the paragraph of the gracious Speech which reads: My Government will seek to ensure that respect for the law is maintained, and will give full support to strengthening the Police Service". I will complete that paragraph in the last part of my speech. When I have spoken in this House I have always said that I want there to be an elite police force. It is a great pity that we cannot have a police force as elite as the Brigade of Guards. I do not mean by that that I was in the Brigade of Guards. I am just saying that more than at any other time in the last 100 years we need today to get the best people into the police force. Today the police are far too stretched.

Before we had traffic wardens, I remember that I suggested that we should take the control of traffic out of the hands of the police. I am glad to say that the direction of traffic by traffic wardens has been a great success. I am wondering whether or not we could extend that principle and whether or not we could relieve the police completely from traffic duties. I should also like the police to be relieved from having to walk beside demonstrations. That is a very tiresome duty for the police; they ought to be chasing criminals. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, did not give a great deal of support to the idea of strengthening the police. I do not believe that he told us how Her Majesty's Government intend to strengthen the police. France has a smaller population than this country, but it has a police force of nearly one-quarter of a million. I understand that we have a police force of 74,000 to 76,000. The noble Lord shakes his head, so may I ask him whether it is more than that? I understand from him that it is. I doubt whether our police force is more than 80,000. I see that the noble Lord indicates that it is. Then it must have been going up!

However, the noble Lord told us that the Metropolitan Police are 4,000 under strength, which is a serious matter, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will try to rectify the position. The remarks of Sir Robert Mark, the former Metropolitan chief of police, have already been quoted today in this House. I understand that he said that no householder can expect to escape burglary in any major city today. I believe that he also said that the police can no longer protect property because they have more urgent duties to perform, such as the prevention of terrorism and violence. I agree with that, but surely terrorism and violence are interwoven with the protection of property.

We had the appalling case of that poor boy who was mentioned today who was delivering newspapers, but who, because he disturbed thieves, was murdered. As I have said, terrorism and violence are interwoven with the protection of property. The police are not to blame in any way for the great increase in crime. They are overstretched and under strength. I understand that out of every 100 burglaries in London last year only nine were solved. That, therefore, gives the criminal, if he is a betting man—and I imagine that quite a few of them are, in the wrong way—a ten to one chance to escape when he goes out to commit a burglary. In his very good speech, my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench, Lord Rawlinson, said that in the last four years—I hope that quote him correctly—there had been a 48 per cent. increase in indictable offences. What the increase has been over the last 30 years Heaven knows! When the State is unable to safeguard the legal possessions of its citizens, I believe that we are no longer an organised society. As we all know, it is not safe in some areas to walk the streets of London by night, and similarly in the day time.

I should like now to quote the remaining part of this paragraph from the gracious Speech: Every effort will be made to recruit the aid of the whole community to defeat crime and vandalism". The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, did not explain to us how the Government intend to embroil the community in defeating crime and vandalism. Does this mean, for instance, that we are to become private vigilantes, or does it mean that we must make our homes more burglar proof? And if we do that, who is to pay for it? There are many people who could not afford to make their homes burglar proof. What do we pay rates and taxes for if we cannot be protected by the State? Making our homes more burglar proof will deter the amateur thieves and vandals but it will not stop old ladies being coshed in the street. If citizens were to band themselves into groups to protect their area—in other words, become private vigilantes—we are told that that would not be compatible with a civilised society. But stoning, coshing or robbing old ladies in the streets is not compatible with a civilised society. I heard a story the other day—it was second hand, but I have no reason to believe that it was untrue—that an old lady was walking in a park in the South-East of London with her dog (these might have been white youths but in fact they were coloured youths) when some youths came up to her, stoned her and told her, "This is our park. We don't want you in here." She complained to the police who said, "Sorry, but we daren't do anything about it." When we have reached that state of affairs, I think it is extremely serious.

As a short-term measure—nobody wants it as a long-term measure—we must make deterrents more severe; they must be increased drastically. And we must have a police force that is of sufficient strength to match the increase in crime. If we had severer penalties, I am sure that crime would drop. It is not the long-term solution, because it is extremely unpleasant to punish people. Nobody likes to do this, unless they are sadists. Also, it is extremely unpleasant to have to build more jails. I am very surprised to hear, but I must congratulate them, that the Government are going to build more prisons. I thought that the Labour Party would never do that, but they have shown some courage in announcing their intention to build more prisons because this is not a vote catcher.

The Government might even get some Conservative supporters if they do that. In the long term, we must try to eradicate the causes of crime. That is going to take a very long time, but society must be protected. The basic cause of this surfeit of crime today is, without doubt, the changed attitude of people towards private possessions, private property.

I do not want to bring Party politics into this, but in the 19th century people's private possessions were regarded by the law and by the moral code of society as being sacred. When I was a young man before the war one never locked a car and indeed nobody ever locked his house in the country at night. Vandalism was almost unknown, whereas I have come across some amazing instances of vandalism even this year. This spring there was a party of students in my grounds and we heard a commotion going on. We went down to a part of the grounds where there are thousands of daffodils and we found that the students were rooting them up, destroying them and throwing them all over the place. I said, "What in the name of heaven do you think you are doing?" I might have used a little stronger language—I cannot remember—but they said, "Why should all these daffodils be here?" I said, "You can pick a few and take them home and admire their beauty, but don't destroy them", and the one to whom I was speaking said, "Oh, we haven't any daffodils". I said, "Is there a garden at the back of your parents' house?" He said, "Oh yes, but we've got no daffodils"; so I said, "Well, all you have to do is not to go to the pub so much, not spend so much on beer but buy a few daffodil bulbs and then you will have daffodils in the spring". It is a terrifying attitude and it is staggering; that is, the amount of vandalism that exists today.

Recently an eminent doctor told me that in the autumn in Canterbury each year there is a spate of break-ins and petty thefts for about three or four weeks, and I am sorry to say that the CID attribute it to the fact that the students have returned to the university. That is really appalling. Thirty or 40 years ago university students were the most highly respected young people in the community. This surplus of crime may not be the fault of any Government, but it is definitely the fault of Socialist propaganda which has been pumped into people for the past 40, 50 or 60 years. I have often warned in this House that the chickens would come home to roost, and my God! they have come home to roost now. There are so many of them that they will break the perch and they will probably bring the henhouse down, too, and by the henhouse I mean the State.

If we take the 18th century philosophers such as Voltaire and Rousseau, as I have said before in this House, they said that crime was the result of bad government and poverty, but today we have banished what was meant by poverty while crime, even taking into consideration the increased population, has grown tenfold. We even had philosophers in the 19th century who said that to own property is theft, and if you teach that to young people you cannot blame them if they go out and take what they want. Under that philosophy the man who works hard and saves to buy a house and some possessions is the criminal, whereas the man who lolls about in a council house and refuses to work and takes every advantage that the State can give him is considered to be the good member of society. That philosophy is very dangerous, but a lot of young people believe it. I have quite a lot to do with young people and I have more than once encountered that attitude.

I am afraid I have spoken for rather a long time, but before the prime stimulant to crime is eradicated the real meaning of the egalitarian society which we have today must be taught. I think it was Karl Marx who said: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". Today we do not practice that, but we should. I am all for everybody having, so far as possible, equal opportunities in education. But, if we take the example of the hospital workers, we now pay them more than we pay young doctors and surgeons. That is an absurd system. If we take toolmakers, I have had a factory and the differentials are so small that we have to pay the man who sweeps the floor almost as much as we pay the toolmakers. The whole idea of the egalitarian society has gone mad.

I should like to tell your Lordships a story—one of many that I could tell about events which have actually happened to me in connection with young employees. I employ a young man of 24 who has three O-Levels and he came up to me the other day and said, "I should like to be a partner". "Well," I said, "Eddie, you do understand that if you are a partner, you do not get any wages and if the firm or the estate does not do well you have to pay for your share of the losses". He looked a bit thoughtful at that and I added, "Also, presumably you would have to buy a partnership, or if you had done very good work for 15 or 20 years you could perhaps be given a partnership". "But", he said, "I thought we were all equal." I said "Eddie, you may be better than me or you may be worse, but you are certainly not equal. I will give you a microscope and you can go out into the park and pluck a handfull of grass and you will see that no two blades of grass are equal". "Oh", he said, "they never taught me that at school".

Unfortunately, the noble Lord who was speaking on education has gone, but he was saying that far more people today graduate and get A-Levels. That may be so, but I wish they would teach in the schools the simplest elements of biology and also the basic points of economics. If only they would teach what creates wealth in a free society, then I think the whole climate might change; the danger is that, if one does not have any respect for other people's property, it is going to hurt the State quite apart from the private individual, because the State will find that the people will not differentiate between the property of the State and that of the private individual. The State will then be forced to protect its property with guns and with extremely severe penalties, as is done behind the Iron Curtain. So, although it will take a long time, I hope that the attitude of some of our teachers in the schools can be changed or, if not, that those teachers can be replaced with others who will give a better basis for young people to understand the meaning of a free society.

6.30 p.m.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, the noble Viscount said that he was not going to deal with this matter from a partisan point of view. I hope he will let us know when he does mean to deal with matters from a partisan point of view. I am not going to contend with him on his political philosophy, but I should like to offer one thought, which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, offered, that crime has gone steadily ahead in this country irrespective of the Government in power. If he looks around the world he will see that, quite irrespective of whether the country is Socialist or otherwise, there has been this terrible expansion in crime. If the noble Viscount will go back a little further into history he will find that when property was really thought to be sacred you had the death penalty applied to those who stole a sheep or even something smaller. So the absurdity of that doctrine, if I may say so with great respect, will, I am sure, shine in on him when he brings his full mind to bear on it.


My Lords, that was 200 years ago.

The Earl of LONGFORD

Well, my Lords, the noble Viscount was taking us back into the 19th century and he began to go to Rousseau, who he may recall was 200 years ago, so I think I am entitled to talk in historical terms; but I am afraid that I might possibly go on a little too long, and therefore perhaps I should proceed.

My Lords, we are faced with a double crisis in our penal system, a short-term crisis and a long-term one. I am not going to say much about the short-term crisis. I hope it will be resolved by the Government with the help of the Prison Officers' Association, to whom I certainly pay tribute as Government Ministers have done. I say at once that I very much welcome in principle the inquiry which the Home Secretary has announced. However, I am not as happy today as I was when it was first announced. We were told that the terms of reference have not yet been fully worked out, but the Home Secretary when he announced it said: The inquiry will examine the organisation and management of the prison system in the United Kingdom, including its use of resources and working arrangements, conditions in Prison Service establishments and the structure of pay and conditions of service". That, I think, could fairly be called a wide-ranging inquiry.

Why I say I am not so happy today is that yesterday, on an interruption—and, of course, one should not perhaps tie down even the most sober Ministers to obiter dicta delivered in reply to an interruption—a Member in another place asked the Home Secretary: How long is it going to take? Mr. Rees replied: I have said it will be done as fast as possible". The Member asked: Weeks? Months? Then Mr. Rees replied: It is a matter of months. I hope that it will not go long into next year".—(Official Report, Commons, 6/11/78, col. 527). Well, that is not going to be a very fundamental inquiry if it is going to be completed early next year.

I am not going to ask the Minister to say any more on that today, but I certainly hope that that is not to be taken too seriously. The trouble is that we certainly need a fundamental inquiry and a fundamental inquiry should take a year or more, possibly two. Certainly anything that is going to affect the whole future of the penal system should take a year at the least. But the pay claims of the officers obviously cannot wait so long; so the clear solution, I would imagine, of this dilemma would be an interim report. That is what we must hope for. It may well be that we need some cash or other offer even before the inquiry starts. In other words, if it is going to do the job thoroughly it cannot be done as quickly as the Mountbatten Inquiry attempted to perform their task, with results that I am afraid are now generally regarded as unfortunate.

My Lords, there was a very thought-provoking article by Mr. Peter Evans in The Times of last Friday, under the heading "Why penal reform is long overdue." Well, it is good news, if we can take it as news, that it is now beginning to be accepted that penal reform is in fact long overdue. It is worth asking ourselves why it has taken so long for this proposition to sink in. I think that one reason is that we as a nation have been extremely reluctant—and I think it is true of all of us, whatever our Party or our positions, official or otherwise—to face up to the fact of the worsening crime situation. We have kept hoping in vain that the tide would turn, but of course it has not done so.

A more obvious reason, though it sounds a little cynical to say it, is that there are no votes in penal reform. One said this many years ago, but I am afraid it has become increasingly true. No leading politician has made his reputation since the war as a penal reformer. In Cabinet Home Secretaries pressing for more money for such purposes have been countered with the emotional retort—and I have heard it myself—"Why should we spend more money on criminals instead of sick people in hospitals, children in schools, respectable old people in general?" That argument was never particularly Christian if we recall the pronouncement in the Gospels, I have come not to call the just but sinners to repentance". However, it has been understandable and human enough. In practice, however, it has simply not made sense. That argument has landed us where we are today, with the prison governors assuring us—I am quoting their words in a letter to the Home Secretary—"A total breakdown is imminent in the prison system." The noble Lord, Lord Harris, perhaps naturally, did not deal with that particular estimate of the prison governors.

I am indeed glad that the functions and conditions of our prison officers are at last taking the centre of the stage; they have for too long been a forgotten army. In the first debate on prisons in this House in 1955 I myself made an impassioned plea that our prison officers should be transformed from turnkeys into social workers. That, of course, has simply not happened. I must share the blame with all others concerned, Government persons and others, for not laying far more public emphasis on the prison officers' position in recent years. However, better late than never.

There is no conflict between the interests of prison officers and prisoners. Prison officers themselves lay heavy stress these days on the fatal damage done by overcrowding, to the possibility of constructive relationships between prison officers and prisoners. As one of their leading officials wrote to me a few days ago: In human terms such overcrowding is distressing. A serious price is being paid for such conditions. Prisoners pay for it in lack of privacy, and staff pay the price in terms of increased stress and strain in their daily work … —this is the point— … and in the erosion of tolerant relationships between them and the prisoners which are essential for the relaxed control of a prison régime". So this overcrowding is as inimical to the best interest of the prisoners as of the officers. The prison officers again spell out convincingly the effects of recent economy cuts. One cannot doubt their conclusion that at the present time prison officers by any reasonable standard of comparison—and they always compare themselves with the police—are seriously underpaid. Morale is regrettably low. Recruiting is very disappointing, hardly covering more than wastage. If we want good people in the Prison Service we have got to pay for them.

But even if overcrowding and underpayment of the staff are coped with, a deeper question confronts us, a question that certainly will not be tackled within two or three months: What is to be the status and role of the prison officers in the future? One thing at least is certain, that they will in no way be satisfied with the role allotted to them in the past. They will demand change not only in degree but in principle. I am not talking of extremists; I am talking of solid respectable leaders of the prison officers speaking on behalf of the great mass of their members. I have, as I say, been in close contact with them just lately. Their vision of a new approach can be summed up crudely in two words, and they spelled it out at considerable length before the Parliamentary Committee on Expenditure. Summing it up, one could say that they desire greater involvement in welfare duties and much more consultation generally. Personally, I am much encouraged—and I hope that other noble Lords are encouraged—by the conviction of the prison officers that far more scope should be given for their talents in the future.

Determined as I am not to speak for longer than my predecessor, I must say a few words on one or two other vital issues. It is certainly good news that the Home Secretary has acknowledged publicly in reply to a Question elsewhere that not enough resources have been devoted in the past 25 years to the Prison Service. The implication must be that more adequate resources—I hope much more adequate resources—will be devoted to it in future. But how are these resources to be disposed of? Heaven forbid that they should be used on building more prisons instead of being employed for alternative remedies! I shall not pursue that question further this evening because we have debated more than once alternative remedies and noncustodial remedies as against custodial remedies, and no doubt we shall be debating them often again. However, I was profoundly depressed by the rigidity with which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, repeated the old Party line and insisted that more prisons are necessary. Certainly no penal reformer would begin to agree with him, but I shall not pursue that question further now.

I wish to refer to one other substantial matter and I hope that I can do so without offending anyone. It is essential, in regard to prisons, that the whole organisation of the Home Office, including the ministerial arrangements—I am not in any way referring to personalities—should be radically overhauled. I was one of those who in this House 15 years ago spoke and voted against the abolition of the old Prison Commission. No one can pretend that the resulting set-up has given satisfaction outside the Home Office itself, and I cannot, of course, speak for the Home Office.

The principal claim for the new plan was that it would produce a better coordination with other relevant services, but that certainly has not eventuated. The loss of the concentrated, dedicated professionalism of the Prison Commission is widely recognised. I am not speaking dogmatically and saying that we must restore the old Prison Commission: I am saying that the merits of the old system should be carefully studied and should be incorporated in a new scheme which should be very different from the present system.

However that is not the whole story. The prison governors complain—again one could hardly expect the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to quote them on this point—about the deplorable lack of leadership. Those who follow these matters at all closely will be not surprised at that sharp criticism. It has been clear for a long time that the Home Secretary of the day—irrespective of his personality and his Party—is far too busy with other matters to give the kind of leadership in regard to prisons for which the governors reasonably beg. No other Minister in the Home Office—and I, like others here, have taken part in these debates for many years—in the nature of things, has, or can, have sufficient authority to provide that leadership.

In the result, the real conduct of all these affairs has fallen to the officials. We know that in some cases they are brilliant men and I am sure that all of them are very diligent men. But they move in and out of the Prison Department inaccessible to us officially—one cannot ask to see a prison official to discuss these matters—and irresponsible from the point of view of the general public. It would be absurd to expect these high-minded birds of passage to formulate far-reaching schemes of penal improvement and, of course, they have not done so. That must be the job for the Ministers, but it is unlikely to be performed under the present arrangements. Hence we are where we are—to put it crudely but truthfully: in a mess.

When Mr. Callaghan was forming his Administration I ventured to write to him and suggest that a Minister of Cabinet rank should be appointed for penal affairs, a role that I saw as rather wider than that of prisons. The ultimate responsibility would have to reside with the Home Secretary, but I am perfectly certain that if the excellent noble Lord, Lord Harris, for example, who works in this House and who we respect so highly, were publicly designated Minister for Penal Affairs and upgraded to Cabinet rank, he could do far more than at present to fill the leadership vacuum to which the governors point.

There are other suggestions which I should like to make if time permitted, but unfortunately it does not. I end by offering my genuine congratulations to the Home Secretary on setting up this investigation, but I have a fear that a certain confusion surrounds it. I hope that that confusion will be dissipated as quickly and as effectively as possible.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, I am afraid that I am going to return to wages and unemployment. I realise that this subject was very fully dealt with on the first day of this debate, but I still think that there are one or two points that I could briefly raise or emphasise.

The tenor of the speeches of the senior speakers on the first day of this debate showed that there were only small differences between the moderate speakers on all sides of the House. Quite recently—in fact, on 15th May—I initiated a short debate on the need to get a measure of inter-Party agreement in trying to solve some of the problems confronting our society. I then said that I believed that the chance of one Party alone solving these kinds of long term problem was even less likely than getting some measure on inter-Party agreement. What is at stake is not just the future of this country, but the credibility of the whole of our Western civilisation and I challenge anyone to disagree with that point of view.

Britain used to be, and, with all its inherent moderation and experience, still should be, a leader in new policy for consideration by European nations. It is not; and the hard, blatant Party political approach originally put forward by the Conservative Party deserves the strongest censure because it was divisive, unreasonable and foolish. What is required is not a Party political approach, but a long term policy on wages, rather than simply meeting each crisis as it occurs. Maybe it cannot yet be clearly defined in detail and it will take a long time to change people's views. But I should have thought that certain immediate measures were obvious, among them the following.

First, we can, as the Government have done, define the overall limit to wage increases without creating inflation. Secondly, agreements made as a result of any collective bargaining exercise must be enforceable, as they are in Germany and other countries. Thirdly, we must face the fact that the nation can be brought to its knees, particularly by a nationalised industry, where the strike weapon is conclusive. Having faced that, we must devise appropriate safeguards. That the Conservative Party originally thought it could opt out of wages and leave it all to collective bargaining with the nationalised industries passes my belief. Fourthly, it is now apparent that to get any attention a strike is necessary. Surely priority must be given to devising a more sensitive way of considering claims which will eventually have to be accepted.

The conduct of a previous Conservative Government when dealing with the miners can be condemned as accentuating this situation, because at that time, with rising oil prices, the miners had a good economic case for a substantial rise in earnings. It was folly to ignore that fact of life.

I should like now to talk very briefly about unemployment. Fundamentally, the more people who are working usefully, the richer the country will be. At the present time, we cannot afford many desirable projects—for example, improved hospital facilities and social benefits. We should also remember that the tremendous increase in living standards over the years is almost entirely due to the benefits of mechanisation. Of course, automation has potentially the same effect. The reasons why this simplistic view of economics does not operate are manifold. Mobility, retraining of labour, and the need for capital investment and to pay for raw materials from overseas are only a few of them. Nevertheless, I think that we are too ready to accept the probably necessary palliatives—and I repeat palliatives—of shorter working hours and decrease of overtime without considering what else might usefully be done. Why was it that so little support was given to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, who wanted to study just this? The difference between expenditure on unemployment benefit and expenditure on nationally useful created jobs is marginal. Let us look more carefully at this equation.

Finally, I seldom speak unless I have something to say which may not be universally popular. Therefore, let me say that the time has surely come when a Party's interest ought to be subservient to the national interest. I suggest that the attitude of many Party members might be covered by two propositions and a corollary. First, having carefully considered the merits of all the Parties, I have decided that X Party's policies are most in favour of the national interest. Secondly, Government is only possible if my Party speaks with one voice—that is, without dissension. Corollary: I need never again consider the national interest; it can only be that of my Party. Today this attitude will not do. Nor can the games played in the name of Party politics be justified. It is, as I have said before, fiddling while Rome burns.

6.53 p.m.


My Lords, the topic which I wish to discuss this evening is so far removed from most of the subjects which we have so far considered that I wondered how best to introduce it. First, I should like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, for talking about the small difference between the cost of employing people usefully and the cost of keeping them on the dole, because that was one of my points.

My noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich, who introduced this debate, concluded his speech by saying that he had been to Manchester. I wonder whether he was inconvenienced, as most people are who go to Manchester these days, by inordinate traffic jams, and whether he inquired what they were due to. In fact, there are three enormous holes in the main roads in Manchester. One, which I have seen for myself, is easily big enough to contain a double-decker bus. Those noble Lords who know Manchester will recognise the place if I say that it is quite near to the Central Library and not far from the Midland Hotel. If the hole had appeared 150 yards further North, it is very probable that the Midland Hotel would have fallen into it. This has come about through the erosion, over a period of 150 years since they were built, of the sewers of that great city.

This seems an improbable subject to discuss in a speech on the Queen's Speech but the fact is that the whole of the infrastructure of the North-West of England—particularly the water supply and sewage disposal—is very near the point of total collapse. As I have said, most of the sewers were built between 150 and 170 years ago, at a time when Lancashire was growing fast and was the most densely populated part of England. They were thought likely to last for perhaps 100 years, as they did, but after nearly 200 years they are failing very fast indeed. On average in the North-West Region there is a main sewer collapse, usually resulting in a great big hole in the main road, once a day.

The total value of these assets is many thousands of millions of pounds—an enormous amount—but the total amount of money which is now being spent on restoring them is £100 million or so a year, which is all that the water authority can afford and which is about a quarter as much as it ought to be spending. The water authority knows and understands the difficulties which confront it. It is quite impossible to imagine that the water rate could, without vigorous protest, be raised fourfold to cover the essential work which must be done if the infrastructure of the district is to survive and if civilised living is to persist.

Some fundamental change will have to take place in the way in which these works are financed and, as I have said, the North West suffers worse than any other part of the country. I have with me a copy of the New Civil Engineer and a copy of a report which has been published on this matter fairly recently, both of which show beyond any doubt at all that the danger is real and that the city centres, which are supposed to be going to be restored, cannot even survive unless vast expenditure is undertaken forthwith and urgently to renew the very essential fundamentals of civilised living; namely, the supply of clean water and the removal of water-borne effluent.

I think it is appropriate that I should make these observations in this House because some of your Lordships may remember that about 15 years ago we debated the possibility that London might be flooded. It was established that the whole of the South-East of England is slowly sinking into the sea—a geological process which one can hardly hope to reverse—that the actual river defences are themselves sinking into the clay, that the river itself is being dredged so that the tide rises more quickly and, in effect, in the 100 years which elapsed after the building of the North Embankment, the amount of free space above the maximum expected level of the Thames has dropped by three feet.

Noble Lords may remember that in 1953 there was an enormous flood which would have reached this part of the city had it not been for the fact that the river defences gave way and Canvey Island in particular was flooded, thereby taking the water which might otherwise have come up here. As a result of that debate the defences of the City of London were raised by three feet and the building of the barrage was expedited. It is an extraordinary thing to say, after all the time that I have been in this House, that that is the only physical result that I have noticed of a debate in this House. The river's walls have actually been raised; one can go and touch them and see. That is what a debate in the House of Lords can do!

About six months ago there was another high tide which overtopped the levels of the old defence but did not reach the level of the new one. As a result, London was not flooded. This was a non event; no one noticed it. But had it not been for that debate in your Lordships' House, I am inclined to believe that both Tower Hamlets and Sloane Square would have been flooded; the water would probably have entered the underground, and goodness knows where it would have gone from there!

I think it is appropriate that one should mention that the Government can take the initiative in dealing with urgent matters of importance to the infrastructure and the survival of our great cities. London is more fortunate than the North-West because its sewers were built about 50 years after those in the North, and so it is unlikely that the Treasury building might subside into a sewer in Whitehall. But I urge the Government to consider as a matter of great importance the funding of extra work to renew the ultimate basis of civilised living in a large and important part of this country.

This brings me to the present state of the civil engineering industry as a whole. It is used habitually by the Government as a regulator. I think there are something like 250,000 unemployed members of that industry and something like 200,000 members of the ancillary trades. In other words, the better part of half a million people are out of work at this moment. Were these people in work—and the difference in the cost of giving them their wages as compared with maintaining them through social security is not as big as might be thought—they would be producing perhaps £4,000 million or £5,000 million worth of real valuable assets and things such as hospitals and roads every year for the community at this moment.

It is significant that the Crown Agents lost a couple of hundred million pounds or rather more, and an inquiry is to be held to find out how it happened. The loss they produced was what might be called "fairy gold"; they never lost any buildings or hospitals, they just lost securities and money of a type which is important to those who own it but perhaps not to the community at large. On the other hand, the policy of maintaining the better part of 450,000 civil engineers in idleness every year loses to the community something like 20 times as much in value as those assets lost by the Crown Agents—and nothing is done.

It is a curious economic situation we have arrived at. We are told that the most important thing to do to save British industry is to reduce inflation. In order to reduce inflation we have reduced public expenditure. In the process we are destroying one of our great industries. Meanwhile, we wait while the sewers fall in. This seems to me to be a form of fiscal policy which really is hardly credible and must be changed. I do not believe that our society can survive if our fiscal system makes policies as absurd as this inevitable.

If I may go back to the problems of Lancashire, part of the trouble stems from the fact that the work was done at a time when the salary of the bank manager of the largest bank in Manchester was £150 a year. In other words, money was worth a tremendous lot more then than today, so the capital cost involved in these great works was, by present day standards, trivial. Because of our accounting system, which takes it for granted that it is the historic cost which is important in matters of this kind, the value of the work is traditionally and normally and inevitably grotesquely underestimated. This, I beg your Lordships to believe, is not the result of inflation; it is the result of a curious accounting procedure which ignores inflation when it is operating.

We are told in the gracious Speech that there is to be a study of company law in order, among other things, to avoid the use of inside knowledge in trading. This is important enough, but trivially unimportant as compared with the significance to industry and to the community at large of the use of accounts which are completely misleading in the results they produce. In the last year several companies have produced two sets of accounts: one based on the historic costs and one based on the assumption that one must make allowance for changes in value. The difference in the apparent profits has been enormous. One great firm made a profit of £15 million one way and £5 million another way. Another was £35 million one way and £6 million the other way. How can one contemplate levying a tax on a firm if its profits are so totally unpredictable and unknowable? How is it possible for the trade unions to negotiate with a firm when they do not know whether the firm is profitable or not?

Some years ago I was discussing this matter with the chairman of one of our great firms of accountants. I said to him, "You should qualify the books of this firm by saying that these accounts have been analysed in accordance with our traditions and with the Treasury rulings and they show that the firm is making a profit. In fact, in our opinion it is losing money so fast that were the directors indicted for trading when they have no reasonable prospect of avoiding bankruptcy they would have no defence in law."

The situation is quite ridiculous. It has led to the institution, as I have said before in this House, of a major capital levy on British industry; it has led to the growing dereliction of a great part of the fundamental civil engineering upon which half of England depends, and it is leading in a curious way to the process by which we are at this moment leaving unemployed some of our most productive and potentially important men; men upon whose efforts the community depends and whose work could make the country more fit to live in, and we do so in an attempt, apparently, to save British industry by stopping inflation. My Lords, the situation is intolerable and must be changed.

7.7 p.m.


My Lords, before commencing my address to your Lordships, may I welcome the three maiden speeches we have heard tonight, which have covered such a wide spectrum of the views of this country. We look forward to hearing more from the noble Lords and the noble Baroness who made them, and we welcome them to our debates.

When I was reading the Queen's Speech and when I heard it, I saw that the Government intended to amend the Local Government Act 1972. I then went on to see what they were going to do, and I discovered that the intention was, the better functioning of local democracy in a number of the large towns and cities in England ". There is one absolutely blank spot in the gracious Speech, and that is the subject of the countryside. It may not be appreciated by your Lordships that a grave situation is arising here in that the countryside is dying. We have laid down a principle that the villages of the country are to be divided into three: those which are to be permitted to grow; those which are to be permitted to remain without growth; and those which are to be permitted to die.

What is happening as a result of this? We are getting villages which are being allowed to live and expand with new populations coming to them, a great proportion of whom have nothing to do with the countryside which surrounds them. We are getting people coming into these places who are purely commuters who go to live there in order to work elsewhere. We have villages which are being allowed to live but not to expand, where you are getting people who come in purely to spend the rest of their lives after retirement. Think of the old people whose lives have been spent in a particular area of the country and whose roots there go very deep. The village is permitted to die, but of course it never does because as the people leave their places, they are taken over and developed into purely residential areas for the retired or, as happens in my part, for people who commute to the major centres of industry and business.

We are losing life in the country. One by one our village schools are going and when the village school is destroyed, so is the village. No young married couple will consider living somewhere where their children must commute miles, even if organised transport is available. Most people do not realise the difficulties of people in the country in getting their children to school in a very bad winter. They may have to travel anything up to a mile and a half to get the school bus, then up to 15 miles to school. Imagine that in the middle of an appalling snow-storm. Imagine their home-coming in the dark in winter in weather which at times can be atrocious.

We have also reached the stage when it appears to be policy that people who live in a particular area—people whose families may have lived there for many years, perhaps going back to the very basis of the area—should find it almost impossible to continue to live there. For exemple, in my area there lives a gentleman, well on in life and retired. He is surrounded by his family within five or six miles, but he has not even been permitted to build himself a small bungalow on a site which has been occupied for many generations by coal yards and a village hall. He has been blandly told that he cannot live there, even though his son would be prepared to take on the responsibility. That gentleman is expected to move miles from his family, and this in an area where he has lived all his life.

What are we coming to? Apparently the principle is that you can live and work in the countryside all your life, but when you reach retirement age you must get out and let a commuter in. This process must be reversed. We cannot allow our agricultural centres to be delivered up to weekend cottagers and commuters. They are for the people who have their roots in the country and who want to work there, and I fear that if the present tendency continues it will be difficult to find people who are prepared to work in agriculture, forestry and so on.

I beg the Government to reconsider their policies on agriculture. I admit they have done a considerable amount to assist by way of transport in rural areas; I am grateful for that and give them credit for it. Nevertheless, the country is dying, the population is ageing and people are coming in who have no feeling for it and no depth of roots in it. This matter must be looked at with the utmost speed.

7.17 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, as I have previously in rural debates, but tonight I wish to revert to the theme on which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, concentrated in his opening speech; namely, the fight against crime. I shall restrict my remarks to one sentence in the law and order paragraph in the gracious Speech: Every effort will be made to recruit the aid of the whole community to defeat crime and vandalism. That sentence was good to read and I now ask the Minister to tell us, even in the simplest outline, what the follow-up is to be. I have spoken on this theme before, as has the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, who I regret is not in her place, so I shall be brief and I do not want to incur the charge that I am repeating too obviously what I said on the same theme in the home affairs debate on the humble Address last year and the year before, when it was less fashionable to mention the police in debates in Parliament.

This sentence could mean a lot, it could mean not much or it could mean nothing at all; but if it is to mean more than very little the Government must say now what they mean and they must give a clear lead. Exhortation to the people to be more careful in locking the boots of their cars is the sort of advice that is not good enough. Secondly, the police must show that help is welcome, and that is not always clear today. Thousands of right thinking people in this country would like to help, but they just do not know what to do; they must be told. I go further and say that if the police are to get the full co-operation of the public, the public must have wider knowledge of police responsibilities and resources and some of the means at their disposal. At present, I believe that not only the great majority of ordinary people but possibly most noble Lords in the Chamber now have only the vaguest ideas, and I do not wish to be offensive but I believe there is a basis of truth in that remark.

If some police work is strictly confidential, much is little more than routine and here there is no reason to be secretive. Further, if we want to widen knowledge of police tasks, we must make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of suspicion, and this is suspicion in two ways; there is some public suspicion of the police and some police suspicion of some of the public, and in particular of politicians. It is not so easy to dispel all this, but we must try. There are serious reasons for this state of affairs. Too many children are still brought up on the story of the policeman as the bogeyman, and it sticks. There is too little contact between police and school-leavers—I believe that that was mentioned earlier in the debate—and there is a matter which perhaps we overlook; namely, that the motor car has made offenders of us all.

I am sure that I am not exaggerating in what I am now going to say, which I base not only on general observations, but also on personal experience. Some little time ago I thought that I would be a more useful citizen if I knew more about policing. But how does one begin? I did not know. I had recently read the report of the Royal Commission—I think it was 1962—and I remembered a paragraph which stated that the Special Constabulary was the natural link between the police and the public. So in my innocence I floated the idea in more areas than one that if I was too old for normal duties as a Special Constable, I hoped that I might be allowed to have some kind of formal association for however short a time, simply to learn what policing is about. I found no sympathy for that idea, and I had one real rebuff, but that is water under the bridge.

However, I was not wholly deterred, and I turned to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich (whom I am sorry is not now in his place), and he was very helpful. He put me in contact with helpful people in the Metropolitan Police, and I could not be more grateful to him and to them. Admittedly, at the start I was the object of suspicion. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, may recall a letter that he wrote to me in which he said that he could agree to most of my requests, but not all of them. He had reservations, and he said that the police had these reservations. On the other hand, when I checked with the police they told me that it was the Home Office which had the reservations; I can remember that the letter referred to concern about my personal safety—for which I am grateful to the noble Lord—and then he referred to concern about the fact that I might be a witness of an incident, which I always understood to mean that he did not consider that I can tell the truth.

Nevertheless, I pursued my contacts, and after a slow start trust was built up and I have been allowed to see much more than I ever expected to see. It is a new world to most of us, even though it is close to us and happens all around us. I am not going to tell stories, nor break any confidence. As my experience widened and I became bolder, I asked a foreign police force whether I could see something of their operations. I did not expect much, but any comparison that I could have made between a force overseas and the police in this country would have been interesting and useful. I had a pleasant surprise. I received an early reply to my letter. The force had cleared the idea with their government, and I was to be very welcome. I was asked when did I want to come and how long did I want to stay. There appeared to be no reservations at all. The only mention of my personal safety was after I had arrived, when I was told that I would be entited to claim compensation for any damage that I suffered when out with men on duty. For several days I lived with that police force and they treated me almost as one of themselves, and I sensed no suspicions. That is the way to win support. Admittedly, I was a special case, but it still shows what can be done.

In conclusion, I submit that even if the police cannot throw Cannon Row open to the public and entertain sightseers in the charge room in the same numbers and on the same scale as we see visitors in the Central Lobby, they must nevertheless learn to be more flexible in their thinking because the man apart theory is totally out of date. But most important of all is the point that the Government must give such a lead as will inspire the very many people in this country—women and men—who are wanting to be told how they can help the police today, and so make this country a happier, safer, and better place in which to live.

7.25 p.m.


My Lords, I found the example of brevity which we have been set in the last few speeches a little off-putting. I know that this is the stage in the debate when noble Lords begin to talk about the "lateness of the hour", but if I take a little longer than some of your Lordships may hope, I can only plead in extenuation that I am off the beaten track in this debate which is now drawing near its close. Up to now, the debate has been concerned with the human condition, and wretched though much of it is, and hopeless though I think many of our afflictions are, I propose to turn away from them until another time. I have a different subject to bring to the notice of your Lordships, and I am encouraged in this by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier—whom I see in his place—who broke the spell of law and order. This House will be talking law and order for the next decade, and beyond that, too. The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, trotted out a few of his own hobbyhorses, but there was not an animal amongst them. I am going to trot out one of mine, and the difference is that mine has in part to do with horses, because I propose to talk about putting animals into politics. Perhaps this does not surprise your Lordships. I am sure that it did not surprise the Chief Whip, and that is probably why she decided to put me in to bat so late.

I have received a great number of letters in recent weeks while a co-ordinating committee of which I have the honour to be chairman has been drawing public attention to the need to put animals into politics. Many people have written to say, "And about time too! We have been waiting for this initiative for too long already." Curiously enough, the only people who have taken the opposite line—that of keeping animals out of politics—have been politicians, including leaders of the Conservative Party and the Field Sports Society.

I think it worth spending a few moments on the question of what is appropriate for politics and what is not. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, is not in his place at the moment, in view of the fact that he referred to what he believed to be the harm done over the years to the cause of education in this country by making education the subject of Party politics. The trouble is that our system of Parliamentary elections and our whole electoral system produces adversary politics. Our two-Party system is the product of our first-past-the-post system of voting, and the consensus, which is often referred to as the silent majority, sometimes fails to emerge.

All public affairs that are the subject of Parliamentary procedures are politics. They are in politics. Everything is in politics, and that is why, in my judgment, animals should be in politics, too. I wish to assure your Lordships that I have no desire to put animals into Party politics, although they may get there. Indeed, the Labour Party has already put them there, and nobody should be happier than myself if animals could be put into all Party politics. However, in order possibly to put the remarks I am to make on to a more acceptable basis I shall drop the word "politics" and refer to policies, which is what we are really talking about. What I, as well as many people in the country, want to see is more concern for animal protection in the official policies of the political Parties. That is the only way of making progress in Parliament. Parliament is the only place to get changes in the law, and changes in the law are necessary for the reforms that we need to have. If these matters are not in Party policies they are left to the frustrations of the Private Member's Bill procedure; and in the presence of my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones I need not dwell upon the tiresome, tedious, frustrating nature of trying to get a Private Member's Bill on to the Statute Book. I have gone through that bitter experience myself in another place.

The mischief of the Private Member's Bill procedure is that the Government commandeer so much Parliamentary time at the beginning of each Session and leave the Private Member with small morsels of Parliamentary opportunity on a Friday or at the end of the day some time during the week. The arrogance with which Governments in this country have been induced to persuade Members of Parliament to surrender their time to Government business to the extent they have done is one of the scandals of the British Parliament. They give the Private Member little time and he can be frustrated by the obstruction of a small group of opponents, some of them almost professional opponents of Private Member's Bills. That is why it has taken so long to get many reforms on to the Statute Book. I think one of the sad things about the voluntary societies in this country—and this applies not only to those looking after animal welfare and protection—is that they have little sense of politics or of Parliament, and they do not understand why Parliament does not yield what so many wish to see.

That is why I was pinning some faith on a reference to this subject in the gracious Speech. I find nothing, and I am greatly disappointed because the record of this Government on animal welfare and protection is a bad one. Let there be no doubt about that: it is a bad one; and, if the Labour Government are going to live up to the policy statement of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, then they have a long way to go. Here, in this Labour Party policy statement, we have the most comprehensive declaration of Party policy on animals that has ever been published by any political Party. It is called Living without Cruelty, which is what we should be able to do, and we shall not be a civilised society until we can do that. Here we have an inspiring basis for a crusade within the Labour Party. I will turn my face away from the Benches opposite; they are not in this. I will address myself to my noble friends on the Front Bench on the Government side. What an inspiring basis for a crusade within the Labour Party! And has it not been said that if Labour is not a crusade it is nothing? Here, then, is something to make it something.

I am surprised that the Prime Minister, with his acute sense of which way the wind is blowing, has not himself insisted on animals being put into politics and into the Queen's Speech. Recent experiences have shown what a latent force of public opinion about the ill-treatment of animals lies just below the surface. What a shock the Government must have had recently, to see the reactions to the proposed slaughter of seals in the Orkneys. It is bad enough to have to kill seals by the thousand, but it is an additional provocation when you have to bring the Norwegians here to do it. The Norwegians set sail like the Vikings of old to invade our shores in order to kill our seals, and, quite naturally, there was a revolt against this provocation. It was the louder when it was discovered that these Norsemen who were coming over once again were going to make a commercial profit out of what they were asked to undertake. They were very wise to go home—very wise—because had they gone unprotected by what gunboats we have left they would certainly have been resisted.

The radio, the television and the newspapers now realise that animals are front-page news, and public awareness is growing very fast indeed. More programmes on this subject are already being prepared, and I think that the television authorities in particular will get bolder in their revelations of the truth about the ill-treatment of animals in this country because they believe the Government are getting so worked up about it they will not be able to stand it. Then, I think, the Government will have to put animals in politics. Why do politicians not realise that not all humans with votes care only about themselves? There are welcome signs of a deepening compassion and respect for other species.

I am bound to say how few thanks I offer to Her Majesty for a Speech containing so much padding and quite a few sops to sundry political interests, but nothing whatsoever about animals, their welfare and protection. There is not even a reference to the reintroduction of the Hare Coursing Bill, which was a Government measure twice. We are constantly assured that the Government will reintroduce it at a suitable opportunity, at a suitable opportunity, at a suitable opportunity—a repetitive assurance that we are going to get this Bill. When? I should have thought that that at least could have been put into the gracious Speech. Whether it is among the "other measures" that are to be laid before us I do not know, of course, but I should have thought that the Government would have realised that there is political mileage in introducing a Bill to abolish live hare coursing.

However, apart from matters which require legislation, there are a number of things which can be done and a number of reforms which can be brought about by Statutory Instrument. Just recently I circulated to every Member of the House of Commons a folder containing all the information relative to the present debate, as I did to some hundreds of Members of your Lordships' House. In that folder was a letter explaining in detail the measures that could be taken without legislation on four areas of concern. These were the export of live food animals, horses, factory farming and experiments on living animals. There is nothing new in any of them; I have raised three of them in this House myself. I am not going to try to wring any tears out of this debate. This is a practical issue which could be undertaken by the Government if they were minded so to do. It could be done this Session, however short it may be. Surely these steps could be taken to alleviate avoidable suffering in each of four areas of considerable public ocncern. The Labour Party statement Living without Cruelty dwells on them all, so they are not insignificant. The Labour Party refers to them all: the Government refer to none, the Queen's Speech is silent.

So I am hoping that my noble friends on the Front Bench, bereft of a brief on this subject as I expect them to be, will at least have something to say—not waffle, but some indication of action. One thing above all which I think the Government might perhaps have done was to announce the setting up of a standing Royal Commission on animal welfare and protection. I need not explain the advantages of a standing Royal Commission comparable to the Royal Commission on the Environment to study trends and developments which, if not attended to as they emerge, are likely to be dealt with far too late when commercial interests become strongly entrenched in the exploitation of living animals for gain.

My Lords, I hope that these few remarks will not fall on stony ground. Believe me, not only your Lordships but Members of another place and all candidates who want to get into the other place, are going to hear much more about this subject by the time we come to the General Election. We have the manpower for it; we have the support of 60 voluntary societies; we have the money and we are going to do it. Now, turning for a moment to the Front Benches opposite, I hope that the Leader of the Conservative Party will not shilly-shally over a matter on which the Party's candidates will be asked to state where they stand by the time they come to the General Election.

Turning now to my own Front Bench, I think that if only the Labour Party will show enough interest in this to persuade the Government to adopt policies of this kind, the Labour Party can come out in front, because, put on the lowest possible basis, there are votes in animal welfare and protection. Let us fully understand that. If they come out in front, then we shall have a Party which electorally, politically and morally is worth supporting. To my noble friends on the Front Bench I say, "I hope you take my message and if you cannot deal with it now I hope you will covey it to the proper quarters".


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that I was worried when he said that he turned his face away from the Conservative Benches on the subject of devotion to animals. I, myself, yield to no-one in my devotion to animals—horses, dogs, cats, hens, geese and the whole jing-bang. I and my family are never without them, we are particularly fond of them and we have strong views about their treatment.

7.43 p.m.


My Lords, at the risk of doing what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, suggested one should not do—referring to the lateness of the hour and the great number of speeches that have been made—may I say that I have listened to most of them, practically all of them, and found it a fascinating debate and, particularly, the contributions made by the two noble Lords and the noble Baroness who made maiden speeches. One thing which upset me a little is that there has been very limited reference to the National Health Service. One of the maiden speakers, Lord Whaddon, referred to the Health Service in some detail. It would be unnatural, I think, for me, in my position as chairman of the South West Thames Regional Health Authority, not to pick up, in particular, the reference in the gracious Speech to the National Health Service.

My Lords, if what I say and the examples I use have particular reference to my region, I hope that your Lordships will excuse me because this is in order to illustrate the point I am trying to make. It was with great pleasure that I read: Fresh support will be given to enable the National Health Service to fulfil and extend their services to the public. Everybody in this House is aware of the financial constraints under which the Health Service has been functioning over the past three or four years due to the economic situation in the country. Added to that the four Thames regions have been functioning under the RAWP principle. For those of your Lordships who do not know what RAWP is, it is an attempt to re-allocate the services within the Health Service to equalise them between the regions; and the four Thames regions happen to be so-called rich ones and have to lose some of their revenue and capital. None of us disagreed with the principle of RAWP when we were first consulted because it was obviously fair that services should be reasonably equal all over the country. The tragedy that has happened is that RAWP was introduced at a time of economic constraint, in any case, which made the burden for the Thames regions almost unbearable.

Having read the reference to the National Health Service, I was interested to see what the Secretary of State was going to say in another place about this subject. I read with pleasure in the report of the debate there that he said that they were planning to spend this year £120 million more in real terms on the NHS than last year. My immediate reaction to that announcement was pleasurable. So, I think, would be the reaction of the average person in this country who, like me, would believe that another £120 million was being injected into the Service at this moment for this year.

It was only on reflection afterwards that I began to wonder what really made up that £120 million. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, to tell me whether I am wrong in assuming that that £120 million is made up of the £50 million given specifically in the "Mini-Budget" plus pay and price increases; that, in other words, it is the difference between the projected out-turn for 1977–78 and the planned out-turn for 1978–79. If that is what it is, then I believe it is misleading to say that the Health Service has got another £120 million in real terms; because there is not one penny of development left of that £120 million.

However, the Secretary of State went on to say that in 1979–80 additional resources to help meet the needs of the elderly, the mentally handicapped and the assault on the waiting list would be given. I have a very special plea. If that assistance of earmarked money is going to be given to the Health Service in 1979–80, I sincerely hope that that money will not be allocated on the RAWP principle because it is, I think, fairly obvious to most people that those services for which the money is going to be allocated are an equal problem in the so-called rich regions as they are in what some people call the deprived regions. For instance, if, within the possible additional allocation, authorities were expected to see an improvement in staffing ratios and amenities in mental illness, mentally-handicapped and geriatric hospitals, this is in line with the "Priorities" document and The Way Forward. As an example, if we were going to reach the minimum standard set by the Department in one of my hospitals, St. Lawrence's, with 1,600 beds, this would mean an increase of £800,000 in expenditure on that one hospital. In my particular region we have ten similar hospitals. There could be some of the deprived regions which have a smaller number of that type of hospital.

What I am doing is to try to make an argument for the additional monies earmarked for specific purposes not to be dealt with under the RAWP principle because I think it is unfair on the losing regions and makes it impossible for the Thames regions to implement the Government's wishes—and we all of us want to do that. In the "Priorities" document on the Health Service, the Department of Health advised specifically that, for the elderly, services should be improved by 3.2 per cent.; for the mentally ill by 1.8 per cent.; and for the mentally handicapped 2.8 per cent., plus similar improvements in other services. This advice from the Department was based on the assumption that there will be a growth rate of 2 per cent. for the country as a whole. In fact the growth rate in 1978–79 was more than 2 per cent.; it was 2.26 per cent. That is after including the Chancellor's extra £31.6 million revenue out of the £50 million. In the Thames regions in 1976–77 the growth rate was nil. In 1977–78 it was 0.4 per cent. In 1978–79 it was 0.5 per cent., and increased marginally to 1.05 per cent. as a result of the additional budget. If we bear in mind sthat any service needs an increase of 1½ per cent. purely to keep up with the demographic growth, it becomes obvious that any additionally allocated money for specific purposes should not be made on the RAWP basis to the above-the-target regions. I hope that something can be done about changing that principle.

There is another problem, which is advice emanating from the Department of Health on how we should proceed, based on priority documents and on legislation which affects the Health Service for which no additional finance is given to the Health Service. On many occasions we have tried to impress on the Department of Health that it is not correct to issue guidance which is not covered by financial assistance largely because it also raised the expectations of people all over the country. The general population know that the "Priorities" document exists and that we should increase our services this way and that way by so much per cent.; but if there is not the money available, one creates unnecessarily bad feeling between the administration of the Health Service and the population at large.

There are enormous burdens on the Health Service at the moment. Support for the Health Service will have to be fairly substantial if we are going to meet, for instance, the cost of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act without any additional money or if we are going to meet a change in the doctors' contracts similar to the ones we had to meet with the junior doctors without additional money. All these problems make it very difficult for the Health Service to communicate with the general public and convince them that we are doing our best to meet the expenses that we are asked to meet. Any money that is forthcoming in the next year if it is earmarked should not be done on RAWP. What the Service can afford to do should be carefully costed.

Then we have other problems which have to be covered by finance. One of them is that we will have to consider whether we as a nation are going to implement the EEC Directives. I should have thought that this was a necessity in order to give our nursing staff the kind of possibilities that we would want them to have, of moving about and using their employment. It is interesting that in any one of the four Thames regions the cost of implementing a Directive would probably be between £¾ million to £1 million per region. It is a very expensive Directive to implement. That must be taken into account in any additional funds that are given to the Health Service.

The other reference to the Health Service which I very much welcome is the intention of the Government to implement the setting up of the Briggs Committee on Nursing. I welcome the actual setting up of the committee itself and the advisory councils underneath it. I am desperately worried that once it is set up it might take off and the rest of Briggs will be implemented. The Government have issued a statement saying that they will not change the training unless resources to implement new proposals are available. Again, if the basis of training for student nurses is altered in any way the cost would be extremely high all over the country. I mention these points because they are relevant to the gracious Speech. We were offered fresh support for the Health Service. I should like to plead for support that is desperately needed for the measures that are already on the books and which we have already to finance from straitened circumstances.

I should like to refer to one other problem which in my view is an omission from the gracious Speech. My noble friend Lord Foot in his speech on law and order said that we should deal with delinquency at the source. I agreed with every word of the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. She finished up with a suggestion that perhaps we should have a look at the setting up of some form of family court. I have been a justice of the peace for 25 or 30 years. I was until recently a member of the juvenile bench. Like all people who have been involved with the juvenile court, I am deeply conscious of the effect on young children of broken families and problems in the background.

It is four years since the Finer Committee on One-Parent Families reported. I know from correspondence with the Government by various interested parties that the principle is accepted by the Government; but because of the cost of setting up the services and with deficiencies in court accommodation at the moment it is said that it is not possible to do anything about it. I do not believe that to be true. First of all, it assumes that the Finer proposals are the only model, it is the only thing we can do. Other countries, like America, Japan and Poland, have systems that have proved to be workable and do not have the top-heavy judicial structure of the Finer model. I doubt whether it would be necessary to have new court buildings; the existing structures could be altered. I believe that it would be possible to establish a civil division of the Probation Service which would be staffed by experienced welfare officers working on periods of secondment in the same way that the probation officers carry out welfare duties in penal establishments. We could start off in a small way, working our way up. I urge the Government to produce for very wide consultation a Green Paper posing various alternatives of how we can approach the setting up of family courts. I believe that prevention is better than cure; and many of our delinquents come from broken homes.

7.59 p.m.


My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby, when I saw that my name was late in the speakers' list I took this to be an invitation to roam over the whole field and speak at great length. Consequently, I repaired to the Library and prepared a detailed speech that should keep us going, with luck, for about 30 minutes or if we were unlucky for about 35 or 40 minutes. That was my intention.

I came into your Lordships' House and listened to a speech by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill. I found he said almost everything that I had intended saying. Therefore, I can now be brief. I congratulate the noble Lord on the speech and I congratulate the House on being fortunate to hear a speech like that. He was able to show clearly the essential principles of education. So often people will argue about all types of elaborate organisation and so on, but he came down to the entire root of education, and one of the things he said I think we ought to repeat very loudly; that is, that we ought to be proud in this country of what has been done in our educational system. Instead of going round all the time and saying how badly we are doing and how standards are falling and so on, we ought to be proud of what has taken place. I think my own Party can be proud, but I would not for a moment deny that the Party opposite also can take pride in some of the things that have been done since the war. I hope they will not now allow themselves to be led astray by people whose understanding of education is singularly inadequate.

In the educational system we have built up the comprehensive schools and, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, said, this now plays an essential part in our whole educational system, and it cannot help doing so. I am a fervent supporter of the comprehensive school, which does not mean to say that I am going to run down what was done in the grammar schools: not at all. But the comprehensive school is the school which has taken over now for the children of the country, and rightly so and inevitably so.

We have got an examination system, to which the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, referred. I remember that when I was a small boy at school we took three examinations. There was a lower certificate, which one took at about the age of 13; there was a school certificate which one took about two years later; and there was a higher certificate. There were God knows how many examining boards round the country, each of them setting different syllabuses but all for these examinations.

They got replaced. After the last war we had the General Certificate of Education. The school certificate disappeared; the lower certificate had gone already, and the higher certificate also disappeared. After that we had the O and A Levels, and everyone said: "The fall in standards is going to be terrible." Nothing of the kind happened. Everyone accepted them and realised they had good standards. Then they found that they had to cope with another lot of pupils who were not in the same schools and who were not taking the same kind of syllabus; and so we had the CSE brought in, and that was brought in to cope with the situation.

With the comprehensive schools spreading over the country, the reason for having these separate examinations disappeared entirely. As the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, pointed out, we want a common syllabus. Certain examinations are replaced by other examinations, and of course you have different levels. But the Scots have worked with a single examination system, the school leaving system, for a very long time, and no one has complained that Scottish education is so bad. Single examinations are used all over the world, and why should we suddenly regard the examination as being a unique test as to whether or not we have an effective system of education? The examination system is a necessity in order to find out how the thing has worked. It is nothing less than that. It is not a magical way of imprinting upon people some particular device which enables them to do things which otherwise they would not be able to do. The examination system is something which can be properly dealt with in this way.

I remember that when I was a small boy my mother had a certificate from the College of Preceptors—I was surprised to find that the College still exists—and on that certificate was a neat little crest and a device which stated that she had passed in this, that and the other. At the top it read: "In the book of Nature a little can I read." I used to tease her about that because her knowledge of science was not very great, and I used to suggest that the operative word was "little." She took my teasing quite well.

We come in our educational system to what I think is going to be the most important aspect: that is, the 16 to 19 age group. That is going to be the crucial group in our educational system—crucial because they have gone through the comprehensive school and through the whole of that general education. They are coming to the point where they must begin to get down to serious work in a field towards which their own aptitudes lead them. This is the crucial matter. It will take time for them to find out. Anyone who has taught in advanced education knows perfectly well that children come in and they say they want to do something. They did quite well in it at an earlier age, and then they found either that they had reached the limit of their ability in that subject or they are no longer very interested. Very often they want to do something else. That is why the 16 to 19 age group is so crucial: it is the time when they find out their real needs. That is why so much effort has to go into that.

At the present time in this country we have approximately 600,000 students in higher education, but we have 3½ million students in all further education. It is vital for us to realise that, although that higher education is something to be proud of and something which is essential in order to train all the specialists that are required, it is essentially catering for a small fraction of the total age group who ought to be getting the opportunity of being properly trained, which is something they will need more and more in our advancing society. So the 16 to 19 age group is quite crucial and more effort has got to go into that.

I was a little disturbed when I saw in The Times today—I hope that perhaps my noble friend in replying may be able to say something about this—that the Department of Education and Science estimates that between April 1978 and April 1980 there will be an underspending of £135 million by local authorities on the education estimates. Most of this is due to the fact that many local authorities have imposed severe restrictions on both the number and value of discretionary awards. The discretionary awards are the ones which I think are quite crucial in this whole matter. If they are reducing discretionary awards and making fewer awards, then we are cutting right into this group who should be the foundation of our industrial future and of our development.

If I may mention one final point, it is that in addition to this 16 to 19 age group there is something else which is very important indeed. In this country, and indeed in most countries, we have a number of those who, after they have matured, find that they want to get training. They want to get more education. They have not had the opportunity to get the preliminary qualifications which would let them go on. The Open University is doing a lot here, but at the present time it takes only 80,000 students and we must cope with a far greater number than that. We must cope with women in their twenties—perhaps even later—who did not go on after leaving school to any further education, and who later on want to take it up. They must get the opportunity to do it. We must, therefore, have attached to all our bodies, such as polytechnics and other institutions, the facilities for mature students to go along and take elementary classes at which they qualify to go on to take further qualifications.

Our future in this country depends more and more upon education. We have not, by any means, solved all our problems. We look around today and we find that we are requiring entirely new training for jobs such as microprocessing, microelectronics and so on. And, mind you, my Lords, these skills are just as easily acquired by women as by men, although very few women are going in for this sort of work. It is absolutely vital that we shake up this side of our educational system. This is not to say that we have done things badly; I think that we have done things well. But I look forward to their being done very much better, and I ask the Government to press forward as urgently as possible with schemes for this type of education.

8.12 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a wide-ranging debate and, of course, one immediately notices that in the other place they refer to their debate in their copy of the Official Report as "Home Office Affairs." We call our debate "Home Affairs" and it is that much wider. But the scene was set, certainly so far as the Home Office was concerned, by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, in what I thought was a thoughtful speech to which I shall return in a few minutes. He was closely followed by my noble and learned friend Lord Rawlin-son, and thereafter other noble Lords commented on matters which they, at any rate, considered important. Noble Lords will, I know, forgive me if I do not go down all, or even most, of those avenues. But before I say anything else, I should like to congratulate the three maiden speakers. I enjoyed their speeches, and I have no doubt that all noble Lords will welcome future contributions. I particularly enjoyed the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Whaddon, who said what he had to say succinctly and with not a note in his hand. That is something that is all too rare in your Lordships' House and he is much to be congratulated.

But one avenue which I must go down, and I cannot resist it, is that which was opened up by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and, of course, it concerns animals. I was not sure how far his tongue was in his cheek when he said that this was represented by him and his friends as a sustained attempt to bring animals into politics. Animals have been in politics for years. Ever since I have been in this House, we have done almost nothing except talk about animals, and it is a subject about which I personally am thoroughly bored. I always say—and I will repeat it—that this House is at its worst when we come to the subject of animals. Our hearts, which are, anyway, too big and liable to crumble, are writ largely on our sleeves. Preposterous ideas are put forward and debated with every solemnity which is due.

Some noble Lords may remember the debate which we had only last Session on dogs. We have had debates on deer. We have had a Bill on deer, which luckily did not reach the Statute Book, because it contained some very foolish provisions. What the noble Lord and his supporters are doing—and the noble Lord was frank enough to admit it—is to bring animals into Party politics, which is a very different matter.

I was lucky enough, I suppose, to be included among those who received this folder. I took a rapid look at it before it made its way to a portable recycling machine, otherwise known as the waste-paper basket. It is a well-orchestrated and well-financed attempt to put forward perfectly laudable and sincerely held opinions on the part of the noble Lord and his supporters, which he wishes to bring into the realms of Party politics—and all power to his elbow if he wants to do it. Whether the end result will be quite what the noble Lord foresees, I beg to doubt. But where one is entitled to complain is at the arrogance by which some of the noble Lord's supporters claim, in effect, that anybody who does not agree with their thesis on a particular animal, and on how it should be looked after, is at any rate a hypocrite and probably a callous coward.

I have not studied the question of seals, but there were certainly a lot of earnest people in the Scottish Office who apparently thought that it would be better to cull the seals than to watch their numbers increase until they used up their food supply and thereafter died in misery, disease and hunger. It is a point of view, and I suppose that the noble Lord is right to reject it, but it is, I think, a tenable point of view.

I shall not say any more about animals. The noble Lord invited the leaders of the Conservative Party to state their position. I am not one of those, but I think most candidates will say that where proposals which are sensible for the welfare of animals are put forward, they will embrace them. Where they are merely partisan and foolish, they will reject them. That is what I certainly would wish if I were in a position to stand.

I want to come back to the gracious Speech and to what was in it, as opposed to what was not. I thought that there was a faint air of complacency about the noble Lord, Lord Harris, in his otherwise, as I have said, very thoughtful remarks. He asked for moderation in speech and demeanour, and of course that is perfectly right and I agree with him wholeheartedly. The question of law and order and our penal system is far too important and in far too worrying a state for anything else. I do not intend to play the numbers game. I think it is foolish and not very helpful to say that so many crimes were committed in this year rather than in that. Nor shall I point a finger at one Party or the other, and claim that either philosophies or attitudes have contributed to public attitudes towards both the courts and the law, because although one can score points one can never win that argument.

I think it is agreed by the Government that their public attitudes are wrong; otherwise, there would be no need in the gracious Speech to include the passage that the Government will make, Every effort … to recruit the aid of the whole community. If the public attitudes were correct, then there would be no need to encourage them to come and help defeat crime and vandalism. Here I very much agreed with what my noble friend Lord Inglewood had to say. There is, without doubt, a lack of education of the public as to what the police are trying to do, what the courts are trying to do and what the community as a whole is trying to do to defend itself, and its persons and property, against the offenders in its midst.

Where I quarrel with the Government is that I believe that they are there to give a lead in these things—and not only in these things but to be sensitive to a declining situation, and to give a lead, hopefully, before the situation deteriorates too badly. We have had two examples of this in the last year or so where the Government can be faulted. The first was the deplorable loss of morale in the police. I know that that has now got very much better. Recruitment is going up. Wastage of manpower is falling back. But what a long time it has taken to reach the present situation, and how much agony of mind to perfectly honest and hardworking police officers and their families was caused while the Government were shilly-shallying over this matter.

Let me now turn to the prison officers. It is in my view deplorable that a body of dedicated men—I knew quite a number of them in my professional career and they are, on the whole, thoroughly dedicated men—should have taken action, admittedly unofficial action, which rendered life that much worse for the people who had been put in their care. Presumably they took that action—indeed, they have said so publicly—because they were driven to it. One must, I think, now give the Government some degree of credit for having instituted the inquiry, whenever it reports. On the other hand, the situation has been allowed to roll on for far too long so that we have ended up in this present deplorable situation.

I was attracted by Lord Longford's plan for, in effect, a Ministry of Penology. We would rejoice if the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, were in the Cabinet; I am sure that he would be a good and doughty friend to this House. I am not sure that very much would actually be achieved by the Ministry; it would by the noble Lord, but not by the Ministry. I do not believe that the Home Office is that fragmented in its personnel, if I may so describe the Ministers, that in fact it needs to be, as it were, jerked up to the position of a Cabinet Minister in order to see some kind of improvement in our penal attitudes and what we try to do for criminals.


My Lords, if the noble Earl is leaving that point fairly soon, may I ask him what is his solution? We are told by the prison governors that there is a deplorable lack of leadership. I hope that the noble Earl may consider my suggestion that no Home Secretary will ever have the time to give to providing this leadership, so may I ask him how it is going to be provided?


My Lords, first we must have a change of Government, and then I am sure that one of my right honourable friends will provide the leadership. That is the first thing to do. After that, we can work it out. Having answered that question at its face value, let me say what I would do, from this position, about it. We have to acknowledge that it is a matter of public attitudes. Public attitudes over offenders and offences—before, that is, the offenders come to court, what happens to them while they are in court and what we do with them if and when they are convicted thereafter—represent the tragedy of the situation. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is in his place, I see, and I am glad about that. I do not know, but I suppose that he does sometimes think that the police are fair to coloured persons. I hope he does.

In my experience, they always tried and, indeed, leaned over backward to be fair. I hope that the noble noble Lord thinks that the courts are fair—sometimes, at any rate. I really hope that the noble Lord does not believe that any coloured person or any ethnic minority grouping that comes on the wrong side of the dock is immediately the subject of some kind of legal discrimination, because it is not so.

The noble Lord wants to get rid of what he describes as "sus". However, it is like the crime of conspiracy; if it was not there, it would have to be invented, because I am afraid that people do lurk about in the streets late at night, and they are quite intent upon depriving some other citizen of his goods. Unless the police are lucky enough to be able to charge them with attempted burglary, there is no way they can take them into custody. Therefore, my support for the noble Lord when he comes to move the Second Reading of his Bill will, I am afraid, be muted.


My Lords, could the noble Earl explain why, if this offence is such an essential component of the criminal law, it does not exist North of the Border, in Scotland?


It does, my Lords. I had a case only last week, when I was on the Bench. It is not called the same, but it amounts to the same thing. It is slightly restricted; I must be accurate about this. The defence is described as "being on enclosed premises by night with intent".


My Lords, that is not the same.


My Lords, it is not the same, but it is not very different. If this debate is to turn to the powers of the Scottish police as opposed to those of the English police, the Scottish police with the Fiscal standing at the back of them, may I say that if I was in that position I would much rather be an ethnic minority in England than I would in Scotland, and I shall come to the reasons fairly quickly, I hope. The certainty of detection and conviction, followed by, in the proper case, a just sentence is the best we can hope for, in my view, so far as law and order are concerned. That encapsulates it in one sentence, but I am sure that it is what we should strive for.

I was sorry to hear that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, in a way did not want more money to be spent upon prisons, because I want much more money to be spent on prisons. There is no hope for many of the people whom I now meet with—I am also speaking in my capacity as President of the Scottish Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, which is a long sounding title but it is commonly known as SACRO—unless they can be dealt with in prison with some semblance of humanity and decency. We cannot go on expecting the prisons and those who staff them to effect what are, in fact, miracles of reform unless we give them the conditions in which they can perform those miracles.

There has been in the last few years—and I give the Government credit for this—at least in England and Wales an improvement and a reform of procedures, both in the courts and in sentencing. I hope the Government reciprocates and says that over some of these Bills the Opposition has played its part in improving them. I should be very upset if the Government did not say that your Lordships' House has more than played its part, aided by noble Lords from all quarters, including the Law Lords. But whatever we do, we are still going to need prisons for a considerable time in the future. Sentencing has also improved vastly. The various measures with which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, regaled us have all, I think, made the lot of a sentencing judge very much better than it used to be when I first came into this House before the 1972 Act.

I want to close on this note, and it is almost the last paragraph in the gracious Speech, where it is said: Scottish Bills will be introduced to improve criminal justice and criminal procedure in Scotland". I do not suppose that it is altogether fair to expect the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, to put on his Scottish hat, or even kilt, but I am going to say one or two things about what I hope the Government are going to do, because there is very definite room for reform North of the Border. We have no suspended sentences; we have no attendance centres; we have no detoxification centres; we do not have compensation orders. The procedures for bail, if any of those who supported the last Act were to read them, are archaic. In many instances a man's liberty is at the whim of the Procurator Fiscal and it is a salutary experience. I wish the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, were in his place because, first, he is always very congratulatory about the Scottish legal system and, secondly, he is keen on bail, but it is something that needs urgent attention followed by action. I will say no more.

New courts were thought out by the last Conservative Government, but in fact they were put into practice by this Government. I do not think it is working very well. The district courts are too puny; they do not have the right jurisdiction and they certainly do not have people of the right calibre sitting in them. There is no formal training for justice in Scotland: there is informal training, but that is as far as it goes. The children's panels are little short of a disaster. There is no respect for them and there is very little respect for what they do. When people talk about young people laughing in the face of the courts it is really that which has to be improved in the future.

There is plenty of meat in the gracious Speech to occupy us during the coming Session. I hope that some of these measures which we have talked about, particularly so far as the law reform is concerned, may start in your Lordships' House, because, going back to what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said, we do consider things here with much less emotion than perhaps they do in another place. I do not always set up your Lordships' House against another place, but I consider that to be one area where we score heavily. I am quite sure that sensible Bills of that nature will be largely supported by noble Lords on this side of the House, although, of course, as usual we shall try to improve them.

8.33 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said at the beginning of his remarks, this has been a wide-ranging debate and in fact it has covered a large number of Departments. I find myself in some difficulty in answering for all those Departments. What I propose to do is to try to answer questions which have been put to me directly and, if your Lordships will allow me, I want to avoid dealing with any matters relating to the Home Office. My noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich has been here for the whole of the debate and I know that he has picked up a number of matters which he is proposing to look at. I know that certainly in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, it is my noble friend's wish that he writes personally to the noble Lord on certain matters which he has raised tonight, so I shall not be dealing with them.

Having said that I do not propose to make any reference to Home Office matters, I was intrigued by one or two things said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Rawlinson of Ewell. When my noble friend Lord Harris said that the Government proposed to spend £23 million in the foreseeable future on building additional prisons I understood the noble and learned Lord, Lord Rawlinson, to say that he advocated a much greater programme of prison building and then, when talking about the treatment of delinquency, he went on to say, if I under- stood him correctly, that there was a case for short, sharp sentences. As a matter of personal interest I wonder whether he was speaking for himself, or is that declared Conservative Party policy?


My Lords, I always speak for myself. As I said, I believed that the public was demanding as a primary social service a massive increase in resources, so that more could be given not only for the prison building programme but also for the provision of the various attendance centres and detention centres which are required. I think it behoves any Government of whatever colour to bear that very much in mind.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble and learned Lord. I want, if I may, to answer two matters put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, one being on the question of the Official Secrets Act. In July the Government published their detailed proposals for the reform of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. The White Paper specifically invited comment on those proposals, as the noble Lord knows, and the Government will study them with considerable care. It remains the Government's intention to reform that provision, but I very much doubt whether it is likely to take place during the present Session.

The noble Lord then referred to legal aid. We acknowledge that there is a need to improve the provision for civil legal aid, which has fallen back during the period of economic stringency and the restraints that there have been on public expenditure. I have it from my nobie and learned friend the Lord Chancellor that he hopes to be able to announce improvements before long, and indeed to take the first step next week, when there will be an opportunity for your Lordships to debate this very matter.

I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Blease on his maiden speech. I cannot really add a great deal more than has already been said by a number of your Lordships, and I do not want to take up time crossing the t's and dotting the i's; but, like your Lordships, I hope that we shall hear him from time to time in your Lordships' House. As one of his main themes he raised the subject of youth employment. I do not think he needs me to tell him that the Government are deeply concerned about the problem of youth employment in Northern Ireland. I think we all ought to be deeply concerned about the whole question of unemployment, whether it is among young people or much older people, but particularly among young people who feel that they are serving no useful purpose at all in this country. I do not think many of us realise, except those who perhaps have some close association with it, how devastating unemployment can be to young people, and for that matter to anybody who has the misfortune to be unemployed.

For that reason my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced last year that the number of training and work experience places under the Youth Opportunities programme had been increased from 4,000 to 6,000, which the Government hope to achieve by the end of this year. For those of your Lordships who do not know its content, the programme provides work preparation, experience and training for unemployed young people throughout Northern Ireland in a very wide range of schemes. The programme is not an alternative to work for young people and those in the programme are encouraged to move as quickly as possible into conventional employment. The Government's Employment Service careers officers have a special role to play in assisting young people in the programme to find suitable employment and I hope that in the future my noble friend Lord Blease will not hesitate to make further comments about the situation if he feels it desirable to do so.

I want to try to deal with at least two of the questions put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. I will not attempt to deal with the Post Office, but he raised two other matters, night storage heaters and chiropractors. With regard to night storage heaters, on 1st October this year the Area Electricity Boards in England and Wales introduced, as the noble Lord said, a completely new tariff in which the night rate available for seven hours will be about 20 per cent. below the rate previously offered by the boards. I know that there has been some criticism in the Press on this matter, as to whether the new scheme is in fact as good as the existing scheme. I do not think I can say anything more than that as a consumer—and I rely entirely on electrical central heating—I would suggest that those who are likely to be affected should seek the advice of the Electricity Council before changing. I have had some experience of this where I live, when people who have in fact discussed the matter have sometimes been advised not to change over because it would not be in their interest to do so. I think that is the only advice we can really give people at this stage with regard to that matter.

With regard to the chiropractors, I would point out to the noble Lord that the Secretary of State still has to decide on publication of the Department's views with regard to possible decisions. I thought the noble Lord was rather unkind and rather unfair when he accused my right honourable friend of sitting on this report. My right honourable friend has had it for only about two days.


Then someone else has.


No, my Lords; reports have to be compiled, reports have to be printed, and it is not the only printing that has to be done. It is not the first time the noble Lord has been critical when really he has not been entitled to be. We have given him, if I may say so, a great deal of help in this matter. When the committee was set up under the chairmanship of Professor Cochrane I advised the noble Lord to write to Professor Cochrane or to get his friends to write to Professor Cochrane on this matter, to see whether the committee would accept written evidence from the Association of Chiropractors and, if not, whether they would be prepared to accept oral evidence. The outcome has been that not only was their case considered but the committee is recommending that chiropractics be a profession supplementary to medicine.

This is an enormous step forward. If I remember rightly, there are only four or five, perhaps six organisations which are recognised as being professions supplementary to medicine. I should have thought that the noble Lord had achieved what he really set out to do a year or eighteen months ago. I want to say this, that nobody is sitting on the report at all. Only within the last day or two has it come into the hands of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. It would be quite wrong for him to make pronouncements until he had read it, and it would be quite wrong for him to take any action in the matter until he had considered all the implications and had discussions, as he must, with the committee and the bodies responsible for recommending and advising that a certain organisation should be recognised as a profession supplementary to medicine. I should have thought that a good deal has been done to meet the need that the noble Lord expressed to me about eighteen months ago.

I should like also to congratulate my noble friend Lord Whaddon. I think what I say of him can be said of the other two; if they always speak as briefly as they did they will be very much welcomed in your Lordships' House. I do not want to say a great deal about the all-organ donor card. As your Lordships know, it is possible for hearts, livers and other organs to be transplanted successfully in this country. The only organs at present being transplanted routinely are kidneys and corneas. There is an urgent need for more kidney donors, and for this reason all the Department's efforts to recruit donors are concentrated on improving the supply of kidney organs. If a person wishes to donate all or other parts of his body he may make an appropriate amendment to his kidney donor card or carry a separate signed declaration of his wishes in the event of death. I understand that either would constitute a legally valid statement under the terms of the Human Tissue Act.

We have, as your Lordships will have seen, given careful thought to the question of introducing an all-organ donor card, and in order to gauge the likely reaction of the public to such a scheme we have included questions on this subject in a public attitude survey which is at present being carried out. When we have the results of this survey, which we expect to have towards the end of the year, further consideration will be given to the kidney donor card scheme generally and to introducing any improvements, including the all-organ donor card, if the survey indicates that some steps will be generally acceptable to the public. But we do feel that we want to get the reactions of a cross-section of the community before embarking upon a wide and costly kind of publication.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked about the size of the grant under the new proposals. Details of the resources available under a new grant must await the publication of the White Paper on Public Expenditure. The new form of grant aid would be separate from and in addition to the urban programme. The noble Lord also raised the question of whether ethnic origin would be included in the 1981 census form. My understanding of the situation is that, as we made clear in the White Paper on the 1981 census which was published in July, the Government believe that a question on ethnic origin should be included on the census form but recognise that very careful consideration has to be given as to how the whole thing is worded, and that kind of consideration is in fact going on at the present moment.

I feel it is rather, shall I say, impertinent of me to presume to add anything to what my noble friend Lady Denington has said with regard to the problems of the inner cities, and particularly her reference to London. She and I have known each other for a good many years. I do not suppose she will mind my saying that it was over 30 years ago that we sat on the old London County Council together. Once one becomes a Member of your Lordships' House one's age is no longer a secret, so I am not really giving anything away. Having regard to the time, I do not want to say very much about the inner cities except that the inner city partnerships, of which there are three in London—Lambeth, Hackney and Islington and Docklands—provide the framework for a concerted attack on the problems in these areas by Government Departments, local authorities, other statutory agencies and voluntary bodies. Additional finance has been made available in these and in certain other areas under the expanded urban aid programme, and under the programme to stimulate the construction industry. More recently, the Secretary of State for the Environment has announced the Operation Clean-Up programme, under which additional resources and grants have been made available in the partnership programme areas to improve their appearance. I hope that my noble friend Lady Denington will allow me to leave the matter there because of the time factor.

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, raised the question of vandalism. Vandalism is a matter which we have discussed in your Lordships' House from time to time and I have reached the stage where I think that it is almost impossible to say anything that has not been said before. Certainly, I can say nothing new upon this particular matter. Indeed, I am beginning to wonder whether any of us knows anything at all about the causes of vandalism. I was speaking on vandalism and arson at a conference in Cambridge on Tuesday and Wednesday last week which was attended by some very knowledgeable people. We all felt by the end of the conference that we knew that vandalism existed, but what in the world were we to do about it?

The only useful comment that I can make at this stage—and this is something to which the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, also referred—is that on 31st October the Home Secretary chaired a conference attended by other Government Ministers and representatives of those concerned with local government, the police, housing, education, voluntary work—especially voluntary work with young people—and other relevant activities. The wide variety of measures being taken by the Government were put on record in the papers circulated to the conference. Those present spoke of the variety of ways in which vandalism could, in their view, be tackled at the local level. The problem is not to be tackled successively by the Government or the police alone, but requires concerted action mainly at the local levels where outbreaks of vandalism can be studied and possible remedies identified as well as the kind of action that can be taken. Those who attended the conference went away with a view to carrying into effect, so far as they could, what had come out of the conference, and we hope to get a feedback from that at some later date.

The noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, made me feel quite incompetent when it came to presuming to offer, from the Government, a reply to what he had said. If I can read my writing—which sometimes I cannot because I find it extremely difficult to write with one paralysed arm and the other one half paralysed—I wrote the following comments while he was speaking or when he had finished. The House would not expect me, nor would I wish, to comment or to argue with so distinguished a member of the teaching profession as the noble Lord. I think that I would be expressing the view of the House when I say that his contribution to our debates on education are an education in themselves to those of us who are not educationalists. What I admire most of all, if he will not mind my saying so, because I feel again that I may be speaking for a large number of people in your Lordships' House, is the balance and judgment which lends so much weight to his opinions. I do not think that he asked me any questions in point of fact, but I am very glad that he came here today and made his comments and observations.

For that matter, I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, did not ask me any questions but no one in your Lordships' House would agree with all that the noble Viscount said. However, no one would deny the real sense of much of what he did in fact say. His interventions in your Lordships' House from time to time often come as a breath of fresh air—at least to me—and his comments and observations are always worth reading the next day in Hansard after one has heard them the day before. I shall find myself doing that again, as one always does if one is a Minister in order to pick up the points which one perhaps omitted to mention and then to start writing.

My noble friend Lord Bowden raised a matter which, of course, is of very considerable concern to the people in his part of the country. I am not in a position to say very much which would be helpful, except that the Government Department concerned is well aware of the problem and of the steps being taken by the water authority officers. Our officers, too, are in constant touch with the authorities' directing staff and have asked for detailed information on capital cost and effect on charges as it becomes available. So, I would say to him that, if he has any direct connection with what is happening there, we should like to have the detailed information on capital cost and the effect on charges when that becomes available. It must be remembered that charges for water and sewerage in the North West are about the lowest in the country. Latest estimates from the authority indicate that it may be 15 to 20 years before its charges become out of step with those elsewhere. The authority plans to investigate a special programme of sewer renewals with a level of annual expenditure based on a thorough survey of the problem areas of its region. The only point I want to make to my noble friend is that we are aware of what is happening there and, in point of fact, are watching it very carefully and would be glad to have the information that I have indicated.

As an individual, I felt slight disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford. Having lived in villages in both Suffolk and Oxfordshire over the past 15 years, it has certainly been my experience that a good many of the villages would have died but for those who have come from outside to live in them. In the two villages in which I have lived, it has been the people who have come in from outside who have cleaned the pond and made it beautiful and done a whole variety of other things which, if left to the local people, as it was left to the local people for many years, would have become almost an eyesore. I am not suggesting for one moment that that happens in every village. But we ought not to suggest, or be seen to suggest, that it is the weekender, the commuter or the retired person who comes into the villages who, as a result of doing so, causes the villages to lose any vestige of life. I do not know whether the noble Lord knows that the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, who sits on the Liberal Benches, is chairman of the Countryside Commission. It might be worth while taking him on one side and seeing what he is going to do about it.

My noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby said that he doubted very much whether I would have a brief on this matter. He should have known me better. One must anticipate what noble Lords might say. Sometimes it comes off and sometimes it does not. However, I had a three-and-a-half page brief on the area with which he dealt so eloquently. I do not propose to deal with it. I do not propose to extract anything from it, except to say that I find myself—and this is one of the rare and perhaps the only occason that I shall find myself—agreeing with the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, when he said that this House and your Lordships have given a considerable amount of time in recent years to animals. I do not begrudge it because, quite frankly, I think that it is a matter of very considerable concern. But, for the benefit of your Lordships, if not for the benefit of my noble friend who probably knows this, a proposal that there should be a Standing Committee or Commission to keep under review all animal welfare matters, and to advise Government and Parliament about them, is included among the Labour Party's National Executive Committee's proposals. It has been put to the Prime Minister specially by Mr. Corbett, a Member of Parliament, and an interim reply has been sent to him. The proposal involves the interests of a number of Government Departments, and inter-departmental consultations about this committee are at present in progress. I do not think that I can add any more to that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, raised two matters with which I want to deal briefly. I think she asked what will be the cost of implementing EEC Directives on nursing due to come into force in June 1979? In fact, I do not think that the noble Baroness asked that question. I think that she told me the answer; that is, that it would cost about £750,000 in each of four divisions. I can only say that my information is that the cost will be minimal. In view of the fact that she will not agree with my reply and that I cannot accept hers, obviously I shall have to look at this matter afresh. But I am told that certainly the cost is regarded as being minimal and that we shall be issuing guidelines to health authorities about this very shortly. If the noble Baroness wants me to, I shall pursue this matter; perhaps I ought to do so and then get in touch with her.

Another matter I also want to deal with briefly: As I said at the time, it is true that earlier this year ministerial correspondence referred to an additional £120 million being available in 1978–79 over what was spent in 1977–78. This figure was for England, "Hospital and Community Health Services Current plus Capital Survey 1977 prices." However, it is now becoming clear that the forecast allowance for inflation built into our cash limit is less than the actual inflation being experienced. Exactly how much less we do not know until we have the returns from the health authorities. Therefore, I think that it would be right—and I think that the noble Baroness is right—not to say that there is an additional £120 million at this stage. It would be far better to say that there will be a substantial addition, and we stand corrected on this matter.

Finally, I do not want to deal with anything that the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said, because in point of fact it was largely directed at my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich, and I shall leave it to him to take whatever course he feels necessary. Again, my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones gave us the benefit of a very long experience in the educational field. He did not put any questions to me. But what concerned a great many of your Lordships, as it concerned me, was to be told that there is likely to be considerable underspending by the education authorities at the end of this current year. I am not aware of that fact. This is something which I shall look into, and I shall then write to my noble friend along the lines of the information that I have been given.

I believe that this has been quite a useful debate. I have been in your Lordships' House for a number of years and I think that this is the first time that I have witnessed the presence of every person who has taken part in the debate at the winding-up speech.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Peart)

My Lords, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—(Lord Peart.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.