§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Camoys—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."124
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)
My Lords, I must begin with two apologies, which is two too many. There is nothing worse that a Peer can do, after having introduced today's debate, than not to stay until the end. However, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, to whom I shall be paying, I hope, a tribute later in my remarks, will know that tonight, owing to no fault of anybody else, we have the delightful duty between us of entertaining the European Judges who are here on a visit to this country—and most welcome they are. Therefore, I must leave the debate before the end, I hope without undue feelings of bitterness on the part of those who are taking part in the debate when I desert the Chamber.
The second apology is made because the rather hectic life to which a new Lord Chancellor is inevitably subjected at the beginning of a new Parliament has left relatively little chance of preparing the type of ordered and eloquent speech which the House would naturally and normally expect from me. In some ways, of course, it has appeared like a series of quick-change exercises: from pyjamas into a grey suit; from a grey suit into a black one; from a black one into a scarlet robe; from a scarlet robe into a golden robe; from a golden robe into white tie and decorations and then back into pyjamas again! That progress interspersed with spasmodic, but all too often interrupted sessions of work, has been a difficult task to perform adequately. However, I think that there is a redeeming virtue. I noticed that yesterday we managed to get through the first three speeches in something under an hour. I believe that if I had prepared a full address taking in all that I would like to say we might have been here for an hour and a half before the next speaker had a chance of getting in. Therefore, perhaps my apologies may be mitigated by a certain measure of forgiveness.
I should like to take up the debate on the gracious Speech where we left it yesterday and also to anticipate in a slight degree the context which we shall be discussing next Tuesday. Of course, public affairs are not neatly divided into compartments; they are a total spectrum. Today, as we discuss home affairs, we 125 must not forget either the economic background or the international context because, as I shall try to show, the three compartments are interrelated in an intimate, and in some respects an indissoluble, way.
First, I should like to take up a remark by the noble Lord, Lord Peart, who knows that I possess for him, as does the whole House, very great respect and affection. He spoke about doctrinalism. I do not think that I am any more or less doctrinal than he is, but I think that I can give him the following reassurance. Speaking for myself and, I believe, for the whole Front Bench—at any rate in this House and I hope in both Houses—I do not believe in the doctrine of mandate as it has grown up in recent years. We make our election promises and we endeavour to keep them, but Parliament is the sovereign body.
The gracious Speech does not say that legislation will be passed; the gracious Speech says that legislation will be introduced. So far as I am concerned that means what it says; namely, that the process of reasoned discussion through which all Government proposals must pass before they become law is one to which every wise Government will pay attention. Although, of course, there are differences between the parties—and it would be both dishonest and, I think, foolish to disregard them or minimise them—the electorate must be given a rational choice, and if it is not given a rational choice based on differences it will not be able to exercise a choice at all. However, I hope at any rate in this House—and I hope in both Houses—that we on the Government Bench will treat the criticisms made from the Liberal Benches, the Cross-Benches and, above all, from the Opposition with the seriousness which serious argument demands.
Secondly, I should like to take up a passage of the excellent speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Jacques; it was the second of the Opposition speeches yesterday. That speech echoed, in a slightly more moderate form, a remark which was attributed—I cannot quote it owing to the rules of order—to Mr. James Callaghan in the other place. The suggestion is that there is a fundamental difference between the two parties occu- 126 pying the two main Front Benches in that, as the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, put it:We Socialists believe that the [public] interest … should take precedence overselfish, personal and sectional interests, and of course the Tories believe the opposite. I would wonder the former Prime Minister was credited with a remark that Tory Government meant, "What is in it for me?"
I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, to reflect, if he would, as to whether there is any educated person in this country, on his own Benches, on the Liberal Benches, the Cross-Benches or the Conservative Benches who does not believe that the public interest is what we need to emphasise, and that it should take precedence over private and sectional interests. However, what is the public interest is a matter for analysis, and analyses may differ. Of course, we, too, may differ as to the methods whereby we achieve our ends.
I regret to have to inform the House that I have spoken in every general election since 1924. 1 rather doubt whether even in this House there are very many of your Lordships who could claim an unbroken record of platform speeches of that kind. During this campaign I was enormously impressed (probably all your Lordships who took part in the campaign were impressed) by the extraordinary silence and attentiveness with which our speeches were listened to. It was only on the very last day of the campaign—and that in a place where I had least expected it, namely, North Oxford—that I was confronted by the almost extinct species, the old-fashioned heckler; and how glad I was to welcome him!
However, if I were asked what the electorate voted either for or against, I would say that I do not believe that they voted either for Mr. Callaghan or Mrs. Thatcher, or for that matter either for the Conservative Party or the Labour Party. I think that they voted against last winter. By that I do not mean the weather! If that had been the subject, there would have been a majority of 637, not a majority of 40. However, I believe that the electorate had seen things which they did not want to see repeated. I think that they remembered seeing gravediggers refusing to bury the dead; that they remembered seeing hospitals closed and the postponement of urgent and necessary operations 127 on patients because people would not do the laundry or cook the meals, or because other necessary services were not performed. I think that they objected to schools being shut in the face of the pupils because the caretaker had walked off with the key; parents objected to their children being deprived of education. I shall not go on or I shall be accused of repeating my election speeches.
However, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, and also the occupants of the Labour Benches to search their own consciences and to say whether these are not examples of sectional and selfish interests taking precedence over the public interest, the public advantage and the national interest. Therefore, in our debates during the coming Session—no doubt they will be prolonged, and no doubt they will be deeply felt on both sides—do not let either side set itself up as representing the public interest as against sectional advantages; otherwise I think Ministers may say to the Opposition: "Better remove the beam from your own eye before you search out the mote in the Tory eye"; that public interest, the recreation of national unity and the realisation that things such as patriotism and solidarity ought to come first.
Whether we adopt a free enterprise philosophy or whether we adopt a socialist philosophy is one of the underlying necessities of the case. If I were asked what Her Majesty's Ministers really believe in, I should be tempted to say—and I say it without any desire to be unduly controversial—that we believe in the traditional philosophy of the West; and that is freedom under law, but disciplined freedom under just law. After all, that is what Parliament is about. It may be that we have suffered from too much regulation and too much legislation. But let us remember that Parliament is the sovereign body in this country. It is for Parliament to decide how the schools should be exercised after taking into account the interests of the pupils, the desires of parents, local authorities, and teachers. It is not for sectional bodies. It is for Parliament to decide whether you have pay beds in public hospitals or not, and not for those who happen to be employed there. Everybody has a right, and the nation is wider than the sectional interests. Its interests must come first. I believe that, 128 although we may differ in our analysis of the problems involved, and although we may differ as to means, we ought always to remember that underlying the differences there is a fundamental unity which from time to time deserves to be emphasised.
I come now to law and order, and to very important but sometimes rather dull aspects of my own office. It is at this stage that I should like to pay my tribute to my immediate predecessor the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones; both a public debt of gratitude, which has already been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, every word of which I endorse, but also a private debt of gratitude which I owe him as well. I have often heard Peers say in this House with a certain amount of relish, "Of course I am no lawyer". Well, I am a lawyer, and proud of it. We have rather a good tradition in the Bar. We remain friends although we may be advocating opposite sides. Although our clients may sometimes complain and accuse us of the forensic equivalent of "Butskell-ism", in fact we believe, rightly or wrongly, that a certain degree of personal friendship and personal continuity, and an ability to discuss differences in a relaxed manner, is not only in the interests of the profession but in the interests of the court and the interests of the client himself.
When I come to discuss law reform I want to remind the House of a passage in the autobiography of the late Lord Haldane, who said that it took three successive Lord Chancellors to achieve law reform. Although there are some law reforms that have been achieved more rapidly (and he was talking about the law of property reforms of 1925 when he said that), I believe that as a general rule there is a great deal of truth in it. As between myself and the noble and learned Lord there must be a certain degree of continuity, and I am going to take up a great deal of the time of the House—especially in the earlier weeks of the Session when the controversial public Bills are in preparation—completing and carrying on things which he would probably have carried on had he remained on the Woolsack.
I want to pass a small word of personal gratitude to him at this stage, irrelevant as it may be to the gracious Speech. 129 When I came back from my rather tragic trip to Australia a year ago I was virtually a broken man. I came to the Lord Chancellor, as he then was, and I said to him, "There is one thing you can do for me if you think it compatible with the public interest, and that is to feed me with judicial work which I hope my intellect is still capable of taking part in and which is also not emotionally disturbing". Instead of pushing me on one side with one easily framed compliment after another he actually did what I asked. If he had not done what I then asked, I doubt whether I should be standing here today, because I really do not think that I could have faced my future on any other terms. So "Thank you", I say, to the noble and learned Lord.
§ Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!
§ The LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, this brings me, of course, to my own department and to its mundane but extremely important affairs. The late Lord Rutherford, the great scientist, said at one time, "No money. Well then, we must use our brains". That, with one other remark to which I shall not refer, is one of his many claims to fame. I shall not have a great deal of money. I doubt whether any of my noble friends on the Front Bench will have a great deal of money to spend. As we all know from the relative fame of King Henry VII and King Henry VIII, spending money is popular, saving it is unpopular, even if it is other people's money. We shall not have a great deal of money. Therefore, I want to give priority to two aspects of the case.
The first aspect is the delays which are mounting in the courts. I know that it gave the noble and learned Lord concern while he was in my place. They are becoming unacceptable again both in the Crown Court, where the facts can be ascertained, especially in London, and in the magistrates' courts, where unfortunately the facts cannot be ascertained, and especially in the urban areas. I happened to take on one of the noble and learned Lord's engagements the other day and found that in that area it took three months for a summons after issue to come before the bench for summary jurisdiction. These delays are unacceptable.
130 They are not confined to those two areas. In the civil Court of Appeal they are high and growing. I think in the Chancery Division there are some, and in Northern Ireland they may be worst of all. When I faced this problem in 1970 analysis was able to show me that the problem was basically fairly easy of solution in principle, although it took years to achieve it. The bottleneck was the absence of courthouses, and the instrument was the Courts Act which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, had left me partially completed. Therefore, we were able to halve the delays in the Crown Court.
My first estimate—and perhaps the noble and learned Lord, who I believe is to follow me, will confirm whether or not he thinks it right—is that the present situation is both more complex and less tractable than it was in 1970. But I want to place emphasis on the abolition of delay if we can. I shall be asking the legal profession as a whole, each part of it, to consider its own position and to see what contributions it can make. It is not acceptable, especially but not only in the field of criminal justice, for people to have the anxiety of litigation, and above all the anxiety of a criminal charge, waiting for them. Whether I shall succeed in this, I do not know. I do not think it depends entirely upon myself, but this is one of my priorities.
The other priority is law reform itself. There again there is a certain backlog of reports. The other great remark about law reform—I have quoted one of Lord Haldane's—by a former Lord Chancellor came from Lord Campbell in his autobiography. He succeeded to the Lord Chancellorship when I think he was 80, so there is hope for the Master of the Rolls yet! At any rate, he said that law reform is by consent or not at all. There is a great deal of truth in that. We have to compete for parliamentary time. We have to compete against the perfectionists, with whom we often agree. In other words, we really have to select the appropriate programme so as to get the maximum throughput.
Of course, the House will remember that the gracious Speech contained a direct reference to the law of contempt. We have an instrument there in the Phillimore Report, which I think I can claim credit for having initiated by 131 appointing the late Lord Justice Phillimore. We have a sense of urgency about it because of the decision of the Strasbourg Court. One ought not to be too dogmatic about that decision. The House of Lords, from which it differed, was divided not quite evenly but still it was divided, and the Strasbourg Court itself was divided in the opposite direction. It may well be that I would have accepted the majority in the House of Lords and joined myself with the minority in the Strasbourg Court. None the less, the referee has blown his whistle and, if we accept the rule of law, we must accept the whistle when it is blown and not get sent off the field, which might happen to us otherwise. Therefore the law of contempt, if your Lordships' House and the other place agree, will be amended in the sense which I hope will be both welcome to those who wish to see a change in the Sunday Times decision and to those who place value, as I do, in our adhesion to the European Convention.
Having said that, I want to end on a slightly more philosophic note because I said at the beginning, and intend to stick to it, that I want to place our home affairs in the context of a world situation, which we shall be discussing on Tuesday. People who talk about law and order almost invariably make two errors; in the first place they think that law consists solely in criminal sanctions, which it does not—out of Halsbury's Laws of England perhaps only one of the 53 or so volumes deals with criminal law per se—and the other is to think that the violence of penalties is by far the best way of imposing a respect for law and order.
The truth is that law is not really about that at all. It is about the standards of society. Obviously it is mainly concerned with external behaviour which has social effects; there are social effects if you run down somebody in a motorcar, and the law says that if you are negligent you must pay him compensation. It is mainly concerned with the social effects, but it is based on some kind of objective standards of morality which are either supported by the public, in which case the law becomes enforceable against those who break it, or it is not, in which case the law is nothing but a gigantic confidence trick. The truth is that without law 132 human civilised society could not exist, and when you are talking about law and order you are talking basically about the standards of society.
I wish to conclude, however, by saying something that runs even more deeply than that, and here I am repeating some of my election speeches. In the world in which we fought the election we saw two ambassadors shot and murder taking place in almost every country in the world. Yesterday we attended the memorial service of a much-loved colleague who was blown up in his motorcar as he tried to leave the House of Commons; we have seen a prison warder with his little daughter of three standing by his side shot down outside a Christian church just after his sister had taken the sacrament on the occasion of her wedding; we have seen a mother of six blown up. All over the world the gospel of hatred—the gospel of envy, the politics of confrontation—seems to be taking over from its conscience.
I see the right reverend Prelate looking at me, and I am about to say something of which I hope he will not wholly disapprove but which is not a wholly Christian thing. When I was staying with a friend in Scotland last August my host recommended me to read a book of the biography of the Emperor Augustus by the first Lord Tweedsmuir who, besides being in some ways a pioneer of the modern thriller, was a very formidable scholar indeed. As I got about two-thirds of the way through the book I noticed that he made a quotation from Cicero. It will be remembered that he was a statesman, a lawyer, an orator and a philosopher who died 43 years before the birth of the founder of the Christian religion and was, so far as one knows, wholly unaffected by what Christians call the Old Testament, that is to say the Jewish Scriptures.
I leave my subject of law with this, I hope, in the ears of the House, and I have verified the quotation:We have a natural propensity to love our fellow human beings. That, after all, is the foundation of all law".He was arguing in favour of an earlier model of the doctrine of natural law, but I believe that what he said is valuable for all time; and in order to show evidence 133 of good faith so that somebody may not accuse me either of false quotation or mistranslation, the Latin was:Natura propensi sumas ad diligendos homines. Quod fundamentum juris est".What this country needs and what the world needs is a Government here and Governments elsewhere who will stand up to that eternal truth.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Lord ELWYN-JONES
My Lords, I wish to begin by expressing my gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, for his most generous references to myself; and to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, who was good enough to do so yesterday. I also wish to thank your Lordships for your forbearance and patience with me on the Woolsack during the many errors which you allowed to pass unremarked and, I hope, unnoticed.
It is a particular pleasure for me to congratulate Lord Hailsham on his return to the Woolsack. For a Lord Chancellor to do so is not unprecedented. Indeed, it may happen again! However, in the case of Lord Hailsham it is a family habit. His father did so and Lord Halsbury, the grandfather of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, who assists us so much in the House, did it three times; he sat on the Woolsack for 13 years and delivered one of his judgments when he was 92. I do not want to encourage such ambitions either in the present Lord Chancellor or, if I may say so, in the Master of the Rolls who, when I was recently at a dinner, proclaimed that I had every Christian virtue except resignation.
I believe Lord Hailsham is the first Lord Chancellor who, having been a senior Cabinet Minister in another place, has twice ascended to the Woolsack here. He is also the first Lord Chancellor to be twice qualified for membership of the House of Lords, first as a hereditary and then as a Life Peer, a distinction which fails to be unique only because the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, most beneficially for us, shares the distinction with him. Above all, of course, Lord Hailsham is unique, sans pareil, and by his unscripted and apparently unprepared speech today, he has lived up to the expectations we have always looked to receive and enjoy from him.
134 My Lords, home affairs (the subject of our debate today) and related problems are referred to at many points in the Queen's Speech. They are usually stated in very general terms, and the merits of what they involve must await what the lawyers would call further and better particulars, which no doubt we shall receive in due course. I have in mind, for instance, the reform of company law and proposals regarding industrial relations, all of which could be helpful, all of which could be very damaging. One or two things said during the election campaign were a little ominous. However, for the moment we must follow the Asquithian advice: wait and see what comes. We shall be waiting.
It is reassuring to see the usual reference in the Queen's Speech to improving the quality of the administration of justice, and in recent years this reference has not merely been formal. I share the concern of the noble and learned Lord regarding delays in the law due to the enormous increase in the number of criminal cases coming before the courts, which has placed a very great burden upon the system. I am pleased to see also the undertaking to promote reform of the general law, because of course the law must be a living law. The law must keep pace with a changing society in a changing world—a world in which we are more and more involved in institutions such as the United Nations, as well as in international law itself, and in which, since the war, the individual has ceased to be a mere object of compassion and has become the subject of rights.
That the law should be the same for all and that there should be equality before the law, is of course a basic principle of our democracy. It is not always achieved, even now, although the provision of legal aid, advice and assistance has helped greatly. I have no doubt that the noble and learned Lord, like myself, will await with interest the report of the Royal Commission on the provision of legal services. Not only must justice be fairly and competently administered—and I agree that this has not been easy due to the pressures that the courts have been under—but in my lifetime in the law the question has increasingly been asked not only by political scientists but by lawyers, too: is the law itself just? The injustice that I consider has most exercised the 135 world in the post-war period has been economic injustice in what used to be called the century of the common man. That has rather faded out of political jargon, but it is worth remembering.
Awareness of great, increasing wealth and resources being created has rightly raised the expectation of the people. Inequality of opportunity and reward have become regarded as more offensive. Private affluence alongside public squalor has more and more ceased to be tolerable. To remedy the economic injustice has called for active interference by, and involvement of, government. The creation of the Welfare State, with the complex laws relating to it, was essential and inescapable; the State simply could not hold its hand. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will not regard that as a merely doctrinal statement.
What was done in England was not of course unique. Indeed, in some aspects of our social security system we are more backward and are less generous to those in need than are several of our Continental neighbours. However, following Beveridge, the legislation to give effect to it made this country a pioneer in several fields, above all the free National Health Service, which has brought untold benefit to our people and has relieved and eliminated fear of ill health.
Few things would be more divisive to our society now than a whittling away of the benefits of the arrangements to which all Governments have contributed since the war. In my submission, it is in no small part due to what has been provided for in welfare facilities that, despite the troubles of the winter, England remains one of the most stable societies in the world. How this Government deal with threatened cuts in public expenditure will be an acid test of their ability to govern. Those tests will soon come, with indicators of how the Government will deal with, for instance, pension provisions—whether they will be limited to price increases, or will take into consideration earnings increases as well. Similarly, a test may arise when we come to consider whether the child benefit is to be increased in the autumn to £4.50; and there will be many other indicators which will no doubt be referred to in the course of the debate. I have in mind, 136 for instance, what is being proposed in education, as well as in other areas.
There are two serious social issues which, I fear, remain unsolved and to which I propose briefly to turn. I do so partly because I regret that I am not very happy about the White Paper's approach to them, nor about statements about them made by future Ministers during the election campaign, though of course one must make allowances for mere rhetoric and partisanship, which are not unknown to exist during election campaigns. The two spheres are, first, race relations, and, secondly, the question of how to tackle the serious incidence of crime, particularly crimes of violence—something which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has already touched upon.
On the issue of race relations, I believe that one of the dominating questions, both domestically and in international relations, is whether we can live together in harmony with men of all races and colours who, due to advances in science and technology, have been made our neighbours. I became most conscious of this question during my year at Nuremberg at the trial of the major Nazi war criminals. Only 39 years ago, in the centre of European civilisation, millions of men, women, and children were being systematically put to death and murdered in the name of racial superiority. Never has racialism been so appallingly identified as an evil and dangerous menace to humanity.
Of course racial persecution and discrimination have existed through the ages. We had it here, but in recent centuries this country has achieved a good reputation for its record of tolerance towards, and willingness to welcome, the refugee. We welcomed the Huguenots and later the victims of pogroms in Tsarist Russia and Poland. They sought refuge in the overcrowded backyards of the East End of London. In due course, the Jewish community, which has made a great contribution to our lives in so many fields, moved out into the wider community. After the war, there came a new influx of entrants to our country, but this time they were moving away not from persecution, but from poverty in our former Colonial Empire, which we had colonised and ruled.
No nation has had such wide or such recent experience of close relationships with the peoples of Africa, Asia, and 137 the Caribbean as we have had. We, of all the Imperial Powers, relinquished our power more peacefully and with more understanding than any other, and in many parts of the world we left a legacy of the common law and an uncorrupt administration. It is grotesque that we of all people should be unable to maintain a co-operating multiracial society here at home.
It is not only the millions who used to be our subjects who are watching what we are doing and what we are going to do; the eyes of the world are upon us. The challenge that we face is to secure, by working together, that the minority of 2 million or so coloured citizens now among us can enjoy their full and equal rights as individual men and women and as families, living among us in what is now, as a matter of fact, a multiracial society. Already, I think, they have given the community valuable service in doing what are often the most unpleasant, the least paid and the least sought-after jobs; and society can be enriched by the presence of different cultural groups, and their diversity.
However, in the meantime there are in race relations very serious problems to be faced urgently. About 80 per cent. of all black and brown people live in about 15 per cent. of census enumeration districts, according to the researches of Professor Little of London University, and the areas where they live are among the most disadvantaged in our country. There is three times the amount of overcrowding and three times the amount of sharing of housing amenities. There is the inferior provision of schools for black and white child alike; and, in many districts, the chance of a black teenager getting a job is three times worse than the chance of a white teenager, which in itself has not been easy. They are run-down areas, but not because the immigrants came to live there: they were run-down areas before they came. So often today problems of race relations overlap with the problems of poverty. One of the proposals of the late Government which were frustrated by the dissolution was that to extend the provisions of Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, which provides for grants to be made for special needs in immigrant areas. Last year £33 million was spent for this purpose, and we proposed a new form of grant aid 138 designed to help local authorities to meet the special needs of the ethnic minority. I beseech the Government to give effect to that or a similar provision, or possibly an even more generous provision, as soon as may be.
What I found somewhat depressing in the Queen's Speech in this most dangerous area of our society is the absence of constructive and practical proposals to deal with the problems I have mentioned. Indeed, the only reference I have been able to find in the Queen's Speech to this field is:Measures will be introduced to amend the law on nationality and to make changes in the control of immigration".The problem is betterment of race relations more significantly than immigration, and we shall study anxiously the proposals that come forward. It was Mr. David Lane, the former Tory Member of Parliament, now chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, who last year said, "Britain is not being swamped by immigration". My Lords, it is unfortunate that that statement was not more widely heard, understood and taken to heart.
There was one thing, at any rate, in this sphere, which the general election showed; namely, the contempt of the British people for the vile racist doctrines of the National Front. But the election experience also showed, I think, that we need to look again at the Public Order Act and the Representation of the People Act 1949. Threatening and offensive parades of fascists, marching under and insulting the Union Jack with nazi salutes, are and are meant to be a deliberate provocation in the black areas to which they deliberately go. They have very little to do, in my opinion, with freedom of speech; and these demonstrations place our police in an intolerable situation, with the result that there is a dangerous feeling of alienation growing between the black community and its youth and the agencies of the law. Steps being taken by the police in the East End and elsewhere to bridge this gulf are of great importance, and remedying the social, housing and educational needs is of even greater importance.
I regret that I have not followed fully yet the hint of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack about time, but I should like to say a word about the problem of 139 crime in this country. It is serious, and caused me and the late Government great concern. There is a little light on the horizon, in that overall crime decreased by 3 per cent. between 1977 and 1978. During the election, the increase in crime was curiously blamed by some spokesmen on the Labour Government, and my experience in this field may be of interest to your Lordships. When I was Lord Chancellor I attended conferences of Ministers of Justice in many parts of the world, and I found from them that the growth in crime, especially crimes of violence, has been the pattern everywhere, far worse in almost all countries than our own. That is true of France, Sweden, Holland, Denmark, Austria and Italy; and Germany's economic miracle did not save her.
As Sir Leon Radzinowicz has pointed out in his book on the growth of crime, in the United States the climate of crime is worse. There is more of it, and it is more violent than ours. In the one city of Detroit, which has the same population as Northern Ireland, there are five times as many murders as there have been there, even in these grim days in Northern Ireland; and New York has 31 times as many armed robberies as London. What I found so significant in these figures was that all over the world the poor occupy a disproportionate share of places in cells, prisons and courts. Minorities are also over-represented there, not because they are more evil people and more evil men. The bald statistics give us all cause to ponder. In England we had the growth of crime even in the period which Mr. Harold Macmillan so joyfully described as the period when we had never had it so good. As the curve of affluence rose, so did the curve of crime; and its ascent since 1962 accounts for two-thirds of the increase in crime during this century. It is the same picture here, but it is not so bad as on the world scale.
Now the approach of the Queen's Speech to the matter has been almost entirely on the side of punishment, of the penal law, with the total, or, so far as I can see, almost total, omission of the necessity for crime prevention. Excellent, of course, has been the increase in the size 140 of the police force—and I will not go into the detail of that—and the acceptance by the Government, and the quickening of the results, of the Edmund-Davies recommendations on police salaries will greatly improve recruitment. Clearly, that is of primary importance, because the probability of detection is clearly the best deterrent against crime. But, as I say, I wish there had been some emphasis on crime prevention. It is of course the problem and the responsibility of the community as a whole; and I am sure that noble Lords have been impressed by, for instance, what has been said and done by the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall in involving the police and the community with each other in the work of prevention.
One cannot blame the courts, as the newspapers so often do. The penalties are adequate; but, of course, the courts come on to the scene only at the end of the story, after the crime has been committed. So far as concerns the severity of punishment for crimes of violence—and it is right that such punishment should be severe—in general, sentences have lengthened by a half since 1961. The numbers in borstals and detention centres have risen by 150 per cent. since 1969, and the prisons are full to overcrowding.
Some of the causes of crime are related to the social and physical environment, especially in the inner city areas. That is why our urban aid programme is so important and I hope will be built upon by the incoming Government. There are many other matters in this field to which I should refer, but in this field as in so many others there are no easy solutions to the problems of our society —better as it is to live in, in my experience, than any other country. The necessity now is for the whole community to work together.
When, sometimes, I hear the Welsh criticised, I cannot refrain from bringing to mind the great observation of Lloyd George when somebody was foolish enough to attack the Welsh in his presence. He said:When my forbears were enjoying a high standard of cultural civilisation in Wales, the forbears of the right honourable Gentleman were living on the barren shores of the North-East coast on piracy, paganism and periwinkles".141 One of the pearls of wisdom in that old Welsh cultural contribution, the "Mabinogion", is:Avo Pen bid Pont"which, being translated, means that if you lead you must be a bridge. This is what we look to the Government to be: a healer and not a divider. We hope that there will be no repeat of the appalling division and disunity of February 1974 and that this community, with all its human qualities and resources, can look forward to a better future.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord WIGODER
My Lords, when Lord Haldane referred to law reform requiring the efforts of three successive Lord Chancellors, I doubt whether he was contemplating the possibility that two of the three might be the same man. What I do not doubt is the invidious task that I have in endeavouring to follow in your Lordships' House the speeches of two noble and learned Lords who have occupied the Woolsack—one of whom is now occupying the Woolsack—with such very great intellectual distinction, such great charm and such never-failing courtesy. It is, indeed, a difficult task.
My first duty is perhaps to offer from these Benches our congratulations to noble Lords opposite whose political party, taking advantage of our slightly eccentric electoral system, has emerged in the other place with a clear majority of elected Members. My second duty is to offer from these Benches our very best wishes to those on the Government Front Bench who have undertaken the very heavy burdens of ministerial office. My noble friend Lord Byers indicated the other day that we on these Benches would be happy to seek to co-operate whenever we could in order to ensure that the legislation when it left this House represented the views of the majority of people of this country. I was encouraged to hear the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack indicate that he would, of course, ensure that serious consideration would be given to such comments, suggestions and criticisms as were made from all parts of the House. I find it a great consolation to be able to realise that it will not be necessary for me to ensure that my noble friends on these Benches defeat the Government Lords in 142 the Division lobbies in order to ensure that our voices, from time to time, are heard.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack mentioned the very real deep problem of the delays in our trials. This is a matter which has caused much concern not only to the present noble and learned Lord but also to his predecessor. There are, if I may say so, three ways of dealing with this. One way is quite simply to build more court-houses and to provide more judges. That, as a theoretical solution, is a solution which is extremely expensive even if the manpower were available. The second solution that has been contemplated from time to time is to juggle with the rules so that in some odd way one might get more cases tried perhaps in the magistrates' courts and fewer in the Crown Courts. As the noble and learned Lord has indicated, there is not very much progress to be made in that direction because the magistrates' courts themselves are meeting as much difficulty as are the Crown Courts.
I venture therefore to urge on the noble and learned Lord that there might be a third solution worth exploring. It is simply that many of our trial procedures have become extraordinarily cumbersome, many of the trials have become far too long and far too complicated; and it might be possible, without legislation, to take a long, cool look at our whole criminal procedure, in particular, to see whether we cannot dramatically shorten the length of criminal trials and thus relieve the burden of the Crown Courts.
I want to follow now with a few observations on what the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack referred to as the issue of freedom under the law, which occurs from time to time in various guises in the course of the gracious Speech. By that, I do not mean that I want today to talk about crime and punishment. There will be plenty of opportunity for that in the ensuing months. I respectfully agree with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said about the importance of having more police—and the Government have taken steps about that already—and the importance of involving the police and the community together in the work of preventing and detecting crime. I, too, echo the words of enthusiastic support for the efforts being made in Devon and Cornwall by a very enlightened chief constable. 143 Nor do I want today to talk about the question of punishment. That again will emerge from time to time in the ensuing months; but perhaps I may be permitted to make only one observation on that. It is inevitable that we should all feel fierce emotional reaction to the details of some particular crime. But that is not the best intellectual climate in which to assess what is the appropriate method of dealing with the offender. I venture to hope that when we come to deal in this House during this Session with the question of punishment of offenders, we try again to take a long, hard, cool look at the situation and not be carried away by instinctive feelings of revenge or instinctive emotional reactions.
My Lords, what I should like to talk about for a moment or two on the issue of freedom under the law is the fact that in recent months there has been an alarming outbreak of mob violence on the streets of this country, mob violence which has required the presence of thousands upon thousands of police officers (who ought to be far more usefully employed) in a desperate attempt to preserve law and order. That mob violence has arisen in two quite separate ways: first, from industrial disputes and, secondly, from racial disputes. As far as industrial disputes are concerned, I have in mind the disgraceful scenes at Grunwick; but they were by no means the only ones that disfigured our society in recent times.
There is a proposal in the gracious Speech to deal with the whole problem of picketing. On that, might I suggest that when we come to consider it there are certain principles we should bear in mind. First, we should bear in mind that there is no common law right at all to picket. The only right is a statutory right under the 1974 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act.
We should then ask ourselves four questions when we come to consider amending the practice of picketing. First, whether there should be some limit imposed on the number of pickets who attend at any one place of access to the premises where industrial action is taking place. It seems to me that half a dozen or a dozen pickets are just as capable of doing the job they are properly there for as are 1,000 or 10,000 pickets. Secondly, 144 we must ask ourselves whether it is not right that pickets should be members of the union who are employees of the employers who are involved in the dispute. The Transport and General Workers' Union have already accepted that as a guideline in one of their recent disputes. There seems to be no reason at all why the fact that there is picketing going on in the proper furtherance of an industrial dispute should be regarded as an open invitation to join in by those elements of our society who wish to go along simply for the purpose of promoting the maximum possible amount of civil disorder.
Thirdly, we should consider whether pickets ought not to be limited to carrying out their task at their own place of employment. Fourthly, we ought to consider whether we ought not to limit the powers of pickets to the dissuasion only of those who are working for the company with whom their union is in dispute. I believe that all these proposals are practical and sensible and can reduce the likelihood of grave civil disorder arising out of an industrial dispute.
The real issue which the Government no doubt will have to face is not only to consider these principles but to consider whether the law should be brought in to enforce them. We hear a great deal said these days of the proposition that the law has no place in industrial relations. It seems to me to have become one of the cliches of the mythology of our democracy. I doubt whether any Government has ever introduced more law into industrial relations than the previous Government did over the past five years. One has only to consider the Employment Protection Act, the Dock Work Regulation Act and the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act to realise that it is quite impossible for anyone to argue as a principle that the law has no place in industrial relations. What the unions are saying is that the law has no place in industrial relations if it restricts their powers, influence or privileges, but has every possible place in industrial relations if it promotes them.
I entirely accept the proposition which is repeatedly put forward that it would be better if these reforms could be carried out by consent. I entirely accept that there is no need for a Theft Act in this country if everybody promised not to 145 steal and kept their promises. The difficulty I see is that there have been very few signs in recent months that the unions are willing to enforce the restrictions that they agree are desirable on the law of picketing, and very few signs that they are able to enforce them. I believe, with some reluctance, that the Government will be forced to consider actively in the months to come to what extent they can safely rely upon undertakings given by unions to modify the law in the way that they think is desirable. One hopes that they can persuade by consent; if not, there seems to be no alternative but to proceed with the backing of the law and with the backing of the great majority of the community behind them.
That is one aspect of mob violence. The other aspect is that referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, of the racial mob violence that arose during the recent election at Southall and at various other places. I agree with the noble and learned Lord that there should be a very careful inquiry by the Government into the operation of the Representation of the People Act, particularly the provision under which local authorities are obliged to provide meeting halls for political candidates even though apparently those political candidates might be about to break the terms of the Race Relations Act in the policies that they espouse.
It is clear that those two Acts were never thought of in conjunction with each other. It is the clash between them that has given rise to recent troubles. I do not believe that simply because we are a democratic society that involves saying to people who propose to break the law, the Race Relations Act, "You can be as provocative as you wish; you can go to any area where you can cause the maximum amount of disturbance and, in the interests of free speech, you can be as abusive to a substantial section of the community as you may wish". That is carrying our democratic procedures much too far. I believe that a careful look will have to be given to that situation in the course of the next few months.
The only other matter that I should like to comment on this afternoon is an aspect of freedom under the law. There are various indications in the gracious Speech that proposals are afoot which in one way or another will affect the freedom of the media. I accept that without the 146 somewhat hysterical support of the popular Press for the Conservative Party their majority might have been a great deal larger in the recent election; but, despite that, I feel that the freedom of the Press and of the broadcasting authorities must be maintained scrupulously by the present Government. There are three areas where reforms are at the moment being contemplated. One is the area of contempt of court. The noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack referred to that. It very much affects the rights of the Press and their opportunities of reporting and investigative journalism. I hope—and I am encouraged by what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said—that such reforms as are made in that direction will be reforms which will promote freedom and not restrict it.
Secondly, there is the promise to amend Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act. That, as it stands, means replacing a wholly ineffective Act by an effective one. There is a grave danger that that will restrict the freedom of the Press unless at the same time steps are taken to open up government and give access to information generally so that people can obtain the information from the Government which enables them to play a proper part in discussion and policy-making. I hope very much that when that reform of the Official Secrets Act is brought forward, it will be in conjunction with very definite steps to open up government and promote freedom of information.
The third proposal that affects freedom of the media is the proposal that the fourth television channel should be given to the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Without knowing precisely what are the terms upon which that is going to be done, there is no comment one could helpfully make at this stage, except this: I hope very much that this means that we have seen the last of the proposal in the previous Government's White Paper that there should be management boards imposed on the BBC in all their various departments, half of each board being nominated by the Government. The BBC is a remarkable, unique body: independent, fair minded and impartial. It is vitally important that it should continue to be entirely without any influence whatever from the Government in any of its activities. 147 I hope your Lordships will forgive my concluding by saying that I too may find myself in a personal difficulty later this evening and I hope you will excuse me if I have to leave before the end of this debate. We on these Benches look forward to a useful and productive Session, and we hope to play our full part in amending and improving the legislation that is submitted to us.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord GLENKINGLAS
My Lords, the part of the gracious Speech to which I should like to draw your attention is the phrase:My Government will continue to support the arts and will bring forward proposals to safeguard our national heritage …".This is a spendidly non-controversial item on which to address your Lordships on this occasion, and there are many congratulations I should like to give to my noble friends for achieving the offices they have, with my best wishes. But time is always short and I should like to extend congratulations to my noble friend Lord Mansfield, who has taken up duties as Minister of State for the Scottish Office. I know he would not expect me to let this moment pass without mentioning the fact that, as he is very much interested in these things, he is considering proposals for looking after historic buildings. I hope he will also remember that among the great charms of historic buildings in this country are the gardens that go with them. They are charming not only to tourists but fascinating to so many foreigners, who come to Britain because perhaps in no other country in the world is there such a perfect and irregular climate for growing every form of tree, shrub and flower.
The real problem to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to day so soon after the election is one which I think is extremely urgent; that is, the future of the island of Iona. A great many of your Lordships, I am certain, have visited the island and will know something about it. It was the cradle of Christianity for Scotland originally and then the faith spread to Ireland and even to the North-East of England, though the noble Lord, to whom the noble and learned Lord the previous Lord Chancellor referred, who 148 was told that he came from an area which was nothing but piracy, periwinkles and—
§ Lord GLENKINGLAS
—paganism, was possibly a little too far South to come under the influence of Saint Columba and his marvellous emissaries. It is an island of quite staggering charm and is completely undeveloped. That perhaps is one of its most attractive features. It consists of a few houses and these marvellous buildings, which have been very carefully and tastefully restored since a Duke of Argyll about 100 years ago gave them into the perpetual care of the Church of Scotland, with a suitable number of trustees to see that they were properly looked after. He also had the splendid idea that those buildings should be used by any part of the Christian faith; and they are to this day. That was a very early example of an ecumenical idea and, so far as I know, it has been entirely successful.
At this moment the whole of this splendid part of our heritage is under threat. The successor to the Duke of Argyll who gave the historic buildings to the Church of Scotland has told us that the island has to be sold to provide for death duties. Some 20 or 30 years ago I was a trustee for the Argyll estates, and I find it difficult to believe that of the many parts of the country which the Duke of Argyll owns, Iona is really the most suitable place to sell for this purpose. As I have said, it is after all an island with absolutely no commercial value, and it is for that reason that it is so charming. There are no roads. I am glad to say that there is electricity and there is a small amount of water, but not always enough even for the existing small number of inhabitants in those occasional summers that we do get in Argyll when there are periods of drought.
The National Trust, as so often in these things, took an immediate lead in order to ensure that no damage was done to the heritage, and made an offer of £600,000 to the trustees of the Argyll estates to purchase the whole island. Already I think this sum is considerably excessive, but it was turned down. They are now, I believe, in the process of trying to raise £1 million. I look back a few years ago to when another part of our 149 heritage—very different in kind, the Leonardo cartoon—had to be saved for the nation. Some at least of your Lordships will remember that the more firm became the desire of people to save it, the faster grew the price at which it had to be bought in order to be saved. I believe that is happening at the moment in the case of Iona. I should be very unhappy if the Government stood by and left it entirely to the National Trust to have to raise more and more money in order to purchase this island for the nation.
This is not just a beautiful old house; it is not just a piece of coastline or a marvellous bit of scenery. It is much more than that, as so many of your Lordships will know if you have been there. It has this tremendous sense of peace which is quite unusual in the modern world and it has an aura about it which is very important. It does not belong just to Scotland, but also to Ireland, England and possibly even Wales, too. It is, I think, a very special part of the British Isles and one which I think the Government should treat in a very special way.
I do not want to tie the Government's hands in any way by suggesting how this might be achieved, but I am quite certain that the island is something which should belong to the nation. Possibly the right solution would be for the Government, having paid a fair price for it, to hand it over to the National Trust in conjunction with the existing trustees, so that the whole island is kept in one hand, and there should be no division between the civil and religious parts of it. This island really must not be developed. Any attempt to bring roads through it and so on will bring ruin to a great part of the value of this very enchanting place.
My Lords, I have spoken for very nearly long enough. There is just one other small point, which is only slightly connected, and that is the one to which the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, referred:Proposals will be brought before you for the future of broadcasting".I know it affects me as well as others, but we are getting just a little bit bored on the West coast of Scotland—and I daresay other parts of Britain could say the same—of hearing about marvellous new ideas for third and fourth channels, for colour and so on, when we get practically no 150 radio, except for Radio Caroline in the old days, and even that has gone now. Any attempt to turn on the television gets you, with luck, one channel and that has been continuously "snowing" not only during the last winter but also for the last three or four years. So I hope the Government, when presenting their proposals, will think just a little of those who have nothing in this regard.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord MISHCON
My Lords, it would be more than churlish and less than patriotic if, from these Back Benches, I did not try to extend the best wishes of Back-Benchers on this side to those noble Lords opposite and to wish them a successful, if not too prolonged, term of office. It would also be less than sincere, and indeed not carrying out the duty of a Back-Bencher, if I did not express some misgivings, as I see them, in regard to certain aspects in the gracious Speech relating to home affairs.
Before I embark upon that exercise, may I be allowed to say how gracious was the speech made upon the gracious Speech by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, and how privileged and happy is this House to have had two Lord Chancellors, one following upon the other, both of whom have had in such full measure the regard, affection and esteem of every Member of this House. Indeed, it is extraordinary to find two gentlemen in whose perorations one quotes Latin and the other quotes Welsh with such facility.
In the course of that gracious speech upon the gracious Speech, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor somewhat twitted certain Members of this House who have the privilege of sitting on these Benches by saying that he felt it was quite wrong for anyone to infer that the gracious Speech, in all its respects, and indeed the policy of Her Majesty's present Government, did not reflect the weal of the public and the whole community and not of sectional interests. Indeed, he invited us in scriptural terms to look at the beam in our eye if we wished to cast such criticism. But it is extremely difficult to look at the beam in your eye if you cannot find it because it is not there.
I find myself in this physical difficulty, because reference was made to the winter 151 of discontent as being the chief example of where Members on this side of the House ought to reflect upon the sectional interests which were sought by certain people. From nowhere in this House did greater criticism come for the thoughtless, selfish actions of some people in the trade union movement to whom we openly said, when it came to the question of the sick suffering, mourning families suffering and children suffering, that enough was enough and that this was not the way for trade union members to behave. They were a minority.
If one wanted to take the time of the House by referring to equal examples of selfishness, of deprivation of others, of non-public attitudes shown by other sections of the community—not members of the working-class movement—one could indeed find them and recite them, but that would only weary the House because it is a long list. What we have to do is to see that the moderates of all kinds combine together for the welfare of our country, and that those who let down our principles, whether they be trade union movement principles or decent employer principles, are criticised from all sections of this House. What worries me about the gracious Speech is that this does not appear, upon the face of it, to be the spirit.
Yesterday in this House we listened to a very eloquent speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. I am sorry he is not in his place, so that he does not hear this reference I am making to his remarks. He sat immediately behind the Leader of the House and, in the midst of a speech which dealt most learnedly and effectively with agricultural matters, he turned to a general theme and pleaded, "Can we not end the 'we' and the 'they'?". I would say from this side of the House how desirable it would be if we could end the "we" and the "they". But what is the language of the gracious Speech in endeavouring to end it? First, there is a reference to the trade union movement. Let me add to what I had to say a moment ago. If there is intimidation in the trade union movement—and in a minority of cases there is—there are also bad men in the Institute of Directors, with many good ones. I have no doubt that there are bad men in the CBI and there are many good ones. There are bad men, too, who intimidate in the trade union movement and who carry out picketing in a menacing 152 manner. They are the few bad men in a great movement which has shown a terrific sense of national responsibility over the past few years, as it has indeed done over many years.
However, the gracious Speech refers to that movement on its own, without any reference to management, without any reference to directorates, in the following terms of "we" and "they":My Government intend to achieve a fair balance between the rights and duties of the trade union movement".What a sermon from on high! The trade union movement is chosen out of all the movements in the nation to have to observe a fair balance between rights and duties. Is it not applicable to all sections? Do they not all have to learn the same lesson? Would not this objective have been suitable in regard to reforms in other movements which may very well be necessary?
I can see a great deal of argument both ways, if I may say so in humility, in regard to postal ballots. I can see some of the difficulties yet some of the arguments in favour of some revision of the closed shop. Indeed, it was mentioned in the concordat. I can see great merit, very possibly, in dealing with the law in regard to picketing and making it quite clear. But with a great movement such as the trade union movement, is it not common civility—let alone a question of "we" and "they"—for the gracious Speech to make some reference to consultation, instead of consultation being merely referred to by a spokesman on behalf of the Government? Should not the gracious Speech have said, not in the language of "we" and "they" but of all of us,Consultations will take place with the trade union movement to see whether we can remedy matters which affect the law of picketing, which affect the question of the closed shop, and which affect proper elections and proper votes, which perhaps ought to be carried out by postal ballot"?I turn now, if I may, to hospitals. Anybody who cares about social matters and the health of our people would welcome a look—many have been taken—at the administration of our hospitals and the National Health Service. Anybody who said that the National Health Service had reached even a fine level, let alone an exemplary level, of service to our people would be exaggerating. There are 153 so many difficulties—staffing difficulties, monetary difficulties and so on. Anybody who, without impairing the efficiency of the National Health Service, can improve it by means of proper economies deserves the congratulations of us all.
The economy, one hopes, will be able to ensure that there is an extension of the National Health Service and that more facilities are created for it, since they are so badly needed. However, there is a reference in the gracious Speech to the "they" and then a reference to the "we". There is no question of extension; there is no question of more money, as a result of savings, being put into the National Health Service to improve it. There is merely a reference to the fact that:A Bill will be introduced to facilitate the wider use of private medical care".Presumably the money saved will, to some extent—if not all of it—be directed into that channel and not into the National Health Service.
Lastly, may I deal, on the subject of "we" and "they", with education. This was something upon which the country rightly prided itself. There was a consensus of view. Not all of us agreed that one system should be made compulsory—although many of us felt that this was right in the interests of the nation —but there was common agreement that our public education system must be of the highest standard and that we must not make the mistake of trying to pretend that one could grade ability, thus restricting the possibility of a child benefiting from academic training and experience, at the age of 11—or, indeed, at any age. My Lords, "we" and "they".
What is presumably to happen now, according to my reading of the gracious Speech, is that we are going to take those children who merit it, because of their educational possibilities, and who could bring up the standard of our schools, out of the public system and put them into non-maintained schools. We are going to spend money in that way, although it should be made available for our, in many respects, impoverished educational system, which has suffered cut after cut as economies have had to be put upon the nation in Budget after Budget. According to the gracious Speech, the money saved will presumably go on grants for taking those children who might benefit 154 from it—the children of less well-to-do parents—out of the State system. I have never seen a description of that kind in any document before, but this may be due to my ignorance. Less well-to-do than whom, I ask? Whatever may be the answer to that question, to take the cream of our children and put them into non-maintained schools, presumably leaving the skimmed milk for our ordinary public schools—in the sense that we use the term "public schools" and not in the sense of independent schools—is, to my mind, wrong.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, pleaded at the end of his speech for a bridge. We on this side of the House are hoping, for the sake of our people, that a bridge can be found in order to improve the lot of our nation. I call the attention of the Government Benches, before it is too late and before this Parliamentary Session goes on much longer, to the need not just to talk about ending "we" and "they" but to practise it in their legislation.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Lord FERRIER
My Lords, I am quite unable to vie with the noble Lord who has just sat down in terms of oratory, although in a way I wish that I could. Nevertheless, as I propose to deal with a matter concerning the National Health Service, I feel bound to draw his attention to the wording of the gracious Speech in respect of that Service, the first few words of which—although the noble Lord picked out the last few—are:My Ministers will work to improve the use of resources in the National Health Service…".Those of us who know about it know that this is no mean contention. As for building a bridge, I felt at times that the noble Lord looked across at this side of the House as though we were culpable in this respect. May I make the suggestion that all of us, on both sides of the House, should refuse in future to use the term "working class", because this is one of the great divisive factors which prevent this country from building the bridge which the noble Lord seeks.
As I have already said, I cannot compete with the noble Lord in the broad coverage that he has given to the gracious Speech. I have only three points to make. Two of them are small points which are day- 155 to-day matters; and, indeed, two of those three points concern Scotland. I am struck by the fact that noble Lords have heard quite a bit about Scotland already. I wish that some of the people in Scotland realised how patient your Lordships are in hearing about Scotland from those of us who come South to your Lordships' House.
The first of my three points is connected with the question of education. At paragraph 5 on page 5 of the gracious Speech we read that:The quality of education will be maintained and improved".I am informed that there is a longstanding tradition that the Secretary of State for Scotland and his officers should refrain from involvement in matters relating to religious instruction and religious observance in schools. The late Government initiated a Church and State partnership committee to consider the matter. I have here a copy of a letter from an ex-Moderator, the very reverend Doctor Thomas Torrance, of whom all noble Lords have heard, in which he says:But now we, the Church leaders, representing all the main Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, wish to say that we are united in seeking the important changes in the status of religious education which we have pressed upon the Government through Mr. McElhone. We are united in asking that the Secretary of State break this tradition, and take decisive action".I wish, quite briefly, to draw the attention of the incoming Government to the opportunity which now presents itself for going a good deal further than the late Government felt they were able to go.
One of the letters which I have here from Dr. Torrance to the Minister concludes with these words:The Church looks to the committee … but the immediate purpose of it is to say from the Church leaders that we are united in urging the Secretary of State to take appropriate action in giving religious education the place it should have, and indeed must have, if we in the Churches are to co-operate with the State in taking adequate measures against those forces which at present threaten to break up our family and social life, and in developing the common good of the community. Certainly one of the fruits of Mr. McElhone's initiative has been to bring the Churches, through their leaders, closer together than ever before, and for this we are very thankful".Again we have talk of ecumenism, of coming together—a bridge, such as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon has mentioned.
156 My next point is the one connected with the National Health Service which I said I would raise, and again I refer to paragraph 8 on page 5, which I have already quoted:My Ministers will work to improve the use of resources in the National Health Service".I have spoken of this matter in your Lordships' House before. In 1976, after a debate in your Lordships' House, the then Minister of Health appointed—very probably as a result of that debate—a working group to study back pain. It was under the chairmanship of Professor Cochrane. The report of that working group has just been published, and all I want to say is that it is my intention to table a Motion or an Unstarred Question, whichever is most convenient to the usual channels, calling attention to that report. This is not the occasion to elaborate upon the matter, unless it is to refer to the work of the Back Pain Association in drawing attention to a serious drain on the nation's physical fitness.
The fact is that manipulative treatment of certain back injuries is accepted as an important part of therapeutics in most countries of the world, but not in our own National Health Service. For instance, there is a chiropractic hospital in Colorado which deals with the needs of the West coast of the USA, and which is a nonprofit making establishment with 600 beds. Chiropractors are an accepted part of the health service not only in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—indeed particularly in New Zealand where recent legislation was passed in that respect—but in many European countries. Indeed, as members of the EEC, it is worth noting and worth emphasising that, in terms of VAT, the rate which applies to chiropractors' fees today will now have to conform with that applied in the Community under Article 57, if at all.
Incidentally, few people seem to be aware that the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic, established in Bournemouth some years ago, is now producing trained doctors of chiropractic whose course of training is extended to four years. I think I have said enough to alert the new Minister of Health to the increasing surge of interest in the way that great savings can be made in terms not only of pain and distress or of working days lost but also of outgoings in terms of sickness benefits, 157 medical and surgical expenses, and the like. Indeed I have a letter here from a reputable organisation which says:One aspect of import to the new Government must surely be that of cost. It has been represented in general terms to Professor Cochrane and to the Royal Commission"—on the National Health Service—that comparisons elsewhere—in Denmark as a result of their Government inquiry and in the States—show that the treatment of back cases by chiropractic methods is less costly in terms of time, sick pay and lost time at work. One of our county constabularies has found this to be so and pays the men's fees so that they can get back to duty quicker".Finally, I turn to the question of broadcasting, to which reference has already been made. It is in the last paragraph on page 5. This is a subject in which I have taken an interest over many years, especially in relation to the reporting of proceedings in Parliament to the people. I am not referring to televising the proceedings or anything of that sort. I feel very strongly that as people can go on now without even reading or writing so long as they have a "box", it is important that, if people are to take an interest in affairs, affairs are mentioned on the box. Is it not so that the content of the Press has failed, and is failing, to keep the people in touch with Parliament? Anything seems to go in the newspapers of today, except news of affairs—unless they are affairs of sex or of sensation. The barber who cut my hair this morning said, "Most newspapers today are nothing more than a nonsense". I am not sure that he is not right.
So far as broadcasting is concerned, except for the BBC's obligatory stint under Section 13(2) of their licence and agreement which leads to "Today in Parliament" and "Yesterday in Parliament", everything that is presented must inevitably be predigested. I am not suggesting that the predigestion by either channel is biased, but I do say that it is predigested. It is important now that a decision about the fourth channel is to be made. The Annan Committee was set up in 1974, it reported in 1977 and now two years have elapsed and the matter has not been debated in either House. Is it one of the last Government's "dead ducks"? I do not know whether, after all the time and effort given to its preparation, it is to serve anew as a basis for discussion. I do not see why it should not do so. I 158 myself gave evidence to the Committee although they took absolutely no notice of what I said. If the report is used as a basis, it should be noted that it lacks any reference at all to the relationship between the broadcast and the politics of Government and Parliament.
I have already referred to Section 13(2). I am not urging any discussion in regard to the televising of Parliament, but the actual news content of the newspapers deteriorates and union pressures reduce and restrict their publication and their distribution. The Times has gone (we hope not for good); the Daily Telegraph is not regularly available in Scotland due to a dispute in the Thomson organisation; our own paper, the Scotsman, with all its demerits, is welcome to Scots people in England but it does not arrive on the day of publication as it used to—it is always a day late. The fact that these pressures are exerted means that Scottish people are not in receipt of the information that they ought to have.
One hopes that things may get better, but the situations as it is is that, in the absence of proper news of affairs, of what is going on, there is a serious situation now in the neighbourhood where I live near the nuclear power station at Torness. It is the last point I wish to make. The situation arises directly from the lack of communication and this must be the task of the fourth channel. I do feel that. Perhaps people do not realise at this distance the depth of feeling which exists in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. I believe that, since the death of my noble friend Lord Tweeddale, I am the only active Member of this House who lives in close vicinity to the Torness site, and I do not think it is realised here in London how deep is the feeling of unease, to put it mildly, which is widespread in East Lothian and in Edinburgh.
The demonstrators who thronged Torness at the bank holiday weekend were not trouble-makers. Far from it. They were not hooligans. They were a wide cross-section of decent, serious, level-headed, intelligent folk. They are not Pat Arrowsmiths or Vanessa Redgraves. It was nothing like panic, but dismay and distress created by the absence of real information about the background of the decision of the former Secretary of State for Scotland to go 159 ahead with the £900 million undertaking, and in my view this action was precipitate. The contention that a public inquiry had approved the matter is, in the view of many, a prevarication. Some contend that the electricity boards are creating jobs for themselves. Others contend that the manufacturers involved are jumping the gun. I myself take no stand one way or the other. As the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said, we are all concerned with what is in the public interest.
I think it is my duty to bring this matter to the notice of your Lordships and of the Government and to impress upon them that it is one of real urgency. The local Press is outstanding in its resistance. The Lothian Region is, I understand, taking a stand against it. Thousands are signing the roll which was available at Torness the weekend before last. Meetings and functions are being held to raise funds for the campaign.
One of the demonstrators is a daughter of my own, a sane, sensible law-abiding, hardworking, compassionate person with no axe to grind except her belief in her duty to protect her growing children and coming generations from what is regarded by many and by her as a menace. I may say that she is in her 40's with a son at Cambridge and another at Winchester, and has no axe to grind. She said when she came to see me on her way back that her problem is one of distress and dismay brought about by ignorance of the facts. So what I did was to get the Hansard of the debate in your Lordships' House on the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, on 7th March and gave it to her. She has just sent it back to me saying, "Lord Ritchie-Calder's speech exactly summed up what my attitude to nuclear energy is". So I read it again, and I beg your Lordships to do the same. I have discussed it with the noble Lord and asked him what did my daughter mean by the menace; this he described as something unseen, unsmelt, untasted and unfelt. I believe, with him, that in the circumstances Government would be well advised to impose a moratorium on the construction, and I use his words—until people who are handling it know what they are doing, because at the moment they do not".One of the troubles is that the public distrust the Ministry of Energy's estimate 160 of the future trend of the demand for electricity. They ask, has full account been taken of the process of conservation which is bound to be brought into force? If the estimates are correct, is the demand for power in respect of Scotland? In parenthesis I would say that I hold no brief for the SNP, but in political terms this is a factor which is important. Would it not be wise to hesitate before closing down old but intrinsically efficient power stations? Where do the miners come in, and so on?
My Lords, it is not my intention, nor is it the occasion, either to debate the technical problem of power generation, or necessarily to agree with the Government's decision on the fourth channel as described in the gracious Speech. All I have sought to do is to urge the case for a moratorium on Torness, and to emphasise the plea that meanwhile there should be a carefully conducted public disclosure of all the relevant facts without prevarication. I have taken too much of your Lordships' time, but it occurs to me that this might be an opportunity for using the empty premises of the Royal High School to hold some sort of inquiry where the people of Scotland could hear and see what is going on and not be carried away, as they are at the moment, by lack of information about a very important problem which may one day lead to difficulty in terms of law and order.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Baroness PHILLIPS
My Lords, after listening to the splendid speeches by the two noble and learned Lords, starting with the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, followed by my noble and learned friend who sits on the Front Bench, I feel that perhaps I need not intervene at all, as they have said far better and with much greater conviction what I had intended to say. Indeed, I was warned that as the Lord Lieutenant I must be neutral. One of the Whips of the Government put it rather neatly, I think. He said: "You must be a nice neutral Nora". But I feel there is one thing that I cannot be neutral about and that is crime. I had the pleasure of hearing the speech of the noble and learned Lord at his first public occasion as Lord Chancellor, when he opened some new courts, and as always he not 161 only did it with great dignity but with great warmth and humanity. It gave me a spur, that when carrying out the office I need not be quite so pompous as one sometimes imagines one should be, that people actually expect you to be human.
The part of the gracious Speech with which I am concerned is the part to which both noble and learned Lords have referred:My Ministers will take steps to improve the quality of the administration of justice and to promote reform of the general law".We have heard an excellent definition of what law is this afternoon. I would take issue with my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones when I thought he seemed to suggest that punishment was not part of this question. I am afraid I would take issue with him there. Indeed, I was very interested to read the statement of one of the new heads in Iran in which he said that the West had no need to condemn their behaviour since the West had a higher rate of crime than they did, something which perhaps we should cogitate, though I am not recommending the return of stoning or the severance of hands. He then went on to say—and this is a quotation I shall use over and over again—Those who pity the sharp-toothed tiger oppress the sheep".We must always remember the victims in the administration of law, and there are moments when I feel that we do not. Sometimes those who occupy high offices in our courts of justice—I make no particular reference—will show themselves very clearly to be on the side of the individual who is the defendant, and not, all too often, on the side of the victim.
I am, of course, delighted that in the gracious Speech the Government say that they will give full support to the Police Service. Indeed, they have shown that in a very practical way by immediately increasing the rates of pay—a matter which was debated in your Lordships' House and which many of us advocated. I suggest that the support for the police must be more than in the form of pay; it must be the support of the community for those people who are trying to carry out a very difficult job. It is very distressing to see the way in which the media constantly knock the police. They are all too ready to say that the police are too late, too early, too hard or too soft; or that they have 162 discriminations and corruption. Of course there will be some bad apples in the barrel, but we have a great police force and I urge that the community give it full support to enable it to carry out the very difficult task which it has at present.
I should also like to stress—and I am now taking advantage of the fact that this matter was mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, which heartened me immensely—that we must put far more emphasis on crime prevention. It sometimes seems to those of us who attempt in our own small way to work in this area that there is much more status—and I suspect more money—for those who detect and catch the criminal than for those who try to prevent crime. However, crime prevention again must be the duty of the whole community and we must, through the Minister who sits in our House—and I am delighted to congratulate him on his appointment—recognise that through the Home Office far more money can be given towards crime prevention and far more imaginative projects put forward.
I turn to the courts. The delays that are occurring are in many ways very disturbing. They are disturbing, not only to the person who awaits trial but to those who have to participate in the trial. Sometimes the end result shows that had the matter been dealt with earlier the situation might have been different. I wonder whether it is necessary to build more elegant courts. Of course it is spendid to have them, but surely there must be many buildings which could be utilised as courts. Provided there is dignity about the proceedings, and provided there is light and warmth, I feel that perhaps it is not really necessary to await the building of the extra courts before we deal with the rapidly piling up backlog. I am not sure how we can do this without interfering with the "freedoms" about which we are constantly hearing, but I also hope that the Government will look at the question of how we can stop the transfer to the higher courts of some crimes which are so trivial in nature that one feels that it is a costly waste of money, time and energy for them to be taken there at all.
I am delighted that in the Queen's Speech the Government say that they will strengthen the powers of the courts of England and Wales in relation to juvenile 163 offenders. I called in this House for a review of the Children and Young Persons Act. The rising tide of juvenile crime is very serious. It is all too easy to explain it away by reference to the environment. However, there is no evidence to show that when times were harder there was more crime—indeed, there was less. I am always disturbed by people who say that we are no worse than our ancestors. We should be better, far better. If we return to the magistrates some of the powers for which they have been asking I am sure that some of the more violent and difficult young persons could be dealt with much more satisfactorily.
I was delighted—and this is not in the Queen's Speech, but in the Conservative Manifesto which I cut out from an evening newspaper—to note that vis-à-vis pensions the Government are to remove the earnings rule on retirement pensioners. What joy! I have attacked at least four Governments of different colours on that subject. I seem to recall that my noble friend who has just spoken was also very active in that regard. As we cannot claim to have any vested interest, and as we are speaking for other people in this connection, I should like to say that I am sure that the Government did not mean to leave that matter out of the gracious Speech—they probably thought that it was too small an item to be included in it. However, I am quite sure that they will not go back on the advertisement which appeared in the evening paper.
Finally—and again I think that I am being neutral, or at least I hope I am—I beg the Government to look at the question of the teachers' pay. I feel that it was rather hard when the right honourable lady the Prime Minister, for whom I have great admiration, chided the teachers for what she described, I think, as their lack of dignity. There is no reason why, because people are professionals, their promised pay award should be put into abeyance. This is nothing new; it is a matter that has gone on for some time. While I applaud wholeheartedly the rapid way in which the Government dealt with the question of the police and the Armed Forces, I plead with them to look at once at the question of the teachers, because I think that the teachers have been patient and reasonable, 164 and indeed still are, and are not really doing anything which is as dramatic as some of the media would have us believe.
From these Benches I wish the Government Godspeed in any of their legislation. While I am sure that my colleagues on this side of the House, if they do not like the propositions put forward by the Government, will raise their voices against them, that does not mean that we do not hope that the Ministers that we have in this House will enjoy their term of office in the new Government.
§ 5.18 p.m.
Lord DE CLIFFORD
My Lords, it is a great honour to address your Lordships today. First, I should like to address myself to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack because it was 51 years ago this year that I first addressed your Lordships' House under the noble and learned Lord's father who was kindness itself towards me and to whom I shall always be eternally grateful. Secondly, I shall address myself to some subjects which I believe are covered by the following phrase in the gracious Speech:Other measures will be laid before you".It will be no surprise to your Lordships that I come back to your Lordships on the subject of rural areas and associated matters. The first matter on which I should like to address the Government is the road system. For years it has not really been adequately maintained. In fact I think that that is a masterpiece of understatement. The money given to the county councils has been entirely inadequate to maintain a road system, particularly in rural areas, which can bear the weight of the traffic which moves upon it. We have just had one of the severest winters in my area which living memory can recall and I think that has ever been known.
We began with a road system in the rural areas which was like a pair of jeans well worn by two generations of school-children and full of patches. Last winter practically took all the patches out. We now progress either from peak to peak down our roads or we go from depth to depth out of them. There is nothing that the county councils can do with the facilities available to them, to restore in the rural areas the road services to which we are entitled. I ask the Government to 165 increase the money available to county councils and road authorities so that they can put our roads into decent order, especially those in rural areas.
In this I am particularly reinforced by the fact that two or three days ago I heard a radio broadcast saying that there are people who wish the weight of commercial vehicles using our roads to be increased. Where do we find the roads to carry these 42-tonne vehicles? If one listens to the road traffic reports, day after day one hears that our motorways appear to be in the most appalling state: there are road closures due to maintenance; there are road closures due to accidents; there are road closures almost anywhere you can think of. Those heavy transport vehicles carry a variety of loads, some of which are extremely dangerous. I do not propose to bother your Lordships with that aspect tonight, but I may return to it later.
The holiday time is approaching. Are we to have our motorways in the state in which they are at present?—with radio stations broadcasting every day to avoid this or that area because, due to maintenance, there is a ten-mile traffic jam. I hope that the present Government will pay far greater attention to our road system than did previous Governments.
Secondly—and again I am afraid that I must return to rural areas—I want to raise a matter which I do not think is properly appreciated. We are running into an energy crisis which is not only beginning to restrict the amount of fuel available for heating our homes and houses but which is affecting the very life-blood of the movement of traffic on our roads. In my area at this precise moment we are beginning to experience an acute petrol shortage; indeed, the area is absolutely devoid of diesel oil.
During the course of the next few months will Her Majesty's Government give great thought to allowing the public to know exactly what is happening? It is lack of information which causes panic buying. Further, whatever steps Her Majesty's Government may take to try to alleviate the shortages of road fuel, will they bear in mind that many areas of the country depend entirely for the day-to-day maintenance of families on adequate supplies of petrol? Those people do not have buses which they can catch at five 166 minutes' notice; they do not have shops which are perhaps only half a mile round the corner. Some people live in the depths of rural areas where the nearest shop may be anything up to two or even five miles away. Not only is local transport absolutely essential to the maintenance of life but they must be able, by their own efforts, to maintain their own transport.
The third item to which I shall refer will probably not surprise your Lordships at all. It is a subject which covers between 3 and 4 million people; that of the ownership of dogs. That is running into the most appalling trouble at present. Throughout the country there is great disquiet on the subject of the ownership of dogs. In 1974 I managed to obtain from the then Government the fact that there were 27 laws relating to the keeping or the ownership of dogs, or the commercial use of dogs. That resulted in a working party being set up which produced a most excellent report about which, if I may say so, without being too rude about noble Lords now sitting opposite, absolutely nothing was done.
We are now approaching a situation where district councils are trying to do the most drastic things without any thought as to what the law allows them to do. I raised this in your Lordships' House previously and I received the assurance from the then Government that certain conditions would be laid down before by-laws relating to restrictions on dogs could be enforced. I should be most grateful, and all dog owners would be most grateful—and the Minister need not necessarily answer this today because, no doubt, there are weightier matters with which the noble Lord will have to deal—to know whether the standards laid down by the previous Government concerning the restrictions on dogs in public places are to be maintained. It would also be most helpful if the Government could give some indication whether they intend, either in whole or in part, to introduce legislation to cover the working party on dogs. I think that I have dwelt long enough on my favourite subject. I ask the House to be obliging enough to forgive me.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Viscount THURSO
My Lords, I want to touch upon only one facet of an exceptionally many-faceted gracious 167 Speech from the Throne. The small paragraph of three and a half lines in the gracious Speech, out of three and a quarter packed pages of print which refers to Scotland deals rather ambiguously with the intentions of Her Majesty's Government about the devolution of power from Westminster. Certainly it is made clear that the Scotland Act 1978 is to be repealed. But after that, what? All-party discussions are what we are offered, but in the bald and unadorned half-sentence which offers them there is no hint about Her Majesty's Government's real intentions in this matter.
Therefore, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, if, when he winds up, he can give us some clue about what is in the minds, or preferably what is in the hearts of Her Majesty's Government, and whether there is any real intention to devolve power to Scotland at all in the foreseeable future. When the Scotland Bill, as it then was, came before your Lordships' House, I and my colleagues on these Benches bore our part in criticising details of the Bill, but I believe that at the same time the record shows that we sought only to improve it, to help it on its way, and to deal with it in detail rather than to destroy it.
Certainly we admired the skill with which it was drafted, even though we would have preferred a different initial approach. This skilful drafting of the Act was a point in its favour which has never been properly brought out. It was never brought out, or sufficiently stressed, in the public debate which led up to the referendum. I think that if people had been properly told, and had had it properly explained to them, that the Act, deficient or defective as it may have been in certain particulars, was yet so well drafted that it was capable of amendment and change over the years, they might well have given it even greater support. If, therefore, Her Majesty's Government repeal the Act and—a much bigger "if"—if they come forward later in this Parliament with proposals of their own, there will be a great obligation upon the Government to draft a measure as skilful, as flexible, and as far-reaching as the one which it is now their intention to destroy.
The Government must remember that vandalism is only the expression of a 168 frustrated creative instinct, and that the onus will be upon them to demonstrate their ability to create as well as to destroy. Unless they do this, they will be branding themselves as political vandals. Her Majesty's Government will do well to remember that although the Scotland Act did not pass the curious, artificial test of the 40 per cent. vote, nevertheless it received the majority of support of those who voted on it in the referendum; and then, when the general election came to test Scottish opinion yet again, the party which picked up the collapsing separatist vote of the SNP was not the Tory Party, with their policy of back to square one, but the architects of the Scotland Act, the Labour Party. In fact, the Government have to admit to defeat in Scotland.
In my view this was as much due to the uncertainty and obscurity of their policy towards devolution as it was to any other factor. Let them therefore dispel this fog which surrounds their intentions, and tell the people of Scotland where they stand upon these matters. If, as I suspect, they do not know, then let me give them, if I may, a few suggestions. First, they should make a clear commitment to devolution. Secondly, there should be no delay in telling us what form the discussions they propose to initiate should take. Thirdly, they should assure the people of Scotland that any Bill which they eventually table will have tax raising powers for the Assembly and will contain provisions for election by proportional representation. I might add that the lack of these two points formed one of the main criticisms by spokesmen of the Conservative Party of the 1978 Act, and it would look well if they listened to their own criticisms.
Finally, they should assure the people of Scotland that in providing an Assembly they will also recognise the need for the reform of local government administrative structure by cutting out the regions, which were the most costly mistake which has been made in Scotland for many years. In short, I am hoping that Her Majesty's Government will return at least to the position which their party held on devolution in 1974, and that they will set in motion the setting up of a Scottish Assembly. It is clear that Scotland has demanded it, and it is to Scotland that they should listen.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Baroness ELLIOT of HARWOOD
My Lords, this is the first speech that I have had the opportunity of making since the general election, and I should like to congratulate the Government on the swift way in which they have got down to business. I should like to congratulate the Lord Chancellor on his speech today; it was really most moving. I feel that the encouragement we have had even from Her Majesty's Opposition, and the good will, is a good augury for the start of this Parliament.
There is one personal note I should like to make before I say anything else. During this Parliament, in October of this year, we shall be—perhaps "celebrating" is too strong a word—noting that this will be the 21st anniversary of an Act of Parliament which enabled women to be Members of the House of Lords. The two first women Members were the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, who is sitting on the Woolsack at the moment, and myself. We came into this House in October 1958. It was from this seat on this side of the House that I made my first speech here, and that was the first speech ever made by a woman in your Lordships' House in the 900 years of its existence. We have now come of age. The noble Baroness and I are 21 in this House.
There are many important subjects that we want to discuss today. I am a little worried because when I discussed the matter with our Whips I said that I wanted to speak about agriculture and devolution. They said that that would be all right. I attended the debate yesterday and I realised that agriculture really belongs to yesterday's debate and possibly not to today's debate. I hope that your Lordships will not mind if I speak a little about it because it is a subject I should like to talk about. I shall not be long. I should also like to answer a speech to which I listened yesterday from the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, which was very censorious of the contributions that have been made to the agricultural side of the Common Market.
I got in touch with one of the departments, because when he criticised strongly the millions of pounds which we contribute, I knew that we also received some millions of pounds back from the Common 170 Market. I should like to put on record that fact. It was recorded in Hansard of 1st December 1978 that there have been very large contributions to this country from the EEC. From January 1973 we have had £250 million from the Social Fund. From the European Investment Bank, in low interest loans, we have had £1,300 million. From the Regional Fund since 1975 we have had £260 million, with over 2,000 projects being helped. For agriculture we have had from the European Guarantee Fund £1,071 million, and we have had receipts from the Guidance Premium of £65.3 million out of a total of £1,656 million. That was not mentioned yesterday when criticism was made of the Agricultural Fund and our contributions.
Agriculture is mentioned in the gracious Speech, as is the question of the EEC, and I entirely support those who are anxious to see a review of the Common Agricultural Policy. I am sure it should be reviewed, but I am equally certain that we get a great deal of support for our industry and various other things in connection with our membership of the EEC. Your Lordships have committees studying these matters and I sit on the agricultural committee. We have just written a report on EEC farm prices for 1979–80 that would have been debated before the general election if the House had not risen, but it is to be debated shortly. It is clear that we are playing an important part in this extremely important section of the Community.
I must comment on agriculture in this country because it is a matter of home affairs just as are many of the other subjects being discussed today, and I am anxious to emphasise to the Government how much we depend on their attitude towards the farming industry. This year we have had the worst start I can remember in all the years I have been farming. The circumstances have been appalling. Only a fortnight ago it was still snowing in Scotland, where I live on the Borders. The fact that this year we have had the worst start to the year that I can remember applies not only to Scotland; the weather has been ghastly in the South of England. I have read accounts of terrible weather conditions in Cornwall, Devon and elsewhere. This has been immensely costly in terms of the loss of animals, in having to buy large amounts of additional feed 171 for ewes, cattle and so on, and we have run ourselves up an enormous bill to start with.
Added to that was the unfortunate strike of civil servants. None of the grants which were to have been paid to farmers, particularly in upland areas, were paid; they are generally paid in February but were in fact paid on Monday of this week. Thus, we all had to borrow large sums from the banks, at bank rate, in order to carry on our work in the upland areas. I appreciate that it was not the Government's fault, and I am not blaming them at all; but I must draw their attention to the fact that all farmers engaged in agriculture on a fairly big scale were in the same position. They were all owed large sums of money and, in order to carry on while that money was owed, had to borrow from the banks at high interest rates, and of course none of that will be returned because the Government would no doubt not feel such repayment to be justifiable.
This has made life extremely difficult, though the gracious Speech mentions that we want to continue and develop our agriculture. Of course that is of great importance. I have heard every Government say that in all the years I have been in politics, but the hard fact remains that when it comes to a democratic general election we have perhaps 3 per cent. of the population interested in producing food and 97 per cent. interested in eating it, with the result that the one desire is always to keep prices and costs as low as possible in order that the rest of the population shall have food as cheaply as possibly. This is very hard on those of us who are trying to increase our agricultural production and make it as efficient as possible.
I hope the Government will realise that there is a real and important matter to be considered here; namely, that if we are to get the best from our farming community and the best returns from agriculture, that cannot be done for nothing; it can only be done with assistance from the Government. I am particularly glad that we have in the House of Lords as our Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. He is a splendid farmer who knows a great deal about these matters. My plea, therefore, 172 is that the Government should consider the agricultural interests as a part of the important contribution to the happiness of home affairs.
The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, raised the question of what should be done when the Acts of Parliament on devolution are repealed. He and I do not see eye to eye on this subject, although we both live in Scotland, have been county councillors and have knowledge of and have actively participated in Scottish affairs, so I think we can both claim to speak with authority. I certainly shed no tears over either of those measures. Whether or not one wanted devolution, having been one of those who went through them line by line and clause by clause, it was clear to me that the Act relating to Scotland was very bad, and I hope that nothing of the kind will ever be put forward again.
I also took some part, as I am sure Lord Thurso did, in the general election. I gave six or seven speeches—not a great deal, I appreciate—in certain places in Scotland, and I found it extraordinary that I was not asked a single question about devolution. When I asked the candidates for whom I was speaking if they had been questioned about devolution, they replied that they had not been asked about it, either. I would not have believed that the subject would play such a small part in the election. The result was that the SNP lost all but two of their seats. I do not agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that all the votes went to the Labour Party. In Scotland we won back the four rural seats we had lost to the SNP, and the seats in the West of Scotland, which anyway were Labour seats, went back to the Labour Party; we have really returned very much to the status quo before the 1974 election, when so many SNP candidates were elected.
I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that it is extremely important for us to consider carefully what we do now in relation to devolution. Remember, there has been a Royal Commission and we have had endless debates on the subject. Suggestions have come from all quarters—from individuals, from the parties, from bodies outside and from all shades of opinion—so we have an enormous amount of information. I believe that what is wanted now is for a group of all-party people to come together to 173 discuss the next step on the basis of what we already know and what we experienced during the general election. I hope time will be taken to do that because it is not something which should be done at great speed—on that I disagree with the noble Viscount—because I cannot believe that the Scottish public are aching for another devolution Bill or want immediate action. They want thought and study to be given to the subject based on the experience we have had in the election.
One thing is certain, that the kind of Act we had was completely unsatisfactory. It did not at any point meet with great approval, and in the Labour areas—after all, it was a Labour measure—it received just the same treatment as it did in areas which normally return Conservative candidates. In my view we do not have the right answer. I have a number of ideas but I will not burden your Lordships with them now; in any event, I have not discussed them with sufficient people. I am convinced, however, that it is possible to think through this matter. We have a considerable amount of time to do that and I beg the Government to go slowly and to realise that the election results show that there is no urgent demand for a new devolution Bill. I am not at all enthusiastic about the subject, and I believe that much of what might be sought could be achieved without an Act of Parliament of the type we have seen. I hope that the Government will take an interest in, and persist with measures for, the agricultural industry, but I also beg them not to take hasty steps about devolution for Scotland, while for Wales I think that devolution is out altogether.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY
My Lords, like the noble Baroness, I was not entirely sure on what day it would be right for me to speak during the debate on the gracious Speech, because the subject with which I want to deal is ecology and the environmental policies of the Government, and, whereas the matters dealing with the environment undoubtedly belong on Home Affairs day, the extension of this subject to what is now commonly called ecological politics takes us into the economic field. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I sometimes stray over slightly to yesterday's subject.
174 During the election campaign one of the jobs I had was, on behalf of the body known as the Green Alliance, to send out questionnaires to all candidates of the major parties. The questionnaires dealt with ecological matters and asked candidates 10 questions on their attitudes to various matters of policy. They were soft, rather than hard, questions. There were questions about such matters as diminution of lead in petrol, rather than the abolition of it, and a moratorium on whaling, rather than the abolition of whaling. We received a most interesting series of answers. There were about 500 replies out of a possible 2,000, and having had some organisational experience of questionnaires at general elections, I thought that that was a very good return.
We also received some rather odd replies. There was, for instance, a Labour candidate who, in two successive sentences, said that he was in favour of the conservation of all resources, but who asked whether next time we would please send him an extra copy of the questionnaire for his files. There was a Conservative candidate who said that the questions posed were very important and needed much thought, but he did not have time for that. One can entirely see why people do not have time to fill in questionnaires during elections, but if there are important questions demanding deep thought one might have considered that that thought could have been given before the candidate offered himself to the electorate. Then, to crown it all, we received a letter from the Private Office of the present Prime Minister. The letter stated that Mrs. Thatcher received many questionnaires and did not reply to any of them, in order not to be impartial. We are still trying to work that one out.
As your Lordships might expect, we received 50 replies from candidates of the Ecology Party, and all these were thoroughly satisfactory so far as we were concerned. The only point I wish to make about that is that I consider that by any standards the Ecology Party did rather well for a party just starting off. It fought 54 seats, if one includes the Oxford Ecology Party which fought separately and did rather well. The party polled 40,000 votes and, if that is projected on the basis that the party 175 had fought all over the Kingdom, the figure comes out at about half a million. I appreciate that a number of noble Lords will immediately think such a projection invalid, but I do not think it is, It is not the case that the Ecology Party necessarily fought in its best seats. Frankly, it fought where it happened to have a candidate with 150 quid. Therefore 1 believe that one can make a reasonable projection, while the impact that it would have made had it fought more than 53 seats must be taken into account.
So I believe we can at least go so far as to say that the Ecology Party shows that there are many people in this country prepared to stray away from the normal conventional parties and vote for something very different, and that this body of people has now approached the size which should at least be taken account of. One fact which I believe many people will be particularly pleased about is that, in three-quarters of the 20 seats where it came up against the National Front, the Ecology Party beat the National Front handsomely.
The Liberals sent back over 200 replies to the questionnaire. The only interesting point about their replies was the strong recognition that they had of themselves as an ecological party. Outsiders often wonder whether or not the Liberals are an ecological party. Obviously there is a strong ecological strain in the Liberal Party but equally there is a strong strain of free trade and of Manchester School Liberalism which does not necessarily go along with it. The candidates themselves were quite clear. They wrote tart little notes saying such things as, "Don't send us silly pieces of paper—read our Manifesto. This is all our policy".
Even among the two major parties we had a very interesting number of replies. For instance, we had over 57 Conservative replies, the majority of which were from people who were already MPs or who gained seats at the election. We received 32 replies from members of the Conservative Party who are now sitting in the other place and there were 22 who from the quality of their responses I would place in a category that I might call "the green and the good". Among those 22 are one Cabinet Minister, two Ministers of State and one Under-Secretary of State.
176 I concentrate on the Conservative Party rather than the Labour Party at this moment (although we shall be carrying out a full analysis of all the replies received, and shall publish it) because what we are talking about relates to the Government and their policy, and to what the Government propose to do. Here, we must on the whole confess ourselves to be at a loss. There was very little indeed on these matters in the Conservative Manifesto and what there was was bromide. There is absolutely nothing about these matters in the Queen's Speech. In fact there has been only one thing we can go on. It was a speech made by the present Secretary of State for the Environment during the election campaign. It went quite a long way and was a very interesting speech and we welcomed it very much. I hope that what was said in it will bear fruit in action. I do not think that it would he unfair to Mr. Heseltine to say that in the past he has been known more as a super salesman of Concorde than for any particular environmental matter. But his speech went far.
Today I want to ask the Government very briefly what their policy is on some of the matters we raised—and I have given notice of these questions. Mr. Heseltine made the speech on Saturday, 21st April, and the text was released by the Conservative Central Office. He started off rather unfortunately. He said,You can scarcely expect environment health officers to insist that the standards at a local factory be improved when the consequences may be that production has to stop because the necessary improvements cannot be afforded".I translate that as saying that it is all right poisoning people if you are not making money at the same time.
However, Mr. Heseltine was more helpful later. Our first question had been about energy conservation and using energy more efficiently, avoiding environmentally damaging power stations, particularly nuclear power stations. We have not really had any answer or any indication from the Government as to what their policy about this is going to be. They say they want to keep their options open, and, as far as it goes, that is a fair bet, because we in Britain are extra-ordinarily lucky in having a number of different sources of power, which enables us to do this a bit longer than countries 177 like Switzerland, say, or Austria. Nevertheless, we must have a constructive approach even to keeping our options open, and I should be interested to know the Government's policy.
We asked a question about promoting increased access by individuals, small farmers and community groups to land upon which to grow food, because we are beginning to believe—in fact, many of us strongly believe—that the amount of food produced per acre is a much more important measurement than the amount of food produced per man, and that the depopulation of the rural countryside caused by the fact that we now have agriculture which, in one sense, is the most efficient in Europe, is possibly not necessarily a good thing all through.
We want an allocation of public funds to a new labour-intensive programme of environmental and energy conservation. Here, the answers of Conservative MPs were particularly interesting, because they all wanted to see a programme of environmental and energy conservation but a lot of them struck out the bit which said "labour-intensive". When we come to talk about employment—another of the subjects not mentioned in the Queen's Speech—I think one of the things we must talk about is how you use people to do work which benefits and produces wealth for the community as a whole, but which is not necessarily going to be done by private enterprise. Surely it is better to cause people who are on the dole to be productive rather than not; and are not, therefore, labour-intensive ways of going about this environmental improvement the best thing?
My Lords, the introduction of environmental impact assessment for all projects, policies and programmes in the public sector was another point which we made. Here, Mr. Heseltine was fairly forthcoming in his speech. He was a little cautious. He said:… there is a case for subjecting all very large development proposals such as the Vale of Belvoir to this procedure",and this is a matter which I hope Sub-Committee G of your Lordships' European Committee, when it finally exists again, will go on considering, because there is an important European initiative at this moment which we must respond to.
178 The Conservative Party, which has a good record on this next point, of course responded rather well to the idea of a "programme of urban renewal based on the encouragement of small enterprises and the development of a humane urban environment", though one or two people wanted to know what we meant by "humane urban environment".
The next subject—wildlife—was very interesting. "The preservation of wild life by all measures necessary to protect endangered species, including a moratorium on whaling, a ban on the import of sperm oil and action against over-fishing "was suggested. On this subject, Mr. Heseltine said:There is a growing concern with man's threat to the wild life of the world. It is a concern I share profoundly. Internationally Britain must be active and persuade the European Community to be active in protecting endangered species throughout the world not only from direct attacks by man but also from attacks which destroy their habitats. A useful step would be for a European ban on the import of products from endangered species, in particular sperm oil and whale meat which is still being used in pet foods in some countries".Although I know Mr. Heseltine's present job as Secretary of State for the Environment does not cover that particular point, I hope that it will be regarded as a pledge, particularly since reading in the Financial Times this morning that during the election the Conservative Party in a guide-note to candidates also talked about the abolition of the import of sperm oil and a moratorium on whaling. That would be a most satisfactory step forward and I very much hope that the Minister when he winds up tonight will confirm that that is to be so.
Then, my Lords, a suggestion that there should be a "reduction of all forms of pollution, including lead additives in petrol" also received an enthusiastic response. This is a field where there is undoubtedly a strong all-party initiative, and I think we must proceed a lot further than we already have. I think it was on this point that Mr. Heseltine again said that a problem which wasmost immediately worrying [was] the contribution of car exhaust emission to blood level and how best to reduce atmospheric lead without wasting fuel".I do not necessarily like all those last provisos which get slipped in, but nevertheless it is a step in the right direction. 179 There was a question about overseas aid which I will not go into because clearly it does not fall into today's debate; and finally there was one about more democratic processes which was rather vague and tended to ask whether you were against sin. I remember that two Conservative answers were apparently in favour of sin. Basically speaking, the question was about more democratic participation. Here we know that the Government are going to do one or two things which will add to democratic participation even if only at the topmost level. A change in the freedom of information will undoubtedly help the ordinary public and it may be a very great help if the House of Commons looks at its procedures as has been promised and possibly comes up with a better way of using specialist committees.
My Lords, I am sorry for rattling through a large number of subjects, but I thought it might be of interest to get down on record these questions which we asked —questions which I think probably no one in your Lordships' House will regard as unimportant, whatever answers they might give. I think they are questions as regards which we are entitled to know what the present Government intend to do. The record of the Conservative Party in this area is not enormously strong, but these are subjects which are deeply worrying to a great many people, and indeed, to their credit, they are worrying a large number of the party which makes up the present Government and, I am delighted to say, a number of Ministers. The Government, the Department of the Environment and the Secretary of State in particular now have a very great opportunity to start with a clean slate. I hope they will take advantage of it.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord HYLTON
My Lords, I hope I shall win the approval of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, when I tell him that I have just acquired a diesel-engine car which not only is very economical but, I believe, runs on lead-free fuel. May I congratulate him on the success in the election of the Ecology Party, and express the hope that they will do better still in future. I will not follow the noble Lord any further than that.
My Lords, I feel that, today, the home affairs of Scotland have had a very full 180 exposure. I should like to nudge the debate in the direction of the home affairs of Ireland. I believe that people of good will everywhere were enormously encouraged and heartened when the Prime Minister, standing on the steps of Downing Street, quoted words attributed to St. Francis. The peace-making attitudes that underlie those words are needed nearly everywhere, but I think they are needed most especially in Ireland, and in Northern Ireland. Referring to Northern Ireland, the gracious Speech stated that the Governmentwill strive to restore peace and security …I suggest that the order in which those two words were placed is of some importance. Security, obviously, is a very necessary thing, but I believe that peace is the goal and the target at which we should be aiming, and that reconciliation is likely to be the means. Violence and terrorism are unlikely ever to produce a solution but, on the other hand, repression and coercion of the violent are not likely to do much better either. I think that is really the experience of the last 10 years.
I am delighted to welcome the phrase in the gracious Speech which states:… My Government … will seek an acceptable way of restoring to the people of Northern Ireland more control over their own affairs ".That is a little obscure, perhaps, but it is something which should be explored as soon as possible.
During the election we were all disturbed by and deplored a number of bombings and killings. These are sometimes condemned as being mindless deeds. I suggest that there is nothing mindless about them at all; on the contrary, they are carefully calculated. But in spite of them there have been of late a number of signs of great hope. In the Guardian newspaper of Monday last the honourable Member for Down, South, with whom perhaps few of us are in entire agreement, wrote about the conduct of the election and mentioned that he had found far less bigotry and rather more political thought than five years ago. His is a very large constituency and I have no doubt that he met a large number of electors. I take some encouragement from that.
In February, Fine Gael, the Dublin Opposition Party, published a document entitled Ireland—Our Future Together. 181 It contains, in my view, a well-argued case for what one might call a confederal solution. It brings out particularly well the new realities that have come into the whole situation since the entry of both Britain and Ireland into the European Economic Community. What is perhaps even more encouraging and significant was that Mr. Garret Fitzgerald, the former Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, took the trouble to travel to Belfast to launch this policy document.
The following month, in March, the new Ulster Political Research Group, which is a group with very close connections with the leadership of the Ulster Defence Association, a paramilitary body, published a document entitled Beyond the Religious Divide which makes a case for an independent and sovereign Northern Ireland.
I do not think that anyone would say that it argues the case in much detail or, perhaps, very solidly; but I believe that it is of great interest for several reasons. First, it sets out a possible draft constitution for Northern Ireland; secondly, it contains a proposed Bill of Rights, and it ends up with two economic papers by economists of some distinction discussing whether or not it would be possible to have an economically independent country in the North.
What these documents that I have mentioned seem to have in common is that both are looking for a basis of consent, consent to government, both within Northern Ireland and between the North and the South. Both documents seek to dispel the very deep-seated fears which are held and have been held by those who oppose their authors. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will study these documents and also make available copies of them in the Library so that your Lordships may also be informed about them.
My Lords, I think I should not sit down without making some mention of the Northern Irish Peace Movement. This movement will be three years old in August next. During its first year it was very much concerned with marches and visits and symbolic gestures of one kind or another. It might then, perhaps, have been dismissed as something simply founded on emotion. However, in its second year its members became very 182 deeply and widely involved in community work, in youth work and in social service with those many people who have suffered and are still suffering from the "troubles". The Peace Movement has done very valuable service in building up trust in and for the Royal Ulster Constabulary and, more recently, it has been engaged in trying to promote political dialogue and the search for political solutions. It is, in addition, a practical body and has produced its "white card" which gives very clear advice and instruction as to what the individual citizen should do if he happens to be questioned, searched or arrested. Another very practical piece of work was to bring out information explaining to the general public how the housing "points scheme" works in Northern Ireland.
Despite this valuable work, there remain many awkward points of friction, points that can sometimes bring in their train quite unnecessary trouble. Some of these points are themselves things within the power of Government to take action. I am thinking of the delays in bringing persons to trial in the courts which was mentioned earlier by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor; of things like the overtime being worked in the Prison Service and the ever difficult question of the interrogation of suspects by the police. I very much hope that time will be found fairly soon for a debate on the Bennett Report (Cmnd. 7497) on this very subject. On that report, I will say only how much I agree with its paragraph 154: that continuing vigilance is an absolute essential in everything concerning interrogation.
I think that it would be fairly generally agreed that we should aim for the earliest possible repeal of the emergency legislation and the earliest possible return to normal methods of trial by jury. One perhaps sounds a little idealistic in saying these things. I do not expect them immediately and I do not necessarily expect them to be applied simultaneously to the whole of the country; but I would urge the Government not to forget them and to bring them in even partially at the very earliest possible opportunity.
My Lords, I conclude by expressing the hope that Her Majesty's Government will listen very carefully to the Northern Irish Peace Movement and co-operate with it 183 wherever possible. Both Houses of Parliament, in my view, all the parties involved and the people on both sides of St. George's Channel should strive with all their might and by every possible political means to end the 10 years of violence and misery and bring about peace—whose real meaning is right relationship.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord HOUGHTON of SOWERBY
My Lords, I am not finding it very easy to settle in on this side of the House. After five years' apprenticeship on the Benches opposite, I find that the scenery has changed in the past few days. The Chamber looks different; noble Lords and noble Baronesses opposite look different. They look more cheerful, even younger, as if they had a renewed sense of purpose in life; a look of reprieve is on their faces. It is all very strange but we shall have to get used to it.
A debate on the Address is bound to be a little disconnected because we all have our different subjects—in the gracious Speech or not in the gracious Speech— to which we want to refer. I must say how delighted I was with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I followed the fortunes of the Ecology Party with close interest during the Election. It is no good saying that I would have voted for them but, seriously, I believe all parties will have to be ecology parties before long because one of the greatest problems needing attention in all our policies in every walk of life and in every activity will be the preservation of what we have in the natural habitat, its beauty and the health and wellbeing of the people who live in this land.
My noble friends and some of my friends in another place are uttering warnings to the Government about the dire consequences which may follow if they fulfil their election pledges. Some of my friends are trying to turn the Government away from what they promised to do. I am in a different and happier position: I want them to do exactly what they said they would do about the subject which I have chosen for my remarks to your Lordships. There is one part of the Conservative manifesto which I want them to act upon with all reasonable speed. They said:The welfare of animals is an issue that concerns us all. There are problems in certain 184 areas and we will act immediately where it is necessary. More specifically, we will give full support to the EEC proposals on the transportation of animals. We shall up-date the Brambell report, the codes of welfare for farm animals, and the legislation on experiments on live animals. We shall also re-examine the rules and enforcement applying to the export of live animals and shall halt the export of cows and ewes recently calved and lambed".For full measure and in order to nail two other flags to the political mast, I shall, with the permission of the House, quote from the manifestoes of the Labour and Liberal Parties on the same subject. The Labour Party said:Under Labour's new Council for Animal Welfare we will have stronger control on the export of live animals for slaughter, on conditions of factory farms and on experiments on living animals.Legislation to end cruelty to animals will include the banning of hare-coursing and stag and deer hunting. Angling and shooting will in no way be affected by our proposals".The Liberal Party said:Support the demand of the General Election Co-ordinating Committee for Animal Protection for a Royal Commission on Animal Welfare. Ban the importation and manufacture of any product derived from any species whose survival is threatened, and work for a total ban on commercial whaling.We also need a co-ordinated approach to the needs of food production and conservation of natural wildlife which recognises their interdependence.Increase in the number of abattoirs to EEC standards to discourage the export of live animals".In no previous general election in the lifetime of any of us has animal welfare been given so much attention in the official programmes of the major political parties. It was a most welcome and remarkable recognition of public concern of some aspects of the exploitation of animal and bird life in the country today. In the course of the general election, a group previously unknown to me came to life: the Conservative Ecology Group. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, may have heard of it. They are young enthusiasts in the Conservative Party who asked me whether they could be of any help in furthering the purposes of the Co-ordinating Committee on Animal Welfare.
There is hope for the nation if there is an ecology group in the Conservative Party. Long may it last and the greater may it flourish! This new importance to animal welfare was encouraged by the campaign, with which I had something to 185 do, to put animals into politics. Not everyone agrees with putting animals into politics. Some think that animal welfare should be kept out of politics; but I do not understand this point of view. Why should human welfare take up 99 per cent. of our politics but animal welfare, for some reason or other, be kept out of politics? I suppose most human beings are thinking a great deal about themselves and a lot of them mostly about themselves, and that is why politics are so much about human welfare and tend sometimes to ignore the rights to life and happiness of other living species.
The reason why animals have to come into politics is because they are a growing part of human activity: economic, commercial and recreational. Cruelty to animals is now far greater in extent and a public concern because it arises out of large-scale exploitation of other species in what is called the service of mankind. The wickedness and degradation of isolated cases of gross cruelty that we read about from day to day stand condemned on moral grounds. However, the emerging and rapidly growing grey areas, those which are commercially inspired and organised to meet changing needs and tastes of society, are the new and difficult problems. These are the very ones referred to in the Manifestoes of the three political parties from which I have just quoted. This is why I dared to hope that there would be some mention of this in the gracious Speech, but it was not mentioned. I do not despair; these are early days. Five years is a long time in politics and I hope that we are all here to see the end of it.
Like the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, I have to take my stand on the penultimate paragraph of the gracious Speech which said:Other measures will be laid before you".On Tuesday, in another place, the Prime Minister hinted that under that heading she would probably introduce a Bill to deal with the social benefits to strikers. If a Bill of such a contentious nature can be introduced under the heading of "other measures" which are to be laid before us, I am sure that a non-contentious Bill on animal welfare deserves a place there, too, notwithstanding the fact that the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, has already laid claim to a place in the queue.
186 I want to ask about legislation promised on experiments on living animals. Just before the election the former Home Secretary, Mr. Merlyn Rees, was ready to see a committee for the reform of animal experimentation, of which I happen to be chairman, to discuss a report recently presented to the Home Secretary by the Home Office Advisory Committee under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, on the subject of toxicity testing of substances, usually known as the LD 50 test. That is used to test toxicity in a wide variety of substances and compounds used in the home, the farm, the factory, the garden and in agriculture. It is called the LD 50 test because LD stands for lethal dose and 50 stands for the number of animals which will die in the course of a test to find the lethal dose of toxicity in that particular subject. This is where the numbers come in and this is where the suffering is. This is where the face-cream is pumped into animals to find out how much a child would need to eat out of the jar in the bathroom cupboard to have serious or even fatal results. This is where man poisons animals by the million to find out whether his own concoctions are safe for him to use.
What has that report to say? I do not know. The advisory committee have been studying this matter now for a couple of years, and I believe it will have a profound bearing upon the continuance of the conventions of the LD 50 test. I wonder how much scientific mythology and make-believe has been found by the advisory committee in this biggest killer of laboratory animals of all time. This committee of which I am chairman is waiting for a call from the Home Secretary —a call to assist in quick action, which is to be the password of the present Government.
In conclusion, my Lords, I wish to refer to one matter of considerable importance which two of the political parties supported, but which the Conservative Manifesto did not mention; namely, the announcement by the former Prime Minister in another place on 22nd March of the setting up of a council for animal welfare with wide terms of reference. This, of course, did not materialise owing to the intervention of the general election. The Liberal Party, as I have already indicated in the quotation that I gave, supported the idea of a standing council 187 for animal welfare—a kind of permanent commission which would have membership drawn from different quarters dealing with animal welfare.
On 23rd March, in another place, there was a debate on this subject and the official spokesman for the then Conservative Opposition cast some doubt upon the value of this council. In column 1918 of 23rd March in another place, Mr. Peter Mills, speaking for the then Opposition, said this:The Opposition understand the feelings of those who favour the setting up of the new council announced by the Prime Minister, but we must question whether it is the right way to deal with these problems".Of course, the Conservative Party had a reservation about another Quango, but no community can get on without advisory committees of some kind and there is a considerable network of them. I do not know that they are all necessary, but they must be reviewed with some discrimination and some understanding of their value. Government cannot do everything. There has to be government by consent somewhere, and in interesting and complex matters, often of a contentious nature, it is better to have the advice of an expert committee that has gone over the matter in detail than to rely wholly upon the advice of civil servants. However, Mr. Peter Mills went on to say:We want to act quickly where there are problems. The council is bound to take time and it will probably be difficult to reach agreement".None of us wants a body that is going to impede action and slow it down, but I think that the Government must consider whether they could get the action they want on some of these problems without the consideration that a committee or council of this kind may have to give to it beforehand. The great thing about such a council is that there is somewhere to go; there would be somewhere to take any problem affecting any species. At the present time, one gets pushed from one Department to another—from Environment on dogs to Agriculture on the export of live animals, to the Home Office on experiments on living animals and to the Department of Education and Science in respect of alternatives to the use of living animals. One just gets pushed all the way around Whitehall, trying to find where a particular subject should be dealt with.
188 A council of this kind could bring together the different aspects of these problems and could make recommendations which could be published. I hope that the Government will earnestly consider the value of setting up this proposed council for animal welfare, which was welcomed not only by the Liberal Party but by all the animal welfare organisations throughout the country. I think that is a very strong recommendation for setting it up, and we were all delighted when the former Prime Minister announced that the then Labour Government proposed to do so.
I think that on the last occasion when I spoke on the Address I said that for the purpose of my speech on that occasion I would forsake the human condition for the conditions of other species. There are plenty of people who will speak up for the human condition. The whole chorus of politics is about the human condition. I said then and I repeat now that a great deal about the human condition is insoluble. It has to do with the nature of the species; it has to do with the nature of the world and the universe in which we live. The British people will be the last to be contented on earth. Temperamentally we are a miserable race, but I think we have the opportunity of bringing the light of civilisation to other living creatures and at least treating them as we would wish to be treated ourselves.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I think he would like to correct a slip which he inadvertently made. When talking about the LD 50 test, he said that 50 referred to the number of animals that had to be killed. It refers, of course, to the percentage of animals that have to die in the final test. The test may kill far more than 50 animals on the way.
§ 6.40 p.m.
My Lords, the points that I should like to raise follow much more closely the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, than those of the noble Lord who has just sat down. I want to draw to attention what is called 189 the law and order paragraph in the gracious Speech and, in particular, to two sentences. These say that,The Government will give full support to the Police Service and will take steps to ensure that the law is enforced more effectively".Those are fine words, and I do not expect the noble Lord who will reply to the debate tonight to tell us exactly how the Government propose to implement those words. But I hope that it will not be long before we are told something of what is in their minds.
Last November in the gracious Speech there were similar noble words,Every effort will be made to recruit the aid of the whole community to defeat crime and vandalism",and, as far as I can see, nothing has happened since. I had a Question on the Order Paper, asking the late Government whether they could give us any kind of progress report on that, but unfortunately things happened; Parliament was dissolved and the Question has fallen. I shall therefore have to try to find other ways to get this information.
The new Government must do better than the last in this field. The situation is far too serious for fine words, because the police task is becoming ever harder. One of the papers in the proceedings of the 1978 Cranfield Conference on the Prevention of Crime in Europe included these words:It would certainly help if the police were up to strength, but even if they were and were paid like princes and backed by every organisational skill and technological aid known to man, they could not guarantee to do more from their own resources than clean up the fringes of criminality and disorder, for the fact is that the real forces which police a society lie outside its professional service in the strength and quality of society's structures, relationships and values".I think that those words are very true and they should be pondered by us all. Hence the relations between the public, who number some 50 million people in this country, and the regular police officers, who number 120,000, are becoming ever more important and ever more difficult.
This question of relations between the police and the public is never easy. They must have an element of love/hate in their contacts. But the police need all the help of the public all the time, whatever they themselves may say, and the Home Office 190 ought to give a clear lead as to how they see this improvement coming about. They cannot leave it to 45 different and independent police forces and, with respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, this goes a great deal wider than crime prevention panels, even though those panels and all that goes with them, are extremely important.
I am sure that many people would go out of their way today to help the police if the police would go out of their way to acknowledge that they need such help and welcome it. Some forces do this—Devon and Cornwall has already been mentioned today—but not all. I submit that help will be forthcoming only if it is based on sympathy for the police tasks, and that that sympathy must be based on knowledge of the tasks—and in Britain such knowledge can be hard to acquire. I am referring to the everyday police work, dull stuff, monotonous but yet important—and not particularly secret. Naturally, I am not referring to such parts of police work as are highly confidential.
I recently heard it said twice by people who have long experience of sitting on the Bench that up to a short time ago the public knew little or nothing about the police but trusted them implicitly. Today they know just a little bit more and they trust the police just a little bit less. This may be due in part to biased TV programmes and stories by journalists looking for sensational stories, but I do not think it can all be put down to that, because there have recently been too many lapses in their own ranks. There was a bad story in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, but I shall not say anything more about that; two weeks ago there was a very bad story from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and we all know the sorry stories that we have heard, time and time again, about the Metropolitan Police CID. This is not all to be accounted for by the "one rotten apple in the barrel" explanation, which is often quoted by police officers. There is a weakness somewhere in the system and they must deal with it themselves.
All of us here get monthly a free copy of a magazine called Police, which is sent to us by the Police Federation, which represents the great majority of the police officers in this country. Those who do not put it straight in the wastepaper basket will have noticed a steady out- 191 pouring of criticism in its columns against magistrates, judges, chief constables, probation officers, social workers, Bramshill Police College and, last but not least, politicians, which I think includes us. That, I submit, is overdone, but we, at least, can take it. Recently, I noticed that even the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police could not resist a side shot at Parliament on page 1 of his evidence to the Royal Commission. With so much criticism of others, I hope that the police will not take it amiss if I lob just a little back this evening.
There is little doubt that any of us here who have tried to learn something of the practical problems which the police face will have experienced meeting not just the helpful police officers—and they are in the majority—but the unhelpful and the over-suspicious in the service too, and it has not been too encouraging an experience. But having said that, I am immensely grateful to the many police officers who have helped me not just in this country, but also abroad. I must admit that when I have asked for information or facilities from forces abroad, I have always said that I was seeking information or experience which would be of use to me as a Member of your Lordships' House and it has worked like a talisman. All doors have been opened.
Several years ago, I asked the Home Office for some help and they agreed to most, but not all, of my requests, which in toto were no more than the experience which a special constable might expect to get in his first month. I saw no reason to be put off like that, and I turned to the Germans; told them the whole story and asked them whether they could give me the experience which the Home Office had refused, and perhaps even a little more if they thought they could trust me. I explained that I was not a journalist; I wanted only to be a more useful Member of your Lordships' House. Somewhat to my surprise, they agreed at once. It is strange that the rating of your Lordships' House should appear to be higher in the eyes of the German authorities, than in the eyes of our own Home Office.
This is no occasion whatever for travellers' tales, but a visit was arranged. I must tell your Lordships that I was well received. Saying that and as I had come to learn, they would treat me, so 192 far as was possible, like a visiting police officer rather than like a despised politician. It was not long before they had me on the street, under instruction, wearing their uniform and feeling very self-conscious. That is not playing at soldiers, but it is the best, if not the only way, to learn some very necessary lessons. I have since paid follow-up visits and they have generated great interest and loyalty.
I hope that none of my friends will take it amiss, if I say that no force in this country has opened its doors in quite the same way as the Germans have done to me. If I have been very fortunate and have had the benefit of that one exceptional situation—and language has played a part here—I have run into the opposite extreme too and I am sorry to say that it was in my own country. When my interest was building up—and I do not put this forward as a personal matter, but rather to show what can happen but ought not at a time when it is most important that we should all work together—I naturally had contact with the police in the county where I live, which is Cumbria. The response that I had from the chief constable was to tell me where I got off. He no doubt had his reasons, and I was disappointed, if not wholly surprised. But that is not the way to attract the support which is so badly needed.
Coming back to the question of support, which is my first theme, what, following those sentences in the gracious Speech, do the Government expect from such organisations as crime prevention panels and from all of us as individuals, particularly those of us who are perhaps capable of giving a lead. Today's problems cannot be solved just by giving the police a little more money to buy another computer. They need a better quality intake, better training—that is very important—and better relations with the public. They must not forget, too, that the special constables in this country can be used as a valuable link between the regular police and the public. This was emphasised in the report of the Royal Commission—I think that the year was 1962.
Latterly, when every man in uniform has been wanted to help with his presence on the streets, the strength of the special constabulary has dropped by 6,000—and 193 this despite an expensive national advertising campaign. I would say to the new Government that they must do better than the last Government.
I do not want to end on any too critical a note. Our police are second to none. They, like every other service, have their weaker points but they have their stronger points, too—not least a very special loyalty, which we could all try to emulate with advantage.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Lord PITT of HAMPSTEAD
My Lords, I must begin by apologising for not being here at the beginning of this debate. As usual, my professional duties made that difficult. From what I heard when I came here, I realised that I had missed a great deal in not being able to hear the whole of the speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I can assure him that tomorrow morning I shall read Hansard with great interest.
Tonight I want to touch on three matters in the gracious Speech. The first is housing. There are 1 million households registered on council waiting lists; there are nearly 3 million households living in substandard houses; 50,000 households a year become homeless. The gracious Speech promises… measures on housing which will include provisions for local authority and new town tenants to have the right to buy their homes, a Tenants' Charter for those who are local authority, new town and housing association tenants, and provisions to encourage short-term private lettings".There are no suggestions for any proposals to speed up the housebuilding programme nor to increase the number of houses being rehabilitated, but this is what we require.
The last Government's White Paper indicated the need to build at least 300,000 houses per year. Other surveys have shown that there is an urgent need for an increase in the rate of house improvement, and it is estimated that at least 400,000 houses need to be improved each year. When the Minister replies, I hope that he will tell us what plans the Government have for dealing with this matter, because the sale of council houses can have the effect of reducing the stock of houses available for letting and thus can be detrimental to the interests of the home- 194 less and those who are badly housed. Moreover, the shorthold tenure proposal will erode the principle of security of tenure and could be a blueprint for eviction, homelessness and a great deal of misery. The addition of yet another form of tenure will cause unnecessary legal complications and hinder the understanding and utilisation of tenants' rights.
Further, a policy which forces tenants to leave their homes on an arbitrary date can put increased burdens on local authorities by increasing homelessness. It can also have the effect of making people afraid to move lest they are unable to find equally secure accommodation. In fact, there is already evidence in London of units of accommodation being kept empty, in the hope of being able to let them on shorthold tenure. This is a fact which has already been brought to my attention. The proposed Tenants' Charter is to be welcomed. I hope that the Government will maintain the provisions in Labour's 1979 Housing Bill, including the measures to help owner-occupation.
The next matter that I want to touch on briefly is education. I shall not read the various passages in the gracious Speech which deal with the subject. However, I shall summarise the matter by saying that there is a proposal to remove the compulsion on local authorities to go comprehensive. I gather that a Bill has already been published. I am somewhat worried by the fact that battles to retain grammar schools are regarded as a battle for the freedom of parents, but the fact is ignored that it is also a battle to prevent other parents, whose children cannot go to grammar schools but who do not wish to send them to secondary modern schools, from being forced to send them there. For the corollary of the grammar school is the secondary modern school, and the preservation of grammar schools means the preservation of secondary modern schools. This really means the preservation of the freedom of some parents at the expense of the freedom of the vast majority. I find it difficult to understand why, when these issues are being promulgated in the way that they are, the two sides of the coin are not mentioned.
I gather that a survey carried out in the London Borough of Hackney—which, 195 as noble Lords may know, I had the pleasure of representing in County Hall for 16 years—showed that there is a great desire among the people for greater choice in comprehensive schools: for example, for more single sect schools and for schools that cater for specific disciplines. I think that that is the direction in which we should be fighting for the freedom of parents. It is that freedom which we need to give them, not the freedom of a few, which they can get only at the expense of the vast majority.
Another point mentioned in the gracious Speech was the proposal to make provision for assistance to less well off parents whose children would benefit from attendance at certain non-maintained schools. This could have some very unpleasant effects. First, it could cause primary schools in the maintained system to divert their energies to coaching pupils for whatever examination the independent schools may wish to set. This would mean that the interests of a very small number of pupils who might be admitted to independent schools would be allowed to affect in a quite irrelevant way the curriculum of the vast majority of children.
Another effect of a scheme of this kind could be—or in fact would be—to take out of the maintained system some of its most able pupils. The justification for this is claimed to be the fact that the maintained system cannot itself deal with able children. In general that is not so. It certainly will become so if too high a proportion of children who go on to higher education are removed from the maintained system. If substantial funds were diverted to feepaying, there would also be a general effect on the education system. I know it will be said that any funds provided by Government for fee paying would not come out of the rate support grant, but in one way or another public expenditure on education would have to be reduced to take account of the expenditure on fees.
Only today I read of the report by a committee which was chaired by the headmaster of one of the schools of which I once had the pleasure of being a governor, in which it was indicated that the money spent on text books is insufficient. I submit that this would be a better way of 196 spending the money than paying fees for a few children. Another proposal in the gracious Speech is that there should be an appeals system for parents who were unable to get their children into the schools of their choice. There can be no objection in principle to the establishment of a formal appeals system for parents who want a review of the decision that their child cannot be offered a place at the secondary school for which they had expressed a preference.
In fact, the Inner London Education Authority, of which I have been a member, has been considering possible procedures for an appeals system for quite some time, but of course the details would be affected by any specific requirement of legislation. It is important that an appeals system should be realistic and not hold out hopes which cannot be realised. The grounds of an appeal would need to be to ensure that procedurally a decision had been arrived at properly. The real warning that I want to utter is that it should not be thought that an appeals system could produce additional places at a school which is already full, and there could be no question of one child, as a result of a successful appeal, being granted a place already allocated to another child. We must avoid misleading parents on this question. Admission to voluntary aided schools is the responsibility of the governors. We shall have to wait and see how the proposed local appeals system would operate in those cases.
I now want to spend a minute on the question of the Health Service, because here again the gracious Speech promises to introduce a Bill to facilitate the wider use of private medical care. But it is not the wider use of private medical care that is required. What is required is that there should be more resources to facilitate the wider availability of community care. What is required is better housing, about which I have been speaking earlier. We want more home nurses, more home helps, shorter medical lists, an occupational health service and more preventive medicine. These things will not be provided by the wider use of private medical care. The Government have got their priorities wrong.
At this stage I had intended to say a few words on the question of race relations, but the noble and learned Lord, Lord 197 Elwyn-Jones, in fact has said much of what I intended to say and has said it very much better than I could have done. Therefore, I shall not delay your Lordships on that matter, except merely to say that I hope all Members of your Lordships' House will read the comments on the Queen's Speech made by the Commission for Racial Equality. I also want to endorse the plea made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, that the Government should reintroduce the Bill which was lost as a result of the dissolution, because that Bill would have made it possible for local authorities to receive grants from central Government to enable them to carry out the task which we imposed upon them by Section 71 of the Race Relations Act. In the discussions that preceded the Bill, I asked that the grant should be 90 per cent. I hope that when the Government introduce a Bill they will in fact move in that direction rather than the 75 per cent. which was contained in the Bill which was lost at the dissolution.
It would be a tragic irony if a Government which is led by a woman were to discriminate against women on the question of the rights of their spouses to join them in their homeland. From my point of view it would be sadder still if a Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was renowned for his stand against racial discrimination, should find it impossible to provide the resources necessary for the fight against racial discrimination and racial disadvantage. I hope that when the Minister comes to reply he will reassure me on these points.
My Lords, I am doubly sorry that I was not able to hear all the speech of the Lord Chancellor because the gracious Speech has given me the impression of being very divisive, and that is a pity. What this country needs at the present time is a spirit of unity and a unifying force. The measures required are those which will bring the various sections of the community together, to work to build a society of which we can be proud. I wish the Government well. I hope they will be successful, and I hope and pray that my impression is wrong.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Baroness FAITHFULL
My Lords, I rise to speak on the statement in the 198 gracious Speech concerning young offenders and juveniles whereby,Legislative proposals will be brought forward to strengthen the powers of the courts in England and Wales in relation to young offenders and juveniles".I wish to speak about children and young persons under the age of 18 years. At this stage one can only hazard a guess as to what these proposals will be, but there is some indication in the details given by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, in his speech yesterday, at Blackpool to the Police Federation Conference. It may be cause for concern that throughout the country the crime rate of both juveniles and adults has risen threefold in the past 20 years, and it is surely right that all sectors of society—parents, communities, schools and all the public services—should seek to create a climate and conditions which will lead to a recession of crime. I support the Government in seeking to establish a state of law and order. I was moved by the statement of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that law is about the standards of behaviour of society.
At this stage, I would seek information from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who is to reply to this debate, and may I take the opportunity of congratulating him on his present appointment and wish him well. First, may I say that I hope that in amending the Children and Young Persons Act there will be an amendment which will give to the juvenile courts the power to make residential care orders. Indeed, I think I am right and correct in saying that already the Association of Directors of Social Services and the Magistrates' Association have agreed that when a care order is made a child would be removed from his or her home and placed in residential accommodation, a school or a foster home. But I would at this stage wish to utter a word of warning. Magistrates throughout the country will want to be assured that, in the removal of a child from home, they are removing it to somewhere at which that child will receive training, care and attention of a skilled nature. It must be acknowledged at this moment that there are outstanding people working in our residential establishments throughout this country dealing with children in trouble and in need, but they are hampered by lack of good and trained staff. One has to bear in mind that there are only 4 per cent. of residential staff trained in this country. 199 I would also say that, if power is to be given to the courts to make care orders—and, as I have said, I believe it should be—equally I think there should be a review during the time when the child is in care so that the child does not just remain in care by default until the child is 17 or 18. I think the child has a right to have his or her case reviewed at regular intervals and for a plan to be made for that child which is thought out, constructive and able to meet his need. I would point out that to have a child in care costs —70 a week outside London and £100 a week in London, and therefore I am sure that magistrates would wish that money to be wisely spent.
I then would wish to know what exactly is meant, if indeed it is meant, that detention centres should be retained and perhaps developed. Detention centres were, I think, set up under the Criminal Justice Act 1948. They were primarily punitive and deterrent rather than reformative. I would wish to know whether detention centres are to continue as they are or whether there is to be a change. I would draw the attention of your Lordships' House to the fact that in 1970 the sub-committee of the Advisory Council on the Penal System stated that the régime had never been wholly successful, partly because it was impossible to persuade staff to continue and sustain the punitive measures when they were preferring to carry out positive training programmes. In 1977 the Prison Department's statistics showed that 73 per cent. of juveniles at detention centres were reconvicted after two years. The cost of a detention centre is £96 a week per person. Therefore, I look forward to hearing what in fact is intended.
Juvenile delinquents or potential juvenile delinquents can perhaps be divided into two sectors; those who are, if one can put it this way, in the deep end of delinquency; they are deeply immersed in ways of delinquency at an early age. There are those children who are what one might call in at the shallow end; they are on the edge of delinquency; perhaps they are potential delinquents or not serious delinquents. I would support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, when he says that we must concentrate on preventive positive measures. Preventive positive measures are being 200 developed in this country in the way of day care centres, and the voluntary organisations particularly are developing these; intermediate treatment, a peculiar term but a term which was used in the 1969 Act, which provides preventive measures, which provides constructive help for children. These measures have not been developed through the country, and one would hope that the Government would pursue these preventive measures.
My Lords, I do not want to speak for very much longer, but I would wish to say this; there seems to have been a polarisation of our attitudes towards juvenile delinquents. There are on the one hand the people who think of juvenile delinquents as needing care and compassion. There are those others who think that children need deterrents and isolation. In my view, those two polarised views are not incompatible and should be drawn together. We should look at the delinquency problem realising that children need care, discipline and attention, and also need to be treated with skill. However, more than anything else, they need to be given such a life as would prevent delinquency.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Lord WOLVERTON
My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend, Lord Belstead, on his very important appointment as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office. I wish to speak for a few moments on education, a matter about which he knows considerably more than I do. The gracious Speech says that:The quality of education will be maintained and improved".I very much like those words because the future of this country depends tremendously on good education. We were told by the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, who moved the Motion for this debate so well the other day, that unfortunately 8,000 young technicians have left this country in the last few years. We so badly need young technicians to enter the engineering industry which is vital for this country's future.
I should like to make a few comments about the part of the world in which I live —namely, East Anglia. During the past few years East Anglia has suffered a reduction in the rate support grant of some 201 £50 million and in my county of Suffolk we have suffered a reduction of £15 million. That money was diverted by the late Government to the inner cities. While I do not object to the inner cities receiving all the help they can, because they have great problems too, I think it was grossly unfair of the late Government to take that large sum of money away from the rural counties and divert it to the cities. Last November the then Minister, Mr. Shore, is on record as saying that he thought the rates would not go up by more than 9 per cent. on average. In actual fact, the average was about 18 per cent. In my county, West Suffolk, they went up by 16 per cent. and expenditure in my county went up by about 23 per cent.
I should like to quote one or two figures to substantiate my case. This coming year, education will cost the county—with, of course, a Government grant, which is about 65 per cent.—£86 million out of a total expenditure of £143 million. I had the honour and privilege of moving a motion the other day at the Eastern Counties Conservative Association at Ely, saying that we implored the next Conservative Government—if the Conservatives were successful in obtaining office—to restore those cuts to the rural counties. I was lucky enough to have very strong support for that motion. The motion was sent forward to Mr. Michael Heseltine, who is now Secretary of State for the Environment, asking the Government to give it very earnest consideration. I finished my speech by saying that if we could not get those cuts restored, the very high level of education and other services in the eastern counties would have to be reduced because the ratepayers could not afford to continue paying 23 per cent. more every year.
Therefore, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give the matter very serious consideration. I do not ask for a reply tonight, but it is important that I should raise that point for East Anglia. I know how strongly everyone feels in those counties about how roughly they have been treated by the large cut in the rate support grant.
I should like to make a few comments about housing. Indeed, I was very interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead. I admit that early on I was rather against selling council 202 houses but, after the great experiment which was carried out in Birmingham some years ago, it was found that a very large number of tenants stopped in their council houses for the houses' economic life. Therefore it did not make any difference whether the house was owned by the council or was privately owned, because there was no increase in the number of empty houses on the housing list. However—and I am sure that this is right although the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, did not bring this out—a very large number of councils are very hard up today and the sale of council houses would bring in quite large sums of money to those councils. Their sale has already brought money into Birmingham and many other cities where they can build the smaller two-bedroomed and one-bedroomed houses which are badly needed by older people who, if they could get one, would willingly move into a smaller house and give up the three-bedroomed house which they are finding expensive to heat and light so as to enable younger families to find accommodation. Therefore, by taking such action, we shall have more houses. I think that it is right to point that out to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, because he was saying that we would not get any more houses, but I think that we shall.
§ Lord PITT of HAMPSTEAD
My Lords, I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, that of course we shall have more houses if we build more houses. The only proposal that we have before us is to sell those that we have.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Lord BANKS
My Lords, I should like to begin, if I may, with a brief reference to the electoral system. The House will not be surprised to learn that we on these Benches regret that there is no reference in the gracious Speech to electoral reform. We have made it clear in the course of this debate that we wish the Government well in the very difficult tasks which face them. Nevertheless, we feel that it is important to emphasise that they have secured a majority of the seats in another place on a minority of the votes—44 per cent. of the votes cast; one-third of the total electorate. More people, in fact, voted against Conservative 203 candidates than for them. Therefore, we feel that the Government do not have a mandate for any purely Conservative measures—for measures which do not secure support outside their own party—and we think that they should take that into account in formulating their policies.
I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, said about the favourable replies on ecological questions which his organisation had received from Liberal candidates in the recent election. I am not surprised that that should have been so because we did, of course, make one of our main planks the environmental theme. I shall listen with interest to the answers which the Government provide to the questions which the noble Lord asked.
Turning for a minute to local government, the gracious Speech says:Legislation will be introduced to promote greater efficiency in local government".Certainly greater efficiency will be welcome and we shall be interested to see exactly how it is proposed to achieve it. However, I am wondering whether the White Paper produced by the previous Government, Organic Change, still holds. It is undoubtedly true that there must be in due course a major reform of local government, but I think that while we are waiting for the appropriate time for that to be attempted it would be unwise to engage in any piecemeal tinkering, such as the proposal to divide responsibility for the social services between the county and certain district councils within the county. That would seem to me to lead to a duplication and an increase in bureaucracy, and I would welcome an early assurance that that plan has been abandoned.
The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, drew our attention to the sentence in the gracious Speech which says:Legislative proposals will be brought forward to strengthen the powers of courts in England and Wales in relation to young offenders and juveniles".I should like to endorse the warning that she gave, the reservation which she expressed, about that. As part of the background to this whole question we must bear in mind that the record of residential care in reforming delinquents is in fact bad, and that today four out 204 of five who go to borstals, detention centres and community homes with education, re-offend.
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will agree—and I should like to join with those who have congratulated him on his new appointment—that legislation which led merely to more children being locked up would be a waste of human and financial resources. However, as the noble Baroness indicated, resources are needed for a considerable development of non-custodial forms of treatment and it would be interesting to know the Government's plans in that respect.
Turning to the sphere of social security, the gracious Speech says:Pensions, war pensions and other social security benefits will be increased in November".In spite of exchanges in the other place, it is still not clear whether or not that is to be on the basis of the 1975 Act formula. That formula, of course, is that long-term benefits are increased in accordance either with prices or earnings, according to which is the higher, and that short-term benefits are inrceased in line with prices. In view of the confusion which seems to surround this matter at the moment, I think that it would he helpful to have as early as possible a clear statement as to the Government's intention. I also wonder whether or not it is their intention to continue with the unsatisfactory arrangement whereby the reference period in these matters is half-based in the past and half-based in the future.
The gracious Speech says that legislation will be introduced to provide for the payment of a Christmas bonus to pensioners. We welcome that, but I imagine that that refers only to 1979. However, I think that that has virtually become a permanent feature of our social security system; we should recognise that and legislate for it. Therefore, all that would have to be decided each year would be the amount. It would seem reasonable that the amount should be indexed. While I am on indexation, I wonder whether this Government will be prepared—as the last Government were not while they were in office—to restore the value of the death grant or, if they are not prepared to do that, at least to index it so that it does not decline any further in value, as it is progressively declining in value each year as matters stand. 205 There has been a great deal of talk about benefits for strikers' families. It is still not clear whether that is to be dealt with in the present Session or left to another Session. However, I am bound to say that it seems to me that the Government are making a mountain out of a molehill in this regard. I understand that in 1977 less than £4 million in supplementary benefit was paid to strikers' families and that this was 0.2 per cent. of the total. I believe it is correct to say that only 15 per cent. of strikers' families actually go on to supplementary benefit; that most simply run up debts instead.
There is also talk of taxing short-term social security benefits. I believe that to do this would involve the employment of 10,000 more civil servants. Perhaps the Government can let us know fairly soon whether or not they intend to proceed in this way and, if so, whether it would involve that extra number of staff, in view of the complications involved. If the problem is to get rid of the situation where a comparatively few people earn more when they are on benefit than when they are in work, would not an increase in child benefit be the best way to tackle this? Should we not increase child benefit so that it is equal to the highest benefits for children provided by the various social security benefits? After all, this occurs, where it does occur, in families with four or more children.
In my view the long-term solution is a tax credit system, and in that connection it is interesting to see the phrase in the gracious Speech:Ways will be sought to simplify the operations of the social security system".We shall certainly wait with very great interest to learn about these. Again, in our view, the solution is a tax credit system. We believe that such a system would rationalise and unify tax and social security systems, would abolish the poverty trap, would simplify the whole system and would restore supplementary benefit to its original role of dealing with the few who fall through the security net rather than dealing with one in 10 of the population, as it does at the moment. Such a system would also help the elderly, families with children and the low paid.
206 Both the last Government and the present Government have given as reasons for not proceeding with this that there are technical difficulties. Yet the advice which my party received from computer experts was that this could be accomplished within the lifetime of a Parliament and that, if it is started now, it could be effective by the end of this Parliament. Indeed, the Tory Reform Group, which recently published a report called Tax Credit Report, had the same experience. That group says that when it approached computer experts, those experts saw no technical difficulties which could not be resolved by a phased introduction of the scheme, and the programme could start before 1985.
In conclusion, I hope that the Government will look again at this question of the introduction of a tax credit scheme, and will do so with great speed and energy. I believe that to lose the opportunity of introducing so necessary and so beneficial a reform would be sad for them, and would be sad indeed for the country.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Lord WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, I do not entertain the hope that anything I say this evening will have the slightest effect upon the Government. It is the kind of tribal dance that we go through every time we have the Queen's Speech. But as it is a tribal dance, I want to play my part in it. I had intended to begin in precisely the same way as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, almost using the exact words. I was tempted not to do so, but as the noble Lord the Leader of the House was not in the Chamber when the noble Lord, Lord Banks, began his speech, perhaps I could say again what he has already said. I do not say it in any sense of aggression.
However, when I sat on the other side, I did get a little impatient—although I hope that I did not show it—at the constant reference which was being made by noble Lords then sitting on this side of the House about the things we wanted to do, about how we had no mandate to do them, and that we were in on a minority vote. I suspect—and I think the noble Lord the Leader of the House will agree with me—that we are in for same very troublesome times. We must recognise that; I think that he knows it. It is 207 because we on this side shall challenge the Government in a number of ways that I want to ask them to bear in mind that they are in no different a position from that of the last Government. This new Government had only 43.9 per cent. of the total votes cast, which means that less than one-third of the total electorate voted Conservative. It also means that this Government polled less in percentage terms than I think any successful Conservative Government since the war. I spent some time yesterday in the Library looking this up. In 1970 the share of the total vote was 46.4 per cent.; in 1959 it was 49.4 per cent.; in 1955 it was 49.7 per cent.; and in 1951 it was 48 per cent. So their percentage of the total vote in this election was less than at any time since the war when the Conservative Party has succeeded.
Having said that, let me be perfectly frank and admit that so far as seats are concerned it was a convincing win, but it was not as convincing as it appears to be in terms of the electorate as a whole. I mention this not in any way to detract from their victory because it was a substantial victory, but to remind noble Lords opposite that two-thirds of the people in this country are not behind them. Therefore, I ask them, when they are proposing to introduce something which is really controversial, to bear in mind that they are speaking for only about one-third of the electorate entitled to vote. I realise that we are in for a long period of what has been described as strong Government, and it would be advisable for the Party opposite to recognise their position.
We find it difficult on this side of your Lordships' House to believe that the Conservative Party has the same deep-seated concern as we on this side of the Chamber feel that we have for the health and wealth of the people who are in the main the producers of our wealth. I may be doing noble Lords opposite a grave injustice, but this is how many of us feel. We do not think that in the main these basic beliefs of noble Lords opposite have changed much over the years. I and my friends may be wrong, but I look to the Queen's Speech to see whether I am justified or not in making that kind of comment, and there is nothing in the Queen's Speech which enables me to put those fears on one side.
208 Some of the proposals—particularly on education and the health services—I believe are socially divisive and will, if pursued, particularly in the Health Service, lead to some considerable confrontation, which I gather is the last thing that the Party opposite want. When Mr. Prior says that this is what he wants to avoid, I believe that this is so. I believe quite sincerely that this is the last thing he wants. But I believe that much in the Queen's Speech will be socially divisive and will create difficulties. It can only succeed if it is recognised that a good society—and this is the point which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack made earlier on—is a society which is fair and just, and that it is not always a question of money but an attitude of mind. There has to be a real change in the attitude of mind on the part of the present Government as set out in the Queen's Speech if we are to have measures that are not, in the last analysis, socially divisive.
Your Lordships will know that my main concern for some years now has been the Health Service. I want to refer to just two matters in the gracious Speech; one relates to pensions, war pensions, and other social security benefits. I would ask on the matter of pensions whether the uprating is going to be, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, asked, in line with prices or with earnings. Perhaps I ought to declare an interest, because within the next three or four weeks I hope to get my retirement pension. I do not know what I am going to do if I do not get it!
There can be an awful temptation. The last Government, if they had opted to increase pensions in line with prices as distinct from earnings, I think I am right in saying could have saved well over £200 million, because it meant that pensioners got something like 3.3 per cent. more than they would have done. I want to ask the Government whether they will say quite categorically what they are prepared to do. Are they proposing to increase retirement pensions in line with prices or in line with earnings? I should also like to ask them what they are proposing to do in respect of child benefit. Will it be uprated in November as we had promised?
May I turn to the National Health Service. For five years, as I know to my 209 cost, the Conservative Party in both Houses constantly criticised the National Health Service, yet there is no indication in either their Manifesto or the Queen's Speech how they propose to deal with the very matters which they have complained about over a good many years. I want to ask the Government whether they are going to impose hotel charges for hospital stays. The present Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Security said, I believe, in 1977 when he was speaking to the Pharmaceutical Society, that hotel charges for hospital stays were not so unthinkable. The new Minister of State for Health has made veiled references to financing health care through direct payments on insurance. I should like to know whether the Government can give any indication as to whether either, or both, of these two things is likely to happen.
I see that pay beds are to be retained where there is a demand for them. The Government know our view in the matter of pay beds. It was contested very strongly, very fiercely, over a long period of time in your Lordships' House. I am bound to say that I must warn the Government that any attempt to halt the closure of pay beds, or to increase them, will be met with the strongest opposition from both Members of your Lordships' House and the Labour movement as a whole. On this matter I would ask the Government to think again.
The points that we hold to be imperative so that pay beds should be phased out are to eliminate queue jumping; the degree to which it draws on the medical profession in so far as too many people opt for lucrative jobs in the medical service rather than in other much needed services: the division which it created in National Health Service hospitals with the consultants receiving fees and other workers, such as nurses, junior doctors, ancillary workers receiving no extra payments at all; the dangers of abuse, preferential use of operating theatres and diagnostic facilities for private patients; the built-in contradiction in a system which was designed to create a service according to need rather than ability to pay. These are what caused us to take the step that we took. I ask the Government to think again on this matter.
Looking at the gracious Speech, I wonder what we are to understand by 210 "the wider use of private medical care". In an attempt to control in some measure the growth of private sector medicine we set up the Health Services Board and we think that board has done a magnificent job. It consists of five members, two from the medical profession and two from the trade unions under an independent chairman, a Member of your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. I am sorry the noble Lord is not in his place, but perhaps it is easier for me to say in his absence that he deserves the congratulations of the House for what he has achieved. Will the Health Services Board continue? I hope it will, and I hope its powers will be increased because the growth of the private sector is alarming.
I wanted to say something about the Wellington Hospital, which has applied to build a 100-bed extension and will, I understand, recruit 142 nurses. I am in some difficulty about this, however, because the matter has been heard by the Health Services Board, who are considering it now, and while it is not a legal body they might well be entitled to say that it is sub judice. Therefore I do not feel I should say anything about the application.
However, I wish to comment on the charges at that hospital, charges which are so high that only the very wealthy can afford to go there. Can noble Lords imagine a situation where the charge is £130 a day, £910 a week or, if one has the misfortune to stay there for a whole year, it would cost £47,450? Imagine a charge of £130 a day for accommodation, food and nursing, with all medical expenses of the surgeon or physician being excluded.
Noble Lords may feel that this is the kind of hospital which could not possibly be used by the people of this country, though I am told that about 28 per cent. of the patients are British nationals; the other 72 per cent. are foreign nationals. Should we be permitting a service of that kind, which is drawing very substantially on members of the medical profession, the bulk of whom have probably been trained free in this country, to provide that kind of service, to attract a large number of nurses whom we need in our own hospitals at the present time? Should we be permitting this drain on our medical resources at the expense of the National Health Service? 211 I do not for one moment believe that any noble Lord, in whichever part of the House he or she may sit, could offer any justification for permitting that state of affairs to exist or, for that matter, to increase because under the Act they can go on building wings and hospitals so long as they do not exceed 99 beds; if they want 100 or more they must get the authority of the Health Services Board. There is quite a network of these hospitals in existence and growing up in this country, charging exorbitant fees at the expense of the NHS. I ask noble Lords opposite who have the ear of the Government—I appeal particularly to the Leader of the House—to discuss with the Prime Minister whether something should be done to stop this kind of thing. In my view it is an affront to the people of this country and I urge the Government really to take a second look at the matter, because it is important that we should restrict a development of this kind so that the vast majority of people in this country are not starved of services which will be available to those who can afford to pay, whereas they cannot.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, at the conclusion of this day's debate on the gracious Speech your Lordships have debated two priorities which affect everyone—every man or woman or family in this country—first, how to restore our country's economic prosperity and, secondly, how to make this county a safe and happier place in which to live.
The first priority, that of economic prosperity, was debated by your Lordships yesterday, but from it flows a great deal that has occupied the attention of the House today, for without a sound economy so much that we want for our country is beyond our grasp. Schools, hospitals, modern communications all cost money. The care which, for instance, the probation and social services give, services which by their very nature are labour-intensive, depends inevitably on sound financial support. And, as we have discovered in recent years, the building of homes and the provision of jobs are not forthcoming in a stagnant economy.
212 Therefore noble Lords who have spoken today, in many cases—as with the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell—from long experience of the subjects chosen for discussion, know better than I do that the debates of yesterday and today are inevitably interrelated. I wish to say a few words about what, realistically, the Government think they are now going to do to encourage respect for the law by supporting the Police and Prison Services and strengthening the powers of the courts.
It is the duty of Government to ensure a strong and healthy Police Service. We accept that duty. At the end of the first quarter of this year, the total strength of the Police Service in England and Wales was 111,133, but the establishments authorised by the Secretary of State amount to 119,000. The trouble is that those vacancies are not evenly spread. For instance, the strength of the Metropolitan Police at the end of March was 22,214, which means that, on its present establishment, the Metropolitan Police has vacancies for one in every six of its posts. Although those figures represent a recent improvement, there is still an enormous amount of ground to be made up. I concede immediately that pay is by no means the only factor in determining police strength, but it is terribly important. The Edmund-Davies Committee published its findings after a thorough study of the work and conditions of police service last year. It concluded that there must be substantial improvements in the pay of all ranks, which it recommended as being appropriate to be paid as from 1st September last year. Our first act has accordingly been to give full effect to the Edmund-Davies recommendations.
At the beginning of the report, the committee spells out its view of the role of the police. It is unique, the members of the committee conclude. It is an arduous and increasingly dangerous duty, involving pressures and restrictions not normally found in everyday work. The findings of Edmund-Davies lay the basis for ensuring high police morale. The public expect a Police Service with the highest qualities of integrity, leadership, and initiative, and in the Government we are sure that the police will respond with the dedication which makes us all proud of our police.
There is another point that I should like to put to the House in relation to this 213 matter, and here I come to speeches made by your Lordships. Our police derive their authority from the community. Their independence from political influence is the key to their acceptance by all sections of the community. With the increasing complexity of our society, we are these days seeing divisions increasingly strongly held and expressed. It is particularly important that where antagonism is directed towards the police, effective action is taken to convince all parts of the community that the police are indeed—as the Edmund-Davies Committee said in memorable words—their friends and defenders.
A number of noble Lords, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, mentioned the riot at Southall. The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis is looking into that occurrence very closely and will be reporting to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and I believe that until the reports are received we ought to hold our hand. The question whether the noble and learned Lord's recommendation that amendments to the Public Order Act and the Representation of the People Act are the right way forward in order to deal with public disorders must be studied, but certainly his words will be read with interest by my right honourable friend.
Both the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and my noble friend Lord Inglewood spoke about the relationship between people and the police. My noble friend asked for information on how the Government will support the police, and he put his finger on the vital factor of the relationship between individual people and the police force. The noble Lord may know this already, but I should like to make the point that forces are doing the best they possibly can. They hold open days, including visits to police stations. They are successfully holding night schools for adults. They are involved in the running of neighbourhood groups and clubs, particularly for the young. Since 1968, following a suggestion made by the Home Office Standing Committee on Crime Prevention, police forces in England and Wales have established over 160 local crime prevention panels involving representatives of the police and local organisations; and liaison between police forces, schools, and com- 214 munity groups is taking place all the time. To do this more men are needed in the police, and this is another reason why we have immediately implemented the Edmund-Davies Report.
With regard to the prison system, I should like to make one point crystal clear. I believe that society owes an enormous amount to prison officers who, sometimes in extraordinarily difficult conditions, manage to contain a large and progressively more difficult prison population. The House will know that nevertheless industrial strife in the Prison Service has in recent months temporarily closed some prisons, and this has had serious implications for the continued effective operation of the courts.
An over-pressed Prison Service casts a shadow over the effective operation of the whole law and order system. It is for this reason that the Government announced in the gracious Speech that they will support and improve the prison system and that they looked forward to receiving the recommendations of the May Committee of Inquiry into the Prison Services in the United Kingdom. When that report comes out—I hope before the end of the summer—I trust that it will restore hope and greater stability to the Prison Service.
However, whatever improvements we can secure, places in prison must be used to the best advantage. At the same time we need to press on with developing the whole range of penalties available to the criminal courts. We shall certainly continue with the community service schemes which were pioneered as a result of Lady Wootton's report, nine years ago. We place a special emphasis on effective measures to deal with younger offenders, including juveniles, because, as my noble friend Lady Faithfull said, we must be concerned at the sheer statistical increase in juvenile crime. We are determined to bring to an end the unpopular restrictions which the Criminal Justice Act 1961 places on the powers of the courts to pass custodial sentences on young adults; and we shall certainly take full account of the Green Paper of the last Government, which set out proposals for a "generic" custodial sentence. At the same time we shall also look at the régime now operating in the detention centres. To answer the point raised by my noble friend in her 215 speech, I should say that we are doing this in order to see how the régime in the centres can be made brisker and more effective.
Finally, in referring to this paragraph of the gracious Speech, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for the encouragement in her speech for the commitment in the gracious Speech to an amendment of the Children and Young Persons Act. Turning again to my noble friend Lady Faithfull, I should like to answer her by saying that it is our intention to give magistrates more clearly defined powers when making care orders against juveniles to take them out of harm's way. But we are also anxious—and here I am thinking particularly of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and, once again, of my noble friend—that effective and imaginative schemes of intermediate treatment should be developed by local authorities, the Probation Service and, not least, the many voluntary agencies that traditionally and increasingly make an important contribution in this and other areas.
I now wish to attempt to answer at least some of the points which your Lordships have made during the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, discerned what he referred to in his speech as a "we and they" attitude in that passage in the gracious Speech which deals with the subject of industrial relations. I am bound to point out to the noble Lord that that does not quite agree with the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, which did not take the same view. Indeed, the views of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, in his speech on picketing are a direct encouragement to the policy which the Government believe is right and which is set out in the gracious Speech.
But, that aside, on behalf of the Government I should like to make it clear to the noble Lord opposite that in this country we have a common interest in ensuring that by raising productivity we have more for everybody. To achieve this we must have a healthy trade union movement, negotiating responsibly with management, and not have the crippling industrial anarchy of last winter. It has become very clear that the overwhelming majority of British people, including those 216 working in trade unions, are convinced of the need for some change in the law, and so we have included in the gracious Speech proposals regarding picketing and the closed shop, and for the encouragement of the use of secret ballots for union elections and other important decisions by the use of public funds. Before I leave this subject, may I also make it clear—because the noble Lord had every right to make this point—that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment is going to proceed as quickly as possible, but with consultation with both sides of industry, with a view to bringing this legislation in during this Session of Parliament.
§ Lord MISHCON
My Lords, before the noble Lord the Minister of State leaves this point, may I make it perfectly clear to him, as I hope I did in my speech, that it was not the measures I was referring to: it was the manner in which the gracious Speech was worded, in its sermon from on high to the trade union movement, which did not need it, about the balance of values, and also without any mention whatsoever of consultation prior to definite legislation. That was my point, and I hope he will deal with it.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
My Lords, that is why I specifically mentioned consultation just before I sat down. So far as the expression of a point of view is concerned, I think the Government were very conscious of the feelings of the people in this country, to which my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham referred in his speech, following what has been one of the most disastrous winters that this country can remember, certainly in my lifetime.
My noble friend Lord Ferrier spoke, and I was grateful to him for referring to a very important aspect of the Education Service; namely, religious education. My noble friend may remember a debate in your Lordships' House about two years ago, in which I think my noble friend took part, when the former Government confirmed that they had no intention of altering the religious education clauses of the Education Act 1944; and I trust that that is the way that we can proceed. But, of course, my noble friend was speaking in the context of Scotland, which has its own legislation and its own department; and I will certainly draw the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of 217 State for Scotland to the remarks of my noble friend.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and Lord Pitt of Hampstead, referred to (as they saw it) the absence of reference to constructive measures in regard to race relations. That does not mean that this Government are not committed to constant improvement, wherever possible, in race relations. Your Lordships will know—the noble and learned Lord opposite far better than I, with his experience—of the many methods for trying to achieve this improvement. The 1966 Local Government Act, to which the noble and learned Lord himself referred, the urban programme, the nursery education programme and the provision of playgroups are just four examples. But surely one of the most effective ways to bring help to ethnic groups is to try to bring help to inner cities. I was interested that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, in his many questions, mentioned this specifically. This Government have already made clear their commitment to action to stimulate the growth of small businesses in this country. At the same time, we will be considering the emphasis of inner city policy, and will certainly have the role of small enterprises in mind as we do so.
But, my Lords, this is not just a pious hope; it needs action. It needs cuts in direct taxation; it needs, I am afraid, amendment of the Employment Protection Act; it certainly needs safeguards against unfair competition from local authority direct-labour organisations. All these things are in the Queen's Speech. I am going to go a little further. To achieve (if I may use the expression) a humane urban environment, we jolly well need a sound housing stock, with a good mixture of different types of tenure; and although I know there are deep differences of view between both sides of the House, this is what the gracious Speech is aiming to try to achieve.
§ Lord PITT of HAMPSTEAD
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, I specifically asked him about the Government's intention in relation to the Bill which was lost as a result of dissolution, which aimed at enabling local authorities to receive grants from central Government to enable them to fight against racial disadvantage. The noble Lord has not answered that.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
No, my Lords, I have not, and the noble Lord, like me, will have to wait for a reply from my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. My noble friend Lord de Clifford asked for more money for roads. Although that is, of course, for my honourable friend the Minister of Transport to concentrate on, the thing which I feel so strongly about on this was mentioned with greater clarity than I could possibly achieve by my noble friend Lord Wolverton, who explained to your Lordships in his short speech the heavy burdens which have been placed on county authorities by the shift in the needs element of the rate support grant by the Government which have just left office. If something can be done about this, then I believe my noble friend's question is answered. I shall certainly draw the attention of the Minister of Transport to what my noble friend has said; and incidentally, at the same time, if I may, I will draw the attention of the Secretary of State for the Environment to the interesting remarks which my noble friend made about dogs.
The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, asked about the Government's intentions with regard to devolution for Scotland. My reply rests upon the relevant paragraph in the gracious Speech, but may I take this opportunity to emphasise the need for consultation with other parties—and what a pity it was that the previous Government did not take the same view! I was very encouraged by the recommendation of my noble friend Lady Elliott that this is the correct way to proceed, if for no other reason than that there was no full-hearted consent for the devolution proposals, which was hardly surprising because, as my noble friend said, the legislation was based upon a very bad Bill indeed. So what we are going to do—I say this to the noble Viscount—is to try to explore what measure of agreement can be achieved in the light of the referendum result and the massive absence of enthusiasm for the policy as it was presented to the people of Scotland.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Hylton for the short speech which he made about Northern Ireland, and I agree with him that the way forward must be political. I thank my noble friend for his support of the objective of restoring 219 to democratically-elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland a substantial measure of control over their affairs, which is what is said in the gracious Speech. But, of course, at the same time, if terrorists believe that they can bludgeon the people of the Province into submission, they are very much mistaken; and, as the Government have proved in their first week in office, the maximum possible support is going to be given to the police and the Army in the pursuit of terrorists. Perhaps I may answer one of the questions which my noble friend asked, which was about the enormous amount of overtime which is done by Northern Ireland prison officers. The May Inquiry into the Prison Service covers Northern Ireland, of course, and I think we must wait just a few more months for that report.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, for his support of the Conservative Manifesto on animal welfare. I am bound to say that we do not agree with the previous Government concerning the desirability of having a Council for Animal Welfare, but that is a disagreement about means and not about ends. May I just add that if the noble Lord was pleased during the general election to find Conservatives who are ecologists, then I am absolutely delighted that on this subject the noble Lord appears to be a Conservative.
Several other questions have, I know, been asked of me, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, but, again, I think some of them really must wait for Budget statements from my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, in view of the length of time, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to answer the rest of the speakers, except the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. Incidentally, the pensions point which the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and the noble Lord, Lord Banks, put to me certainly is a matter which must await the Budget, or at any rate a statement by my right honourable friend. With regard to pay-beds, which the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, included in his remarks about the Health Service, I should simply like to throw the ball back at the noble Lord in this way. The noble Lord used the expression "queue-jumping". I want to ask the noble Lord: What happened to that queue while the Labour Govern- 220 ment were in power? Let the Labour Party ponder upon that before it criticises too precipitately the opportunity given in the gracious Speech simply for people to spend their money in the way that they believe to be best.
My Lords, this debate has ranged fairly wide and of course in this House it is absolutely right that it should do so. However, if I may return to the gracious Speech, which is confined to action which the Government intend to take during this Session of Parliament, I believe that our policies in the home affairs field mark a fresh opportunity, not just for some people but for all people. If I may pick out one of the most important measures in the gracious Speech, there is to be a housing Bill to fulfil our promise that local authority and new town tenants will be given the legal right to buy their homes, and tenants who do not wish to buy their own homes will be given rights and freedoms under a tenants' charter. Despite the fact that we disagree on this subject, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, for his welcome to that. But I think the noble Lord's criticisms of the rest of the housing policy are— and again I use the same word—precipitous. Surely it will help to relieve the decline in the private-rented sector by introducing an entirely new concept of shorthold tenures to encourage new lettings of empty houses while retaining all the rights of existing tenants. I think that is reasonable.
These are legislative proposals which, I think, will benefit people across a broad scale and not by any means just the better off in our country. I know that these proposals will be welcomed by the local authorities, too, which have suffered to some extent—and I do not say this in any vindictive way—by the drying up of the supply of privately-rented accommodation.
The local authorities will also welcome the freedom to develop their own secondary schools. The Government believe deeply in an old saying, which is that education is a national service locally administered. This afternoon a Bill has been published by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to remove the compulsion on local education authorities to have to reorganise all their schools on comprehensive lines. I think that the House would wish to know that in another 221 place the Secretary of State for Education yesterday spelled out the administrative steps which he is taking immediately to end all the measures taken under the 1976 Act to force local education authorities and voluntary schools to reorganise, even if the reorganisation proposals have proceeded as far as approval under Section 13 of the Education Act 1944. Reorganisation proposals submitted under compulsion are, I believe, unlikely to be in the best interests of the community. Now, the authorities can discharge their duties of planning the best provision for their own areas in the way they believe best.
In due course, further legislation will be introduced to restore to local authorities their freedom to take up places at independent schools; and the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Wales are taking immediate action by way of amending order to end the situation which forces authorities to secure ministerial approval to pay for pupils in non-maintained schools.
Finally, legislation will also be introduced for what is called the "assisted places scheme", which will replace the opportunity which benefited thousands of people and which was destroyed when the direct grant system was ended. Earlier in our debate, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, used the expression "a bridge". My Lords, the direct grant schools used 222 to be called the bridge between the independent and the maintained sector; and I am glad that that bridge is now going to be rebuilt. Our education system has developed in this country as a pattern of different schools each making its own distinctive contribution. That position is now to be restored in the gracious Speech. I think it is wholly appropriate that the Government can simultaneously claim to have the right also to introduce legislation to restore greater choice to parents in the education of their children.
My Lords, these are policies in the general field of home affairs for the next 18 months. The Government believe that they are policies which are practical, which are realistic and which will meet the wishes of the people of this country.
§ Lord DENHAM
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Carrington, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until Tuesday next.
Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed.