Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Thursday last by Earl De La Warr—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.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I begin my speech by repeating, briefly but sincerely, the just encomiums which fell from the three leaders when we adjourned the debate on the admirable speeches of proposal and seconding which fell from my noble friends Lord De La Warr and Lord Glenarthur. This debate will be responded to by my noble friend Lord Belstead and, as he will by that time know what it is that noble Lords will have said, I hope that any questions of detail may be dealt with by him at that point in the debate.
We open our debate on the gracious Speech, with all the width of what we were told is a debate about home policy. That may seem at first sight rather an odd way of beginning, since we shall be having separate debates on foreign policy and defence and on economic policy respectively, and one might think that to discuss home affairs in such circumstances is rather like trying to put on Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. But of course that is exactly how Hamlet begins. In a sense, all plays begin with the necessity to paint in a background, and the battlements of Elsinore, against which our debate on home policy has to be measured, is a backcloth which, at least in my opinion, is one of an increasingly disturbing situation abroad and an economic situation which requires increasingly urgent attention.
About 20 years ago a rather clever American said that Britain had lost an empire and had not yet discovered a role. At the time I resented that remark, but I wish to return to the subject now. The questions that we have to decide in the course of this Parliament, perhaps in the course of the present Session, in home, economic or foreign policy relate to this underlying problem: what role do we wish our country to play in the remaining years of the 20th century?
Being a Member of Parliament, of no party, or of any of the three great parties, is only one of a variety of different ways of being British. Each party has its own distinctive personality and ethic, its own habits, customs and constitutions. But each has purpose and character only in so far as it stays within the common entity, which is what we refer to when we call ourselves British. I am sorry if at first hearing that sounds a little platitudinous or even tendentious. But in this world of the sensational and the perverse it is often only the obvious and the truth which stand in need of publicity. To my mind at least what stands in need of publicity in home and social affairs, and for that matter in industrial relations, is not so much our matters of difference, as the fundamental identity of interest which individual groups ought to recognise as existing between their members inside the family, inside the company, inside the divided house of the Christian Church, inside the nation between classes, and I would add, outside the nation between nations and languages, as members (as we all are) of a common species, the human race, threatened 25 as perhaps never before by the hideous destructive power of modern military technology, of which the nuclear range of weapons is, alas! only one, and not necessarily the most lethal.
Many years ago, just after the end of the war, I wrote a book called The Purpose of Parliament, and I should like now to re-emphasise the main message which I then sought to convey. The purpose of Parliament is not the struggle between the parties, it is not the exercise of power, it is not the mutual hostility, it is not the class war, but its avoidance; it is the discovery through frank discussion of underlying identities of interests, the identification of common problems, and the discovery of mutually acceptable solutions.
In this House I have again and again drawn attention to the paradox, or the seeming paradox, whereby the defeated and occupied nations of Asia and Europe—Japan, Germany, the Benelux countries, even France, in rather a different way—rather than the triumphant Anglo-Saxon and communist powers have made the best showing economically, socially and industrially since 1945. On reflection, I do not myself find that quite so surprising as it might seem at first sight; and I find the explanation of this apparent paradox very largely in what I have just been trying to say.
The fact that the communists are at the bottom of the social, political and economic league, despite their being on the winning side in 1945, is due I believe to the fact that they are commited to a theory contrary to human nature and the facts of life. They are committed to a theory which has never been prepared to recognise the limitations inherent in state power as such; that is, the principle of compulsion which goes along with state power. The result is that even in vast agricultural regions such as Russia or Poland, there is always a shortage of food, however good the weather, and after bad harvests there is a famine. There is always a shortage of goods, and a plethora of queues, in the shops. There is always a natural tendency on the part of their inhabitants to try to emigrate from their social and economic prison when they begin to realise what other countries are like and what the people in other countries enjoy which they themselves lack. There is a corresponding tendency on the part of the authorities in those countries to try to prevent their peoples from knowing what other countries are like, and there is a recurring urge to take refuge in aggression against others, in sabre rattling as a substitute for freedom, pluralism, social justice and economic efficiency.
At the other end of the league table, the astonishing success of the defeated and occupied powers—Japan, Germany, Benelux and France—has been due I believe, first, to a sense of community engendered by common suffering in defeat, and, secondly, by the acceptance of the values of a free and plural society as the best road to social justice and economic prosperity.
But what of ourselves—intermediate between the two extremes—the Anglo-Saxons, as General de Gaulle would persist in calling us, despite our largely Celtic origins. Our position is certainly paradoxical. We have done better than the communists. We have done worse than the losers. Why is that? I believe that the answer is two-fold. Victory is intrinsically divisive. To adapt the French proverb, nothing fails 26 like success, because everyone is always disappointed after victory. We have failed to regenerate through the recognition of common interests, which is the only way by which regeneration can come. Under the influence of, I believe, false ideas, we have regarded freedom as a perpetual state of confrontation, an everlasting jockeying for position, and a continuous squabble between conflicting sides; and I believe that that is a philosophy which is the opposite of the true function of freedom. In the second place I believe that we, too, in the triumph of victory, have tended to over-estimate the intrinsic potentialities of state power and to under-estimate the value of freedom as a parameter in the equation of social and economic progress.
We now face, as I believe, a crisis in our fortunes. We are in fact deeply divided—why deny it?— on important issues. But we have nothing to gain, have we, by continuously imputing blame to one another, still less by misunderstanding or misrepresenting one another's view points? We need to concentrate upon our assets, and recognise the lessons forced upon us by our failures.
Let us also—and I think this is important for the morale of our people—not overestimate the inherent difficulties of recession. Despite the growing figures of unemployment (which concern us all, differ as we may about the means of cure) let us not talk about a return to the 'thirties; or, if we do so talk, let us recognise that the only road in that direction would lie by way of national bankruptcy, and not by any policy in the contemplation of Her Majesty's Government. Like some of the other older Members of this House, I was a young man in the 'thirties. In those days the total national budget was in the neighbourhood of about £800 million a year—in the currency, of course, of that time. Whatever the result of the Chancellor's statement yesterday, whatever the shape of his Budget in April, Government spending will be nearer £80,000 million than £70,000 million, in the money of today. That is the whole public sector. Whatever cuts we may or may not make, we shall be spending about £18,000 million on social security alone; and next year we shall he spending on our social budget more and not less in real terms than we shall be spending this year. This may be good or it may be bad. I read in one newspaper today that there are many members of my party who think it bad. But whether it is good or bad it is still a fact, and it is a fact that we neither can, nor wish to, return to the past. We are living in a totally different world.
It is sometimes suggested that Government policy is dictated by some general theory. So far as I am concerned, at any rate, that is not in the least true. I am agnostic, if I may say so, about almost everything except religion. It is dictated, so far as I am concerned, by the facts of life. The facts of life, as I understand them, are that the national debt, in its broadest sense, has about doubled in five years. The facts of life, as I understand them, are that before we can spend a single penny on social services, education, health or defence, we have got to service that debt; and except for the social security payments, which are about twice the figure, I think it comes to the largest single item in our national budget—about £10,000 million in the coming year. The facts of life are that 27 if we did nothing whatever about it we should have to borrow, instead of £10,000 million, something like £13¼ thousand million to cover our expenditure next year. That is on top of the figures that I have been discussing; and the facts of life are that we cannot go on acting like that.
An asset which we possess and which other industrial nations do not all possess—certainly which neither Japan or Germany possesses—is North Sea oil. That is another fact of life. It is a wasting asset, but if we are to use it we must use it as an asset, and not as a placebo. It is vital that we divert a sizeable proportion of our national income away from consumption and debt service into investment. This is as much in the interest of the old age pensioner as it is of those in work; it is as much in the interest of those being educated at school or in university as it is of those of full age; it is as much in the interest of the unemployed as it is of those in full employment; it is as much in the interest of the workforce as it is of management. I do not believe this to be a dogmatic or ideological statement. I believe it to be common sense; and I may add that it is as much in the interest of the starry-eyed social reformer as it is of the hard-headed business manager. Economic credibility is the condition of social, no less than of economic, advance.
Our social policy must also be seen, I think, against the background of what at least to me is, unhappily, a deteriorating international situation. There have been two world wars in my lifetime, and the fact that our own nation has not perhaps suffered so much as some others is only a measure of the magnitude of the suffering of all. To prevent another calamity of this magnitude must be of all the most sacred of the responsibilities of any man of my generation who, in the inscrutable wisdom of Providence, survived the last conflagration. But, my Lords, neither of the two wars in my lifetime were brought about by British military strength. Neither of them was brought about by aggressiveness or militarism on our part. Indeed, either might have been prevented had we been more far-sighted in foreseeing the dangers ahead and better prepared, so that aggression might have been deterred. If not caused, the wars were contributed to by Britsh weakness, and not by British strength. Our social policy, therefore, must be framed against the necessity to deter aggression, no less than the need to invest in prosperity.
It is generally agreed, I believe, that our last Session was too heavily weighted with legislation, and our programme too lopsided in favour of Bills first introduced into another place. I hope, therefore, we shall have a more reduced volume of legislation this time to deal with—a volume of legislation less biased in favour of introduction in the Commons than of introduction in the Lords. At the same time, I do not think that many idle days lie ahead of us. I am glad that, for instance, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has decided at last to grasp the nettle of nationality, which has been proliferating its noxious growths since 1948. It will not of course be uncontroversial, and it will not be short; but it is also good news (and I hope it will be less controversial) that he is going to improve the criminal law and pursue his proposals for dealing with young offenders.
28 My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport will take the opportunity to improve the law relating to road safety, and tidy up the rather disreputable jurisprudence of the breathalyser. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will be legislating, as your Lordships have aready heard from his representative in this House, on wildlife and the countryside in a Bill which appears to have considerable diversity. I am sure that he, and we, will be relieved by a spell of absence from the dreary, if important, waste of controversy about local government. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment has already announced useful plans for training and retraining, and assistance to, the unemployed. It will be said that these plans are inadequate. So they are. The only adequate assistance for the unemployed will come from the regeneration of the economy.
I am glad to say that I myself have two Bills of imposing magnitude and considerable importance but not, I hope, of a controversial nature. The first, which your Lordships heard me introduce a few moments ago, relates to the law of contempt and the other, the contents of which I have no doubt the noble and learned Lord who is to follow me will probably know almost as well as I do, concerns the Supreme Court of Judicature. There are no constitutional Bills in the Queen's Speech, apart, of course, from the manifest possibility that Canada or Northern Ireland will provide them in an unpredictable form. None the less, I should like, I hope without offence, to say something about constitutional matters; and, particularly in your Lordships' House, I should like to say something about this House.
It is a complete myth that the House of Lords is dominated by its theoretical majority of Conservatives. I once said about a million years ago when I was leading this House that there was nothing more conservative than an independent Peer but that there was nothing more independent than a Conservative Peer. When we were in Opposition last time we made it then a general rule of thumb not to vote against the Labour Government unless we thought that we could carry with us either the Liberal Party, for whose help we were always glad, or the Cross-Benchers or some Labour dissidents—and preferably all three. Nevertheless—and I do not know whether I am sorry; but I record the fact—the Labour Government did not hesitate to invoke the Parliament Acts against us. In the first Session of this Parliament—and, indeed, in previous Governments—we have never threatened the use of the Parliament Acts against this House despite frequent Government defeats, sometimes on important matters. So far from being an embarrassment to Labour Governments, this House, in my experience, is far more militant and, I might add, sometimes far more embarrassing, when a Conservative Government are in power. For my part, I have a ministerial duty to prevent Government defeats if I can and to deplore them when they occur; but I have a constitutional and philosophic bias in favour of the independence of the Lords' Chamber.
Far more serious than this is the effect which the abolition of this House or—which is the same thing—the nullification of its few remaining powers would have on our constitution as a whole. Our constitution, 29 we must remember, is a most sophisticated instrument and it is impossible to tinker with one part without altering the balance of the whole. The House of Commons is already overworked. No one who has been in it would deny that. It could not undertake the work which we in this House at present perform without entirely disrupting its own character. Of course, that is what some elements, I believe, in the Labour Party want. They want not merely to abolish the House of Lords. Make no mistake about that! The plot—for it is a plot—would have as its effect to abolish the House of Commons as we have always known it. It would make Members of Parliament puppets at the end of a string first by retaining, to the chagrin of the Liberal Party, the present method of voting, "first past the post", while making each Member of Parliament permanently at risk of dismissal at the hands of his constituency Party, infiltrated if possible from the Left by a few unrepresentative activists, and dominated by a card vote in the sovereign body, led by a leader elected by a college of unrepresentative electors incapable even of commanding the support of their own MPs. In other words, the plot is to destroy parliamentary democracy by substituting an Eastern European-type republic dominated by an omnipotent supreme soviet contained in a single Chamber with an unelected party machine consisting of apparatchiks in control of the whole. I hope and pray that the moderates of the party opposite will fight and light again to save the party which they love; and, if they cannot see the true blue light of conservatism, which, I suppose, is too much to hope, at least let them recognise the red light of "Bennery" for what it is before it is too late.
I am also intensely worried by the continued anti-Common Market stance in the party of Opposition. I believe it to be doing untold damage to this country. The full discussion of this issue is, of course, more germane to the economic and foreign affairs aspects of the matter rather than to home policy; but it has an inevitable repercussion on home affairs as well since our internal policy is very largely determined against the background of the new developments in the world since 1945. When the American commentator, to whom I referred, said 20 years ago that we had lost an empire and failed to discover a role, he was as much talking about the future of Britain as a national society as of Britain as a member of the international community. When we opted out of the Far East, rightly or wrongly, and then out of Aden, we made it quite certain that Africa and Asia would become unstable and preys to anarchy and Soviet imperialism. Our relationship with the United States, which is a Pacific no less than an Atlantic power, has inevitably been diminished as a result of our withdrawals from the Indian Ocean. Fortunately, the English language remains where we have withdrawn and, fortunately, our relationships with Australia and New Zealand, although somewhat shaken at times, are still basically intact. But no country is an island unto itself. Our relationship with Europe must steadily become more important as our status as a world power has diminished. Critics of the Common Market seem to me to suffer from a common fallacy. They fail to realise that the Common Market would still be there even if we withdrew. The only difference would be that we 30 would not be there any longer to influence policy. Not only would new tariff barriers arise to render our own social problems probably insoluble; but other policies would be pursued equally detrimental to our internal interests. Worse still—and this is the point to which I come—infallibly the fabric of Western civilisation would become thereby the poorer. If being a member of the political parties is, as I have claimed, only one of a number of individual ways of being British, so being British, I believe, is only one—one of the most important but still only one—of the ways of belonging to a common culture. It is to the furtherance and preservation of that common culture that, in the end, all British policy, foreign, defence, economic and home, must equally aim.
It is not only in connection with the EEC that I want to end by stressing the importance of the European dimension in home and social policy. By "the European dimension" I do not mean only the Common Market but the wider if more indefinite Council of Europe whose centre of gravity is in Strasbourg. It has been known to your Lordships for a long time that I have favoured the entrenchment of certain basic rights in our national law. I favoured for that reason, both in Opposition and now, the legislation promoted by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, who has introduced his Bill again (I think for the fourth time) this Session.
For reasons which I was quite unable to understand, there was some speculation in the press as to whether we would renew the right of individual petition to the European Commission of Human Rights. I do not claim to be wholly uncritical of that Commission or of the Court. One of my noble friends on my right at Question Time today deplored its delays. I think also it has tended to interest itself too much in trivialities. It was designed to prevent, or make more difficult, the kind of oppressive government or legislation which disgraced the Third Reich and European fascism and communism generally, and not to enter too much into the trivialities of domestic legislation. Nevertheless, I am quite convinced that there never was an alternative policy to subscription to the convention. My only personal regret is that we have never found it possible to incorporate it into our national or municipal law. But when I said that being British was only a way of belonging to a culture, I meant that it is only a specific, and indispensable, way of belonging to a community of nations devoted to the common ideal of liberty under law.
I care not by what name that community of ideals is labelled. We can call it Western civilisation. We can call it European civilisation. In another context we call it Christian civilisation. For some purposes it is each and for most purposes it is all of these. It is founded on a set of values rooted deeply in our history, in the culture and religion of three small cities, and none of them at the time of their greatness as large as a modern conurbation: Athens, Rome and Jerusalem. It has had its shameful incidents, its bloody episodes, its reverses, its dark ages and its periods of success and expansion. But in the end I believe it to be the essential gospel on which mankind must order its political and social affairs.
Why do we need freedom? Because we say that man is made in the image of the Divine. Why do we need law to restrain us, then? Because man's 31 nature is flawed; because, unlike the animals, he has from childhood an uncanny capacity for muddying his own face, breaking his own toys and inflicting harm on his fellows. Twice in our lifetime in great wars we have seen infinite calamities brought down upon not the primitive races of mankind but some of the most refined and civilised societies that the world has ever known. They have descended on some of the most sophisticated, prosperous and cultured of nations, revealing once more that men must be ruled by law which has freedom as its purpose, a law which places some restraint on our disruptive instincts, but a freedom which is the inherent right of every human creature or else man will become the victim of the tyrant or of the explosive forces not far beneath the surface of the best educated among us.
I said that freedom was rooted in three ancient cities; but in its modern and most characteristic expression through the centuries in modern times it has been rooted in those nations which either occupied the continent of Europe or recognised Europe as their origin. We of that civilisation have much to answer for in this twentieth century. Our quarrels have inflicted much needless suffering on one another and endless calamities on the rest of the human race. Before the twenty-first century dawns, we owe it to ourselves and to one another to build together through free institutions such as ours a human society so harmonious, so self-disciplined, that even those who began by doubting our intentions or ridiculing our aspirations will find themselves unable to deny the splendour of our achievement.
I say this knowing that we are about to enter a Session of renewed controversy. We are about to enter a Session of unavoidable hardship outside, of difficult decisions among ourselves. In this vale of uncertainty it never can be wrong to lift our eyes occasionally to the stars. My Lords, let us do so here.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, I regret that I must begin my speech with an apology: that I shall not be able to be here for as much of the debate as I should have liked. As treasurer of my Inn, it is my duty and pleasure to call 87 students to the Bar tonight. I hope that I shall be forgiven for my absence. I am particularly sorry as I shall be raising a number of questions in the field of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who is to reply to the debate, as the noble and learned Lord has told us. I have endeavoured to give the noble Lord some notice, knowing as I do how well he endeavours to assist the House on all occasions in the course of our debates.
We have listened with great interest to one of the characteristic speeches of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor: wide ranging, a tour d'horizon of history, philosophy and constitutional considerations. But, with great respect, I shall seek a more humble target: namely, to discuss the Queen's Speech.
We are today discussing home affairs. But, as the noble and learned Lord said in his speech on the Address at the beginning of the last Session—that interminable, unendurable Session—way back in May 32 1979, public affairs are not neatly divided into compartments. They are a total spectrum.
I agree with what the noble and learned Lord has said—that it is essential, so far as we can, to eliminate elements of division in our society and in our world. Sadly, our domestic scene has darkened and the divisions in our society are—alas!—deepening. In my speech on the Address in May last year I quoted some of the wisdom of the Welsh, the Mabinogion, where it was said, "Avo Pen hid Pont." That means, "He who leads must be a bridge". We have seen too much dividing, too little bridge building in recent times.
Our debate today is taking place against a sombre background of decline in our national prosperity. As the noble and learned Lord has said, as a people we are as fine, able and talented as any in the world, and we have considerable resources. Yet at this time we are entering upon a winter of deep anxiety for hundreds of thousands of families in our community.
The position in the industrial field, for instance, is that there is legitimate fear that our nation's very industrial base is being permanently undermined. By August of this year manufacturing output had slumped by 13.1 per cent., in the course of the previous 18 months. Investment—to which the noble and learned Lord referred—has fallen 6 per cent. since March 1979, and is estimated to be likely to fall still more. The number of company liquidations has almost doubled in that period, and about 100 companies are going bankrupt each week.
Mounting and massive unemployment is the grim symptom and consequence of this economic decline. Since we met in May 1979 unemployment has gone up by nearly 40 per cent. It is less than comforting to realise that across the EEC countries the increase in the same period has been only half as great, despite the fact that we have been cushioned from OPEC price changes by North Sea oil. Unemployment is now well over 2 million and is expected to rise to 3 million in the course of next year. The waste of people and resources is enormous. The Exchequer is losing £6 billion in reduced tax revenue and increased benefit payments; and the sadness is that it is the weakest who suffer most.
Some regions are worse than others. Unemployment is approaching 16 per cent. in Northern Ireland: it is nearly 12 per cent. in Wales. Three months ago the House of Commons Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, the majority of whose numbers were Conservatives, issued a stern warning, which I shall read:The Committee warns Parliament of the risks of serious social disorder if chronic levels of unemployment endure, particularly among the young, and stresses that if condemned to suffer the worklessness of the 1930s, Wales is unlikely to respond with the apathy and despair of those days".For generations Wales has been a law-abiding country and I pray that what the Committee warned against will not come to pass; but the danger, I believe, is serious.
Two sections of our population have been specially badly hit; the young and the racial minorities. The level of youth unemployment generally is a social calamity. In July of this year 40 per cent. of unemployed men and 60 per cent. of unemployed women in Britain were under 25. We on this side of the House welcome the special employment measures to operate 33 in 1981–82, announced by the Government a few days ago. How adequate they will be will no doubt be examined by noble Lords in the debates on the Address. We shall watch anxiously to see whether or not they are mere palliatives, as many suggest they are.
One of the grave consequences of unemployment has been a serious deterioration in race relations. Unemployment among coloured workers has risen four times as fast as in the working population as a whole. The chances of a black teenager obtaining a job are three times worse than those of a white teenager, although he too is now facing bleak prospects.
The Government claim that their general inner city policies on economic incentives and other matters directed to that area will automatically deal with these problems, which, as I have suggested, have a heavy and disproportionate effect on coloured communities in inner cities. But the impact of the Department of the Environment's public expenditure cuts, added to yesterday's announcement, has fallen precisely on those inner city authorities which have a disproportionate concentration of coloured people.
The consequences are going to be grave not only for the black minorities, but, I fear, for society at large. Already there is a feeling of alienation growing in a significant proportion of the white and black youth of our inner cities as regards the claims of law and order and the democratic way of life. We are not necessarily winning the battle of ideas among youth today. I believe that the vast majority of the youth of our country are as good as any earlier generation of the young and are just as capable of public-spiritedness and willingness to help those in need. The numerous voluntary associations that many of your Lordships will be connected with are abundant proof of this and of the part which youth plays in them.
The facilities now available to evil men to recruit youths of 12 to 18 for their organisations and to propagate the Nazi and racist views which brought mankind near to the abyss between 1936 and 1939 are deplorable. I believe that one of the dominating questions, both domestically in our multiracial society and in international relations, is whether we can live in harmony with men of all races and colours as neighbours. I became deeply conscious of this in my year at Nuremberg during the trial of the Nazi war criminals.
Only 40 years ago, in the very centre of European civilisation, millions of men and women and their small children were being herded into gas chambers or machine-gunned to death by the SS Einsatzgruppe firing squad. They wore the very Nazi insignia worn on Sunday by the skinheads alongside whose ranks the police—to their intense discomfiture, I have no doubt—were required to march. Those youths—and why they have reached that stage is a problem for examination—are openly pro-Nazi, apeing the techniques and habits of Hitler's SA. They wear swastikas, they give Hitler salutes, they scream anti-semitic and anti-black slogans. On the very day a synagogue was bombed recently in Paris, four synagogues in London were daubed with swastikas. Last Sunday about 600 of those young Nazis were escorted by 3,000 policemen, with a helicopter overhead, as they marched through Paddington shouting "Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil!" No doubt they chose that area for their march because it 34 is well known that there is a large coloured minority among the population there.
I understand that the Westminster City Council, the Churches and various community groups all called for the banning of the march: they did so in vain. According to the Sunday Times, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner takes the view that it is easier to control marches in the streets than to police attempts to defy prohibition. I myself feel that the police themselves are in danger of being wrongly regarded as allies of the skinheads—which of course they are not—as they walk alongside them.
But are law and order really reduced to this pitch? —and at a time when, according to the same report in the press, community workers throughout London have noticed an unprecedented increase in the violence against blacks. I ask, and I hope that the noble Lord the Minister may be able to reply to this: was the Home Secretary consulted about last Sunday's march? If not, why not? There is some comfort in the fact that, due to the presence of thousands of police officers, the amount of violence was limited, for of course when these marches take place other violent elements join in on the other side.
Concern about these matters led the Government in April of this year to publish a review of the Public Order Act 1936 and related legislation. The foreword by the Home Secretary stated that—The disorders which have occurred over the past few years and their damaging consequences have persuaded the Government that a thorough review of the law on public order is necessary".I ask: what has been the outcome of that review? What has been done in the schools and via the media, about the problems that I have felt it my duty, somewhat sombrely, to raise before your Lordships today? The whole community is involved in this challenge: the schools, the Churches, the trade unions, the local authorities and of course the Government, although the Government alone cannot solve the challenge. We are all involved.
The importance of reducing racial tensions rather than increasing them makes proposals for changes in the law of British nationality, to which the noble and learned Lord has referred, sensitive and difficult. A new law of citizenship would affect all in our country, and not only immigrants. The Government's White Paper, however, seems to build nationality law on the present immigration provisions, whereas a rational system would work the other way round. What it proposes is immensely complicated. If they prevail, those proposals will result in there being no less than five kinds of British nationality. One—the proposed category of British overseas citizen—will have, so far as I can see, no rights at all attached to that status. One paragraph of the White Paper—paragraph 110— has what seems to me a somewhat ominous quality. After discussing the rights attached to national status, such as the right to vote, eligibility to serve on a jury, to take certain employment in the public services and to hold certain ranks in the armed forces, it provides that the Bill, by establishing a British citizenship,will make available a ready definition by which those duties or entitlements may be redefined in future".Perhaps the noble Lord the Minister will explain what that means.
35 On the state of law and order generally, we on this side of the House welcome the proposal in the Queen's Speech to repeal the suspected person offence. The outmoded Vagrancy Act has done much to bedevil good relations between the police and the ethnic minorities. The Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs denounced it in clear terms. They said,It is not in the public interest to make behaviour interpreted as revealing criminal intent, but equally open to innocent interpretation, subject to criminal penalties … We do not consider that the public interest is best served by an offence which inevitably leaves a significant proportion of those convicted, with a sense that their conviction was unjust".So we are happy to learn of the intention to get rid of this, but we shall wait carefully to know, and to be told, what is to be put in its place.
We shall have to wait and see and follow the famous Asquithian advice on that, as on the other law reform measures, such as the company law proposal and the Contempt of Court Bill—although the debate that we had some weeks ago, in which the noble and learned Lord indicated his proposals, suggests to me, at any rate, that that is not likely to be a highly controversial measure. The White Paper refers to the developing of plans to implement the Government's White Paper on young offenders. Does that mean that we are to have legislation on young offenders this Session?
One of the biggest problems in our penal system, which we considered in detail in the House when we debated the Imprisonment (Temporary Provisions) Act recently, is the sheer pressure of numbers of those receiving custodial sentences. Many young adults are in prison rather than in young prisoner centres. It is disappointing that the Queen's Speech contains no reference whatsoever to prisons, and no proposal for parliamentary action to reduce the pressure of numbers in our prison system, by, for example, introducing for short-term prisoners a conditional release scheme at half sentence, of the kind which has operated in Northern Ireland since 1976.
I understand that later this week we shall be debating the order to renew the Imprisonment (Temporary Provisions) Act so I will certainly not enter into detail on that matter now. But I am sure that the House is becoming impatient to know what exactly has been going on in the prisons since we passed that Act. Are negotiations taking place between the Home Office and the prison officers? What has been the outcome of them? What has happened? Is the work of the courts being interrupted or disrupted by the actions of the prison officers? The press today reports a breakout of eight apparently serious criminals from the temporary provisions under the Highbury Magistrates' Court—provisions which, I suspect, were never intended to house prisoners on serious criminal charges. What is happening to prisoners who are in prison custody, but not in the gaols? There are a large number of questions of this kind which we can go into later in the week.
The disappointment which I am bound to say I feel is that there is no indication of a policy to take out of the prisons those who should never be there at all. In a debate in March this year my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner quoted a statement which he said had been made by the Home Secretary at a 36 Conservative Party conference at Bournemouth. The Home Secretary said that in the next four years he would take 4,000 prisoners out of the gaols—1,000 a year: the drunks, the mentally subnormal and the inadequate offenders who are no real threat to anyone, except possibly themselves, and would fine defaulters, including prostitutes. What progress has been made in the carrying out of that intention? This is a very important matter. I do not think that I need apologise for the sombre note that I felt it right to adopt in this debate today. We are, in many ways, at a watershed in the affairs of this nation and I pray that we hold together.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Lord Wigoder
My Lords, it is quite inevitable, in these difficult days, that the main thrust of any debate on home affairs should be over our economic and industrial policies, which we are going to debate at some length on Thursday. We shall then have an opportunity of analysing, the unhappy consequences of the Government's policies, and the equally bleak alternative presented by the declared policies of Her Majesty's Opposition. That debate will concentrate primarily, therefore, on the standard of life. This debate, I suggest to your Lordships, really concentrates more on the quality of life and on the measures that can be introduced into Parliament, in the course of this Session, in order to improve that quality.
I cannot for one moment seek to match the philosophical breadth of the observations of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack and I would not seek to do so. All that I propose to do is to make a few observations about the relationship between law and order and the freedom of the individual, in so far as that relationship will be affected by legislation that is now proposed in the gracious Speech.
We on these Benches, of course, believe in law and order. It is unfortunate that it has become something of a phrase that is, in a way, the monopoly of the hanger and the flogger. In fact, of course, all of us who believe passionately in individual liberty know perfectly well that without law and order there can be no such liberty. It is, perhaps, equally unfortunate that all of us who believe passionately in civil liberty find, only too often, that there have leapt on to the same bandwagon people who are not in the least concerned with liberty, but who are, in fact, concerned with creating a state of anarchy.
The measures that are proposed in the gracious Speech that touch on this problem are several. There is, first, the measure which has already been referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, to abolish the offence of suspected person. We, too, entirely welcome that. Indeed, not very long ago in your Lordships' House my noble friend Lord Avebury introduced a Bill to that effect, which was rejected, if I remember rightly, on Second Reading.
The suspected persons offence has become archaic; it has become outmoded; it has become capable of abuse and of being used in a discriminatory way by the police, though I doubt very much whether the degree of abuse is anything like as great as it has been made out to be. Beyond any question, as an offence it has now come into disrepute in our magistrates' courts. I think it is true to say that convictions for that offence 37 now are as rare as acquittals were many years ago, in the days when I first began at the Bar.
If that offence is to be abolished—and I am glad that it is to be abolished—at the same time I am sure the Government recognise that there is a form of criminal conduct which at this moment is caught only by the suspected persons legislation and by no other laws. I have in mind particularly the gangs of people—they are familiar to all of us in the criminal courts—who roam about on London Transport and who operate together, particularly at the expense of women passengers, jostling them quite deliberately in order to steal, when they are distracted, from their handbags and shopping bags.
At the present moment that behaviour, which is rife, if it is unsuccessful can only be dealt with under the suspected persons law. If the police are to have powers to detain people who, quite clearly, are behaving in this way time after time, at bus stop after bus stop or at underground platform after underground platform, it does seem to me to be idle to pretend that the police must be left in the situation where they can take no action until a particular effort turns out to be successful. I should be grateful if the noble Lord the Minister could indicate whether it is proposed to deal with this problem by way of amending the law of attempted theft, which would be one way of dealing with the problem, or of legislating in some different way to deal with what is a very real menace and irritant, particularly, as I say, in London.
I welcome, too, the proposals in the gracious Speech to implement some of the measures in the White Paper on young offenders. The proposal to repeal Section 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 1961 is particularly welcome—it must be so to your Lordships in all parts of the House—because your Lordships have passed an amendment to that effect on more than one occasion. I am in no doubt that there are at this moment young people serving sentences of three years' imprisonment who are so serving only because of the existence of that section of the Act, which has made it impossible for the courts to pass the sentences which they think are appropriate, of 12 or 18 months' or two years' imprisonment.
I welcome, too, the proposal to strengthen the powers to make residential care orders. We have all observed, all too often, that orders putting children into the care of the local authority turn out to be totally ineffective because the local authority simply returns the child to its parents at the earliest possible moment, and no further action is taken.
I note also the proposal that parents should be responsible for paying fines imposed as a result of their children's behaviour. I can see the point of that, in the way of indicating to the parents that it is their responsibility. I hope equally that the parents will find a way of ensuring that they recover the money in due course from their children, in order to make quite certain that the children realise that in the last resort it is their responsibility as well.
Equally in the realm of law and order I put the fact that all of us are entitled to go about our way as pedestrians or motorists without being either maimed or slaughtered by drunken lunatics driving lethal weapons. I note that the Government are proposing to introduce measures to strengthen the existing Act. I agree with what the noble and learned Lord on the 38 Woolsack said, indicating in effect that the law has become impossibly technical over the use of the breathalyser. However, I cannot help but reflect that that is not the fault of the draftsmen, or of the breathalyser system, or of the law. It is the fault, in the last analysis, of the politicians who took the decision that we were not on any account to have random tests in this country.
I speak, I say at once, for myself alone—so far as my Party is concerned, certainly not for them—on this issue. However, I am bound to say that I doubt very much whether the artificiality of the concept that a motorist can lawfully be stopped and breathalysed only if he has in some way or another committed some other form of traffic offence is wise. I cannot help thinking that we ought to look very seriously at whether random breath tests, despite the objections which will be raised by innumerable vested interests—I know that perfectly well—would not in the long run prove to be a very much more realistic deterrent and therefore a very much greater safeguard of human life.
The only other matters in relation to law and order are two questions which I should like to raise with the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. First, could he give any indication as to whether the Government are proposing legislation on the Criminal Law Revision Committee's Report on Offences against the Person, which would be very widely popular in many quarters? Secondly, could the noble Lord indicate whether any action is proposed as a result of the review of the Public Order Act which was widely circulated recently and upon which discussions were invited? I believe that some fundamental rethinking needs to be done in this area.
Of course, there is a right of protest and free speech and there is a right to hold public meetings to protest about whatever it is that one wishes to protest. However, I think it is time that we began to consider very seriously whether there is any natural or legal right for people to assemble together in large numbers in an area where they know they will cause the greatest possible provocation, in order to block up the highway and march along waving offensive banners and shouting obscene slogans. I doubt very much whether there is any right to demonstrate or to march in that way. I hope that we shall take another look at that matter when the review paper is considered.
I have referred to some of the matters in the gracious Speech which appear to show the emphasis upon law and order. May I look at the reverse side of the coin just for one moment—at two measures which reflect, I think, very much on our civil liberties. The first is the measure which has been referred to already by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones—the proposed nationality Bill—which it is indicated will follow the lines of the White Paper. This is a subject which is bedevilled by its interlocking relationship with the whole of our immigration policy. I sometimes get very depressed when I hear those who ought to know better making observations which appear to indicate that they have no knowledge whatsoever of the vast contribution which immigrants have made throughout the centuries to our culture and to our civilisation, and who appear to indicate that there is something noble in itself in keeping out the foreigner at all costs and by every possible device.
39 When we look at the nationality Bill, as we shall with very great care, we shall look particularly to see whether it has cured some of the defects in the White Paper where it appears to us that there is a very real risk of discrimination on the grounds of sex and colour. If in the course of the debates on that Bill we uncover, as I believe we may do, such areas, we shall seek to expose them and to attack them as fiercely as we can.
The other proposed measure—indeed it is now a Bill which has received its First Reading—is of course the Bill on contempt of court. This is a Bill which I hope will come, to some extent at least, to the assistance of the press by clarifying the law. I hope it will make it clear—I have not yet had the chance of seeing a copy—that in future there will only be strict liability, so far as the press are concerned, for contempt of court where there is really serious prejudice to the administration of justice and I hope that lawyers will not be too over-sensitive or too pompous about what amounts to interference with the course of justice.
I hope, too, that the Bill will make clear precisely the moment from which this strict liability may result. If one picks too early a stage, the result will be to cramp the freedom of the press in its investigative journalism, which is so often of the greatest possible value. Of course, if one leaves it too late, one may prejudice by comment in the press the fairness of the trial of an individual. When I read the White Paper it seemed to me that the compromise solution suggested was a sensible one and I hope it is the one that is revealed in the Bill when we see it.
That is one measure that is being produced to assist the press, and as the distance gradually diminishes between Fleet Street and Carey Street perhaps I might ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, whether in addition to that measure there are any other measures proposed which might be of some assistance to some parts of the press. I have in mind particularly action on some parts of the Faulks Committee report on defamation and the Younger Committee report on privacy, which would bring some definition into an area where definition is sorely needed. Although after their experience of last Session I would not expect the Government to introduce into your Lordships' House yet another Bill dealing with freedom of information, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, might perhaps be able to indicate that the Government do recognise the importance of open government and of revealing, wherever possible, all information to the press.
I think those are the main measures in the gracious Speech which deal with the relationship between law and order and individual liberty. The only other observation I should like to make is to echo perhaps what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said about the necessity for common ground. Of course there is that necessity. Equally it seems to me and, I am sure, to my noble friends on these Benches that there is an appalling absence of common ground in our political life at this moment, perhaps to some extent aided and abetted by a divisive electoral system. It seems to us that the two principal parties are growing steadily further apart and the common ground at the moment is almost wholly unoccupied. My noble friends on these Benches see it as our duty to try to 40 create that common ground and to try to encourage people from all parties to come and join us and to help to build those bridges. In the course of this Session we shall seek, with the Bills that are proposed in the gracious Speech, to approach them all in a critical but constructive way in the hope of doing something towards building that common ground.
§ 4.15 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of London
My Lords, I must ask the indulgence of the House, and especially of the noble Lord who will reply, if I am not able to stay to the end of this debate. I hope however that your Lordships will feel that I am using my time profitably later this evening even if I am not in this House, for I shall be supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, in an effort to raise money for Crisis at Christmas, that admirable organisation inspired by her late husband. Indeed, she would have been present at this debate had she not had to spend this afternoon in organising the festivities, where I shall be present later this evening. It is not easy for me to follow three of the most distinguished legal minds in this country, and I am very sorry and I apologise to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, because I was not able to be here to hear what was obviously a very distinguished speech. However, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, for the lead and the inspiration that they have given us in this debate on home affairs.
Nor indeed do I find it easy to speak on home affairs when we have to do so against a background of national and of worldwide recession. The gracious Speech reminds us of the further unpalatable medicine that it may be necessary for us to have to swallow before the disease is cured. Certainly the medicine has already proved to be very hitter to the taste and it is not for me to make it any more difficult for those who have the responsibility of government at this present time. Nevertheless, at this time we should not lose sight of the immediate impact which the steps that are having to be taken to meet the crisis are having, for unhappily the painful consequences fall most harshly upon those who are least able to bear them. It is upon the homeless, the poor, those with little money and large families, the unemployed, the one-parent families, that the burden is bearing most heavily. So even in this time, when we are having to apply such unpleasant measures, we must be on the alert to do all that we can to aid immediately those who are at this time unable to fend for themselves, and we must ensure that when we begin to emerge from this recession it is again the weak and the helpless who are the first beneficiaries of the improved situation and not those who are well able to look after themselves.
I hope that we shall be able to see the situation in which we find ourselves from a rather wider perspective of recent history. I think it is true to say that post-war development, especially as regards local development, has been based upon the assumption of a growth economy and this has encouraged spending by local authorities on a grand scale. In the last 20 years or so we have seen planning projects of a very large and expensive nature; we have witnessed the building of lavish town halls, the provision of museums and of concert halls and so on. These things are all to the 41 good and it was to the good when we thought we could afford them. But recently, and especially in this present crisis, the attitude towards state funding and local authority planning has been thrown completely into question. Local authorities are having to re-examine their total commitment to the welfare services on the broadest front, and in consequence the voluntary agencies and the charitable trusts, which have been the background of so much that has been done, are being forced to re-examine their role within society.
In the past it has often been the voluntary societies and the individuals who have been the innovators. It is they who have seen new needs, they who have started new ventures, and they have often created a status for the work which they have been doing voluntarily to such an extent that the state has had to take over and to accept, as an essential part of a civilised community, those things which, in their imaginative approach, they started. Education, the care of the sick, poor relief, the probation service, are all instances of voluntary efforts created in society which have become now so necessary to our life that they are an essential part of the community spending.
The crisis in which we find ourselves now has revealed again the immense debt which, even in a welfare state, the community owes to voluntary agencies and to charitable giving. We take so much for granted. We seldom question where the money in great charitable trusts comes from, the service of voluntary agencies. Some of these are important, wealthy, large organisations which are voluntary in character but which are able to employ skilled professional staff. Others are small, very often purely voluntary organisations, but very effective in the things they are providing for the society in which we live. We have only to think of the many agencies to appreciate our debt to them—War on Want, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Help the Aged, Save the Children Fund, Church of England Children's Society, Dr. Barnardo's, various societies devoted to research into various diseases, Child Poverty Action Group, housing associations, the Churches, the Salvation Army, the Church Army, the great charitable trusts.
They are all doing for us voluntarily things which we could not possibly do without. And the situation which is now developing is requiring all these charitable activities to review their situation and to consider what their contribution will be in the days to come. Are they to continue this tradition of being the initiators, of looking out for areas where their service is needed and funding it from voluntary agencies? Are they still to be the sort of topping up agencies which back the spending by local authorities and by the Government in the great social services, or are they to find themselves more and more having to take full responsibility for those things which once were the responsibility of the state? These are matters about which we must think and about which we must not be forgetful.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I return again to one subject which we have debated very recently in this House, but which has no mention, so far as I could see, in the gracious Speech. I speak of the need for housing. I make no apology for returning to this subject, first of all, because in the debates 42 which we had in July and August I reminded the House then that there is a kind of euphoria whereby people think that we have conquered the housing problem and that we have no further need to have this matter on our conscience. The Housing Bill has come, but still the problem of miserably bad housing is with us.
Secondly, I return to it because recently there has been criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury and of a number of Bishops who accepted an invitation from various housing associations to see the work that they were doing and to have explained to us what in their view would be the consequences of the funding policy of the Government towards them. Indeed we were criticised in a letter to The Times written by a Member of another place. I can assure your Lordships that we were not taken for a ride, that we are not quite so naïve or so easily hoodwinked as the writer of that letter suggested. We do not adopt a political stance in this matter and have no desire to hand out blame in any particular direction. But we were ready to be informed of the likely consequences of the financial situation in the immediate years, and what we saw would I think have been enough to move the hardest heart.
I myself visited a street in Paddington not more than two miles away from the place where we are here sitting and debating. It is a working-class street built about 130 years ago. The houses were built very simply but were of good craftsmanship and construction. They were all desperately in need of reconstruction. Some of them at very considerable expense have been so reformed, and I saw houses where old people were living in the greatest comfort and in a very decent state. But we saw some that have lost their roofs and very soon will, though the effect of the weather, be beyond redemption. We also saw houses in which people are living in which I would not put my dog if I had one. That is the sort of thing that can proliferate all over the country, and it is a matter about which we dare not be indifferent.
The facts are that the cash limits that the housing associations must accept will result in the fact that much essential work cannot be done, and many people will have to continue to live in houses which are terribly substandard, or else they will be unable to find suitable housing, and young married couples will have to continue to live in the houses of their parents. I would make a special plea for London, for I know more about the situation there than elsewhere else. The unemployment figures for London are masked by the fact that they are included in the more favourable figures for the whole of the South-East of England, and so it is that there is an impression that there is less unemployment in London than elsewhere. So the process, with which we are all familiar, is continuing, with renewed force, of young people who are looking for work coming from other parts of the country to London thinking that they will find it here.
I wonder whether it would not be possible to publish the figures of unemployment for London separately from those of the South-East, for I think we should then receive a very considerable shock. What is quite clear from the evidence of charities and voluntary associations is that the demand for short-stay accommodation in London is increasing very greatly and 43 that there are not the proper means to meet that great demand.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, if I may break in for a moment, not in any form of advertisement but to supplement and support what has just been said by the right reverend Prelate, as chairman of a centre in central London for young people which is very well known to the right reverend Prelate, I would point out that we have found that the number of people attending our centre has doubled in the last year.
The Lord Bishop of London
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl for indeed underwriting the point I was making. The outcome of all this, I would suggest, is that it is increasingly important that charities and voluntary associations should receive every encouragement and help that they can get in order to be able to do this essential work for our people. I know, of course, that charitable organisations get tax relief, but is it not very unreasonable that so many of them should have to spend so much money in paying VAT for work which is being done for purely charitable purposes? Again, I know that there has been a relaxation on covenanting, but here again if there is a change in the standard rate of tax there are not many people who will readjust their giving so that the charities are not out of pocket. I hope that serious consideration can be given to the help that the charities and the voluntary organisations need in order that they may increasingly be able to do their work.
I return to my main thesis. Whatever sacrifices must be made at present, let us make sure that, as far as possible, they fall on those who are able to bear them, for that, I fear, is not the case at present. When the burden is lifted, let us be sure that those who are in greatest need receive the first help. Let us make sure that it is those who have suffered most who will be the first to have restored to them the conditions of life which are essential to their dignity as human beings.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I too must ask for the indulgence of the House as I have an engagement, made some time ago, which will preclude me from being present at the end of the debate. I apologise to my noble friend the Minister and to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell.
I should like to take up two points in the gracious Speech. The first point arises from the White Paper concerning young offenders which was published in October this year by the Home Office, the Welsh Office and the Department of Health and Social Security. My second point concerns Special Needs in Education—the White Paper based on the Warnock Committee Report.
On the question of young offenders we are all, on whichever side of the House we sit, concerned at the rise in juvenile delinquency: it has risen threefold in the last decade. It should, of course, be remembered that adult crime has also risen, and that the rate of crime has risen in not only this country, but in Europe and the United States. Of the young offenders, just 3 per cent. are found guilty of indictable crimes which 44 are concerned with sex and violence and violent robbery. In my view we must call that 3 per cent. the hard end of juvenile delinquency; the other 97 per cent. are what one might call the soft end of juvenile delinquency.
In the White Paper there are, in effect, two parts. The first part deals with the non-custodial treatment of offenders found guilty and the other with the custodial treatment of children found guilty of an offence. In the non-custodial sector there is a new kind of programme of help called intermediate treatment, which is intermediate between leaving home and having a programme of education and activity in the community. Indeed, that treatment was in the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 and has never been properly developed. If intermediate treatment had been properly developed then perhaps we should not be in so much trouble as we are today.
Everyone asks, "What is intermediate treatment?" It is a programme of help for a child or young person while that child or young person remains in the community. Let me give an example. In Pontefract the rate of delinquency was so high that there was complaint from the people of Pontefract, and a voluntary organisation—Barnado's—collected together the youth (all those under 17) who wished to take part in a project which involved building themselves a club centre. That centre was staffed, when it was built, by qualified social workers who on the one hand had a programme of counselling to each child or young person and on the other hand a programme of activities. Those are the kind of projects that we hope to develop alongside the use of community service on the part of young people to hospitals, the elderly and so on.
Also under the heading of community help to young offenders are attendance centres and supervision orders by social workers and probation officers. It has been said that help to young people within the community and therefore not in custodial care is a soft option. Well-run intermediate treatment is not a soft option; it is a method of dealing with the children and young people at the soft end of delinquency who, as I said earlier, comprise 97 per cent. of the total.
We therefore welcome the White Paper. We welcome the part of the White Paper which underlines the importance of the care of the child or young person in the community. Apart from anything else, it is cheaper. For 140 children a week to be helped in the community is equivalent to the cost of one child in custodial care. Surely that also, while not the most important factor, is one of the important points to take into account.
I come to the hard end of delinquency, to the children and young persons who are given custodial sentences. Here, I must say that I think that the White Paper is less than disappointing. The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, has referred to the residential care orders which magistrates will be able to make if a law is passed in such a way. Already there has been an agreement between the directors of social services and the Magistrates' Association that children, where a care order is made, should not return home. The main reason, among one or two other reasons, is very often that there is nowhere for the child to go. I should like to support the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and say that a number of voluntary 45 organisations are having to close very good projects within the community and in children's homes, first because of VAT, which is hitting very much at the voluntary organisations, and, secondly, because local authorities are not now using the voluntary organisations as they did in the past, and I think that the children are the poorer for it.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness would allow me to intervene to clarify a point? When the noble Baroness said that she thought that the part of the White Paper which dealt with custodial matters was "less than disappointing", did she not mean that it was "more than disappointing"?
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I beg your Lordships' pardon. I should have said "more than disappointing". I apologise and I thank the noble Lord for drawing that error to my attention. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Belstead would have wished it the other way round.
On the question of custodial care, it is disappointing that we have kept children and young persons within the penal system. We shall continue to spend money on detention centres—as at Send and Newhall. Those organisations and statutory bodies that have dealt with delinquents down the years know that the detention centres which were set up in 1948 under the Criminal Justice Act have not proved satisfactory or positive. Indeed, the figures show that 82 per cent. of children and young persons sent to detention centres have committed offences within two years of having left the centres.
The cost of keeping a child or young person at a detention centre is £102 a week. In view of research and experience of the past, is that really the wisest and best way in which to help the child? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said that he who leads must be a bridge. We took part in a programme on Granada Television called "You, the Jury", which was concerned with whether or not detention centres were a good thing. By the end of the programme 60 per cent. of those present had swung away from agreeing with detention centres towards agreeing with a different form of care for juveniles. Can it be that the general public do not really understand what is behind juvenile delinquency and how best those delinquents can be helped?
I have not given notice to the Minister of this next question, but I should be grateful if he could explain by letter paragraph 17 of the White Paper, which talks about detention centres. It says that they are considered not to be suitable for the physically or mentally unfit; that these people are more likely to serve their sentences in accommodation in adult prisons, in much the same way as young adults who are currently sentenced to up to six months in prison. Surely those most in need will be those in the worst conditions. If I could have an answer in writing from the Minister, I should be most grateful.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack talked about starry-eyed social reformers. I am not starry-eyed; and, while I hope that I am a reformer, I am a realist based on experience of dealing with delinquents down the years. I would make a plea to the Govern- 46 ment that the soft end of delinquents—that is the 97 per cent.—should be helped, and should have a programme of help within the community and not in custodial care. I would make a plea that those who are at the hard end of the delinquent field should not be helped so much in the penal system, but in a system that will give them education, help and counselling.
I should like to pass to one point which is not mentioned in the White Paper, and that is staff. In order to deal with delinquents under the age of 17 one must have experience, qualification and maturity. With the present methods of organisations and of the social services departments, we have the older, experienced social workers in administrative posts and they do not deal direct with the cases that need their help. I make a plea to the Government that notice should be taken of this very difficult point.
I should like to say just a few words on the Warnock Committee Report, dealing with special needs in education. With great diffidence, I congratulate the Government on seeking to adopt the proposals and precepts of the Warnock Committee Report. It is certainly fitting that in 1981—the Year of the Disabled—attention should be given and paid to physically and mentally handicapped children. The report does away with the classification of "handicap" and states that the choice of schooling should be based on the needs of the child and the choice of the parents. In the White Paper there are one or two points which are concerned with this matter, with which I shall not keep your Lordships' House now. I simply say that we very much regret that education is not to be continued for the older children, for those over the age of 16. We are pleased that education is to be given to the handicapped under five. May I say how glad we are that the Warnock Committee recommendations are to be implemented—if not fully, at least we are facing in the right direction.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I say that I refrained from speaking today because I thought that our case would come so much better from the other side. I congratulate her on the way she has made it.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I wish to speak on education. There is one sentence specifically on education in the gracious Speech:Legislation will be brought forward to facilitate the education of children with special [educational] needs".We can all welcome that, and, as the noble Baroness has just said, the fact that action is being taken on the Warnock Report; that it has not suffered the fate of many reports in being ignored for a number of years or, indeed, indefinitely. We must, of course, await the production of the Bill, but we can assume that it will follow pretty closely the Government's proposals as outlined in Part III of the White Paper, Special Needs in Education. This paper has been described to me by the secretary of a society for the disabled as:A null document, having taken out of Warnock all that was positive, and lacking any sense of urgency or bite. It gives"—he said:—little evidence of Government intention vigorously to promote any serious advances in special education".47 As I say, we shall have to wait for the Bill, but I go along with a good deal of that.
However, one can still welcome some of its proposals. It is good, if true, that expenditure in real terms up to 1983–84 will not be reduced on these children. I should like confirmation from the Minister on that. It is good that the Government recognise that it is time for a new, more general, definition of "handicap" to cover the number and variety of handicaps from which a child may suffer, but it is time to adapt the law to encourage good practice and innovation.
One welcomes the statement that most children with special educational needs will be indistinguishable in law from the majority of the school population and will be in ordinary schools. One welcomes the comments on the training of teachers, noting also the phrase "as resources permit", which is a phrase that occurs a good many times. One welcomes the acceptance of the value of nursery education, and nursery education at an early age, and the need for coordination of the education, health and social services; the hope that Section 26 of the 1980 Act, whereby the LEA can provide teachers for day nurseries, will be made use of. That being so, it is odd and to me very unfortunate that the Warnock recommendation that the LEA should also provide teachers for adult training centres and day centres is not accepted.
As for further education, which the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful', has just touched on, pious hopes are uttered about it. I think that it is universally recognised—and I quote from paragraph 52 of the White Paper—that:It is a weakness of the law governing further education that it makes no specific reference to the needs of handicapped students".But, apart from recognising the need for expert careers advice, the White Paper makes no specific proposals, excusing itself by saying that a wider review of further education is being initiated. When, then, will the law be revised? If this opportunity is lost, we may have to wait a very long time. I hope that the Government will think again. I would deplore attempts at "concentrating or rationalising facilities" as suggested in paragraph 34 if they lead to arbitrary allocation of students to certain universities or further education establishments without due regard to individual choice or the suitability of the course.
I am surprised that the Government have not accepted the recommendation that such independent schools as have been approved for the education of "recorded" children must have governing bodies. Certainly some independent schools which do provide for handicapped children that I have had exeprience of would be very much the better for having governing bodies. They do leave something to be desired.
I am sorry but not surprised that the recommendation to set up a new national advisory committee is not to be implemented. A Government so opposed to quangos could perhaps do no other, but it need not have cost anything besides running expenses and it could have become an independent, expert and committed body disseminating good practice, promoting new thinking and acting, as George Cooke, the Vice-Chairman of Warnock, said, "as the conscience of the Government and of the nation". But he went on, "We all know 48 how inconvenient a conscience can be", and the Government evidently prefer not to have one.
What I suspect and what I fear is that insufficient resources will be put into implementing Warnock, and that is a great pity. Some pilot studies and experiments could certainly have been initiated at not enormous cost. But at a time when education is suffering so desperately from cuts in the service so that morale is very low—low among local authority members; low among local authority officers; and low among the teaching profession—we can expect little else from this Government. When there are to be fewer teachers in the schools, a diminished curriculum, authority after authority wiping out the school meals service, fewer books in the classroom and in the libraries (a million less school books have been sold in the first quarter of 1980 compared with the first quarter of 1979, according to the Educational Publishers' Council) how this Government can pretend that they care about standards I do not know.
In 1979 in the gracious Speech at the opening of the first Session of this Parliament there was the statement:The quality of education will be maintained and improved".The Government have not had the nerve to put that in this time. What is so extraordinary is that in the selfsame proposals for legislation that include "special needs", and in the climate of massive cuts, the Government can suggest à propos of young offenders that more residential care orders can be made. This is not only contrary to the present trend against shutting people away in secure or semi-secure accommodation—we shall no doubt soon be being asked to renew the Imprisonment (Temporary Provisions) Act—but can be excessively costly.
I have looked up some figures. In community homes and hostels for adolescents the cost is £130 a week; in observation and assessment centres, £230; at Kingswood School, a special unit, £270; at St. Charles and Glenthorn Youth Treatment Centres, £500 a week. Are this Government really prepared to pass legislation to make it easier to shut children up, with the vast sums involved, when cutting down on education, on teachers in schools, on youth tutors and leaders, and on community tutors? These cuts will mean less attention to those in the schools who particularly need it, probably more exclusions from schools, and probably more court appearances. We have to look at the two together. Prevention is surely better than so-called cure, whose effectiveness is at best highly dubious. In fact, all the evidence shows the ineffectiveness of custodial measures. Money spent on intermediate treatment rather than residential care would be more wisely spent and of much greater profit. I endorse everything that the noble Baroness said on that subject.
It is a strange omission from the White Paper on young offenders that no mention is made of ethnic minority groups. There was an extremely interesting article in yesterday's Guardian about West Indians giving evidence to the Committee of Inquiry into the education of minority groups. My noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones has stressed this, so I do not think that I need to go into that more now.
No mention is made in the White Paper of the rise in delinquency among young girls. There is no reference to the fact that the economy is in decline; 49 that youth unemployment is rising week by week; that young people in the dying areas of our inner and large cities will be in the sort of desperate mood that led to the St. Paul's riots in Bristol. Young women offenders are mentioned in one paragraph, paragraph 25, which ends in really the most extraordinary way. Listen to this, my Lords.
Because of the relatively small number of women in custody it has not in recent years been considered necessary, or desirable, to enforce a strict segregation between the various age groups. Indeed, it is generally considered to be positively beneficial for younger women to share facilities with suitable adults. This practice, we believe, should be continued where appropriate".I ask myself who are these suitable adults? Prostitutes? Drunks?
So much for legislation mentioned in the gracious Speech. Again what is interesting is the omissions. I had hoped that the Burnham Committee's comments on the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965 might have had some attention. They are outdated. Conditions of service should surely be looked at at the same time as pay. It seems ridiculous that people teaching 16 to 19 year-olds in further education establishments should be treated differently as regards salary scales and conditions of service from those teaching the same age group in schools, and that further education and school regulations for that group should be different—even if some establishments do follow Hamlet's advice and honour those regulations more in the breach than in the observance.
This leads me to the Macfarlane Report, awaited with interest and expected to be published by now. I understand from articles in the national and educational press, which, unlike members of your Lordships' House, appears to have had a preview of the report, that there has been a difference of opinion between Ministers on the proposals. The report did, it seems, favour a tertiary solution for 16 to 19s as giving the greatest educational choice of courses, vocational and academic. The noble Baroness the Minister of State, who alas is not with us today, and Dr. Rhodes Boyson, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, as one might guess, favoured sixth forms in schools. I had hoped that the fairly definite financial advantage of the tertiary solution, getting rid of tiny sixth forms and tiny teaching groups, would have made it acceptable to this Government. But then they have their moments of being spendthrift, as with the assisted places scheme, and maybe sixth forms in school will fall into that category.
From the Times Educational Supplement I learn that the report is expected to end up as a relatively short document which skirts the main controversial issues, and that its main message, a call for much closer collaboration between all the schools and colleges serving the age group, is already being largely pre-empted by other more incisive studies. Another opportunity missed by this Government. Since the Government have approved a new exam for post-16s proposed in the Mansell Report, I should have thought that some further mention of a new deal for this post-16 group might have been included in the gracious Speech. These are the young people about whom we should be most anxious, most concerned, in the current disastrous economic situation.
What, my Lords, I want to know, is the Department of Education and Science doing about these young 50 people? What solutions, what new proposals, are they offering? The answer, it would seem, is nothing. They are leaving it to the Manpower Services Commission and the Department of Employment. It was Mr. Prior who announced that the Government would fund 200 more posts in the careers service. The move away from using local education authorities and local government and the move towards giving more power to central Government is something I suppose that we should have got used to having gone through the Local Government and Planning (No. 2) Act, in spite of all the protestations that came from the Government Front Bench.
Mr. Prior, from his proposals announced on Friday, is trying to do something, and I believe he is genuinely concerned. These extensions of MSC YOP schemes, et cetera, are what were forecast in the gracious Speech where it was said that the Government would proceed urgently with an expanded programme of employment and training measures for the unemployed, particularly the young. I hope that these measures will not be mere palliatives, as my noble and learned friend said earlier. I should like to ask the Minister who is to reply whether the training the young will get on the YOP schemes will have a real educational content; whether they will get a real training and acquire definite skills in trades, crafts, or whatever will make them more capable of getting jobs, and more capable of enjoying their perhaps enforced leisure. Mr. Prior said in his Statement:What we are trying to build up is a system whereby 16- and 17-year-olds will be better equipped for a working life"."Preparation for working life", that oft-used phrase, now sounds a bit hollow. I hope the magnitude of the problem has been grasped by the Government. We in our age group in this House have been very much brought up to believe in the work ethic; I think we shall have to be shifting our views.
It is an interesting and horrifying fact that the £1,500 million cut which the Government propose to make in educational expenditure in the next three or four years will not go to produce an overall cut in public expenditure; that amount and more will be used for unemployment pay. And the £200 million that was cut off Labour's programme for the Manpower Services Commission is now going back to it, and more. This does not look like good planning. Are the cuts in the administrative staff at the Manpower Services Commission to be restored? If not, how are the new and expanded programmes to be organised?
I have a specific question concerning unemployment and training courses for the not quite so young, the 18s to 25s, and I apologise to the Minister for not having given him advance notice of this question; if it is difficult for him to answer during the debate perhaps he will write to me afterwards. I am encouraged to ask this question because of something Mr. Prior said in the debate in another place on Friday. He said that Mr. Patrick Jenkin would be putting proposals to the Social Security Advisory Committee for modifying the regulations to provide rather more scope for work to be undertaken without loss of benefit. Last week I received a letter from the welfare officer of the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology from which I quote this one paragraph: 51I know you are aware of the present position regarding young people and supplementary benefit, which is vicious and unnecessary, a waste of people's ability on the one hand and public money on the other. It is possible, in very limited circumstances, for someone to draw benefit and to undertake a part-time course providing that they are willing to give this course up should a job become available. I have no quarrel with that. In practice, however, it is unusual for a person to qualify because (1) there are restrictions on the sort of course he can do and (2) he must be unemployed, normally for a period of 12 months, before the beginning of the course and in receipt of benefit during this period. With the upsurge in unemployment over recent months there have been many inquiries regarding the possibility of doing courses in this way from people mainly in the 18–22 age bracket but only one to my knowledge has actually met the department's requirements. The Government is thus paying these people, who have talent and ability, to do nothing rather than to gain knowledge and qualifications which would benefit both the people and society—yet it would cost them no more to alter the rules. It is beyond my comprehension".I hope something can be done about that. We await a response.
The Government's plans are clearly off course. They are having to increase public spending because of the appalling unemployment their policies have caused. But the suffering, misery and poverty which their policies have caused are with us now. I plead particularly for the young that the Government should show some imagination and change their course now.
§ 5.4 p.m.
My Lords, I must confess myself yet another of the defaulters among the speakers today in not being able to stay until the end of the debate. I will not seek to earn myself a halo by giving the reason why a previous engagement takes me elsewhere, but I gave my reason to the Government Chief Whip and offered him the opportunity of striking my name off the list of speakers should he not think that reason adequate. I find my name still on the list and I am grateful to him. At this stage in a debate of this nature it is almost impossible to enter entirely new ground or ground that has not already been touched on to a considerable extent by others, and I am afraid I shall be touching on such ground, though I hope more briefly and in other words.
As with other speakers, I propose to confine my remarks to those matters in the gracious Speech which bear on the young generation. There are two specific references, both of which have received mention this afternoon, and there is another area of the Government's declared policy which has a very definite bearing on the whole question of young people. The two specific references are the measures to deal with the problem of the large-scale and prolonged—one could almost say indeterminate—unemployment of school leavers, a matter which may equally be germane to the debate on the economy which we shall have shortly; and the other matter is of course entirely germane to this afternoon, namely, the reference to the Government's intention to implement the measures outlined in the White Paper Young Offenders, which has received considerable attention today.
Those two references are closely associated—indeed, I would say they are inseparable—so I hope it will be acceptable to your Lordships if I speak briefly in a way which links them, and I will speak first on the matter of law and order as it affects young people. 52 I join gladly and strongly with all those who take the stand that youthful crimes and juvenile delinquency, and especially vandalism and hooliganism and most particularly those offences in which resort is made to violence, cannot be condoned. As the noble Earl said when moving the presentation of a humble Address, and I agreed with him, speedy and effective punishment must be available to the courts. I also agreed with him in what he said next, but I would qualify it, in that in very exceptional cases it may be necessary to impose punishment which could be construed as harsh.
But the question is: what penalties are most likely to prove effective, to use his adjective? For my money—and I am using the noble Earl's words—and I believe for everybody else's money (and therefore on strictly pragmatic grounds of expenditure) it is ineffective and unproductive to lay the emphasis on punishment in the great majority of cases of juvenile delinquency and youthful crime, and there is ample proof of that. I therefore hope the Minister when he replies—and of course I shall read his speech with great care and deference—will give the firm assurance that while pursuing a policy of firm deterrence in regard to serious offences, the Government will give full and effective support, in terms of resources, to those measures referred to in the White Paper which are not primarily punitive and which do not involve incarceration or removal from home and neighbourhood.
The measures I have in mind were so adequately dealt with by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, that I do not propose to repeat them. Prevention is far better than any hopefully effective remedies imposed after the damage has been done. I therefore hope the Government will give such practical help as they can to all and every initiative taken in the community by ordinary citizens of their own volition to organise activities to occupy the time of young people which are broadly covered by the generic title "intermediate treatment" but which do not have to be applied to people who have offended against the law. There are quite a number of these initiatives and they deserve the maximum support we can give.
I come to the question of unemployment among the nation's youth. It is a situation which creates a seed-bed of troublemaking and crime and it is on those grounds that I am delighted at the scale on which the Government intend to develop their Youth Opportunities Programme, the Young Industries Scheme and Young Enterprise Programmes. Those are enlightened, interim measures. Of course there remains the question of whether there will be real job prospects at the end of the various preparation and training courses. Let us not close our eyes to the fact that already there is a good deal of scepticism among young people about that matter, in particular among young black people, as referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones.
However, I for one should like to congratulate the Government. I was especially pleased to read what Mr. Prior said in his statement on the special employment measures. I should like to quote from his Statement. He said:We are trying … to work towards the point where every 16- and 17-year-old not in education or a job will be assured of vocational preparation lasting … up to his or her 18th birthday."—[Official Report, Commons, 21/11/80; col. 205.]53 I wish also to refer to another, equally significant, part of Mr. Prior's Statement in which he said that the MSC (the Manpower Services Commission) and the education services will— accelerate the extension of vocational preparation schemes over the next three years for those who have jobs but [receive] little or no systematic training or further education.Taken together those two statements give real grounds for hope of a better deal for our young people if—and I postulate two "ifs"—we were really to develop such a policy in its entirety, and if that programme were to include an element of preparation for responsible citizenship (for want of a better expression) and not just training for a job, nor merely further education in the three Rs. Then—and here I return to the matter of law and order—there would be far less juvenile delinquency and crime. It is a policy that some of us have been advocating in one model or another, in one degree or another, for a number of years.
However, the focus on youth cannot fairly be confined to their misdeeds. To a large extent these are symptomatic of shortcomings in a wider range of policies, which concern several departments of state. For that reason in concluding I should like to make a cursory reference to another matter—also already touched on—which is at the heart of the Queen's Speech. It is the reference to… the need to restrict the claims of the public sector on the nation's resources.No one, unless he is senseless, would quarrel with that as a general statement of policy in present circumstances. But central to that policy is expenditure on the social services and in particular those cuts which have the effect of making life even harder for parents and children living in appalling social conditions in some of our cities which were referred to by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. Cuts of that nature do a disservice to young people. They do a disservice to the efforts of our education service. They do a disservice to the maintenance of law and order, and they do a disservice to the development of those youthful attitudes to work and to the society in which they are growing up which are so central to the question of a healthy economy. I understand the "facts of life" presented to us by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, but I would say that the sum of those disservices does not add up to the way in which to build a more productive and a more enlightened nation.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, these three days of debate are so wide ranging, dealing with so many vital issues, that like other noble Lords I must be most discriminating, and so I intend to confine my remarks to matters relating to transport. First, I am certain that there will be general satisfaction that measures are to be introduced to improve road safety and to deal with the serious problem of drink and driving. When it is appreciated that 1,400 persons are killed and tens of thousands of others seriously injured each year as a result of drink being associated with driving, one sees the problem. The RoSPA has stated that drink plays a part in a third of the total of motor accidents. Therefore proposals to deal with the problem will be 54 welcomed, but the legislation will have to be looked at carefully to ensure, first, that it is adequate, and, secondly, that it does not in any way act unfairly.
Furthermore, I am sure that there is general concern regarding the increasing number of accidents to motor cyclists. In this respect I understand that in 1979 there were 70,000 casualties and 1,100 fatalities. Half of the casualties were under 20 years of age. Whatever legislation is introduced to deal with motor-cycle accidents, I am certain that it will be necessary to supplement it with intensive publicity through every type of organisation that is associated with young people; otherwise the legislation might be ineffective.
The Government intend to introduce measuresto replace public involvement in transport industries with further opportunities for private investment.I hope that your Lordships will take note of the word "replace". This side of the House accepts that we must have a mixed economy—and we mean that. But sometimes I feel that noble Lords on the other side often pay lip service to the mixed economy and do their utmost to denigrate public ownership, hinder it, and prevent its development.
When the Statement concerning the sale of British Rail subsidiaries was made in the House, with other noble Lords I complained of the lack of information. Frankly, apart from little titbits from the press, which may or may not be right, we still do not have much information, and so we must await the actual legislation. However, there are some questions that must be asked. Will British Rail have a majority holding in any holding company? What happens when the separate undertakings are built up? Will the outcome of the build-up be their sale to the private sector? Will there be a British Rail holding in the subsidiaries when they are built up? Will there be a majority holding, or will it be another case of asset stripping? Will any receipts that accrue be made available to British Rail for its much-needed development?
We understand from the Government Statement that four subsidiaries are to be transferred: Seaspeed Hovercraft, Sealink, transport hotels, and property holdings. One argument for introducing private capital is that it is in order to prevent a publicly-owned monopoly. However, in the case of Seaspeed Hovercraft and Sealink that argument cannot be used. Seaspeed Hovercraft competes with other hovercraft undertakings. Sealink, with its 51 ships, has to compete with other shipping undertakings. It has to compete even with hovercraft, including its own hovercraft service. Therefore, that argument does not apply in that case.
Above all, what justification is there for the Government's intention to dispose of the British Rail property holdings? The British Rail Property Board is responsible for a total estate of 200,000 acres, and it has great experience in handling a massive number of rents of all kinds. The board has handled sales of land and has put through very important developments on British Rail land. In fact I understand that there are now in the pipeline commercial developments covering a total area of 3.7 million square feet. Therefore, no one can say that the British Rail Property Board is holding things back.
Why should British Rail lose this income? Surely in future years it is likely to increase as the value of 55 property appreciates. Yet assets that produced some £29 million from property holdings in 1979 will no longer be available to British Rail. Incidentally, perhaps the noble Lord the Minister who is to reply may be able to tell me how the proposal to deal with the British Rail property holdings fits in with the Local Government Bill, to which we paid so much attention in recent weeks, because there is a section there which gives the Secretary of State power himself to dispose of land held by statutory undertakings, and that includes British Rail. So one wonders how these two items of legislation are going to fit together.
One cannot deal with transport policies and the need for transport policies in a complete vacuum. They relate to other factors which will be debated at length on Thursday. Some say that Keynesian principles are now out of date. I am convinced that today more than ever those principles are needed in our economy. Surely, if anything, Milton Friedman has been proved to be a ghastly, tragic blunder, which is leading us into the mess we are in today. In a Written Answer on 12th November the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, in cols. 1464 to 1470 of the Official Report, gave your Lordships some very helpful information on the financial cost to the Government when a married man with two children becomes unemployed. Time does not allow me to go into it in detail, but, briefly, through loss of revenue the average is some £254 monthly and the costs to be paid by the Government by way of benefits, rebates and so on would be £246 monthly. That makes about £6,000 a year; and we have to bear in mind that the average wage of a male worker is, I believe, £124 or £134 a week, which is almost equivalent to the £6,000 a year cost to the Government when a married man with two children falls out of work.
With half a million unemployed, I make that to be the sum of £3,000 million. I must ask, because this affects what I am going to talk about on transport policies: Have the Government really got down to estimating what would be the effect of doing something constructive with that £3 billion, instead of merely paying for the waste of men's enforced idleness? Put it to constructive work—say railway electrification and development by replacing worn out rolling stock, or maybe housing schemes. What would be the effect of this? Surely it would require the supply of materials and equipment from the private sector, and this would have a multiplying effect which would help the recovery and regeneration which so many people, myself included, are talking about.
But what do we find proposed in the gracious Speech by way of transport policies? Except for the few words to which I have referred, I can see nothing. But there is report after report in the press and other media of the growing financial problems of British Rail. I think most noble Lords will agree that over recent years British Rail have made efforts to modernise itself and to tackle some of its serious problems; but now that the recession has caused a drop in the number of passengers and a drop in revenue—and this is increasing almost every month—to balance the books there are calls for fares increases. Surely that will lead inevitably to a further loss of passengers, and so the problems will multiply. I hope noble Lords will have seen the British Rail 56 advertisement in the Press the other day dealing with the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report on commuter services, and I hope many noble Lords might have read the message that is contained therein.
I can see no proposals for the development of British Rail. Have the Government any real idea of what they want from our railway system? There is surely need for the Government to define their objective for British Rail. What we do know is that of 10 European countries Britain is second highest in proportion of total costs and capital financing which is met from revenue—to the great credit of British Rail. But it has problems, because there is no money available for the other essential development work. Also, of the same 10 European countries Britain spends least per train kilometre. I wonder whether the Government have taken note that certain countries which allowed their transport services, particularly their rail networks, to decline are now spending vast sums of money in order to catch up, realising the necessity to do this.
There was a leader in the Sunday Times of 5th October referring to British Rail's lack of investment. It said:But the squeeze on British Rail's investment also reflects the Government's muddled approach to investment in the public sector.…The Government's mindless approach to such investment creates the impression that it is undesirable. But if it is good to invest for greater efficiency and higher productivity in the private sector, why is it bad in state industry?".We know that Sir Peter Parker, British Rail's chairman, has said that 30 per cent. more investment is needed merely to stand still in order to replace existing assets.
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for just one minute? As one who lived on Lord Keynes' staircase at King's for seven years, I am perfectly certain that he would have exposed Professor Friedman, as he exposed the Versailles Treaty, if he had been alive today. But I am perfectly certain he would never approve of borrowing thousands of millions of pounds at anything between 10 and 15 per cent. He would have regarded Government investment in all these things at 5 per cent. as appropriate today.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I will not deny that. This may be an issue which can be dealt with on Thursday, although unfortunately, because I have had to be discriminating, I shall be unable to take part in that debate. We now have the problem that most British Rail regions are having to look at the possibility of cutting services, along with the increase in fares to which I have referred, and that can only bring further problems.
I want briefly to refer also to the problems of the bus services, of the road passenger transport services. Undoubtedly the Government will propose nothing new, because it would appear from statements by Ministers that they are relying upon the Transport Act 1980, on which your Lordships spent some time. But we now have a situation where, again, report after report, having dealt with British Rail's problems, is now dealingwith the problems of many of the 30 subsidiaries of the National Bus Company. Men are having to be put out of work, services are having to be cut and fares are going to be increased, again due to the drop in the number of passengers because of the recession. This 57 sort of policy is going to make it very bleak for many of the users of road passenger transport, particularly those in the rural areas and those on the outskirts of big cities. We find the same position in many of the public transport executives. County councils are finding that they themselves are being squeezed financially, so they are having to cut down grants for bus services.
So we get into this vicious circle, with problems having grown in our rail transport system and problems now starting to grow in our important bus undertakings. 1 repeat: What are the Government's aims for our public transport services? The gracious Speech is silent on those points. Tomorrow this House will be debating the question of defence. On the grounds of defence alone, surely this country needs an efficient up-to-date service. After the recession, if our industrial base has been grossly weakened and our transport services have deteriorated, then what is the position with which this country is going to be faced?
Lastly, may I refer to one other item which occupied the attention of some of us during the Transport Bill debate? Presumably the Government measures will include the new procedure for testing heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles. We can only gather this from the press, but we understand that this is what the Government intend to do, despite the fact that they issued a policy paper on which they asked for comments. Having got the comments, they appear to have disregarded those comments totally, because not only is the Confederation of Road Passenger Transport, which represents 95 per cent. of the bus and coach operators in this country, opposed to the proposals, but so is the Road Haulage Association, so is the National Freight Association, so is the British Rail Board because of its connection in relation to its lorries, so is the Sand and Gravel Association, and so are the three institutes of traffic administration, road transport engineers and traffic managers.
Why did the Government ask for comments on their policy documents and then apparently completely ignore what was said in those documents and go ahead with a new system? All these responsible organisations want the present system to stay—and these are people concerned with traffic administration and traffic handling in the private sector and the public sector. They all want the present system to stay. They have complete faith in its high standard of efficiency, professional competence and impartiality and what they say is its non-commercial approach which is vital in the question of testing.
That issue is not political at all; it is one of common sense. If the Government are shortsighted enough to bring forward this proposal, I hope that your Lordships will deal with it accordingly. This is an issue where we should not have divisive policies on something which it is unnecessary to introduce. The Government must listen to those involved in the operation of road transport, and this goes for the general question of transport and rail. The Government must listen before it is too late.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, I venture to intervene for a moment only to ask for clarification of a passage towards the end of the gracious Speech. 58 Before I do so, may I apologise for the fact that I could not be here at the start of the debate. It is true that it was entirely the fault of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that I could not be here and it is true that I have been similarly delayed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, in the past. Nevertheless, I am very sorry not to have heard their speeches and I trust that they will acquit me of discourtesy. The passage that I was referring to reads:Measures to improve the law in Scotland relating to education and to local government and to protect wives' home rights will be laid before you".Like the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, in his splendid speech in support of the Address, I have read that as referring to two Scottish measures; and I thought that the third measure would be the Matrimonial Homes (Rights of Occupation) Bill which it was the intention of the Government to introduce in the last Session. But I understand that that is a misapprehension and that the third Bill is a Bill that has been drafted by the Scottish Law Commission.
When some 18 months ago your Lordships debated the English Law Commission's third report on family property, which had drafted and annexed three Bills, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said that it was the intention of the Government to introduce the one I have just mentioned; namely, the Matrimonial Homes (Rights of Occupation) Bill. That was intended to be introduced in the following Session; that is, the Session which has just been completed. The noble and learned Lord said last Session, when we were debating another measure that was annexed to that report, that the Bill had been unfortunately squeezed out of the last Session's programme. I wanted to be assured that it comes within the last paragraph of the gracious Speech; namely, the other measure that would be laid before Parliament. I know that the noble and learned Lord himself has a very heavy legislative programme but that particular measure is one to which the married women's organisations are looking forward very eagerly. It is a start on the implementation of the recommendations of the English Law Commission and I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give us an assurance.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Baroness Elliot of Harwood
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has said, this debate on the Address covers a very wide field and many subjects are discussed. I listened with great interest to what Lord Underhill had to say and I wished that I could have joined in—for I suppose that I use the railways more than anyone in the whole House. However, I refrain from entering that discussion for I do not know enough about it, except to say that I am one of the most consistent customers that the railway has. But I should like to speak briefly on some of the subjects which have been mentioned already by my noble friend Lady Faithfull and by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. The passage in the gracious Speech which begins:My Government, recognising the hardships and worries of … unemployment …deals with one of the matters about which I feel most keenly and which I consider to be one of the greatest possible importance.
59 Before saying my few words about young people in unemployment, I should like to stand up as one who supports the Government in their many efforts to stop inflation. They have been much criticised for this, but in private life we all try not to run into debt and in public life the same principle holds good. It is very difficult. I admire the courage of the Prime Minister and the Government in facing up to these problems. I think they are beginning to be successful. I am concerned particularly about young people. For all my life I have worked in youth organisations and I should like to make a small contribution to this debate following very much on the lines of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and my noble friend Lady Faithfull.
How can we help the unemployed young people? I think there are ways in which we can do so. Obviously the first is to encourage them to stay at school, to train for technical subjects that will be of value and of use to them, to go to technical colleges and technical schools which are available in every part of the country and—something which I am always being told by so many people when discussing this matter—to try to meet this terrible shortage of trained young people ready to go into the kind of industry, whether simple or complicated, which are needed in this country today.
The other thing that we should encourage—and this was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt—is the development of a community service concept for the training and help of young people. In many communities certain developments will not take place unless they can be carried out by volunteers or by trainees or by people who are engaged in the Government training programmes in the job creation section of the Ministry of Labour or the young opportunity developments which are known by such different names as Voluntary Service Overseas, Task Force and Young Volunteers' Foundation. All these organisations have been working for some time and I believe that, with encouragement from the Government and local authorities, they could do more.
I have had experience of volunteers. For many years, I was chairman of the youth club movement and I know how easy it is if one gets encouragement from the local authorities or the community councils or any local group to undertake community projects of different kinds. There are the community projects in the field of social work: the visiting of old people, helping with Meals-on-Wheels, helping with play groups, working in residential schools and day centres for the handicapped.
Now a new concept has arrived because there is so much development in the inner city restoration projects. The other day I happened to be in the city of Glasgow (which I knew extremely well at one period) and the centre of Glasgow was a terrible slum area with probably some of the worst overcrowding and worst slums in the country. It was cleared and all the people were housed on the periphery. As we all know, in many areas that has not been a success because it means that people are taken away from the area they know and they find themselves in a sense isolated although they are surrounded by other people.
Now in that city, and in many others, they have begun inner city developments which can be a great help, which are wanted and which could absorb, 60 under the supervision of trained people, a number of young people who are training for different jobs. There is even one organisation called Inner City Farms, a project which I believe is highly successful. How one farms in the middle of a city I have never quite discovered, but I understand that in those areas where it has been carried out it has been successful. In those urban areas where dereliction is all too obvious, if we can use young people and some of these organisations to revive and redevelop those areas, it can be useful.
For instance, in the world of the arts, restoring empty buildings to be used for community arts, drama, painting, theatre workshop projects, and so on. I have had some experience of that in one of the very small and beautiful little theatres in the north of England. In Richmond, Yorkshire, some interior reconstruction has been carried out almost entirely by job creation assistants, by trainees, and has been an enormous success. Improving the environment, helping in the national parks, improving amenity value in those areas, and in many other ways young people can be brought into the community and the community can help them.
I do not think this should all be done for nothing. But a grant would be very much less than paying unemployment benefit, and it would lead to training. That is surely a very much better investment of our money and, above all—because I am not thinking about it from the money point of view so much—it would assist the training and encouragement of young people. I think somebody said—and it is so true—that young people with nothing to do wander about and feel absolutely useless, whereas if they can be brought together and help, under supervision, one can do a great deal for them which will be of value in the future. I urge the Government to enlist the support of all the youth organisations. The National Association of Youth Clubs has a big scheme with the Government at this moment. These schemes are so much better and so much more valuable than just waiting about wondering where one is going to get the next job.
There is one other matter on which I entirely support the Government in what they are trying to do: the endeavour to reduce the increasing expenditure of local government. I have left local government. I was on a county council for 29 years. I suppose it is easier to criticise from outside than when one is inside and trying to do things. I am disappointed because I backed the reorganisation of local government, thinking that it would be something that would economise in administrative expenditure. I am afraid it has not turned out to be that, and it is most disappointing.
I entirely support the efforts of the local authorities themselves, but particularly those of the Government, in trying to see that some economies are made. I was told the other day that in the health organisation to-day there are so many committees, all of them manned by paid personnel. Originally there was the one health authority and then the health committee that dealt with the hospitals, and that was all. Now there are health councils and another number of organisations which I am told are quite unnecessary. Someone told me that they had resigned from one of these committees because it was quite unnecessary; it cost money and did nothing. 61 There is another committee which I heard had been started in an area that I know very well called Recreation and Leisure. During all the years that I was on the county council leisure was organised by the young themselves, and recreation equally so. If one has to have people to organise football, cricket or whatever within a local authority, that is something that could be done by volunteers, by voluntary services, and by people giving their time at weekends to help in these matters.
I support the Government very strongly in their efforts to try and cut down unnecessary expenditure. The measures which are being undertaken are very difficult. I fully appreciate the problems that are before the Government and I support their efforts. I hope that they will succeed. I hope that in the future when we get some of these Bills referred to in the gracious Speech they will lead to improvement regarding delinquency and young people, and the measures that other noble Lords have been talking about today. I hope they will be successful.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood. This debate is accelerating and I should like to move it on to new ground and say something about Northern Ireland. Earlier this autumn I visited Ulster and I spent some time there. I was received—as always—with a wonderful welcome and marvellous hospitality which is really very heartwarming and makes one keen to return. I noticed very much less army activity and a much greater police presence. We are all happy that this should be so, as we are indeed happy that the number of violent deaths has fallen once again this year. It is of course disappointing that the current round of political talks seems to have reached standstill, and therefore I hope that the "usual channels" will find a way of arranging a general debate on Northern Ireland in the fairly near future.
I should like to take as my starting point something that was said by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Hume, in a recent public statement. He said:Pray that the fear and intolerance which prevent a political solution may give way to mutual understanding and forbearance".We would all say a most hearty "Amen" to that. I believe that it behoves us to ask why there should be such very deep fears—fears that seem to paralyse political progress.
I believe that there are two reasons. The first is the almost total absence of a liberal tradition in Northern Ireland. The second and perhaps more important reason is that political, cultural and religious attitudes there are very closely aligned and aligned in what I almost would call tribal ways. This, I believe, would be dangerous in any case; but it is especially dangerous in what has been described many times before now as a "double minority" situation.
What do we mean by "a double minority"? Simply the fact that in the north of Ireland the Protestants make up something like two-thirds of the population—a very substantial majority—while in the south and indeed in the whole of Ireland the Roman Catholic population is in a still larger majority. This situation leads to deep fears of the abuse of power by whichever 62 majority it happens to be. Bishop Hanson, formerly of the Diocese of Clogher and now an assistant Bishop of Manchester, in an article in the October number of Encounter magazine, has put this much more clearly than I could, and I should like to quote what he said:Catholics are afraid of the political power of the Protestants. They are afraid that Protestants will use both political power and the social influence their majority position gives them to push Roman Catholics into an inferior position, to make them second-class citizens who come at the end of the queue in such things as housing, jobs and the control of local government. The Protestants, on the other hand, are afraid of the religious power of the Roman Catholics. They are afraid that, given the opportunity, the Catholic Church will use its authority to dominate society as it has to a large extent dominated society in the Republic of Ireland, and will introduce an ethos and a climate of opinion expressed in such things as legislation about marriage, and divorce, which is unacceptable to the Protestants".I believe that description is an accurate one of very real and very deep-seated fears. If people are not prepared to take it from me or from Bishop Hanson, this Analysis is confirmed by a report made to the United States Department of State in September 1979 by Dr. Crenshaw, entitled Political, Social and Cultural Factors of Irish Terrorism. This document is available in your Lordships' Library.
I think we have to accept that the fears I mentioned are not simply emotional and historic ones; they are also to some extent reasonable and logical fears. To see why that is so, one has only to look, for instance, at the recent behaviour of some local authorities in Northern Ireland and also at the recent legislation on birth control and family planning in Southern Ireland.
What can be done to help to remove some of these fears? As a Catholic, I appeal once again to the Catholic Church in the whole of Ireland, and I would ask them to stop behaving in such a way that many Protestants have reasonable cause for fear. I would ask the Catholic Church to take to heart the words of a distinguished West German nuclear physicist, Dr. Karl von Weizsacker, when he said:Getting rid of the enemy relationship means acting in such a way towards the supposed enemy that it no longer fears us or is tempted to hate us".I was very much encouraged by what Cardinal O'Fiaich said at the Glenstal ecumenical meeting earlier this year. He remarked:As the Roman Catholics are the largest community in numbers, so we should be the largest in generosity".That, I think, was a splendid thing to say, and I hope and pray that it will be translated into practice when the time comes for implementing in Northern Ireland the Astin and Chilver Reports on certain aspects of education.
There is much that could no doubt be said about the Protestant Churches in Northern Ireland. I do not know whether I am the person to say it, though I can claim many stalwart Protestant ancestors. I think we all long for all the Protestant churches in Northern Ireland to free themselves from sectarianism. By this I mean the deliberate fomenting of hatred and mistrust in the name of religion. As Bishop Hanson has so clearly put it,any hopeful policy on Northern Ireland must address itself to that identification of political and religious issues and convictions which creates conflict and breeds self-perpetuating hatred".I turn now to Her Majesty's Government, because I believe it is within their power to do a great deal to 63 remove the fears I have been discussing. In passing, I would say that the fears of parents with handicapped children would be very much eased if the Warnock Report could be implemented in Northern Ireland at the same time as and in parallel with England and Wales. But perhaps more importantly than that, I hope that in the sector of education the Government will promote a coming together of children across denominational barriers. We know that by and large the Northern Ireland schools are segregated on religious lines; yet I feel there is great scope for schools to come together for such things as sports, drama, debates and many other youth activities.
Secondly, may I put it to the Government that I believe it would be very helpful if the Northern Irish Grand Committee could sit for two weeks every year in Belfast. There is so much that it could discuss, there are so many financial matters it could look at, and so many grievances it could try to redress. It would be very helpful if organisations of all kinds and sections of opinion could lobby that grand committee sitting in Belfast.
In conclusion, I should like just to mention that I met the mother of a large family in Belfast who had personally resisted the attempts of three men sent to intimidate her out of her house, to the point where she actually took one of them by the collar and shook him till his teeth rattled in his head. A day or two later I met a sub-postmaster who, in the most casual tone of voice imaginable, told me that no less than six times had his post office premises been either bombed or burned down. Nevertheless, business was continuing as usual. It is instances such as these and it is the remarkably unbitter comments—the forgiving, charitable and compassionate comments—of people who have suffered personal loss and injury to themselves and their families that give one heart to go on pursuing the politics of forgiveness and reconciliation. These I commend to the Government. I support what they are doing and I hope they will find ever greater success in Northern Ireland and in relations with the whole of Ireland.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Baroness Gaitskell
My Lords, I was fascinated by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, just now. Some of us who try to follow events in Northern Ireland find it very difficult to understand what is going on. I have learned more from his speech today than I have from reading newspapers for a very long time about the troubles in Northern Ireland, and I should like to thank him for it.
To return to the Queen's Speech, what I like about it more than anything was the beautiful delivery; the beautiful voice and the clarity with which Her Majesty delivered the Speech. I come now to speak about what one can expect from the Conservative Government which, from the day it was elected, cut the taxes of the richest people in the country and proceeded to follow that up by cutting the benefits of the poorest in the country. So, looking into what is happening and what has happened in the last 18 months, I find that, after two Budgets and over a year in Government, Mrs. Thatcher, the Prime Minister, is further away from any solution to our economic 64 difficulties, and there is every reason to suppose that things that are already bad will get worse.
In one of our first debates on the economy I said that this Government were the most hard-hearted and short-sighted Government of this century. I have no reason to change my mind, when I look into what is happening to the social security services. Except for helping the retraining of young people, I cannot find any solution put forward by the Government which, for example, will deal with the poverty trap.
The income tax and the national insurance contributions are so complicated—I challenge anybody to understand them—and they force the low-paid to depend on means-tested benefits. The effect of such legislation is that some workers stand to lose money if they increase their earnings. Is that not an extraordinary anomaly? It is never mentioned by the Government. When that happens, they lose social security benefits, which include family income supplement, rent rebate, rate rebate and so on.
A year or so ago, David Donnison, who had just retired as chairman of the Supplementary Benefits Commission, pointed this out in an article in the Sunday Times. Apparently, a family with four children is better off if the father earns £45 a week than if he earns £85 a week. This is because he can claim more of the means-tested benefits which are available to bring the family income above the poverty line. To put it quite simply, the family is thus trapped in poverty. Together, the high unemployment trap and the poverty trap have the effect of hampering the proper working of the country's economy.
So the Conservative Party, who are always claiming to be the champions of the family, have brought about a situation where, in a three-child family, a farm labourer on the basic wage of £58 a week will have the same money to spend as a miner who has a weekly wage of £81 or even £94. This does not make sense at all. I quote from New Society of 9th October. Also, skilled workers earning, for example, £110 a week will find themselves only £6.73 better off than unskilled workers on £70 a week. These figures are very complicated and I hope that I have got them right. They seem to me to be so senseless. Perhaps the Minister will say that I have got them wrong, but I have obtained them from very reliable sources. I have not made them up.
The tax system today seems senseless. Jonathan Bradshaw said this in New Society:For most working class families with children it does not really matter what they earn!Both the unemployment trap—and everyone predicts 3 million unemployed next year—and the Conservative Government, while professing a commitment to restoring incentives and helping families, have brought about a situation where self-reliance is undermined. The combination of the effects of the tax system—that is, income tax, national insurance contributions and excessive dependence of the low paid on means-tested benefits—the unemployment trap and the poverty trap has the effect of impeding the proper working of the economy and undermining self-reliance. The excessive dependence of the low paid on means-tested benefits, which are withdrawn as income rises, is the reason for this.
65 The low paid pay more in tax today than they have ever done. We must increase child support; not reduce it as we are doing now. Child support is necessary for parents, whether in work or not. We must reduce the dependence of those in need on means-tested help. We need to go back to Beveridge, instead of mutilating the Welfare State, which is what the Government have done. The practice of concentrating cuts on national insurance benefits and child benefits does not make sense at all. Despite all that has been said about what the Government are trying to do, I cannot see any hope at all, until they change course in this respect and realise that 3 million unemployed is absolutely a disaster and a tragedy.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord Miles
My Lords, we all listened with great interest and some apprehension to the gracious Speech outlining the measures which Her Majesty's Government will be presenting in the forthcoming Session. I myself turned hopefully to the words which concluded the Speech:Other measures will be laid before you".In this connection, I beg to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the present plight of the British theatre, and whether they have any constructive proposals for alleviating it. Surely it is time to put a stop to the fatuous debate about the Arts Council and its contribution to the national wellbeing. The facts are quite simple. As a direct consequence of the formation of that agency 35 years ago, and for a total investment of only £400 million-odd between then and now—an average of around £11 million a year—British theatre, opera and ballet have risen from comparative mediocrity to pre-eminence on the world's artistic scene; in other words, the biggest success story since the war. If this noble House were accustomed to breaking out into unbridled applause, that would be its cue!
Until 1940 we had the old-fashioned weekly, and occasionally fortnightly, "rep", learning and rehearsing the next play while performing the current one, mostly West End successes vamped up for what were thought to be none-too-discerning provincial audiences—like the place Hughie Scanlon comes from, and others, where they really didn't know much about it—eked out by an occasional GBS or Shakespeare and the perennial life-saving Christmas panto: supplying one's own wardrobe from pitifully meagre personal stock, the same furniture borrowed week after week from well-disposed local dealers in exchange for a mention in the programme, strip lighting, including long outmoded footlights, and many a switchboard with old-fashioned water dimmers frequently boiling over, old church and chapel halls pressed into service, dirty and uncomfortable seating, back stage and front of house lavatories frequently unmentionable and certainly unusable, and never a bathroom in sight.
And so on. I know, because my wife and I went through it—and we remained married through those trials—at Kew, Sheffield, Brighton, Windsor, Birmingham, York, St. Leonard's-on-Sea and, later, on the music halls, working as I did as actor, stage manager, carpenter, property master, electrician—I do not want to boast!—scene painter and director. It is true that many magnificent performers learned their trade in 66 this kind of set-up but always in spite of, never because of, the fearful conditions, and always for pitifully low salaries. How different from the theatre of today.
Within a brief 35 years, thanks largely to the inspiration of Jennie Lee and of my old friend the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, we have achieved world ascendancy—third cue!—with untold rise in the standards of writing, acting and presentation. We now have a network of some 40 regional theatres, much of their work rivalling the best that can be seen in London, or indeed anywhere. We have become world beaters.
A few years ago an American friend of mine on a six month sabbatical from his university sought my advice as to how he and his wife might get the fullest possible vision of the British theatre. He proposed basing himself in London and making raids on regional centres within a radius of 50 or 60 miles. I advised a different procedure. "Fly into Prestwick", I told him, instead of Heathrow, get yourself a skinful of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth, then motor southwards, covering, on the way, the whole superlative network of landscape, language, history, architecture, theatre, ballet and music". He took my advice, following Scotland with Carlisle, Liverpool, Bolton, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Leicester, Oxford, Stratfordon-Avon, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton, Guildford, Leatherhead, ending with 10 weeks in London sampling the glories of the National, the RSC, the two great opera houses and a wide range of commercial product, topped up with a good sprinkling of cellars and attics where the grass roots are being so vigorously nourished.
In what other country would that be possible? He had seen a rich assortment of productions in a running showcase of European theatre, had visited the Roman wall, Vindolanda, Dane's Dyke, 20 or 30 of our finest cathedrals and castles and great stretches of our unrivalled landscape. Many influences have been brought to bear upon the present situation in the theatre. Young university directors grappling with the text, the burgeoning of the new English drama, Osborne, Pinter, Wesker, Arden, Robert Bolt, Simpson, Bond, Stoppard and others; the loosening up of the theatre structures by the abandonment of picture frame, orchestra pit and galleried auditorium, the injection of the Stanislayski method which drives actors to dig down into character and background, the determination of writers, actors and directors to make our profession part and parcel of the national conscience, not merely a form of harmless titillation.
This revolution is the direct fruit of high dedication, remorseless study, unwavering inspiration, blinding hard work and, above all, the golden opportunity provided by the Arts Council for theatres to stay afloat after one or two inevitable box office failures. This is crucial to the whole situation.
Moreover, it applies not only to subsidised theatre but to theatre as a whole, for most actors who get on to the West End stage have at one time or another been through the regional mill in which subsidy is the rule. And this phenomenal rise in standard washes over the television scene as well. No one who has summoned up the courage to watch television in foreign lands—I pause for a laugh there—can doubt that both in content and standard of presentation, Britain leads the world. It is all part of the same picture. Thus the Arts Council has an all-pervading influence for good, 67 not just a localised one. It works not only in terms of hard cash but by general example, by the raising of overall standards, by the stimulation of competition and by persuading local authorities to play their part, however modest, in footing the bill.
Thirty-five years ago who would have dreamed that two ballet companies, cradled in Notting Hill and in the wilds of Islington, would have coalesced into one of the great ballet companies of the world? Who would have dreamed that British singers would be held in such high esteem in New York, Salzburg, Bayreuth, Milano and other great musical centres of the world? But so it is, and this again stems directly back to the sustained funding by the Arts Council of Great Britain, of whom we have every reason to be very proud.
There is of course, and always will be, plenty of sniping and cavilling. Bird brained jealousies are aired, pitiful objections raised, the critical and artistic woodwork is suddenly alive with Dutch elm disease. Well, if you examine his career with a microscope and with a certain amount of even Churchill can be found wanting. But who will suggest that he was not one of the giants of world history?
It would be a thousand pities if an achievement which has enhanced the word "British" throughout the world for so tiny an investment were now to run out of steam for want of a few million pounds. After all, the Treasury are not being asked to back an ailing industry but to boost a rocket which is already well and truly in orbit. The theatre is not a utility; it is not something you eat, or wear, or ride in, or cook with. It is part of our national substance, an extension of our unique language and all our noble history. It is a very frail growth, subject to a multitude of hazards. It would be tragic indeed if all that has been achieved were now to be lost. I trust, therefore, that the few undoubted facts which I have ventured to enumerate may in the coming year find their way into the forefront of the Government's considerations and that those considerations will include a gradual increase in the Arts Council's grant in aid. I thank noble Lords.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, what a great pleasure it is to hear a success story amidst all the gathering gloom. The pity of course is that the Arts Council is part of public expenditure. That is the peril which they are in. However, I am sure that your Lordships are deeply appreciative of the fresh air that the noble Lord, Lord Miles, has brought into the Chamber with his maiden speech, Mark II. At least, I hope I did not miss hearing him speak. It is obviously a great pleasure for the noble Lord to address your Lordships' House, but he has come to the wrong place if he is expecting applause. The theatre would have gone out of business if it had come here to give its first performances. As for the noble Lord's multitude of occupations—actor, manager, stage manager, dresser, carpenter, scene shifter—all I can say is that he must have had a closed shop all to himself. It would not be so easy these days with lines of demarcation.
I am glad that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack is in his place because I want to refer to 68 two matters that he raised. One was that the Labour Party still wants to abolish the House of Lords. That may be, though some of my anxieties on that score were relieved after listening to Lord Denning's Dimble-by Lecture. Indeed in my former constituency the other night, in the presence of the present Conservative Member for Sowerby, I told the audience "You are lucky to have two Members of Parliament for Sowerby—the man who was and the man who is, but the one who was is now feeling more secure after the Dimbleby Lecture than I believe the present one is".
We shall have to wait and see, but the more immediate matter to which the noble and learned Lord referred was the common ground and this I think is very important. He said that there was a lot of common ground, even today, in Britain. I believe that to be true. He said "If you seek it, you will find it". I believe that also to be true. Unfortunately, politics is not the place either to seek it or to find it in present conditions, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, said that the trouble was that the common ground today was largely unoccupied. I do not think we shall find the common ground unless the Government of the day are prepared to move into it. I believe that under our present electoral system almost every party Government is likely to be unrepresentative of the majority of the electors: they can become representative only by moving in to the common ground. If the unrepresentative Government are unwilling to move towards the centre they will become unpopular and will lack the authority to govern. If the two political parties from which in turn our Governments are formed, drift widely apart and leave a deep divide in our political, economic and industrial life I do not think the nation can prosper or indeed possibly even live together in any sort of social contentment. If the noble and learned Lord becomes converted to electoral reform for Westminster as he was to electoral reform for the still-born Parliament in Edinburgh, then we are on the way to the common ground and I look forward to his further contribution to that debate.
I shall now turn to the back page of the gracious Speech where usually the most interesting items are to be found. The first part of the gracious Speech has to be largely written to reassure our friends in the Commonwealth and overseas that Britain still lives in the world at large. The parliamentary work prescribed usually comes towards the end.
I was delighted this afternoon when the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, introduced the Bill referred to in the gracious Speech to promote the conservation of wild life and the countryside and, after listening to the catalogue of enactments to be repealed and amended, which seemed almost interminable, we certainly got the impression that this was going to be a very comprehensive measure indeed. We are very happy that a Bill so suited to the experience and the outlook of members of your Lordships' House is going to start here. May I express the hope that one or two matters that some of us are keen upon either will be in the Bill or can be put in the Bill? One thing, surely, is to ban the use of snares. I think that has virtually been promised as part of this Bill. The second is perhaps not uncontroversial—to banish the sale of strychnine for use in destroying any form of wild life. The third, having regard to recent developments 69 regarding our badger population, is that more protection is needed for the badger outside the areas of infection and destruction. I think we must now fully protect the badger outside those danger areas.
I now come to something which is probably hidden in the reference in the gracious Speech to legislation to improve road safety. I refer to drink and driving. In 1965 I was chairman of the Home Affairs Committee of the Labour Cabinet and after a very long debate we decided to propose the introduction of the random test even at the outset of the use of the breathalyser for the purposes of checking on drink and driving. We put that in a White Paper, but unhappily the general election of 1966 intervened. We then had a larger majority, more legislation was pressing upon us, there was a change in the Ministry of Transport and the Labour Government wilted. In the end the selective test was introduced. Probably some sections of the community 15 years ago were not ready for the introduction of the random test. There were anxieties about the relationship between the public and the police; there were problems of enforcement and we had not tried the breathalyser at all, so there was a natural caution about making it too severe to begin with.
But when the selective test was introduced—that is to say, the police officer had to have reasonable suspicion that a person had been drinking or, of course, a driver was apprehended on a road offence—a promise had to be given that the place where one could have reasonable suspicion of people having been drinking should not be under observation by the police, and that was the car park of the public house. The police were not to go there to pick out those who could be reasonably suspected of having been drinking. Well, the public house car parks are bigger than ever. There is more drinking, there are more cars and there is more drunken ness, and I really think it is about time that we grasped this nettle, because, if we are going to observe the same lenient conditions for the continuation of the selective test, I do not think we shall get to the root of this problem of drinking and driving.
Seat belts surely should be brought into this new legislation. That is another nettle that I think we have to grasp. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, introduced a Bill this afternoon and it may be possible to have the matter of seat belts brought into the transport legislation. I hope that we shall not shilly-shally over that one much longer.
The next matter to which I wish to refer was not in the gracious Speech. It is the question of smoking. There has been an announcement in recent days about the new voluntary agreement reached with the tobacco industry on advertising cigarettes. As I said, I was in the Cabinet in 1965. The first voluntary agreement was being discussed at that time—15 years ago. How slowly we move! That was the first attempt that we made to get a warning on the packets of cigarettes. Can your Lordships imagine anything more hypocritical than putting on the glamorous cover of a packet of cigarettes a warning that smoking the contents may be injurious to your health? It is humbug, and now apparently we are to have that warning brought to the front of the packet instead of the back. Is that how we are going to tackle this grave evil?
70 It really is deplorable that we go on with large numbers of people dying of chest conditions of various kinds, and lung cancer is not the only one by any means. Our health service is busily employed treating people who, with some restraint, would never need the attention of the health service at all. There are more avoidable deaths, time lost at work, fires, all being caused by smoking. What I think makes the situation very much worse is that we have been subsidising the building of new factories in certain areas for the manufacture of cigarettes; tens of millions have been given to the tobacco trade for the development of new factories. So I really do think that in 1982, when the present agreement is apparently to expire, we should be strong enough and resolute enough to tackle this question in a much more determined way.
Finally, I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, what has happened to the Government's promise to update the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. I ought to apologise to your Lordship's House in advance and give you prior notice of the fact that I shall have three Bills on animals to introduce on Thursday. But this will not be one of them. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, will be reintroducing the Bill which was passed by your Lordships' House just before the summer recess—the outcome of six months' consideration by a most diligent and competent Select Committee. We blazed the trail. We could modestly claim to have been the pathfinder of the sort of legislation that should update the 1876 Act. But the Government are holding back, and I know why they are holding back: because there is a convention under consideration by the Council of Europe, and no doubt considerations of protocol or of courtesy demand that the Government should not move on while there are still further conversations going on in the Council of Europe.
But, my Lords, I tell you now that that convention will be wishy-washy; it will be of virtually no value to us in our deliberations on our own legislation because it is being watered down every time the Council meets. The committee of which I am chairman has recently addressed a strong protest to the Home Office at the way the draft convention is being washed away at each successive stage. The real trouble is that the people who are negotiating this convention are all bureaucrats; they are not animal welfare advocates, they are not even elected representatives, so far as I can discover. They are bureaucrats, and bureaucrats are cautious and want to get agreement, and we shall finish up with a common denominator which, from our point of view, will be worth very little in our subsequent deliberation.
I know that poor old dogsbody, the Home Office, have got a lot on their plate; all the things that other departments do not deal with they get, and most of them are controversial, but I do hope that the Government are going to take their own pledges seriously and let us see some legislation on this subject. That, I think, will do to be going on with, my Lords.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Lord Milverton
My Lords, I wish to say how good it is to hear the intention expressed in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government intend to bring before your Lordships legislation to 71 preserve wildlife and the countryside. This is very pleasing, and the Government, I am sure, will have our full support regarding this important issue. There is a need to appreciate nature and the life of the countryside as something more than a place of work or as a retreat from life, but as a place where we learn the meaning and purpose behind the wonder of nature; the harmony and peace will come as we take part in the work of growth. We will want to treat nature and the countryside with care and sensitivity so that in everything the right balance and proportion is kept. We wish to have a beautiful countryside to look upon, with no litter, as my noble friend Lord Westbury said in his maiden speech. The unkempt wastes of derelict land need to be used, and put away as an eyesore. Our greatest energy must be put into this matter.
One important aspect of this subject is, of course, people and buildings. They need to be blended into the life of the countryside since they are part of the conditions which are related to rural settings, as townspeople are to towns. One needs to have a variety of people in the rural areas and country areas rather than the predominance of one group or another. Especially we need the situations which will enable young people to stay in the countryside. There are some who would like to stay but find the housing costs are too high. This one hears from many young people. The conditions need to be created that enable a wide variety of people to live in the countryside. This could help in improving the quality of life in many ways. Naturally buildings are important to blend with the countryside, and a way must be found to use disused schools or other large buildings for community work or activity. There also should be old people's bungalows for those who would like them. The tricky problem of transport costs for people in the countryside needs to be solved, especially for pensioners and possibly even disabled people. Life is expensive, more so in many ways for the country dweller than for others.
I said that a variety of people is a necessity for the life of the countryside. May I suggest one possible development from the idea in Her Majesty's gracious Speech that could be a way to encourage such variety; in fact the Government's plan to help combat unemployment. I quote from Her Majesty's gracious Speech:My Government, recognising the hardships and worries of those suffering unemployment, will proceed urgently with an expanded programme of employment and training measures for the unemployed, particularly the youngHuman beings cannot be fulfilled without work—however substantial the unemployment pay. Could not aid and assistance in setting up facilities for arts and crafts industries in the countryside, using empty buildings and land, help to combat this problem. This has been shown to be excellent where it has happened; for instance, where one reads that old crofts in Scotland have been used for this kind of thing, or even in quite an opposite way down in Wiltshire, where one has read in the local paper sometimes of arts and crafts being started in rural settings in disused buildings and suchlike. This could be put forward in many places. Could it not be attempted?
72 The disabled must not be left behind in these matters, as, indeed, in any others. The Minister for the Disabled in the Department of Health and Social Security was reminded of that by Mr. Hannam during the Conservative Party Conference. Mr. Hannam stated that, so far as he personally was concerned, the sacrifice to be made by disabled people was perhaps that they would not make a great deal of progress in the next few years, but certainly that they should not be expected to suffer extra hardship or a decline in their position. We wish Her Majesty's Government all success with these measures and others which may be coming. May they be done for the good of the people and of the country, and so help, indirectly, our foreign responsibilities. May I heartily agree with the hope that success in finding that which is common may happen, and may the Churches be blessed to help in that regard.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
My Lords, what a multitude of sins seems to be covered by the heading "home affairs". Perhaps just another one to differentiate may make a little more variety, if that is possible. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in his remarkable and erudite tour de force in introducing today's debate, very rightly underlined the fact that the last two major wars were not caused by our defence but, if they were caused at all, because we were not seen to have defended or to be prepared to defend ourselves and the civilisation to which he referred.
A vital part of our defence is civil defence, on which your Lordships might remember I introduced a debate on 5th March last. Civil defence is the responsibility of the Home Office and, therefore, I presume that it would come under the heading of today's home affairs debate. As we know, it was abolished in 1968—the Government of the day having as good as abolished home defence the year previously. The Conservative Party promised in its manifesto to right that wrong, but it took over a year to make even a statement.
Your Lordships will remember that it was put off and put off—first it was before Easter, then after Easter, then June and July and just before we packed up for the Summer Recess we had a Statement. It was rather woolly and the nuts and bolts were promised in a Home Office directive which we were to have had the following month, or the month after, or the month after that. Indeed, I do not think that we shall get it this month. How can those people who are working to do something for their country in this line continue, if the worst should happen, if these delays are holding up all their planning and everything else that is involved? I hope that the noble Lord who is to wind up the debate will be able to give us some information on this matter. The rumour is, of course, that it is held up by the County Councils Association, but I do not know about that.
We now have another firemen's strike on our hands. After the last firemen's strike I asked an Unstarred Question regarding what lessons the Government had learnt from that strike. If they have learnt any, they have not passed them on. Where are the auxiliary fire services which were abolished when civil defence was abolished? Out come the green goddesses again, 73 but not for the London to Brighton Old Crocks run; no, no, they come to do duty. What better way to occupy the young, especially if unfortunately unemployed, than to encourage them to become proficient in matters that help their fellow countrymen by becoming involved in the Red Cross, civil defence and auxiliary fire services?—there is a whole host of such organisations.
I was talking the other day to a young officer in a TA regiment of which I am honorary colonel. He is a schoolmaster by trade. He blamed a lot of our problems on education. He said that there are some schools which seem to encourage their pupils when they leave school to think that they are owed something by the country, whereas they should be taught to think that they owe something to their country. While on the subject of schoolmasters, a retired headmaster from a north country comprehensive, talking again about the firemen's strike or the possibility thereof, said that if we went back to the good old-fashioned piece of chalk and a blackboard instead of all these highly sophisticated teaching aids which are only used once or twice a year—and he spoke from experience—local government could save plenty, enough to give the firemen anything they want. The main thing that I wish to do today is to ask the noble Lord, Lord Be!stead, whether he can give us any encouragement in the reply he is to make.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, after the remarkable send off from the Woolsack it was inevitable that this debate should range far and wide. We have heard a moving appeal, for example, for a less sectarian and more Christian approach by both sides in Northern Ireland, an appeal to preserve the theatrical profession, the grass roots of which, as I understand it, apparently blossom in attics. But, having said that, I want to come back to what I thought was a fascinating and diverting speech by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. It was fascinating because of the breadth and height of the canvas on which he painted. It was diverting, I think, because it diverted your Lordships' attention from what was in the Queen's Speech, or, more importantly, what was not in the Queen's Speech. I was not very surprised that at the end he exhorted us to lift our eyes to the stars, but, of course, coming from a rather old-fashioned country—Wales—I know that when we do not like the look of what is before us we lift our eyes unto the hills; but I suppose it is more difficult to do that in the metropolis. Of course, if the noble and learned Lord assumes that we look heavenwards only at night then, in fact, one can understand his exhortation to us to look to the stars.
However, I want to deal with one or two of the remarkably reflective passages in that speech and in particular that part where the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor suggested that we look for consensus. In that suggestion I recognised his own philosophy, but I am bound to say that I could not recognise the philosophy of the Government and there is a very clear distinction between the two. Of course, there is a great deal of common ground in this country. That is why we have been enabled to keep together for so long. The tradition of this country is to have a Government and Opposition and to have creative conflict as a result. And, out of that creative conflict, 74 emerges a progression which I suppose satisfies the generality of opinion in the long run.
The great danger of our day is, of course, that the two sides no longer agree about certain basic values and basic needs of the country. I think that this is why the search for consensus is much more important in this age than it was in previous ages. We now have a Marxist philosophy which does not want to change, modify or improve, but it wants to revolutionise society. My noble friend Lord Wigoder was right when he pointed out the importance of proportional representation in this context. It seems to me that people do not appreciate that one of the great contributions of proportional representation is that it makes the achievement of the finding of consensus so much easier. For example, if one envisaged a great political swing in this country, unless we have greater constitutional safeguards than we have at present, it would be possible to change the whole basis of this country and to abolish this House—Lord Denning notwithstanding—and to do the whole thing in a period of about five years.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor also referred to the statement of the ex-Secretary of State in the United States that Britain had lost an empire but, up to that time, had failed to discover a role. I agree with the sentiments of that statement, but it showed a lack of appreciation. I do not think that this Government have been seeking to discover a role. One can only fulfil a role. Whether or not we are able to fulfil the role which history opens up for us—and we never know at what stage it changes and modifies that role—depends upon our social and political condition and upon our economic condition.
I now turn to the second point raised by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor; the search for economic credibility. My party has never allowed me to speak on economics. I am going to take the opportunity to do so now. I am rather a heretic on this, as I am on certain other subjects. I want to fix on that sentence which the noble and learned Lord said when he referred to oil:We must use oil as an asset".He pointed out that it is a wasting asset. I entirely agree with him, but I do not believe that this or any other Government have actually used oil as an asset. What is happening at the moment—and let us be quite frank about it—is that the taxation of North Sea oil is subsidising our dole queues. That is exactly what it is doing.
When one looks around the world one sees that certain countries in South-East Asia are doing very well on the manufacturing side. What is their peculiar advantage? —it is that they have skilled, adaptable and, above all, cheap labour in relation to the rest of the world. Let us look at the Scandinavian countries. They have hydro-electric power which they have developed and used and are using to develop their own industry. We see our country in great danger of having a process of de-industrialisation. How on earth you keep a population of 50 million happy in a country like ours without a sound industrial and manufacturing base I do not know. Whatever Liberal purists may say, I should have preferred to use our great asset of energy—North Sea oil, North Sea gas, and, above all, the great coal measures that are available in this country 75 and which are infinitely more important in the long run—to re-establish a proper industrial and manufacturing base for this country. It seems to me that that can be done only by using it and having a cheap energy policy within this country, thereby restoring our industrial and manufacturing base.
I happen to believe that many of the restrictive practices of the trade unions and the refusal of British investors to invest in our industry are not the causes of our decline; they are simply symptoms of it. It is symptomatic of a lack of confidence, with people unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am quite sure that there are no impediments to the development of this policy. We can negotiate various agreements with out Common Market partners and so on to enable this kind of policy to be followed.
But we must face the fact that in our country at the moment the superstructure of the ship of state—if I can so describe it—is too top-heavy for the economic hull which bears it. This is particularly so since some of the so-called reforms of local government, the Health Service, the courts, and the water industry came about in the early 1970s and which, to be quite fair, were conceived at a time when it was thought that world oil prices would have stayed at their previous level. Then the whole thing was transformed. However, the truth is that we are carrying a huge administrative superstructure. We have not enlarged the economic hull and we need to do both processes—reduce the superstructure and increase the economic hull—at the same time.
I should like to turn to home affairs because I was rather fascinated by what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said from the Woolsack, for he did not dwell at any great length on the matters contained in the Queen's Speech. But when referring to the European Convention of Human Rights, when he was putting right fears that the Government might in some way seek to abolish the right of individual appeal to Strasbourg, he said that he regretted it was not possible to incorporate that into our national and domestic law. I do not know why we cannot do so. I hear—I do not know whether I am intended to hear it—an explanation, but I do not understand why a Lord Chancellor of such eminence and such influence in the Cabinet cannot get his Government to introduce a Bill, which should be contained in the Queen's Speech. Perhaps one of those other measures to be introduced will cover this matter.
This has been a very wide-ranging debate, covering many subjects, so I shall not try to cover the various points raised. However, I should like to raise one or two practical matters. The noble Baroness, Lady David, seemed to me to put forward a very practical suggestion. It must be very difficult for young people drawing unemployment benefit to find that they can in no way improve their situation or their learning by following an educational course. It is monstrous that we pay out so much money and then by regulation, as it were, prevent people who, through no choice of their own, are idle from improving their situation with regard to their future. I should have thought that a small change of regulation could perhaps accommodate this. It is a very practical matter that has been raised.
76 I should like to turn to what I regard as the cinderella of many of the services, the prison service. It has very few spokesmen and as I, in the course of my professional life, have often come across prison officers, visited prisons, spoken to prison medical officers and governors, I should like to say something about the prison service at present. I am very disappointed that there is nothing in the Queen's Speech about this, because I think that the recent unrest in the prison service and the manifestation of it through the industrial action is not because of concern about a specific issue; rather, it is symptomatic of a general feeling of unease which has persisted for years. It is my personal view that the Prison Commission should never have been reduced, as it were, to a department within the Home Office.
Let us face the fact that a pretty sizeable bureaucracy has been built up which, no doubt, is very well meaning and well-intentioned—as most bureaucracies are—but which is remote from the reality of day-to-day life in our prisons and borstals. Sometime I should like to know the ratio of officials within the administrative side of the Home Office, which deals with prisons—from the lowly messenger to the senior Under-Secretary—to the staff of our prisons today. Very often they are inarticulate people, but they carry out a very difficult job. They are highly experienced. I have come across many people within the prison service—governors, deputy governors, prison officers, many dedicated medical officers, and so on—who have a great understanding of the problems. I wonder whether, in fact, the May Committee and Parliament generally have not paid far too much attention to the much greater articulated views of the civil servants who control the prison service remotely and far too little to the views of those engaged in the day-to-day servicing of our prisons.
The self-interest of certain career civil servants, perfectly understandable, is fairly obvious, but have we paid too little heed to those who serve in prisons and borstals, and so on? After all, in the main they are dealing with devious, inadequate, and sometimes violent individuals. Of course they are not all like this at all, but there is need for greater insight in the understanding of their problems.
I feel that the prison service at present is in a state of great discontent. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord in his capacity as Lord Chancellor must have seen this process for years. I remember some of the speeches, which were among the best he ever made, when he was leading for the Opposition between 1966 and 1970 in another place on home affairs. He showed a great understanding of the difficulties of the then Home Secretary in getting money to improve our prison, borstal, after-care service, and so on. They are always the Cinderella. There are no votes in them at all. But for a civilised country we have a system now which is in danger of becoming a national disgrace. It is time that something was done about it, and this House in particular is in a position to take the initiative in this matter. Something must be done fairly urgently if we are to have a satisfied prison service.
I do not wish to make any further comments on what is in the Queen's Speech. I am rather disappointed at the things left out. I perfectly well therefore understand the exhortation of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to lift our eyes unto the 77 stars, because what is immediately before us is not very satisfying.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Lord Wells-Pestell
My Lords, I am happy to say that there are no questions that I want to put to the noble Lord the Minister who will be replying. If inadvertently I appear to do so let me make it clear that I am not expecting any reply. I was much encouraged by the opening remarks of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who seemed to me to try to get what I think we are all striving for, and that is an understanding of our responsibilities. I was sorry that his contribution had to be made on an occasion such as this, because it would be a good thing if we could debate what man's responsibilities to man really are. It is because of that that I want to try to follow in the noble and learned Lord's footsteps.
My concern, as your Lordships know, is with health and social security. The Government's future policy as outlined in the Queen's Speech conceals far more than it reveals, a point which the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has just made. In the circumstances, bearing in mind the Government's plans outlined yesterday by the Chancellor, it is probably a good thing that the Queen's Speech did conceal more than it revealed, because I think it would put Her Majesty in an unenviable position if she had to read what in fact has transpired since implementation of the Government's policy.
This is the first week of a new Session, and having regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's intentions for the future as expressed in the Commons yesterday, I think we need to take a look at what has transpired over the last 18 months. I want to try to persuade noble Lords on the Government Benches and, if I may, those on the Cross-Benches that the Government have taken the wrong road economically. I do not think it is unfair to the Government to say that the economic views held by them have produced a certain amount of chaos. I think it would be true to say that, while there is a steadfast determination not to do any U-turns, they have tended to go first in one direction and then in another, and then retrace their steps and go in another, to such an extent that if one were to try to plan it it would look more like a spaghetti junction than a carefully prepared plan.
One of the schools I attended had a motto. I apologise in advance to the noble and learned Lord, who is a classicist, if my pronunciation of Latin, learnt many years ago, is wrong. I also ask your Lordships to grant me the indulgence of interpreting that motto rather generously. The motto was respice prospice: to look back on things done when you are looking forward to doing other things. This is what I want to do tonight: to look back before deciding the way forward.
I have here a detailed account of the effects of the Government's economic policy, and the cuts those policies have imposed on local authorities during the last 18 months. It is an enormous document of something like 95 pages which sets out clearly, without comment, the actions taken by 90 out of, I think, 120 local authorities. It shows that the most vulnerable members of our society have been the ones who have suffered as a result of Government policies. This 78 report has been prepared by the Association of Directors of Social Services. I do not suppose that many, if any, noble Lords opposite or, for that matter, noble Lords behind me have seen this document, or have even read it, but it really is an indictment so far as the Government's actions are concerned.
It shows, as I say, that the most vulnerable members of our society were the ones who suffered. It sets out in detail the effects of the cuts upon children, children's homes, children's services; the effects that they have had upon the elderly, the physically handicapped, the mentally handicapped, and the mentally ill. It shows how community care has been substantially reduced as a result. Home helps have lessened. Meals on wheels have suffered. Children boarding out have suffered. Aids and adaptations for those in the community who need them in order to try to live a reasonable and normal life, sheltered housing, day care and day nurseries, intermediate treatment, day centres especially for the elderly and the physically handicapped and the mentally ill, as well as day services for multi-purpose employment, have suffered very substantially. I know—because we have discussed these matters on other occasions—that many noble Lords opposite have a real concern about what is happening. I ask them to get a copy of this booklet; it will cost them £1.50 and it needs to be read clearly to appreciate what is happening.
There have been cuts in the number of social workers and specialist social workers. There have been substantial cuts in the grants to voluntary bodies, and we know how much we depend on the voluntary organisations. Take away the voluntary organisations in this country and our social services would be at a very low ebb. Training has had to be abandoned in some places and the maintenance of buildings has had to go. I have details of the closure of services, facilities and centres all over the country. I want tonight to try to persuade noble Lords opposite to take a good look at the past 18 months and into what has really happened, because the message from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack—although he did not put it quite like this, I do not think I misunderstood him—is that we are our brothers' keepers.
In fact, the Secretary of State said at this year's Conservative Party conference:We believe that it is the duty of the strong to help the weak, and that is why we seek to help the most vulnerable in our society. These words are not just pious platitudes. Look at the record".That is precisely what I have done. I have looked at the record and I must say, because I believe it, that in the last analysis the people in our community who can least afford to suffer cuts are the ones who have in fact suffered them.
I wish to comment briefly on the role of the National Health Service in our society. Hospitals are closing. I read recently that Cardiff is thinking of closing perhaps six hospitals simply because it has been forced, as a result of the cuts, to do so. Wards are cut and facilities are deteriorating. I am not saying this is new. The last thing I would suggest is that everything in the garden was lovely until this Government came to office. It was not. Let us be perfectly honest about it, the NHS left much to be desired. Nor do I suggest for one moment that this Government are the sole cause of the present difficulties. However, I am saying that if a country, a society, must look at its 79 expenditure and of necessity must make some drastic reductions in finance, it must see that the reductions are made in areas where they will not impoverish people who are already impoverished.
The present Government are not as committed as we are and are not as committed as they should be either to the NHS or to people who are in need of constant support. A working group on inequalities in the Health Service was set up in 1979 by the former Secretary of State to review information about differences in health and other matters between the social classes. It is not easy to get a copy of the vast report produced by that research working group, although it is issued by the Department of Health and Social Service. It is not obtainable in our Printed Paper Office and very little publicity has been given to it. True, there are upwards of 400 pages, but one should read it and it is an enormous indictment of the inequalities in the NHS. I wish also to make it clear that these inequalities have existed for decades; they have not just appeared.
Reading from the foreword by the Secretary of State, he says:I must make it clear that additional expenditure on the scale which could result from the Report's recommendations is quite unrealistic in present or foreseeable economic circumstances, quite apart from any judgment that may be formed of the effectiveness of such expenditure in dealing with the problems identified. I cannot therefore endorse the Group's recommendations".Nevertheless we have this tremendous problem of inequalities in the National Health Service and something will have to be done about it in the not too distant future. I am not unmindful of the difficulties this country is facing financially, but are the people who can afford to make sacrifices being asked to make them? My noble friends and I feel they are not.
I remind the House that when I spoke on the effects of this Government's first budget I quoted from the Guardian of 25th March 1979 as follows:Of the £3,500 million handed out in tax cuts in the first budget last June, about 40 per cent. of it went to 5½ per cent. of taxpayers. For the £30,000 a year man, this meant a cut of £4,000 in his tax bill, and for the £20,000 a year man, a reduction of £2,000".It may well be argued that the Government did not know when they came to office what the real financial position of the country was and felt under an obligation to fulfil an election promise that immediately on taking office they would cut taxes. But that £3,500 million could have been better used. We are looking for £1,000 million, £2,000 million or £3,000 million to, as it were, balance the books, and I want to suggest that there is no real evidence at all that any serious attempt has been made to look at what one section of the community could do to alleviate the misery, suffering and poverty of another.
It has been known for some time that there is little sign of health service inequalities disappearing, and it is quite certain that the Government will do very little about the recommendations of the report to which I referred earlier. This is the kind of situation we are faced with at present: I have before me a cutting of a report referring to a woman who was hoping to have an operation, but, says the report, the consultant will have to have another lottery before deciding which 80 patients can have operations. The report goes on to say that the woman was one of five patients who lost this week when they arrived at the Mill Road Hospital in Liverpool for operations for which they had already been waiting for some months. The consultant found that he had only four beds available for nine women. So he had to put their names in a hat and draw out the names of the four who were to be successful. The consultant said:For weeks now I have been having to send women home because their beds have been needed at the last minute for emergency cases. We are being asked to cope with a number of beds totally inappropriate to the needs of women in this city. We have lost about a sixth of our gynaecology beds and we did not have enough even before the cuts".That is due to the fact that Liverpool is having to save £4½ million in health service costs; and I suggest to your Lordships that that is neither a fair nor a reasonable thing to do when it impinges on the comfort and the lives of other people.
It is possible to tell the same story in a large number of health areas. One of only seven National Health Service hospitals devoted to the care of the dying has to be closed simply because the Kensington and Chelsea Area Health Authority has to save about £1⅓ million on its bugdet. This kind of thing is happening on a much larger scale than I believe most people realise. I do not want to appear unkind to noble Lords opposite when I say that I suppose that not for one moment do many of them realise what is happening. As I say, the kind of situation that I mention exists on a much larger scale than most people realise. Yet we see no curtailing at all of the private sector. Private hospitals are not closing. The building of private hospitals is not suffering in any way. Private hospitals are still going up; I have recently seen a number of them.
If we really feel that the strong should look after the weak—and I am fully prepared to accept that the Secretary of State is quite sincere when he says this—then a much more determined effort must be made to see that the needs of the weak are met by the strong.
I want to say a word or two about social security. It was stated in the Speech from the Throne thatpensions, war pensions and other social security benefits will be increased on 24th November"—yesterday—and reviewed again next year".I do not know what the term "reviewed" means. I want to put the best possible construction on it, but I think it a very unusual word to use in the circumstances. During the passage of the Social Security (No. 2) Bill, which is now an Act on the statute book, I dealt with what I then considered, and still consider, to be the disgraceful decision to reduce by 5 per cent. unemployment, sickness and injury benefits. When worked out it means a substantial reduction for a married couple, approaching £80 a year. The proposed cut next year of 1 per cent. in benefit increases, that we learned of yesterday, will mean that an elderly couple in receipt of a state retirement pension will suffer a reduction of about £22.60 in a year, which will not be covered even by the Christmas bonus, if it is paid.
If the Government really wanted the more fortunately placed to help the less fortunate, then they would have imposed a tax on bank profits, which have risen considerably 81 during the last year or so. Banks are doing very well out of the level of minimum lending rate; in fact they have made an enormous profit. If the Government are really sincere in their desire to see that the "haves" do something for the "have-nots", then they could at least consider a 25 per cent. tax on bank profits, which would yield over £400 million—and the banks would still have 75 per cent. of their profits.
The increase in the national insurance contributions will in fact be a form of income tax which will affect those who at present do not pay tax because their income is too low. Quite a substantial number of people in work who today do not pay income tax are to be asked to pay higher national insurance contributions, and that, as I have said, is equivalent to a form of income tax.
Last week I listened to the Minister, James Prior, speaking on television. One can be only impressed by his sincerity. He was talking about the importance of seeing that on leaving school young people either have a job at the end of six months, or are found a place in a training centre. He said that that must be done; otherwise there will be a toll of bitterness. My Lords, there is already a trail of bitterness, and what some of us are afraid of is that it might get out of hand. There is every indication that it may well do so. I think we are too tolerant at the present moment about a situation which may suddenly overtake us.
We are living in a society where, on the one hand, there appears to be an enormous amount of money and yet in a society where, on the other hand, there is very little money; a society in which too many people, I believe sincerely, have too much and where there are too many people who have too little. It appals me that week after week I can see advertised in the glossy magazines, even in the Radio Times or the TV Times, or the Sunday magazines, as I saw this last weekend, a man's watch costing £2,750 and a woman's watch costing £1,950. Do your Lordships realise that £2,750 is more than is received by an unemployed man in order to keep his wife and children from 1st January to 31st December? It is estimated that in social security and other such ways we spend something like £2,000 a year on every unemployed person. My Lords, £2,000 in a year, and yet watches are being sold—obviously being sold—for £2,750!
Do not let us talk about one section of the community not being in a position to make sacrifices. Noble Lords opposite will tell me, I am sure, that they have suffered as a result of the recession. But it is a relative suffering. Anybody who has any experience of America will know that when things are all right they are at a high level and when they are experiencing a serious recession it falls to about the middle, but it does not fall down to the bottom. I think this is the position with a number of people in this country. As a community we cannot go on having, shall I say, too much wealth walking side by side with too much poverty.
I live in Oxford, on the borders of the city, and we have there some of the classiest kennels for dogs in the country. I read now what they get. They breakfast on Wheatabix, tea and toast, and they are served every morning with the Daily Telegraph. I make no comment about that. Dinner ranges from steak and soft boiled eggs to cakes and custard and cream. 82 I could tell your Lordships the names of a number of people who use them, but I will not. It costs £35 a week. I can understand it being said that such people ought to be shot. That is not the way to deal with it, I accept that; but I can understand people feeling that way. When this sort of thing is known, and when a man has to keep a wife and family on considerably less, perhaps, it does not make for a good community relationship.
What I want to do tonight—and, for me, if I may say so, I have been fairly subdued—is to say this. I want to ask noble Lords opposite to look independently at the effects of the Government cuts; to get hold of this report of the Association of Directors of Social Services, and to look for themselves. We know that there is considerable feeling within the Conservative Party about what is happening. There is nothing that we on this side can do about it, but I do suggest that if noble Lords were to look at what really is happening they will have to think again before they support some of the things which will come before your Lordships' House and another place in the very near future.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has been in hospital recently, it is more than a mere politeness to say that it gives me great pleasure to be following the noble Lord and to recognise that no one is better qualified than he is to speak of care for those who are in need. But I must follow the noble Lord's speech by making the point that I think it is fair to say that almost every one of the problems that your Lordships have spoken about today depends essentially upon the health of the economy of this country.
The noble Lord adjured us to look at the individual services which are being affected by the economic situation. Because schools, hospitals, the probation and social services, prisons and the police, not to mention voluntary organisations, depend so much upon people, so these services are bound to suffer especially if inflation is rising and if the costs of each service are outstripping the resources available. In the whole field of home affairs, compassion alone is not enough. Thus, today's debate is bound to be set in the context of the economic situation, and I was very grateful to my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood for recognising, as I think she did in her speech, that the only way of achieving many of the services that we want for our country is to get a permanent reduction in the rate of inflation; and the Government are determined to pursue policies which are achieving that objective.
None the less, it has proved possible to make sub stantial progress in pursuit of the Government's commitment, which is repeated in the gracious Speech, to the maintenance of law and order. The serious losses of police manpower of a few years ago have been reversed and, at 116,582 in England and Wales, the strength of the police service of this country stood at the end of the month of October at the highest total ever. However, at a time when all public services are reviewing their expenditure, it is all the more important that the police should use their resources as effectively as possible, and this is something to which I know chief constables are giving increased attention.
83 There has also been a welcome increase, your Lordships may be interested to hear, in the number of police officers drawn from the ethnic minorities. Ten years ago there were only 33 black and Asian police officers in England and Wales, of whom eight were in the Metropolitan Police. Now there are more than 280, of whom 100 are serving in London. Indeed, the number of all applicants to join the police service is very encouraging, because ultimately it is from the support of the community that the authority of the police is derived.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones—I think he would wish me to refer to his speech in his absence—spoke on the subject of those who do not give the support of their particular community to the work of the police, and he mentioned in particular marches of the National Front and other extreme groups. I share the attitude of the noble and learned Lord to marches of all extremist groups, but I think your Lordships will know—and we should be under no illusion—that there is not a simple and easy response to this problem.
The noble and learned Lord asked me a specific question, which was whether the Home Secretary was consulted about the recent march, to which he referred. Of course, my right honourable friend is the police authority for the Metropolitan Police, and he is kept in close touch with these matters. But the Public Order Act 1936, the governing statute, provides that it shall be possible to ban a march only where the chief officer—in this case, of course, the Commissioner of Police—apprehends a threat of serious public disorder which no other measure can avoid. In framing the 1936 Act in this way our predecessors struck a balance between freedom to demonstrate, on the one hand, and the interests of the majority in a peaceful and orderly society, on the other hand. The conflict between those two competing principles lies at the heart of the Government's current review of the Public Order Act and related legislation. We are still getting responses to that Green Paper and I should like to assure the noble and learned Lord in his absence and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, that we are considering the comments on the Green Paper carefully alongside the recent report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs in another place on its review of the law on public order. As soon as we have reached a conclusion we shall report to both Houses.
The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, at the beginning of the debate spoke about the prison service. The need for emergency powers contained in the Imprisonment (Temporary Provisions) Act still stands; and the House will be having the opportunity to debate a renewal order shortly. Therefore, all that I would say on the present situation is that discussions are taking place between the Home Office and the Prison Officers' Association on the introduction of a new duty system for prison officers which would eliminate the anomalies which lie at the root of the current dispute. If agreement can now be reached on its introduction, on the terms which we have indicated to the POA, the new system will bring real advantages to prison officers in their conditions of service as well as to the management of prison establishments.
84 I listened particularly to two points which the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, made in his speech. The first was the noble Lord's assertion that the prison department is, in some ways, remote. Of course, we take to heart—and I know that the prison department of the Home Office take to heart—any remarks or criticisms made by somebody with such experience of the law as the noble Lord; but I think it is right to remind the noble Lord that the re-organisation which my right honourable friend undertook during the summer was to try to make the prison department more directly accountable, headed, as it is, by a Director-General who is untiring in the hours of work that he puts into his tasks and supported, as he is, by a Deputy Director-General who is a very distinguished representative of the governor grades of the prison service. The other point the noble Lord made in his speech was the need for action soon to rectify the years of neglect in the past. To that, in agreeing, I would say that, of course, we need to get on with the review of staff training recommended by the May Report and the development of régimes of prison industries which was also recommended. It is a little short of tragic that this positive work should be interrupted by the Prison Officers' Association's action and I very much hope that this dispute will soon be resolved so as to enable us to get on with work of that kind and, incidentally, work next year, which includes the start of two new prison establishments.
I turn to the Young Offenders' White Paper about which many noble Lords have spoken. The preparation of the necessary legislation to implement this White Paper is, as the gracious Speech made clear, now being carried forward. But with an eye on the parliamentary timetable we have not committed ourselves to legislation this Session. However, the instant response to the White Paper has created some misunderstandings and, if I may, I will refer to them. The White Paper does not encourage the use of custody in dealing with young offenders. Underpinning our proposals in it is the need to ensure that custody is a last resort for serious offenders. The courts already have a wide range of non-custodial alternatives; and the important thing is to encourage their use. The noble Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, asked what progress is being made in the development of alternatives to custody and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, when in the House, asked that the Government should give practical help in this respect. The number of attendance centres has been substantially increased from 79, when the Government came into office over one year ago, to a total of 104 today. We are starting now on the build-up of senior attendance centres also. The community service order has proved very successful, we think, for the 17 to 21-year-olds, and we believe that a valuable alternative in community service can be found for the 16 year olds; and legislation will propose a reduction of the age of eligibility for community service in that respect.
The main change where legislation is needed which the White Paper proposes in relation to young adults is the replacement of borstal training and imprisonment by the new sentence of youth custody; and the restriction of section 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 1961 will be removed. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, for giving his approval that the courts, by this move, will be enabled to fix the length 85 of sentence according to the gravity of the offence and the circumstances of the offender. We shall also enable the courts to impose shorter detention centre sentences than they can now.
The noble Baroness, Lady David, was critical in her speech of the residential care order; but perhaps the noble Baroness had not entirely taken account of the relevant passage in the White Paper. Our proposal in this respect is designed to enable the courts to deal with a child who is already in care for offending and who re-offends. If a child has been left at home, the only way in which a court can remove him from the environment in which he is repeating offences is to send the child to custody. The residential care order is designed to prevent that happening. This is an order which will only be made by a court on a youngster already in care for offending and there will be a discretion left to the local authority as to the placement of the offender.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, if I might intervene, I hope very much that this is what will happen; that there will not be more custodial orders. But the legislation, if it goes through, will make that possible and it could happen with some courts.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I take on board what the noble Baroness is saying. I was trying to point out that very often without such an order, there comes a moment in the career of a youngster who re-offends when there is no alternative but to send that youngster to a very different sort of custody. May I come back to what is, I think, common ground in your Lordships' House—that it is far preferable to deal with juvenile offenders in the community. The Government very much agreed with my noble friend Lady Faithfull when she drew attention to the importance of intermediate treatment. An important proposal in the White Paper is that the courts should be able to order an agreed programme of intermediate treatment activities. This will renew the courts' confidence in supervision as an alternative to custody. Finally, may I say that fundamentally—and I think that we would all agree on this—the influence of the family is the thing which determines the development of young people. The White Paper therefore proposes that the power of the courts to order parents to pay fines imposed on children under 17 should be strengthened and that the amount of the financial recognisance which parents can be ordered to forfeit should be increased when an undertaking given to the court to take proper care of, and exercise proper control over, a juvenile is broken.
There are three pieces of legislation included in the gracious Speech which it will be the responsibility of the Home Office to introduce. One will be the legislation to repeal the suspected person offence, commonly known as "sus", in Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor mentioned this, so that I shall content myself on this subject with answering the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. The answer to the noble Lord is that this legislation will involve reform of the law of attempt; and I have no doubt that when the Bill comes to this House, your Lordships will wish to debate it very thoroughly.
The second piece of legislation which also falls within the scope of my right honourable friend's 86 department is the European Assembly Elections Bill, to which reference is made in the gracious Speech but to which no reference was made in this House this afternoon. As that Bill has now been introduced in another place and is published, again I shall, unless there are any questions on it, content myself with mentioning simply that it now exists.
The third piece of legislation which was mentioned with approval by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor was the legislation which we now foreshadow to build upon the White Paper on British nationality law which was published last July. I should like to add to my noble and learned friend's words that I think it is widely accepted that the present citizenship of the United Kingdom should be replaced. The existing citizenship does not give a clear indication whether or not the holder has the right of abode in this country. Along the lines which I sought to outline to your Lordships' House a few months ago, we shall now be bringing legislation forward on this particular and most important subject.
May I for a moment turn to the speech which the noble Baroness, Lady David, made in which she said that she could not understand how the Government could not be concerned about the standards in education, and that in her view morale in the education service was low. I was surprised to hear the noble Baroness say that. By concentrating our resources where they can be of the greatest benefit, the Government have done a very great deal in this field during this year—
§ Baroness David
My Lords, may I intervene again? I have recently been talking to people in the education service and they tell me that morale is extremely low.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I am now going to express the reason why I think that the noble Baroness has been misled. In the Education Act 1980 we have implemented our parents' charter to give parents the right to express a preference for a school for their child—I do not know to how many parents the noble Baroness has been talking—and to provide for the appointment of parents to governing bodies. We have strengthened the position of the denominational schools regarding admissions and the composition and powers of their governing bodies. We have established an assisted places scheme and we have embarked on a major reform of the exams taken mainly by pupils at 16-plus in a way which, if I may say so, is a considerable improvement on the plans of the previous Government. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is undertaking a review of the curriculum which I believe has been widely and warmly welcomed.
I would rather go along with my noble friend Lady Faithfull, who gave a warm welcome to the educational content of the gracious Speech, which is the forecast of legislation on the Warnock Report, as it is called, on special education. As the White Paper on this subject which was presented to Parliament in August said, it is intended to reform the law to reflect the modern concept of special educational needs, extending to a wider group of children than are now ascertained as handicapped. Here again, I do not want unnecessarily to cross swords with the noble Baroness, but in her speech 87 she represented the White Paper as being no advance at all in this field.
I worked for a short item in the education service, and I remember 10 years ago we were all discussing trying to do away with categories of handicap. I am delighted this evening to be able to record that it was my right honourable friend the Prime Minister who set up the Warnock Committee; and now, as a result of it, we are able to bring forward this particular recommendation to try to streamline the arrangements in this particular area of the education system. We hope in this matter for an early Bill. Its introduction this Session will be particularly propitious, as its passage will coincide with the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981.
When I first started to work there, I remember a member of the Home Office telling me that when she had begun work there some years before—she was a woman civil servant—she had been told that one of her responsibilities would be various hazards otherwise unallocated. In answering a debate of this kind, I feel that I must deal with two or three questions—and I am afraid it is not all of them—which were raised. First, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, asked about the Government's intention regarding the Law Commission's reports on family property. The Government at this stage cannot promise their own legislation on any of the matters dealt with in the Law Commission's third report on family property. That would not prevent the introduction of a Private Member's Bill in the same way as the noble and learned Lord did last Session, though that Bill was, in the Government's view wisely withdrawn pending the report of the Law Commission on the Lord Chancellor's reference to it on the implications of the decision in your Lordships' House in the case of Williams and Glyn's v. Boland and Brown.
The position regarding the second part of the Law Commission's report is, however, rather different. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said in July last year that he would like to see the Bill about rights of occupation of the matrimonial home enacted quickly, and that remains the Government's desire. The Government would therefore be favourably disposed in principle towards the introduction of a Bill on the lines of the Law Commission's draft about rights of occupation. With it could perhaps be combined the draft clauses annexed to the Law Commission's report, Law Commission No. 99, published in February of this year, about the court's powers to order sale of matrimonial property following divorce proceedings.
The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, asked me about the Criminal Law Revision Committee's recommendations regarding offences against the person. Consultations are now taking place with a wide range of interested organisations which have been asked for their comments by the end of the year. The Government will look carefully at the views expressed and then consider what action should be taken.
I found exceedingly interesting the speech which my noble friend Lord Hylton made concerning Northern Ireland affairs, particularly as my noble friend had recently visited the Province. Whether the need which my noble friend identified to bring together the segregated 88 schools is one which could be a cause or would be a consequence of an end to violence in Northern Ireland, I am not prepared to say; but I think that the various aspects of my noble friend's speech will repay study. I will draw the speech to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, asked me a question specifically about bringing forward legislation to up-date the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. I have said on behalf of the Government before in your Lordships' House that that is most definitely our intention. But the noble Lord's apprehension that I will reply that we are awaiting the European convention is of course correct. The full committee at Strasbourg is due to meet next in May of 1981, again under United Kingdom chairmanship. By then we expect to have a clear idea of the obligations of the convention. We shall also have the benefit of the views of the Home Secretary's advisory committee on animal experiments, which is studying the framework of legislation, with particular reference to recent proposals before both Houses of Parliament, and the convention. It is against this background that we feel we should wait in order to carry forward our commitment later next year.
The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, asked me for a word of encouragement to those who work and have worked for so many years—since 1945—and so often for so little recognition, in the field of civil defence. Following the Statement which my right honourable friend made to the House of Commons and which was made to your Lordships' House on 7th August, good progress has been made in preparing the further public advice on domestic shelters which has been promised for the turn of the year.
The allowances paid to volunteer members of the Royal Observer Corps and to the volunteer warning officers of the United Kingdom warning and monitoring organisation have now been approved. Further detailed planning work has been undertaken in order to make further improvements to wartime headquarters, emergency communications and wartime broadcasting which were announced by the Home Secretary. Highly important and almost disregarded in so many ways—in public discussion at any rate—in previous years, we have initiated an examination of the demand which would be placed on industry in crisis and conventional war.
Of course it is vitally important that volunteer effort should be properly encouraged and coordinated. The noble Lord himself gives an excellent example in relation to the Devon Emergency Volunteers, for which he is in many ways responsible. We shall, I hope, be in a position to announce the appointment of Co-ordinator of Volunteers in England and Wales, which was promised on 7th August, in the reasonably near future.
May I finally return to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. He drew attention to particular problems in the National Health Service. He was absolutely fair in saying that many problems have existed for some time, and indeed I can, I think, recall occasions when the noble Lord answered questions on this subject from the Government Dispatch Box about difficulties and shortages in previous years.
I cannot see that it can be of any service to our children or any support for the elderly and for those 89 who are ill or in need, if we refuse to live within our means. We have been down that road before. At a time of world recession, a policy of really broad expansion of public expenditure, which is advocated by some members of the Opposition, would lead once more to the International Monetary Fund. The Statement of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday is, I would submit to your Lordships, a recognition that only by living within our means can we continue—as we ate doing—to reduce inflation. That is the only way in which we can achieve those things we want for our country, and that it is the only sure way to set our course.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned until tomorrow.